Exploring the Deep

Passionately pursuing life, faith and adventure…

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Amazing Grace: fresh revelation or stale experience?

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now, I see…. The Lord has promised good to me. His word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.”

The lyrics to this well-known song have always brought me a deep sense of peace, comfort and hope. As a 19-year-old new believer they rang like a bell in my soul – clear, bright and loud. They spoke to my places of hurt, the dark corners of my heart, the grimy places of my soul that needed cleansing. They said, “It’s OK. Forget the past and the stupid things you’ve done. God’s amazing grace has taken care of it. You’ve got a future now.” I’ve clung to that promise ever since.

Years later, the new chorus added by Chris Tomlin added a fresh layer to the story. “My chains are gone. I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood His mercy rains. Unending love, Amazing grace.” It was fresh revelation for this maturing soul.

How often do we (how often do I) live the past? How often do we live at a spiritual peak that is so far out of view in our rear view mirror that we don’t notice our new surroundings? Recently I felt like I was slapped in the face with the understanding that grace and mercy aren’t just for the things I’ve done in my life, but also for my mind and attitude. I am changed. I’m not the same as I was at 19; I’ve matured spiritually. The Lord has deepened my walk. My chains are gone. I don’t live with the same doubts or fears as I did when I first came to faith. I’ve been set free. I can walk in confidence as a more mature believer.

At each new level of spiritual maturity, God is eager to extend His grace (His generous offer to give me what I don’t deserve: His love and compassion). He is eager to extend His mercy (His offer of not giving me what I rightfully deserve: separation from Him and a life of pain). All I must do is trust in Him, walk with Him, and allow His hand and voice to guide and grow me.


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Hidden stories and my heart’s cry

Standing in a crowded church on a Sunday morning it’s easy to assume that everyone has it all together. Everything is polished. We hide behind nice clothes, make-up and painted on smiles. We embrace, laugh and say, “I’m good. Thanks for asking.” There are so many people, each with their own stories of triumph – and heartache. Everyone looks pulled-together and perfect on the outside, but each of us have places of hurt and brokenness that we don’t let others to see. These are our hidden stories.

These are the stories that aren’t necessarily meant for the world to know. They are personal, intimate and need tender encounters with a love beyond what another human can give in order to one day become public stories. It’s the divorced mom whose heart is wounded; the widower whose spouse was taken too soon; the teenager struggling with depression; the abused child hiding her secret; the overlooked step-child; the 40-something waiting for “mister right”; the businessman on the verge of a breakdown.

We each have a cross to bear. There is something in each of our lives that is difficult and challenging – where we need someone bigger than us to get us through. Matthew 16:24 tells us that if we want to be follower’s of Christ – to have fullness in this life – we must turn from our selfish ways, take up cross and follow Him. We have a personal responsibility to let go of our self – our situations, challenges, struggles, roadblocks, hindrances, shortcomings, faults, flaws, selfishness tendencies – and follow God. No one else can do it for us.

Yet we aren’t called to go it alone. Galatians 6:1-3 gives us the charge to live in relationship, caring for those hurting around us: “Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.” (The Message, emphasis mine)

As Christ-followers we aren’t promised a perfect life, but we are encouraged to journey on it together. So let me ask this: Where are you living in relationship? Where have you taken the time to listen to the hidden story of someone near to you? Where have you stooped down and reached out to the oppressed lately? Where has your burden been shared by another? It should be our heart’s cry to take responsibility for our own spiritual growth and also to stand alongside others as they walk this same faith journey.

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Exploring my spiritual pathways

Recently I was given the assignment of exploring what my strongest spiritual pathways in connecting with God are and how I could engage in those pathways. A simple online survey, it opened up a wonderful time of reflection. (Find the link to it below, as well as suggested follow up questions to help you engage.) I spent several days pondering the results and thinking about the top ways that I best engage my heart in staying attentive to the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and how I could further engage in those pathways.

I kept circling back to ways that I could do something to engage. I was brainstorming for action that I could take – volunteer more, plug in to a ministry to serve, take a class. I was beginning to feel overwhelmed at the thought of adding anything more to my schedule and life. I don’t have time to do more! I don’t have time to do what’s already in my life! How would I possibly add something more and hope to find a better, stronger connection with God? But that’s just when the Lord spoke to me: It’s not about “doing for God”…it’s about “being with God.”

Only my strongest pathway was about adding something in: caregiver. But that’s something that I already do by volunteering at Bread of Life Mission. Maybe my involvement there takes on a slightly different feel. Maybe I purposefully prepare myself each time I go to be used by God. To purpose that I’m going to do more than just serve food, but purpose to speak life and encouragement to the guests and guys in the Life Change program. To let the Lord speak through me to them, which ultimately builds up my faith that God would use me to share His love and compassion. It’s a dual benefit.

The other pathways all have to do with being with God – enthusiastic, contemplative, intellectual. The growth for each of those happens by spending time in His presence, reading the Word, thinking about Him. Sure, it involves time and effort, but it doesn’t mean I’m sitting in a room doing only that. Enthusiasm happens with people – dance rehearsal, worship, out to coffee with friends. Contemplative can happen when I’m working out at the gym, cooking, hiking, driving, reading. And Intellectual happens at church during the message, reading blogs and books, talking with mature believers.

Each of the pathways takes time and focus, but none add anything more to my schedule. There’s no reason that I need to be overwhelmed by thinking of ways that I can engage in the pathway. It will take focus and determination to stay on track; to purposefully engage and not let it slide; to seek out ways to push past my existing boundaries of understanding; to grow and mature. Ultimately the work is worth it.

Join me on the journey and explore your strongest spiritual pathways by taking the online survey here. Then go the next step: How can you best engage your heart in staying attentive to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life? How can you further engage in those pathways?