It used to bug me that I couldn’t wrap my mind around God’s mind. Now it’s one of the most comforting and hope-filled facts of my existence. Why?
Imagine a toddler who can fully comprehend everything her parents think, a tiny child with adult understanding. Not only does she realize she can’t have cookies for breakfast; it’s also clear to her what role nutrition plays in each level of her physical and cognitive development, which ingredients make up the cookies in question, and how to cook a gourmet version of the much more practical option of oatmeal.
I used to be scared to death of death. The worst-case scenario would play out in my eight-year-old brain: I’d show up at Judgment Day and get a scowl and the boot. I’d then be led off to spend eternity writhing in agony with worms and flames and demons, trying to figure out how I could have been better or done it right.
Mercy met me in the valley of the shadow of death. He opened my eyes to a fuller, deeper, truer, more robust brand of love than I’d ever dared to consider. This grace—could it be? And could it be for me? That shift in my awareness of reality changed everything. My greatest fear has become my truest hope. We’re all just passing through this life. Thanks be to God, there’s more waiting for us!
I find it beautiful how nature and truth mimic one another. It only makes sense because the Author of truth is also the Creator of all things, so He has quite the advantage.
Regret is like the sea: it laps at your feet and can drown you if you’re not careful around the currents. It roars in the distance, hiding dangerous creatures in its dark depths. This sea also has calm days where the surface flawlessly reflects sunlight like a mirror. But my favorite similarity is that it has firmly established boundaries; God has told it, “You can only come this far” (Proverbs 8:29). The boundary of regret looks eerily similar to the cross.
Warning: The following contains elements of very real darkness and very real light. The darkness is fictional (though inspired by actual events that happen all the time), but the light is true, true, true.
There is a heavenly rhythm that sways the people of God: it rescues the lost and lifts up the downtrodden. It speaks for the voiceless and leaves a trail of vibrant mercy in its wake. And in India, among the lowest caste of people—the “untouchables”—it offers itself as the greatest light imaginable.
Each soul has its own distinct soundtrack, a series of melodies and lyrics that run through it in the middle of the night and under the wide open blue sky. The words whisper deep truths (or lies), the music beats or thrums or whirrs or tinkles or screams, and our lives match the cadence and cacophony. Our soul soundtracks run endlessly, but what we focus on over a long period of time can change the content.
Christmas isn’t always the most wonderful time of the year. Thankful families think full about their loved ones in constant danger on active duty overseas. Loneliness bites at the fingertips of forgotten elders tucked away in their nursing home beds. Recently-emptied chairs and newly-filled graves loom large in the light of nativity season. Grief, bitterness, anger, exhaustion: these are the bundles we swaddle just as easily as a baby in a manger. These are the gifts it’s just as costly to lay in His presence as gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
In the midst of the dark places, hope is hard. Honestly, it can seem downright fake. Who cares about the silver lining when the cloud has enveloped your heart for so long?
Have you ever noticed how quickly a certain smell can bring up emotions or memories? The hallway to my kindergarten always smelled of glue, crayons, and, somehow, learning. If you could bottle that scent up and release a bit around me unannounced, I’d immediately be transported right back to the place of months of the year and macaroni pieces.
I think my favorite smell of all is Christmas: a subtle combination of cinnamon, pine, cloves, vanilla, and hope. Above all, hope.