Saturday, November 2, 2013

Your Lens

by Vicki Scott Burns
Point my lens at the trees, try to capture the leaves; 
their stories told as they begin to fall.
Once but mere little shoots, then You set down their roots, 
and now they’ve grown more than thirty feet tall.

Bright yellows and greens were the first colors seen 
as autumn knocked upon summer’s door.
Then the air became chilled, the crisp nights became still; 
crowns of red jewels all the trees now adorn.

The trees sway and they dance by the brush of Your hand, 
with gentle breezes and in mighty winds.
They weather the seasons, they keep changing with time. 
They’ll be stripped bare soon but won’t seem to mind.

I shoot frame after frame and their beauty’s the same, 
my soul so moved that I scarcely can breathe.
And I wonder, my God, when You look through Your lens, 
if this tree’s all that You hoped it would be.
Oh, to see this tree through Your lens…

On this crisp autumn day, my soul dances and sways, 
keeping time with the touch of Your hand.
But my colors all change and my leaves rearrange 
when pain and fear upon my branches land.

God, help me weather seasons, help me change with time. 
Strip me bare, Lord, and I’ll try not to mind…

Now Your lens points to me, aimed to capture my leaves; 
true colors revealed as each leaf does fall. 
I’m a mere little shoot, but in Christ I have roots. 
In Him, may I stand thirty feet tall.

As You shoot frame after frame, is my beauty the same? 
Is Your soul moved that You scarcely can breathe?
And I wonder, my God, when You look through Your lens,
am I all that You hoped I would be?
Oh, to see myself through Your lens…

God, help me weather seasons, help me change with time. 
Strip me bare, Lord, and I’ll try not to mind…

As You shoot frame after frame, is my beauty the same?
Is Your soul moved that You scarcely can breathe?
And I wonder, my God, when You look through Your lens, 
am I all that You hoped I would be?

Please, help me see myself through Your lens…

Copyright © 2004-2014 by, Inc. and by Vicki Scott Burns. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Red Umbrella

In a small farming community in the Midwest, the farmers didn’t know what to do. The drought was dragging on for what seemed an eternity. The rain was very important to the community’s way of life. As the problem became more urgent, the local church felt it was time to get involved. The members planned a prayer meeting in order to ask God for rain. 

When the pastor arrived, he slowly circulated from one group to another. Finally, he made his way to the front in order to officially begin the meeting. As the pastor secured his place in front of his flock, his thoughts were on the importance of quieting the crowd and starting the meeting. 

 Just as he began asking for quiet, he noticed an eleven-year-old girl sitting in the front row. She was angelically beaming with excitement. Resting next to her was her bright red umbrella, poised for use. 

The beauty and innocence of this sight made the pastor smile. He realized that this young girl possessed a faith that the rest of the people in the room seemed to have forgotten. For the rest had come just to pray for rain—she had some to see God answer.
(Written by: Anonymous)

The young girl in this story saw hope when none existed: her hope was in God. She knew that God 
would hear her prayers. She believed that He would answer them. Although she was a child, she understood that despair is not the end of faith—God can be trusted in the darkest of hours. As you step forward into autumn, may you do so with expectant faith and a red umbrella in hand! 

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, 

‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 

plans to give you a hope and a future. 

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, 
and I will listen to you. 
You will seek me and find me 
when you seek me with all your heart.’” 

Jeremiah 29:11-13

Copyright © 2004-2014 by, Inc. and by Vicki Scott Burns. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Spiritual Songlasses: Living Life Through the Lenses of God's Word and Prayer

It’s late afternoon. You’ve played with the kids, done five loads of laundry, and two loads of dishes. You’ve bathed the dog and weeded the garden. You’ve bandaged owies and dried tears. You’ve stepped on toys, slipped on toys, and even begged toys to put themselves away. 

What you haven’t done is shower. Your hair has been hastily smashed into a baseball cap. Rusty soil is smeared across your backside. Evidence of runny noses and strands of dog hair cling to your T-shirt. You smell as though you and your bar of soap have had a parting of ways. The panic attack begins as you realize that you don’t have anything for dinner. You could order pizza, but you’re afraid of what the neighbors will think if the delivery boy’s car appears in your driveway yet again. The milk is chunkier than it ought to be, so cereal is out. Your options are dog kibble and potato chips, neither of which your conscience will let you feed to your children. Your shoulders droop in defeat as you realize that there's no way out: you simply must go to the grocery store. 

As you turn the key in the ignition, you catch a glimpse of yourself in the rearview mirror and pray that you don't run into anyone you know. For a brief moment you consider driving to a store in another state, but the squabbling in the back seat has already begun. You haven't even made it down the driveway. Sigh.

After pulling into a parking spot at the store, you take a deep breath. You can do this. The Nike ad says so. The time has come. You don the most masterful of all disguises: your sunglasses. 

You make your way through the store, relying upon your memory of the store's layout and hoping it hasn’t been rearranged since last week. Suddenly you are in your groove, tossing things right and left into your cart. You haven’t any idea what you’re actually tossing in because you can’t read the labels. Accuracy, however, is not your mission. You get in. You get out. You escape recognition. That’s your mission. Mission impossible, or so it seems. Somehow, you manage to succeed. 

What would you do without your beloved sunglasses?

Paul had his own pair of beloved Songlasses. However, he didn’t use them as a disguise; rather he wore them with confidence to identify himself as one of Christ’s own. As do our prescription glasses, Paul’s Songlasses enabled him to look through two different lenses to converge upon a single focal point. For Paul, that focal point was Jesus.

So what, exactly, were Paul’s lenses?

One lens was God’s Word. Paul studied, taught, and quoted scripture. He carried scripture in his heart and in his mind. Paul knew that the diligent study of scripture was God’s desire for believers. In 2 Timothy 2:16-17, Paul wrote “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

In March of 1987, I gave birth to my second child, Kyle. He was born with a coarctation of his aorta, a pinched section in the arch where the aorta branched off of his heart. It was surgically corrected two days later. We were told that although the surgery had been difficult, it had been successful.

Things quickly declined. Kyle’s heart failed the next day. After 25 minutes of CPR, it became apparent that Kyle was going to die. I had never held him, so I asked the doctor to stop the CPR and to quickly remove the equipment. He did so and handed Kyle to me. I cradled him in my arms. Two minutes later, Kyle released his last breath upon my face.

Kyle’s death got my attention. It was the magnet my heart needed to be drawn towards God. What a magnet it was. 

Two years later, through a series of events well orchestrated by God, I walked into a Precept Bible study class in the 13th week of a 14-week course. I sat next to Maria, a woman who spoke about a God so real to her I was sure that she could reach out and touch Him. Maria invited me to lunch. The pain of my aching heart poured out to her. She shared salvation verses with me. I felt uncontrollably drawn to God. I accepted Christ that evening.

Becoming a believer didn’t change the reality of Kyle’s death, but it profoundly altered my perspective of it. Where I once stood in despair, I now stand in hope. There's not a doubt in my mind that God led me to that Precept class. He wants me to know Him through His Word. So I choose to look through that lens and diligently study my Bible.

Paul’s other lens was the lens of prayer. In Philippians 4:6 Paul wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, he wrote “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” For Paul, prayer and God’s Word were inextricably intertwined.

I have always known the importance of prayer, but I hadn’t lived its importance. Then my hand happened.

A simple sprain followed by a simple surgery to remove tiny bits of scar tissue that had formed between my carpal bones on my right, and dominant, hand. Then the nightmare began. An aggressive tumor took my hand captive. In two and a half years I endured nine operations, countless hours of occupational therapy, four months of wearing a cumbersome machine, and two courses of radiation treatment. My husband, family, friends, church and I prayed incessantly about this hand. The emotional ups and downs throughout this time were unrelenting. Each corner promised a new and hopeful solution. However, nothing stopped the tumors. I quickly lost significant use of my hand. Yet I continued to pray. My prayer, specifically, was for a steadfast spirit despite the uncertainty of my journey.

I trusted that God would answer my prayers in His way and in His time. He eventually sent me to 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Paul wrote, “And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’”

It was as if God said that directly to me: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

God remained faithful to His promise. It no longer matters whether God’s answer is yes, no, or not yet. My hand remains my “thorn,” yet I understand and accept the gift of God’s grace and that is more than sufficient for me.

Faith is the frame that holds these lenses together. Faith is what keeps me studying and praying. When I look through the lens of God’s Word, I gain intellectual knowledge of Him. When I look through the lens of prayer, I deepen my emotional connection to Him. When I look through both lenses simultaneously, I have a complete relationship with Him, a relationship in which I know Him, I see Him, I feel Him, I talk to Him, and in which He responds to me.

Paul’s Songlasses were a by-product of his heart for God, a heart molded by the collection of his experiences. My Songlasses are a by-product of my heart for God, a heart molded from the collection of my experiences. My lens of God’s Word came from Kyle’s death. My lens of prayer came from my hand. My frames of faith came from the hope only He could build from the rubble of my broken heart and my broken body. Difficult experiences, yes, but they brought me to my knees before my Lord where I can honestly thank Him for allowing Kyle and my hand to happen. Though it isn't always easy, the emotional scar on my heart and the physical scar on my hand keep me looking up through my Songlasses and enable me to bear witness to others about God’s saving grace. 

In Jeremiah 29:12-13, God said, “’Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Do you have the frames of faith? Do your frames need to be fitted with the lenses of God’s Word and prayer? Do you allow God to use experiences in your life to draw you near to Him?

Go. Pray to Him. Seek Him. Search for Him with all of your heart, and you will find Him.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by, Inc. and by Vicki Scott Burns. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Simple Sketch

A Simple Sketch
Vicki Scott Burns 

You could dress me to the nines 
and then take my photograph. 
Airbrush out the flaws and lines, 
add the features that I lack. 
I could primp, I could preen 
but all that would be seen 
is just a simple sketch of everything that He 
wants me to be. 

And if you could commission 
a Van Gogh or a Monet, 
a masterful rendition 
of my face he might portray. 
I could pose, I could sit 
but still in the end it 
would be a simple sketch of everything that He 
wants me to be. 

“A picture paints a thousand words,” or so the saying goes. 
So I paint my soul on canvases of poetry and prose… 

When this portrait session ends 
He’ll walk through my gallery: 
portraits hung for my defense 
of my faith’s reality. 
So I hope and I pray 
that these words will display 
more than a simple sketch of everything that He 
wants me to be. 

So I hope and I pray 
that my life will display 
the One that gave His life for me 
so that someday I might be 
more than just this simple sketch. 

Copyright © 2004-2014 by, Inc. and by Vicki Scott Burns. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

In Honor of Pastor Tom Givens

(Originally posted March 12, 2012.)

This morning I received the sad news that my friend and former pastor, Tom Givens, lost his battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). 

Pastor Tom ministered to me during the most painful period of my life. After my son Kyle died, I spent most of my time soul-searching and looking for answers. I simply could not reconcile that I had outlived my child for no apparent reason. The medical explanation that Kyle's heart problem was simply random did nothing to ease my aching soul and empty arms. I was Catholic at the time and spoke to quite a few priests. Rick and I went to grief counseling. I read books. I did everything I knew to do and yet my suffering only intensified. I was caught in this cycle for two years. Then, upon the recommendation of a dear friend, I started attending Grace Baptist church in Santa Clarita, CA. Pastor Tom's sermons were amazing and really spoke to my heart. After a few weeks, I made an appointment to meet with him.

Opening my heart to Pastor Tom was not an easy thing. Though my family and friends knew I was heartbroken and in pain, the only person who really understood the depths of my suffering was Rick. My feelings were so raw and agonizing that I couldn't articulate them or let anyone else see them. A few months after Kyle died, I woke up one night and literally smashed every dish we owned against a wall. Rick just stood there and let me smash them then held me while I sobbed for hours. How could I possibly explain those feelings or actions to anyone? How could I possibly reveal the darkness of my soul? Yet when I walked into Pastor Tom's office, something moved within me. 

Kyle's story spilled forth from my heart as the tears spilled forth from my eyes. For the first time with anyone other than Rick, I spoke the unspeakable. The ugliness, bitterness, and anger I felt towards God was laid bare. As I revealed my deepest and darkest moments to Tom, I felt ashamed, frightened, and irretrievably lost.

I wasn't sure what I expected Tom to do or say, but I certainly didn't expect his response. He sat next to me, held my hand, and spent twenty minutes praying for me. During that prayer Tom revealed that he and his wife had welcomed a baby girl that died in their arms when she was twenty minutes old. Tears streamed down both of our faces as he talked with the Lord about his daughter and Kyle. 

Tom went on to explain that God had not, in fact, been cruel and heartless to me. In fact, God had experienced the same sense of loss and pain when His son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross. The idea that God could possibly understand and relate to my feelings was an overwhelming idea. Tom read several Bible passages that convinced me beyond the shadow of a doubt that Kyle was, indeed, in heaven. For the first time in two years, I felt a glimmer of hope. God no longer seemed like a cruel and distant puppet master, but rather a loving and compassionate father. The chains of fear and pain and shame that had bound me for two years broke open. Kyle's death, of course, could not be undone. But my perspective of Kyle's death changed dramatically. 

Tom became my blessed mentor and friend. He understood me. He connected with me. He invested in me. Together we drew a spiritual map which led me out of Kyle's grave and into the arms of God. The ugliness, bitterness, and anger I harbored towards God were replaced with hope. Instead of blaspheming God for stealing Kyle from me, I now praise God for having sent Kyle to me. In Kyle's three short days of life, he changed my life in blessed and glorious ways which Tom helped me discover. I pray that I might have the privilege of changing at least one life the way that Kyle and Tom changed mine. (If you would like to hear a few of Pastor Tom's sermons, you can download the podcasts for free by clicking here.)

As for Tom, he was diagnosed with ALS 16 months ago. His battle intensified quickly, his suffering became immense. Though I am deeply saddened by the news of his death, I am thankful that he has been freed of the chains which bound his body but could not bind is soul. I can only imagine the joy and praise with which he was welcomed home.

My prayers continue for his wife Sharon, their children, and their grandchildren. May our loving and merciful God comfort their souls, and may their hearts and minds know that they need not say goodbye to Tom, but rather, "Until we meet again..."

I look forward to seeing Tom again. May he rejoice at the Lord's feet as he is reunited with his beloved daughter and those who have been waiting at home for him.

In loving memory of Tom, and with abiding love, friendship, and thankfulness for him in Jesus...

Copyright ©2012 by Vicki Scott Burns. All rights reserved. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

In His Honor

Twenty-six years ago, my second child, Kyle Scott, was born with a coarctation (a pinched section) of his aorta. He underwent surgery, and the doctors told us that he'd come home in two weeks. Eighteen hours later--on March 7, 1987--Kyle died in my arms. I literally felt his last breath upon my face. Needless to say, I dove into a spiritual and emotional tailspin. Kyle's life and death seemed so senseless to me, and I simply couldn't accept the fact that it had happened without reason. So I embarked upon a journey to try and make sense of it all. The journey wasn't easy. I was filled with anger, hopelessness, and brokenness, all of which I kept well hidden from everyone except Rick. Twenty-four years ago, after a series of events very well orchestrated by God, I became a born-again Christian. 

I wrote these lyrics a few years ago. However, in light of today being the 26th anniversary of Kyle's death, they seem even more relevant to me now.

Nothing in Between
Vicki Scott Burns

The streets were his religion
Violence was his only mission
His life hung in the balance day to day
With a gun pressed to a head
He remembered words his brother said
About the One who died to bear his sin and shame
And he found Jesus in that alley
Hate no longer his reality
He saw the truth that hate had not let him see:
It's light or darkness--there is nothing in between

Drugs became her secret passion
Once taboo but now the fashion
A masquerade for what was hidden deep within
With a tube forced down her throat
She remembered words her daddy spoke
About the One Who paid the price for all her sin
And she met Jesus on that gurney
Fear no longer was her journey
She saw the truth that fear had not let her see:
It's light or darkness--there is nothing in between

We start out in the darkness
From the moment we begin
We've got to choose to let Light pierce us
We've got to choose to let Light in
We've got to choose to let Him in

My son's last breath upon my face
A nightmare time could not erase
A broken heart and an empty soul took hold of me
Cryin' at that tiny grave
I remembered words the preacher prayed
About the One Who holds my son and grieves with me
And I met Jesus in that graveyard
Pain no longer lord of my heart
I saw the truth that pain had not let me see:
It's light or darkness--there is nothing in between

It's light or darkness--there is nothing in between

Copyright © 2012-2014 by, Inc. and by Vicki Scott Burns. All rights reserved.

Although becoming a Christian did not change the harsh reality of my situation, it absolutely changed my perception of it. Where I once stood angry, I now stand joyful. Where I once stood hopeless, I now stand in hope for all eternity. Where I once stood broken, I now stand redeemed. The transformation is not complete, and will not be until I am welcomed home to heaven; but the transformation is real and continues to fill my life with purpose and joy.

I'd be lying to you if I said that this week has been easy. Facing the emotions of a birthday and the anniversary of a death of a loved one is never easy. Yes, my emotions have been intense this week. However, not all of them have been painful. Once again, God has reminded me of how thankful I am to have had Kyle for those three days. It may sound trite, but I truly would not be who or where I am today if I hadn't had those three days. 

It is with profound faith that I know I will hold Kyle in my arms again. Until then, I will hold Kyle in my heart while I hold Rick, Keaton, Brennan, Brittany, and Emma in my arms. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!