Author Archives: gaimee

A Scriptural Stomachache

We go to the Word of God to settle our souls. We look to fill ourselves with God’s words that are sweeter than honey (Psalm 19:9–10). We rush quickly to grab the promises contained therein. And well we should.

But, read rightly, the Scriptures should also unsettle us. They should stir us up. They should prod us with commands as they protect us with promises. We should sometimes leave our time in the Word with a Scriptural stomach-ache. God’s Word both comforts and confronts.

God’s Word is certainly sweet; however, it is simultaneously a sword and scalpel (Hebrews 4:12–13). We don’t get to choose which one we get when we open the Word. We let the Spirit of God do His painstaking work in us. Sometimes that work feels like a gentle hug, but sometimes it feels like an invasive search light.

Eugene Peterson’s book Eat This Book about a proper approach to the Scriptures is built around the Apostle John’s strange vision in Revelation 10. After seeing a mighty angel come down from heaven and stand with his right foot on the sea and his left on the land open up a scroll and begin preaching, John wanted to take notes. He wanted to record this crazy scene he was witnessing; however, he was instructed to step forward and eat the scroll.

Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go take the scroll that is open in the hands of the angel who is standing on the sea and the land… Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey” (Revelation 10:8–9).

While the scene sounds as strange to us as it likely was to John, Peterson’s words regarding the bitterness of the Scriptures deeply resonated with some of my experiences in the Word of God.

“But sooner or later we find that not everything is to our liking in this book. It starts out sweet to our taste; and then we find that it doesn’t sit well with us at all; it becomes bitter in our stomaches. Finding ourselves in this book is most pleasant, flattering even; and then we find that the book is not written to flatter us, but to involve us in a reality, God’s reality, that doesn’t cater to our fantasies of ourselves.”

Lately, I have been reading the book of Acts with a few groups of women. But rather than reading Luke’s account, I feel like the Holy Spirit has been reading my own lackluster faith back to me.

The early church was marked with expedient obedience, wonder, awe, and expectancy. My own walk with God is often more muted and mundane. Often, I don’t see God doing the same types things because I am not obeying and living with my eyes wide open. While the accounts of the early church first stirred me, the longer I sit in them, I find my heart increasingly sickened by my selfishness and lack of trusting obedience.

I don’t like feeling convicted. It is terribly uncomfortable to be exposed as one who likes to talk and write about the gospel but is slow to share it with others. But God’s Word is doing its good work and beginning to compel me to simple obedience in the spaces where God has placed me. If I want fresh accounts of God’s faithfulness, I will have to step out in clumsy obedience and faith to my neighbors and fellow soccer mommas.

Read slowly and spiritually, the Scriptures should sometimes leave us with a stomachache. The Word of God convicts and exposes, but it will not leave us there. For the sick finally seek the aid of a physician, and the soul sick will run to the gospel medicine offered by the Great Physician.

When was the last time the timeless and timely Word of God left you with a tummy ache?

What Makes the Angels Wonder

Even mainstream culture has a cyclical fascination with angels and angelic beings. Growing up we watched Touched by An Angel as a family. Nicholas Cage had that strange movie about being an angel wearing a trench coat. People buy angel figurines and necklaces for each other as symbols of affection and protection. There is talk of guardian angels even among those who would not call themselves religious.

It is no wonder that angelic beings make us wonder. The reality that an unseen realm exists right alongside our material universe has staying power. Even in our age of materialism when what is real is that which can be measured, prodded, dissected, and recorded, people are loathe to let go of the idea that angels walk and move and serve among us.

While there is much to say about the less visible though no less real realms, my heart has been thinking about what makes the angels wonder.

The Scriptures flat out tell us that, just as we are intrigued and wonder about angels, they are intrigued and wonder at us. Well, to be more specific, they peer from their lofty perches in the unseen realm and wonder at the salvation God has purchased for us.

We, who were intended to be the crown of God’s incredible creation, had quite a tumbling fall. Angels are not unaware of such ignoble falls. After all, the lead angel of light was swept out of the heavens for desiring more power and more prominence than the God under whose authority he was to serve (see Luke 10:18). They know all too well the corruptibility of God’s creation.

They wonder not at our disobedience, but at the incredible condescension of God who stooped to save us, who died that he might once again delight in us.

The Apostle Peter, writing to a beleaguered and bruised, suffering people, sought to remind his tired flock of the incredible wealth they had received in the gospel. He employed the wonder of the angels to that end.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:10–12, emphasis mine).

The angels stand in awe and wonder at the salvation God has secured for us. While we wonder about angels, angels wonder at our purchased place in the kingdom of God.

As a group of ladies and I have been studying the book of Acts, the angels that keep popping into the story for a brief act of helping obedience have stood out to me. They seem to be a funny flock, those angels. They remind me of Navy Seals, prepared and trained to the nth degree. Ready to step in for their crucial service of obedience to help a bungling group of human believers who are seeking to clumsily advance God’s rule and reign on this earth. They pop in, do their role, and peace out as quickly as they came. No agents, no publicity stunts, just unadulterated obedience and service to God.

Angelic Wonder

Angels don’t need agents.
They don’t crave publicity.
They operate in obedience,
Do His bidding in simplicity.

In compassionate condescension,
They buoy beleaguered belief,
Propping up pallor believers,
Bringing resurrection relief.

Sitting on the Savior’s tomb,
Wondering at what He’d done,
Ushering astonished disciples
When the gospel had begun.

Angels follows order exactly,
With God-empowered precision,
Yet they wonder at salvation,
At God’s unthinkable decision.

We know aspects of Adonai
They’ll never understand.
As recipients of redemption,
In God’s great grace we stand.

We were made lower than angels,
Yet, for our souls, Christ came.
As His resurrection lifts us up,
A wonderful salvation we claim.

We stand in a place of redemption that causes angels to wonder. Perhaps we would do well to join them in their wonder at all God has done on our behalf.

A Big Confession About Smallness

Between a visit to the Grand Canyon and being a small minnow at a big conference, the Lord has been graciously reminding me of my smallness of late. While I initially resist being put in my proper place, I am learning the freedom of a right estimation of self.

I want to be big. I want to be made much of. I want to feel important and needed, wise and winsome. I want to be remembered.

And those desires are not necessarily evil, but the twisted ways the fleshy parts of my heart seek these things most assuredly are. I want to know more than you. I want to write better than you. I want to be more needed and more significant than you. And it disgusts me deeply. It fills my eyes with tears.

Left to myself, I perfectly embody exactly what James says wisdom is not:

“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (James 3:14).

Social media did not create this monster. My sin-wrecked heart did. Christian conferences (yes, sin shows up there in its pious clothes) do not create this creature, they only give it a place to show its ugly self. It lives in me, as much as I try to avoid places where it may rear its hideous head.

And I am thankful that the Lord sometimes lets me see it and admit that it is not yet extinct in my existence. For such sight makes me want to fight it until the day when I am finally free to admit my smallness in the unadulterated presence of the One whose largeness of character made room for me.

My soul yearns to be one who is rightly accustomed to the low seat, to be one who has a right estimation of self, to be one who is so hidden in Christ that she need not be seen or celebrated beyond measure.

Yet, my flesh rages against these God-implanted, Scripturally-nurtured desires. I have far more Pharisee in me than I care to admit.

As Jesus so astutely pointed out in Matthew 23, the Pharisee in me loves to sit in a high seat and longs for the places of honor and titles of importance (Matthew 23:2 and 6–7). Yet the Spirit is slowly, steadily shaping me into one who clings to the feet of Jesus, washing his feet with my tears of repentance and dependence (see Luke 7:36–50).

The Pharisee in me wants to be seen and celebrated by human eyes as I do good works or walk in obedience (Matthew 23:5). However, the Spirit is slowly, steadily shaping me into one who is more comfortable with the prayer closet more than the crowds (see Matthew 6:16–18). The Pharisee in me wants to be called teacher, instructor, or mother (Matthew 23:7–12). Nonetheless, the Spirit continually puts in the place of a pupil and child. Jesus called the Pharisees blind guides, but the Spirit would make us seeing servants (Matthew 23:16).

In the kingdom of God, smallness does not mean insignificance. A right view of self, while bitter at first, leads to the sweetness of true identity in Christ. The gap between my desire to be large and my smallness is meant to be filled with the love of Christ which does not puff up but builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1).

When my flesh fights the Spirit, demanding to be made much of, the Holy Spirit brings to mind a simple poetic pairing of lines by George MacDonald:

“‘Tis God I need, not rank in good;
‘Tis life, not honor’s meed.
With Him to fill my every mood,
I am content, indeed.”

The wisest ones will cling to the only Wise One who perfectly embodied the perfect wisdom described by James, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, partial and sincere” (James 3:17).

And the more they cling to Him, the more they will be conformed to Him until that glorious day when they are completely with Him, face to face.

May we help each other to be happy to be small and hoping to be whole until we are in the presence of the holy One.

Being Chased by a Lion

Throughout this entire year, a short phrase from a worship has been running long loops in my heart, mind, and soul.

“Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me.”

Typically, I don’t like being chased in any form or fashion; however, a happy exception can be made for the idea of being chased by the goodness of God.

“Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me.”

It’s a catchy phrase to a melodic tune. As such, it doesn’t surprise me that I find myself humming it as I vacuum the hallway or singing it as I sit waiting in the carpool line. Yet, I find myself wrestling with what it implies for our lives.

After all, when we think about being chased by the goodness of God, we tend to think of dreams fulfilled, longings met, and successes secured. When we think of goodness chasing us down, we tend to bring our own picture of goodness to bear.

However, the longer I have sat with this phrase and sung this song, the more I realize that God’s goodness running after me tends to look and feel wildly and widely different than I imagine it might.

His goodness does not take the tame, worldly molds I wish it might. Rather, His goodness more often takes the form of a scouring brush or a sharp goad pressing me in ways that I do not initially wish to trod. Sometimes, his goodness running after me seems to take the form of suffering and hardship nipping at my heels as I am seeking to arrive in a place of long-desired comfort and rest.

In C.S. Lewis’s book The Horse and His Boy, the main character Shasta experiences goodness running after him in sharp and even frightening forms.

Throughout his horse back journey, a young boy Shasta has multiple experiences of a lion pursuing him. The lion chases him, forcing them to swim for his life. Then later, the lion chased and even wounded his traveling companion just when they thought they were finally about to reach their destination.

Exhausted, confused, and feeling sorry for himself, Shasta begins to open up to a mysterious companion about all the interruptions and troubles that had seemed to follow him all of his life.

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.
“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and –”
“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the Lion….I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so you could reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.” …

Shasta was no longer afraid that the Voice belonged to something that would eat him, nor that it was the voice of a ghost. But a new and different sort of trembling came over him. Yet he felt glad too” (pages 175-176).

All along he thought danger and harm were pursuing him. Yet, the One who was chasing him had been guiding him and pushing him towards his desired end. It did not make sense until much later that the Lion was protecting and providing for his perilous journey.

Just as Aslan pursued Shasta, our God pursues us. Only He does not always chase us with a lottery check or a basket of obvious blessings. His goodness is so much deeper and wider and longer than our small and earthly images of goodness. He chases us with His goodness in varied forms that often do not feel like blessing or prosperity. But his chasing and provision always press us towards the ultimate Good. He keeps us moving toward His glory which is our ultimate good, even when we would prefer an easier, less arduous way.

He stands as a rear guard behind us (Isaiah 52:12 and Isaiah 58:8). He hems us in behind and before (Psalm 139:5). He follows us as a watchful parent trails a child just learning to ride a bike, ready to catch or steer or redirect.

His goodness is indeed running after us, but it is a goodness that barely fits into the tiny boxes of what we typically define as good. His goodness always runs after us, chasing us deeper into the everlasting arms of the only One who is truly good (see Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19).

This Good One runs after us today. May we not miss His goodness and all its sometimes surprising forms.

On Benefits

When I hear benefits, I immediately think of insurance plans, copays, deductibles, and group numbers. Adulthood will do that to you. Thankfully, when the Scriptures talk about benefits, they speak about something far more incredible than insurance plans.

In Psalm 103, David invites both himself and his listeners to consider and count a very different set of benefits.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:1–5).

As a celebrated king who reigned during the golden era of Israel’s history, David knew a thing or two about benefits. Yet, when he wrote poems and songs, he did not elaborate on his home or the homage given him; rather, he recounted the spiritual blessings bestowed by God.

Paul, when writing to the Ephesian believers, borrowed the financial language of a city familiar with wealth. However, like David before him, he elaborated on the spiritual blessings that are bestowed on those who trust in God. After a short introduction, he presents his thesis and then unpacks it with countless blessings.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).

The verses following the aforementioned one are replete with rich examples of the benefits of being in Christ. Verses four to fourteen are littered with words like blessed, lavished, fullness, inheritance, and possession. Yet, Paul does not mention physical comfort or financial peace. Rather, he reminds the Ephesians of the spiritual blessings they have in and through the person of Christ.

In a world where we tend to count our IRA’s, our profits, and our bank accounts, the Scriptures command us to count a very different set of benefits. These will not deplete or decay (see Matthew 6:20–21). They cannot be repossessed or reneged. They don’t wrinkle or ruin with age. Unlike all our physical possessions, they pass with us from this lift on to the next.

Benefits

The benefit of bodies,
Powered by pumping hearts,
The care of the Creator
Who every breath imparts.

An inheritor of language,
Born into a world of words,
Woven wide with wonders
His goodness undergirds.

Buoyed by borrowed breath,
Blessed by first and second birth.
Worthless and unworthy, yet
Esteemed at His infinite worth.

Counted among your family
Though failing countless times.
Assurance and endurance,
Separation from our crimes.

Forget not all His benefits;
Rather, recount and rehearse.
For us to receive HIs blessing,
Our Christ took on the curse.

Earthly blessings are bonus.
Hold them lightly as such.
But these eternal benefits,
Count and cherish much.

A Chronicle of Grief

Being a mother has completely transformed the way I experience Easter. It has very little to do with hiding the eggs and everything to do with imagining Holy Week through Mary’s mind and heart. When my kids stub their toes, I cringe. The relatively few times we have had to take trips to the ER (especially considering I am raising three rowdy fellas), I was completely undone watching my children in pain.

This series of poems chronicles the three days from the perspective of Mary, the grief-stricken mother of Christ.

A Chronicle of Grief

Friday
The aroma of anointing oils,
Scents of frankincense and myrrh,
Linen wrapping and a dark cave;
Buried memories begin to stir.

I remember holding him tightly,
Two sets of tear-filled eyes locked.
All was well with the world,
As I my newborn child rocked.

Here and there arrows of fear
Pierced the placid scene,
A Jealous ruler, exile to Egypt,
Prophecies. What does it mean?

Thoughts long stored in my heart,
Reemerge as tears my eyes fill.
Deep down, I knew pain was coming;
But death on a criminal’s hill?

Crazed by love and drunk with pain,
I nearly climbed that shameful tree.
His tear-filled eyes locked with mine,
Saying silently, “Momma, you must let it be.”

As I hold his body, swaddled again,
I rock him with the sways of grief.
My baby, My Son, My treasured One,
Without you, there can be no relief.

Saturday
For a moment, a split-second
In between waking and sleep,
I thought it just a nightmare;
Then realty fell in a heap.

Eyes swollen shut from crying,
Mind splitting in throbs of grief,
Muscles aching, heart breaking;
Even sleep offers me no relief.

Trapped by Sabbath laws,
A grief with nowhere to run.
So livid I could shatter stone,
To simply see my little one.

I want to be near you, my baby,
To lay beside you in that cave.
I cannot face life without you;
How did you beat me to the grave?

Sunday
“Let me be,” I mumbled from bed,
“No visitors today,” I said in sigh.
Yet, John still bounded in,
A glimmer of hope in his eye.

Out of breath from running,
In heaves of adrenaline he spoke,
“Mary -at cave. Stone -rolled away; 
Not there; Somehow he awoke.”

Fragments of news reached my soul,
As I processed what he’d said.
“Could it be, could it be true?
My son, awake from the dead?”

An angel had announced his birth,
He was conceived in a miraculous way.
Yes, Yes, It does make sense.
My son! Alive! What a glorious day!

Leaping with life, I ran to the door
With joyful John at my heels.
Though far too frail to be running,
Joy like strong drink in me reels.

We must, we must find him.
I must hold the son of my womb!
Drunk with joy and crazed with love
I rush to His empty tomb.

I am so thankful that God enabled a very human Mary to endure the unendurable so that we would never have to. Yet far beyond that, I am eternally grateful to the Christ who through His life, death and resurrection has secured a lasting hope for the wayward children of God.  May the Lamb receive the honor due His name this Easter week!

A Legacy of Covenant Love

Every time I walk down a certain hallway in our home, I see, among the family pictures hanging on our wall, a picture that nearly arrests me. A stunning woman looks askance at a handsome, proud young groom. Her eyes show the anticipation we normally associate with weddings, but they also betray a look we don’t expect: a nervousness which is closer to fear than wedding jitters.

She had only met her would-be husband two times, yet she was walking to the altar to vow a covenant of lifelong love to him. No wonder her eyes revealed mixed emotions.

My parents-in-law, as was the custom in their culture, were arranged by their parents. The decision was prayerfully and carefully considered. Each set of their parents saw in the other a good match for their children.

The concept seems foreign to me, one raised in a culture where there is no need for a descriptive adjective before the word marriage. When all marriages are love marriages, chosen by the marrying parties (and often blessed by the parents), there is no need to distinguish between” love” marriage and “arranged” marriage.

As an outsider looking in for the past fifteen years of their long marriage journey, I am astounded at the depths of their relationship. I am humbled by the way friendship and romance grew out of covenant and choice. I am deeply indebted to their marriage, not only for producing my husband, but also for painting a realistic yet regal picture of covenant love.

Their marriage exemplifies what Thomas Hardy so poetically and powerfully captured in his classic book Far From the Madding Crowd.

“Theirs was that substantial affection which arises (if any arises at all) when the two who are thrown together begin first by knowing the rougher sides of each other’s character, and not the best till further on, the romance growing up in the interstices of a mass of hard prosaic reality.

A mass of hard prosaic reality is an understatement. They worked hard to move their family to a foreign nation where they had only tertiary contacts and tenuous hopes. They weathered losing jobs, raising children, and moving multiple times. While there marriage is neither dreamy nor perfect, it is weathered and well-woven.

The strength of their covenant love has been highlighted by over a decade of being tested by the slow, steady decline of Parkinson’s disease. Amma serves as Appa’s primary caregiver, bathing him, feeding him, managing his litany of interventions and appointments. She rarely leaves the house. She has to steal a few moments away for a relaxing trip to the grocery store. Her world has shrunk considerably to match the needs of her hurting husband.

Yet, there are still moments when the two laugh together over Appa’s less-than-lucid thoughts. Playfulness pops out in the midst of the plodding perseverance. Watching her serve him so steadfastly with all of her life literally brings tears to my eyes and refines my view of marriage.

If what C.S. Lewis says about romantic love lighting the slow coals of covenant love is true, their marriage is even more astounding. Their covenant coals were lit only with the fire of promise and trust. They give my husband and I a moving, real-life picture of the love between Christ and His bride.

Covenants and Coals

If romantic love is flame
Lighting covenant coals,
Their love is hard to name:
The arrangement of souls. 

Barely more than strangers,
They vowed longterm love,
Trusting their arrangers,
Depending on God above. 

As they walked through life,
True companionship grew.
As they navigated strife,
One formed out of two. 

After a decade of slow decline,
Years of suffering and serving,
They stand with covenant spine
In their tested love unswerving. 

Coals without first fire lit
Still offer steady heat,
God by His hand has writ
A lifelong love still sweet. 

To God be the glory, great things He has done!

The Seder and The Savior

A few years ago, when my children were three and two years old, I had the brilliant idea of teaching them the deeper significance of the Passover. I studied the Seder meal, went shopping, printed coloring sheets. The whole shebang. My incredulous husband wondered if this was really age-appropriate, but I pressed on.

We sat down and strapped our children into their baby chairs, lit candles and began our walk through the Jewish traditions. It was a total disaster. They spit out the herbs, gagged on the horseradish and chugged the sparking grape juice. I have not yet regained the courage to attempt another Seder in the Joseph household.

Funny story aside,  today I imagined what it must have been like for Jesus to sit down with disciples for the Seder meal. I imagined the familiar scents and flavors which Jesus would have known from years of celebrating the Passover with His family, suddenly becoming ominous as He realized they all pointed to His punishment on the Cross as the second and eternal Exodus of both Jew and Gentile alike.

Thinking of the Savior eating the Seder meal that spelled out His certain death moved my soul to a deeper appreciation for his last Passover in that Upper Room.

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The Seder & The Savior

The Upper Room is ready,
The table carefully set,
The disciples eager to celebrate;
They don’t understand as yet.

The Seder plate stares up at me,
Invading all of my senses,
Sights and smells arrest me,
Alluding my human defenses.

The bitter herbs, they bite me.
Meant to point back to captivity,
Yet they press me to tomorrow
When I’ll be nailed to the tree.

The roasted meat, the Zeroa,
Features the bone of a lamb.
They think of sacrifices past,
Yet I know that I am the ram.

The Beitzah points to desire,
The cries of people to be saved.
The path to their deep desire
Through my death is paved.

Karpas, the parsley-reminder
Of slavery’s back-breaking load,
Smells of relief to them, but to me
Does the darkest day bode.

Charoset paste of apples and wine,
Reminds of the mortar and brick,
To release them from their burden,
I the way of the Cross must pick.

Looking up from the plate, my portion,
I see the familiar faces of my friends.
For them, these sin-sick brothers,
I will drink God’s wrath to the end.

Oh, Father, pass over your people,
Let the punishment fall on me.
Through my ultimate slavery,
Finally set your children free.

The Brave Work of Soul-Searching

We have reached Spring Break, a much-anticipated break from zoom school and being largely housebound. As one with wanderlust raising three boys who crave open spaces to explore and tame, I want to cram these days with outdoor wonder. We are all craving vastness that remind us that we are infinitesimal while our God is infinite. Our plans to visit the Grand Canyon and Sedona will likely deliver deliciously.

Yet, this morning, I woke up thinking about the depths of wonder and unexplored territory that are contained within our chest. While many have explored and mapped trails in the Grand Canyon, few can boast the same about the hidden depths of their own hearts. Scientists chomp at the bit to explore the Mariana Trench, the deepest parts of the ocean still largely unplumbed; however, the human soul contains depths even more profound.

Though they are fist-sized, four-chambered organs, God has set eternity within the human heart and soul. Even Solomon with his precocious wondering mind recognized the wonder within one single human soul.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

While our whole family is looking forward to travel, I don’t want to neglect the traveling within that leads us, by both desperation and awe, to look upward. I look forward to standing in my smallness before a giant crack in the earth’s crust. However, I also want to take the time to teach my children to explore the cracks and crevices in their own souls. To do that, I must first admit the longings and disappointments that befuddle my own heart.

It takes bravery to dive into the strange spaces of a soul. Thankfully, those who trust in Christ have an inner guide in the person of the Holy Spirit who searches all things, even the depths of God (1 Corinthians 2:10). The Spirit never leaves us in self, but presses on onward and upward to Him from whence shall come our help (Psalm 121:1).

As the world opens back up and travel resumes, let us not neglect to travel and explore our own souls, hand-sewn by the scarred hands of our Savior. Such soul wanderlust will lead us to wonder at the One who created and reclaimed our cavernous hearts.

Hidden Depths

The human heart has hidden depths,
Putting the Mariana Trench to shame;
Four-chambered and fist-sized,
It holds vastness difficult to name.

Yet, somehow God has set eternity
Into so confined a single space.
He laces its chambers with longings
Nothing on this earth can erase.

In wanderlust, we travel wide
To tread the wild in wonder
All the while carrying canyons
No explorer could ever plunder.

An honest inner deep dive
Must press us out of self.
Our cravings must be sated
By our Savior’s wealth.

The Pure and Sore in Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God  (Matthew 5:8). 

The Greek word makarios, used repeatedly in the string of beatitudes, literally means happy. Happy are the pure in heart. But so often, when we think pure, we think prudish, stuffy, or pristine. At worst, we think holier-than-thou and inaccessible; at best, we think naive. 

But those who are holy-in-Christ are far from those things. They pure in heart are usually the most sore in heart. They are holy because they wholly know their desperate need. They are pure because their deep knowledge of their deep impurity has led them to the pure One. They see God because they see their sin. And seeing their sin, they see and savor the One who saved them from their sin. 

We are declared pure by imputation. But we become pure by Spirit-led conviction. The more convicted we are of our sin, the more convinced we are that we need for a Savior. The more convinced we are of the love of God for us, the more we are convicted to strive solely after him. 

When my middle-school boys say that someone’s basketball shot is pure, they mean that it seems to flow effortlessly. But what seems so natural to NBA players has been habitually practiced and hourly-honed. While we come by purity simply by way of a Savior, we do not come by it cheaply. A purity so expensively-purchased is meant to be intentionally-practiced. 

Purity comes by way of practice. Singular focus comes by way of straining and striving. Paul, writing to his protege Timothy, who is already pure in Christ, commands him to strive toward purity and righteousness. Before Paul commands Timothy to live as a man of God (imperative; do), he reminds him that he is already a man of God (indicative; done).

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things…to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:11-14). 

Note the active commands Paul recommends to one already commended by God: flee, pursue, fight, take hold, keep. This means that the pure in heart sorely moan and groan. The pure are pierced by sin and boxed by their efforts at becoming the pure ones they already are in Christ. They struggle with the hazardous waste they find in their hearts. But their pollution leads them to the pure One. Coming by such a costly purity by Christ alone, they are humble and accessible. 

The Pure in Heart

The pure in heart
Sorely moan.

Stabbed and sutured,
They’re Savior-sewn. 

The pure in heart
Are not pristine.
Polluted and purchased,
They’re Christ-clean.

The pure in heart
Are not starched.
Bent and broken,
They’re heaven-arched,

The pure in heart
Sorely groan.
Strained and stretched,

They’re God-grown. 

Oh, that we might be pure in heart in this Savior-sewn, Christ-clean, heaven-arched, and God-grown way.