When Things Collide

There’s a place my heart and mind frequently go when I meditate on the love of God.

It’s a place where, on hard days, deep sadness, yearning and joy collide; on easier days, they simply intertwine.


Long before Chloe fell ill, long before my world fell apart, I fell in love with a verse from Zephaniah.

Someone had put the words to music, and as I sang the little chorus alone or in groups I could almost sense the warmth of God’s arms around me, the tenderness of his eyes on mine, and the joy in his voice as he sang his song of affectionate love to me. It brought joy to my heart.

Fast forward to the days of Chloe’s suffering.

I would sing to her, albeit off-tune, the sweet and true lyrics of “Jesus Loves Me,” even while crying bitter, heartbroken tears, yearning for her to be healed, longing for her to know how very precious she was.

Fast forward further to the inevitable and terrible day of her passing. I was still singing, and still questioning.

Then came the afternoon when we had to lay her in that grave. I couldn’t bear to watch as they covered her casket with soil, but Juan, bless his heart, stayed with her little body till the end.

Even as we said good-bye, I knew that her soul was long gone and that in some miraculous way she was resting in the warmth of God’s embrace, cradled in his arms, free of suffering and pain.

I knew beyond doubt that she was—and will forever be—loved. Tenderly loved and rejoiced over by her Creator and Savior. Loved and treasured by us.

So when the time came for us to choose a gravestone and select an epitaph, it only made sense to include lines from that comforting verse:

“The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Amazingly, a year after Chloe’s passing, a dear friend gifted me with a powerful, perfect reminder that Chloe was “Safe in the Arms of Jesus.” In this depiction of deep love, Jesus sits in a rocking chair and tenderly embraces a tiny babe.

Most poignantly, it’s nail-pierced hands that hold the babe.

Those same hands hold me. Those same hands hold you.

We are cherished.

We are loved.


A Segue to Scripture

Day 4 in 31 Days of Journeying with the “Jesus Prayer”

Lord Jesus Christ, merciful and loving Savior, make me ever mindful of your constant, gracious, empowering Presence and your heart of tender affection toward me.

Back when I began penning my personal version of the “Jesus Prayer,” I searched for a passage of Scripture that would reflect and reinforce the truths I wanted to contemplate. I ended up in Ephesians 3, with Paul’s description of Jesus’ incredible love and power. It seemed to be the perfect fit.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

For a few days, I worked at memorizing the passage. Then I let it slip from my consciousness.

Of late, though, as I’ve leaned into my “Jesus Prayer” in the midst of both mundane moments and higher-stress situations, Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians has re-surged in its significance, and the truths expressed in his words have begun to seep into my soul in newer, more palpable ways.

When a task seems particularly daunting, I’m reminded that Christ’s power is at work within me.

When I want to give in to sloth (yes, I believe I’m an Enneagram 9), I’m reminded that His power in me is far greater than the magnetic pull of my chair or the lure of Netflix and its captivating drama.

When I’m tempted to compare myself with others or to doubt my significance before God, I’m reminded that his love is wider, longer, higher, and deeper than I can ever imagine—and I ask for a greater awareness of this incomprehensible force.

When I’m uncertain how to love, or even whether I can truly love, I’m reminded that Christ’s immense affection can flow through me to others.

Jesus’ love and power. What gifts—gifts as yet still largely unexplored by me.

But it’s a journey.

Cordiality or Kindness–the Million Dollar Question

Day 3,  31 Days of Journeying with the Jesus Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, merciful and loving Savior, make me ever mindful of your constant, gracious, empowering Presence and your heart of tender affection toward me.

Someone wronged me today, in a rather public way—attacking me, I believe, based on a misinterpretation of my actions.

My immediate reaction was to defend myself.

Later, after calming down a bit, I managed to be cordial. But cordial is a cold word, and my goal ought rather to be kind—kind like Jesus.

And so my challenge is to keep the mercies of Christ in the forefront of my mind—that my character might be conformed to his, that the intentions of my heart might be pure, that my words might be seasoned with grace, and that my actions might be kind and considerate. That’s no easy matter and is of course only possible through His power at work in my deep places.

Lord Jesus Christ, merciful and loving Savior, may your love and mercy pervade my heart and flow through me to others.

Breathing In, Breathing Out

Day 2 of “31 Days of Journeying with the Jesus Prayer”

Lord Jesus Christ, merciful and loving Savior, make me ever mindful of your constant, gracious, empowering Presence and your heart of tender affection toward me.

Many who know me are aware that I’m frequently besieged by intense feelings of guilt—guilt that bombards my heart, mind, and soul, guilt that leaves me seemingly unable to fight back.

My counselor friend says this could be what psychologists call “magnification.” Others say it could be a form of spiritual attack. Perhaps it’s both. Regardless of the label, though, getting caught up in an overwhelming awareness of my sins, faults, and failures has a debilitating and paralyzing effect on me.

In fact, last night I awoke in the wee hours of the morning to find myself in just such a grip of guilt.

Enter my “Jesus Prayer” and a few lines of Matt Redman’s song “Your Grace Finds Me.”

Matt Redman sings of “breathing in God’s grace” and “breathing out his praise.” Last night, as I lay there wide awake in my all-consuming guilt, I slowly and deliberately began “breathing in” the grace of God’s mercies and “breathing out” my gratefulness for his forgiveness and for his tender, compassionate love toward me.

In Lamentations 3:19-23, God’s Word paints a picture of this same kind of exchange.

“I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”