Posted in Christianity, Life phases

A time to change

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

In my 21 (almost 22 years) I’ve often wondered why we make resolutions for the new year. I thought it was ridiculous because most people break them anyway, right? Most of my resolutions have been rather silly and then I didn’t actually keep them. Probably because I made it on a whim . . . which isn’t really a resolution is it?

I’ve thought about it a lot over the past few months. Every season has a time and my season is changing. I’ve been considering all the changes that are coming up. . . graduating college, moving, trying to get a job, making new friends, actually adulting. . . sometimes it’s rather terrifying. But, it’s also exhilarating. My time now is a time of transition, a time of change.

With all the things floating around in my brain (One semester left of papers, tests, and being with the people I know. How will I deal with leaving this place I’ve lived for 4 years? Should I buy a car for myself? Where should I look for an apartment? How do I get that job? What about utilities? I want a cat, how long should I wait? Will I be able to start working right out of college? Or will I have to live with my parents for a while?) sometimes I forget to rest. I forget to give myself space. I forget to trust. And then, I go back to the verse above…

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

And I take a deep breath as I read the rest of that passage in Ecclesiastes 3.

“2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

It’s still stressful. And my season is still one of change. But each season has its time, and mine will shift from change to something else. There are a lot of unknowns, but there were a lot when I prepared for college 4 years ago too.

I guess my resolution this year is to keep my head up during this season of change and keep trusting God to bring me through as He has before. He has the unknowns that try to worry me in His hands along with all the seasons of my life. So, I’ll keep my head up, my life and heart on His altar, and do my best to love Him and love others in my time of change (and after).

 

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Posted in Christianity

Lenten Thoughts – Solitary

Solitary…it’s not a state of being that I like to think about. It implies that you are alone, isolated, without companions.

This state of being – solitary, alone, isolated – is like a dark cloud to me. It weighs on my soul causing me to drag my feet and grasp for love. It reminds me how hard it was moving to a school where I knew no one and was nowhere near my family. I hadn’t even visited Anderson before I moved on campus.

I felt alone in a crowd of people. Isolated. Forsaken by what I knew…

aloneIt was a rough year. But in my time of need I dreamed of the cross and Christ’s suffering. He cried, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (Matthew 27:46)

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?” (Psalm 22:1)

Sometimes, we feel that way. We cry out in anguish “Why have You forsaken me, God!!?”

Why do we say such things? Why do we confront God with our state of being solitary?

The more I think about the years that I felt alone and forsaken (even though I had a loving family and church) the more I think that my soul was begging for God’s presence.

It’s gotten me thinking…

If we were made to glorify God, what happens when we don’t fulfill our calling?

It creates an emptiness inside. An emptiness that, I believe, can only be filled by God’s presence.

There was a book I read (a Christian-fantasy novel) that put forth this idea that without God’s presence, without His breath, we would not be able to function. We would cease to live. We would be solitary.

What would it be like to be forsaken by your Creator? Would there be physical pain? Or just spiritual pain, I wonder?

But, then again, I don’t actually want to know. Even beginning to imagine being forsaken by God makes my soul curl into a fetal position whimpering and begging Him to never let me be without His presence.

See, all that time when I felt alone taught me that I’m never truly alone for He is always with me. And when I feel solitary I am to follow in the Psalmists’ footsteps and glorify Him despite my being or feeling alone.

Psalm 22 doesn’t stop with the questions. It goes on to give glory to God:

“You are holy.” (vs. 3)

“I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You. You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when he cried to Him, He heard.” (vs. 22-24)

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*Written for Park Place Church of God’s Lenten series

Posted in Christianity

Lenten Thoughts – Mother

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12)

I’ve often thought that this verse meant so much more than just respecting your parents.

To me, respecting your parents entails obeying them, listening to their advice, caring for them as they grow old…things of that sort.

But to honor someone just feels heftier to me. It means that you are taking it upon yourself to consider that person as deserving the absolute highest respect and admiration and sometimes even love.

Honor implies not only the greatest respect you can muster but also a mindfulness of that person’s importance in your life.

The other thing in this verse that stands out to me is the promise that comes along with honoring your parents – “that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”

As is often the case, God doesn’t urge us to do something without reason.

In other words, honoring your father and mother is good for you.

Jesus, made sure to honor His mother. Though He was dying, He thought of her.

“Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” (John 19:27)

What strikes me about this is that, even at the worst time, Jesus was mindful of His mother, her needs, and her love for Him.

How often do you call to mind the woman who nurtured you, taught you, laughed and cried with you, maybe knew you better than you knew yourself? Do you think of her in the good times and the bad times?

Do you honor her in your thoughts? The lessons you learned from her, the love she poured into you…Or do you let it all go to waste?

What would you have done in Jesus’ situation? Mary had no one left (that we know of) and she most likely wouldn’t have been able to take care of herself. So Jesus made sure that sure would be looked after and supported.

If Jesus can do that from the cross (in extreme pain, I’m sure), then surely we can make the time and mental space to honor our own mothers to the best of our abilities.

 

*Written for Park Place Church of God

Posted in Christianity

Lenten Thoughts – Paradise

Paradise…I don’t often think on this concept. I’ve heard some people say that paradise is another word for heaven or is the ultimate place to live. That all things will be good there. That maybe it was like the Garden of Eden before sin entered.

Can you imagine Paradise? Is it something that we’ll be able to see and care for, I wonder…or is it more of a state of being?

I haven’t decided myself if Paradise is a place, an idea, or a state of being. Perhaps it’s something so big that we can’t comprehend it. As I said, it’s not something I think about often.

When I do start pondering about paradise, I wonder if it is more than just a place, a physical place…perhaps it’s more of a spiritual place. Though for some reason, I can’t shake the hope that paradise is both.

Perhaps, if it is a physical place, we’ll get a sense like Frodo did upon nearing the Undying Lands.

“Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing…it seemed to him that…the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.” (Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien)

It just sounds so beautiful and calming. It sounds like a place where there are no worries, no tears, no death, no pain…just beauty and the freedom to glorify God.

When I do think of paradise, I hope that it is something like that….in that it is a place that you can just sense that there is no evil there because you are in the presence of God.

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I guess that’s what it is to me…finally being in the presence of God and being at peace knowing that His word has accomplished what He pleased and that it prospered in you as He sent it to do. (Isaiah 55:11)

Jesus said, “today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Perhaps that’s why I think of Paradise in the two ways I’ve mentioned.

  1. Paradise means being able to be with God, completely.
  2. Paradise is a specific place where we can be in God’s presence.

It reminds me of a hymn we used to sing at my Southern Baptist church where I grew up.

“No more crying there, We are going to see the King (verse 2)…No more dying there, We are going to see the King (verse 3)” – Soon and Very Soon by Andrae Crouch (#247 in Park Place Hymnals)

I loved that song when I was younger. I loved the idea of a place where I wouldn’t cry anymore because that meant there wouldn’t be a reason for tears – no hurts, no anger, no jealousy, no death…I wanted a place like that because I shed tears for everyone that was hurting. I knew that when I reached that place, my heart wouldn’t be breaking because of the pain and evil in the world.

That is my hope still. So I sing with the saints:

“What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see,

And I look upon His face – the One who saved me by His grace;

When He takes me by the hand, and leads me through the Promised Land,

What a day, glorious day, that will be.”

-What a Day That Will Be, Jim Hill (#243 in Park Place Hymnal)

 

*Written for Park Place Church of God

 

Posted in Christianity

Lenten Thoughts – Forgiven

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“Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48)

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be face-to-face with Jesus when He said those words? Your sins are forgiven.

These words provide freedom from the chains that bind us. Jesus said them to the woman who anointed Him with oil (Luke 7). He said them to the the paralytic lowered through the roof (Luke 5). And when we come to Him, He says those words to us too.

I like to imagine meeting Jesus and hearing those words. “Your sins are forgiven.”

I imagine that it is like a wild animal being returned to its natural state of being, free in its habitat.

I like to imagine that it’s like one of scenes from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. Specifically, the part where Eustace is desperately trying to return himself to human form. He longs to be how he’s supposed to be. But he can’t do it himself no matter how much he scratches and pulls at his skin and scales. He can’t free himself from the form of a dragon.

We cannot free ourselves from the chains of sin by our own power. This I believe with my whole heart. It takes the Great Lion coming and breaking those chains (or in Eustace’s case, stripping the layers of skin) to free us. It is how He shows us that we are forgiven.

When Aslan strips Eustace of his dragon form and returns him to his human state it’s like he’s saying “your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more.”

When Eustace was freed from his dragon form, he was free to trust Aslan and do His work. When Jesus says that our sins are forgiven, we are free to return to our calling to glorify God.

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This is exactly what the paralytic man did. “Immediately he rose up…and departed to his own house glorifying God” (NKJV) or, as the amplified version reads, he “went away to his house, recognizing and praising and thanking God.” (Luke 5:25)

Being forgiven allows us to come alongside Paul in saying “forgetting what lies behind [all that has been forgiven] and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b-14)

Because Christ has forgiven me, I am free to forget the past and free to strive for the day when I get to meet Him. I am free to press on in the calling He has placed on my life. I am free to love and I am free to forgive.

*Written for Park Place Church of God

Posted in Christianity, Life phases

Those Days…Be Still

Some days just seem to start out wrong. You know, the ones where you sleep badly or you miss your alarm in the morning and end up running late. Or the days that you happen to be extra forgetful.

Or maybe, you spill your coffee on your favorite dress. Or discover that you don’t have any money until payday and have to make do with what you have.

The days when, 3 hours in, you’re ready to throw in the towel, climb back into bed and ignore the rest of the world.

Those days when all you want to do is scream at everyone and everything. Or curl in a ball and cry.

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Those days when you ask God “WHY?” Even if it’s just something small, you just want to ask Him why it had to happen to you today of all days.

You have a decision: give up and sit on you “pity  pot” OR let go of your day and place it in God’s hands.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

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If you choose the second choice, then let go of your little problems from the morning, take a deep breath, say a little prayer, and trust that God has that day in His hands.

Take a moment to be still in God’s presence on those days to remind yourself of His promises.

  • He loves you. Nothing can separate you from His love. (Romans 8:38-39)
  • He is always there. Just open your eyes and mind to His presence for He isn’t leaving. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
  • He provides for you needs, and often your wants. (Matthew 6:32)
  • Call on Him and He’ll deliver you from your troubles. (Psalm 50:15) Maybe just not the way you’d do it.

These are just a few of His promises. They are reasons why we don’t have to worry about those days. These promises pave the way for us to open our hands letting go of these problems and allowing God to provide peace.

Some days are harder than others. If you don’t let go of the troubles, they follow you from day to day. So just let go of those days. Learn to be still and let go.

Note: The second picture is from 5minuteswithjesus.com and was used with their permission.

Posted in Life phases

Pressing on…The Road Goes Ever On and On

11401436_678229562312235_2108786333540952437_nJoin me on a journey? A journey to the mountains? A cross-country trip? Like Bilbo Baggins, “I want to see mountains again!” Can you see them? Their tops hidden in the pinkish fog and the sun peaking through as it rises above them? The closer you get, the bigger you realize they are and how small you are. Can you feel the mountain air? Are you ready for a challenge?

The path is there before you. It’s marked by little orange strips of paint on nearby rocks or trees so you don’t lose your way. It looks pretty smooth from where we stand. I’ve been here before; I know where it leads and that it isn’t as smooth as it looks. There’ll be downed trees, huge holes, lots of rocks and sticks, plenty of bugs, and beauty all around enveloping us in the sincerity of the mountain forests. We set out excited and full of energy and ready for the challenge set before us…

Do you remember how your journey with God started? Do you remember the time when you awakened to God and His journey like no other?

You may have been dragged, bribed, or persuaded into it – like Bilbo being offered a contract to go on an adventure to far off countries. Maybe your parents took you to church – forced you, bribed you, promised that you could go on that youth trip to Gatlinburg if you behaved in “big church”. In the end, it was still your choice. Or maybe you volunteered – begged to go to church or mission trips, yearned to go learn more about Jesus.

Maybe you were like the dwarves who volunteered for the trip to save their homeland, to go meet their destiny. At some point, something in you clicked. You understood what Jesus did for humanity or experienced God’s love or witnessed a miracle. Somehow, someway, you made a choice to join God on His journey to save the world. You were excited, ready to take on the world, go on mission trips, spread the Gospel…you stood at the beginning of the path and said, “OK God, I’m ready. Let’s go…”

Half a mile into the hike we meet our first obstacle…a huge tree that has fallen across the path with no way past except over or under. Which way to go? Going over could result in a fall; it’s a pretty big tree. We may not fit under the tree. Either way there are risks, small though they may be. Imagine we help each other climb up and stand on top of the tree. It’s bigger than we thought, but we figure out a way to climb down. We made it!

We decide we can’t go further without taking a breather first. As we continue, we encounter other challenges…a creek crossing, steep inclines, dropoffs on one side, a rock on the side of the mountain we have to navigate around without falling…We find ourselves hot, tired, and slightly battered. You know, we’ve got a couple of scrapes from climbing over trees, maybe a sore knee from a fall, or some wet clothes from a fall in the creek.

Despite the falls, trips, and stumbles, despite being tired and perhaps grumpy, despite being dirty, smelly, and thirsty/hungry we keep pressing on. Why? Because the path hasn’t ended yet, we haven’t made it yet. So we keep going, following the path on and on “over rock and under tree, by caves where never sun has shone, by streams that never find the sea; over snow by winter sown, and through the merry flowers of June, over grass and over stone, and under mountains of the moon” (from The Hobbit).

Life is like that sometimes. We keep going, celebrating the victories and pushing on after disappointments and struggles. Sometimes it feels like we’re falling apart…we don’t have the strength to climb over that “tree”, that obstacle in life. Sometimes you feel like you just can’t “hike” anymore. You want to give up…but something inside you gets you back up and on the path. Maybe you get distracted by a side path, maybe you can’t find the “marker” and are afraid you’re lost, or maybe you leave the path on purpose. Life has plenty of distractions. Maybe it’s something that the path goes through.

There is a trail in South Carolina that goes up into the mountains and passes through this lovely rock layout with water splashing down from above and it looks out over the valley. It’s a breathtaking spot. I could stay there for hours. But the thing is, that’s not my destination. There are more challenges ahead, a steeper incline, more dangerous obstacles…but at the end – my destination – is an even more astonishing view.

You cross over a bridge and walk around a corner of the mountain. And there you see it, the water piles up into a pool that you can bathe in with rock platforms spread out on both sides of the stream where you can rest in the sun, eat your meal, re-hydrate, and take in the view. It’s such a satisfying moment – knowing that you hiked high into the mountain, maybe you defeated a fear of heights or of strenuous activity; these are fulfilling on a deep level.

How much more fulfilling, more freeing, more breathtaking will it be when we reach our heavenly destination? How will it feel? Looking back at what you had to sustain, at the falls you took, the stumbles and trips, the distractions you allowed to lead you astray…they all pale in comparison to having made it to your destination.

You followed Paul’s example, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14). You kept going. You followed the path that God pointed out to you until you reached the place He set aside for you.

My friend, I leave you with more of Tolkien’s poem spoken through Bilbo and, I hope, some encouragement for the times when you are recovering from one of life’s falls, stumbles, trips, or distractions.

“The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.”

Dear friend, whatever you are going through…please don’t give up. Hold on. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes. It’s good to rest. The road continues before you. Are you going to continue down this path laid out before you?