Tag Archives: Gratitude

My Zealous Adonai

Adonai, my Lord of love
How I long to see Thy face
Alight on me, Holy Dove

Bread of Life, strength for the race
Thy Word, my faith, sustain me
Resting, resting on Thy grace

Creator, who made the tree
Sun and moon, all life, mankind
Thou gave us but one decree

Deliverer, oh so kind
Even when I break Thy law
Giving sight when I am blind

Elohim, I kneel in awe
Before Thy majestic throne
In Thee is nary a flaw

Father, mercy Thou hast shown
To Thy undeserving child
Though to wander I am prone

Good Shepherd, meek and mild
Keep me in Thy safe lockup
Bring me back when I’m beguiled

Holy Spirit, fill me up
By Thy abundant measure
Overflow my blessing cup

Immanuel, my treasure
Savior of humanity
Surpassing all life’s pleasure

Jesus Christ, Thy majesty
Bestowed Thy eternal gift
Poured out upon Calvary

King of kings, Thy scepter lift
As Thou lifted on the cross
From me to Thee guilt did shift

Lamb of God, my gain, Thy loss
Light of the world shining bright
Burn from my heart wicked dross

Messiah, Thy way is right
By Thee death is defeated
Prophets foretold Thy great might

Name above all names seated
Now at the Father’s right hand
Thy work, my soul, completed

One True God, salvation planned
Setting Thy people apart
On Thy sovereign grace I stand

Prince of Peace, reign in my heart
That Thee be my legacy
Never let Thy grace depart

Qanna, in Thy jealousy
Oh, let my trust in Thee grow
Remember me tenderly

Redeemer, Thou love me so
Though my days with sin are rife
Paying all that I did owe

Savior, ransom of my life
Answer my fervent requests
Rescue me from pain and strife

Truth upon which wisdom rests
Count me in Thy census
Free me from temptation’s tests

Unchanging God, most gracious
To sing Thy holy praises
Beseech Thy faithful chorus

Vine, the severed branch blazes
Abandoned fields lie fallow
Lest a new crop Thou raises

Way, Truth, and Life, I’ll follow
Word made flesh, Thou art divine
In Thy grace life’s not hollow

Examine my spirit fine
Tune me to Thy lovely gaze
Holy Spirit, gift of mine

Yahweh, the Ancient of Days
Thy virtues I will extol
Help me follow Thy ways

Zealous protector, my soul
Under Thy gaze from above
Make my broken parts a whole

Adonai, my Lord of love
Zealous One, my Holy Dove

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No Dead Poetry Allowed

Today is World Poetry Day, so I thought I’d write a poem about poetry. I hope my poetry, in general, falls into the “living poetry” category.

No Dead Poetry Allowed

A poem leaps off the page
into the reader’s heart

or it is simply words on a page
describing emotions

A poem evokes strong emotion
wrenching the heart

or it simply tells the reader
how to think and feel

A poem skips along smelling flowers
in a fragrant field

or it is simply a list of flowers
the writer says smell good

A poem reveals the divine
creating desire for God

or it simply tells the reader
God exists

A poem acts, accosts the senses,
implores, greets, entreats, and lives

or it is simply dead

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The Beginnings of a Poem

This is the beginning of a poem I’m sharing for Meeting the Bar at dVerse Poets Pub, following the Oulipo option from Anna. Playing with language and poetry rules, I’m writing a poem with the following self-imposed rules:

  1. It’s a Terza Rima with 26 stanzas plus the ending line
  2. It’s in the style of a Hebrew acrostic, like Psalm 119, so that each stanza begins with a successive letter of the alphabet—in this case, the English alphabet
  3. Each stanza begins with a name or characteristic of God
  4. Each line is 7 syllables, because 7 is the number of perfection
  5. The first line and the ending line end with the word “love” because God is love

Anyway, it’s not finished. It’s much more than a 48-hour project. But I wanted to share what I have so far, the first 7 stanzas, and get some feedback. One thing I can’t decide is whether to use “Thy, Thee, and Thou” throughout or the more modern “You and Your.” This version uses Thy, etc.

Oh, and it doesn’t have a title yet. Here it is.

Adonai, my Lord of love
How I long to see thy face
Alight on me, Holy Dove

Bread of Life, strength for the race
Thy Word, my faith sustain me
Resting, resting on Thy grace

Creator, who made the tree
Sun and moon, all life, mankind
Thou gave us but one decree

Deliverer, oh so kind
Even though I break Thy law
Giving sight when I am blind

Elohim, I kneel in awe
Before Thy majestic throne
In Thee is nary a flaw

Father, mercy Thou hast shown
To Thy undeserving child
Though to wander I am prone

Good Shepherd, meek and mild
Keep me in Thy safe lockup
Bring me back when I’m beguiled

 

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Ash and Sackcloth

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It is somber holiday when we are called to consider our sinful nature and our need for a savior. As a result, it tends not to be the most popular of holidays, and yet it is an important one. For only when one understands their sinful nature, their own wretchedness, can one truly see the need for the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus as their savior.

Many churches have services on Ash Wednesday, including my church—Community of Faith—and the focus is on repentance. As part of the service, the pastor or priest places a cross of ash on the forehead of the worshippers.

Ash and Sackcloth

To repent in ash and sackcloth
Is a concept we scarce understand
To revel in our pleasure and sin
Is a right we fully demand

Yet repent is what God commands us
Deep down we know that we should
Still we cling to our sinful behavior
Thinking obedience will hinder our good

Disobedience displays a lack of trust
That God yearns for our perfect peace
If we repent in ash and sackcloth
Only then will our wretchedness cease

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Cardboard Evangelism (Miracles)—A Found Poem

This morning in church we had a visit from a group of men from our local Teen Challenge ministry. The sermon was about how God still performs miracles and these men shared how they are each a miracle. They did so in a very unique way; they called it their cardboard evangelism. Each man walked in front of the congregation with a cardboard sign. On one side they had written who they saw themselves as before they came to Teen Challenge; on the other side they had written who they are now—a miracle of God.

After the service I asked if I could write a found poem based on their cardboard evangelism and they said I could. So with the help of a few of the men I took pictures of the signs so that I could transcribe these miracles into this found poem.

TC Frown TC Smile

Cardboard Evangelism (Miracles)

Walking in a world of darkness
Found the Light in Jesus Christ

Lost cause; No foundation
Redeemed child; New creation

Chained down by addiction
Set free in Christ

Suicidal depressed broken spirit
Miracle Overcomer Healed

Young homeless lost with no hope
Found by Jesus who gave me hope for a better life

Abandoned, Dad was in prison
Found and free through my ultimate Father

Addicted to cutting myself; Hopeless, in pain
Christ bled enough for me. I am healed inside and out

20 years running with the devil
Now . . . running with GOD

Introduced to meth; it was killing me slowly. I hit my rock bottom
Repented to God. Now praying to be faithful

Bitter outcast looking for acceptance in a needle and a spoon
Passionate Jesus freak

Godless dirtbag
Fresh and clean with the Lord

Lost everything to alcohol
Gained everything through Christ

Overwhelmed by darkness
Overcome by Truth

On the street homeless, shooting meth, feeling hopeless
Overcame all with God’s love & forgiveness

Felt misled
Now have purpose

Had everything; wasn’t enough
Have Jesus; more than enough

Lost, broken, and hopeless
Found, healing, and hopeful

Junkie running to the needle every day
Delivered running to my Sword †

Imprisoned by drug addiction
Bailed out by Jesus Christ

Drinking away the past and the hurt
Trusting in Jesus to heal it all

Chasing dope daily, just to get high
Chasing God daily, and lifting Him high

Afraid I could do nothing right
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!

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My Lesson – A Poem

Over at dVerse Poets Pub today, Claudia has challenged us to write about anything we want, but we have to really look at it first. No clichés or hollow shadows of the thing allowed.

My Lesson

My BSF lesson was just some questions,
Bible passages to read—long passages
This is the life of Moses, Exodus and all that

Now it’s filled with my scribbles,
that half cursive, half printing jumble
that is my barely legible handwriting

Good thing no one else has to read it
It’s just for me, and to share with my
Saturday morning discussion group

But the real lesson is yet to come

I’m amazed every week, with each new lesson
that others don’t always have
the exact same answers as I do

We read the same passages yet
we glean different principles as
God’s Word speaks into each life, each heart

My lesson is that our Creator, omniscient
that He is, has a different lesson for me
than He has for you today, this week

Perhaps next week, or next year
I’ll be on the same lesson as you are now
or vice versa as our circumstances require

And that makes me rejoice
that my God truly knows
our daily needs and provides

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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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God Is Always with Me

At the end of the book of Matthew, Jesus says to the disciples, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b (NIV). When He said this, He was talking not just to those disciples who were present, but to all who believe in Him even today. That includes me. He is always with me. He showed me that in a very concrete way this past week.

On Tuesday I had an appointment that I had been putting off for over a year. It may seem like a small thing to many of you, but to me it was huge. I was afraid to make and keep this appointment. But with God’s encouragement I finally did it.

I went to the dentist to have prep done for a crown. I know, people get crowns every day, but I have since childhood been extremely uncomfortable in the dentist’s chair. It stems from a childhood experience that I won’t go into because it’s not the point of this story. Suffice it to say that I have for as long as I can remember been tense and nervous when I have to go to the dentist, even for a cleaning.

There was no getting around the fact that I needed a crown. I have a hairline fracture in a tooth and I barely chew on that side because if I chew on anything even slightly hard it hurts. A year ago the new dentist I started seeing told me I needed to do this. He was nice about it and understanding about my fear, and he didn’t pressure me to put a crown or overlay on every molar in my mouth as a prior dentist had tried to do. I liked his manner enough that I finally felt like I’d found a dentist I could trust. (His name is Jack Henry in Lake Oswego, if you happen to be looking for a good dentist.)

After praying for God’s peace (see Philippians 4:6-7), I finally scheduled a cleaning one week and the crown prep the following week. Halfway through the cleaning appointment, I realized I was the most relaxed I had ever been in a dentist’s chair. This gave me hope that the crown prep wouldn’t be so bad.

Did I mention that I dislike Novocain intensely? It tends to cause my cheek and jaw to hurt for several days. So in spite of the good cleaning appointment, I was still feeling anxious as I looked ahead to the crown prep because I knew there would be Novocain and drilling involved.

But again, I prayed that God would give me peace and help me to not be afraid during this appointment.

I arrived on time and was escorted to the dentist’s chair. I asked if I could listen to music while they worked because I had brought my iPod and headphones. The dentist not only said I could but said it was a great idea. He likes to listen to music when he has dental work done, too, because he doesn’t like the sound of the grinder and drill. It was very reassuring to know that he understood that this procedure was not at all pleasant and that he was going to do whatever he could to make it better.

As he began to work, I shuffled my iPod on a MercyMe and Jeremy Camp playlist I had created in anticipation of Fish Fest that I am going to in August with some friends. And that’s when God so clearly reminded me that He is always with me. The first song that played was God with Us by MercyMe. I heard these beginning lyrics:

Who are we
That You would be mindful of us
What do You see
That’s worth looking our way

We are free
In ways that we never should be
Sweet release from the grip of these chains

I knew that He was mindful of this small thing in my life. I knew He had released me from the chains of fear that had kept me from making this appointment a year before. As that song ended, I felt the peace of knowing God was with me, but He wasn’t done reminding me. The next song to randomly play on shuffle was Here with Me, also by MercyMe, with lyrics that say:

And I can feel your presence here with me
Suddenly I’m lost within your beauty
Caught up in the wonder of your touch
Here in this moment I surrender to your love

You’re everywhere I go
I am not alone
You call me as your own
To know you and be known

Oh, that He would care so much for me; that He knows so well my anxiety and fear and also how to calm that fear. And then He reminded me of why I was feeling such peace in what would have otherwise been a tense and stressful situation. The next song to play was Every Time by Jeremy Camp. The chorus and one of the verses of this song say:

Every time I’m on my knees, pleading for Your strength
I will find You there, find you there
Every time I’m on my knees, reaching for Your strength
I will find You there, find You there

I’m holding on to this hope
I’ve been given, to be always with You
I’m seeing now
That this fullness of faith is, always seeking You

That very morning I had been on my knees pleading God for strength and peace to endure this appointment that my natural self dreaded. I held onto the hope that He would be with me, and He was faithful as always. Rather than be anxious about my appointment, I brought my concern to God, with thanksgiving, and His peace was my reward.

By the time this third song ended, Dr. Henry was done with the drilling and grinding. I was not tense and had not felt a thing. And to top it all off, the Novocain wore off much more quickly than I had expected and there were no lasting effects of pain in my cheek or jaw.

God is always with me, even at the dentist. What an awesome and wonderful God He is!

 

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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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Thoughts on “Discovering My Purpose”

The following is an essay I wrote for the Faith and Culture Writers Conference 2014. It is the essay that I mentioned in an earlier post that was scored 29/100 by one judge and 68.5/100 by the other. One of the comments I received from the first judge was that if the first sentence of the third paragraph was so important I should give it more than a passing mention. As I’ve thought about that comment this week, and struggled with whether to post this essay here, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t need to say any more about the past than I have here. That is not my real story and the details aren’t that important. Rather, my story is the story of Redemption through Christ and to focus on the details of the past does not further that story.

Discovering My Purpose

We are all born with a unique purpose. I now know my purpose is to glorify God with my writing and poetry, but I didn’t always.

Writing is in my blood and is the backbone of much of what I have done in my life. Naturally, I pursued a career that involves writing—I became a lawyer and now hold the title Director of Legal Publications. I am also an avid blogger and poet for the Lord. But I’m getting ahead of myself. My journey towards realizing my purpose as a poet has involved walking through darkness and pain, which I often masked with my own personal achievement and pride.

I went to college largely to escape the small town I had grown up in, having been gravely wounded there. I pursued a political science major at a small liberal arts college, which required writing numerous long research papers and essay exams. I enjoyed the process of consulting diverse research sources and crafting cohesive arguments. Despite the admissions director’s warning that I would surely earn some C grades, I immersed myself in my studies and excelled, graduating in the top 11 percent of my class without one C.

Next, I attended law school and again thrived. Writing meticulously-cited research papers and briefs as well as challenging essay exams suited me. In fact, my first semester Contracts professor distributed copies of my final exam as an example of an A+ essay. I learned the IRAC writing method—IRAC stands for Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion. Because of my naturally organized writing style, I excelled and graduated cum laude. I was on my way to greater success!

During this time I believed in God but He took a backseat to my life and achievements. I was proud of my accomplishments and failed to recognize my writing ability was a God-given talent. I had great knowledge about writing, but I didn’t have wisdom to know what He had created me to write.

After law school I accepted an associate position at a small construction law firm. I was thrust into a world where writing was not the key to success as I had assumed it would be for any lawyer. Meanwhile, the small-town past I had buried under mounds of academic achievements caught up with me and I took a nosedive into major clinical depression. My boss and I “agreed” that this firm was not right for me; I found myself looking for another job. I landed one easily enough, but it didn’t last either.

For the next six years I battled with depression, with the devil himself, trying to find myself and get back on track. During this time most of my writing was private journaling—primarily rants about how hopeless my life was. I wrote a few poems, but they weren’t very good and were quite self-focused. For example, I wrote this untitled poem:

The me that no one knows
writes poetry and prose

The me that people see
writes briefs in legalese

The me that no one knows
seeks counseling for my woes

The me that people see
pretends I’m always pleased

There’s really only one of me
but different sides I reveal
depending on the circumstances
or how I think I should feel

I tried medication and counseling to find relief from depression, all to no avail. My doctor told me that I would be on antidepressants for the rest of my life, though I couldn’t see how they were helping me. I researched depression, trying to find the answer, and came across a book titled, “The Broken Brain.” Reading it, I concluded that my brain, the thing upon which I had hung my professional hat, was irreparably broken. I felt helpless and hopeless, to the point of contemplating ending my life, thinking my husband and young son would be better off without a wife and mother who was so broken.

And this is where God stepped in through the kindness of a Christian friend who invited me to Bible study. During that months-long study of Ezra and Nehemiah, God brought me back from my exile into darkness and depression. He taught me that it was not my brain that was broken, but my heart and my soul. He showed me that anger and unforgiveness I had been harboring for over 15 years drove my depression. He gave me wisdom and strength to forgive. He healed my brokenness and gave me hope. He became my Light, my Rock, and my Redeemer. I learned to boast in Him, not myself. (Jeremiah 9:23-24.)

Not long after, God led me to an unadvertised position as managing editor of a legal newsletter. I was writing again! That position became a stepping stone to my current position in legal publishing, which I love. But still something was missing in my life. I was not passionate about what I was writing at work. In my managerial position, sharing God’s gift of salvation was not appropriate. I longed for a spiritual outlet for my writing.

In September 2009, through a series of God-orchestrated events, I started blogging. Initially, I wrote short essays about faith, life, music, and forgiveness. I was blessed to become part of an active community of Christian bloggers. I had long given up on being a poet, but as I befriended other Christian blogging poets I was encouraged to try my hand at Christian poetry.

I started small with acrostic poems for holidays. Then I ventured into writing poems about thankfulness for my Thankful Thursday theme day. Finally, I found my voice—my purpose—and began to express how God had rescued me from the darkness and despair of depression through His forgiveness and grace. A favorite of my poems is one titled Learning to Forgive.

Someone I don’t know commented on my blog: “thank you for writing this if i didn’t read this when i did i never would have been able to forgive my father for what he has done. so thank you again.” This heartfelt, healing response to one poem that God had led me to write blessed me with a greater feeling of accomplishment and purpose than all of my academic and professional writing combined. I finally realized that my purpose in this life is to share God’s grace and love, to give voice to lost souls struggling in the darkness, in need of the light of Christ to bring them healing. At last I was being used by God for His glory.

Since embarking on my poetic journey, I have focused on two things: truth and craftsmanship. First, and foremost, everything I write must be true to who God is and true to the valley of the shadow of death He has walked through with me. I rely on the Holy Spirit to give me the best words to convey healing wisdom and truth. At times, particularly during periods when I have challenged myself to write daily, I have prayed specifically for what to write and the Lord has been faithful to place in my mind the first stanza and framework of a beautiful poem.

Second, I desire to hone my poetic craftsmanship, so God’s truth is clearly and beautifully communicated to those who need His healing grace. I’ve read poetry blogs with lessons on various forms of poetry, such as triolets, pantoums, and trireme sonnets. I love writing poetry to form because it utilizes the structured writing skills I learned in college and law school, and more importantly because it beautifully conveys that He is a God of order, not chaos. This triolet melds repetition, meter, and rhyme for a reminder of who Christ is and who we are in Christ.

I am blessed to have discovered my purpose. “Now the one who has fashioned [me] for this very purpose is God, who has given [me] the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Corinthians 5:5.

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