For my daughter: be wise

Be wise, little girl.
Life is hard,
but it is also sweet.
Stay curious,
and ask the hard questions.
I know you are restless,
so be relentless.
You are searching,
yearning;
I know you feel lost,
aloft,
exhausted by the endless riposte,
but I hope that you know
you’re not alone.
Little sparrow, I know,
but follow the sun,
and he’ll guide you home.
Do not despond,
for to Christ you belong
and that makes you strong.
so shake the earth,
climb a mountain
break a wall
write a song
cross a sea
tell a story
for words
are
powerful.
Little girl, listen to mine.
The trees are a sign:
stay grounded,
fireproof
entwined with the vine
and rooted in truth.
Be wise.
Remind yourself of the light
and make it a habit to shine.
Take hold of your passion;
unfasten
the weights that you carry
and burn bright–
like a phoenix rising from ash and gray,
colors flashing, unafraid.
But I know,
some days you don’t feel that way.
You feel lost and ashamed
You question your name
You long for what’s safe
Too tired to be brave
Lost in a haze
And you’re slipping away
Caught in the chase
Trapped in the maze
But when you’re ready to break,
pray.
Clear the stage and seek out grace.
Call his name and know you’re safe.
He doesn’t let go–
so you can.
He won’t let you fall,
so follow the call of the wind
to the edge of the limb.
Have faith.
Build your house on the rock,
and answer his knock.
Smile in the face of challenge,
unfazed, unenslaved
unscathed by the blaze.
Embrace the flames that burn the chaff away.
Don’t hide or try to ride the fence
but rather ignite.
You may be a candle or you may be a star
but whatever you do and wherever you are,
Be wise.
Strive toward the light and delight in what’s right.
You have been baptized
in sunrise.
Don’t contrive to be like
what surrounds you.
Remember what grounds you.
You are strong
and brave
and beautiful.
Seek the truth relentlessly,
unpretentiously and honestly.
Stay real.
Don’t be afraid to feel.
Open your eyes
and breathe, just once in a while.
Smile often.
You’d be surprised by the difference it makes
to be kind.
Be wise.
Never lose your wonder.
Live unencumbered,
for this is not your home.
Don’t be so afraid to blunder
that you forget to live.
See the world
as an adventure and exploration
And see its people
as a starlit generation.
Tell their stories
and reflect his glory.
Recognize,
and be wise.
Never stop learning,
and be faithful in the little things.
May you send forth springs
of joy.
Be the everyday kind of brave.
That is what makes a path-maker
culture-shaper
world-shaker
wall-breaker
change-creator.
Be bright
See with different eyes
Be kind, and little sparrow,
you will fly.
Be wise.

For my daughter: be kind

Be kind, little girl.
Life is hard
but it is also sweet.
Learn to see
past categories.
I know how you feel–
you feel insignificant, small
and fearful to fall,
and like maybe it’s not making any difference at all,
but, little girl, stand tall,
for it takes many bricks to build up a wall.
Be resilient and fond
of quirkiness.
You don’t have to belong
and that makes you strong,
so shake the earth
climb a mountain
break a wall
write a song
cross a sea
tell a story
for words
are
powerful.
Little girl, listen to mine.
Don’t be afraid to lay it all on the line,
for your mind outshines
the stars.
You were designed for the light;
don’t be defined by what is behind.
Let go, and fill your lungs with Everest air;
taste the dewdrops, play with bears.
Never let love fall into disrepair.
Don’t stop and wait for a trumpet fanfare
when all it takes is climbing stairs.
Always give thanks for simple fare,
and hold fast to the promises.
Be honest, astonished
at the mighty and the small.
Stand tall,
and be kind.
See the people,
listen well.
Each of them has a story to tell;
You’ll be surprised how you change yourself.
Look for needs
and introduce yourself to strangers.
But I know–
It’s not safe,
You have habits to break
And time it will take
And there’s things in the way
Your path’s never been straight
And besides, you’re not brave
You’ll just make mistakes
And all you want is escape
from the maze
and the chase and the haze,
and the days
only feel longer
and the darkness gets stronger
You feel outnumbered, surrounded
but stay grounded
cause girl, you are a songbird
so sing your song from the tops of trees
Embrace grace, and fly free.
He sees every sparrow,
so feel the air flow
underneath your eagles’ wings
as you’re raised on the wind
and the mountains ring.
Be kind.
Learn to see
and to be
faithful in the mundane, everyday.
Don’t complain, but be grateful and humble.
Though the earth rumbles,
if you stumble, he will catch you.
Delight in his Word
and make a habit of right.
Practice love and dwell in the light.
Keep his face in sight.
There is no mountain that’s too tall to climb.
Seek to find, use your mind,
and be kind.
For you’d be surprised
how the little things might make a difference
beyond just this instance.
So be persistent,
go the distance,
for you were born to be a path-maker
culture-shaper
world-shaker
wall-breaker
change-creator.
Be faithful and playful
Live life with a grateful mind
and always be brave, bold
and kind.

Kindness is underrated

Kindness is underrated.

In Proverbs 11:16, the writer says that “A kindhearted woman gains respect, but a ruthless man gains only wealth.” This is an interesting truth. When I spend so much effort and time and energy and thought and worry and anxiety and frustration and work striving to attain what one might call success in the eyes of the many, how many of those people’s opinions really matter anyway? Sure, it’s pretty cool to be recognized for something you do, and you can definitely ride on the high of it for a while, but there comes a point when you start to question yourself despite the constant affirmation because no matter how much praise you get you’re also always going to be criticized, you’re going to be disliked, you’re going to face challenges, you’re going to fail sometimes, and you’re always going to doubt yourself at times. Fame is not all it’s cracked up to be. 

French soccer player Aurelien Collin once said that while most people come to Christ in a dark time in their life, he found God at the highest point of his. He was named MVP of the MLS cup, and it was that night as he realized he should be out celebrating, on top of the world, when he asked the question, “Is this all there is?” The next morning he went and found a chaplain and started asking questions, trying to find out if there was anything more. He found his answer.

John and Hank Green are people I admire immensely. They’ve raised thousands of dollars for charity and create educational and interesting video content on YouTube over multiple channels (links at end of post). They’re unapologetic nerds simply out to “make the world suck less.” John Green is known widely for his NY Times bestselling books such as The Fault in our Stars and Paper Towns, and Hank is the successful founder of EcoGeek, VidCon, Subbable, and VidCon, among other things. I’ve heard both brothers say, on separate occasions, that they’ve often been asked what it’s like to be successful. And what they’ve said is that it’s a weird concept to them to be put in this little box that, necessarily, can contain only a few, because society’s definition of success seems to be being recognized by a large number of people for your achievements, and so by default only a relatively small number of people can fall into that definition because we can only keep track of so much in our brains. And what they’ve said is, that you don’t really have success so much as you have successes. You have high points, where you achieve something great, you create something worthwhile, but you never arrive, is what they’re saying. This is never it. You never wake up one morning, and say to yourself, this is it, I’ve made it, I’ve arrived. And to be honest, they said, in the end, what you’re really concerned about is the people who are really close to you. And they’re the people who see the real you, behind the achievements and goals and dreams. They see you, hopefully, for your heart. And that’s what God sees too. And hopefully, what they see is kindness, and integrity. And those things are the things that often come in small packages, packages that aren’t much in themselves but when they become a lifestyle, a core part of you, people notice. Especially those people who are close to you, who care. And even more especially those people who receive it. And maybe, in the end, those are the people who matter. Proverbs 12:25 says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”

Kindness and integrity, those are things you have to develop as habits, not as gestures. They don’t happen in one giant donation or a grand week-long missions trip. They’re things that happen on a day-to-day basis, in the way you respond to challenges, the way you speak to others, the way you treat authority, the way you interact with coworkers, the way you treat the needy, the ways you give of yourself or hold back, whether you’re willing to reach out or take that step or be bold in love or live out what you keep on saying. They don’t happen all at once. And they don’t happen automatically. They’re habits you have to build steadily and intentionally, checking yourselves in the little things you say and do, the ways you respond when things don’t go your way, and when they do. It’s not glamorous or thrilling, but it brings almost irrational joy, even when at first you might be questioning if it’s really worth it. Even if it means you have to get a little bit out of your comfort zone. As the great Dr. Seuss once wrote:

matter

Kindness is underrated.

————————————————————————————————————–
I’ve been doing a study on kindness, and I looked up every single verse in the Bible that mentions kindness (NIV). If you want to check out the list, click here.

Hank and John on YouTube:
The Vlogbrothers
Crash Course
SciShow
Mental Floss
The Art Assignment

HOPE

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing
that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.

 The God of hope. That’s a new one.

We don’t usually think of a God of hope. We think of a God of wrath, of power and holiness. A God of fire and thunder and wind and storm. A God who sends down lightning from above and shatters the walls of Jericho. A God of power and strength and rage and perfection. A God who demands, a God who judges, a God who is far, far away or a God who is all too close.

Or, we’re all too happy to ignore that part of God. We see a God of love. A God of love and grace and peace and mercy. A God who is gentle, who is near and undisturbing. A God who sends us a Baby, a God who died on a tree, a God who is the rescue from my sins and this world around me. A God who cares and who will take care of all my needs.

Both/all of those things are true of God. I think a lot of times we have trouble seeing both at once. I think a lot of us like to fit God in a box. We like a self-made, custom-fit God to neatly slip into our puzzle exactly as we want him to.

NEWSFLASH: that’s not how it works.

Something I’ve been learning over the years is that God does not depend on how I feel, but on who he is. Neither my pain nor my pride can change his character. I could go on and on about this, maybe I will someday. But for now I want to talk about this verse I found yesterday, in Romans 15:13, because God is a God of hope.

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing
that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.

Hope. We don’t give a lot of thought to hope, a lot of times, do we? 1 Corinthians 13;13 says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.” We hear a lot about faith and love, and for good reason. But hope? Hope doesn’t seem to fit.

Hope is wishy-washy. Hope doesn’t seem to require grand, sweeping gestures to prove our devotion to God. Hope doesn’t come down and bleed and rise again for me. Hope doesn’t have an application for me. Hope is only for the desperate. The needy.

WRONG. On all counts.

Hope is a challenge. A dare. Hope is what Christ died for. And hope is life-changing–because we are all desperate and needy. Hope is security in something bigger than yourself.

God is a God of hope.

Is it making sense now?

Hope is not a quality. It is a promise. The Bible is full of them. The one that most particularly struck me this week is found in Isaiah 33.

Verses 1-14 declare God’s power and greatness:

You who are far away, hear what I have done;
    you who are near, acknowledge my power!
The sinners in Zion are terrified;
    trembling grips the godless:
Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
    Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?”
(verses 13-14)

But then in verse 17, there is a shift.

Your eyes will see the king in his beauty
    and view a land that stretches afar.
In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror:
    “Where is that chief officer?
Where is the one who took the revenue?
    Where is the officer in charge of the towers?”
You will see those arrogant people no more,
    people whose speech is obscure,
    whose language is strange and incomprehensible.
Look on Zion, the city of our festivals;
    your eyes will see Jerusalem,
    a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved;
its stakes will never be pulled up,
    nor any of its ropes broken.
There the Lord will be our Mighty One.
    It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams.
No galley with oars will ride them,
    no mighty ship will sail them.
For the Lord is our judge,
    the Lord is our lawgiver,
the Lord is our king;
    it is he who will save us.
(verses 17-22)

There! Did you catch it? God’s promise: you will SEE.

Because here’s the thing: not only are you desperate and needy, but you are blind.

I know all too well how easy it is to lose my sight. You can probably relate.  In this world, it’s not too hard. I don’t do it on purpose. I just sort of, slip into everyday life, and boom! Lost.

Things start to become a lot more important. Things like status. Like friends. Like reputation. Like possessions. Like achievements. Like goals. Like plans. Like success. Like comfort. Like fun. Like business and busyness.

These are things that are important. Or that would be, if this world was all there is.

You see, because I can’t see it, I struggle to remember sometimes that there is a world beyond this one.

That’s amazing to me. The hope of this place called heaven, where he will wipe every tear, every weary, frustrated, angry tear from my eye, and all these burdens that I feel but don’t quite know how to name, my shoulders release and I fall into your arms…

I cry out to God, why can’t I live like it’s heaven on earth now? What would that look like? For you to be all I need, now? For me to never look back, now? For you to always be there for me, now? Why do I have to be here? Why can’t I go to heaven now and have all of this then come true?

Oh, wait…

God does not depend upon how I feel. Neither does he depend on where I am.

Here’s the thing. Right now, it can be really, really hard to see. Really hard. And I’m about ready to give up. But God is a God of hope. And hope does not give up. And hope promises, that you. Will. See.

You will see.

You will see something beautiful, something glorious. Something unlike anything this world has ever encountered. You will watch the fireworks as heaven and earth collide, and observe the awesomeness as his glory breaks the skies. You will see a city where there are no tears, no heartache, no sorrows, no weariness, no burdens, no depression or desperation or need for anything but more and more of this glorious light, filling our eyes and being drunk by our souls. You will see God for who he really is, and in that moment everything else will have faded to dust.

I crave it. I crave hope. I crave security in something bigger than myself. Because it reminds me, that all this stuff that does create these tears and these burdens and this weariness–it’s all going to go away. It reminds me that he does meet all my needs, now, and he is so, so close to me, now, and why should I be looking back, now?

It reminds me that he promises something beautiful. God is a God of hope. And hope, is how I see.

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing
that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.

Bre

hope 6

Who You Are

y

WHAT you are vs. WHO you are: an intriguing and dangerous concept.

Intriguing, because sometimes I forget to make the distinction. Dangerous, because society doesn’t want you to.

Society wants to fit you into a mold. Society wants to file you away according to your appearance, abilities, academics, achievements. Your public successes and failures. The things you show it. The parts of you that everyone sees. Society wants to know what you bring it, and is never satisfied, always demanding more. If only you were ______, then you would be good enough. If only you could do ______ a little better. If only…

My biology teacher once told me a story from his senior year of college, when he and some friends went camping in the woods. They cooked steak over a fire and made some rocks explode, but as the moon climbed and the darkness fell, they began to talk. One had graduated and was in the world, working in a lab, while the rest were still seniors. The natural question they asked was, “What’s it like?” What’s it like, being in the world, making money, living the life you’ve studied for, spent so many years preparing for…

And he who had always made it in college by doing the bare minimum was in danger of losing his job at the lab because he consistently procrastinated. And he who had been on a six-month cycle of girlfriends, moving on whenever he lost the fun, was now engaged to the girl he’d been dating for a year but was afraid now to fully commit, fearing that down the road, it wouldn’t be “fun” anymore.

And he said, “I was preparing for what I knew I wanted to become–but not who I wanted to become.”

And he told them, “Figure out who you want to become.

Boy, does that strike home.

Especially when it’s so easy to compare yourself to others, and when all you feel like you should be doing is more, more, more. I get so caught up in what I’m doing, what people see, my public image, and hold myself to the impossible standard, and I feel like I’m only ever signing up for more, but all I ever feel is less.

And I feel like the half of what I’m doing are the things nobody sees. And I know it’s selfish of me, I know it’s my human pride. Shouldn’t I be striving to live the life that goes unseen? Because here’s the thing: most of the things that really matter, do go unseen by most. Those are the beautiful things, the worth-it things. The things that give life.

And here’s the thing, those things that matter–they don’t go unseen by the people that matter. They don’t go unseen by the people they directly affect, affect deeply. People notice, when you care. It surprises me sometimes, though it shouldn’t.

And also…they don’t go unseen by God.

Sometimes, when I think of God as all-seeing, it scares me more than anything. Because I know my heart. I know its dirt and dust and grime and dark shadows and cobwebbed corners. The things I hide.

But there’s something bigger about an all-seeing God. It’s called grace.

Not wishy-washy grace. This is no dripping, drizzling, downsized grace. This grace is drenching. It’s torrential, it’s tidal, it’s transforming. It’s whitewater, riptide grace. It tears you apart until there’s no part of you safe from the blinding light of grace, the light that’s like a powerwash on your heart. It stings and moves you a little bit, and there’s no dirt that can withstand the power of this grace.

And because of this grace, you’re a stained glass window. You’re beautiful to him.

And this all-seeing God, he understands. He understands because he crafted every fiber of your being, tuned every string in your body, wove together the strands of your soul and sculpted the crevices of your mind and fashioned the turnings of your heart–he understands. You don’t have to explain yourself to him.

This all-seeing God, he sees what you do in secret. He sees what no one else does. He sees the dirt and the shame and all of the things I want no one to see.

But he also sees the things I feel like no one does. The things that I want them to know. The things that I hold precious and I feel like no one else listens.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like much, though. We take it for granted. We say, God, yes, I know my reward is eternal, but look at what ____ is doing. Look at what they get. God, I know my reward is eternal, but I need something now. How am I supposed to give up ______ for that?

We feel like God expects something of us. We feel like we owe him something. And don’t get me wrong–he does. And we do. And it’s more than we could ever do on our own. And we know that, so we do one of two things: we don’t even try, or we try so hard, we make our checklist of do’s and don’ts, and we’re never satisfied, and we see God as the taskmaster. But…he’s a lot more than that.

He delights in his children. He delights to see them walking in the truth.

That breaks me. When I think that God could actually be pleased. Delighted. Giddily excited. The God of the universe…smiling for me.

I forget so quickly. But that…when I think of that, that’s what drives me on. It’s when I think of heaven, where he’ll wipe every tear from our eyes, every sorrow will be erased and every trouble will be vanquished, every darkness will be conquered and every sleepless night disintegrated–when it all fades away, and there’s only him, standing there with open arms. When I finally see it–when I finally see how all of this, it was really nothing.

It was really nothing.

And all that’s left is purity of joy and peace and love and holiness. A purity that could never be matched on this earth.

So have hope, take heart, and remember–remember that who you are matters a whole lot more than what you are. Your love matters more than your label or lack. What you see matters more than being seen. Your grace matters more than your grades, and your Spirit means more than your status, success, or security.

He sees. Ask him to help you do the same.

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”And Elisha prayed, “Oh Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”
Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha….

2 Kings 6:15-17

Lord, give us your eyes.

Bre

Life

Do you hear
the deafening declaration
of the definite,
the dauntless,
dissolving the dawn?

Do you taste
the whorling whirlwind
the whizzing wonder
of the wilderness
in winter?

Do you see
the homebound hero
hobbling
here and there,
heartbroken?

Do you feel
the rhythmic rolling,
radiant, remorseless rumbling
rocking the revolution
as it roars?

Do you smell
the aroma of addiction
arousing the animal
alive inside
as it awakens?

Do you know
the pang of pollution,
purity plundered,
passion pulsing
powerlessly?

Do you ever experience
this wondrous world
you wander in?
The wisteria
and the willow,
The whistler
and the whittler,
the woodpecker
and the windchimes,
the wonderers
and the wanderers.

Have you met
the traveller?
Twisted tree,
Torn temple,
Tireless twinkling eyes.

“Welcome to the world.”