Tag Archives: Grace

Darkness to Light – Take Two

The prompt over at dVerse Poets Pub today is to think of our words as seeds and to consider what we want to grow from what we write. I decided to share a revised version of a poem I wrote almost three years ago. I recently submitted the original version to a poetry contest, and although I did not make it into the final round I received some great feedback, so I decided to incorporate that feedback into this version.

What I hope will grow from these seeds are encouragement, hope, and faith for at least one person who is struggling today with the darkness of depression.

Darkness to Light—Take Two

Darkness surrounded me
Darkness invaded my mind
Darkness enveloped my barren soul

In the darkness
The evil one whispered
Thoughts that seemed my own
They’d be blessed without me
It would be better if I was dead

Tears drowned me
Tears flooded my mind
Tears drenched my barren soul

Through the tears
The evil one whispered
Thoughts I believed were true
I am broken beyond repair
These tears will never end

Pain ensnared me
Pain clouded my mind
Pain threatened my barren soul

Amplifying the pain
The evil one whispered
Thoughts I was powerless to deny
This pain will forever cripple me
I will never know joy

Then God’s Light
Pierced the darkness
Illuminating my soul
Revealing the sin in my mind
Proclaiming the way for me

Forgive Jesus whispered
As I’ve forgiven you
Your darkness will subside
His words are true

Then God’s Love
Dried all my tears
Infusing my soul with joy
Clarifying truth in my mind
Declaring healing for me

Live Jesus whispered
As I live in you
Your tears will be dried
His words are true

Then God’s Truth
Erased my pain
Protecting my soul
Clearing lies from my mind
Redeeming my life for me

Love Jesus whispered
As I forever love you
Your pain will be decried
His words are true

Darkness, tears, and pain
Replaced by my Savior’s
Light, Love, and Truth
Holding me forevermore
He is my Light

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This Big Light of Mine

For the past week or so I’ve been listening to the new MercyMe CD “Welcome to the New” as often as I can. There is not a song on this CD that I don’t love. I’ve written a post inspired in part by one of the songs, Flawless, and have wanted to write about more of the great music on this CD, but it’s hard to choose which song to write about. Perhaps in the end I’ll write about most or all of them, but for today I want to share my thoughts on Burn Baby Burn. I’m going to start by sharing the video:

I love this song because it is another one that reinforces what I’ve been learning in Bible Study Fellowship this past year. I’ve learned that it is not enough to believe who Jesus is and that He saved me if that knowledge doesn’t change me. I have the Light and I need to let it shine. I have the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, and I need to rely on that power in every circumstance. I need to truly know, with every fiber of my being, who I am and what I have in Christ.

Jesus’ disciples were truly changed by their encounter with Him, both before His crucifixion and after His resurrection. But even more importantly, when they were filled with His Holy Spirit, they became bold and fearless proclaimers of the truth. They knew who they were and what they had. The book of Acts is brimming with stories of the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through Peter, John, and the others. Eventually they all were martyred for their faith, but because they knew to whom they belongs they did not fear death or any earthly trial.

You probably know the old children’s song This Little Light of Mine. If all you have is a little of God’s light, it is good to let it shine. But I’d rather have a gigantic portion of the Light of Christ and to let it burn baby burn. How about you? Do you know who you are? Do you know what you have? Are you letting the torch of Truth burn bright in your life because you are thankful for God’s gift of grace and know He is with you?

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV).

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Comprehending His Power Is My Power

We are just about to finish up my first full year of Bible Study Fellowship, and as a group leader, in the study of Matthew. The experience has been richer than I could have ever imagined. I am so blessed to have been invited to be a group leader even though I had very little BSF experience.

The final two lessons cover the second half of Matthew 27 and Matthew 28, Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The lessons coincided with Holy Week and Easter, and what an amazing blessing that was! I’ve heard the Holy Week and Easter stories many times. I’ve attended Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter church services for years. And yet this year, going deeper into those stories through the BSF study, I saw a great truth that I had never seen before in quite the way I did this year.

Throughout this year the Lord has been speaking to me through this study about how in His humanity He faced the same temptations and trials that I do. He resisted the temptations and overcame the trials with the same tools I have at my disposal: prayer, scripture, and the Holy Spirit. But it wasn’t until we got to the crucifixion and resurrection that it really sunk in.

As Jesus faced the cross in the garden of Gethsemane, He prayed earnestly, to the point of sweating blood, for the strength to see His mission through. When I face difficult trials, I can do the same. I have direct access to the Father in prayer because of what Jesus did for me.

But more importantly, I have the power of the Holy Spirit living in me. After His resurrection, Jesus said to His disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18, 20. The authority He had, and still has, was sufficient to allow Him to lay down His life on the cross for our sake, and to take it up again at the resurrection and thereby defeat death, our greatest foe. Now that’s power! And He will always be with me so that I have that power at my disposal when I face temptations and trials.

If Jesus can overcome death by the power that enabled His resurrection, then by that same power overcoming sin is well within the realm of possibility for me. His power over death is my power over sin.

I feel like Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus and for all believers has been answered in me:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:18-21.

I’ve known for a long time that I have the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, but somehow the enormity of that power that raised Christ from the dead never quite hit me like it has in the past two weeks. This power will not only convict me of my sin and lead me to repentance, but when exerted in the authority of Christ it can and will enable me to overcome the temptation to sin that I face on a daily basis. I am a conqueror of sin because Christ lives in me and His power is my power!

As if to reinforce this message, just this week I bought the new Mercy Me CD titled “Welcome to the New.” There is a great song on this CD titled “Flawless.” It starts like this:

There’s got to be more
Than going back and forth
From doing right to doing wrong
‘Cause we were taught that’s who we are
Come on get in line right behind me
You along with everybody
Thinking there’s worth in what you do.

Then Like a hero who takes the stage when
We’re on the edge of our seats saying it’s too late
Well let me introduce you to amazing grace

And then the chorus reminds me that:

No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made,
The cross has made you flawless.

No matter what they say
Or what you think you are
The day you called His name
He made you flawless.

In the eyes of God I am flawless because He sees Christ’s perfection when He looks at me. Knowing that, and knowing the power He provides, I don’t have to go back and forth from doing right to doing wrong because that’s no longer who I am. If I embrace His amazing grace and His resurrection power, each day He changes me and enables me to be more of who He’s called me to be.

And here’s the video of Mercy Me singing this awesome song. I hope it blesses you as much as it has me, and encourages you to hold tightly to His grace and power, because the cross has made you flawless, too.

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Memories Haunt in the Light – A Poem

I stand upon the solid Rock
I’ve found my firm foundation
Living each day in the Light
Being sure of my salvation

I know His words of grace are true
‘Cause I feel them deep in my heart
I rise each day, out into the world
And that’s when the memories start

The sky is blue, the sun is bright
A chill wind stings my face
I should be happy and light, but cold
Triggers thoughts I seem to chase

Like Paul with his thorn, I pray the Lord
Would remove the pain today
“My grace is sufficient,” He replies
As over and over I cry and pray

But what if grace is not enough
As this memory haunts the light
This is when I must trust and believe
To escape the darkness of night

He uses this memory of pain
To teach me compassion and grace
For the bruised and the broken
Haunted by memories of disgrace

He’s made me merciful and kind
This lesson is not meant to destroy
But some days I’d rather be less caring
And remember only love and joy

My Rock remains firm beneath me
In spite of my doubt and fury
His grace will suffice, I rest in His Light
One day this memory He’ll bury

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Learning from Disappointment

Earlier this week I wrote this post about my experience at the Faith and Culture Writers Conference 2014. In that post I said that, for the most part, the conference was not disappointing. Some might have wondered in what way, then, was the conference disappointing? Well, here’s what happened.

The weekend started off great when I picked up my friend Ginger in my new red Honda Accord Sport and we took the back way out to Newberg to avoid rush-hour traffic. The weather was sunny and warm, and we made great time and so we had plenty of time to stop and get dinner. Unfortunately, Siri was not much help in locating a suitable restaurant for dinner and we resorted to just looking for a place that might work. We ended up at Finnegan’s and sat down in a bright, sunny corner booth by the window. I had a Chinese chicken salad and she had a BLAT.

We both had been up since 4:00 a.m. and so knew that coffee was essential if we were to make it until 9:30 p.m. and then the drive home. But again, Siri was no help. So we headed straight (okay, maybe we took a few twists and turn) to the Friends Church in Newberg. We got a great close parking spot and went in to register.

That’s when the disappointment started. At the registration table they did not have a name tag for me. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, but still it left me feeling like I didn’t belong, like I was sneaking in, even though I had registered the very first day that online registration was open. I was told they would have a name tag for me in the morning.

Ginger and I (at least I was with someone who had a name tag) went in and found seats in the balcony and then went in search of coffee. Disappointment number two—there wasn’t any. Thankfully the nice women at the registration table point us in the direction of a local coffee shop that sold Stumptown coffee and we had time to walk there and back before the conference started.

The speakers and worship were awesome and we had a great evening. (See my previous posts on speaker topics here and here.) The drive home was a great time to debrief on what we had heard and talk about what break-out sessions we wanted to attend in the morning. I climbed into bed, set aside the little disappointments, and tried to get some sleep so I’d be ready for the early wake-up on Saturday.

We arrived at George Fox University on Saturday morning and went to the registration table to get my name tag and to find out if my essay contest results were available. Disappointment again—still no name tag, not even an extra lanyard to put a handwritten name tag in, and the essay results were not yet available. There were some lanyards still there, but they wouldn’t give me one in case those whose name tags were in them showed up later. They gave me a sticky name tag and in we went to the meeting hall for the morning kick-off session. Thankfully, I sat next to a very nice young woman named Kara who was going to have to leave right after the opening and she gave me her lanyard. Finally, I didn’t feel like an interloper.

Once again, the speakers and worship were awesome. At the first break-out session I attended with poet Phil Long almost made all the disappointments fade away. He was so inspiring and encouraging. Sadly, there were still two disappointments to come that made me feel as though I did not belong, despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

Just before lunch I noticed a bunch of manila envelopes on the registration table. They were the essay contest results. I walked over and began to scan the names on the envelopes. Mine was not there. Perhaps I had just missed it because some had name then essay title, and others had essay title then name, so maybe I just missed it. I scanned them all again. Nope, no Linda Kruschke. Then I noticed that two essays had the same name but different essay titles, and one of the titles was two words from my essay title. The woman behind the registration table looked at the contents of that envelope and confirmed that it was mine and handed it over.

Now, I’d been looking forward to getting feedback on my essay for weeks. I’d prepared myself for some negative feedback and had prayed the Lord would help me take any criticism to heart and learn from it. But I was not prepared for what I pulled from that envelope. Standing in the middle of a sea of conference attendees, I stared at my score from the first judge: 29/100. I couldn’t believe it—I have never gotten 29/100 on anything I’ve ever written in my entire life. That’s an F by most grading scales, and I’ve never gotten an F. I did get a D once, but it was in P.E., not writing. You might think that the 68.5/100 I got from the other judge would have softened the blow, but it didn’t.

I felt like a fraud. What was I doing at a writers conference? Clearly I didn’t belong and someone wanted to erase my name from the books. Even singing “We Belong” during the closing worship time didn’t help.

Now I could end this little pity party of disappointment right here and conclude that I don’t belong among the ranks of Christian writers and poets. I could discount the fact that I gained 4 or 5 new Twitter followers during the conference, won a book, and learned a lot. But then the whole experience would be wasted. Instead, as I pondered, I thought about what I learned about the nature of disappointment and about myself. Here is what I’ve concluded:

First, it is ridiculous to think that the organizers of this conference were intentionally trying to disappoint and reject me. Putting on a conference is hard work—very hard work—with a great many details to be worked out. Missing nametags and lanyards, a mislabeled envelope, and anonymously graded essay scores are not a reflection of whether and how I am valued as a writer and fellow believer. They are just details that fell through the cracks.

Second, it is important for me to examine my own actions in dealing with others at church, work, or other settings. What am I doing or failing to do that might cause others to feel disappointed and left out? What can I do to make sure others feel valued and included?

Third, I must remember that my value is not in how well I write or whether others recognize me. My value is in Christ alone. He has redeemed me and I belong to Him, always and forever. And in the end that is all that really matters.

By the way, I’m looking forward to Faith and Culture Writers Conference 2015!

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I Once Knew a Woman – A Poem

In my Bible Study Fellowship group leaders meeting this morning, I answered a question and my friend Ginger (who is going to the Faith and Culture Writers Conference with me this weekend) said, “There’s a poem in that.” She was right; and here it is.

Interestingly, as so often happens when I am open to what God is saying to me, part of this poem was already being written in my mind starting yesterday. I’ve been pondering fear and how I sometimes still let fear—of what I don’t know—hold me back from taking hold of the dreams God has placed in my heart. I really feel like this weekend and the conference I’m attending are His way of finally and completely crushing the fear that has so often crushed me.

I Once Knew a Woman

I once knew a woman
riddled with fear
crushing fear
made her greatly insecure

Pain and loneliness
were her constant cry
hopeless cry
made her want to die

I once knew a woman
whose dreams lay dormant
sadly dormant
her fear their deterrent

Despair and hopelessness
were her inward cry
lonely cry
made her want to die

I once knew this woman
and she was me
a lost me
But new life I see

Hope and mercy found in Christ
bring dreams alive
no fear survives
makes my soul thrive

I once knew a woman
but she no longer lives
she died and I live
because I learned He forgives

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Fewer Words – A Poem

The prompt over at dVerse Poets Pub yesterday was to write poem about a time or times that influenced our evolution to the poet we are today. I had to really think about this one to come up with something, and here’s what I came up with.

Fewer Words

First it was research papers,
then long-winded briefs

Perhaps just a memo
or letter to a client

but never a poem,
that’s not the sort for me

Expressing in essays
my thoughts and beliefs

No limit on wordiness
to slow me down

Others expressed ideas
great and profound

in simple poetry
of few lines and words

Maybe, just maybe
I could give it a try

Use fewer words to express
the mercy and grace of my Savior

the pain and the darkness
shattered by Light

Turns out a few words
are sometimes all it takes

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Fearless – A Poem

This poem was inspired by my Bible Study Fellowship teaching leader, who has been a great inspiration to me. We are doing a study of Matthew and some of the phrases in this poem are inspired by the encounters with Jesus that we have been studying.

Fearless

Fearless disciple
following Christ
wherever He may lead
Into the storm
or to foreign lands
wherever there is need

Fearless child
of the Living God
rejoicing, “I am freed!”
The cross of Christ
the Gospel true, she
rejoicing plants a seed

Fearless leader
forging ahead with
teaching we do heed
The Word of Life
the source from which all
teaching does proceed

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The Snare Is Broken – A Poem

This short poem is inspired by Psalm 124, which is also rather short but full of hope.

The Snare Is Broken

My soul
entangled in the snare
of the evil one
hopeless and dying
struggling to be free
my struggles tightened the snare
entangled me more

The Lord
broke the snare
clearing the way
for me to escape
clinging to His side
my greatest hope is Christ alone
I am set free and alive
forevermore

This poem is shared today at dVerse Poets Pub for Open Link Night.

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The Widow’s Offering – A Pantoum

This poem was inspired by the story of the widow’s offering recorded in Mark 12:41-44. I wrote it for an Advent devotional that my church is putting together. Each daily reading from the devotional will be offered for all to read on the church website at www.cofaith.net beginning on December 1.

The Widow’s Offering

You gave all You had to give, You gave me Your life
Like the widow’s offering to the treasury
Through Your great poverty, with love my soul is rife
Blessed by the abundant life, my sin You bury

Like the widows offering to the treasury
I am called to give what truly belongs to You
Blessed by the abundant life, my sin You bury
Now I embrace through You this life that is brand new

I am called to give what truly belongs to You
Without worry that it’s all I have left to give
Now I embrace through You this life that is brand new
And as You forgave me today I will forgive

Without worry that it’s all I have left to give
Even if lowly as the widow I may be
And as You forgave me today I will forgive
Praying others will see You when they look at me

Even if lowly as the widow I may be
Through Your great poverty, with love my soul is rife
Praying others will see You when they look at me
You gave all You had to give, You gave me Your life

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