Tune my heart to sing Thy grace

I often place my God, my glorious King, in a box that is filled with selfish expectation and my own human understanding. I hurriedly lift the lid, assuming to see a silver platter of self-gratification, but to my dismay, all I see is the horrendous monster that I usually sweep under the rug: pride. And when I am (graciously) disappointed, instead of clinging to His truths—instead of further fighting to seek His face, my gaze nods off elsewhere.

The enemy is so quick to convince me to be wise in my own eyes. Thoughts produced by an unsurrendered heart and information overload from a fallen world begin to take me captive. It then becomes an all-consuming white noise that eventually runs the narrative to my life. The pit looks endless as I stubbornly attempt to climb out myself. I then hear the faint voice of my Shepherd. I know His voice. But the enemy is two steps ahead in hanging legalist lies over my head that I actually believe that I must be mentally + emotionally collected in order to draw near again to my Lord. One of the most classic lies that I repeatedly stumble over.

Time passes. I look at the clock and I’m still not ready. And that’s when I look down and in horror I discover that I am knee-deep in rotting layers of sin, I have stopped wrestling with my flesh, and I’m miles and miles away from home.

But here is the (often forgotten) relief: I will never be ready.

I will never ever be ready because it’s not about me. It will always, always, always be about God and who HE is.

Thank You Lord that You take back such a wretched daughter into your everlasting arms, even after the countless times Your rod has pulled me out of the pit. Thank You Lord that You want me to be less and for You to be more. Thank You Father that this is who You are.

My King, my King! Teach me to behold You once more.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
 In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
 Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones.”
(Proverbs 3:5-8)

I Ache.

“O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” (Daniel 9:18-19)

“Be ready.”

That was the mantra, that was the focus.
But I am not and never will be—ready.

For I was welcomed home with both reunion and the enemy’s strongholds. My Father’s broken sons and daughters are hurting and searching. Foolishly I picked up justifications and works of man instead of the whole armor of my God.

So here I am again. Knee deep in dirt with scrapes on my elbows. I tried to do it on my own (again). I tried to save your people with my own hands (again). I ran on pride and empty (again). So again I am back to the most liberating truth: this is absolutely, positively, nothing about me. Thank you my sweet Lord that this is absolutely, positively, everything about You.

Lord, Your people are in chains.
We continue to find home in the soiled rags.
We continue to follow our wandering hearts.
We continue to make every excuse that it’s not about You.

Lord, Your people are aching.
This world is tossing and turning in agonizing chaos.
Our hearts are mourning and breaking with each beat.
Lord, Your people are worn. So very worn.

This world.
My country.
My state.
My city.
My town.
My house.

They ache for You.
With tears and cries, I pound this chest.
With my pride’s defeat, I enter Your rest.
Because it’s all about You.

Father, I plead, break the chains that say otherwise.
And may it be for Your name, Your name alone.

How He Brings Us Back Home

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

I do.
I take my Father’s goodness for granted.

He graciously invites me to take the opportunity to repent, but instead, I question the invitation because of my shame—or worse, I compromise it.

There has not been much going on in my life on paper these days. Maybe more so in-between the lines. Long story short, I have been at war with myself and my familiar pit of darkness welcomed me back home.

I was hit with a stirring in my heart a few weeks ago. Once the smoke cleared, I was not satisfied with the direction that God was pointing me towards. I didn’t expect it to look like this. I subconsciously refused to obey Him from where I was. It was either “God, just let me manipulate the picture a bit before I do what I need to do!” or “God let me live out what people have written for me or what I have written for myself!” That alone should have revealed the true intent of my heart’s desires, but my pride led me elsewhere. As it always does.

So I began my typical self-pity party and invited those that were in reach of me. “Oh poor me, I am alone.” “Oh my poor future, I am left behind.” “Oh my poor heart, I am always trying to please people.” No. No, no, no. But that was the mantra that was on repeat throughout mornings and nights. I knew I was sinning. I knew I was defying God’s will and timing in the life He has for me. I smugly admitted it with my lips, but my heart was dripping with shame.

You see, I have a tendency of fearing man more than fearing the Lord. The root of that is shame. And it is so easy to forget that in any challenge, no matter who is actually in the wrong, it is always between you and God first. As Edward T. Welch says, “The first biblical perspective on the fear of man is that it is the result of the nakedness that comes from sin. Because of sin still present within us, we experience embarrassment, shame, the feeling of being exposed and vulnerable. As a result, we try to protect ourselves and avoid the gaze of others. The ultimate problem appears to be the gaze of other people, but in reality the problem is within us and between God and ourselves.” So by the time God reminded me just how self-absorbed and prideful I had been, I did what any anxious teenage daughter would do: I ran.

It was subtle, though. I was already knee-deep in my sin so all I wanted (and sadly, attempted) was to tidy up my sin a little. “Look God, I know, but let me just clean this mess I made before I turn around.” I become desensitized to the Gospel and the all-powerful, life-saving, salvation-giving truth that the price has already been paid by Christ Himself. What am I even doing?

I lost self-control. I dug the hole further and further. I chose quick-fixes or muttered quick spurts of “I’m sorry” whenever I felt too guilty. Little did I know that He was clothing me in my naked shame, whether it was placing me in a God-fearing environment or sending vessels from various walks of life. My lack of humility, inevitably, prolonged this realization. My own understanding is single-handedly the worst crutch to lean on.

Amidst all of my detours, even after all of my messy compromises, God faithfully spoke through my pastor and 2 Corinthians 7:10-16.

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

We cannot add Jesus without subtracting sin.

“If a man does not repent, God will sharpen His sword; He has bent and readied His bow.” (Psalm 7:12)

Our Father gives us repentance to work out life, peace, and freedom. We are not experiencing punishment and judgement because God is delaying it so that myself and others may repent. For is the kingdom of heaven not at hand?

The Fruit of Repentance v.s. Unrepentance:
– Eager for restoration versus Lack of zeal to reconcile
– Holy hatred toward sin versus Love/hate relationship with the sin
– Humility versus Pride (continued state of rebellion due to arrogance)
– Trustworthy versus Dishonesty in hiding sin
– Fear of God (being in awe) versus Fear of man (trying to save face)
– Pursue righteousness (no regrets) versus Chasing idols (regrets leading to death)

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” (Acts 3: 19-21) 

Lord you are not slow to fulfill Your promises. Who am I to define what is slow? Lord thank You that your presence alone is more than enough. Thank you for this delight and freeing joy in You. Thank you for giving us this opportunity, not obligation, to turn to you and go back home. That this gift is meant to rid of ourselves so that our love for others may increase. That it reveals our true brothers and sisters, for the holy wounds of a friend is love. That we have the freedom to worship and find delight in You. Thank you for reproving and disciplining those that You love. Father, have me remember that coming to You should be a joyful devotion to Christ. I love you, Dad.

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

– Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

There Will Be Return Someday

‘So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.’ (Genesis 37:8)

Joseph was given dreams of Your plans for his life. You have plans for me for Your own purpose. They are unexpected, terrifying, confusing, grueling, uncomfortable, and most of the time: impossible. Thank you Lord for giving me a life that far exceeds anything I can merely imagine.

‘—the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field.’ (Genesis 39:5)

‘But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did the Lord made it succeed.’ (Genesis 39: 21-23)

Lord, wherever I go, wherever I am, your provision is endless.

‘Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.’ (Genesis 41:51-52)

You sent me away from the broken roots that haunt the town I once called home. There are days when I am distraught for all I see are giants and in turn, my weaknesses begin to show. But Lord I know your goodness runs without fail in any journey of mine. Whether I am in the fruitless desert or the storm-tossed chaos, You mold me in the very lands that try me. My weakness and affliction raise my hands to my Father.

‘And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.’ (Genesis 44:5-8)

‘But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20) 

Lord I know that I can’t save them. I have tried. It was never meant to be done by my own understanding and lacking hands. Your work is not finished. Not in me, my cursed house, my hurting sisters and brothers, and the beating hearts that have yet to know you. It may take years, decades, or maybe my eyes will never witness the day in this lifetime. But God you are the God of the living, not the dead. Joseph’s ambushed life became the bridge to bring forth and survive Your people. He wept and embraced the very brothers that left him behind. Even through the dark afflictions committed by myself or others, Your faithfulness leads it to Your good purpose. Your work is not finished. You always finish what you start.

Sidenote: Shout out to my sister-friend Kristen.

I am such a foolish daughter.

Lord I prayed for You to stretch me further and further. Every edge of me has been pulled and yanked this season—to the point of screaming. I am uncomfortable. I am sore. Thank you for answering. 

Lord I prayed and asked that whether You respond with Your voice or in silence, that I may know Your presence is there. Your hands have turned my life upside down and I heard nothing. I felt nothing. I fell into despair for being placed in the desert. But nobody else can move my life in such a way besides you. You are demonstrating your sovereignty. You are moving, You are surely there. Thank you for answering.

Lord I prayed for a God-loving community. I have been alone for five months. I have lost the very people I called my brothers and sisters. Most of the communities back home are burning, only Your children remain in my life. You are protecting me, you even blessed me to be in solitude during this process. Before I invest my heart into any more lives, You must first weed out those that hold my faith back. Thank you for answering. 

Lord I prayed for You to break down and stir the hearts of my loved ones that don’t know You. My house has fallen apart to the point of life and death. My loved ones are screaming and writhing in pain. Some are letting the hands of the enemy plot their next trap. Their hearts know that something is missing, something that can’t be found in this world. Thank you for answering. 

Lord I prayed to be carried by Your spirit and not by my own efforts and striving. I have lost sight of every dream I once held. I have failed and lost every opportunity. I am hitting walls of rejection wherever I go. I cannot even hide behind or depend on the fruits of yesterday, for my hands are empty. Even physically, I am in debt. Only You can provide. Only You can lead me towards Your plans. I need You. Thank you for answering. 

Lord I prayed for obedience and discipline. I prayed to be more like You. I lost my fire whilst going to morning prayer because I was doing it as works. I lost my ability to script my prayers or to put up a “holy” front (resulting in looking foolish in front of others with my man-made humility). I lost my strengths. I lost my titles. I lost my blueprint for gaining spiritual gifts via human methods. I began to hate myself and fell into the enemy’s discouraging lies. You made me lose more and more. I am being constantly corrected. I am learning just how wicked and prideful I am. I am learning even more why this grace is so undeserved. It is too unbearably painful to look at anything else other than You. I can’t move for my legs are wounded. I can’t speak for my heart is too heavy. I can only look at You as the storm’s winds keep knocking me around. Thank you for answering.

Lord I prayed to have a love-based heart, not a fear-based or control-based heart. I prayed to trust in You, not just my idea of You. The enemy’s voice is loud. It has been breaking down the door every single day. I became so numb that my emotions could not move me. I could not be carried by my emotions for once in my life. I looked to Your word and felt nothing. I tried to follow my heart and went in circles. I put you in a box and my expected rescue did not happen. I have no idea what is to come or who I will become, no more safety nets or plan z’s. I am learning that this suffering is Your love. Your love is not an emotion to be merely felt. It is so much more, more than I will ever know. Thank you for answering. 

I still cry. I still fail. I am still wicked. I still believe the enemy. I still forget. I still refuse. I still lean on my own heart and understanding. I still lose faith while walking on water. I still wander. I still ask and foolishly breakdown when it is received. Lord I ask you to push me even further. Stretch my faith from one end to the other. Even if it means more trial and tribulation. I want more of You.