Summer Will Come

Summer Will Come

I wandered to a coffee shop during my lunch break today and thought I’d try my hand at poetry, which I rarely do. But something came of it, so I thought I would use it today instead of my stuffy prose.

This morning I spent some time in Psalm 18, and the theme of light has been reverberating through my brain since then.

 

I took my first gulp of air

in an atmosphere I’ve been living in since September.

I’ve been in a hole- dark damp and cold-  when I fell in I hardly remember.

My heart screams to say, since it’s Valentines day, that surely there’s love here for me,

not found in a kiss or a laugh or a gift but fleshed in my lover’s surrender.

Oh how I forget, my wandering heart, as days become months and the air seems to thin,

the sunlight feels foreign and I start to doubt if I really believe in Him.

I think of the childish tune to my soul long before I moved to the south- in my heart, in a car that died years ago, as I pray that the darkness won’t win.

But you are the spring, you are the summer, you are the one who lights my lamp. Like a foreign land in the dead of winter, you win in my heart as the sun goes down.

And summer will come. Summer will come.

I unwrap red paper in a café alone as strangers sip coffee around me.

It feels so strange to be writing here, a part of this big new city.

I’ve heard others speak of a lonely heart, their jargon foreign to, me but now I know, now I remember, I feel like I finally see.

“This too shall pass” he says to my tear stained face. I don’t doubt it’s truth.

But when, God? When, God?

Can I just please see you?

For you are the spring, you are the summer, you are the one who lights my lamp. Like a foreign land in the dead of winter, you win in my heart as the sun goes down.

And summer will come.

Summer will come.

 

Like A Child

Like A Child

“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”

John 1:12

I’m an adult now, apparently.

I mean, I didn’t intend for it to happen. It just did. I was just walking along, minding my own business, when BAM! time to be an adult. I don’t know – I graduated from college, and then moved to South Carolina, and suddenly I’m supposed to know how to do a billion things I’ve never done before.

And so I act like I have some semblance of understanding, but let’s be real. In reality I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. And in the season of life where I thought I would be all confident and self-assured, kicking down doors and changing lives, I feel a lot more like I’m a little kid afraid of the monster under my bed. I feel like a little baby tadpole in a humongous pond. I feel like my skin is touching air for the first time.

And I realize, I’m a lot like a kid again. Or, more specifically, I never grew out of it, and I don’t think any of us really do. We go to college and then graduate and then do the next thing, but really we’re just kids. We pretend like we have it all together, but inside we’re terrified.

So why pretend? I believe it’s because we think that if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one will.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I was as a little kid. I was blessed with two loving parents, and so even though the world was big and scary, I was at peace. In my mind, as long as daddy was anywhere in proximity to me, I was safe. And so I didn’t spend my time worrying or thinking of “adult things” – I just spent all of my time being a kid. Playing at recess, reading books, laughing, crying, running into my parents’ arms when I was scared.

And knowing Jesus is a lot like being a kid again. The Bible talks a lot about freedom, and lifting heavy burdens, and not worrying. But then us adults look at the world and see everything wrong and think “how is that possible?? how could I not worry? don’t you see this, and that, and that…??” 

For me, following Jesus means I get to handle worry like I did as a kid – with open hands, knowing I can’t do anything about it, and knowing it’s not my job. I’ve spent a lot of time lately taking on jobs that aren’t mine, and it’s a lot like a 5 year old trying to cook dinner, do the dishes, and drive the family car to the beach. I’m overwhelmed and scared stiff because 5 year old’s weren’t meant to do any of that stuff.

One time, someone asked Jesus who the greatest in Heaven was, and Jesus brought a child to Him and said “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. I don’t believe this was said like a threat. Instead, it’s Jesus saying that the entire basis of a relationship with Him is one of Father/Daughter. It’s about trust, and humility, and knowing you need Him.

And you can trust Him. Because He loves you. You can let go of all that worry and fear and cynicism not because there aren’t things to fear or worry about but because you know that your Dad has it all figured out, and that He loves you more than you could every comprehend. It’s His job, and He’s extremely good at it. And that is the only way I find rest in this tumultuous season.

“The Lord your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

He will rejoice over you with gladness;

He will quiet you by His love.”

Zephaniah 3:17

“And Jesus said, ‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.'”

Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

 

 

Never Too Far Gone

Never Too Far Gone

“For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will.”

John 5:21

I moved to South Carolina 5 months ago.

My move wasn’t calculated or planned. In fact, it was probably the most impromptu thing I have ever done (which is saying something). I needed somewhere to move after college, I was handed an opportunity, and I just went with it.

There are so many perks to doing something like that. I once told someone my story and they responded with, “Well, if you pick up a cat by it’s tail, you’re gonna learn things you just can’t learn any other way.” And it’s true. I have learned so many things, and experienced so many things, that I just couldn’t experience any other way. My life is a constant surprise, with twists and turns and a story I cannot wait to tell people.

And yet, it’s also a lot like drinking out a fire hose and running a marathon and throwing yourself onto a never-ending merry-go-round all at once. To move states, graduate college, start a new job, join a new church, meet 245 new faces, and do it all at the same time is no joke. Especially when you decided so last minute to undertake it in the first place!

So most mornings I wake up a bit paralyzed. And blind. And lame. And I think – is there redemption? I hardly even remember digging myself into a hole, and yet here I am, and I can’t seem to get on my feet. 

 

John chapter 5 tells us of a man who Jesus met who had been an invalid for 38 years.

That means that for 38 years this man couldn’t walk. And he was an outcast. Every day he lay near a pool with no one to help him in or out. Lonely, lost, no future.

Until he met Jesus.

John recounts Jesus seeing this man, and he says that Jesus knew he had been laying there for a long time. He wasn’t just a social outcast to Jesus – Jesus knew him. He knew his needs, knew his story, knew his name. And so he walked right up to him and asked him one question:

“Do you want to be healed?”

Chances are no one ever talked to this man. In fact, we know that no one ever talked to him because his response to Jesus was, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am under another steps down before me.”

In other words, he had no one. And no way to help himself. And he couldn’t walk or get work – in society’s terms, he was worthless.

And yet Jesus just looks at him, and says the simplest words that changed his life forever:

“Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”

And he did.

 

Sometimes I believe that I am beyond the healing powers of Jesus, that I’m too far gone. Lately, I feel that a lot. I am a vision driven person, and I love to know what I’m doing and where I’m going. I love to walk with confidence and purpose.

But since coming to South Carolina, I feel like I don’t know how to walk. At best, I crawl around all day and back into bed at night. And I begin to worry, thinking: how am I supposed to find my feet again? And even if I do, where am I supposed to go?

But this story doesn’t tell us that we need to find a way to heal ourselves. It doesn’t tell us to try harder or slave-drive ourselves into a “better version” of the person we are. This story tells us that Jesus sees us as we lay on the street, and He knows how long we’ve been laying there, and He walks straight up to us and asks,

“Do you want to be healed?”

Every day, it is my job to give Jesus my paralysis and blindness and lameness. Because I’m no different from those invalids Jesus walked up to that day, and I need Jesus’ healing words just as much as they did.

But out of His love for me, I believe that He walks right up to me every day and offers me new life.

(scripture taken from John chapter 5)

A God Who Meets Me Here

A God Who Meets Me Here

“Jesus answered, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.'”

John 4:10

One of my favorite things about Jesus is that He constantly did things that no one expected.

When John and the other guys first left their fishing boats to follow this guy named Jesus, I’m sure they expected Him to be a normal teacher. In fact, it’s pretty clear that they expected Him to be normal, because the Bible says over and over that they are baffled by what He does. Jaws on the floor. “Who is this guy??”

This story today is one of my absolute favorites, because the main character is a woman with a past she wants to hide.

(…can anyone relate?)

Jesus and John and the guys were having a travel day, making their way from Judea to Galilee (both regions in ancient Israel), when it was noon and they were tired. Jesus was exhausted, and so He sat down at a well that was there. Now, I don’t know much about the culture back then, but I do know that no one in their right mind went to draw water in the middle of the day because it was hot. Everyone would go in the morning, I’m sure, before the sun came out in full force. The women would grab their water jugs in the morning and head over, chatting about the day and the gossip of the town.

But no one would go midday.

And yet, there was one other person at the well when Jesus arrived, and it was a woman. We don’t know much about her, but the very fact that she was drawing water at noon tells us that she didn’t belong. The scorching heat of the day was the perfect cover to make certain that no one else would be there and she could get her water in peace.

And yet Jesus was there.

“Give me a drink.” Jesus walked up her and sat down.

The woman was baffled, not only because men never spoke to women like this back then, but also because Jesus was a Jew and she was a Samaritan, and there was bad blood. Jews never spoke to Samaritans. And a Jewish man specifically would never, ever talk to a Samaritan woman. Ever.

But Jesus loved breaking every social rule, and so He struck up a conversation.

“If you knew the gift of God, and who I am, then you would ask me for living water and I would give it to you.”

“Sir, you didn’t bring anything to draw water with,” she said, observing His belongings, “how do you get living water?”

Jesus, possibly looking into the well or gesturing to her water jug, replied, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give them will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman was probably thrown off, as I would be, but she implored, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water anymore.”

And this is my favorite part, because Jesus wasn’t there to talk about drawing water from a well. He knew this woman – He knew her past, the hidden parts she tried to keep secret, her regrets and fears. He knew that she had gone through 5 husbands, and that she was currently living with a guy who wasn’t her husband. He knew that she drew water at noon out of shame. He knew.

“Go, call your husband, and come back.”

She looked down, diverted her eyes, mumbled, “I have no husband.”

“I know you have no husband.” Jesus replied. “I know that you have had five husbands, and that the man you’re living with is not your husband.”

I’m sure her head snapped up and that she searched the face of this guy who met her at the well. How could he know that? The most shameful parts of her life, probably the reason she was a social outcast, the very thing the intended to hide from everybody she met was just thrown into the open. And she sat there, exposed, in front of this man she had never met.

The story goes on to say how Jesus told her that He was God, the Savior of the world. His disciples came back, confused that He was talking to a woman. And the woman left her water jar at the well, ran into the town, and told everyone about this guy she had met at the well, how He knew everything about her. Could this be God Himself?

She believed in Jesus that day, and a lot of other people did too. The people of that town begged Jesus to stay with them, and John tells us that they stayed there for two days.

 

There are so many things I love about this story. I love that Jesus, God Himself, could have spent His days on earth rounding up as many people as possible and performing the flashiest of miracles. He could have been loud and boisterous and in-your-face. But He didn’t.

I love the fact that He spent an entire afternoon talking with one social outcast woman at a well. I love that Jesus knew her, not for the Instagram-worthy version of herself she gave everyone else, but for the real her. He knew every shameful part of her life, and yet He met her there. And He didn’t run away. He just offered her living water, speaking of her failed marriages as simply something in her life, not something that defined her life.

And that’s the love of God. It’s the kind of love that will cross every social barrier to meet you where you are and offer you living water. It will look into the dirtiest parts of your life and cover them up. Jesus, in how He lived His life, showed us just how much God loves us.

And just like He met the woman at the well, He wants to meet you.

(scripture taken from John chapter 4)

For God So Loved The World

For God So Loved The World

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

John tells the story of a man named Nicodemus.

The Bible says he was a ruler of the Jews, which means he was the kind of guy that was always in church. In fact, he wasn’t just in church, he was the head honcho of the church. Very religious. Always reading the Bible.

And yet, the irony of Jesus’ life is that it was the church-goers that didn’t feel a need to know Him at all. Jesus once said that He didn’t come to call the healthy, but the sick. He didn’t come to hang out with the self-righteous church goers, but the messy street people. And that’s exactly what He did.

And yet Nicodemus was curious. John tells us that he approached Jesus by night. He was too embarrassed to admit his desire to know Jesus in front of all of his church buddies, and so he tracked Him down after the sun had set.

“Teacher, we know that you come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Nicodemus said, surely recounting the conversations his church friends had had in the tabernacle earlier that day or week, pondering who this guy Jesus was and how He was turning water into wine.

I don’t know what Nicodemus was expecting Jesus to say, but like always Jesus blows him away by the words that come out of his mouth:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God… For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

 

John doesn’t tell us how Nicodemus reacted, but there is no doubt that he was surprised. He had to have been. He was a religious man, and his whole life he had studied the Law – what he should or shouldn’t do, and yet Jesus says nothing of the sort. He doesn’t meet Nicodemus with a list of rules or a pep talk to “do better”.

Instead, Jesus talks about rebirth. And sacrificial love. And life.

And that’s the gospel. It’s the fact that when each and every one of us approaches Jesus in our secret heart, in the comfort of the night, hidden from everyone waiting to judge us, we aren’t given condemnation. John doesn’t tell us that Jesus told Nicodemus off for hiding from his friends, or not knowing what to say. It only tells us that Jesus told him the extent of His love, and that he can be born again. He can start anew.

Because we need to know that. Each and every one of us. God loves us so much that He would send His Son on a rescue mission to find us in our darkest nights.

And later we will learn that Jesus, God’s very Son, would die to prove His love. He would die to take our death, so that we would never doubt how much God loves us.

(scripture taken from John chapter 3)

The Beginning of Belief

The Beginning of Belief

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.”

1 John 4:16

One of the very first stories John writes about Jesus takes place at a wedding.

We know from yesterday that this man named Jesus started walking around and asking people to follow Him, and that John was a fisherman when he himself was called. I don’t know about you, but if some random person I had never met came by my office one day and told me to drop everything and follow him… well, I wouldn’t.

And yet John did. And the Bible tells us that 11 other guys were also chosen and called by Jesus. I can imagine them all meeting each other for the first time, having no idea what they were getting themselves into. I can only assume that they perceived that it was something great.

John says that the next day they were all invited to a wedding, along with Jesus’ mother, Mary. I don’t know exactly what weddings looked like back then, but I can imagine these 12 guys mingling, getting to know each other, taking a seat at a table adjacent to Jesus and His mom.

And then the party ran out of wine. I can see John watching it all unfold, as Mary walked right up to Jesus and said, “They have no wine.”

“What does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus said.

And yet Mary walked over to the master of the feast and told him to do whatever Jesus said. And John watched as Jesus complied, walked over to the servants and told them to fill the stone water jars they had with water, all of the way to the brim.

After they had done this, Jesus said, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”

And when the master of the feast drank the “water” from the jars, it was wine. He called the (surely baffled) bridegroom and gushed about how great the wine was.

And the 12 disciples, these guys that had just met each other, that had just embarked on this new adventure, probably looked at each other and marveled. Who was this guy? Did he just turn water into wine? John recounts that they believed in Jesus that day. They began to believe that Jesus was more than just a normal man, that He was something magnificent.

 

At the end of his gospel, John describes Jesus as doing so many incredible acts that “were every one of them to be written, the world itself could not contain the books” (John 21:25).

Jesus made a lot of incredible claims when He walked the earth. He claimed that He was the light of the world, that He was the way and truth and life, that God loved the world so much that He sent His very son to die so that we don’t have to. And John heard Him make every claim. He was walking beside Jesus, listening to what He had to say.

But anyone can claim things about themselves. Jesus knew people wouldn’t believe that He really was God unless He proved His legitimacy in front of them. And so He did things in front of everyone who crossed His path, things that were miraculous, things we will talk about more later.

But this was His first sign, His first miracle. And the disciples had no idea at the time how much Jesus would do, and how turning water into wine would pale in comparison to everything they would see.

But John recounts this story, this first time He recognized Jesus as something special, the first time he believed that there was something miraculous in his midst.

The loving God Himself.

(scripture taken from John chapter 2)

 

 

That One Guy Named John

That One Guy Named John

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.

1 John 4:16

Sometimes when I read the Bible my mind likes to pretend that it was written by a ghost or a robot or, I don’t know, some disconnected monk somewhere. And I forget that it was written by normal people, just talking about everything they experienced, and how they met God in a way they never planned.

This verse was written by a guy named John, and talks about how somewhere, somehow, he came to know and believe the love that God had for him. I find this intriguing because, well, want to come to know and believe that God loves me. I want to sit down with John and look him in the eye and ask him the entire story, because surely he was just like me. Surely he doubted his lovability, surely he faced hardships, surely the world around him absolutely screamed the opposite claim – that love is earned, not given. That love is conditional. That there is fear in love.

But that’s not what John says. A few sentences after this claim, he then goes on to say that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear”. Ok, scoop that up on a plate and serve me dinner please, because I want that. (Whoops… is it showing that I live in the South now…?)

What in John’s life convinced him so thoroughly that it’s true?

 

I don’t know much about John, and Biblical scholars surely know way more than me, but the Bible tells us that he was a fisherman. And one day, he was sitting in his fishing boat with his brother, James, and their dad. They were mending their nets, as I’m sure they did often, when a man named Jesus walked by and he told them,

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Which, honestly, is kind of a weird statement. But the Bible says that John and James left their father immediately to follow Jesus. They vacated their fishing boat and profession and started a brand new life. Just like that.

What was it about Jesus that made them do that?

It must have been the same “thing” about Jesus that caused John, years and years later, to write about how convinced he was that God loved him. The things he experienced while following Jesus changed him forever, and what I believe he experienced above all else is love. He became convinced of the love Jesus had for him, and consequently, the love God had for him because Jesus is God.

And so I believe that the only way to understand how loved we are by God is to understand who Jesus was. Not who our minds make Him out to be, because our minds often lie. But who was Jesus really? What did John see Him do and hear Him say that convinced him of His love? Maybe you’ve read the gospels before, and you assume you know who Jesus is, but I know I need a closer look.

So this month I am going to use John’s gospel as a tool to finding God’s love. Every day, together, we will crack open the stories John tells and look at them from new angles. Not as people sitting in our living rooms reading about them, but as the people who were really there.

And I pray that, by the end of the month, you and I can both come to know and believe the love that God has for us.