The Persistent Artist

brushesIf my life is as a canvas

And God is working a masterpiece

I am sometimes as a wayward child

Smearing fingerprints across the handiwork

Of the one who gave the great artists their skill.


When clarity and conviction meet

I stand in utter shame before what I have done,

My pride has again blighted

Something He was making beautiful

To show off His might


Time passes

And others stare disapprovingly

As I try in vain to fix it

Running my stained hands across it

Smearing it, making it worse.


I stare at the mess in sorrow,

Repentance on my tongue,

Knowing others have seen this folly.

Yet suddenly hope springs

As I realize that the Artist is still working.


My life is not a watercolor painting

Which can be irrevocably marred

With one slip of even the most careful hand.

No, my Master paints in acrylics.

His is a medium of grace.


Layer upon layer he covers over my stains

His hand works His skill and a picture emerges that is no result of my hand

I keep him busy as this child grows,

But His artistry is persistent.

He works redemption in His artistry of forgiveness, in His medium of grace.

Published in: on September 10, 2015 at 2:44 pm  Comments (2)  


1238143_594117287955_1638468698_nSummer has passed the halfway mark, and some of us are itching to return to school, while others are now slightly perturbed that I have reminded them of that fact. As the return to university grows imminent, I have been reflecting on my first year and pondering what the return will be like. There will be many old friends to catch up with as well as friends whose absence will be felt. There will also be fresh faces to meet. All of this leaves me in great anticipation. Flipping through my yearbook shows me that in spite of the fact that there were occasions I felt a bit hermit-ish during the first semester, the people at school were definitely responsible for many of the joys of this past school year.

I find people to be delightfully fascinating, as they are something akin to walking, talking pieces of art and collections of stories. I tell you this because for a little bit here it might sound as if I don’t care for people at all. That’s not true, rather the case is that sometimes I allow my viewpoint to become skewed. This is especially true when thrown into a new situation with crowds of strangers, where good sense seems to flee and pride or insecurity fight each other to take its place.

Pondering how this new season might progress has led me to rehash some of the lessons I learned during this past year.

Lesson One: Don’t write off people as potential friends.

During orientation I sat with a girl in the caf who was dressed in our school’s athletic paraphernalia. She consequently explained to me what cross country was, and the thought passed my mind that we wouldn’t be friends. The reason?  Athletic people don’t like me, I told myself. Thankfully, I was proven wrong. If I had clung to this idea I would have missed out on an amazing friend.

Lesson Two: You never know how your common interests or differences will connect you

Begin asking questions, and you might just find that you have strange things in common. A favorite preacher, family members who know each other, being part of an obscure missions agency, a love of old TV shows, jazz, or Anne of Green Gables. All of these can serve to spark a friendship. Or, you’ll find that your differences are a chance to learn and stretch yourself. How good it can be to make friends with people who are not just like you, for it makes life so much more intriguing.  You learn that what is normal for you might not be perceived as normal by someone else. For example, some people don’t view smelling books to be an enjoyable activity. Who knew?

Lesson Three: Don’t assume. Don’t do it. Really.

For the outgoing introvert such as myself, being forced into a crowd of strangers provokes many assumptions. They can range from disparaging thoughts of “oh, they’d never want to talk to me” to the desire to instantly shove others into manageable categories. However, doing this is a recipe for trouble.  I have found that I can learn something from everybody, and taking the time to get to know someone better often reveals startling discoveries.

The quiet one is just waiting to be asked to tell a story.  The insecure girl blooms when given a little encouragement. The suave guy is actually not very kind, but some of the slightly awkward people truly are. The unassuming fellow is exceedingly talented. The girl who seems to have it all together needs Jesus just as much as the rest of us. The “carefree” ones often use jokes and smiles to cover the pain they deal with regularly, whether it be physical or emotional.

This has shown me that I must seek to love people from the beginning, and not wait until they show me some quality that I deem “likable” before I decide to do so. That is Biblical, after all, while my temptation to categorize people (including myself on occasion) according to “worthiness” is not.

Lesson Four: Observing other people is a chance to be inspired

This past year I  found myself inspired by many who were likely unaware of this fact. I saw the pains they took to finish a job correctly, or how they listened attentively when others were speaking. I saw them include the person who appeared lost in the cafeteria, and sometimes that lost person was me. I saw how they spoke the truth in love even though it made them uncomfortable. I saw how they humbly accepted this loving rebuke. I saw how intent they were on learning, their endless hospitality, the love they have for people groups they’ve never encountered, or the simple joy they gained from a good conversation.  I’ve observed the ways God has changed them, the ways He’s using them, and the passions He’s given them. I saw their honesty about their brokenness, listened to their thankfulness, and observed their willingness to drop what they were doing to pray with those who needed it.  In these things I saw God’s handiwork.

I am thankful for the dear people at school who became friends and are becoming friends. I am thankful for the nights I came home to scads of shoes scattered across the entry way, and a living room so crammed full of smiling faces that I had to step over people to get to my room. I might not have always been awake enough to join them, but I most certainly enjoyed hearing their laughter from the other room as I drifted to sleep. I am thankful for those who included me when I was too tired to attempt to include myself. I am thankful for those who shared stories with me this year, whether it be their testimony or fanciful fiction drawn from their well of creativity. I am thankful that the Lord has reminded me that we all are in different chapters of our redemption stories, and that instead of drawing swift conclusions about people I should rather seek to encourage them in this grand story. I am also incredibly thankful for those who have chosen to encourage me in this way.

Encountering a person is encountering a new volume of stories, and as they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Whether at school or the grocery store, we meet them every day. It’s all rather exciting, don’t you think?

Published in: on July 12, 2015 at 8:21 pm  Comments (4)  


wildflowerIt’s been only a week since my last final, my last essay, my last class. Yet it seems ages since I bid friends goodbye, and temporarily exchanged realities. The world of academia, sweet community and stately pines has been put on hold while I return to the world I left behind.

I’m back to the familiar landscapes of my youth, where memories emerge from the most mundane of landmarks. Even the weather is familiar.  The sporadic cool days of late May will soon exchange its lively greenery for sun-faded grass of July. Nights filled with tornado sirens and flash floods will be exchanged for still stifling evenings where we will be free to venture outside.

Drives through the rural areas near my home are fraught with distractions. Tiny calves enjoying the freshness of the world gaze at me with wide eyes as I pass by. Nights are filled with the awe inspiring diversion of glowing orbs whose praises illuminate the heavens. Conversations are interrupted by abrupt swerving in attempts to spare the lives of gutsy turtles that eek their way across the pavement.

Currently my favorite roadside distraction has to be the wildflowers. These blooms gaze brightly at the sun,  unaware they are being admired (as most truly beautiful things often are). Though it seems a bit cruel, one cannot help but think plucking them and placing them in a vase is the best way to cling to their delicate beauty as long as possible.

My memories of this past school year are much like those flowers. I want to hold on to these sweet moments and keep them from fading, for university life already seems so distant. Coming here is a bit like putting life on pause and forgetting about the future.

I look at the empty boxes in my calendar and though I hate to admit it, I am afraid. No longer is my time dictated by homework. Oddly enough, I actually get to decide what to do with most of my time, and ponder how to make the best of it. Finishing finals week has left me antsy, as if I constantly must be doing something. I need to learn how to truly relax and rest when it is needed. Yet hanging over me is the knowledge that something about this place makes me lose my motivation to do anything worthwhile. This summer especially, time is a gift. In the midst of my scholarly pursuits I always tell myself I would do such-and-such-thing if I only had the time. Now I am faced with the challenge of that: will I actually do those things now that time presents itself? Opportunities for good things rarely come without at least a bit of trepidation, for they are usually coupled with a chance of failure. I have decided that this fear cannot dictate my summer. I might not have everything worked out like I want it to be, but that’s not a terrible thing. God’s grace is ever present, and every day I wake up to the reminder of his faithfulness in the form of Lamentations 3:21-26. I literally awake to it because I carved into the wet plaster of my wall at the end of a particularly difficult summer when I was spackling my room.

I find myself almost a year removed from that day, yet my need for God’s faithfulness is still very much present. So here I am, rambling on in an attempt to sort it all out and to preach to myself:

No matter how mundane, exciting, simple, difficult, unproductive or fruitful this summer proves to be, no matter how many “successes” or “failures” in tasks, ministry or relationships may come about, one thing is certain. The Lord God, the maker of delicate wildflowers, the sparkling spheres of the night and those pine trees I miss so much is the same God who has always proved faithful. He ties my two realities together, and proves the only constant. He knows my past and He knows my future, and He is what will get me through the present. Yes, there is a challenge before me, and I must do my best to meet it. Yet I must remember that if only I can keep my eyes on Him this summer, no matter how interesting or boring my summer tales might be at the end of it, if I continue to pursue Him, obey him and live in His love, this summer will be a smashing success.

Published in: on May 26, 2015 at 11:01 pm  Comments (3)  

The Last Verse

During the past week there have been several nights in which I have emerged from the library in a haze. After being boxed in for hours, my weary eyes were drawn on both occasions to the sky above that boasted a glittering array of objects ready to be admired. I was inspired to sing praise, but feeling feeble I turned on my phone and listened to Phil Wickam sing “You’re Beautiful” as I gazed into the expanse on my walk home.

Part of the reason I chose that song is for the verse that says:


Indeed, what a Creator could make such things?!

Yet the part of that particular song that has been lodged in my heart and soul these past few days as I contemplate Easter has been this:



The last verse.

The last verses of hymns or songs of praise often move me the most.

Perhaps it is because many songs follow a linear progression. Sin, suffering, the cross . . . and then the music swells, and the voices rise: it all cumulates in the final scene where His broken people finally shed their sins for good and stand in front of their perfect, glorious maker. Everything ends as it should have remained from the beginning.

Yet it could have ended as a dirge; a funeral song stretching on forever. The final song of the ages could have been one of despair.

Good Friday reminded me of this fact.

What good news it truly is, that Jesus is alive!

Today I feel the need for what Resurrection Day means. My weary heart has been reminded again just how much it needs a living Christ to sustain it through every heartbeat. As I have struggled lately to keep a proper perspective through situations that I already realize will seem paltry in retrospect, I have been able to find a song that I can sing. A song to the praise of the One who loves me even now in my brokenness, and whom I will be able to one day love in utter completeness.



Published in: on April 4, 2015 at 10:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Small Things.

One of the things I learned last semester about myself is just how easily I can be cheered, if only I will allow myself to be. There are so many small things that surround me that I can view as blessings, if I only will take the time to stop and notice them with an thankful heart. Some of these moments from last semester I was able to immortalize in the form of mediocre phone photographs. This hodge-podge collection of hum-drum photographs serve as a reminder to me that there are so many reasons to rejoice, be they ever so small, if I only will let my heart be glad. So friends, here are some of the things that made me smile, and perhaps they will do the same for you.

Scenes like this made 8:00 classes worth it.

Scenes like this made 8:00 classes worth it.

Insects are so intriguing, and this little fella stayed still long enough for me to examine him, which made me happy.

Insects are so intriguing, and this little fellow remained still long enough for me to examine him.

Singing worship songs around a campfire . . . it doesn't get much better.

Singing worship songs around a campfire . . . it doesn’t get much better.

Here's a little fellow I met at work.

A new friend I met at work.

It's cliche, but there is just something about a good sunset that cheers the heart.

It’s cliche, but there is just something about a good sunset that cheers the heart.

Sitting on this hill watching the colors change across the sky is a worthwhile pastime.

Sitting on this hill watching the colors change across the sky is a worthwhile pastime.

A bowl of Pho from a friend is a good thing.

A bowl of Pho from a friend makes the heart and the stomach glad.

I like getting to look at pretty things while I dust at work.

I like getting to look at pretty things while I dust at work.

It was an extremely cold day, but this flower bloomed anyway.

It was an extremely cold day, but this flower had the audacity to bloom anyway.

Looking at this and knowing that I was not the one that had to finish it was a very good feeling (this was my life during the summer, so smelling spackle in my new apartment made me nervous).

Looking at this and knowing that I was not the one that had to finish it was a very good feeling (this was my life during the summer, so smelling spackle in my new apartment made me nervous).

Taking a break from homework to attend a worship night where we got to paint (I did this picture) was a sweet thing.

Taking a break from homework to attend a worship night where we got to paint (I made this picture) was a sweet thing indeed.

I had a few minutes to kill before class, so I reverted to my childhood and made a little house out of twigs.

I had a few minutes to kill before class, so I reverted to my childhood and made a little house out of twigs.

Bright leaves amidst tiny purple flowers, need I say more?

Bright leaves amidst tiny purple flowers, need I say more?


Bright colors everywhere to counteract the grey of the sky and the pavement.

My "birthday lights" finally hung.

My “birthday lights” finally hung.

This tree looks as if it was etched from the wall.

This tree looks as if it was etched from the wall.

A Sunday afternoon outside with my mandolin, pondering the theme of this song and practicing reading sheet music.

A Sunday afternoon outside with my mandolin, pondering the theme of this song and practicing the art of reading sheet music.

This tree stands apart from the rest.

This tree stands apart from the rest.



Tree shadows.

Tree shadows.

Tree silhouettes.

Tree silhouettes.

Tree + basketball silhouettes.

Tree + basketball silhouettes.

Tree silhouettes. Okay, so trees just make me happy.

Tree silhouettes. Okay, so trees just make me happy.

And... just to mix things up, a plant silhouette.

And… just to mix things up, a plant silhouette.

Finding a cat growing in a planter...

Finding a cat. One growing in a planter…

A cup of something warm given to me by my aunt who took care of me when I was sick over thanksgiving.

A cup of something warm given to me by my aunt who took care of me when I was sick over thanksgiving.

An old family letter.

An old family letter.

A festive library makes for better finals.

A festive library makes for better finals.

I wish I had my "real"camera with me, for the way that the light was glistening through the grass was amazing.

I wish I had my “real”camera with me, for the way that the light was glistening through the grass was amazing


Beams of light.


And to finish, the cookies my neighbor brought me while I was working on this post. I may have eaten two of them while writing this post.

Published in: on March 5, 2015 at 9:04 pm  Comments (3)  


The semester is already off to a running start. I have thus realized that my idealistic intentions of editing the things I wrote over break into perfectly crafted bits of text is utter nonsense. Therefore, I am going to be posting some things I wrote before they are completely outdated. Here is the first :)


I was swaying back and forth on the bench swing, feet unable to touch the ground. I was taking a moment to just breathe. My last final exam was the day before and I had since been busy relocating my things from the old apartment to the new. It felt weird to simply sit still. No worries of homework to finish, no need to hurry. I had a chance to sit and simply “be.” How I had missed this!

The sun was beginning its descent over the apartment complex below and my mind was drawn back to humid August days. I moved on campus about a week before most other new students arrived for orientation. The university grounds seemed dead then, and I often would spend my evenings on this same bench, watching the sunset, praying and wondering what the semester would hold. And now I knew.

As the sun traversed closer to the horizon something beautiful began to happen. A flock of birds cut across the sky in a “v” formation. They were flying into the sun, like a group of cowboys signaling the end of a western movie. It seemed fairly fitting.

Another group soon followed them, each bird bouncing to the beat of its wings within the designated pattern. The birds were just silhouettes now against the blue and orange sky. Birds have long been creatures that make me smile. They are a reminder of God’s tender care for me, and I see them as living works of art that are somehow able to defy gravity. So at this point, I was already smiling. However, my smile would continue to stretch, for the birds kept coming. They dominated my entire field of vision, as formation after formation streamed across the sky. Just when I thought they were finally finished, I would see more tiny dots coming out of the north-east, morphing into sleek avian shapes as they passed before me.

I counted at least sixty “v” formations, not counting the stragglers who apparently missed the memo.

I finally grew too cold to remain there on the bench. The light was waning, but as I left to go inside, the flow of birds was not.

It’s difficult to explain how this made me feel, or just why.

But if simple words can attempt it, it made me feel awe, as if I just had stumbled in to some sort of complex aerial performance. I would have been pleased to have only seen those first few sets of birds, but instead I witnessed more than I could count journey pass. It was a sweet ending to my semester. A semester in which I had many times of weakness, but God showed how great He is in ways better than what I expected. Like the birds, His goodness just kept coming. That did not always mean that the problems were alleviated, but rather that when I looked upward I saw something good. Something beautiful. Someone majestic.

I began the semester knowing I could not make it through successfully without the LORD’s help, and at the end of it I was just as certain of that fact. So, as the sun sets on my first semester back in school, I want to express my gratitude for what He has done, and who He is. I look back in thanksgiving and forward in hope.


Published in: on February 5, 2015 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

I’m . . . Moving?


CharlestonTwo weeks.

I realized it last autumn. I knew time would whittle down from a seemingly impenetrable chunk into a little sliver that would soon disappear.  Yet now I find myself moving to South Carolina in only two weeks. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet that I’m headed to Columbia International University  to finish a bachelor’s degree.

I wasn’t initially going to mention all of this here on the internet, but it occurred to me that there are a few people in my life, both near and far who might want to know.

These people have agonized over the possibilities, offered advice, pointed me to opportunities, and went with me before the throne of God to ask for wisdom. I specifically remember dear people in England encouraging me while I worked at reception, hashing things out with me and sitting with me late at night urging me to pursue things I felt were too difficult.

The people who encouraged me and the God who provided for me helped me to get to this point.

I sound like I’m graduating, not going back to college with plans of graduating at the not so tender age of twenty-nine! However, it took a great deal to arrive at this point.

So, here’s a little thank you to those who have spurred me on in the right direction, even in the smallest way. It made a difference. I’m thankful for this opportunity and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead. Here’s to new adventures!

PS It’s late, please excuse any silly spelling or grammar mistakes ;)


Published in: on July 18, 2014 at 1:13 am  Leave a Comment  


Flying over the AlpsWritten February, 2014:

The day we moved into this two bedroom apartment I told my dad that it felt as if it were a mansion. Two weeks later it still does. I marvel at the open floor space, the living room in which my family can gather and more kitchen shelves than I have had the privilege to employ in many months.

A few weeks ago I was feeling a tad discouraged when I went to the storage building that holds most of my family’s earthly possessions. I gazed up at the rows of boxes that escalated to the ceiling and despaired of ever finding specific objects in these containers labeled cryptically “Sarah’s Stuff.” I’d stared like this on many occasions during the past few weeks and left with no success. I could climb up there, but the weight of the boxes certainly would cause some sort of disaster when I tried to retrieve them. On this day however, my uncle was present and he began the search. Soon down from the mountain came some of the items I had specifically wanted: a suitcase full of journals and my paint case. I was ecstatic. Later that afternoon I was overjoyed when my library card fell out of a stack of papers when I was cleaning the RV. I left that day feeling a bit blissful because of these happenings. I felt God was encouraging me by helping me find those specific things I had given up on finding until the day I unpacked everything.

The weeks that would follow brought new finds. My wok! My yarn! My winter coat! A movie I wanted to rent but had no idea we even owned! Each discovery left me excited.

All of this sounds a bit ridiculous, I know.  You might think I’m being a tad silly and melodramatic.

When I told my dad that the apartment felt like a mansion he laughed and said, “It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?”

There have been times in my life when moving into a two bedroom apartment with three other people would have seemed like being shoved into a cage, and finding all of these everyday items would have been meaningless because they were regularly at my fingertips.

The difference is that now I am looking at things from another angle, from a place where these little things come with great happiness.

However, I am not always so quick to take a viewpoint of thankfulness.

I sometimes look at situations from my fleshly point of view and I’m displeased. I grumble. I want people to pity me. I feel trapped.

Perspective is a funny thing. Have you ever been able to look at mountains from an airplane window? One of the most beautiful sights I have beheld in my life was the view of the Alps as we flew above their frosted peaks. The beauty of these giants elicited praises from my weary heart.  Those were real mountains, but mountains are often used as a depiction of a struggle to be overcome.  Those struggles don’t look so beautiful and awe inspiring when you are hurrying along on the ground and run into one that must be crossed.

This is when perspective matters. When I come upon a struggle it is as if I am at the foot of a mountain, standing so close that the entire thing cannot fit into my field of vision. It is there I have a choice. I can choose to view this struggle from an eternal perspective or from ground level perspective. The eternal perspective is the big picture take on things, such as remembering the view from an airplane. I might not be able to see the entire picture from where I stand, but God can. He knows what the scene looks like and that there can be beauty in it, beauty that will point others to Him should we choose to walk in obedience. He knows what is waiting on the other side, and what will happen along the way.

Sometimes I dig my heels firmly in the dirt and stubbornly refuse to follow God’s prodding to move to where I have a better view, or to remember His view. I stand with my nose pressed against the cold stone of the mountain and whine because I cannot see past it. But when my selfish heart gives way and I walk in obedience, then the same situation looks better because I am taking on an eternal perspective. I’ll take the airplane view any day.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
(Colossians 3:2-4 ESV)

Published in: on April 10, 2014 at 1:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Confessions of a Former Hoarder-in-Training

Here is another post I remembered today… I wrote this at the beginning of last summer (2012). Here it goes:

broken doll

The longer I live, the more I see how temporary life really is.

That’s one of those obvious things that I’ve always known. But it eventually slapped me across the face leaving me a bit dazed at the revelation.

Let’s back up a little bit.

Confession time. This is actually a little bit embarrassing. I have always been somewhat of what might be described as a “pre-hoarder” type. I have jokingly attempted to excuse this behavior by citing genetics (my great-grandmother’s house was so crowded with objects that it was barely navigable). I was the type of child, who for memory’s sake, saved everything, even the self-decorated headgear strap that I so loathed (incredibly repulsive, I know).

This sort of compulsive saving of everything has led, in the short time of my existence, to many boxes filling up our storage area.  These are in turn filled with what my family so lovingly refers to as “junk.” My uncle has often offered to burn this “junk” for me, but I have repeatedly declined his offers.

Over the years my parents have urged me to get rid of some things. So, every time we moved houses, I would give in just a little bit more and part with a few more objects.

When we found out that we are going to be moving again, the sorting process began anew. That’s when I received the slap to the face. I found myself standing in a hot metal building surrounded by half a dozen Rubbermaid buckets filled with my childhood. If you are thinking that six buckets does not sound like much, well, there were more on the shelves. I stared at this stuff again and the inner dialogue began.  “Why am I keeping this? I don’t use it! I just open the boxes every time we move then shove them away again into a dark corner. Why am I keeping all of this?”

The answer to this question is linked to the fact that my mother grew up in the jungle (if you are confused by this statement, let me share with you that my mother grew up as a missionary kid in Peru). When I was growing up, I loved history. I loved stories of days gone by, even as times as recent as my mother’s childhood days. She really has nothing from her childhood, and I always wished that she did when I was a child. So I saved things. Things with memories. Things I thought would be “cool” or valuable in the future.

However, that was the past me. Present me looked at all this stuff and asked, “Do I really want to cart all this stuff around with me for the next fifty years?” My younger self battled that thought with: “But if you ever have children, don’t you want them to have this stuff?” I came to the shocking conclusion that if I ever have children I would rather have their mother be someone who valued that which would last over that which was temporary. In addition, it seemed a bit cruel to leave all of this stuff behind for someone to deal with when I pass on.

Certainly, if I lived in the same place permanently and had room to spare, then maybe keeping those old toys and notebooks and posters would not be such a big deal. But they cost me time and one day, perhaps money if they have to go into a storage unit.

Life is so temporary. We’re just here for a little while. In the scheme of things, clinging to stuff is not going to lead anywhere. We need to cling to Christ and to His words. If I spend my life holding on to material objects I will be tied down to them. Worse than the physical consequence of holding on to stuff is the spiritual consequence in my heart of not being able to let it go.

With this realization I looked my younger self square in her round face and declared that I would rather be free. I would rather be free to do whatever God is calling me to do than live a life that is held on a leash attached to “stuff.” Stuff doesn’t last. I’m not that old and I have already seen how it degrades. I have opened boxes to find broken dishes, moldy books, and many dolls with missing eyeballs (that last one is terrifying, let me tell you).

Certainly, I will keep some objects; useful things, books, a few sweet memories.

However . . .

If I cling to something I want to cling to something eternal.

If I leave something behind for the next generation, I want it to be the example and the fruit of someone who obeyed Christ.

Not stuff that will rot.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

(Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

Published in: on March 25, 2014 at 6:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The flame shall not harm thee; I only design Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refineThe air conditioning unit was humming in the background and I was leaning up against a wall talking to a friend. I was a teenager at the time, yet somehow I remember that conversation. Perhaps because it was the first time I had articulated aloud the thoughts that had begun to positively govern my actions. For a while these thoughts would characterize me.

Yet, somehow in the midst of all that life brings, I stowed these thoughts in a dusty closet in my mind, only to be brought out to answer questions of belief. This seemingly harmless bit of amnesia caused me problems as I lost what had been a purposeful way of perceiving life.

I was recently sitting in a service at church and something the pastor said brought back these memories.

The monologue given by my teenage self went something like this:

We’ve been through a lot as a family. There have been so many times when all we could do is trust God. But He was always there. I can already look back on lots of the hard things I have been through and I can see what good things have come from it. What God has taught me and how He has changed me. Lately, it’s been better. Because when something bad or hard or whatever happens now, I start asking God to help me learn whatever it is he wants me to learn. I tell Him I know He is doing something through this, so I ask for His help and look to Him to see what He will do through it.

As this all came rushing back into my brain, complete with the memory of the ambient noise, I was forced to examine my heart. What happened? How could I forget this? I remember the joy that I was able to retain in difficult situations because of looking to the Lord for His purpose.  It’s not that I have never done this in the time since, but rather that it is no longer the first thing that comes to mind when a struggle arrives.  The habit has faded.

We sang “How Firm a Foundation” at our church gathering recently and the last two lines of this verse stood up and addressed me specifically:

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;

The flame shall not harm thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”

 That was it. It suddenly washed over me anew the remembrance that God is refining us for His glory. He is taking something tarnished and making it pure. Do I truly desire to cling to all the foul, sinful parts of me simply to retain a comfort that is fleeting? Through struggles and trials He is removing the nasty bits of me and if I hang onto Him I shall indeed make it through. I haven’t met anyone yet that enjoys facing a trial, but the truth is that life is going to be difficult regardless. What a blessing it is to know that my God can use the struggles of this life for His good purposes. I’m attempting to again make it a habit to immediately thank God that He knows what He is doing when trials strike. Peace rushes in so much faster.

                “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

(1 Peter 1:6-9 ESV)

Published in: on March 21, 2014 at 12:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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