By: Brandon Heath
And stay tuned for the reflection post!
By: Brandon Heath
I don’t know where to start. Although a writer, there are times when the flowing of my heart and the translation of my brain don’t quite communicate with my hands, and perhaps this is one of those times. Maybe it’s just the God-inspired task at hand. Or maybe it’s that it’s almost midnight. I digress!
Today I want to reflect on the song I posted on Sunday – “Time,” by John Lucas.
Although if I had the time I would love to duly focus on its entirety [cue: go listen to the song now if you haven’t!], I love the lyrics Lucas uses to pull us in to a different focus midway through the song:
“There is a time for everything / Until we crown the risen King.”
How true is this? Having, like the author of Ecclesiastes, assessed the nature of living and the essence of humanity, here Lucas draws the most crucial conclusion of the entire song. And I believe these simple lyrics are profound – not solely because of their poetic meter, artistic imagery, or of any stylistic feature -but simply because they point to what I believe is a truth often forgotten in the world.
“Crown Him when you bury / And crown Him when you marry / And crown Him when your faith finds a spark.”
When life is about crowning the Risen King, circumstances don’t matter. Emotions can fluctuate, seasons can change, and even worldly death can pervade, but He doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). Yet how easy is it to forget that He is our purpose in life.
“Crown Him for He’s faithful / And crown Him for He’s worthy / And crown Him for He is good.”
This is His nature! The Bible describes our King as life and light (John 1:4-5). He is faithful, even when we struggle to have faith (2 Timothy 2:13). Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:31-39)! He tore the veil (Hebrews 10:20). He made us pure (Hebrews 10:21-23). He made us His (John 1:12).
“Crown Him for His promises / Cut through the blindness / Of children that have barely understood.”
Despite all of our individual and humanity’s collective brokenness, and despite our finite minds, God spoke of His Son through the mouths of and words penned by human authors.
And the entire Bible points to Him (Luke 24:44).
So, I chose this Sunday song because of its poetic truth. And I will close with the closing lines of our song. They remind me of all that He is; that He is our sustenance, and He is our King, and He is our Joy. And they can remind us that, in every situation, God is constantly painting beauty in pointing us back to His Son.
“And that death produces life / And that we are made alive / By the King who paints beauty with time. / By the King who paints beauty with time. / By the King who paints beauty with time.
And I don’t know the end, or tomorrow’s story / But I have found the one who gives me rest. / And I will make my bed in His promises / For He holds true when nothing’s left…
When nothing’s left.”
Lucas, J. (2015). Time. On Promised land [Spotify] Boone, NC: Everett Hardin.
By: John Lucas
Lucas, J. (2015). Time. On Promised land [Spotify] Boone, NC: Everett Hardin. .
On My Time at New City Cafe
In this café, here I sit
Strangers once were we
People wave and people stay
And people talk to me
I say “my name is Kayla
It’s just my first time here
I want to know your story” –
They tell me with no fear!
In my dreams this place exist’d
A place where people grow
Where coffee brews and people sit
And souls do overflow
Christ is in the background here
And Christ is in the walls
I can feel Christ’s presence here
And I can hear his call
In my life now this exists
Sole purpose not for me
But for the people all around
And for to set them free
Today I realized that I don’t know you.
Sure, I know the name. I know the college student, and the stories that made you who you were.
But as I sat in bed reading your thoughts from the past several years, I found myself wishing that somehow you had the answers to your painful questions. So, my dear – here are the beginnings.
You will be free. Ridiculously free. And contrary to what you believe now, your freedom is not the result of any grand or philosophical conclusion on the part of yourself.
I want you to say the name again –
But this time, not with any fear that you aren’t good enough for Him.
Because, well, you aren’t.
I want you to face that fact now.
I want you to give up striving; no grades will make you perfect.
But neither will any friends – nor leaders, mentors, nor any deep thought.
And especially not anything you think you can prove to Him.
You will learn what it is to sit and bask in the presence of the One who is worthy.
And you will cry because you have no words to express His goodness.
You will realize that you don’t have all the answers.
Indeed – even what you came to know of what it truly means to follow Him will change.
Your theology will change.
And you will realize that even I don’t have the answers.
But you will have a knowledge and a wisdom so much sweeter than any knowledge you ever had sought or will seek to obtain.
My dear, you will learn to love again, in all senses of the word.
Joy will radiate from the inner depth of your being at the thought of community.
And even when your community drastically changes –
You will be ok.
And finally, Kayla, you will learn to read the Bible. But not just read it.
Study it. And love it. And cling to it.
I pray I never give that up, because it is our sustenance.
Our very bones ache at the thought of a day without it.
So, Kayla Marie.
I don’t write you with answers or a quick fix, but I do write you with the hope of a new beginning – a beginning that starts with the knowledge that you will never be enough.
Because only He is.
It’s precious on the other side of the trenches, my dear.
“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” – 1 Corinthians 1:17
I have found the Breath of Life
Of Whom few words resound
That scare tell of His mighty love
Which set me back around
To pictures tongues cannot suffice
Nor pen nor pencil tell
Though etches vie – for Him, to show! –
His presence solely quells
The searches of our aching hearts
The weeping of our souls
And with no phrase our mind could hear
He made our living whole
So find me in the absence
Of what is understood
He’ll meet you on the outskirts
Of what you said He could
We’ll find Him in our beating hearts
Our souls now overflow’d
Where minds won’t vie to demonstrate
His power – precious so
It’s not very often that I write outside my medium of choice (that is…anything that is not a video, or drawing!). But with new beginnings come new projects, and a different orientation for this blog.
This video is / was my final nursing project — a poem titled “Me to You.”
In it is my heart for people and for my profession.
Let’s share in our beginnings…a conversation from me to you.
“’Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” – Luke 10:36-37
This past year, I have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on the elements of Christianity. This post serves as a place for me to share one of the simple yet beautiful truths of the faith I hold. It’s simple yet confounding — wise, yet folly to hearts of men. And while there are one hundred other vital aspects of Christianity I could write about (and probably will at some point), today I chose to focus on this one thing.
Simply put, mercy can be defined as “not receiving what we deserve.” The cross of Christ becomes even more powerful when we remember that God is not only a God of mercy, but of justice and of love. When we chose – and often still do choose – to disobey Him, God showed us mercy by taking away the punishment we deserve. And why do we deserve such punishment? Because God is the only perfect being in existence. He is holy. And to not be holy (the basic condition of humanity which we brought upon ourselves at The Fall) is to be unworthy of even being able to stand in His sight. Yet God did not just take our punishment away. Because of His righteous justice, He knew someone had to pay the price of our sin, and because of love, He sent His Son.
Some great human minds, such as Karl Marx, have described religion as more or less the “opium of the people” (or some form of the idea). In doing so, they assert that religion exists to simply give a type of false, complacent hope to those lacking material and strategical happiness on earth.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In the exact opposite nature of opium, Christianity reminds us of our depravity (Psalms 53:3, Romans 3:23). We disobeyed God’s perfect plan for the world, and brought death to creation. We bought into a lie and with it, eternally separated ourselves from God. In that moment, darkness was allowed to reign in the world.
The Bible teaches a story of a fallen world and perfect redemption through a Savior who took death upon Himself. Our precious veritas — the very God whom we chose to disobey and mar the name of chose to reconcile us back to Him by dying a brutal death and rising again (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Mercy is one of the reasons Christians choose to live a life of separation from the ways of the world and to surrender to Christ. How could we not? Our Christ chose to bear our sins and redeem us – not so that we could choose to thank Him and continue living a life of sin and darkness, but so that we could grasp the depths of God’s love, to live in relationship with Him, and be “children of light” (1 Thessalonians 5:5-10).
Sharing the mercy of Christ is not telling the oppressed that they can have hope in an illusory ideology. Rather, it is reminding each person that there is a plan which transcends the world – a plan that we can only fulfill with Christ. To be a Christian is to recognize the gift we have in being partakers of His righteous kingdom, and the joy of sharing this beauty with others (Hebrews 9:12-15). To be a Christian is to show mercy to others, just as Christ has shown mercy to us (James 2:13). No person, no government, no power, and no economy will ever bring about a utopia on earth. None of these could compare to the Love of Christ.
“Now here inside of our skin and bones
Heaven above is making its home
The Kingdom of God living upon the world.
To love like He loves and give like He gives
To tell the story that makes dead men live…
That’s what it takes if we’re gonna change the world.
[His] love is a song and it sings over me…
This is mercy. The heartbeat of living.
Song credits: Phil Wickham, “Mercy”
This May, I was able to spend 10 days in Costa Rica with a nursing student team from my college to partner with CFCI and run health clinics around the communities of San Jose. Check out my reflections below:
Our God is the God of life-renewing miracles. Recently, I have struggled with this idea, and over the past few months I have stood in the face of some of the toughest questions about my faith. In Costa Rica, these doubts were shattered as I was reminded of the power of our ever faithful God.
I saw Him in our answered prayers. During our orientation night, one of the CFCI leaders (Christ for the City International, the ministry we partnered with) told
us about the miracles of God he had witnessed, and asked us to pray for them as a team. “How interesting,” I thought. “To speak the first night about miracles – something is different about this place.”
And so, I prayed. And the next day I talked to a man who was helping at our first clinic. He told me about his testimony – that his family had fallen apart because of his past decisions. He lived as a criminal, addicted to drugs, and had almost died on more than one occasion. He always knew about God. But when he decided to enter into the presence of Jesus, his life was completely changed. I prayed for him, and he prayed for me, and he humbly declared that it was purely God’s “milagros” that have saved him. He translated this phrase for me on my phone.
God’s miracle — a changed life.
I saw God in the hearts of the people that we served. Some live in inexplicable circumstances. Yet, they had hope. Some cried as we offered them the simple care of a listening ear and prayer, and many left our clinics with radiating joy.
God is moving in the communities we visited.
I saw God in my own team members, leaders, and host family. Each day, we worked together, and we served together cohesively. I saw the joy in their hearts. I saw their passion for each person they intentionally took the time to love on. And I was ignited by their burning hearts for Christ.
Perhaps most profoundly, I saw God in His restoration and peace. I witnessed how He is completely restoring lives and communities in Costa Rica. But I also witnessed His restoration in me. While filled with many incredible experiences, my previous trip out of the country was wrought with internal disaster. For the past year, I have struggled to reconcile what happened on that trip. I’ve had to learn how to accept the fact that God loves me, and I’ve had to learn how to love myself.
On this trip, every single day was filled with supernatural peace. I felt God life this burden of shame off me. He renews. He restores. He is always faithful. We won’t experience His glory fully until this broken world is made new. But for now, I rest in His life-changing power.
And so, here I am. There is a lot I don’t know about what my future holds. But one thing I am sure of is that it is hard being content living in one place while my heart lives in the lives of people and countries far beyond my own’s border. What can I say except that I feel unbelievably grateful?
I am grateful to have gotten the opportunity to know the hearts of so many different people from all over the world. I love them. And I know I will return to them some day. For this, I cannot wait. But there are so many I love in the home in which I grew up. There are many to love here whom I have yet to meet. God is moving here. And we need Him.
God, let us love well, wherever we are at.
“Yo soy la luz del mundo. El que me sigue no andará en tinieblas, sino que tendrá la luz de la vida.” – Juan 8:12
A short story about the nature of God and darkness in every culture, and reconciling living in our own after experiencing culture overseas
In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, And the darkness did not overcome it. ~John 1:4-5
In my village, there is a river. I often find myself sitting on its banks. On these banks, I reflect on the nature of life. By it, I like to sit and observe the people across its currents.
One particular day, I sat in the reeds of the tall grass surrounding the familiar flow of water and watched the lights illuminate the residences of the people on the other shore. I have travelled there a few times, and each time, I have attempted to bring some of that light back into my familiar world, only to watch it dwindle, seemingly due to the insufficiency of my apparent self-given nourishment. It never seems to be enough.
I sighed. I thought of the darkness on my side of the river and I wept. “What makes them so different that they have obtained this light that we don’t have,” I pondered. A thousand times I have come to this bank, only to reach the same disheartening conclusion. I live in a world of darkness – darkness that does not seem to go away, no matter what I do. And darkness that only seems to grow blacker every time I have left it to return.
With my heart heavy, I wiped away the tears from my eyes and I noticed my father sitting several feet away, also apparently reflecting on the nature of our existence. Despite the hours I had spent observing the nature of the illuminated village, I had only just become aware of his presence.
“Father, what do you think of this situation?” I asked, in despair. “How do you stand to live in this darkness when there is so much light on the other side of the bank?”
“Child,” he responded. “There is light on both sides of the river.”
“And,” he said with noted anguish, “there is darkness. For as much light there is on either side, there is an equal battle between the dark realms. While you have grown adept in responding to the darkness of your own world, there is much to learn about the nature of what you see. Do not forget that I am here.”
As I returned to the river over the following months, I began to ask my father to explain more of what he meant. He pointed me to the book he had written for our family before I was born, which tells of the nature of life, and, as he imparted wisdom and understanding, left me to reflect on his words and decide what my conclusion may be.
Through my reflecting, I began to see my village and the people across the river differently. I realized the dichotomy between dark and light no longer existed on either side of its banks. Rather, I saw a gray mixture of groups and individuals with illuminated candles standing tall in the surrounding darkness in both my village and the other. While, I also noted, the qualities of the darkness are different on either side, each desperately depends on the light in a similar way.
I realized that my familiarity with my world and my decision to focus solely on the other side of the river had caused me to see past the light bearers amidst me and become entangled in the darkness between them. In my darkness and my ignorance, I strived to see the lights on the other side of the bank and claim them, thinking that they offered the solution to our darkness when they were necessary to illuminate the darkness in their own place.
With this new knowledge, I persisted in asking my father questions, to which he continually redirected me to his book. I wanted nothing more and nothing less than to figure out what my place in the world of darkness and light might be. I wanted to know the source of these lights, and I wanted to know where I should go with my own light, which I only just realized has been radiating from me.
Finally, I realized what I had always known but had forgotten for so long – my father has given each person their light. And, while each light shines differently depending on the type of darkness it must overcome, the light still exists in each village to illuminate a path to him, the source of pure light and the overcomer of all darkness.
In my village, there is a river. There is light and darkness on both of its banks. I have realized that my role as a daughter of the light-giver is to persist in being illuminated by him and illuminating others with his never-ending source, no matter where I am. I just want to share my father’s light with him and our family, no matter where that may be.
I no longer feel discontent on my side of its currents.
In every corner of the world, there exists a certain quality of darkness. Whether that be poverty of mind, poverty of spirit, poverty of security, poverty of resources, or just a general lack of contentment, I pray God uses me and the people I serve with to be light bearers wherever we go – both in this stage of life and forever going forward.