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Posts Tagged ‘faith’


Damage to trees, homes and trailers south of T...

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Sometimes you just run across things that surprise you because they seem so out-of-place.

In an effort to find a Starbucks for a caffeine refuel on a very long road trip through the South, I turned off at one of the only exits that boasted the familiar green and white Starbucks sign. What I didn’t realize was that it was a fair distance from the highway, and quite honestly as happens on a long road trip (read 12-hours of drive time), I didn’t quite realize what city I was driving into.

As I drove into the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I found myself in what looked to be a very prosperous city. The businesses were thriving, cars were everywhere and there was even an amazing Veterans Memorial there. It was one of the most unique I’ve seen, complete with military equipment like tanks and helicopters from the different branches of service along with a beautifully kept park, so those who drove by and those who stopped would take the time to reflect on what our soldiers have done for us.

Finally I spotted the world-famous purveyor of caffeinated beverages and more in a nicely designed outdoor shopping area that, like its surroundings, was well-kept and prosperous looking.

After resettling ourselves in the car with everyone packed in like sardines with their favorite drinks I pulled out of the parking lot onto a street that I didn’t see form the main street I’d been on. It took a second for what I was seeing across the street to register.

In the middle of all that hustle and bustle and prosperity was a half a city block of what could only be called devastation. At first, I thought houses were just being demolished to make way for progress, but then I looked at the trees. They had been stripped of their branches and their tops snapped off like toothpicks. All four sides of the houses there were leaning inward barely upright with their siding torn off and lying at various distances away.

My eyes traveled across the street where another half a city block of commercial buildings stood with their windows shattered, their signage ripped off and their roofs looking like someone had randomly pulled a corner up here and one down there.

I looked in a circle around to the buildings next to where I was pulling out and there were roof tiles missing from the restaurant next to me on one side, and a sign barely hanging from its pole on the other side. Yet, what seemed to be just a few feet behind was the shopping center I had just gone into, looking unmarred and whole.

Then I realized just where I was and what I was looking at, the devastation was caused by one of the many tornadoes that ripped through the area and clearly illustrated how one block could be perfect while the next was destroyed.

It got me thinking about our lives and many times we go along with everything looking pretty good, prosperous even, then we find something in our lives that’s absolutely devastated sitting across the street from that prosperity.

That devastation can come from a variety of things caused by ourselves and others, but the fact is that the brokeness, like the broken buildings and dead trees I saw, needs to be cleared away before any rebuilding can begin. And then when that rebuilding begins, it must be done on the foundation of Christ and built by the LORD Himself or it will never be able to stand under the storms that come with life.

“Unless the LORD builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain.”

Psalm 127:1a

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Hearts

Image by eirikso via Flickr

Love, it’s a funny thing. It can mean many different things to many different people. We’re given ideas about love from a multitude of different places that tell us how we express love, receive love and allow love to come into our lives.

Then we’re told how we can express love better, as if most of us don’t already know that we’re not so good at that already. Not many of us will go as far as to say we’re good at this thing called love. In my estimation those that do, either are not facing reality or have bumps along the way of their love pathways that they are guarding as closely as Fort Knox.

The funny thing is that even though we know we’re not very good at it, as is evidenced by so many books, shows and other help’s that are out there, we don’t really take the necessary steps to actually learn from the One – namely Christ – who knows all about love and how it works.

Why?

In our world of ‘me first’, the love that Christ introduces us to just doesn’t seem very personally fulfilling.

Again why?

Because sacrifice of our own self just doesn’t do anything for any of us on a personal level. And, it’s been that way since the beginning of man. Although we would all like to think that we’ve come from some sort of Golden Age when things were better back when and our culture has become something other than what it was with our “me first” mentality, the reality is that mankind has always been about “me first”. It just looks a little different in this day and age.

If we go back to Genesis and look at Abraham, a friend of God, letting his nephew choose his portion of land first, which turned out to be the best, most fertile land, some of us naturally think Abraham got the short end of the stick because he gave up his right to choose first and get the best land. Why would he do such a thing? Precisely because he was a friend of God.

David’s another one. He’s called a man after God’s own heart. Impetuous, emotional, seeming to break all of God’s law at one time or another. But, he didn’t take the kingship from Saul when he could have. David sacrificed his own life for years, living in caves with criminals, because one thing he wouldn’t do was take what the Lord hadn’t allowed him to have yet. So he showed love for Saul by waiting and in the process he sacrificed a portion of his life because he was a man after God’s own heart.

There are others in scripture and in the world around us who do the very same thing, but many times we don’t see them because what they do is so foreign to us. And this is pretty much because what God has done is so foreign to us too. We have hard time getting on-board with a God who says love is sacrifice, because we don’t see what’s in it for us.

We like a kind, gentle and loving God as long as that love is based on how we define love which generally has it’s foundation in “what does it do for me?” instead of His kind of love that says, “So what about me? What can I do for someone else?” Bottom line, is that His kind of love is a little hard for us to focus on because it’s so foreign to us. Until He allows us to focus on it it just looks fuzzy and unreal.

And with love, like pretty much everything else with the Lord, is not about how we define it, but about how He defines it and not only defines it but does it. Because He doesn’t just tell us what to do and expect us to do it, He shows us what to do then just asks us to follow Him on the path He’s already cleared for us.

“On this account the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it again. I have received this commandment of my Father.”

John 10:17-18

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Heart of pearls

Image by TheCleopatra via Flickr

The word faithfulness, or full of faith, draws up a myriad of images from the well of our memories. Some of those remembrances are full of light and love, radiating hope from their depths. While others are colored gray or black as we remember times when those we trusted to be faithful were anything but.

We remember other people’s faithfulness, and other people remember our faithfulness, or lack thereof. But, how many of us take time to recall and remember how many times the LORD has been faithful to us?

There are so many times in scripture that we are cautioned and warned not to forget what the LORD has done, how faithful He is. Many times this push to remember is accompanied with the reminder of the fact that He can’t be anything but faithful because being wholly faithful is not just a part of His character, it is who He is.

Let’s take the time today to remember the LORD and His faithfulness to us, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

“For great is His faithful love to us; the LORD’s faithfulness endures forever. Hallelujah.”

Psalm 117:2

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Fiery furnace by Toros Roslin, Mashtots, 1266 ...

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Three times this week, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego interrupted my daily existence. The first was when I saw the post by Alicia over at Alicia’s Roses, The Furnace. Then the story of the three Jewish young men and their extraordinary faith came up again and again.

So, after the third time, I did a Google search about the three who were thrown into the fire in Daniel 3, and I found a liturgical poem that I’ve never seen before that is written from the point of view of the three while they were in the fire, which is nothing short of amazing. Take a look at the Prayer of Azariah.

Even though this is just a poem written about the event, and we don’t know what they actually might of prayed while they were in the fire, the 18th line really made me sit up and take notice. Azariah( Abednego), said “And now we follow thee with all our heart, we fear thee, and seek thy face.”

It draws a picture doesn’t it? These young men were thrown into a fire that actually killed some of the guards that threw them in. The king had commanded it be stoked hotter than normal because he was so angry that they would not deny their God. And, there they were in the middle of the fire, and what do they do? They follow God with all their hearts, they still are awestruck by Him and they seek Him out.

The three were joined by a fourth while they were in there, – some think the fourth may have been an angel of the Lord while others think it may have been God Himself – but it was before they were tossed in that they declared that even if God didn’t save them, it didn’t make Him any less God.

Their faith was intact before they went into the fire, they knew their God. They knew that whatever He chose to do that day would be the right choice, whether or not they individually survived that choice. Yet, they came out without a single hair on their head singed, their clothing intact and not even smelling of smoke. They went into the fire bound tightly with straps, and they came out walking upright and whole.

We aren’t even given their reaction to the miracle that took place, we’re told how King Nebuchadnezzar and his court reacted, not how each of them reacted.

And maybe, that’s how those with an unadulterated relationship with God, and the faith that’s born out of that confident bond with Him do react. Not with surprise or shock that He performs miracles and can do anything – after all God is God and He can do anything He pleases – but with the calm acceptance and assurance that no matter what He decides and what the results of those decisions are, He loves each one of us and the outcome will always right.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

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To say we live in the information age is a gross understatement. We are overrun and over saturated with information, with most of it having little, or nothing to do with our daily lives.

A lot of us have come to the point where we just like to know things, and the multitude of platforms where we can get information is nothing less than staggering.

Having worked as a journalist for most of my adult life, I know what goes into a story and the sifting that takes place when anyone writes any type of news story. There is a thought process behind what is used, what is not used and how much gets left out as not essentially important to the story.

As I see it, in telling a news story, the main difference between the journalist and the man on the street is access. Access takes many different forms, but, one of the main ones is actually getting to speak to the players involved and getting their take on how things are.

Actually speaking to the person involved and getting the information along with the background information “from the horses mouth” so to speak lends a certain authenticity to what is being reported.

Being a garden-variety introvert – when I was very young I was so shy that people would ask my mother if I could speak – I’m usually not too excited about asking perfect strangers for information. But, I would rather ask the primary source what something means or for clarification, than get the information second-hand.

Yet, when I look around at believers (including myself), that is not always the case. Many times we go to someone else for answers rather than go straight to God Himself.

Many times we go to others who we think have a deeper, more meaningful relationship with the Lord, and therefore a more direct line to God than we do. We actually somehow believe they have more access to God than we do.

We ask them to pray for us, then we wait to see what God says to them about our situation. Of course many times, He is silent. I imagine that’s because He wants us to learn to communicate with Him not use an intermediary in the light of the fact that he already provided one Himself in Jesus. We communicate with Him through Him.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have people intercede for us if they are asked, or told to, or that we shouldn’t ask for prayer when we are in a particularly tight spot, God’s Word advocates these things. I’m talking about what we all do when we ask others to pray and get an answer from God for us instead of approaching Him ourselves.

I thought this hesitancy for most of us to ask God directly and instead go to someone else who we think is closer to God as something that was reserved for believers who have not seen Jesus in the flesh, then I read a section in John and saw how wrong I was because the disciples did it too.

The night of the last supper, Jesus comments about his betrayer and what does Peter do? Instead of asking Jesus himself who will betray Him, Peter indicates to John who is sitting next to Jesus and is called the beloved disciple to ask Jesus who the betrayer is. (John 13:22-24)

Now, I know there are a lot of different ways to look at this, but on a very surface reading, it looks very similar to what we do today. We hear something from God, we look around for someone God loves better than us, then we ask that person to ask God what He means.

It actually is no different than a family in which the children are saying, “You ask him”, “No, you ask him”, “No, you ask him because he likes you best”. And, after much back and forthing, it’s the very last child who the parent supposedly loves the best who gets the task of approaching the mother or father and asking the question.

By pushing someone else forward to speak to Him for us, we lose so much. We don’t seem to understand that not only are we not getting the answer from God ourselves, but in the process we are losing out on the most valuable thing we can ever do, sit at His feet, spend time with Him and just listen to what he says.

“So we can go confidently to the throne of God’s kindness to receive mercy and find kindness, which will help us at the right time.”

Hebrews 4:16

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Trust

Image by hcii via Flickr

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5. Such a small sentence in the big scheme of things, but such a powerful indicator of our relationship with the Lord.

I come from a family of natural questioners, and by that I mean if one of us says that something is broken and can’t be fixed, it’s not enough to actually take that person at their word. We have to actually check it out for ourselves, and, many times we come to the same conclusion.

I was pointedly reminded of that when my father came for a visit. I told him my CD player was broken and that I had done everything I knew how to do to fix to no avail. “Well,” he said. “Do you mind if I take a look?”

Of course I didn’t mind because even though I work with DVD and CD players on a pretty regular basis, I don’t know everything. Even though I was almost 100 % sure that it couldn’t be fixed, a second pair of eyes is always a good thing.

As I watched him perusing the player it suddenly hit me how many times I do this myself. If someone says, ‘such and such’, or’ thus and so’, I immediately question the veracity of what they’re saying. Unless I know the person well, and really trust them, I usually need to check it out for myself, especially if it has to do with scripture or some sort of theological teaching.

I had assumed this particular trait came only from my mother who questions everything after the fact, but realized that I actually came by the trait honestly from both sides of the family tree.

And, not only do I have it, but I see it in my son as well. Even though he questions me on a great many things, at the end of the day he trusts what I tell him, something that he doesn’t do with most people. Just recently, his teacher wrote on his report card that he needed to trust her. This may seem like an odd thing to write, but I knew exactly what she meant, because I encounter the same issue with him when he does his homework. He doesn’t really trust that you’re telling him to do a problem correctly unless he can really wrap his head around how to do it himself. The problem is sometimes he just can’t figure it out on his own.

He actually causes himself a lot of undue frustration and stress when he does this. Why? Because basically he’s fighting the very person, or people, who may be able to help him with his schoolwork the most. It’s a battle until he finally gets it all out, listens to what he’s told and believes that he’s being given the correct information. After that, he’s done lickty-split.

After watching my Father over the CD player, my son over his schoolwork and myself in many other situations, I thought how many times do we do this with God? We need to weigh out whether or not He really knows what He’s doing, usually by trying to double-check Him from our own understanding, before we trust that He is more than capable of doing what’s best for us.

And, many times, we do more than try and double-check Him – which is laughable because He has all the facts and we don’t even have a fraction of them – but we actively fight Him until we either give up in exhaustion, or, He’s actually able to get it through our thick skulls that it’s okay to trust Him.

And, basically, that’s a huge part of why we fight Him. We have a fear of trusting. We’re afraid he’s not who He says He is. We’re afraid He’s not going to do what He said He will do. We’re afraid he won’t come through for us. We’re afraid to trust Him because for many of us our own trust has been so shattered over the years that we can’t conceive of someone who actually is completely trustworthy.

The catch-22 of this is the reality is that He is the only one who is completely and totally trustworthy. Why? Because He is incapable of being anything else.

“But I trust in You LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.'”

Psalm 31:14

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Twilight (series)

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It seems that the little switch in my son’s brain that says, “I like to read” has finally been turned on. He still likes to do all the other things that boys do, but I have been very pleased to see that he has been reading more and more lately. And, I have to admit the reason why I’m pleased is that I am a reader, and have been since I finally learned to read, even though I was a late-bird.

My son is at the age where he’s reading young adult books that are geared towards boys. Admittedly, there are not a lot of these types of books out there. So, every once in a while he has been trying out the young adult books geared towards girls. Because it was so popular, the first one he tried out was the “Twilight Series”. He didn’t get too far before he lost interest.

I am an unashamed reader of really good young adult books preferring to read them over real “literature” any day of the week, and, even though I’m a believer in the Messiah, I just don’t have an issue with the “Twilight Series”. I have read them all – yes, multiple times – and am always impressed with the characters, the plotting and the seamless writing style of Stephanie Meyer, whose book aimed at adults, “The Host” is just as well written.

I asked my son why he didn’t like “Twilight”, assuming it was because he has had a terrible fear of vampires since he was in the first grade when one of his little friends was particularly graphic in his descriptions of what vampires were and what they did to you. But, that wasn’t it at all, he just said, “No, it’s not the vampires, I’m okay with them now because of Twilight, it’s just that there’s too much about Bella.” Translated from the language of boy, this means there was too much about relationships and not enough action.

His disinterest in the series changed when the Meyer’s novella, “The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner” came out. It is full of action, and my son literally devoured it once he started reading it.

My son is the type of person that if there’s something in a movie, play or book that really bothers him, he has to talk about it and try to figure out why it had to happen that way. There’s a scene in the Bree Tanner book where she has a chance to go off and leave the vampire army ( actually she has two chances to leave in the novella) but chooses to stay. My son really liked her and knowing that she dies in the “Eclipse” novel was a little upset that she didn’t take the chance to leave and live when she had it.

This prompted many days of discussion about her decision and why in the world she would stay when she had the chance to leave. Finally, I told him that “Eclipse” had already been written, that story was set and in that story she arrives with the vampire army to attack the Cullen’s and although Carlisle and Esme Cullen saw the potential in her to be a decent vampire, she ends up dying at the hands of the Volturi.

No matter what happened in the Bree Tanner story, no matter how much the reader liked her and wanted her to get away, her actions had to lead her to that clearing in “Eclipse” because that’s where she was supposed to be at that time, and not only that, she was an integral part of that story at that moment.

So many times in life our path seems so twisted, turning this way and that, even turning back on itself  – or so it seems – but it’s all for a reason, to get us to where we’re supposed to be. Sometimes, where we end up is in a horrible spot, just like Bree Tanner, but the reality is that’s where we’re supposed to be for that time, because there’s a larger story that we’re all a part of.

We all have a part to play. We’re all intertwined, whether we like it or not, and sometimes we’re where we are, not for ourselves, but because it’s necessary for us to be there for someone else’s story, whatever reason that may be. The reality is that we  have a God who is the master of it all, who knows all the in’s and out’s of everyone’s storyline, and what the big picture is. He knows who needs to be where and when, how to get each and every one of us to that certain spot where we need to be and not violate our freedom to choose in the process.

No matter what happens or what it looks like, all we need to do is trust Him as we make our way in our little storyline, which is much easier said than done.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

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