Feeling guilty for choosing a podcast over my usual church service, I came to Sunday morning exhausted and ready to explain myself to God –the reasons why I was so tired were good, valid, excusable. I was ready to make my case. But, instead of the judgement I was expecting, I was met with a beautiful invitation: Listen, eat, delight, incline your ear, come, live. 

The podcast sermon raised a sobering question from Isaiah 55, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” It’s followed by an invitation, “Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear and come to me; hear, that your soul may live” (Isaiah 55:2-3). 

I felt this gentle, kind conviction: “You don’t think I know what you need, you don’t think I care.” I had prepared for condemnation, but was met with this tangible compassion, this quiet reminder that God sees our circumstances and cares about us, and not just about what we can do for Him.

I realized that I often turn to the people who love me expecting compassion, while turning to God expecting to have to explain myself. In my trusted earthly relationships, I know I can bring my hurts, disappointments, and shortcomings into the light. Too often, I go to God with only plans and justifications and promises to do better. I’m quick to remember that God sees my circumstances and asks for faithfulness, but I sometimes forget that He also sees my circumstances and looks on me with compassion. That He isn’t standing over me asking me to jump higher, push harder, and get it together on my own. That when I’m feeling burnt out or broken or inadequate, He’s the one who already fully knows and invites me, come and live.

This is, of course, an issue of belief. I’ve forgotten who God is, that He is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7). As they often do, this issue of wrong belief leads to issues of misplaced expectations. If we don’t believe that God understands our human limitations or cares about our hurts and disappointments,  we will turn to people and projects and Netflix and self-care to give us the rest that only Jesus can provide. We will ask too much of the people around us, forgetting that we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness (Hebrews 4:15). We will miss His invitation to listen diligently and eat what is good, to delight in rich food and come, to hear and live.

When I remember that God looks on me with compassion, I don’t have to be so hard on me either –not for being tired or sad or finite. I can delight in His word and trust His heart and pursue obedience from a place of faithfulness instead of fear. As the Gospel has altered my standing before God permanently and completely, so it should alter my understanding of His character –all-knowing, all-sufficient, and overwhelmingly compassionate. I can stop pouring my efforts and energy and investments into that which does not satisfy, and come, again and again, and live.

I’ve wanted this space to have a name for a long time, but always struggled to feel attached to any specific concept long enough to commit. Until Cypress + Thistle. As with most of my ideas, I mulled the words over in my mind for too long. But unlike others, this one seemed here to stay. So with a new domain and a beautiful logo from the Laura Leigh Co, I’m ready to introduce you to Cypress + Thistle.

The name comes from Isaiah 55:13. I grew to love this passage during a more difficult seasons of life and find myself turning back to it often. It’s a beautiful chapter that speaks to God’s ability to satisfy that which our empty pursuits were never meant to, the sufficiently of His word to accomplish His purposes, and the promise of lasting restoration to His glory.

taupeThe memorial to our God that will always last will be the redemption and restoration of His world and His people, “that the name of God may be more illustrious among men, and that the remembrance of Him may flourish and be maintained.” While we hope in the restoration of all things when Jesus returns, we get to participate with the Spirit in restoration work here and now, making much of the name of He who redeems –trusting that His word will not return void, that He will accomplish what He purposes, that He brings flourishing from thistles.

It’s my hope that Cypress + Thistle will be a monument to God’s restoration work, a space for flourishing, a practice in tracing the glorious implications of the Gospel through thorns and thistles and ordinary days.

The church I frequently visit includes communion in their Sunday services every week –the kind where you stand up, walk down the aisle, and dip your bread into a cup of grape juice while someone looks you in the eye and says some variation of the words Christ’s body broken for you, Christ’s blood shed for you. It’s a rhythm I’ve grown to love, to look forward to, even. There’s something about the liturgical rhythm, the communal participation, and the tangible response that lets the truth sink in for me.

I’ve started to wonder, how different would life look if we looked each other in the eyes like this each week, a loud and clear reminder of this simple, eternity-altering truth? I think maybe, that’s the best we can do –to look each other in the face and remind us both of Christ’s body broken and Christ’s blood shed, to proclaim over God’s people this good-news Gospel that never gets old.

Christ’s body broken for you, Christ’s blood shed for you.

I’m quick to let these words soak in during Sunday morning communion, but not so quick to apply them to my mid-week mistakes and shortcomings, or to speak them over my closest neighbors when I feel hurt, wronged, or even slightly irritated. I, like the whole history of God’s people, am so prone to forget.

Over and over in Scripture, I see the warnings about forgetfulness, the call on God’s people to keep on remembering. Communion is exactly this –remembering together. While the logistics and frequency of communion aren’t specified, Jesus does call his people to “do this in memory of me.” We’re called to eat and drink and “proclaim Christ’s death until he comes.” Knowing our forgetful nature, he calls us to regular remembrance. A remembrance we can carry from our Sundays into our every days. Yes, we’re called to speak these words over bread and wine, but we also get to speak them over coffee cups, across kitchen tables, in the face of heartache and hurt feelings and unmet expectations.

Christ’s body broken for you, Christ’s blood shed for you.

I want to remember Jesus broken and poured out when I’m tempted to dwell on how I think things should have been or what I think I deserve, to allow the glorious and generous reality of the Gospel to transform the way I love my neighbor, to be quick to look people in the eye and remind them of Christ crucified until he comes.

Christ’s body broken for you, Christ’s blood shed for you.