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

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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?

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.

Faith…A Vain Pursuit or A Naïve Placebo?


You slowly traverse the last two steps leading to your door, insert the key into the lock and then pause for a pregnant moment. You stare intently at the handle thinking of the hardships the past year has presented feeling that familiar tightness in your throat. Distant sounds beyond the weathered door do little to spur you to action. Instead, your arm refuses the brain’s instructions to raise and grasp the doorknob. Rather, your mind leads you to the tenth of April when Cassey was diagnosed with an unknown ailment, whose treatment is not covered by any insurance. William and Elizabeth continue to struggle with crippling migraines as doctors proffer genetics as the causation while your spouse refuses to work or otherwise join you in supporting the family.
The burden has been overwhelming for too many years and the weight of it has crushed you beyond your ability to recognize even yourself. Today…today was the last straw in an ever-increasing load that has persisted for over four decades.

Tears gain momentum as they start a familiar journey down your cheek. Hard work, diligence, playing by the rules, honesty, dedication and perseverance afforded to a mega mart company for nearly a decade meant nothing. Sitting there across from colleagues as they uttered those reprehensible words… ”I am sorry, but we just cannot use your style of management in our reorganization endeavor” sickened you to the core. The rest of the rhetoric was mumbles and chirps of which all nonsense is made. Loyalty meant nothing in an age where money means everything. The journey home was a blur but now, standing here, staring at this handle knowing there are no solutions beyond it, no help mates, no comfort, no relief, no offer to reduce the burdens made an insurmountable task of turning the key in the lock. A guarded glance back toward the ever-present beater car in the driveway allowed the briefest entertainment of flight.

Furiously, you squeeze the last searing tears from your eyes allowing your spirit to throw your anguish and helplessness at your Creator’s feet. Scripture bites, which you have heard a million times before, bombard your soul and each tasting more acidic than the one before.

“God will not give you more than you can handle without his help.” “If God is for me then who could stand against me?” “Through Christ, who strengthens me, all things are possible.”

But the one that is bouncing off the inside of your skull like a wrecking ball and one that you know you will hear a million times over in the next week and beyond is the one that is the hardest and most ambiguous to hold onto,

“Have Faith.”

Your soul is screaming in protest that you have had faith through it all and yet weariness is the natural result of engagement in a constant state of spiritual war. Now, you love your God and Savior and have followed him through the darkest of times in your life and strolled contently beside him during those rare episodes of peace; therefore, the concept of having faith is not foreign or obscure to you. However, you also understand that most speak from a store house of empty notions basted in a heavy sauce of conflicted misunderstandings. Most well-meaning folks have no idea what they are talking about when giving advice in general but are especially daft in the realm of faith, God, and the notion of core beliefs. Ignorant haplessness is usually the motivator demanding the ‘comforter’ just, “say something.” The comforter is not trying to be mean, vague, or trite but their words can fall like water bouncing off Teflon or burn like acid to your core. The best comforter, by far, is the one who remains silent while offering a soft shoulder and gentle hug.
Some pain transcends speech to the degree that each utterance is a glowing hot spike driven into the soul of the listener. Whether you are a Christian or non-Christian matters little when you are trying to offer reason to the madness destroying friends and family. If the life and times of Job taught us nothing else, it clearly magnified the foolhardy practice of offering an interpretation of God’s will or meaning in the life of fellow believers. Our finite brains cannot hope to perceive the complex web of happenings, choices, and events that had to transpire to bring your friend or family member to this very point in time. Millions of micro moments and thousands of macro events occurred since Adam and Eve procreated that had to happen in order for the person sitting beside you to be there. There was no mistake, that person is sitting there with their heart breaking because all of these elements came together to make it so. Nevertheless, that fact does not mean that the pain was supposed to accompany him or her on that journey. No, pain is of sin and that was borne of the fall where everything in creation was simultaneously broken even down do the atoms that make everything move.

As I have said countless times before, most human pain is born directly of poor choices we ourselves make and then we have trouble dealing with the natural consequences thereof. However, there is a realm of pain that is borne through no direct fault of the person currently experiencing it and that type of pain emanates from two sources alone, 1. You are victim of another’s sinful choices or you are 2. Victim of a broken creation (caused by original sin). Yes, we now live under the redemption of Jesus Christ but he will not redeem all of creation until he returns and that is a day we Christian’s look forward too while knowing it is to be a horror-filled apocalypse for the unsaved. This single tidbit of knowledge, alone, should be enough to spur us to action. We should be heartbroken for every soul lost especially if we are not even trying to lead others to the salvation we languish within.

So where does faith fit in and how are we supposed to pull it off when the world/Satan is doing its best to crush us? From the moment of conception, we are using faith in the flawed form of humanity. Humans, without exception, will always fail us and we ourselves, without exception, will fail others. Hence, having faith is hard mostly because our first tentative faith steps have nothing to do with our creator but with the adults in our lives. Those adults, even the best intentioned and most devoted to our well-being, are going to teach us that having faith in another means disappointment and pain. The phrase, “have faith” is bantered about as if its originator is receiving royalties at its mere whispered utterance. Worse, in modernity it has no common core or goal. What exactly are we all supposed to have faith in these days? Certainly, we learn quickly that putting absolute faith in a friend and/or family member will lead to disastrous consequences. If our parents join in on societal norms and foster the myths of Santa Clause, Easter bunny, tooth fairy, and other fairy tales then our children learn we are liars, whose words are not always trustworthy regardless of the well-intentioned motives. I am not offering judgement on this issue as I grew up with all these fictitious beings as well and they serve as some of the best warm fuzzy memories of my childhood; however, there is a cost and that is trust. Some adults rip faith and trust straight out of the core of another with cruelty and selfishness caring little for the remnant they leave behind.

Society offers a whole new quagmire of experiences that will teach you that trusting in another and having faith in anyone besides yourself is akin to dancing among flames whilst doused in gasoline. Having faith in someone or something is a concept we learn to be very dangerous to our survival. So, how on earth can we look at this group of individuals who claim to trust in Christ and who wear their faith in their God like battle armor seriously? Are they not just delusional people consumed by their own naivete? Are they not just crackpots using this ambiguous idea of faith as an excuse to cop-out of life’s real issues? Isn’t it just their way to give excuse for all the darkness around them without a responsibility to act or be accountable?
A mere glimpse of this world and the people who occupy it would give vision to the blind that it is a wicked, cruel, self-serving creation that is headed towards destroying itself. Care to strongly reinforce this ideology? Become a historian who actively pursues God’s will for her life and you will quickly discover a deadly pattern of human behavior cannot be missed. Regardless of the efforts of modern “scholars” to spin it anew or the deliberate manipulation of events by armchair historians or politicians, the written history is a complex entity that should never be mistaken for pure truth or honesty. History does not repeat itself but humanity never, ever learns from its mistakes. If you are an American, then you may find comfort in knowing that nothing that our nation is experiencing today is different than that which has been experienced by human civilizations prior to our existence. On the other hand, it has only taken a little over 200 years for our nation to fall into complete and devastating debauchery. It’s kind of a record of distinction. Granted, it is a distinction of what should be shame but a great percentage of people in this country do not know what that means any longer. As scripture tells us, “they have forgotten how to blush.” Worse news, the current status we find ourselves occupying leads to one thing, collapse. Not ‘maybe’, not ‘only if we don’t do this or do that’ but it ALWAYS leads to utter and complete ruin of the nation. Look it up for yourself…I strongly encourage you to do this.

Having faith in one another is a game of Russian Roulette in which any adult has learned to distrust and be cynical even if the game was brief. Surely, there are individuals that can be trusted and are worthy of placing some degree of faith upon? Absolutely, but blind faith in any human is going to set you up for failure because none of us are capable of doing, saying, thinking, or feeling the right (motivated by pure intentions) one hundred percent of the time. We will fail, others will fail, all will fail because it is impossible for us to be perfect. Nevertheless, trust and faith can be had among our fellow humans. Just keep it in the realm of possibility and perspective. Breathing and living the sound realization that all humans are trying at different levels to be a positive or negative force in this world will aid you in making better choices with whom you will throw your support. Be certain you understand who you are following because you will be held into account for where you place your allegiance in this world. Whether you believe in a judgment day or not matters little once you get there but your steps are guided by your choice today.

Where does that leave us, the believer or the searcher, should we chalk up this faith and trust thing as something only practiced by naïve ninnies or is it more? Having faith is the hardest thing to live in this life because those who truly understand what it means and to whom they are placing all of their faith walk a path fraught with danger, cruelty, cynicism, condemnation and ridicule.

“If the world hates you, remember it hated me first. If the world mistreats you, remember they mistreated me first.” In Christ’s own foreshadowing words.

Why then do we expect our walk in faith to be anything but turbulent? The stronger in our walk/faith/beliefs we grow the more vicious Satan will attack. Having faith in God, is not weakness. On the contrary, it is the hardest thing you will ever do in this lifetime because it takes everything you have and more. Additionally, we are not suddenly bestowed great faith and trust in our savior upon receiving Christ as our savior. Nope, that is borne of hardship and suffering. When is the last time you met a wealthy, healthy, self-important person to be one possessing strong faith in anyone but him or herself? If you have it all here, then why on earth would you ever need to trust a Savior? What good will believing in God do for you in this lifetime? Ah, but there is the rub, isn’t it? God is not needed in your life now but you are only a whisper, a being like a summer shadow who is here upon this earth for a very brief moment and then…what? What is next? Do you just cease to exist? Well that is a great copout, isn’t it? If you are not going to be held accountable for anything you do here on this earth or toward your fellow humans, then what restrains you from blowing your neighbor away because he or she plays the music too loud after midnight? What basis of right and wrong, if any, are you working under? Is there anything, any choice you make or do not make in life that matters at all?

Lifetime achievement awards are meaningless in this worldview because all you have achieved is useless. Anybody you have helped was a waste of your time because his or her life does not matter. Your life doesn’t matter, their lives do not matter and the need for law and order is baseless. Go ahead and kill millions of babies to cover up your irresponsibility because their souls do not matter. Who cares if you live a life of pain and misery or one of luxury and indulgence? What does it matter if you are abused and betrayed? My right is right in my eyes so if I think torturing and killing you is humorous then why cannot I do it? If you have something I want, then what is wrong with me taking it from you? If I do not think you are worthy of your breath, then why can’t I take it from you? If we all go out like lights upon death, then why try at all? There is no purpose to anything, good or bad. Absolutely no meaning to what we pathetic humans endeavor to do each and every day except to play the overdone part of our ancestors over and again like a really bad B movie. That is what is happening today. Even among complacent Christians who use the copout, “It is what it is so why fight it?” Um, that is totally secular thinking people! As long as we have breath in our bodies, then each and every moment we spend on Earth should be used to fight Satan. We are never called to lay down our arms of faith to allow Satan to take over another vast area God has created you to protect. However, God does not expect any of us, who call upon him, to fight alone. Many are sent to join us upon our path so that they can gird us and we them in the strength and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Some will stay and become our strongest allies but others will bail when the battles become too costly. Basically, we will encounter each type of “believer” in Christ out there who Jesus clearly describes to his disciples. We must seek out those who have been planted in the rich soil because their faith is strong and deeply rooted. It has been well weathered through perseverance and hardships. We too, must self-check to make absolutely certain the soil in which we are lingering is still rich and fertile otherwise our use in the kingdom is greatly diminished. We can still claim the salvation of Christ and have dead faith. If we do not fulfill the purpose for which we are specifically created, then we will have to stand before the father one day and explain why we decided not to.

In summation, faith in Christ our Savior is neither a vain pursuit nor a naïve placebo. On the sharp contrary, it is an active, living, breathing demand to action, perseverance, endurance, and fruition. Faith is a strong verb or it is a dead noun. What exactly is faith in your life and what, if anything, should you be doing about it? Whether Christ returns tomorrow or whether he waits for a million years from now, your task remains the same because we are all called to have active, vibrant faith that is nothing less than the very reflection of Christ. Anything short of that goal means you still need to work on it, just as I must constantly work and strive to mirror Christ’s attributes. Knowing I will fail…repeatedly, does little to dissuade me from the task. Faith is for the brave. Faith is for the strong. Faith is a life calling that carries us into eternity. What do you have faith in and where is that faith taking you? I am certain where I am going and I know exactly who is taking me there!

ANGELS


I beg my reader’s indulgence to allow me to write of a subject I know little about but am pursuing in earnest. Angels, who are they, what are they and how do they fit into God’s creation?
Large portions of society have designated this group of beings as some type of spiritual being that can or cannot be attached to the belief or existence of God. People are very vague in tying down their beliefs but often attribute the unexplainable to that of the work of these unseen beings or random luck. If you do believe in God and Christ as your savior then are you supposed to buy into this whole fuzzy angel subject? Well, I do not believe it to be a fuzzy subject at all because angels are documented all throughout scripture fulfilling critical purposes. They have names and are given specific jobs to complete. Some are messengers, such as Gabriel who played a critical role in and around the birth of Christ by telling both Mary and Joseph of the holy conception. He also announced John’s coming as well. He is recorded all throughout the scriptures as delivering this message or that to humans. Then Gabriel announced Christ’s birth to all the shepherds and was backed up by a heavenly choir. So we know there are messengers and singing angels who play musical instruments as well (Luke 1: 11, 1:19, 1:26 & Daniel 8:16, 9:2 [not a total reference list]).
We know through the prophets, Daniel, Jude, Elijah and many more that there is a great and fierce warrior angel that is in charge of God’s heavenly armies and his name is Michael. (Daniel 10:21, 10:13, 12:1 & Jude 1:9 & Revelations12:7). In 2 Kings 6:17, Elisha prayed that the eyes of the fear-filled servant would be open. The servant saw all the angel armies surrounding Elisha with the glow of fire all around them. This is a good story to illustrate the power and need of prayer. So many discount prayer as a weak instrument or a last resort but it should always be first and continual. Angel armies fighting for men at the behest of God who answered the holy prayers of his children.
I do not know if I would be grateful for the gift of seeing these ‘unseen’ battles between angels and the forces of evil. Humanity cannot win over heavenly beings so when the armies of the Lord go against humanity, it is a certain slaughter. Again and again, there are examples of God’s angels answering prayers, consoling others, directing, teaching, saving from harm, delivering messages, and making reports to our Creator. We have guardians surrounding us fighting the battle we cannot see but I certainly assure you that you may suffer glancing blows from the evil forces. In Matthew 18:10, Jesus tells us directly, “see that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in Heaven.” This tells me that God has appointed guardians over his children because he loves us and they communicate with our heavenly Father about us.
This topic of the unseen world of angels and demons caused me to engage in some deep pondering. How weary the angels must be because of humanity. Sure, the angel population has been around long, long before humanity was created and they have had battles with evil before us but just think of how much more work they have because of how often we screw up. I could not help but feel saddened for them. They never get a break and humans are not running out of ideas of how to sin and create more evil on this planet.
We only have a small glimpse into this other unseen world so we are infants in our understanding. There are so many unknown mysteries of the Bible and huge swaths of history that has been deliberately omitted that no one, not even the most learned Biblical scholar, can claim to understand in total. God omitted things because we cannot fathom it, we could not wrap our finite brains around the infinite wonders that always have been. I pray for the angels all the time because I know, I myself, make their job much harder than it should be because I sin. Christ paid the price of my salvation but we must accept and live with the consequence of each of our sins. I just feel very sorry for the angels and wonder when they will ever be able to lie down their swords and enjoy their creator. Perhaps they get time off? I have no idea but I know prayer works and that we take it for granted as we do this huge population of angels who have been working hard to help us humans since God first placed Adam and Eve on the earth.
I know how frustrated and disgusted I get with my fellow human beings so I can only imagine how that feeling is intensified when you have been fighting the same battles for so long. I continue on my journey to research these fantastic agents of good and those who chose to hate us, namely Satan and the rest of the fallen. Even the existence and account of Satan’s fall tells me that the angels have freedom to choose as well. This realization led me to the question of why would the angels continue to choose to help humans who never, ever learn? They love Christ and Christ loves us so they will obey Christ and do what they are commanded regardless of whether we humans ever get it right. I just imagine they must be weary after all this time. They need our prayers so that the heavenly hosts can remain strong in the Lord. At the very least, we should be grateful to them.
Now, do not cross the line and think they are beings to be prayed too, because there are several accounts in scripture where a human fell to worship an angel and the angel rebukes them telling the person to worship God only. John recounts this time and again, as he is recording Jesus’ revelation in our book of Revelation. Therefore, we know that we are not supposed to pray to them or worship them but that does not mean we cannot thank them for the battle they fight on our behalf…every single day. However, do not get cocky and think you are better than the angels. Jude 1:9 clearly tells us that we humans dare to speak boldly and foolishly about the unseen world, demons, and angels without having the least bit understanding. Jude reminds us that even Michael, the archangel dared not rebuke Satan directly but called upon the power of the Lord saying, “The Lord rebuke you!” Certainly, there is a relationship that can be had there between humans and angels but only with the understanding that we will not have full understanding until we see Christ return. Until then I think gratitude in the form of prayers offered for the angel armies would be appropriate. I am certain the war has heated up as the entirety of creation is groaning with the wounds it creates.

God Bless you all and thank you for indulging my ramblings.

Artwork original by Samantha(Barto)Thomas titled: Anguish

A Flutter Beyond Time


A small flutter in the corner of your vision you turn to peer at the large willow standing sentry just beyond your window. This aged warrior is your favorite tree in the entire yard, for its root trunk is twisted and bent but it still reached ever upwards to a magnificent height. The webbing of bare branches eases your search for the movement.
Ah, just as you thought, a smile grows upon your countenance. The sparrow has returned busying itself preparing a sturdy home. Fragments of the past year are hurled upwards and outwards in rapid succession. His mate lands on the edge and tucks some fresh material into the framework.
Captivated by this mystical dance of remodeling you move from the pulsating blue-white light, which had held your attention most of the day. Weary eyes watch the pair flitter and flutter in a hurried choreography as green buds emerge and expand until the pair is nearly hidden from view. The caress of the wind billows out the full branches giving you long glimpses of their efforts.
You to continue your vigil not questioning whether time is passing through you or whether it is you who is passing through time.
The female sits upon three eggs. The very next gust of wind reveals three healthy fledglings on the verge of taking their first leap of faith. Large rain drops splatter with determination upon the window as you watch the fierceness of the storm whipping the willow branches into a frenzy obscuring your view of the family. This summer has been full of storms but this one, this night certainly will mark your memory. A blinding flash punctuated by a deafening crack ruthlessly severes a large branch. Flames, desperate for life, lick aggressively at the limb but the deluge smothers their efforts.
How could the sparrows have survived this onslaught? You heart pounds in your ears as you wipe away your frantic breath prints from the pane. The carnage strikes horror in your soul as you scan the debris . Night surrenders to day with strong sun rays making your flesh uncomfortable.
There, a fledgling on the ground, both parents are hopping and dancing encouraging their child to use its wings and get off the ground. You release the breath you were not aware you were holding. It was not created to dwell upon the ground, it should not be there, no…it’s life was meant to be lived in the air. White knuckles grasp tightly to the tweed curtains adorning the pattern of panes serving as your vantage point. Silently, you chant your encouragements to the tiny creature. Flapping its wings reveals a twisted mangled wing. Your heart hits your stomach knowing what the parents do not. A pair of interested eyes studies the situation before pouncing to claim its prize. The parents swoop sharply at the head of the creature but it is too late.
Your eyes travel back to the nest as the oval leaves change from a healthy green to a vibrant yellow. A shower of bright yellow flakes are carried from the branches as if the sun were a piñata and had burst open. The nest is empty, the sparrows on their way south. Ice crystals form at the edge of each pane beginning an elegant journey toward the center until a dense filter obscures the form of the willow until it becomes a shadow of what it once was.
Turning, you catch your reflection seeing your mother’s face staring back. Grey tresses have become your glory and deep lines map the struggles you have endured. You reclaim your seat and are drawn back into the blue-white pulsating light. You find a formal document instead of the term paper you had been working on this morning. The cursor blinks at the end of the phrase, “…of sound mind and body hereto bequeath…”.