Something New

I am trying something new today. And it begins with this blog post. As I was sitting down to read scripture and spend time with the God as I do every morning, I realized something. I was in Romans chapter 12 this morning and with every verse I read thoughts came flooding through my mind like a tidal wave. I found myself getting lost in thought thinking about how each single verse can be applied to so many people, situations, and areas of our lives in so many incredible ways. It actually distracted me from getting very far, in fact I never left chapter 12 in the 2 hours I ended up spending during this time. Then I felt compelled to just start writing. Typically I don’t write things down unless I know the specific reason for writing them. ie: To use to remind me later of something, to use in a teaching at Haven someday, or I feel it will be good to refer back to when someone comes to me for advice on a specific topic. But today didn’t know why I felt compelled to write down my thoughts or who in particular it might be for. So I said, “Okay God. You’ve been stretching me lately to stop putting you in a box and expecting you to always speak to me in the exact same way every day, and thus far you have amazed me in that. Intimate time with You has been especially amazing since I started dedicating my mornings to You so I’ll roll with this.” So I did. I read each verse individually and jotted down all my thoughts then moved onto the next. What I found is that my elbow and wrist hurt from all the thoughts that came flooding into my mind. God speaks to us all in our own unique language. The Holy Spirit helps us apply what we read in the Bible and so, these are my applications. My thoughts, coarse and rugged as they may be, about these scriptures is what I jotted down and to my amazement they already ministered to me personally when I reread what I wrote. Sometimes we just need to hear what we already know. So this “something new” I’m doing is sharing this with you. Love it, hate it, share it, it really doesn’t matter. Even if this is only for me to look back on later and needed to be recorded in such a way that I would be able to find it easily someday, then it carries with it an inherent purpose in my life alone. However if it helps any of you in some way small or great then awesome. To God be the glory.

After each thought you’ll see “vs” and a number in parenthesis. This is referencing the verse I was reading.

November 7, 2013

1. Quit putting God in a box. Let him transform you by changing the way you think. (vs 2)

2. Stop making things about YOU. Stop thinking so highly of yourself! (vs 2)

3. It’s all about what GOD has given you, not what you have accomplished on your own. Remember that. (vs 3)

4. We all have different gifts and talents. We cannot assume that we encompass every single one of them and that others’ gifts are useless to us. We are all of ONE body- different moving parts. We are a team. The WHOLE body of Christ. God is the blood that coarses through the body depositing what He sees fit in the places he feels needs it! Don’t cut off circulation from the rest of the body or you will turn black, fall off and die. (vs 5)

5. Recognize your uniqueness! Don’t try and follow after others’ unique talents, attempting to emulate them and become “better” than them in that area. Do what YOU do amazingly. (vs 6-8)

6. Do you hate it when others are fake to you? Stop “pretending” to love others because it sounds good and gains you favor from man. Be genuine and get your joy from helping other people. Whether it’s paying for someone’s meal at dinner or calling them on the phone to talk because you know they’re going through something. Do that even when you don’t “feel” like it. (vs 9-10)

7. Stop being lazy. Keep your word to someone because we are to do everything as though for the Lord, not man. Would you light heartedly break a commitment with God? That coffee date you made is just as important. Consider it a date with God. Because that person may need God that day and you might be the only one to show Him to them. (vs 11)

8. Be joyful knowing God is planning awesome things for you. If you’re pursuing something, be at rest, not anxiety, that God’s working it out right now. (vs 12)

9. When things pop up you weren’t expecting, be calm. Steady. This is a preparation time God could be using to prepare you for later. He could be preparing you for something so big that you wouldn’t be able to handle it unless you had these small setbacks first to grow your knowledge and strength. (vs 12)

10. If prayer isn’t the first thing on your mind in decision making, stop. Reboot, and make a conscious new commitment and decision to seek God’s will in prayer from now on. (vs 12)

11. Get along with people. Don’t be “touchy” or easily offended. (vs 16)

12. It’s NOT ABOUT YOU! Stop acting like you’re more knowledgeable or more faithful or more in tune with God than everyone else. If you can’t hang around other ordinary people without exalting yourself somehow then you need to check yourself at the door. Be an example but encourage, don’t exalt yourself. This ain’t about you. (vs 14-16)

13. Stop trying to make people “pay” for what they did to you. Who do you think you are? That’s God’s job and his job ONLY. You should always strive for RECONSILIATION. The Bible says “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.” Crave PEACE. (vs 18-19)

14. Gues what? You’re offended by someone? BLESS them. Go out of your way to be kind to them. Help them when they’re in need. Chances are they’ll feel drawn to reconcile with you. Wow. Showing Jesus to people actually works! Learn it. (vs 20)

15. Want to stay mad at someone who offended you? Get over it. Guarantee you’ve offended someone else in the world. Do you really want those awkward “chance” meetings around town with that person whereby you desperately attempt to ignore them all the while trying to seem like you’re going about your life naturally? Then stumble on your words when they approach you? Do you want to hide out in your house all day every day? Because if you hold onto every offense that’s what’ll happen. Satan will find every way to make sure you get offended by EVERYONE. Do YOURSELF a favor…let it go. Seriously. (vs 21)

16. When you’re hurt or mad at someone, go do something good for someone else. Don’t let that anger take root in you. Good overcomes evil. IF it didn’t you wouldn’t get so darn irritated when movies end bad. (vs 21)

That’s all folks. Here’s Romans 12 to read for yourself. There’s only one interpretation of the Bible but there are countless applications. Maybe yours are different and if so, maybe someone else in the world needs to hear them. God bless!

ROMANS 12
A Living Sacrifice to God

12 And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.[b] 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

3 Because of the privilege and authority[c] God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.[d] 4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection,[e] and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.[f] 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”[g]
says the Lord.

20 Instead,

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”[h]

21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Wash Over Me

There are times of immense confidence where I feel so sure of where I’m at. Sure of who God is, how he’s working, and sure of my understanding of life as whole from what I have learned thus far. Then there are times when it hits me. Times when I fall completely void of any and all confidence I once held with one remaining realization; that I, indeed, know nothing. However the pursuit of this lost treasure, this confidence, far outweighs the option of remaining in that place of despair and self pity derived from apparent misconception. For remaining paralyzed is to rot and die. But to seek a deeper truth is life abounding. This Christianity gig is tough but worth every second. So I lay back, toes in the sand and await the waves of mercy and grace to engulf me; clearing my mind of all anxiety and thought. Your love is like an ocean washing over me.

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The Problem with being “Strong”…

The problem with being strong is that all too often others assume you will always be that way; strong. They neglect the fact that you too, need rest and comfort. Being strong doesn’t take away the need to feel needed or loved. It doesn’t mean feelings can’t be hurt or that their legs don’t get weak from time to time and need someone else to lean on every once in a while. Though strength of the mind may brush off insults and erratic behavior from others, it still craves that comforting hug when one of those insults sneaks through the walls put in place. Being strong isn’t always the rainbow facebook memes project. Being strong means being taken for granted. Being strong means being a pillar to those around you and then crawling to safety yourself when your own efforts fail you. But here’s the thing about those who are strong willed, strong minded and perhaps a little coarse and abrasive due to life’s hailstorms… they need to be lifted up too but they’ll never ask for it. Call it pride or whatever else, but that’s not where it comes from. It comes from a place of always having to do things on their own that they feel like a burden to ask for anything. I think I know many who can relate to this. So I won’t make this post long, but take a minute to think of those strong individuals that may surround you and step out and simply just ask if they’re okay. Or if they’d like to talk about anything that may be burdening them. Even a nice gesture goes longer than you’d ever imagine. I once had a customer about 7 or 8 years ago bring me a gift when I was still manager at the Buckle. I was always the one to help her though she didn’t talk much but she always seemed to want me to help her. I was always happy to see her familiar face come in. One day she came up to check out and pulled out a keychain of an angel made out of beautiful glass beads. She said, “I made this for you, it’s an angel because that’s what you’ve been to me every time I come in.” A woman I thought didn’t even really like me because of her demeanor thought enough about me to make me that. I still have it and have never forgotten the way I felt that day. Little did she know I was dealing with a lot of heavy stuff in my life at that time and her gift was the ray of sunshine I had been praying for. It still remains the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever been given because she helped me see my worth through another’s eyes. Some tears were shed that day in my office after she left.
So don’t take those in your life who seemingly have it all together for granted. Because behind that front is a person who also needs lifting up despite the strength they seem to emit and they’re too conditioned to be alone to ask for it.
Love on someone today that you don’t think needs it, you may be amazed to find you are the very ray of light they were praying for.

Thirst.

Dear Lord,
I see you working. My perspectives keep shifting and I continuously find myself in awe of new lessons you bring before me. Lessons when phrases and words of wisdom shared with me years ago are brought back to my mind and suddenly make sense to me. I’m beginning to see just how much a piece of work I really am. Like, a real fixer upper. But at the same time I am also starting to gain bits of your view. You see my potential. Though I’m rugged and worn, you hold in your power every tool needed to restore me. Correct me if I’m wrong Lord, but what I’ve been getting from you lately is that nothing; literally nothing matters without your presence. I can’t be, in my own power and might, what the Bible says I should strive to be. I’m not sure why it took me so long to understand, but we’re not meant to do this alone. I finally realize you didn’t hand us down a book of rules and regulations and say “get to it, I’ll be waiting at the finish line.” No, you want so much more. You long for us to plug into you; heart and soul. In a world that I feel has conditioned me to be independent, it has taken me this long to finally understand how to be fully dependent…on you. It has been like yanking a pacifier from a toddler’s grip and unfortunately you’ve had to deal with my screeching wails of discontentment. My apologies sincerely. For years I have whined and complained and been frustrated at you each and every time you try and take the wheel. Control. That is my weakness. The desire to always be in the driver’s seat calling the shots and pointing the way. These last few months though have been so hard yet encouraging. Through the pain I’ve felt, you’ve begun a new work in me. One by one you’ve been breaking down my walls and miraculously I’ve been craving more. I feel my feet are on fire and my soul is bursting. Give me more of you God, I want your presence always. I cling to the story of Moses who said, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” I don’t want to be where you’re not! I have found I can’t stand it. Whether I’m painting, teaching, advising, taking photos, singing in worship, or witnessing, the fact remains that none of it can be done in mighty ways without your very power and presence! My hunger for you is growing Lord, and I want more of you. I want to hang on every word, every desire you place in my heart. I want to live up to the potential you see in me. I know you love me deeply right now, the way that I am, but I want to go above and beyond that just to see another smile from you. I want to live for that smile from Heaven. Teach me how God, teach me how. Please create in me God, a thirst like no other. Reckless abandon. Take me there. This is my letter to you Lord, and all I have is yours. Every last bit of it.

Suicide. The answer He gave to the question I didn’t ask.

Today is kind of a bittersweet day. 6 years ago my cousin Phil took his own life at the age of 19. And for a week after I couldn’t cry and didn’t know why. It wasn’t until I asked God a simple question that I got an astounding answer. The tears poured out like a broken dam or levy yet my heart was given peace. If you’re wondering what that question was, we’ll get to that.
He was Catholic and I know their stance on the subject but attending a Pentecostal church I didn’t really know where I personally stood on this topic. I guess a part of me never thought it was important because, let’s be honest, I didn’t plan on taking my own life nor did I see anyone in my family or friend circles that I thought were capable of such a thing. I thought that if it doesn’t affect my own salvation or interfere with my belief that I was saved and heading to Heaven, that it wasn’t important for me to know. A juvenile and apathetic outlook to say the least. But in one phone call my life was forever changed. The lives of my family were deeply burdened as we all had to make sense of what had happened. I think the biggest roadblock to us all were the “why’s.” Why did he do it? Didn’t he understand how much it would hurt? And anger. Angry that he couldn’t see the mess he created. Then sadness came…at least for everyone else it did. Me, I couldn’t even shed a single tear. I felt like the cold, heartless, black sheep at the funeral that was seemingly unaffected by it all. I didn’t understand it and even attempted to force my own tears. After many failed attempts the only conclusion I was able to come up with was that I never would have made it in Hollywood. Crying on purpose really is hard and aside from the emotional storm I was in the middle of, I had a little more respect for actors and actresses.
Typically I’m a pretty emotional person when it comes to hurting circumstances. I posses, what I call, an over abundance of compassion and empathy that sometimes leaves me feeling like a blubbering fool. Perhaps that is why God chose to answer me in this way. This is something I wouldn’t have missed. My lack of emotion was startling to me. So where did this leave me? Did I not love him enough? Was he not important enough to me to feel pain for his loss? It left me with questions, but one in particular.

During a brief moment of alone time I asked God this: “God why can’t I cry?!” The strange thing is that it wasn’t really the question in my heart but I didn’t know that until later. This was the question before the question… Still following? I thought my biggest concern was the fact that I couldn’t physically mourn the death of a family member. And furthermore perhaps even slight embarrassment knowing my family might have thought any number of things about me because of it. Shallow, I know…
So I asked that question and to no surprise my ceiling didn’t answer back to me. I suppose I had God in a pretty small box because I don’t think I really expected an answer. (In Christian lingo that means I lacked faith) As I laid my head down that night I had no idea what lie ahead for me.

I remember it being 4 in the morning. I never woke up randomly during nights so this was exceptionally odd to begin with. But I didn’t just wake up, I woke up in what felt like the most real, tangible, incredible dream I had ever encountered. To even try and describe it would be impossible and an insult to its true beauty. To this day I’ve never seen and felt a dream like it ever again. It remains burned in my memory in such a way that it is as vivid as the night I saw it. God made no mistake in making it obvious that He wanted to show me something important.

The dream started with me looking upon the shadow of a figure on a throne and my cousin Phillip on a throne-like chair beside him. In the distance in front of them was a see of forest. Trees. Trees everywhere. It was as if we were really high up looking down on the rolling hills of creation. There was enough distance between the chairs that I was able to see and listen in on their interaction and conversation. Phillip seemed so thrilled to be where he was. That part confused me immediately as I was fully aware of the current real-life event that took place while in this dream. My gaze became very focused on what was happening between them. Then I realized that the figure in the throne was the Lord as he leaned over and softly said something to Phillip. While he did that I saw Him extend a giant paint pallet out towards Phillip. Philip then pointed at some globs of red and orange paint then motioned and pointed at the forest in front of them and said “That one!”. When he did, the dark green trees exploded into the color he had picked. With each color he picked he became more and more exuberant; much like a small child. Over and over and over again he pointed to globs of color and painted the landscape of God’s creation in beautiful hues of red and oranges. The artist side in me began to swell with joy as I understood that aspect of exuberance; I had felt it many times before when I was pleased with something I was creating. Then in a second that vision was gone. But a new one took its place. The only way I can describe this one was that it looked like a movie clip of a time in my life that had really happened. We were kids, playing in Grandma’s front screened-in porch. Me, Michelle, and Phillip. I must have been about 11 or 12 and Phillip was just young enough to be an annoyance to me and Michelle but old enough to keep up with us. On the floor thinking up our next adventure, we talked about our favorite colors. Michelle told hers, I shared mine and in an excited voice much like the one he had in the previous vision declared, “Red is MY favorite color!” Then it was gone.

My eyes shot wide open. I laid there, frozen in bed unable to move for fear I’d lose the memory of what had just happened before I had the chance to figure it out. I must have laid there for 20 minutes until finally I felt the wetness of tears soaking my cheeks and the pillow beneath my head. I couldn’t stop them they just kept coming like a waterfall that had finally found the cliff. I sat up in an attempt to get myself together and cause myself to think clearly again. But I couldn’t shake it. It wasn’t like a typical dream where after a few minutes you begin to realize it was a dream and that your subconscious had succumbed to the emotion of the it during your slumber. No, it wasn’t anything like that. This was more real than the nose on my face. After I sat up I heard a voice softly say to me, “get up.” I got up and wondered around the house at first wondering why I was to be “up.” Then I was reminded of my journal. It was like my body already knew what to do without my mind having to tell it to do so. I sat down and described my dream on paper so not to forget it. For 2 days after I was like a zombie. I couldn’t stop thinking about that dream no matter how hard I tried. Why did I have it? What did it mean? The one thing I never asked was if it was real. That part I knew to be so with every fiber of my being.

On the 3rd day Zak (the guy I was dating at the time) and I had plans to visit his family’s cabin up north. It was going to be my first time visiting there and I was a little disappointed that my excitement had been replaced with a sort of melancholy. Once there, Zak showed me around the land. While he was preoccupied with something else I saw a pathway and felt compelled to follow it into the woods. Probably not a wise decision on my part being that there were talks of bears in the area just before. But I followed the low-lying brush until I saw it. I was blinded by sun rays that shot through an opening in the tree leaves and it stopped me dead in my tracks. When my eyes refocused I saw it, the most beautiful tree. All the trees around me were green but as I looked up colors of red and orange shined bright before me! This one, lonely, tree-so full of vibrant color. The tears poured down my face as the answer to what my dream was about hit me. Phillip.
Like someone had hit the rewind button on a VHS tape and then played it in fast forward stopping only to play that clip of Phillip proclaiming his favorite color. Then it repeated that small clip over and over.
“My favorite color is red!”
“My favorite color is red!”
“My favorite color is red!”

It was him. Phillip painted that tree.

It was then that I realized the true question that was buried deep within the shallow walls of my heart. The question I didn’t realize I needed to know. The question that kept me from mourning such a tragic disaster. The question wasn’t “why couldn’t I cry.” The real question was, “Is Phillip in Heaven?”

The answer I thought I would never need became the very thing I couldn’t get past. I couldn’t mourn because I didn’t know if I needed to. If he were in hell I’d have much reason to mourn. But if he were in Heaven then I should be jealous. Not knowing made me numb. Catholicism says you’re damned yet I heard through family that he had been pursuing the Lord more in his last days and was even ensuring that his little brother got up and dressed for church every Sunday even when he didn’t want to go with him. Phillip was adamant about his little brother going and something inside of me suspected that Phil had recently given his heart to Christ. I was stuck in mid-air like a see-saw waiting to be tipped up or down. God tipped the scale. God more than answered my question of why I couldn’t cry, he answered the question in my heart of where was Phil? Phillip was with the Lord and I believe that him picking out the colors of the fall leaves was no mere visual God used. I believe that really happened and that God gave me just a small and very tiny glimpse into the joy and love God shows and feels for us. When a mother or father sees their child take their first step or ride a bike the for the first time without falling the most joyful pride comes over them. I’ve been told its unexplainable. God didn’t just give me an answer as to where Phillip was for eternity, he also gave me a glimpse of how much he loves me. He loved me enough to end my pain and agony over not knowing. He loved me enough to show me himself as a loving, caring, parent, not only a mighty God upon a throne. He loved me enough to give me this amazing dream that I’ll forever remember and be able to remain in peace about this situation. He loved me enough to push me to find answers to things I do not know of Him; and through that searching I’ll find that God is more loving than I ever made him out to be. He taught me to seek Him. And most of all, he showed me how he pursues his children in such a way that they might show love back to Him.

So when I say that today is a bittersweet day, it is bitter because of the loss my heart feels for Phillip in remembering the anniversary of his death. Yet it is sweet because of the amazing love God showed to me through this tragic situation and the things I learned from it. This event catapulted my passion for Him. I am forever changed and God has more than proven that even the worst of times can be turned into good for those who love Him. He’s shown me that He pays no mind to the outward, wordly perspective, but instead is a God who searches hearts. And if Phillip is in Heaven, then that means only one thing could have happened… Phillip gave his life to the Lord before he passed. Though sad and sinful as the act was, the act of taking his own life didn’t take away his salvation and had he not given his life to Christ prior, then with it would have come the severest of consequences. So I praise God for pursuing Phillip so that he could know Him before his passing and I curse the devil that preys on those who are depressed and tells them the lie that they are worthless! And today I pray against it. I pray that those who feel there is no hope will come to see how special they are in God’s eyes and turn from the lies of Satan. God is hope. He is the only hope. Without Him this world is too much. Give the Lord your burdens and let not your life be snuffed out. Through his lies Satan may have snuffed out Phillip’s potential here on earth but praise be to God that he will be living eternity in paradise.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
-Luke 12:6

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Purpose in the pain

Moving on is hard to do. It doesn’t matter what facet of life it pertains to, there is always some heartache that ensues when the time comes to make that decision. Change is hard too. We slouch down in our comfy compartmentalized chairs of life and decide in our minds that it should always just be this way. Frustration comes when that doesn’t happen. The elaborate plans we had laid out take a turn in the opposite direction leaving us feeling as though we have no control over anything. But what I’ve learned as I sit here pondering life; staring at that little blinking cursor on my screen is that change is a good thing. And if it starts out as a bad thing, it almost always has a good lesson to be learned out of it in the end.

For those of you who have been following my blog lately and have been tortured with my melancholy writings on how I’ve been dealing with our church split, this is me emerging out of the storm and starting my journey back up the mountain. As I look back at the day I realized my beloved pastoral family was leaving me and moving back to Arkansas, I recall deep sadness and pain. But mostly denial. Denial that they’d actually go through with moving and a (now) humorous belief that God would somehow make a way for them to stay. Every scenario ran through my head. But in the end, to my dismay, they left. I spent time being sad, mourning the loss of a family that was just that to me; family. Then sadness turned to anger towards anyone I felt was responsible, that’s when I realized forgiveness was in order. Once that took place and the fog began to clear I was left with a sort of empty feeling. A feeling of “now what?” I have this void but I’m not sure how to fill it. Yet I have felt peace about them leaving…strange right? That got me to thinking, how was I able to let them go so fast? Though I don’t know how that void will be filled, how was I able to come to that place of peace so easily while others around me still mourned? My first answer to myself was that it was because I have had a lot of people leave me in life as well as I’ve had to leave a lot of people. In my mind you don’t know sadness until you’ve been a young child and have had to watch your mother or father fade into the background as you journey on to a 12 hour drive knowing you wouldn’t see them again for what seemed like eternity every year or until the love of your life walks away from you leaving your dreams in a broken pile at your feet. Then there’s the time when a family member takes their own life early on in their years. Perhaps I have become calloused to goodbyes or is it emotional pain in general? Either way, I noticed my healing time was rather quick compared to those around me.
My second thought was that through the pain and heartache that I’ve had to endure in life, I’ve learned that change in inevitable and that dwelling on it can be crippling. As a person that needs control of things in my life, change comes pretty harshly. But it always still comes. In a strange way, my pain has made me strong in this area. I’ve been tossed around, beat up, and the figurative rug pulled right out from under me so many times that I’ve just simply learned to stand back up and go a different way. Uncanny how life can grow you without your knowing. How God can take your pasts and turn them for good simply because you trust him to and love him. Change happens. How we respond to change is what determines how long we remain in a place of mourning and depression. I don’t know about you but get tired of being sad. I’ve been sad for too long in my life. I get tired of depressing thoughts and destructive self pity. Both of which I am highly prone to. And since Christ is in my life there really is no point in remaining that way for longer than necessary. Christ is what hope is. The hope that better days await. That someday the painful things of this world will no longer be.

The challenge to being uniquely calloused to certain kinds of pain is that others need comfort. That’s hard to give when you have a “get up and dust yourself off and just move forward” type mindset yourself. Not to mention southern roots where tough love is the norm. You find yourself wondering why others don’t just simply brush off the pain, accept that it happened and that nothing can change it and just move on. It’s easy to forget the turmoil you trudged through to get to that place of mind. The journey it required for your heart to understand. This wasn’t something I learned overnight. It required many nights on my knees in prayer and pillows full of tears to see that change thrusts you forward whether your ready for it or not; you just have to hold on to the saddle and ride it out. Change has to happen for life to move on. It’s imperative to your growth. Without these hardships we become complacent and lazy and eventually even prideful. Though the process by which some change happens is undesirable and to some degrees avoidable, when it does come in that way God is there to help us pick up the broken pieces of our hearts and he knits them back together in such a way that you can use your pain for the good of others. That is, if you’re sensitive enough to recognize when someone is embarking on a familiar pain field.

We go through pain, God comforts us, then we in turn are able to comfort others. If we choose to. We can wallow in our self pity of the blows life gives us or we can push through it and allow God to work through us in someone else’s life because we endured, came through, and were able to comfort someone else dealing with the same pain.
2 Corinthians 1:4 says: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
Suffering brings pain, time then brings healing. Upon healing you gain new perspective. That perspective grows your heart towards others fighting the same battle. Do you get it? Our suffering helps us love people better. Does a woman who has endured a rape not have a heart that bleeds and aches for the next young girl that falls victim? Does a divorcee not empathize with a friend that finds themselves in the very same place? Enduring your pain has purpose. That purpose is to help you love others into healing.
So next time change and heartache strike in your life, whether you’re a believer in Christ or not, allow for hope knowing that your suffering will help someone in dire need. Decide to endure and push through it as opposed to giving up. Don’t let your pain be in vain. Choose joy in your life, and if you want joy abounding, choose Christ.

So where does that leave me in regards to my oddly swift rebound time? In a humble place of learning to comfort others while they push through. Learning to encourage as a coach does when their runners are about to cross the finish line. I’m left with the challenge of digging deep into the past of my healings to unbury the memories of how it felt to be there in order to empathize with those still attempting to heal. It’s about learning how to give instead of always taking. It leaves me with a goal.

“Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.” -2 Corinthians 1:6-7

Sweet Forgiveness

Wow. Never in a million years did I think I’d come to this point. For those of you who have kept up with my blogs lately, you can see that I’ve been hurting in many ways. Ryan and I have been dealt a huge blow at our church. A church split is never easy and seldom a time when we think of God’s forgiveness of our own failings. I’ve had a lot happen this past week. I am not going to go into detail about them but they have all led me to one thing. Today God really made something apparent to me. I was bitter. Yes! Yes me! I was bitter! I stopped going to my church and had convinced myself that being away from it all had helped me get rid of my anger. But oh man was that far from the truth. I still couldn’t hear any of the board member’s names without cringing like someone just scratched their nails down a chalkboard or rubbed two pieces of Styrofoam together. Now that I’m sure some of you just cringed at even the description of that, you can kind of get what I’m talking about.

Today I stood in the same room with one of the people I’ve personally held responsible for this whole thing….without cringing. This doesn’t seem like much to most but it was everything to me. As I watched this person walk over and sit down at a desk I saw the pain on his face. He knew I wasn’t “on his side” so to speak. He walked by me humbly and elected not even to say hi to me most likely because he knew it wouldn’t be taken well. To me, there’s humility in that. As I studied him for just a short time, God really showed me what I was really looking at. It wasn’t an evil man, it wasn’t satan, it wasn’t a demon possessed man. He was a human. A sinful by nature, human, that God still loves. And here I have been hating God’s creation. All at once my own sin smacked me in my face. Who am I? Has God called us to hate and feel bitterness towards others? NO! He called us to LOVE others! In Romans 12:9-10 it says: “Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of good. Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.” My favorite testament to what loving others is in Acts 4:32: “All believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great favor was upon them all. There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.” People sold their LAND to help people! I don’t know about you but I’d have a hard time selling our house and land just to give to someone else! But that’s how much they loved each other in the early church. It still places me in a sense of awe every time I read that scripture. And what did God do with that group of people just loving on each other every chance they got? He added to them by the thousands. Love, love, love. Something you can’t feel when you harbor bitterness and forgiveness. A lesson I learned the hard way today. Every attempt I make at loving someone is hindered by any bitterness I have in my heart even if it’s not towards the person I’m trying to show love to. Forgiveness. Sweet forgiveness is what we do not because someone else needs it, but in fact it is us that needs it. God cannot work in our hearts when we hold on to things He’s told us to let go of. It’s not easy but today God let me have just a glimpse of how he sees us. A hurting people. We are all just hurting people needing love. How many mountains of bitterness could be removed if we simply went up to the person that’s hurt us and said, “I forgive you.” It is in that crucial moment that God is able to work his best miracles. The hardest of hearts are softened and healing begins. This is the lesson I learned today. And I had one thing left to do after I left that office, and that was to let this person know that I forgive them. Today I feel a burden lifted off of me. A weight that has had me down for way too long. God, thank you for showing me the error of my own ways. Thank you for helping me to see this person as a person you love rather than someone who devastated my life. Thank you for your sufficient grace and love that covers me when I, too, make mistakes. Please let the words of forgiveness I gave to this person begin a healing not only in my heart but also in his. Thank you. Just thank you.

“You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” Colossians 3:13-15
“No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” Philippians 3:13-14