“Jesus, We Love You” | A True Short Story

WE DROVE IN THE DARK, HEADLIGHTS SHOWING THE WAY BEFORE US ON BUSY I-25 NORTH. The stars were hard to see under the haze of Northern Colorado’s light pollution. Jean laid back in the passenger seat, eyes opening and closing slowly, as she recovered from a small food coma.


As I exited I-25 and drove down one of Fort Collins’ main streets, I clutched my steering wheel and stopped in a left-hand turning lane, toward a street I had only been down a few times before.


“Oh, it’s at the church,” Jean said, remembering that we were not meeting at CSU, like normal.

“Yup!” I replied, excitedly. “At the new church.”
About a month prior, the church had signed a lease for a new church building, and everyone was still settling into it. Not going to that particular church on Sundays, Jean and I had only been there once. It was a modest, but sweet little church, nestled among a few neighborhoods in east Fort Collins; surrounded by a small, green lawn, and both upper and lower places to park, it was the perfect fit for the church body at the time.

Getting closer to the church parking lot, I felt giddy inside. Over the past few months, I had gotten closer to many of the people who were apart of this college-aged ministry. Most of them were goofy; they loved Jesus, but were not afraid to have some fun– something I finally realized that I desperately needed.

 

Three years earlier, I had a similar chance to enjoy life, with some people who loved Christ– and truly did care about me. Freshly 18 years old, I joined a new church. They were big enough to have a medium-sized group of 18-30 year olds join together weekly, for teaching, fellowship, and fun.

For all the goodness that season offered, I took none of it. In the grips of a mental illness, I desperately and deeply believed that God wanted me to be “alone with Him,” always, turning beautiful solitude into crippling isolation. The voices in my head, voices that I thought were God speaking to me Himself, controlled EVERYTHING– everything from what I wore, to what I would write in a text message. As a part of this, I was firmly legalistic; for example, this guiding voice would tell me to forego the shorts and t-shirts appropriate for summer, for complete-coverage sweaters, flared jeans, and hiking boots.

Because of the voices, it took everything within me to hang out with the people from this church group. When I did hang out with this group of people, I refused to allow myself to openly and freely enjoy them, and to enjoy life with them. I became friends with some of them; but I never let myself “belong” to them. For reasons I won’t cite here (it would be a long story), my heart guarded itself, ready to have to leave them just because “God told me to.”

I won’t lie. My isolation was my fault; yet, I was a victim in it all, held captive by the delusional beliefs of a mental illness.

As summer turned into fall, I had two mental breakdowns: the first, which could have severely harmed me, and then one which sent me straight to a mental hospital.

Funnily enough, no one from that church group texted me during my 10-day stay in the mental hospital (not that I would have been able to text back– they took our cell phones away). I took no offense to this lack of communication, and I still don’t; but, when I finally got out of the hospital, I shared with some of my friends from this bigger church group what had happened. The closer ones felt horrible for not being more involved in my life, while others wanted to know more, fighting for me every step of the way.

I spent a “Friendsgiving” Thanksgiving celebration with them, expressing how thankful I was for each one of them. But, as fall turned to winter, a big, somewhat dramatic event occurred, causing my father (I was still living with my family at the time) to forbid me from going back to that fellowship.

 

Just like that, I had to say “goodbye” again.

 

FAST-FORWARD TO THREE YEARS, AND A FEW SMALL YOUNG ADULTS GROUPS LATER, JEAN AND I CAME INTO THE CHURCH’S PARKING LOT, WHICH WAS EMPTY. “Is anyone here yet?” Jean and I wondered, as I quickly texted C, one of the girls from the group. A few seconds later, we saw her jog up cement stairs we weren’t aware were there, gleefully bouncing up and down, waving her hand at us. Hopping out of the car, we followed her down the cement steps, smiling.

The stairs brought us to the backyard of the church, where a small fire pit was being lit by Pastor D. Met and greeted with the all-too familiar “Hey fam!” that S welcomed everyone with, I thought to myself, “I thought this was going to be an indoor game night…”. I was thankful I had brought my coat. Though chilly at the end of November, the higher temperatures held on, and we were able to see the stars a little clearer in the dark, winter sky.

Sitting down, we watched as J and T came in, down through the cement stairs, too. J, a wonderful, hilarious young woman, sat down next to C, Jean and I, offering her blanket to us. Already, we were laughing hard at the endless, lively humor everyone always brought with them. As we continued to welcome those coming in, Pastor D, his wonderful wife, and their family offered us food. “Hey guys, get your hotdogs!”

LATER THAT EVENING, our goofy chatter slowed to a silent halt, all of us either looking up at the sky, or thinking to ourselves. Some of us sensed an awkwardness in the silence, at first. But, as the fire crackled before us, we slouched in our chairs around it, allowing the silence to permeate the atmosphere. C’s brother started to fingerpick his acoustic guitar, letting the soft, slow notes drift into the winter night.

Looking up at the night sky, I felt there was one thing I needed to express to everyone: gratitude. But I was too afraid to speak up in that moment.
Slowly, C’s brother started to play a song I knew the words to, a song I loved. It was his voice alone, crooning to the guitar he was so tenderly playing.

“Old things have passed away
Your love has stayed the same

There was one voice. Then another. Then another.

Your constant grace remains the cornerstone.

Subtly, a low, soft unison of voices sang out into the heavens around us. I closed my eyes, hanging on to every word sung, as a prayer to the God who gave me life.

-Things that we thought were dead
Are breathing in life again-

The God who was with me through each season of life.
Suddenly, those words hit me. And I remembered the things that were dead.

My relationships. My heart. My health. My Joy. My youth.

What once was dead– my very own life– Jesus graciously breathed life into, again.

You cause your Son to shine on darkest nights

Where there was once emptiness, confusion, and chaos, there was now light, abundance, Joy, and Peace.

For all that You’ve done, we will pour out our love
This will be our anthem song

Our voices got louder, more intentional. Full of Joy, the chorus rang out.

Jesus we love You,
Oh how we love You!
You are the one our hearts adore
Our hearts adore.

Our voices washed out the dark night, around us.
We were harmonizing without even trying. All at once, we were pouring out our hearts to the God who had given us breath to breathe, a song to sing!

The song stayed soft; like a lover expressing their heartfelt thanks to their beloved, we sung from the depths of our hearts– like it was the most honest, vulnerable thing we had ever let out of our mouths. (I pray it was.)

The hopeless have found their hope
The orphans now have a home

Reading the lyrics to this song, I now think of those who are in the process of letting this become true in their lives. Those friends who, right now, do not have hope. Orphans who are struggling to call anyone, or anywhere, home.

All that was lost has found its place in You-

And as I am remembering what it felt like to be lost, in this world without any Love or Hope, I am reminded of who Jesus is, to me, today.

You lift our weary head
You make us strong instead

He is the God who daily bears our burdens, the God we cast our cares upon (Psalm 68:19; 1 Peter 5:7). The God we call out to in the darkest of nights; in the most barren of lands; and in the most lonely of hearts.

You took these rags and made us beautiful

The God who restores. 

Friends, think about where you have been today.
About where you have cried out from.

Maybe you are in the middle of crying out, today.
Maybe you are rummaging through pain so thick and so deep, through a darkness so dark, that it deeply threatens to bury you alive.
If this is you, cry out to Jesus.

Allow Him to see the rags, the darkest night, and the death in your life (He already does.)
And allow Him to come into it. To breathe new life into it.

And last but not least, in view of all He has done,
pour out your heart to Him.

Be a bold witness to the redeeming power of Jesus.
Because He, and He alone, is worthy of our worship.

give thanks 4 for realll.jpg

 

 

 

Jesus we love you
Oh how we love you
You are the one our hearts adore

Our affection, our devotion poured out on the feet of Jesus
Our affection, our devotion poured out on the feet of Jesus
Our affection, our devotion poured out on the feet of Jesus
Our affection, our devotion poured out on the feet of Jesus.

As we sang other Worship songs, and listened to Pastor D share his heart on how life is too short– the Lord’s coming too immediate– to not be intentional about how we live our lives, there was one thing I knew I had delayed saying, that night. Seizing the moment, I spoke.

“There is one thing I wanted to tell everyone,” I started, people’s giggling immediately hushed to a silence.

Honestly, I don’t even know exactly what I said to them. All I know is that I did express how thankful I was for them, and how I had been looking for good friends.

They smiled, replied with an “Aww.” They expressed how thankful they were for us, too.

Goofiness ensued, in the form of fun board games. But that thankfulness stayed in my heart, and still does, today.

“Our affection, our devotion, poured out on the feet of Jesus.”

May our affection, and our devotion, be poured out onto Jesus– and those He has so graciously placed in our lives.

May it stay that way.

-A

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Time to Wait (Never Wasted)

It’s time to wait
It’s now or never
Is it time to date
Or time to sever?
I don’t know
All I know
Is that I want to be like the tree
in Jeremiah 17.
Christ-centered
Never-nervous
At this point
Words are superfluous

Please, let’s be
like the tree
in Jeremiah 17.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”
(Jeremiah 17:7-8, NIV)

To Qaraqosh

The town of Qaraqosh, Iraq was taken over by ISIS in August of 2014. The predominantly Christian town, full of approximately 50,000 Christians, was razed and burned to the ground. Men, women, and children were beheaded for loving Jesus. 

The town was recently taken back in the fall and winter of 2016. Those brothers and sisters who survived are now coming back, slowly but surely, to the town, and their resilience is amazing.

In honor of these brothers and sisters, as well as to share their story, I was led to create a poem. Enjoy.

(To Support those in places like Qaraqosh, please buy from/donate to Reload Love, a nonprofit that takes spent bullet casings and other materials from war to create jewelry that can be sold. All proceeds go to helping children who have been hurt by war. Thank you.)


Qaraqosh,

You were broken.
The crucifixes on your church buildings,
your pride and joy,
were torn down–
blasted down–

falling from the roof onto the chaos and wreckage beneath it.

It looked as if
you would never rise again.
It looked as if
you would never raise your hands again,
high
to the One who suffered, too.

Qaraqosh,
I think you knew
what was waiting on the other side of the door
when they came yelling into your homes.
They bursted through your doors
whether you let them in or not,
took everything you got
including your daughters.
Your sons were kidnapped,
your daughters beheaded.
That should not be written easily.

Because on that day,
you were persecuted for loving Him.
the One who suffered, too.
You knew He said it would be hard.
How could it all be?

Where was the One who
Pre-planned all of your days
on the day you fell?
Pray, tell.
It is not a quick nor easy answer to believe.
Qaraqosh,
Did you perceive
that He
was near to You?
Waiting to pick you back up
In all of your pieces?
The crucifixes fell
But He was not on them.
No,
He was, is, sitting on the right hand of the Father
Praying for you.

Qaraqosh,
My sister,

You are Loved.
I wish I could cup You in my hands
and hold you close to my heart.

You are already being held,
and He will not let you go.

Qaraqosh,

You are Conquerors.
Just as He rose from the grave 3 days later,
You are rising from the ashes 3 years later,
Daring to come back to the place where your lives were erased!
How brave!
It is the great mystery of Him in You
that has raised anything.

Qaraqosh,
You are at Home,
with Him.
You were broken;
You are Loved;
You are Conquerors.

Children of the day,
Many wounds are still left.
Let us not look past those.
But,
Dare I say we celebrate?
If not with streamers,
Then with smiles.

Because the gates of hell did not prevail.
“The power of God has torn the veil
And we know [Christ’s] Love will never fail,
We believe– you believe.”

I am excited for the victories to come.
Chosen ones,
The fight has just begun.

But He, He is the One who fights for You.
The One who suffered, more than You
ever have.
Rest in that.

Qaraqosh,
In Him,
You are Loved.
You are fought for.
You are Healing.
You are free.

May we all learn from You
That He, so Loving
and so true
is the One, True Living God of Qaraqosh–
and of us, too.

“But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.'”
(Exodus 14:13-14, NLT)

Proclamation

I am covered.
I am safe.
You are with Me…
Even when I am not with You, even when I don’t want to be
(the Insanity!)

I am Yours. Your Mess to clean up, Your Daughter to guide and protect, Your Sheep to Keep.

Always.

“…Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20)

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 11 “All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish.” (Isaiah 41:10-11)

 

Fear (And a Love-Song to a Savior)

I am afraid of many things:
Of eternal loneliness,
of being locked inside four walls
forever.
Never.

I heard once that fear is just
the idea of having to do something without You.
Jesus, Your Presence
flushes out fear,
Your Perfect Love
drives it out
the way Your righteous-rage
drove out the money-makers.
Any takers?
I am feeling lonely again,
yet on the mend,
and I swear I will see Your Face.

Let the moon dip down, into the black sky,
let stars sparkle underneath Heaven’s white light.
So many of us feel lonely, tonight.
Jesus,
won’t You
enter the room,
change the moods of many hearts
stuck in the dark?
Let Your Love, Your Love
shine like that moon in the darkness–
no, better,
like the sun in the morning sky.
Please let the Paper boy
bring me news of Your Unfailing Love–
I need it to survive.

Please, let the early dawn bring me
the fuzzy warmth of my cat, pawing at
me (I love/hate how he does that),
the annoying panic of my dog
and the beckoning of Your Song
to “come away with You” again.

You seem to be my only friend.
In a place like this,
Is that enough?
I know the Sunday-school children may shout “Yes,”
and I should never have any hesitance.
But I do.

Won’t You
make it all loud and clear?
Like the rooster at 8am
telling me to get up, ascend.
Like a His whisper on the phone:
“Good Morning, Beautiful.”
Only Better.
From the Artist Himself?

I am acting like You do not already do this.
The way the moon kisses the stars
and even the haze gives perfect light.
And did you make that sunset just for me?
I swear You did–
those are my favorite colors.

How LOVED I am, by You!
It swirls around,
completely surrounds!
Where can fear fit in
When my God is wooing
Whispering,
Calling me out, again?
It cannot,
does not exist,
in the Presence of Your Love.
It’s physics– or maybe chemistry–

The way you do this to me.
My Father, My Friend,
Hold me in Your Arms, again–
Let me never be
So much-afraid.
Dedicated to Grandpa.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 143:8, ESV)

Compare

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).
This is what the Psalmist, David, wrote all those years ago,
a young man, a Shepherd himself: He saw how You
led, guided, protected Him– and how in need he was of such guidance,
of such protection–
that we are vapors in the wind,
and that does not need to be sad.

I have compared myself, dust,
to another pile of dust,
who walked on the sands of Spain. What is new, again?
This thing You are doing in me,
preparation for the ultimate grand finale–
nothing could compare to this.

Happiness:
Not the fulfillment of worldly desires,
but the fulfillment of Your Will in my life,
even if I am taken by that sharp, shiny, pointed knife
they call trial, sorrow, “the valley.”
Jesus, You are my Joy
no matter the chatter
of the ages.
You set me free, my Shepherd, my God– and I don’t need
the sunset of a distant shore
to know the adventure of a soul, in Your Hands.
(not that there’s anything wrong with distant lands.)
Take me to your lands, Jesus–
I know I will see your Goodness.

Jesus,
Let me see the light of Your Face,
instead, You know
I need You– My Shepherd, My Strength,
Forgive me for fearing the goats,
and envying the rams.
You are the Great “I Am.”
I am YOUR lamb; let me
be led by You,
forever.

(As I have approached 21, please make Your desires
my desires
for my birthday. For the Life You
have given me.)

Be strong. Take heart. Wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).
Okay.
You are the God of the Psalmist, the Author of Salvation–
Help me to write,
to glorify You.
This, today,
is my prayer.