Sunday, June 8, 2014

In the Beginning

     Do you ever wonder how one accepts God's outrageous claims on blind faith? Does one simply shut down their intellect in order to believe in a fairy tale…a fairy tale claiming that the universe was spoken into existence by a God who knows each individual's ambitions, thoughts, and hearts individually; from whose mind came the existence of everything? Can an eternal Being so complex that human understanding cannot grasp actually love us and care what happens in our lives? If there were such a being, who would think they could KNOW Him personally? So, are they crazy? Or are they on to something?

    Let me tell you how I fell in love.

     The first week of Kindergarten in a tiny private school surrounded by just five classmates, I sat on the floor enamored by my teacher's description of creation found in Genesis, chapter one. She excitedly explained to us that the very God who created the world in which we live wanted to know each one of us like a friend. That He loved us so much He made the world for us to enjoy, and then sent His only  Son to make a way for us to come back to Him after Adam and Eve sinned.

      Then she asked. And I raised my hand. I wanted. No. I needed this God of hers to be my friend, to protect and guide me through a life I had already come to realize was difficult. At the moment I invited Jesus Christ to dwell in my heart, He wrapped my heart in His hand and never let go. Through fears and heartaches too big for a five year old to understand, He lovingly guided me as a most gentle and loving Father would his own child.

      It was never too late to talk to Him. He was never too busy to hear me. He holds me in my darkest moments with an unconditional, perfect love that only flows forth from the hand of God. A love like I had never known before or since. A love that has not prevented tragedy from entering my life, but shaped me through it.

     Did I accept what I was told with the faith of a child? Yes. Is my faith the same after twenty nine years? No. It is ever so much deeper, my love for God so much stronger. I could tell stories by the dozens of God's faithfulness. In the same way you might trust that the wind blows even though you can't see it or know that germs exist because illness does, I know my God by the way His hand moves in my life and the lives of those around me. He never stops astounding me.

     While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:18

     I no longer rely solely on personal experience of God's hand moving in my own life to prove my faith is true, but now understand so much more about the basis for my faith. I know why I believe what I believe, and have studied in detail the practical aspects of Christianity and why we can trust its doctrines to be true. I love the works of C. S. Lewis and Lee Strobel, who set out in disgust to disprove Christianity only to  became convinced of the accuracy of the Bible.

     "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." ~ C.S. Lewis

     I would encourage you to do your own research, whether to explore whether you believe it is true, or to reinforce your faith and be able to give an answer to those who ask you where your hope comes from.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Nothing Less

     "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."~1 Peter 2:21-24

     The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. A dark period in human history, yet perfectly planned by a God who loved us so much He allowed us to viciously and dishonestly condemn His own Son to die. Of all the injustice ever endured by human kind, Jesus' was the most undeserved. He lived a perfect life, the embodiment of love--the purity of which has not been seen before or since. Never an impure thought or motive. How? He is God in the flesh.

     Studying the events leading up to the Crucifixion is both fascinating and shocking. Jesus' submission to His Father in order to fulfill God's desire to be reconciled to His creation is unparalleled. Love Jesus poured out on humanity, knowing full well what was to come.......undeterred by the evil in the hearts and minds of the people. He loved them in spite of their faults.

     What strikes me the most very early in my research is the love that we are called to. As Jesus was ricocheted from one dishonest trial to another, He loved. As He endured pre-crucifixion torture, He loved. As He hung from the cross, He showered forgiveness born of a perfect love onto all of mankind, should they choose to accept.

     Who can grasp this love? I will spend the rest of my days marveling at God's love for us, and Jesus' life of love on this earth. We are called to nothing less than to live out that same love, and that love is life changing.

     "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." ~John 15:12

     Is there a portion of Christ's life that captivates you?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

God's Recycling Program

     Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.
 2 Corinthians 5:17

Elephant droppings repurposed for fertilizer. This can happen for you, too!

     King of Green....reuses anything and everything! And the award goes to......GOD! Are you surprised? I'll have to admit, at times I have been shocked at His mad skills, the lengths He goes to to redeem situations that appeared to be nothing more than rubbish destined for the dumpster.

     If we recycled as well as God does, our homes would have no trash output. Curbside pickup would be unnecessary. As the garbage man stands scratching his head at the end of the driveway, we could run out and say, "There is no trash! It has been redeemed and given new purpose!"

     Though we may get some strange looks, what kind of joyous freedom lies in having no trash? It's one less bill to pay, one less chore to deal with, less guilt to live with.

     That is exactly the way God works. He takes the dirtiest trash from our lives--the darkest secrets, most shameful circumstances, dumbest decisions--and cleans them up and repurposes them for grander plans than our imaginations can fathom.

     Nothing is wasted in God's economy, and the more trash in our past, the greater the redemption. The possibilities are endless, because God is a God of endless possibilities.

     What do you say? Won't you hand God your trash for recycling? Watch what He does with it. It's astonishing.

Monday, August 26, 2013

It Must Be Raining Somewhere.....

     An elderly woman way over dressed for a neighborhood stroll approached from the opposite side of the street. She stopped and called out, "It's a beautiful day, isn't it?"

     "It certainly is!" I yelled back.

     She pointed to the sky behind me. "Can you see the rainbow? Look!"

     I looked. I stretched and strained, but I couldn't see the rainbow. I looked back at her, puzzled.

     "Come over here so you can see it."

     As I reached her and turned around, there in the middle of a cloud speckled, perfectly blue sky was a rainbow attached to a single, small, dark cloud. We stood silently side by side, marveling at the majestic arc painted in bold hues.

     Finally, she said, "Well, it must be raining somewhere," then thanked me for enjoying the moment with her, before we parted ways.

     I don't ever want to forget that it must be raining somewhere. No matter how good life is going for me and those I love, I want to remember those caught in the storms of life and be to them like the woman who pointed out the rainbow of God's promise to me.

     We have the choice to revel in the blue skies, or to walk into the rain to offer an umbrella of hope to someone stuck in the storm. How will you choose?



Friday, May 17, 2013

Cast It All Off

     My little brother undressed faster than anyone I have ever known. Our family would get home from an outing, and before the rest of us could kick off our shoes, he was headed up the stairs in his underwear. As though clothing somehow restricted his little body, he reveled in casting each item quickly away. He joyfully ran about the house in his skivvies. When necessary, he would also wear a pair of shoes.

     What if we did the same, casting off not our clothing, but our restraints? Anything that holds us back from living fully for Jesus Christ hinders our relationship with Him. Behaviors, idolatry, insecurities, resentments, bitterness, sin ~ flung far and wide while we bask in the pleasure of restoration with God.

     However hard and long you have to hammer and saw at those chains keeping you enslaved to your own humanity, the freedom achieved will be worth it. God never leaves us alone with our chains and is readily accessible to help you in your weakness.

     Witnessing the broken chains falling off the lives of others encourages those struggling with the same chains. Many of my own have been broken, giving me some momentum to break the others in the power of Christ. The biggest, most annoying chain I can see right now is the chain of insecurity. This one keeps me enslaved to my fears. In time and with prayer, this too will be flung from me.

     I can't help but think the author of Hebrews had this sort of unchained freedom in mind when he said, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."~Hebrews 12:1-2

     What's hindering you?




Friday, May 10, 2013

The Greatest Author

     A fiction writer I am not. Plot twists, compelling characters, and believable conflict will not be achieved by me without intense study. Because of my failings in this arena, I have an incredible amount of respect for those who write fiction well.

     My favorite fiction contains at least an element of truth. I enjoy knowing that some parts of the story really took place--the creativity of man built upon the creativity of God. How incredible that He who created the universe instilled in our makeup a portion of His own creativity.

     As if creation itself were not intriguing enough, the intertwining of lives, the plot twists, drama, and conflict that occur every single day astound me. Once in a while, it's encouraging to step back a bit to ponder the bigger picture happening all around us throughout our entire existence.

     Looking back over my life, I can see how God used specific people to protect and guide me along my way. I see an ultimate good coming out of undesirable circumstances, and I love seeing where the hand of God has been with me in every situation. Realizing the depth of God's love is enough to make my heart burst.

     The people who enter our circle for a time impact us in one way or another for the rest of our lives. God allows and arranges situations encouraging our growth, educating us in His ways. We are never, ever alone, even though it may feel that way. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, "This is the way; walk in it." ~Isaiah 30:20-21

     Feeling unloved? Unappreciated? Discouraged? Make a list of all the times you have seen God move in your life, including the people who have been placed by God to influence you at just the right moment. Write down anything good that has come out of your trials. Do you feel the embrace of God?

     Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.~Hebrews 12:2


Thursday, May 2, 2013

This Too Shall Pass...

    Car Accidents. Rehabilitation. Surgery. Persecution. Sorrow. Divorce. Death. Life gets messy sometimes, doesn't it?

     Through ten months of intense counseling intended to repair our broken relationship, my husband and I tore down the entire structure of our marriage in order to learn new, healthier ways of relating to one another. The rebuilding was slow and painful. An awkwardness like we had never experienced forced us to treat each other carefully. It was as though we were strangers trying to familiarize ourselves, much like ten years earlier while we dated. Now, however, all kinds of relationship baggage weighed us down.

     Never before was God so evident in our lives. We would rely on Him or watch our family finish crumbling. He was right beside us every single day. The best part was the healing that took place as we daily committed our marriage to God. For months while we wondered if we could make it, the good work going on in our lives as individuals and as a couple was undeniable. During that time it was imperative that we remain committed to the goal of a God honoring, vibrant family. Otherwise, we may have been tempted to take another road--to give up on us.

     We would have missed recommitting our marriage in front of our family and friends, declaring our determination to do things differently--putting Christ as the head of our marriage, and depending on Him to lead us the right way.

     Had we given up, not clung to the thread holding us together, we would have missed out on the most incredible plot line. We are co-parenting under the same roof, and our children have a more stable home because of it. The benefits are greater than we will ever know this side of heaven, but we know enough of them to be eternally grateful for God's work in our lives.

     If you are having some tough times right now, hold tight. This too shall pass, even though it may pass like a large kidney stone. Like birthing a baby after enduring labor, the reward is great. And God has a plan--for all of it.

     For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~2 Corinthians 4:17-18