Tag Archives: sin

the clarity that winter brings

Two of my favorite worship leaders, Jonathan and Melissa Helser, have a song called “Sing Winter” and in this video Melissa explains the heart behind that song:

“The [trees] get the necessity of seasons, of rest and barrenness, to the fruitfulness of the spring and their harvest.”

This story consumed my heart as I took a walk through the snowy woods today. I had gone out to find a place to sled, and was drawn into the woods by a curiosity for adventure. I was struck by how quiet it was. I could hear every sound. The crunch of my footsteps in the snow, birds landing on a branch, the wind blowing through the barren trees. I walked through the trees for probably close to 45 minutes, but it seemed as though time had stopped.

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I found myself pausing every few steps, looking up, and all around. Every tree was unique, there were lots of fallen trees and branches, twisted trunks and thorny bushes. Everything looked beautiful covered in snow. Normally I would not have gone just trudging through the woods, but the snow was so clean and bright, and the trees so bare – I was captivated. This is the clarity that winter brings.

Everything might look dead, or asleep. But it’s quietly waiting. And there is such peace. I felt safe to explore, caught in the wonder of it all. As I walked, I noticed some deer tracks in the snow. Just for fun I decided to follow them. For all I know I was following them backwards…the deer was probably tracking me. But the possibility of seeing one out there, and being quiet enough to catch her off guard – I just kept going. There were many different sets of tracks; they are probably the only ones who walk through those woods.  There was some barbed wire that stopped me at one point, but I slipped through a break in the fence and kept going.

Only a few steps in, I realized I was surrounded by thorned branches. And I mean surrounded. They were stuck to my pants, and I was quickly becoming entangled. Thankfully I was able to step backwards and go back the way I came. I don’t know how the deer managed to get through there, but I sure as heck wasn’t going any further. This made me stop to think – when we run into thorns in our path, sometimes we don’t see them right away. Sometimes we get entangled in sin, or doubt, or confusion – before we realize there was a way out before we ever got stuck.

I kept going, following the tracks as I found them (I would be the worst tracker ever…I probably followed the same sets of tracks in every direction), and stopped to breathe in the crisp, cold air every once in a while. I imagined what kinds of creatures lived out there, every time I saw a tree stump or nest. This is their haven; away from people and cars and noise. For me today, it was my haven too.

I kept having to stop and go a different way, whenever I worked myself into a group of trees and branches that was too difficult to walk through. It was interesting to me how there were clear paths almost, where it was easy to walk and free of thorns, yet venture a few feet off and you’re stuck. Much like walking with God – sometimes our curiosity gets the best of us, and we wind up someplace we never intended to be…

All of a sudden I realized I no longer had any idea which direction I had come from. I was doing really well following the same path, but I had turned too many times, just haphazardly exploring, and I realized I was actually lost. I didn’t think this was possible at first, because there was a major road at one border of these woods, and some apartments along another side. I couldn’t hear traffic anymore, so I knew I wasn’t close to that end, but nothing looked familiar from where I had started. Yikes.

I tried to find my own footprints to follow back, but I had walked in a circle and crossed back over the tracks (again, I would be the worst tracker), so it wasn’t clear which direction I had come from. I just picked one direction to follow and went for it. Within a minute or two, I realized I was almost right back where I had originally entered the woods. I literally laughed out loud. What are the chances?

I had entered the woods with no plan, just wanting to explore a little. I was tentative at first, and didn’t go very far, but then I decided to walk and see how far it took me. I got distracted by deer tracks and thorns (I may or may not have pretended I was in the Hunger Games for a second…) and ended up very lost and confused. Thankfully I didn’t get to full on panic mode before I figured out where I was.

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This is much like my walk with the Lord to me. We enter every new season of life with no plan (or I might think I have a plan, but let’s be honest, I have no clue). Sometimes that is exciting, but most of the time it is scary. I am going to be seeing my first clients in the next week or so. This is uncharted territory. Just like the barren winter trees, I wonder, will I bloom again? Will I succeed? Just when I get close to panicking, He reminds me I am safe. I choose to trust in the season, and stay rooted in what I know for sure. The necessity of winter is that it provides preparation for new life in the spring. I am safe when I follow my guide, my Helper – the Holy Spirit. I may have the freedom to explore, but when I get stuck, I know to go a different way. When I can’t hear His voice, and I have gone too far, He helps me back to the path I was on. This may lead me back to where I started, but this time I have footsteps to follow.

I am thankful for His grace, and for the healing clarity that winter brings.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow” Isaiah 1:18

the thing about grace

Here’s the thing about grace. We NEED grace. I need it, you need it, every single minute of the day. Most of us who grew up in church hear this word all the time, and we become numb to it – just letting it bounce off of our hearts without truly sinking in. The truth is, grace is the most powerful thing we can experience in our relationship with God, apart from His love. Without it, we are completely lost, dead in our sin, with no ability to connect with God.

Grace is a gift. It is not something we can achieve, or work towards. It is not something we are capable of having or giving without God. Ephesians 2:8-9 explains this beautifully:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Grace is a gift. Which means we don’t earn it. We can’t earn it. Because the very definition of grace is that it is undeserved and unmerited. The most beautiful part about grace is that even though we don’t deserve it, and even before we knew we needed it, God extended His gift to us, out of His great love. Kind of like when you see something at the store that would be perfect  for your best friend, and you buy it right then even though her birthday is 7 months away (I’ve totally done it before!). God knew we would need His grace before we were even born, and He made it available to us through Jesus on the cross, giving us the chance to open the gift and enjoy a relationship with Him. 

Today I was babysitting, and the two kids were bouncing and throwing a ball back and forth in the house. They ended up knocking over a cup of water and the water spilled on the floor. There are much worse things they could of knocked over, so I just asked them to clean it up and take the ball outside. The younger one insisted that the older one clean up the water, even though she was the one who threw the ball. To compromise, I asked them to both clean up the water together. The young one responded by throwing the ball at my face. Yikes. Now, this is not like her at all…and I was taken by surprise. We both kind of stared at each other for a minute…her eyes looking slightly apologetic but also smug. After making her clean up the water by herself for that little outburst, I realized grace is something we need constantly. Even when we are submitted to God, our flesh still comes out in some ugly moments. When we get angry or afraid or sad, sometimes our flesh reacts faster than we have time to recognize. I was thankful that God gave me grace to be patient in that moment instead of chucking the ball right back at her. Because honestly, I’m not any better than she is. When I am frustrated, I would much rather throw a ball at someone than express it in words. But, thanks to grace, she and I were side by side drawing a picture together just minutes later. 

This is how God is with us – He is not an angry Father that sends us to our room when we misbehave. He does not raise His voice or His hand. He makes us clean up our mess, and then invites us to come and sit with Him, offering forgiveness and mercy that is new every morning.

I needed grace today. I think a lot of times we only think about how we need to show grace to others, being quick to forgive as Christ forgave us. And that’s definitely true. People are not perfect, and we all need to be shown grace. However, I realized today how hard it is for me to give grace to myself. I am a recovering perfectionist (really, I am getting better!) and I have a very hard time forgiving myself or letting things go when I mess up. I can’t stop thinking about it, and I continue to beat myself up, even if the other person has forgiven me (or isn’t even hurt in the first place). I don’t know why I respond this way, other than a desire to perform well. No one likes to mess up, especially in front of other people. But sometimes I am more hard on myself in the moments alone…when I know I have let down my Heavenly Father, or I have let down myself. The truth is, we all have hard days, and days when we feel “off.” God knew we would have days like this, because His standard is Jesus, and we are incapable of living up to that standard! He created us with emotions and feelings, and the ability to think our own thoughts. And He knew that these thoughts and emotions would lead us astray sometimes, because of sin. Hence…grace. I am so thankful for this gift of grace. Because sometimes there is nothing I can do to fix it. Sometimes I just have to accept His gift, and try again tomorrow. No matter how hard we try, we still fall short. Thankfully Jesus bridged the gap so we could stop trying – and He gave us the gift of grace to share with those around us.

So give grace today, even to yourself.