This Is Not A House For Birds

devotion covering ugly parts of us

This birdhouse has a purpose and it is not to house birds, or to feed birds, or to do anything related to birds at all.

Its purpose is to kill wasps and to look pretty doing it. The wasp traps are disguised because this little space is being turned into a beautiful garden.

Ugly eyesores, like these traps, get hidden in parks and pretty gardens - they get cleverly disguised as pretty things so they don’t stick out like a sore thumb amid the creations of a green thumb.

But, you guys, we are not parks. We are not gardens. We don’t need to cover up and hide bits of ourselves to protect an aesthetic. We are something beautiful and we’re being made into something even more beautiful, but not by hiding what’s broken, disguising what’s ugly, or building up pretty walls to protect our image. We don’t have an image to protect!

We are works in progress - there are bound to be wasp traps hanging around.

“Whoever loves his life loses, and whoever hates his life in the world will keep it for eternity.”

- John 12:25

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

- 2 Corinthians 12:9

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It's All For Nothing, The Voices Say

A poem about dying to self #christianpoem #poet #poetry  #eternalperspective

It’s all for nothing

The voices say.

It’s all for nothing anyway.

The pain remains

From what has passed

The moments of peace

They fail to last,

It’s all for nothing, the voices say.

When you finally reach the end,

You’ll leave the same as you began.

It’s all for nothing, the voices say.

And you’re lucky to hear them,

To see the meaningless here then.

Much is for nothing, you say.

The scraping, the striving, the scavenging and buying,

Much is for nothing, you say.

You sell all you have for the one thing you need,

And you pour out the proceeds on your savior’s feet,

And you leave as you came, naked, empty-handed,

But the best thing can’t be taken, now that you have it.

Much is for nothing, you say.

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My Unfinished Painting & My Unfinished Faith Race

How This Half-Done Painting Reminded Me To Keep My Eyes On The Race

This is the background of a painting I’m working on. It’s meant to be a background, a foundation, a first layer. I started this piece with unbridled excitement. It’s experimental, it’s a leap, it’s not like anything I’ve done before, and I couldn’t wait to see it finished. 

But something happened over the last couple of days, as I waited for it to be ready for the next layer. I became fond of the background. I became comfortable with it. I started to wonder if I couldn’t, maybe, just leave it the way it is.

It has a simple complexity to it. It reminds me of both the ocean and the sky depending on when I look at it. 

I like it the way it is.

Instead of excitement over the finished project, today I felt fear over losing what I have now. Even though it was ready for the next step – I left it as is.

But tonight, I turned my eyes back to the plan, back to the reason I began this painting. I started to dream again. I started to envision the next layers, to get excited about the original vision. Tomorrow, I'll start work on the next layer. 
* * *
I have purpose in this life. A race. A mission. 

But sometimes I stop and I survey and I see how far I’ve come and I become fond of this place, this season. 

I become comfortable. 

Comfortable with my community, comfortable with my family, comfortable with my routines, comfortable with my habits. I forget the race. I forget the mission. I let fear freeze me. 

I take my eyes off of eternity and dwell on the temporal. And when my focus is here and now, the excitement is drowned in fear.

I have to turn my eyes back to the plan. I have to dream again, to envision the next layers of the journey, to get excited about the mission.

The difference between the painting and my walk with God is this painting could end up total garbage. I could hate it. I could regret the moment I turned my eyes back to the plan.

But I won’t regret turning my eyes back to eternity. I won’t regret adding layer upon layer of surrender. I won’t regret any loss or failure or pain associated with the mission. I don’t know how the finished product will look, but I know it will be a masterpiece.

As for the painting, we’ll see.

Waiting For Ai

Passing By The Thing You Want And Trusting God Has Something Better

When Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land and they were defeating the cities in the area - clearing out the neighborhood so that Israel wouldn't be corrupted by the inhabitants - they first went to Jericho. God specifically told them not to take ANYTHING from Jericho.   They were supposed to burn the whole place down and take nothing for themselves.

One man didn't listen.  He took silver and gold and a cloak, and Israel paid for his mistake. When they went against the next city, Ai, they were ran off and they lost 36 of their men.  When the sneaky man with the loot from Jericho was found out, his family paid - the whole family and everything that belonged to the man was destroyed.  Harsh.

Once he was gone, God led them to defeat Ai.

And then something weird happened.  God told them that they could take the livestock and the spoil of the city as plunder.

They were forbidden from taking from Jericho, but invited to take from Ai.

A bible scholar, or a historian, or maybe even someone who paid more attention while reading the story might be able to tell you what the difference was between the two cities.  They might understand why taking from Jericho was dangerous and taking from Ai was okay.

But really, it doesn't matter for me right now.  I needed to see this story in a new light.  I needed to see how sometimes God asks you to give something up - to pass by silver and gold and fancy clothes.  Sometimes He says "Give that up" or "Pass that by" or "Let that go" with no explanation - no promise of something specific He would give in return.  He doesn't say "Destroy everything in Jericho, I'll let you take what you want from Ai,"  He just says, "Destroy everything in Jericho."

Mrs. Bible scholar/Historian/Person who pays more attention might correct me, but I'm thinking the plunder from Ai was even better.  I bet that if they had known what they were about to receive, passing by Jericho would have been a breeze.   But they didn't know.  What they did know is this: God was taking pretty good care of them.  These are the people who ate manna in the desert and quail when they whined about the boring manna, they saw Joshua part the Jordan, they had JUST seen the walls of Jericho fall because they walked around it and made some noise.  They knew God is awesome.  They knew God can do anything.  But that one guy just could not trust that God had something better, so he slipped some trinkets and a jacket into his coat.

I just passed by something.  I lingered beside it knowing God was saying no.  I attempted a negotiation - "I won't take the whole thing God, how about this little piece of gold, maybe the silver, and how about this coat - I'll never find another one like this - maybe just the coat Lord?"  But I had my marching orders - don't take anything.

So I didn't.

And that's pretty scary.  But I have my own stories of manna and quail and parting waters and thick walls falling.  He is trustworthy.  All of the time.  And if He says to leave the coat and Jewels in Jericho, I'm leaving them.

I'm leaving them, and I'm waiting for Ai.

How To Know If You Did The Right Thing

How To Know If You Did The Right Thing

I saved a boy from drowning once.  Well, I helped.  And then I regretted it. 

I was seven, maybe eight.  It was a campground pool, and it was my cousin’s birthday. The memory is a weird one, one of those trauma-seared memories, with certain parts vivid, like a movie replaying in my mind, and other parts missing entirely.

I remember jumping into the pool, I remember my older cousin – the one with the birthday – jumping in too, I remember swimming toward the center of the pool to meet him, I remember giggling, I remember him asking if I’d seen his friend Jared* because he’d come out of the locker room before him, I remember a strange feeling in my stomach, I remember us looking at each other and then, together, looking down.

I remember seeing Jared kind of standing at the bottom of the pool, lifeless.  He had on goggles, which later seemed so strange – he knew we were going swimming, he brought trunks and goggles, he left the locker room early and jumped into the deep end of the pool.  He did these things knowing he couldn’t swim.  

My cousin and I dove down immediately, grabbing his arms and pulling.  I was a strong swimmer, but Jared was a few years older, a lot bigger, and total dead weight.  I came up for air once, then dove back down to help my cousin bring him up.  

I don’t remember yelling for help, but one of us must have.  And I don’t remember where she came from – if she was there the whole time, or if she came in response to our screams – but there was a nurse.

I remember CPR and puking and an ambulance and the ICU and then a boy who lived. And I remember I helped.  

I was proud of the moment.  I retold the story many times over two and a half decades.  I saved a life, helped anyway.  I was just a little kid, but I got to be a part of a big thing.  I did a good thing, I thought.  I did the right thing, I thought.

BUT

Last year I found out Jared is in jail and won’t ever get out.  He grew up to do something so heinous I won’t describe it here. 

Did I still do a good thing?  Did I still do the right thing?

I know the answer to this.  It’s the same as when I reflect on my time in Iraq, and it’s the same as my response when naysayers ask what that homeless guy is going to do with my money.

I don’t know. 

I don’t know the end result of every action I take.  I don’t know if the good thing I do today will result in a bad thing ten years from now, and I don’t know if that bad thing will somehow turn into some amazing and miraculous thing 100 years from now.  

I don’t know. But I know the one who does.  

It is not my job to label things as “good” or “right,” and thank God because I have no idea. My job is to follow closely, to abide, to learn His voice, and to listen like my legacy depends on it.  My life is not about amassing a collection of “good” and “right” things to earn salvation – it is simply about following the one who already earned it for me.