Trees


It has finally started to cool off here for autumn. I do love autumn although each season holds its own joy and glory. God gives us so many gifts if we take the time to see them and experience them in full. I love the way the trees change in every fashion. The leaves changing from every hue of green to a spectrum bursting with every color mankind can perceive. They reach the apex of their existence, pulsating with the crescendo of their entire lives into one final display of beauty. Their final act is the graceful descent of each leaf to the forest floor where they will provide life sustaining nutrients to the next generations. But it is not only the leaves that change. If your hand caresses the trunk or branches of a tree in all four seasons you will feel a distinct difference in texture and tension in the bark. in Spring, it is velvety and supple as the water has been drawn through its roots to nourish the leaves, seeds and fruits of any given tree. The river of water is being drawn up into each vein until it reaches the canopy. That gives the tree flexibility needed for growth. The summer season solidifies it’s strength allowing it to withstand the fierce storms that serve as threshers of the weak or those whose roots have not dug down deeply enough to hold fast to the earth.

Autumn is not a prelude to it’s death or long sleep as many perceive it but it is a culmination of two seasons of growth, fruition, experience, and hardiness. It is during autumn that the tree is able to spend everything it has collected in an effort to prepare for the next generations. It is spending considerable effort to build storage wares for the long winter ahead, deny nutrients to parts of itself that have proven weak, destructive, or useless. Everything is moving at a slower pace but the strength is building. The perseverance and fortitude is at an all-time high because it does not have to prepare for the possible as there are only inevitable occurrences in its lifecycle. Of course, there are always outside forces that could interrupt, change or halt its progression in some manner but it only knows to continue. If cut down, its stump will bud. If insect or disease hit then its seeds have already carried its lineage forward to places far from harm. If drought or flood should move in then it may retreat until the environment is welcoming once again but it always moves forward, beyond the now into an uncertain and unknown future because that is what it was created to do. Even if its wood is used to create something for our use, it is then transformed and its life has more meaning than it had to begin with. Consider how many important choices are made by mankind sitting in a wooden chair at a wooden table. Life never leaves the tree regardless of what transformation it undergoes.

Yes, autumn finds the tree a bit more ridged. Its bark is rougher and the water rivers within it have slowed down. No longer will its life blood flow just beneath the surface; instead, it is retreating to a depth that will allow the nutrients to sustain the tree but make it durable against the cold that promises to come. The smell of the wood and fallen leaves is not one of rotting decay as one would encounter in a bog, marsh or swamp but a retreat of life that is simply blown by the wind. The fragrance is now mature, a rich seasoned wood odor that fills the senses with comfort and sense of security.

The branches are losing their flexibility and instead are becoming stalwarts of strength to sustain the cold to come. There is usually a lull in storms during this time so that it has opportunity to build defenses against the winter storms that will come. By the hour of the first snow fall the bark has turned to armor. It is ready to face the brutality of the winter gale keeping it’s precious lifeblood locked securely within. Branches no longer bend with the storms; instead, the tree groans against the onslaught. It’s creaking can be heard clearly as it buffets the bitter winds as you lay comfortably in your warm cozy bed made from one of it’s brothers…perhaps?

Twigs and even branches that could not hold on another moment bounce haphazardly atop your roof tapping upon your windows entreating you for respite. Nevertheless, you remain snuggled beneath piles of warm blankets awaiting the cessation of the howling winds. Once the storm has passed and you might think you would find disaster after the tempest …they remain, the trees, although battered, remain. You pull back your curtain revealing an ice laden window pane. Blowing upon it creates an oval birthed by the warmth of your breath. Your eyes are filled with the snow and ice laden landscape. The crown and glory of which is surely the grand trees holding millions upon millions of ice diamonds within their branches. God fashioned beauty created from chaos and a monument to his utter majesty and love.

There is silence. Silence so complete, so loud that it hurts your ears. The tree stands proud for it has withstood time upon time of life’s endless joys and heartaches, abundance and want, life anew and death replenished. It is a monument glistening as if from some ethereal plain in a majestic culmination of its existence. The trees have seen it, experienced it, known it and are certain of certainty. There is no tomorrow, there is only now and we must work as diligently in the today as we are not given tomorrow. The trees teach us much if we listen, if we see, if we pursue to know more beyond ourselves. They are a gift of knowledge and experience if we stop long enough to listen.
Of course, that only speaks to the tree itself and not to all the lives whose existence is dependent upon it’s survival. Some have learned to grow and change with the tree itself knowing that a symbiotic relationship with it is one that is the most beneficial to all. Others only take without giving and still others are only interested in destroying what they cannot understand or have for themselves. The saddest of all are those who are blind to the beauty, strength and majesty of these glorious gifts to creation. I am grateful for the trees and my ability to see beyond only me.

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Satan’s Scourge


 

 

Crafty demon you are,

picking on God’s

children like a

schoolyard

Bully.

Tear sinew,

rip flesh from

bone.

Break my bones

if their crack

brings delight to

your fallen

Spirit.

Sear my flesh,

Oh, Beautiful One,

if my cries lighten

your burden.

 

Let your scourge

test my resolve.

Loose your

wickedness

upon this

broken

shell.

 

For, your realm

is in decay.

Hell’s

foundations are

crumbling.

You are

in

your

final

death

Throes.

 

So, break this

body if you must.

Brand my flesh, rob

me of all Earthly

Beauty, for

your end

is

Near.

 

I

Stand against

you

with God’s

Army Angels

standing as a fortress

in front,

at both flanks

and legions after

legions bringing up the

rear.

 

Take this useless frame,

twist it,

turn it,

burn it

but you will

never lay claim

to

my

Soul.

 

“Come Lord Jesus, Come.”

Revelations 22:20

A Mountain, Two Dogs and a Field of Reefer…


 

 

A fork, a crossroads…a choice upon our path is always disconcerting if we are seeking the Lord’s will in earnest. Some folks perceive every choice in their life as monumental and claim an inability to make any decisions as their default setting. This, of course, is a cop-out to avoid the responsibility or consequences of making choices.  They look toward others to make the decision either voluntarily or by default then subsequently have a scapegoat. That person can stroll through life never accepting any responsibility for their choices be they good or bad. Others will deflect self-blame by crying good or bad luck as the culprit for their life path. These are people with lost purposes and will look in any direction to see if another appears to know where they are going. These are people I liken to salmon swimming upstream. Everyone else is moving in that direction, in mass, so they feel as if the group must know where they are going. Hence, they scramble to follow the crowd only to be snatched up by the hungry bears waiting with open jaws to devour them.

Thank you, but no, I will not fling my future toward the dictation of fortune tellers, astrologers or anyone else’s opinion of what choice I should make. The only exception of this is that of the Lord’s will and purpose for my life. Christ’s divine purpose for my life is the only thing that steadies my steps.  Once you discover your purpose then very little that Satan can throw at you will knock you off your path. Sure, it won’t stop him from trying and there are times you will be barely able to crawl upon it but if you understand why you are here then nothing can ever keep you from moving forward. That is not to say that there may not occur long pauses where the pain is just too great to move forward…too intense…too soul wrenching to even breathe but you will eventually move forward IF you choose to take that next step.

I have written on different aspects of this topic before as previous life events unfolded and I was faced yet again with the opportunity to obey or disobey, to move forward or stay stuck, to be courageous or succumb to weakness. There always seems to be a critical choice of obedience occurring within my life pertaining to my health journey. My blog readers are familiar with the ups and downs of my chronic illness journey and this year does not disappoint. As in the past, insurance snafus, medical providers and overall human fallibility has given me opportunity to ponder if it is indeed time to raise that white flag of surrender.

Not speaking about heroes who sacrifice their lives to save another but about the human populace in general, it takes much more courage to live than it does to die. Death, especially if you are a Christian should not scare you in any manner. Your confidence should rest firmly in the Christ given salvation that has opened paradise for you.  All fear should be eradicated from your heart and mind, if you are saved. However, if you are not saved then I recommend you try to live forever. Seriously…don’t die if you are not saved.

Saved or not saved, living takes courage because life is hard and often painful. There is beauty, happiness, joy and some even find their soulmates allowing them to taste the best version of love we humans can experience. If you suffer chronic illness that promises to degrade your body without taking your life immediately then it becomes a battle not to embrace the sweet thought of release that death will bring. Some of you will see this as a suicidal statement because you are ignorant of true suffering or the promise of paradise. Or, you could be ignorant of both. Truthfully, I pray there are many more of you who do not understand what I am speaking of rather than the scales tipped in the opposite direction. There is only one way to truly understand the blissful thought of what I am speaking and that is to suffer…unendingly and in exponentially explosive increments throughout your entire life.

Every time one of these pitfalls appear upon my life path, my humanity clutches to the idea of rejecting all modern medicine and the hoops through which our corrupt medical system requires the ill to navigate.  I have my core peeps who patiently listen and encourage me as I “go off” on another idle threat of retreating to a remote mountain cave with my two dogs, my Lord and a healthy crop of reefer to live the rest of my life out. Now, to be utterly frank, I have never, nor will I ever indulge in drugs so they know when I threaten ‘to chuck it all and live my final days as a hermit’ that I am just letting off steam. Faith is not for wimps, just ask Daniel or his friends. Joseph, Job, Peter, Paul, Mary or Martha would all be good folks to sit down with for a while and complain about how hard it is to live the faith.

Trust and obey. Two tiny words in type but are Everest in meaning and in effort to fulfill. Love the hymn of the same name but until you have attempted to live out these two words through the path of suffering then they remain just words. Have you ever had to fight with every ounce of courage, intelligence, fortitude, attitude and perseverance for something you fervently did not want? The very idea of obtaining that for which you were striving was actually nauseating? It is sort of like needing six root canals performed and you had to fight your insurance to get them accomplished. You fight to get it while dreading the “win” because you know you need it but do not want to take the journey to get there. More accurately, you do not want to do the suffering promised as the prize for your win. Yet, doing nothing or not fighting will cause greater, progressive pain that will ruin your entire mouth full of teeth. This is the closest I can come to in explaining my sentiments about my predicament concerning my intermittent health coverage. I must fight everyone to get adequate palliative care in order to keep the diseases at bay that would quickly ravage my body if the needed medications are absent for any period of time. Well, this was my crossroads this month. Choose to find another doctor in my insurance’s network in time to provide those medications or go find that mountain. Since it is a specialist, it usually takes at least three months to get in to see one. The Lord did it in one; therefore, I will only be without the needed medications for one month instead of three to four. An undeniable blessing to be sure but the struggle to get the proper health care had me throwing up my arms in mock defeat as this is just the latest in a long series of events outlining our shoddy healthcare system. You see, it is not that I fear death in any way but I know death will not come quickly. Instead the diseases will quickly take advantage in this lapse of care and cause suffering. Suffering and I are old friends so I am not even really fearful of that but where my concern bubbles up is whether my actions, words or thoughts will strengthen my testimony or weaken it. Will I be able to walk the talk? Will I use the suffering for God’s glory? Or will I fall into my base humanity and throw in the proverbial white flag opting for my mountain side view of my reefer field?

I know with all my heart and soul this fork in the road is really a straight path, for I know what the Lord expects of me and I will forge ahead trying hard not to complain. I know many opportunities lay before me to share my testimony, experience, and knowledge with others who may just be starting their own journey of suffering with these diseases. God has shown me again and again that every single thing I have ever endured in my lifetime has proven fruitful for another’s walk on this Earth because I allowed him to use it. Brothers and Sisters in the faith…do not waste your suffering, allow your Heavenly Father to use it to bring about good where Satan meant it to be for evil. Your choice.

As has become my default setting, I look toward scripture to find a solution to my dilemmas. Now you may think that there cannot possibly be a story in the scriptures that describes my circumstance and offers any kind of solution other than condemnation for thinking about death in a positive vein. You would be wrong.

“20. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death. 21. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24. but is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25. Convinced of this, I know I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26. so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.”

Philippians 1: 20-25

 

To be quite clear, I am in no way equating myself with Paul, the writer of the above passage. However, his struggle of wanting to glorify God through remaining alive on Earth and his deep longing to be with Christ in heaven mirror mine completely. Another good lesson, if you are struggling with anything in this life then turn toward God’s word to find the answers. Its all right there and his saints have lived and struggled with the same or similar problems in their lifetimes. Scripture is always applicable regardless of the era but you have to read it, study it and write in on your heart so that when trouble comes (and trouble will always come) your soul can quickly point to the solution or toward solace. If you are enduring a rough patch at the moment then try to take comfort in knowing the answer is just sitting there waiting for you to discover. Not a guaranteed solution or a way out of the problem but the manner in which you are called, as a child of God, to deal with it.

 

Be well all,

Your perfectly imperfect friend

Who did you send to Hell today?


 

                Is this world truly wicked and bursting at the seams with evil, self-serving humans bent on singular gain? Well…there is certainly enough evidence to support that argument beginning with the first murder in the garden of Eden. Millennia has passed and we humans keep inventing new and horrific ways to hurt one another and in even greater mass. We could all likely agree that mass murders, acts of war, and destruction of an entire species are bad things. However, where do these big events begin? Where did the third Reich begin? Where do events like the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima start? Where do the construction of grand barrier walls that quickly turn into unmarked tombs, such as the Berlin wall and the Great wall of China start?

                If you said political leaders, nations, villages, communities, religious sects or families then you would be in error. This is the key error that begins all the evil perpetrated in our world, the home we humans, all the animals and the flora share. If you tried to answer these questions by looking beyond your own mirror then you have already begun to contribute to the problem rather than the solution. Likewise, if you look beyond your own reflection for the answer to these problems you have again committed a grave error. Governments, religious leaders, communities and families can do nothing if your own heart is dark, cold or consumed by rage.

                Yes…the answer…the key to send evil on the path of retreat begins in your heart! Gee, doesn’t that sound so simplistic? Why then is evil growing and flourishing everywhere we turn? Why are children growing up with hate seeded deeply in their hearts? Why are there generations of humans whose hearts are stone cold before they reach their 16th birthday? America had been known as the “Christian” nation but I fear that is in name only these days. Even we who claim the banner of Christianity cannot quite get on the same page with one another. True enough, the apostles had sharp disagreements with one another causing this one to go one direction and that one another but it was not due to “cultural” matters. Today’s American Christian can be found in bulk comfortable services where, like the Pharisees, they enjoy status and respect when holding a position in the church. At the very least we may enjoy anonymity in the mega church where nothing is demanded of our faith…except money.  

                Since humans are perfectly imperfect, we must expect and even anticipate that the devil will seep in with his lies to pump up the pride of our ego driven populace. As I have harped many, many times before, do not trust any human teacher 100% because we all are fallible…We fail. Simply put…we fail often… to shine for Jesus. God tells us, commands us to pursue him with ALL our heart, mind and soul. That means we must investigate the truth on our own.  

Perhaps Worse, is the way we have ‘Popularized” our churches to attract tithe going patrons while overlooking “little sins” or bury scriptural truths in order to broaden the narrow gate of Heaven.  There is but one way to have your sins forgiven…there is only one way to be welcomed into Heaven…Jesus. You cannot do one single thing to earn your way into heaven so that “no man can boast of his salvation”. Your salvation has already been paid for by the death of Jesus Christ. We are taught in scripture that works (our good actions) without faith are meaningless. This is telling us that you can be the best person in the world but if you are not saved then you will not see Heaven. Scripture also tells us that if you claim to have great faith but do not live it out by your works (good deeds) then your faith is dead. Sure, you will still be welcomed into Heaven because you are saved with the second scenario but you will have to stand before God and explain why your faith did nothing for anyone but yourself. You will have to tell your Heavenly Father why you wasted all the gifts and talents He wove into you upon your conception. You will have to explain to him why the thousands of souls  to whom you were supposed to be ‘Christ like’ too and cause them to come to Jesus’ salvation are now suffering in Hell. You will have to look your Christ, your savior in the eye and give answer for your dead faith. For certain, accepting Jesus Christ as your savior will have granted you access to salvation but when you turn around and see the thousands of souls your inaction condemned to damnation, how will you give answer for that? No, you cannot save anybody. Only Christ’s sacrifice saves the damned but he sends you and I out into the world to shine for him so his love can draw his lost children to him. We are supposed to be those lights, if we call ourselves Christian.

                So, what about the heart of the Christian that has turned cold and hard? Are you truly saved? Only God can read your heart so I would never presume to say this person or that is or is not saved; however, it is the person claiming the title of Christian but sporting a dead faith who does so much damage in our wicked world. Yes, it is the person clinging to the banner of Christianity but refusing to walk in Christ’s footsteps who is poisoning the well of faith. Being a fence walking Christian is easy because there is no commitment necessary and there is little demand upon your heart, soul or convictions. When the heat gets turned up on the Christian then the fence walker will jump to the side of popular opinion. When faith gets too hard…they will jump ship.

                Being a former therapist, I encountered a plethora of people who I categorized as “hand holders”. They wanted to be coddled, pitied, and given justification for never taking the steps necessary to move their lives beyond the hurt and pain they had experienced. I am in no way diminishing their pain and suffering but as a Christian, who has suffered deeply on multiple levels, I know that if you choose to remain stuck in the suffering then it will consume you. Satan uses it to destroy you and consequently make you completely ineffective or worse, toxic.  

I also met many people and I am even related to many people who have been hurt or who are hurting for some reason and have chosen to harden their hearts. I get it, I have been there and my heart was as hard a Christian heart can ever get but God broke me into little pieces and then gingerly put them back together. He created a being with immovable faith, rock hard perseverance and someone with a wee bit more wisdom than she had before the pain. Faith is the hardest walk you will ever take in your entire life. It is not for the weak or the faint of heart. If you ask the Lord, he will open your eyes to the most significant tool you need to get through the pain. Ask him to reveal the blessings. Ask him to see through his eyes and recognize the good instead of just the evil, pain, and suffering. It is always, there. I guarantee it.

 Yet, many folks cannot or will not see past the pain to glimpse the blessings. Yes, the blessings. There are ALWAYS blessings in every single painful situation. The pain may be so great, so soul-wrenching, so horrific that it is simply impossible to see the blessings…in the beginning. Yet, God will always be there waiting for you to see Him.  However your refusal…as time goes on…to see him will cost you and it will cost all those who love you. God sends people into your life at very specific moments for very specific reasons. Those reasons might be to help you or the reasons might be to help them in some fashion. Usually, we are brought together to help one another. However, there are moments in our lives where the pain is so intense that the person is brought to us. They are offering us their hand, a helping hand, an obedient hand of a Christian obeying God’s command to help. If we spurn that hand, if we reject that help from that specific person then God will not give up on you and he will send another and another and another. But this is key…it may not be the same person…ever again. You may lose the opportunity to be blessed because you reject the person/people sent to you.  That person was obedient, he or she will still be blessed whether you reject them or not BUT it is not them you are truly rejecting…you are rejecting God. You are slapping God in the face and telling him you don’t need his help while you beg him in your prayers to “fix the situation”, “to heal you”, “to heal a loved one”, “to get you a job”, or “to find someone to love”.  The trouble is we Christians do not know God. We accept what we are fed by our church leaders, society, our governments, social media, and the all-wise internet but we do not know ourselves or our Savior.

                As a result, when the “refining fires” come upon us we crumple because our faith is weak or hollow. Faith is borne of suffering. Anger and hatred are hard things to conquer in this life but so they must be if your heart is to thaw. God will not bust his way into your heart but he will give you many opportunities to grow your faith and perseverance. God does not serve up wisdom, faith, perseverance and Christ driven love like vending machine options. Instead, he gives us opportunities to grow each one of these in our hearts and souls. We have far too many hollow Christians with darkened hearts and dimmed spirits. These Christians may have been very strong at one time but are battle weary but the ones I have been encountering of late are ones whose faith is barely there, for they have no idea of who God really is or what place he should have in their lives. They are empty…because choosing the darkness is easier than fighting to reach the light. Yes, fighting because each step you take to living like Christ will cost you as the world belongs to Satan and he will use all his power to bring you down. He hates you because you are a child of God and he really hates God. What better way to hurt the parent than to hurt the child?  

                If you feel you are a hollow Christian…If you have a darkened heart and dimmed spirit…if everywhere you look you pass judgment and spew toxic hate…then I beg you…DO NOT TELL PEOPLE YOU CLAIM TO BE A CHRISTIAN! You are wounding Christ with each hateful thought, word and deed. He can take it….He can take anything we dish out toward him. However, how many are you turning away from salvation? Who have you condemned to Hell today? If you are a lost child of Christ, then fall on him and see his outstretched hands of love and forgiveness. If you are his lost sheep then use your pain to get closer to him and stop pushing him further away. However, if you do not know the salvation of Christ then I plead with you to seek him out in earnest.

(Note: I have deliberately omitted the scriptural references to encourage the reader to pursue God; however, if you are unfamiliar with Scripture and would like to be pointed in the right direction then just leave a comment and I will gladly provide you with the references. God bless and keep you, always in his light and protection.)

OBEDIENCE SUCKS!


 

            The moment we fight our way into this world we begin to rebel against obedience. We cringe at the very notion of relinquishing our will and power to another regardless of the reason. Even the most flexible and submissive among us have that rebellious streak that needs to be put into submission but not by another. There is no way any of us can become obedient devoid the threat of punishment unless we first learn to bring ourselves into an obedient frame of mind. More critical is to learn how to create an internal ‘fertile ground’ that will give birth to an obedient heart.

            Obedience is hard. I do not think many would argue against that fact because it requires us to admit, whether by force or through agreement, that another knows better than we do and; therefore, must or should be obeyed. Human dictates and demands for obedience aside, looking solely at our rebellion towards God is enough to make one’s head dizzy. A simple stroll through the Biblical stories takes the reader through the gamete of human emotions.

            Jonah is a fellow I can identify with as I have wanted to run far and wide from God’s plan for my life many, many times. Although, Jonah’s flight was unique in that he was not in fear of failure rather he knew his mission would succeed…and that is an outcome he simply could not bear. He ran, he disobeyed but God brought him around with a strong arm then a few gentle object lessens. Abraham and Sarah had obedience issues before Isaac was conceived because they did not trust the Lord’s promise to deliver a late in life pregnancy. Their doubt and fear led to the birth of nation that still fights against Israel today. Yet, Abraham demonstrated the depth of obedience when he was willing to return Isaac back to God just because God told him to do it.

            The number of times the Israelites disobeyed God is obscene and the consequences were grave. But even as I shake my head at them in disbelief I must admit that I have disobeyed the Father at least as many times as that nation had, if not more. Obedience is a vital lessen to be learned but obedience to God, the Father is one that must be honed like a great battle sword. It is not mere submission to an omniscient, omnipresent Creator. No, our obedience to our Heavenly Father opens the flood gates of Heaven upon us and everyone around us. Our obedience to God wounds Satan…every…single…time.

Obedience requires choice and in every situation in which we are called to obey our Father we can walk away or we can obey. In some instances, obedience is rather easy depending on our gifts and the circumstances. For instance, if I saw a wounded animal or person laying on the side of the street then my gifts and talents would lead me to help without thinking twice about it. I wouldn’t even think of it as being obedient to the Father’s command to be good stewards over His Creation or to help our fellow mankind. I would simply act. That would be easy for me but maybe it would be more difficult for another.

However, there is an element that will always make it difficult to be obedient regardless of who you are, what you believe, or what you profit you stand to gain. That element is…PAIN. Emotional, psychological, physical and/or spiritual (the worst) will draw you quickly away from the notion of being obedient to God’s commands. We humans are a hot mess that love to be in control from start to finish with few realizing we were never really in control at all. I am as guilty as the next person in my lust for control over situations that I have had little to no control over. Many of my friends and family can attest to the fact that I was a “hard nut to crack” for the Lord as I did not to give up that façade of any modicum of control I thought I might have possessed. It took decades of pain and suffering for me to finally realize that I had to stop swimming against the torrent. Things did not get any easier once I learned to swim with the tide but they did become far more productive for Christ’s Kingdom.

Even though I know beyond all doubt that obedience is always the best choice, there are moments in my life where I want to run from the path that is being opened before me. Not because I fear an unknown element but like Jonah, I know what lies ahead. I know I cannot walk the path under my own power because I am weary and heavily battle worn but I carry full assurance that Christ will stand alongside me and strengthen, inspire, encourage and direct me towards ultimate victory. Christ knows full well the cost of obedience and all of the agony that can accompany it but he also knows the victory it brings. No other understands how much we struggle with obedience because he always had the choice of whether or not to obey his Father and he chose to obey every time. If you go back and read the accounts of when he chose to obey you see how much it irritates and infuriates Satan and simultaneously bringing an outpouring of love from God. Obedience to God is a heart submission and we must conquer our own hearts first. Making our hearts and minds submit to our will first and foremost is essential before we can expect to have the ability to submit to other authority. How do we do that? Get into scriptures and He will teach you what it takes to reshape your heart in the refiner’s fire. Submerge yourself in his word and it will permeate every fiber of your being, every inkling of thought or perception you can conjure and every feeling you dare to feel. Truthfully, you cannot conquer anything yourself. Your armor is His word. No shortcuts…no apps.

Life is pain regardless of your beliefs or worldview. How you spend that pain will determine how you make it out. Obedience to our Father in heaven allows you to tread a fruitful path. Take notice, I did not say that obedience permits you to tread a pain free path.  Christians, do not be surprised at your pain, persecution and suffering. If our teacher suffered all these things then why should his pupils be spared from the same? Obedience brings fruit…not only in our own deepening faith but in our ability to shine (without our own effort) ever brighter to all those, even enemies, who are ploughing through the darkness. Our one act of obedience in that one moment in time might be the only spark of light another sees throughout the entirety of his or her life. Pretty heavy responsibility…is it not?

Living an obedient life takes courage, perseverance and faith beyond measure. Obedience brings ultimate power over our sinful natures and over the kingdom of darkness itself. Examine your earth walk and open your eyes to the areas along your path that have been damaged by disobedience and your own efforts to skirt around God’s will in your life. No judgement from me…just a call to recognize the potholes. I have tried to “hurry God up” many times and each time it led to heartache, disaster and/or failure. I have learned to listen first, seek his will and then try in earnest to be obedient.

My writings are usually spurred on by my own life events and this one is no different as I face a path being laid before me that I really do not want to walk but I know through my obedience…good will follow. Perhaps that good is for another and not me and I am okay with that too because I want my pain and suffering to be able to cast a wide net. If walking a difficult path means I will be able to draw more of the lost to Christ then I go willingly and with a hearty ‘pep in my step’. Of course, that is after I seriously contemplate hiding in a mountain cave awaiting the moment, in all due angst, when my spirit is finally called home. Alas, my family and friends have informed me that I have not stored up the quantity of wisdom needed to be a sought-after guru! At the end of my internal battle, I will obey and forge ahead in anticipation of who God needs me to meet and exactly where he needs me to go.

In closing, contemplate this question. How has your disobedience effected your life and the lives of those you love? Maybe it is time to start walking the other way?

Seedling


 

A single Seed I cradle protectively in my palm.

I know the perfect place to plant it.

A rich dark patch of soil lays in anticipation

directly beside the path.

I cup my hands around it

as I gingerly transport it down the steps,

past the concrete driveway,

beyond the gravel watershed to

arrive at the rich patch of soil.

 

A mid-spring rain has saturated the

Patch allowing a familiar aroma to reach my nose.

The life of last season’s flowers, leaves, insects and grass

have created a soil overflowing with essential nutrients for

this tiny seed.

 

A year’s time has kneaded, turned, mulched and beat

this patch of ground into a luxurious bed of life-giving

Energy.

 

All I need do is take my precious cargo

 and give it back to its Creator.

 

Freeing one hand, I gently dig a small valley

In the mound of soil.

Looking at the odd little

seed I ponder it’s circumstance.

 

I know it’s full potential but

It looks like an ugly shriveled

speck of waste.

 

How many others, I wonder,

would have tossed it out

because they were

 blind to its potential?

 

If I kept it as a treasure, then I would

be just as bad as those who

would throw it out.

I would deny it the glory it

is destined to become.

If I do not trust our Creator to take over

after I give it to him then it will always be

only a seed.

 

Yet, if I let it go.

 If I give it to him

then he will transform it.

 

I tilt my palm

allowing the seed to fall,

as if a pebble, into the dark bed

I had prepared for it.

 

I move the mound of

soil atop the seed,

pat it firmly,

say a little prayer then

I walk away knowing

God will be faithful to

His promises.

The journey it must now

endure is not an easy one.

 

Transformations are never

gentle, never easy but

 they always reveal more

than we ever thought

possible.

 

Daily, I look for evidence

 that my tiny seed

has started it’s journey

 knowing full well that

time

 is the most critical element

In growth.

 

Tiny, tender, green leaves

push the surface soil away reaching

earnestly reaching toward the Sun.

 

Fragile and young,

It has taken root.

Shadows shield its future but

it is not alone on this journey.

 

I will shield it from the hail, the wind,

and the terrible storms.

 It will be protected

from the harsh sun and the invaders

who wish to take it’s life for their own.

I will protect it from all harm,

for God

has entrusted it’s care to me.

It is my job to treasure it,

to aid it on its journey

so that it can fulfill the purpose

for which God created it.

 

God put us on each other’s path

to aid one another,

to grow one another,

to shield one another,

to love one another,

to endure hardships together,

to enjoy victory together and

to reach full Glory

together.

 

I have a Seed

that

Must be

Planted.   

 

 

 

RAGE


White hot anger
turns logic to run.
No wisdom can penetrate
that wall built of hate.

Born of ignorance,
Fear, victimization,
Lust, abuse…
Pain…Pain…Pain

Ears cannot hear
as a spoken word
only spears the
wounded heart.

Eyes cannot see
Images are
glazed in the charred
wall of negative
expectations.

Flesh can no longer feel
tenderness. Each gentle
stroke is a burning lash
searing a memory
that is not the
Owners.

Rage is built, constructed
stoked by its object or
by perception of
the nurturer.

Rage creates puppets
To pain
spreading hopelessness
and
fear of change.

Rage becomes a comfortable
expectation
excusing its holder from
embracing the change
they fought so hard
To ignite.

They walk right by the
moment that
would have brought
healing and joy
as they can no longer
recognize Love.

Forgiveness is for the weak,
naïve, and stupid. Love is but
a facade or tool to manipulate.

Rage…its reliable, ever present,
found everywhere and it is always
the same. We are comfortable with
rage and holding it tightly relinquishes
our responsibility to do anything
productive with the life given us.

Yes, rage is my friend. It is my fuel
and it makes others fear and respect
Me. I will use my rage to
Crush others into
Submission. I am right
Everyone else is wrong.

You are nothing but a tool.
Wasting your life with rage, for
He is a liar, a puppet master, a
master manipulator. Rage poisons you
and all those who touch you. The
louder your rage the less
others will hear. Each angry word
or deed puts a nail in your causal
Coffin.

If you have allowed rage to consume you
recognize it, own it, and excise it from
your heart and soul. For, it
is the tool of Satan and he
owns you if you
allow it free
range in your life.
Rage is Spiritual Death.

Healing or Strength…for which should we Diligently Pray?


 

 

I listen to the scriptures everyday as I do other daily tasks. I read the scriptures as well but I have found that I can listen to scripture for eight hours a day plus when I do other activities so the time is well used. I also make certain to use various translations so as not miss something. Today as I was listening to the people clamoring to touch Jesus so they could be healed of their infirmity a new pattern of thought began weaving itself through my consciousness. The desperation and hopelessness these folks experienced, especially in that era, is well appreciated.              I, myself, spent much of my life begging God to take away my ailments and hardships so I definitely get the desperation to be healed. However, I had a thought today as I listened to these stories for the 1000th time that struck me deeply. The afflicted flocked to Jesus and in his love; he healed them at their requests. No one wants suffering and pain unless they are a masochist or flagellant. Yet, I know suffering has purpose beyond that which can be seen or experienced by the one who is doing the suffering.

Okay, so this is the thought, what if the people who begged to be healed and were then healed inadvertently diminished their earthly impact because their ailment was removed? To be sure, if the healed remained in Christ/God after being healed then they would still have an Earthly impact because God will bless their efforts. However, if like the nine lepers who never looked back after being healed, could we diminish our earthly impact by taking our own path?

I know in all certainty that if God had chosen to heal me decades ago then I would learn to lean upon my own strength and cleverness.  If I had been permitted to pursue my own life plans in a body without blemish then would I have grown in faith and wisdom? Would I have had the tools to help others as they struggled through their journey? If I had gone on to live a healthy, “normal” life with the ability to achieve praiseworthy human accomplishments then what impact would I have been able to have? I do not know the answers to these questions but I am thinking my impact would have been far less because I would not have learned how to depend upon the Lord. My relationship with my creator would have been shallow and empty because I would have depended upon my own strength and cleverness. My plans for my life were thwarted. My ailments could have been a permanent roadblock, and they nearly were, but once I understood each had the potential to reach large groups of lost and hurting people then I began to understand it wasn’t about me at all. My ailments were not curses or punishments; instead, they were keys to open the hearts and minds of the lost children who were flailing in agonizing fear. I am able to reach through the brick wall of fear, anger, and agony many surround themselves with because I have been on that side of empty desperation. I can reach them because of the hardships, heartaches, and pain I endured.

Each hardship and ailment that constructs the person I am only has purpose when I give them to God to use for good. Regardless of the depth of agony of any hardship, each has a boundless wealth of possible good. I sit here and reflect because I know that I would never have met half the people I have, nor would I have been useful for the Kingdom if I had depended upon myself all these years. Sure, pain, agony and frustration are not enjoyable but the diamond he is creating us to be takes a bit of pressure.

So, does that mean we shouldn’t pray to be healed or work toward healing? Absolutely not! We must always petition our Lord for healing and if he sees that it will benefit it us AND those around us for his Kingdom then he may grant our request for healing. However, he tells us time and again that he works best through the broken. If you look throughout history, the figures that strike us as the most impactful were the ones who overcame great anguish in some manner. Sure, there have been some pretty infamous individuals who impacted the world and that will always occur but looking at just one scenario, the holocaust…How many iron clad stories of faith and survival came from that horrific event? No, I do not believe God sent that upon the people but when they chose to allow God to use their pain for good then we reap the benefits within our own souls decades later. Our faith in enriched because of the thousands of who stood steadfast and true in the face of pure evil.

In our own lives, in our heartache, pain and fear we become angry and confused feeling abandoned by our creator. I feel this in earnest when the pain becomes mind numbing and soul crushing but that is only Satan trying to tear us away from our Father, which is why the pain is so great. I believe there comes a point in one’s life where you must decide that the answer to your plea may be no or not until you reach glory. We obsess in our Christian culture to bring healing to all if we can only have enough faith then it will be so. I think that borders more on the line of the ill advised friends of  Job’s, who had the nerve to believe they knew what God was doing in that situation. They did far more harm to Job than any of the ailments or tragedies that struck him.

Regardless of whether we pray for healing or not we should always pray for strength and wisdom. We should always ask God to squeeze all the possible good from the suffering we must endure or else it is wasted. Who wants to hurt for nothing? I have learned much through the years and I can see clearly where I have wasted my suffering and where I allowed others to remain lost because I was too caught up in my own suffering and anger. I did not care if they were lost, I did not care if they were hurting, I was angry and hateful to everyone especially God. I was so caught up in the fact that my mother was not healed and I was not healed that I could not and would not see beyond the pain. I wanted it gone regardless of the cost. Now, I see how tragic that would have been. My faith and wisdom would not be strong but worse yet; many who I have been able to reach may have been lost or become a bitter tool for Satan. Suffering can only be understood by suffering, which is why our Christ suffered so much for us. An alcoholic is not going to listen to anyone who has never even taken a drink! Just the same, someone in physical agony is not going to be comforted by someone who can only boast surviving a head cold. Suffering is a universal language but it can only be understood through suffering.

Back to the original thought, was the glory of God lessened because these thousands of people were healed upon their requests? Now, understand that this is not a blanket assumption because Christ himself told his disciples that the blind man was born blind so that his healing from Christ would bring glory to God’s holy kingdom. We, in our human understanding, cannot know the purpose of every ailment of every person out there. We cannot explain the heartache that suddenly takes a child from its mother and father. We do not know the reasons for all suffering but we should at least accept that the impact of suffering could be positive or negative depending upon whether we give it to God or hold onto it like a precious treasure.

Be certain to understand, I am not speaking of suffering caused by our own hands. God will certainly use it for good if we allow it but we must take ownership of that suffering because it came through our own conscious choice. For example, I was once over 500 pounds and I was miserable, in pain, sick, and angry. I blamed God for all of it but it was not God shoving food down my throat. It wasn’t God preventing me from making healthy decisions. It wasn’t God increasing the rate of deterioration of my arthritic joints. It was me, my poor choices, my decisions, and my plan for my life. I reap the harvest of those bad choices but the key to my suffering now is to allow him to use it all and work hard to do my part to bring my plans into perfect sync with my Creators. Yeah, if you have read my blog then you know and understand that my suffering and challenges have come in many venues and most of them not through my own hand; however, suffering needs healing. Sometimes the only healing our suffering has upon this earth is through the spirit. We accept the cross we have been asked to carry, get rid of the crosses we were never meant to pick up and continue to follow the savior giving him our all in every way. If we have ailments that were woven into our being in the womb then we need to not only overcome them but also squeeze every bit of good that can be pressed from them. If we are suffering through our own hands then we need to stop and rid ourselves of a burden that was not meant for us and help others avoid the pit into which we ourselves fell. If we cannot help them avoid it then we should help them find their own way out, for they will not take a proffered hand out of the pit.  Supply the instructions, the support, the encouragement and the ever-watchful eye towards Christ and they may chose to find their way back to the path the Lord plowed for them.

Now I pray the prayers of Christ in the garden and of Paul who both asked three times of the Lord that the cup of suffering be taken from them but also acknowledging that their prayer only be fulfilled if it served the will of God. Otherwise, we accept that the grace God provides is sufficient and pray in earnest for strength.

 

 

 

 

In Christ and in never ending pursuit of understanding,

 

Tina

 

Walking in Faith…not for the faint of heart.


 

 

“Even if all fall away, I will Not!” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “Today-yes, tonight-before the Rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And ALL the others said the same (Mark 14: 29-31 NIV).

            Jesus had warned Peter that Satan had requested to test them all (Luke 22:31-32) and told Peter to pray for strength of Faith. He even told Peter the result by telling him what to do after he turned back to Him. Jesus instructed him to ‘strengthen your brothers’ when he turned back. Peter could not fathom he would ever abandon his Savior. He strongly protested his loyalty and devotion to follow Christ to prison or even death. Peter’s epic faith failure would be infamously recorded for all time. Even if Peter was not branded with a catchy handle like, “Doubting Thomas”, it has not diminished the bumper crop of criticism his behavior has harvested throughout the ages.    Humans tend to humanize everything including our understanding of Scripture even when denied huge swaths of the storyline. Although the crucifixion of our Savior is well documented in the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and through the multitude of Old Testament prophet preludes, we are still required to seek the truth.

Before I begin getting complaints that this is all Easter stuff requiring me to field questions as to why am I dragging it up at Christmas, please afford me a small back step. The Advent season is largely restricted to Christmas and the crucifixion event is relegated to Easter alone. I would argue that folks who see the two events as separate are missing the point of Christmas. The gift of Christmas is our salvation. It is not a beautiful story of  angels singing on high, shepherds being amazed, wise men visiting, or even a cute little baby being born in a humble livestock cave and being place in a feed trough. I love everything about the Christmas story but to see it as a singularity robs Christ of the gift he brought for you. If you do not think of your personal salvation at Christmas then you have missed the boat of understanding. The human mind and heart tends to want to separate the “happy event” from the “sad event”, which is wrong on too many levels to keep this paragraph brief. It is the guilt we all feel at the need for Christ to bear our sins that tends to make us recoil from “remembering” Easter at Christmas. Insisting on the strict separation of the two holidays blinds you to the blessings. When you understand the integral connection but deny yourself the contemplation of that connection then you, too, are secularizing and falling for the commercialization of Christmas. A Christian celebration of Christmas MUST look and feel different to participants and onlookers alike. If it does not then you may want to review how you are conducting your celebration. A more prudent move may be an in-depth review of your Faith Walk.  Hey, I get it there are many stressful things that compete to veil the joy to be had. After all, even Jesus’ mom stirred the pot of family-get-together irritation when she asked him to do something about the wine situation at a wedding. So, if you think Christ cannot understand how irritating the eclectic pool of variously gifted relatives who grace your home once/twice a year then you would be very wrong. The “know-it-all”, “moral crusader”, “shady character”, “sponger”, “political activist” “the nutrition Nazi”, “Woe is me Molly” or the one who is especially good at making the highest “mountains from molehills” are all small potatoes compared to all of us because we are his family and he gets all of us every single moment of every single day and night. There is nothing you can endure that God does not understand. Now, back to Peter.

Wave after wave of criticism has submerged Biblical figures like Peter, Thomas and Judas for eons but how valid is that criticism and who, exactly, is qualified to levy such criticism? As many of you know, one of my pet peeves is folks who are ignorant of the facts but still feel justified in voicing an opinion. First and foremost, learn the historical context in which the story took place. Become a super sleuth, pursue your God and He promises to be found. Don’t depend on others to tell you a truth you say you base your Faith Walk upon. What if they are lying? What if they are ignorant? What if they are only trying to manipulate you to believe how they believe? Try to put at least as much time into your pursuit of God as you do your favorite TV program, book series, video game, etcetera.

Did Peter fail in this test of Faith? Yes…yes he did. Jesus knew he would. Jesus told him that he would. Jesus told him he would come back around to be the rock all his brothers in faith would desperately need him to be. Jesus did not condemn Peter for what he knew would happen, for he understood that Satan was going to be suppressing his beloved disciples with overwhelming fear. I wrote about Jesus’ fear in my last post; therefore, we already know that fear is not only permissible but expected. Nevertheless, fear cannot become a roadblock preventing you or him from fulfilling God’s purpose. Courage is not the absence of fear but continuing forward in spite of it.

In all of my humanness, I gauge the absolute worst part of Peter’s experience occurred when that cock crowed and he lifted his head only to see the broken hearted Jesus looking directly at him. An immediate, overwhelming, soul-wrenching sorrow overtook Peter. The weight of his failure at that moment cannot be equaled and it must have been truly devastating to him. Every gospel records the event but only Luke includes this very important detail. Imagine the exact moment in time when you see the hurt in Christ’s expression knowing that it wasn’t the insults, abuse or even false accusations of the accusers that had put that pain in his expression. Nope, his eyes filled with tears because of you.  The pain for both of them had to be indescribable. Scripture tells us that Peter went outside and wept bitterly. That tells me that a lot of body shuddering sobbing was going on here. You know, the really ugly crying event that makes you look as if you went ten rounds with three prizefighters the night before. Yet, this event is not over yet. This is only the beginning of a night and day of horror for our Savior and all who loved him. For Peter and his fellow disciples it was going to get much darker as their friend, brother, teacher, and master would be torn apart on every human level. Also, if you noticed, Peter was not alone in his rapid flight from Christ. ALL of his flock would scatter when the shepherd (Jesus) was struck.

So why is Peter’s story of fear and failure highlighted? Why doesn’t God tell us of all the other disciples who ditched Jesus that night? Simply, it was not necessary because Peter’s account was enough for us to be able to identify with him. We are Peter. How often have you thought, “I would never abandon Christ?”I would stand with him till the end! I would surely die for him if that were what is asked of me! I would never, ever, ever hurt Christ that way!”

I would respond as lovingly as I could by saying, “Oh Really?” Then let us consider a few facts that may help you level out that ‘hero complex’ to a human reality. First and foremost, your sins and my sins put him in that situation. He was betrayed, mocked, hit, ridiculed, humiliated, spat upon and then had his flesh torn from his bones as he was flogged. Each lash should have been delivered upon your back, upon my back, for our sins put him there. All past, present and future sins of humanity were borne by Christ and he did nothing to deserve it…nothing. You may say, yeah, I heard that one before, what else you got?

First of all, that attitude got to go but I do have more. When is the last time you complained of an ailment, an economic hardship, being attacked for a belief, being subjected to false accusations, betrayal, being used, abandonment, and/or any combination thereof? To be certain, complaining and asking ‘Why?’ is not a sin unless it serves to drive you, yourself and others away from Christ. Then it becomes a handy tool of Satan that is very apt at destroying you and those who love you. The rub is that those who have been rooting for you to fail are also harmed when you behave this way because they just “knew” you were ‘full of it’ with this Christian crap.

Suffering is a guarantee, not just a possibility, if you choose to follow Christ. Plain and simple, Jesus tells us that we will face many of these things if we strive to walk in the Faith we claim to have.  Our proud boasts and claims of sticking by Christ, “no matter what” often do not stand the test. When hardships and sickness hit we begin the self-defeating mantra of, “Why Me?” Again, asking God, ‘why’, is not a sin but staying stuck because you are not looking for the answers; thereby, refusing to fulfill your purpose may be something you will have to explain to your creator one day.

As some of my readers may remember, the story of Job, was a huge stumbling block for me as there are so many things in that book that I do not understand and no human can explain to me. Still, it continues to surprise me how many people claim to have the life of Job while making the indignant claim, ‘My life just isn’t fair!’ If you are claiming such a boast then I expect you to be pretty darn righteous. God judged Job to be a righteous man in all ways. Your Faith Walk better be able to rival those of Peter, Paul, Noah, Reverend Graham or Mother Teresa’s just to name a few. Not that any of these folks were perfect but their Faith walk was pretty solid by the time they began becoming effective for God’s kingdom. No, they were not born that way; instead, many Faith failures tempered the genuineness of that faith. Suffering hones the strength of our faith or adds to the level of bitter anger we tend to nurse. It is your choice. Another feature of a Job claim-to-be, EVERYTHING is a huge deal as there is no rational perspective of suffering. God is picking on you, right? You do not care or want to understand someone else’s suffering. You just want your suffering to stop. I get that, I have been there too. There have been moments in my existence where I have actually told God, “I don’t care if they are hurting. I do not care if he or she needs me. I do not care if this experience will make me better or more able to understand the pain of others. I just want it to stop. Yeah, I am not too big a fan of the honing part of this Faith building journey. It hurts. Pain perspective cannot be learned from a book, it is earned through experience. It matters not what type of pain the sufferer is enduring because it can all be destructive if not handled properly.

“Can it possibly get any worse?”. This question is either asked by someone who is ignorant or just plain foolish. The answer is, YES, YES, YES, it can always be worse, always. I used to bemoan my challenges all the time and would snap at those trying to counsel me saying, “You do it then…you walk in my shoes then offer me the same useless advice!” I have I ever encountered a person with the same volume of simultaneous challenges with which they must cope as I work through every day. I am NOT saying that I have it the worst of all humanity, nor am I comparing my pain and suffering to anyone else’s. Numerically speaking, the volume of simultaneous problems occurring within a finite time frame has been daunting and served as an effective stumbling block upon my journey. Suffice it to say, .it can and usually does become worse before it begins to get better. The impetus of change is usually you, your choices, your decisions…period.

For instance, you go to the doc because you are having a hard time catching your breath. She tells you that you have case of COPD in the initial stages but that you could slow its progression and improve your short and long-term quality of life by making some lifestyle changes. Stop smoking, lose some weight, stay away from concentrated second-hand smoke, watch your alcohol intake and get involved in some cardiovascular exercises at least three times a week. The problem has been identified and you go home and do what? Decide on a plan of action so that you can drop some weight, quit smoking and get some more exercise? Perhaps you will alter your social hangouts so that you can stall the disease effectively affording you a couple more decades of a higher quality of living.

Unfortunately, a very small percentage of us react in such a proactive manner. Rather, we begin binging on all the stuff that must now be restricted or eliminate and that is just at the mere thought of giving any of it up. We feel sorry for ourselves and begin imagining the worst-case scenario and in that active imagining we become our own self-fulfilling prophecy. We either ignore or refuse to participate in the possible solution. We actively sabotage our future by living, in this case, as if we have stage four lung cancer. We effectively take ourselves out of the land of the living long before that ever happens. I have known people who are figuratively standing in their grave, shoveling dirt upon themselves while yelling at those trying to dig them out. What are they yelling at the potential rescuers? “No one understands, no one feels what I am feeling, No one will help me! I am worthless, useless and a burden. I don’t need anyone to help me. God is persecuting me, God has abandoned me or ‘I have the life of Job, woe is me!” Of course, their actual verbiage may take on a more colorful tone. How does this relate to Peter’s faith failure? When we do these things, we are failing in our faith walk. We allow fear to control us. We allow Satan into our minds and let him run amok until he has convinced us that we are all alone, God is unjust, and that no one cares or understands what we are going through.

Granted, it is the normal human reaction to ‘wig out’ when faced with such life altering news.  However, if you are a Christian then you must get beyond the initial reaction and concentrate on finding the purpose in the pain. We all have faith failures throughout our lives and sometimes those failures are spurred by agony that cannot be verbalized. Pain, so intense and pervasive that can be felt by others due to the constant pulsating ache emanating from the person upon everyone around him or her. This is true regardless of whether it is being felt by us or by another depending on how empathetic you are and/or how close the person experiencing the suffering is linked to you.

Every time we ‘stay stuck’; we are abandoning Christ just as his disciples did after that night in the garden. Every time we dwell on the negativity surrounding the problem we are laying down our crown of thorns and allowing our cross to shudder as it bounces off the hardened ground. We look at Christ as he looks right back at us and we drop the crown saying, “I am sorry but I cannot follow you to the end. I am too afraid, it hurts too much. I am sorry Jesus, I thought I would never abandon you but I was wrong.” Then we weep bitterly, for we have broken our promise to be there for our savior. We are certain we could fulfill our promises to follow him no matter the cost. Yeah but, you didn’t understand just how high that cost was going to be and how many were going to try to stop you. “Sorry dude, you are on your own Jesus and please do not give me the “Jesus eyes” of total love and total forgiveness. That is like a knife in my heart.”

Peter could have chosen to fold in on himself in pity, shame, and sorrow effectively removing himself from the critical role Christ had called him to fulfill. He could have run and hid after his friend and savior looked straight into his soul. On the other hand, he could have chosen the easy way out like Judas had by killing himself. Dying is much easier than choosing to live and face your mistakes atop all the challenges ahead.  Satan knocked Peter to the dust but he did not choose to stay there; instead, he eventually got up and took the hardest step…the one leading forward.

I used a large life-changing example to illustrate the point but every time we hear another take the Lord’s name in vain and stay silent, it is a brutal lash across our Savior’s back. When we see a neighbor or stranger hungry, cold, or lonely and remain invisible to them, it is a hard blow to his Face. You and I are no better than Peter, for we are all perfectly imperfect. Peter spent the rest of his life trying to make good his promise to his Christ and friend. Peter never abandoned Christ again but that does not mean he did not fail. We chronically give up on Jesus and all it takes is a few problems hitting us at the same time. Car breaks down, deep freeze thaws unexpectedly and now on top of everything you are nursing the flu. You begin bemoaning your life, your home, your situation—Christ’s cross appears to be too heavy for you to bear so you put it down. You see in his face that you are breaking his heart…again.

Walking steadily in one’s faith is not easy and everyone will falter now and again but the key is to have others walking a similar path as you so that you can catch either other when you stumble. Satan is not going to stop trying to destroy you but Jesus will never abandon you even if you come to the conclusion that you cannot follow him everywhere he must go. He will never stop you from stepping off the path…pesky ‘free will’. His heart will break as your eyes meet one another’s countenance as you stray.

We are Peter; we are worse than Peter as he failed a couple millennia ago but we are failing every day, knowingly. A FaithWalk never ends, the hardships do not get simpler but our ability to handle the hardships and pain grows exponentially. Jesus never asked us to traverse this Faith Walk alone; conversely, he provides helpers for us at every turn if only we will open our eyes. We must climb out of our premature grave and practice perspective; stop comparing our lives/ailments/sorrows to all around us. God asks each of his children to carry a unique burden, for which he has woven into our being the skill, talent, or gift to overcome the hardship. He promises that the cost of following him will pale in the brilliance of the reward. Do not see Peter as a long dead man who has no relevance to your life. Peter did not have super powers, he was not divine but his faith failure launched his resulting level of new faith into an epic foundation.

Before sharpening your sword of judgment, hammer of woe-is-me, and dust out your pit of despair…pray for strength, wisdom, direction and healing. Pursue your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Look towards Peter’s incredible strength of Faith when he decided to get up and take that next step toward the Kingdom of God. He could have wallowed in his failure, pain, and heartache but he did not. He remembered Jesus’ instructions for him turned back to the path that led him to Christ…strengthen his brothers in the faith.

I understand that your suffering may be so dire and so prolonged that it has been allowed to create a guarded heart in you. A heart and mind filled with fear, anger, cynicism and judgment upon all others is one that is cold…one that is dying. Our lives are perishable, our bodies have an expiration date, people we love are going to get sick or get in an accident and we are going to lose those we cannot think we can live without. There is going to be pain. Do not waste your suffering and do not stay stuck.

I pray God blesses each of you with the strength and overwhelming desire to pursue him whole-heartedly.

 

 

The Unwelcome Guest


 First rays of the summer sun

 race to illuminate the small

grove. Its inhabitants awake

without complaint.

The grove was abundant in food

peace and safety. The only

other occupant was

an old country church patiently

awaiting its fold.

Blue birds filled the air

with

songs of praise.

A sound so pure and clear,

a melody worthy of the Creator’s ear.

The sun climbed ever higher

casting a shadow upon

 the man turning the key

opening the large doors of

the chapel.

He always arrived an hour

or two before any other filled

a pew.

Time to reflect, time

 to pray, time to ask

for wisdom, patience, and

feet of clay.

“Lord Jesus, lend me

your eyes that I might

see this flock as you do.

Give me your heart to

love all whom you send

my way and a discerning

mind that wisdom would flow, Amen.”

Standing and grasping his Bible

he started toward the sanctuary

as muffled voices and distant

car doors announced the

arrival of the congregation.

The Pastor knew he would

be here and there was nothing

he could do because the

unwelcomed guest

always received an

invitation from me

and from you.

He would sit in the

very front row knowing

every word of scripture

but not letting it show.

He wasn’t there to learn,

fellowship, or become

more like the Savior. No,

none of those things is

what he did savor.

The Pastor sighed deeply

upon stepping to the pulpit

as he recognized their guest

was already working the room.

The people were settled into their

familiar clicks. The poor sat in the far rear

while the affluent took the lead.

 But none sat next to the family

 who lived without running water,

Their respectable senses

were aghast.

Tongue clicks and whispers veiled under breath

spread disdain and disgust in the

presence of such an obvious

disgrace.

Over there perched the family of judges,

who would snicker and point with their eyes

to alert one another that there was laughter to be had

or condemnation to be made of those just entering

the sanctuary.

The Bennet family, fragile as can be,

sat holding one another in their

fear and in their grief. They had lost a son

in Iraq last summer and now their little one

is fighting cancer. Their faith is stretched thin but

they have not given up hope. Our Guest is

trying his best to destroy them but he is failing.

Then you have those who feel it

their duty to reveal your sin, criticize

your worship or prayer life, and condemn

those who are struggling.

 In their reason,

 one is sick, barren, in

financial woe or experiencing

heart ache due to some unconfessed

sin.

 “Get right with God and your

hardship will be delivered.” is the chant

they cry in disapproving condemnation.

Driving divisions among God’s people

is his favorite activity and we are

so willing to play.

Yes, he is here and they invited him

as they do regardless of the warnings.

He knows the Bible better than most

Christians but he does not see its truth.

His hardened heart does not feel

the forgiving love of Christ.

Instead, it angers him and

he takes his fury out upon

the flock.

“They have more than us. She is far prettier or talented

than I. I heard…cheated on his wife. God cannot

love or forgive you since you did that horrible

thing in your past. You are not good enough to succeed. Your

beliefs are childish superstitions. You will fail.”

Lies, his favorite lies, he uses against

the flock.

He has enjoyed great success in

invading the church and scattering the flock.

His minions carry out his orders sewing

discord, jealousy, bigotry, hatred, and

cynicism where ever they go.

Church after church has fallen to his

attacks.

He is becoming angrier

and fiercer as he

sees his time ebbing away.

He tortures any who work

to follow the Savior’s path.

Yes, Satan is the first one in church

and the last one to leave because turning

one Christian to sin bringing him to ruin

will convince 1000 more souls to reject

Jesus because of his sinful people.

Satan loves to use fallen Christians because

it hurts the Father deeply when his children stray.

He will never give up, never stop, and never

show mercy.

Children of God, take warning and

be on guard so you do not

become one of Satan’s favorite tools.

In a world of pain and destruction,

be determined not to add to the

brokenness of Creation.

Instead, build…repair…create

and healing will be had in your church,

home, work place, social group, neighborhood

and maybe, just maybe, it will keep going and

heal our lands.

 

 

“If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray then I shall hear from heaven and heal their lands.” God