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)

“Ready.”
“Ready.”
“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.
My(self).

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.

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You

A Love Story (Our God is so romantic)

(Psalm 107)
Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So
107 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble[a]
3 and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
4 Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
5 hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
9 For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
and burst their bonds apart.
15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze
and cuts in two the bars of iron.
17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!
23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.[b]
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters[c] were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
33 He turns rivers into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
because of the evil of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
36 And there he lets the hungry dwell,
and they establish a city to live in;
37 they sow fields and plant vineyards
and get a fruitful yield.
38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their livestock diminish.
39 When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41 but he raises up the needy out of affliction
and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad,
and all wickedness shuts its mouth.
43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

No knight-in-shining armor, both in love stories and real-life, can ever compare to the Lord that is unfathomably faithful during our unfaithfulness. He delivers and redeems us from our hopeless distress in the desolate desert. He provides us a plentiful dwelling place and satisfies our hunger and thirst. He rids of our self-inflicted chains, the very chains we have put on while touching our idols. We are in a constant state of rebellion but He breaks and bows our hearts so that we may cry out to our true Rescuer. He returns us and heals us, even if we have drawn close to the gates of destruction. He pursues us with suffering storms in the name of love, so that our stubborn hearts may finally raise their hands. He calms the wind and seas and brings us back home. The enemy uses our sense of ‘self’ to separate us from our truest Love. We believe the lies that we have fallen out of love with Him. But Love Himself pursues us relentlessly. Love Himself shatters the mediocre expectations and manipulation of romance and fulfillment that we desire out of life. He has written the greatest love story ever told. My Lord’s steadfast love endures forever. I say so.  

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