Author Archives: gaimee

Career Hazards for Creatives

Some careers come with obvious vocational hazards. Construction workers wear hard hats for a reason. Roofers proceed with great caution. First responders know the life-and-death dangers they brave. The vocational hazards for believers who are creatives are less overt, but very much as real.

Creatives image God the Creator as they seek to make art, music, literature, architecture, or a plethora of other forms of art; however, it is all too easy to make an idol of what they have made. They are prone to self-importance in success and feelings of despair or uselessness in lulls or failure. God delights in his people expressing the creativity he hard-wired into them; however, artists can easily slip into craving validation from others.

Two phrases help me fight the inherent, yet insidious career hazards of creating content for God’s glory. Our work is both significant and insignificant, and our work is both dignified and derivative.

Significant yet Insignificant

The process of creating art, from its imagination stages to its inception, echoes the very nature of God. Whether their art stays at home or hangs on a gallery wall, Christians who practice creative arts honor God. Whether a few or a few thousand read the poem or the prose work, the very act of arranging letters into words into images and stories pleases God because it reflects his very nature. Interior designers who create spaces for beauty and connection are chips off the old block of the Creator who filled this earth with nooks and crannies, gardens and gaping canyons.

As such, creative work in and of itself is significant. Glory and beauty matter to God. If you are not convinced read God’s instructions to Moses for the tabernacle in Exodus chapters 25-30. God even set aside and filled artists with the Spirit of God for this ornate undertaking.

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son or Uri, son of Hur, of the trible of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft” (Exodus 31:1-5).

Similarly, God’s Spirit inspired the poetry and music that know as the psalms. His son was a craftsman who delighted to make beautiful things out of wood. God cares not just about artists, but also about art, because he himself is the artist par excellence. He made living mobiles out of stars that we know as constellations. He created such biodiversity that there are over 350,000 known species of beetles. That is a lot of creativity in one species of beetle, y’all.

Doing creative work is obviously significant. However, sometimes artists can take their work too seriously. I know I can. Every poem I write is significant to me, because of the intimacy through imaging I experience. But it is wrong to expect every poem I write to be significant to everyone who reads it. Self-importance is a ditch artists and creatives frequent.

This can be seen in a phrase from Isaiah 41, where God is juxtaposing God the Creator with those who create idols (and I mean the actual, physical ones).,

The craftsman strengthens the goldsmith, and he who smooths with the hammer him who strikes the anvil, saying of the soldering, “It is good”; and they strengthen it with nails so that it cannot be moved (Isaiah 41:7).

Here we see God calling out the artists who stood in collusion with one another, propping up each other’s self-importance. The “it is good” has echoes of Genesis 1 where God said over his nascent creation, “It is good” daily.

When we do creative work as Christians, we are often tempted to have people stand back and say, “It is good” in a way that puffs us up. However, true art should cause people to step back and say of God, “He is good.”

If we are falling into the ditch of self-importance, Acts 17:24-25 can instruct our hearts.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything (Acts 17:24-25).

Our work is significant, yet insignificant. This reality frees us to work heartily for the Lord’s glory without the weights of self-aggrandizement and self-significance.

Dignified yet Derivative

Similarly, our work is dignified yet derivative. Artists tend to pride themselves on individuality and uniqueness. But none of us have every truly had an original thought. Only God, in the deepest sense of the term, makes things that are original. All thought, all beauty, all order, and all color literally originate from him who made everything out of nothing.

Creating art, whether photographic, digital, word-centric or image-centric, is a dignified work. Yet all art, even the most amazing art in the world, is derivative. For God alone gives life and breath and skilled hands and creative minds who make masterpieces.

These two realities free me from the career hazards of creative work. They free me to work under the smile of the Father, whether in feast or famine. There is much significant, yet insignificant work to be done by artists who know that both themselves and their work are dignified derivatives.

My Best Adventure: A Note to My Husband on our Fifteenth Year

I’ve always thought of myself as adventurous, and I pride myself on a nearly insatiable desire to learn. While those things are still true, they have taken on different forms than I thought they would. I haven’t traveled to see the Seven Wonders of the World. I have not earned a master’s degree, let alone a PhD.

However, as I sat down this morning to reflect on my fifteenth wedding anniversary, the Lord reminded me that life with you is my best adventure and you are one of the most fascinating subjects for me to learn. I decided this morning that watching a soul be stretched and shaped and sculpted in marriage might just be the Eighth Wonder of the World.

When we got married, I thought I knew you. While I did know enough to know I was not making a poor decision, I did not know what I did not know. You did not know that much of yourself yet. A decade behind you in life experience, I most definitely did not know myself. But I am so glad for that. By God’s sweet providential grace, we have been instruments to shape each other and uncover the glory selves He has been slowly revealing.

We have had ample time to learn each other’s shadow selves. And there is plenty more of those dark places to plumb. However, the light and the freedom of the gospel makes such spelunking less scary. We are growing to be more gentle and patient with what we find there. We are growing to be less surprised because we are loved by One who not only excavated those depths but was executed to free us from them.

On special occasions, when you ask me what I would like to do, I struggle to answer. In those moments, I realize that what I really want is what I already have daily. A cup of coffee and a walk with you. A chance to process the lives of our children, be they spiritual or physical. A house project that keeps us side by side and attached to Home Depot like a ball and chain. These are some of my favorite adventures.

Any dreams of grandiosity are happily settling into a deep love for the simple life we have. I love our quirky house. I love listening to your sermon prep (most of the time). I love watching your heart grow and change as God simultaneously softens and steels you.

I love that I know the face you make before you tear up talking to the people you are shepherding. I love that you are okay with me burning every dessert I attempt to make. I love that you free me to not have to be an excellent baker or hostess. I love that you know my special kind of holiday anxiety and know when perfectionism is controlling me rather than the love of Christ.

I love seeing your heart soften for people. You have always been a strong leader, but I am watching him make you a soft leader, and it leads me to worship God. It leads me to hope that He can transform my own adamantine heart into one that looks like him.

I always knew I wanted to follow you. But now, fifteen years into following you, I realize that I have been following Christ-in-you. I see you struggle to keep pace with Him. I see you letting Him define and redefine success. I see you fail and fall into Him, running home to the Father’s arms more and more quickly.

I’ve always loved your voice, except when you are singing Prince songs in a high key. But I have grown to deeply appreciate your silence when wronged or misunderstood or written off.

And all of this, as sappy as it sounds, is true. It is only true because the One who embodies Truth enables it to be so.

W.H. Auden wrote a poem about Herman Melville in his old age. While I am not saying you are old, the tenor of the poem reminds me of the adventure that it is aging with you. The young Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick, a tale of revenge and effort and straining and striving. But the old Herman Melville sounds like the masterpiece to me.

“Herman Melville” by W. H. Auden

Towards the end he sailed into an extraordinary mildness,
And anchored in his home and reached his wife
And rode within the harbour of her hand,
And went across each morning to an office
As though his occupation were another island.

Goodness existed: this was the new knowledge.
His terror had to blow itself quite out
To let him see it; but the gale had blown him
Past the Cape Horn of sensible success
Which cries: “This rock is Eden. Shipwreck here…”

I like this little rock we are settling into. I like it because the Rock of Ages drew it up as our portion and our lot to tend.

I love you.

Still Yet Still Spinning

On Earth, even when we are still, we are still spinning. This reality makes me feel less strange. After a long day of mom-ing and human-ing, when my body finally collapses onto the couch, my mind still spins.

No wonder we long for an a fixed point, an unchanging reality to grab onto as if our lives depended upon it.

Every time I hit a rhythm, the song changes. When we hit a stride, the course changes. When we “figure out” one season of parenting, we enter a new one.

The only thing I learned in ballet (besides the fact that I am not at all flexible) is that when spinning, one needs a fixed focal point.Nearly forty trips around the sun, I am beginning to see that God set us spinning so we would find our fixed focal point in Him alone.

Spinning

All made things move:
The Maker alone stays:
Steadfast, unchanging,
The Ancient of Days.
 

We move through life 
On this moving sphere. 
We cling and we clutch 
To hold our lives near. 

But balance comes only
From a fixed focal point. 
Any life, apart from God,
Is completely out-of-joint.
 

Stepping into our spinning,
The focal point-made-flesh,
The time-winder in time,
The Creator in a crèche. 

Sighing under our sin,
The star-hanger hung-
Rising higher than they, 
Life from death wrung. 

Center on the crucified,
On Him set your gaze. 
Spend your spinning days
 To multiply His praise. 

If you find your life spinning or feels dizzied by circumstances, I pray you may find your focal point in Him who set our globe spinning yet knows how to still a soul. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Flash Forward

Everyone once in a while, I see what I can imagine to be flashes of my future life. I remember being a momma of three little fellas, looking at a momma with three teenage sons at the beach, and seeing a glimpse into what our future might look like. It happens every once in a while when I look at the college students we hang out with often. But these are my best guesses as glimpses.

Jesus had more than a glimpse of his future. He knew He would die and be raised after three days. He knew who would betray Him. He knew the pain His precious mother would experience at the foot of the cross.

As I have been reading through and meditating on the gospel of Luke lately, the person of Jesus has come alive to me in new ways. Reading through His raising up the deceased only son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7), I could not help but wonder if Jesus saw his mother’s future grief as he looked at the grieving widow.

A Mental Note to Momma

I saw a semblance of our future,
Momma, today while in Nain. 
I heard the dirge of an only son;
I saw the grieving mother’s pain. 

The town gathered around her,
But they couldn’t carry her grief.
The love that I saw in her tears
Would not easily find relief. 

I couldn’t bear to look at her,
For in looking I saw you. 
Her maternal grief pierced me,
I felt it all the way through. 

I cannot stop the pain to come,
For my death will save your life. 
But knowing a momma’s heart,
I could not ignore her strife. 

At the bier that bore her son, 
I told his cold body to arise.
Listening, he came to life,
Much to momma’s surprise. 

I rode the wave of her relief;
My soul soared with her smile. 
I saw our future joy, Momma,
Though it’ll have to wait a while. 

I cannot tell you these things,
For you wouldn’t understand. 
As such, I bear a double grief,
Knowing all He has planned. 

Your tears will be a river,
For you won’t leave my side. 
For three days in heavy grief,
In desolation you’ll reside. 

The widow of Nain may join you,
Confused mothers you’ll be. 
For I who saved her only son
Will let them hang me on a tree. 

But tears won’t have the last word-
Father’s stories in ashes don’t end. 
For in times, I myself will also arise 
All death with life to suspend. 

The Parabola of Pashcal Love

The promises which will comfort us most in fulfillment can sometimes feel agonizing in their process. The listening is easy, the living is hard. We all want to be humble, but few of us want to be humbled.

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died, and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

Poetic, right? These verses sound almost melodic. But being compelled, controlled, urged by the love of Christ involves discomfort. It involves being utterly bent in ways that feel like breaking. It involves exposure and exercises which feel wildly unnatural to the flesh like confession, costly forgiveness, and humility.

As we get ready to plant a church, I feel my flesh resisting such reshaping. I like order and sameness. I like doing things that feel natural and easy. I do not like new or awkward or starting over. I like reassuring and comforting faith; I do not like risking and convicting faith. But you cannot have one without the other.

I am comforted to know that this arc, this motion, to which we are being pressed by faith in God is nothing new. It may feel unnatural, but it is eternal and right. It is the path every believer in Christ must tread in order to become one who resembles Him.

The Parabola of Paschal Love

Existing. Extinguished. Exalted.
The parabola of paschal love. 
The ground of all being bent low
To lift His wayward ones above. 

Image-bearers are to imitate 
The Son’s glorious descent. 
His love reshapes our souls 
To His benevolent bent. 

From Incurvatus in se 
To strangely cruciform-
Such divine discomfort 
Is the believer’s norm. 

If you feel constrained and strained by Christ’s love, you are in the best company.

When Summer Days Go Sideways

Summer days have a way of going sideways around here. Well thought-out plans get hijacked by unexpected moods, as sunshine outside does not always correlate to soul-shine inside.

This morning, our day started off on a terribly wrong foot. Two out of three children woke up excited for a play date with a friend. I had planned a sweet morning adventure with the remaining son. Feeling left out, he chose to simmer in his sadness. He refused every fun adventure plan. He would not let us love him or comfort him. In his hurt feelings, he was hurting everyone else’s feelings, mine included.

After dropping the big boys off, I pulled the car over and parked alongside a random road, refusing to let the day spiral any further. I asked Phin to join me in the front seat of the car. While he was crying out, “I only want daddy!”, I held him and let him sob. Even though I was personally hurt by his words and actions, the Spirit enabled me to console and settle him.

In that moment, tears filled my eyes, as I was given a glimpse into the love of the Trinity. His words demanding his father should have hurt me, but they did not. My husband and I fight to be one team and to operate off of a united front. He did not have access to his father who was at work, but he had full access to me. So, in the name of his dad and acting as I know his dad would act, I comforted him and loved him in his pain.

After a few minutes of snuggles, we wiped off some tears and started our morning afresh. The same plans he had been refusing all morning he now humbly and excitedly accepted. As we drove to Glider Port, a scenic overview where you can watch hang gliders over the Pacific Ocean, the car was silent from emotional exhaustion, though it was only 10:30 am.

In those moments of silence, I realized I had been given a great gift in the form of a grumpy, sideways summer day.

How many times have I chosen to fret and fume over hurt feelings, building walls of defensiveness when what I need most is a strong, secure reminder of love?

How many times have I taken out my own feelings of frustration and shame on other people, attempting to drag others down with me into the pit of despair?

How many times have I crossed my arms, refusing good gifts my Heavenly Father is offering me in love and from a desire to simply be with me?

His response to me in those moments is the strong embrace of Trinitarian love. His offer is a Savior who weeps with me, even when I am exacerbating the pain I am experiencing. He gifts me the indwelling Spirit who comforts me in the absence of the Father as a powerful extension of His love. He offers me sweet time spent in restoration and renewal with the Father, a time and space just for us to reconnect.

If your summer day is going sideways, I pray you would be settled in the strong embrace of t he Triune God.

Heights and Hooves

When I think of heights, I think of incredible views and vista points. I tend to forget the uphill climb, the exertion, the precipices, and the risks involved in scaling or climbing to such heights.

I like the view, but I often don’t like the voyage. After all, there is a reason most of us enjoy pictures from those who have summited Everest but have zero desire to ever accomplish such a feat.

The same is true when it comes to spiritual heights. Most of us want maturity and perspective, yet we refuse the risky and uncomfortable journeys which lead to those vistas.

This week, I have been studying Psalm 18. In it, David is on the run from a paranoid and jealous Saul (who happens to be the father of his best friend in the entire world… and we think our stories are complicated!). David is quite literally living on the edge of existence, hiding out in crags and caves in an incredibly harsh and unrelenting climate.

“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:1-3).

Y’all. David is not in the Hilton on a comfortable vacation writing such sweet musings. He is literally running for his life from a madman. These are not soft words, but realities as solid as the rocks under which he is hiding for refuge. They are tested and proven words spoken out of tangible experiences of God’s faithfulness.

“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? – the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights….You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great” (Psalm 18:31-35).

I wonder if David, while hiding out in the heights, had watched deer whose hooves are uniquely adapted for their life on the edge (quite literally)? I wonder if he saw their unthinkable ability to cling to crags and live off the sparse vegetation that grows at such altitudes?

He saw in God’s provision for them a picture of God’s provision for his survival on the heights. If He gives heights, He will give hooves.

Heights & Hooves 

If He assigns heights,
He’ll also give hooves. 
His thoughtful provision 
Fledgling fear removes. 

He sees the topography 
From His high ground. 
His planning is perfect.
His strategy is sound. 

If daunting and draining
The path might appear,
We trust our trainer-
His presence is near. 

For, carrying a cross, 
He climbed a hill-
To carry us home 
Back into His will. 

His jarring journey 
Our ways transform.
All He assigns us
To Him must conform. 

I don’t know what mountains you are called to climb right now. I don’t know what unstable and shifting ground the Lord has called you to stand firm upon. I don’t know the spiritual enemies that are pursuing with hatred for harm.

But I know the One who does. And He prepares His people for their paths, especially the grueling ones. His gentleness makes us great. Happy hooves to you, my friend!

Modern Problems & Ancient Solutions

The first Tim Keller sermon cassettes (that’s right, cassettes) I owned belonged to a series on the Psalms called “Modern Problems & Ancient Solutions.” Yes, I realize I sound ancient myself speaking of the yellow sports tape player upon which I played those tapes. At the time, most of the words ran in one ear and out the other as I ran around my small college town; however, as the Spirit is prone to do, He steadily brings them out of storage for practical use even today, some twenty years later.

Modern Problems

While the beginning of the series title might be changed to postmodern problems or even postChristian problems, the solution needs no tweaking. I say that to remind myself and others that, while the presenting issues may have changed, the biblical solutions to those issues remain rock steady.

Lately, I have been overwhelmed by the state of our world. I barely read the news, but when I do, I literally feel a burden in my throat and my tummy. Listening to our new Burmese friends speak of what their families in Myanmar are experiencing, seeing pictures of Gaza being blown to pieces by rocket fire, watching churches rip each other to shreds over modern solutions to racism. We don’t have to go looking for these things to find them in our faces.

As a mother, I tremble as I pray for our boys who are entering their teenage years. While those years are already fraught with identity struggles, our boys are literally being assaulted with worldly “wisdom” at the deepest levels of identity and sexuality. It all feels so impossibly upside-down. I feel paralyzed by postmodern problems.

This morning, as I sat down to study Psalm 18, I heard David singing a similar tune.

The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me (Psalm 18:4-5).

Listen to the imagery David uses here. Cords of death surrounding and suffocating him. Floods of destruction coming suddenly upon. Entangled by evil. In fact, the Hebrew word qadam translated “confronted me” might be translated into modern vernacular as “got all up in my face.”

David’s ancient phrases perfectly describe how I feel about our modern problems. Suffocating, sudden, and all up in our face.

Ancient Solutions

The verse immediately following David’s lament, while it sounds simple, struck me as deeply profound this morning.

In my distress, I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears (Psalm 18:6).

David’s solution to the stultifying and suffocating ancient problems which surrounded him was to cry out to God. The Ageless One who stands outside of time, readied Himself to come to the aid of His people.

He bowed the heavens and came down (Psalm 18:9)

David writes in imagery what we know as history though the Incarnation of Christ. Only, when our Christ bowed the heavens and came down, He came in gentleness and meekness. He allowed Himself to be encompassed by death. He did not need to be held by cords, as He willingly gave Himself to the ignoble death of a criminal. The flood of the consequences of our sin surrounded Him. God turned away from His cries so that He could turn to hear ours.

So we cry out to our God. When the sexual ethic shifts all around our children, we cry out to God. When people continue to turn against people, we cry out to God. When the evil within our own hearts leaves us shocked and paralyzed, we cry out to God.

And our cries fall upon open ears. And the One who enabled such cries to be heard prays for us (Hebrews 7:25).

Oh, that our Ancient Solution would be freshly brought to bear on our modern problems, beginning with a fresh reapplication to our own hearts and homes.

Mind the Gap: Leaving Gaps for God to Fill

In high school, I had the privilege of spending some time in London. Even though we saw Buckingham Palace and the changing of guards and nearly got mauled by the murder of crows in Trafalgar Square, what stuck with me most was the British recorded voice saying, “Mind the Gap!” every time we disembarked public forms of transit.

Lately, the same phrase has been running circuits in my mind as I seek to parent teenagers. After all, the teenage years are marked by gaps: age gaps and height gaps, as well as gaping needs for peer interactions and gaping needs for security, identity, and affirmation.

As it is graduation time, I keep seeing those precious side-by-side pictures. You know, the ones where a cute toddler picture is juxtaposed with a grown teenager and captioned with sappy words from sad but proud parents?! I am clearly not opposed to these modern forms of marking out, as I have often posted similar side-by-side pictures of my own crew. However, what you don’t see in all those pictures are the agonizing moments of parents stepping around, praying over, and minding the gaps.

Emotional and relational gaps between what is expected and what is real concerning friends and fun. Physical and mental gaps exposed at try-outs, losses, and moments of risk and failure. Spiritual gaps shown between what heads know and what hearts struggle to believe. The strange, suddenly-shrinking-then-suddenly growing-gap between childhood dependence and young adult independence.

The Temptation to “Mend the Gap”

It sounds so simple to “Mind the Gap.” After all, to mind gaps is merely to notice them, expect them, factor them in and readjust to them. However, when I hear the phrase, my fleshly momma heart hears it as, “Mend the Gap.”

When my children are experiencing the gaps that mark the teenage years, so often, I want to fix and fill them as quickly as humanly possible. I don’t want them to experience the confusion and loneliness of wondering where to sit at the lunch table in a huge high school. I don’t want them to be bored on a Saturday evening, feeling like there is something wrong with them or that they are missing out. I don’t want them to feel stigmatized for speaking up about their faith and not fitting into because they are standing on convictions. I don’t want them to feel like they don’t measure up physically or don’t have what it takes to be strong compared to friends who tower over them.

But God doesn’t call me to mend these gaps, at least not always. He calls me to notice them and acknowledge them, sometimes quietly and sometimes aloud in relationship with my boys. He invites me to have conversations about these gaps with my guys. He most assuredly asks me to bring them to Him in prayer.

For these are opportunities both for me and my boys to watch and wait on the Lord and eventually to wonder at His goodness, graciousness, and wisdom.

I have found myself praying Psalm 25:1-3 for my boys as they experience various gaps right now.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; O my God, in you I trust: let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous (Psalm 125:1-3).

It is so easy for me to want to offer up self-made, knee-jerk solutions when God is merely asking me to offer up the stories of my sons to Him as yet another fragrant offering.

When I mind the gaps, rather than seeking to mend them, I leave room for my children to wrestle and cry out the God who has sovereignly allowed such gaps. I leave room for His Spirit to do what I cannot and should not do. I leave space for disappointment and confusion that could be gifts to lead them closer to the God I so long that they will know.

A Terraced Heart: Digging Deeper into Knowing God

In South Carolina, lawns were typically flat and flourishing. San Diego yards, not so much.

What San Diego yards lack in size, they make up in depth and character. It is not uncommon to have a yard that backs up to a deep canyon. Resourceful homeowners with canyon-views learn to terrace their yards. Their hard, creative work results in beautiful, multi-level yards marked with nooks and crannies.

jan-genge-1224466-unsplash.jpg

Psalm 84
This past week, I have been studying and meditating on Psalm 84. This well-known psalm boasts three main, “Blessed are those” statements, each coupled an image. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, shown poetically by the sparrow nesting in the house of the Lord.  Blessed are those whose strength is in you, pictured by  saints on pilgrimage to God’s Temple, and blessed is the one who trusts in you, imaged by the content doorkeeper in the house of the Lord.

While in other seasons of life, my heart has grabbed on to the first and the third images, this week, my heart and attention were captured by the middle verses and accompanying imagery.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose hearts are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84: 5-7. 

A Terraced Heart

The Hebrew word mesillah translated highways above comes from the root word salalSalal can also be translated as lifting or ladder. A heart full of pathways, a laddered heart, a heart set on pilgrimage to more of God by the strength of God.

In the past when I have thought about a heart full of highways, the image that came to mind was the Autobahn in Germany, a well-paved, smooth, clear highway to the Lord. However, the introduction of the imagery of climbing and ladders shifted my image to one that seems to more appropriately show what pilgrimage to the Lord looks like. A climb, a curvy, circuitous route.

While those on pilgrimage on to the actual house of God would have climbed upward, I often feel like my walk with the Lord looks more like a downward climb to the heart of God. After all, in the gospel, we learn that the way down is the way up.

While it takes great strength to climb upward, it takes equal or more strength to travel the path of downward mobility that leads to the heart of God.

As I thought about these verses, our dear friends’ stunning canyon-facing yard came to mind. The initial level is a beautiful patio. Many people would be content to stay there, leaving the rest of the steep yard uncultivated. However, our friends have slowly, over the course of a decade, begun to terrace their yard downward, level by level. The result is that every time you visit their home, you are shocked to find yet another terrace, cultivated, beautified and planted.  They are not even 3/4 of the way down their property, and their terraced yard is already a maze of hidden spaces.

I long to have a heart that resembles their terraced yard. One that refuses to settle with what I know of God and have experienced of His presence. I long to continually,  by His strength, descend deeper into the untamed and wild places of my heart and the world around me, and begin to experience Him there.

A Place of Springs

The pilgrimage pictured in Psalm 84 is one through the Valley of Baca which literally means weeping place.  Often the pathway to the presence of God leads us through pain, disappointment and suffering, our own proverbial valleys of weeping. However, the psalmists paints a portrait of the tears we shed in those valleys of weeping becoming pools of refreshment for those who will pass through the same valley after us.

What depths of hope and purpose we have in the midst of our downward pilgrimages to better know and be conformed to the heart of God.  Each downturn is a chance to cultivate gospel-terraced hearts; each  valley of weeping is a chance to create a refreshing pool for those who suffer similarly in the future.

May we know the happiness, the blessedness of those who move from strength to strength, deeper into the heart of God!