I Choose to Pray

My friends and family sometimes laugh because at any given moment, I typically have no idea what is happening around me, as far as current news is concerned. You won’t find a news station playing on my television, and when there’s controversy and negativity in my news feed, I keep scrolling. I’m not choosing to be ignorant, or trying to be selfish. I’m choosing to believe that in spite of the thousands of things trying to convince us otherwise, I still believe there is beauty in this world. I’m choosing to pray.

I believe that for every day of darkness, there is a sliver of sunshine peeking through. I believe that for every heartache we experience, there is laughter waiting around the corner. I believe that for every mountain we face, there is a God who is greater than it all and who loves me beyond anything I could ever imagine. And he wants to love you too, all you have to do is say yes.

I could write another post about seeing the good in people, or I could talk about pushing the darkness away. But sometimes there is no better way to hear something then through a song. And this happens to be one of my favorites. It spoke to my heart this week and I hope it does yours as well. It’s a beautiful world we live in folks, we just have to remember that and continue to pray for it.

Beautiful World

All the noise and the voices are screamin’
What they have to say
And the headlines and sound bytes are givin’ me
Demons to hate
And the man on TV
He tells me it’s ugly
But if you ask me
It’s a beautiful world
It’s a beautiful world
There’s tears and there’s fears and there’s losses and crosses to bear
And sometimes the best we can do is just to whisper a prayer
And press on because
There’s so much to live for and so much to love
In this beautiful world
Say what you will but I still believe
It’s a beautiful world
It’s a beautiful world
And I know (I know)
I’m not dreamin’
I just choose (choose) to believe it
So I hate that I sometimes miss what’s right in front of my eyes, oh
And I know at the end of my road I’ll be wantin’ more time
Just another sunset
One more kiss from my baby
A smile from a friend
In this beatiful world
It’s a beautiful world
Yeah, it’s a beautiful world
Say what you will, but I still believe
It’s a beautiful world
Yeah, it’s a beautiful world
Oh, it’s a beautiful world

Songwriters: Brett Beavers / Dierks Bentley / James M Beavers
Beautiful World lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.
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Sinking Sand

I wasn’t sure what there would be left to say today. These last two weeks have left me feeling emotionally drained, numb even. Some days it still feels like a dream, like I’m watching it happen to someone else. And other days, the heartache is a raw, nagging pull that leaves me looking for a piece of daddy anywhere I can find it. Some of the hardest moments are those where my mind has tricked itself into forgetting, until a memory, a smell, or something that reminds me of him brings my conscience slamming back to reality.

Grief can teach you a lot about yourself. It is not until your heart and soul experiences overwhelming grief that you realize just how powerful of an emotion it is. If you let it, it can wreck your existence and leave you feeling empty and neglected. If you spend your days dancing around the edge of its cliff, pretending it’s not there, you will eventually suffer a misstep that sends you flailing into the very pits of its darkness. And if you fight back? You’ll win, for a bit. But your energy will dwindle and when you are at your most vulnerable layer, it will strike with a vengeance.

So how do you cope?  This post isn’t a message to those mourning, telling you that you’ll be defeated by your grief. It’s not a post to say that it never gets better and you’ll spend the rest of your days plagued with sadness. I am writing it to tell you that grief is something that you cannot manage by yourself, something that we as human beings do not have the strength alone to handle it. It isn’t something you can just push aside for another day, hoping that time will take the sting out or knock the edge off. It’s sinking sand, and the only way to survive is to keep your head above the sand.

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

For me, that wood plank that I am teetering on is made up of grains that represent my relationship and faith in our Lord and Savior, and the love and prayers of the people in my life. I can’t imagine anything more humbling than what I have experienced over the past few weeks, and throughout this journey from those that care about me. The unwavering support, concern, and love has lifted my head off my pillow on the days that I just wanted to give up. It has given me strength to stand on days my feet failed me. And it has held my hand while my Lord and Savior has carried me through these past few weeks.

I was taught to pray at a very young age. I attended Sunday school, church, vacation bible school, all of which helped ingrain in me a knee jerk reaction to pray in times of strife, and in times of need. Over the years, I have grown in my relationship with Jesus and every day we talk. Sure its praying, but I have evolved to a place in my heart where I talk to God about my worries, my fears, my pain and it’s a place of comfort for me there in conversation with him. But what I now realize is that I have never quite grasped the power of other people’s prayers until these past few weeks. But believe me when I say that I felt every single prayer that was uttered on behalf of daddy, me, and all my family. Those prayers, on their way up the heavens, reached out and touched my heart as they passed by. They provided protection from the grief, a cushion to soften the blow. They were a blast of strength when I needed it most, even if I had no idea where it came from at the time. Coupled with the love that so many people have shown us, it is so humbling to consider the effect that the support of friends, family, and those who loved daddy have had on my life.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14

So today, I say thank you to anyone that has prayed for us. For those prayer warriors who have spent hours on their knees praying for God to comfort us. For those who included us on their church’s prayer list and asked complete strangers to pray for our family, and in turn those strangers who felt compelled to prayer on behalf of us. And for those who just simply whispered a prayer when they heard the news. I truly felt every single word you uttered. I could never find the words to say thank you enough.

Sometimes it is hard to find the flower for the weeds, but if anything has come from the loss of daddy, I pray that his life was a testimony to those who may not have the love of Christ in their hearts. I hope the faith and humility with which he paved his journey with cancer speaks to each and every person whose path he crossed. And I truly think it has. I don’t know why God has laid this on my heart, but I can’t help but wonder if maybe for some of those folks who have been praying for us, this is the first time they have talked to God in a while. Maybe they felt so strongly about helping us, that they realized the Lord is there when there is nowhere else to turn, and nothing left you can do. And so now it’s my turn, to pray for all of you.

“I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.” Psalm 17:6

I pray that God continues to touch your soul in a way that only he can do. I pray that if there is anyone out there questioning if they prayed enough, or said the right things, that you know without uncertainty that your prayers worked. For it wasn’t the end result that you were praying for, it was the comfort as God’s will for daddy’s life unfolded exactly in the fashion that he had written for him before he was even born. I pray for comfort for you, as you mourn the loss of a great man in your life, as well as in mine. For I know the impact he had on those he met was great, and that you are grieving with me. But most importantly, I pray a prayer of thanks to the gracious Heavenly Father, who has seen enough favor in me to bless me with each and every one of you. From the bottom of my heart, I love and am thankful for you every single day.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,” Ephesians 1:18

I Will Praise You in This Storm.

As I write, I am sitting on the couch, in the darkness, watching dad sleep. It’s quiet here, no sounds of cars passing, only deafening silence. The silence is almost comforting, even dad seems at peace right now. But as if boasting the very definition of irony, it is here in the quiet that a storm is brewing ever so slightly beneath the surface of my heart and it is here in the darkness that I let the tears fall.

My heart breaks as I watch my dad void of strength and search for a way to find some myself; any shred of courage I can muster up for the days to come. But as the dark clouds swirl overhead, waves of grief fill my soul. There is nothing in life that can prepare you for the ache in your heart that watching a loved one suffer from such a thing as cancer can bring, and I can honestly say this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. But as I let the sadness churn inside of me, I know without a doubt that God is filling my heart and mind with light and love. It is only by his grace that I know I will be strong.

All day I have had these words swirling around in my head, “I will praise you in this storm.” And it was only after I had stared at my homework for the past 10 minutes without making any inclination to actually move my mouse that I felt a tug at my heart to post. It isn’t Monday, I should be sleeping, but my heart is calling me to put onto paper exactly what I am feeling. And yet those words have already been written, by someone far more qualified than I am to attempt to glorify the wonderful Savior we serve. And so at 1:15 am on a Monday night, I post these words. May they comfort you if you are hurting, guide you if you are searching, and strengthen you if you are failing.

How my heart clings to every, single word of this song.

I was sure by now, God you would have reached down
And wiped our tears away,
Stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
That it’s still raining
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear your whisper through the rain
I’m with you
And as your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
The God who gives and takes away
And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm
I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone how can I carry on
If I can’t find you
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear you whisper through the rain
I’m with you
And as your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
The God who gives and takes away
And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm
I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth

 

And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm

And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm

 

Written by John Mark Hall, Bernie Herms • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Capitol Christian Music Group, performed by Casting Crowns

The Tapestry We Weave.

If you had to write down your five favorite memories, what would they be? More importantly, who would be in them? Every day amidst the storm that is dad’s cancer, I am learning more and more how truly important the people and blessings in life are. But when the woes of the world are weighing on you, it is sometimes easy to forget how truly blessed you are. I love to stumble across small mementos of the laughs and smiles of days gone by, and I cling to the memories we are making now. With the technology available to us, and the camera we keep tucked away in our pocket at all times, perhaps today more than ever we are able to capture moments that we cherish and hold them close to our heart, both physically and emotionally.

But why does it seem that every time the darkness and ugliness of life threatens to darken our door step do those moments seem so far away?

The truth is, next to God and his love for us, the relationships we build in this life are the closest things we will find to treasures on this earth. And God called us to to find those treasures and cherish them.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14

We see over and over in Psalms and Proverbs instructions on the type of people to yoke ourselves to. God calls us to find those that can hold us up when we stumble, who can help us in our times of needs, and love us always. I can’t even put into words the amazing people who have graced my life. I have some of the best friends I could ever hope to have, including those I grew up with, met in school, or those who I have struck a friendship up with as I have gotten older. But perhaps what is the most stellar thing of all, is the impact that every single person I have encountered in my twenty-six years has had on me and my path.

A dear friend once described it to me as a quilt and how each person and experience we have with them is like a thread that is being woven into this wonderful tapestry that we call life. It’s a beautiful picture to paint, thinking of each person I have had the opportunity to know and make memories with, and what color thread they would be. Of course there are those thick stitches, the very fruit of your existence like your parents, siblings and immediate family. But as you branch out from that dominating pattern, you see these smaller threads start to take shape. Friends you met in school, past relationships, co-workers, mentors. Their vibrant colors bring life to the quilt. But even those occurrences and encounters that left you feeling a little broken, they are there too. Maybe they are a bit darker thread, maybe a little tattered. But all the same, they still are a very important part of your story.

There are so many amazing accounts of relationships and friendships in the Bible, but perhaps one of my favorite ones can be found in the book of Ruth. I invite you to turn to the brief book and read the story of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi is a woman who suffers great loss in her life, she has to bury both her husband and two sons. She is also living in a time of great famine. But what we see is a beautiful relationship develop for her from an unlikely place. See, after Naomi’s sons had died, her and her two daughters-in-law set out to return to the land of Judah, as God was providing for his people there during this time. But Naomi told her daughters-in-law to return to their home land, praying for kindness and a good life for them, as they had shown her sons. But both women wept when they were told to leave her and told her they would travel with her. But Naomi insisted that they return to their own homes, that the Lord’s hand had turned against her and all that was left was a life of bitterness for her. She wanted more for her daughters-in-law.

So one of the women finally said goodbye and started her journey home, but Ruth, the other daughter-in-law, refused. She clung to Naomi and uttered one of the most prominent verses in the Bible…

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me,” Ruth 1:16-17

Take a moment and reread that verse. What a powerful testament of dedication and loyalty from a person who wasn’t even a blood relative to Naomi. But her devotion to her friend did not stop there, Ruth even went on to provide for Naomi, who eventually called herself Mara, by gleaning behind the harvesters in the field. But what happens next is part of the magic of this book that warms my heart to the very core, from Ruth’s kindness to Naomi, she receives kindness herself. Boaz, the owner of the field that Ruth visits, reaches out to Ruth, offering her water to drink and a place with the women who work for him.

While humbled, Ruth wonders why she has found favor with Boaz, for as a foreigner in this time, it was uncommon. But what Boaz tells her is what makes this lesson all the worthwhile; he tells her that he has heard about the kindness Ruth has shown Naomi, how she left her parents and homeland to come to a foreign land to take care of her mother-in-law when she had no one else. I read this and I smile because it truly speaks to the kind of life we all should strive to live, and how kindness is always repaid, perhaps when you need it most.

As you continue your journey through Ruth, you will see how the story only gets better and ends with what we would call a happy ending. But above all else, it is the friendship between Naomi and Ruth that truly tells a story.

I encourage you, no matter what season of life you may be in, to remember those who mean the most. Cherish every second you have with the ones you care about and hold them close to your heart. Train your eyes to seek goodness in every person you meet, and be cognitive of how every single experience in your day, good or bad, is shaping your life. Things you brush off as just another encounter, those moments that seem so small, one day will come full circle and make more sense than you ever thought possible.

And those people in your life, they are weaving threads that will bind you to who you are for the rest of your days. Those lessons your dad teaches you, that will be your guiding light. The fight you had with your best friend, how you overcome will teach you things about yourself that will bond you to them for life. And even those times that it feels like your heart is breaking, those moments when it feels like your world is slipping away, those too are melting a color into your tapestry that will complete the scene one of these days.

Trust me, I know its hard to see now, but every single day of your life is coloring a world for you that you have yet to fathom. And every person that is in your life, is there for a reason. Open your eyes to the blessings you have and cling to them, they are your treasures here on Earth.

In Loving Memory…

Death hurts. Not for those who pass on, but for those of us who are left here picking up the pieces of a shattered heart, trying to figure out how to move on. This week I sat beside one of my very best friends with tears streaming down my face, trying to find the words to say to comfort her as she laid to rest one of the most important people in her life.

But sometimes there aren’t words. Sometimes there is a just a feeling of loss and despair that you can only acknowledge and offer a shoulder to cry on. I remember when I got the text message of the news, I was at work and completely shocked. I stood over the phone where I expected to see just another notification from my favorite store and instead read one of the most heartbreaking text messages I have received in my 26 years.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

If you had told me ten years ago as a high school junior that she and I would be facing the things in life that we are now, I would have chosen not to believe it. I would turned my head and pretended that such heartbreak didn’t exist and that the worst thing we would ever experience would be the woes of teenage love. Yet here we are, saying goodbye to people we love, along with so many of our friends. And had we known, what would we have done? Would we have lived our lives differently? My heart clings to the fact that our Lord and Savior knew our teenage hearts , and he knew what was ahead for us and he let us live our innocent lives, all the time preparing our hearts for what would come. Because what I would have believed had you told me this ten years ago, is that we would be here for each other through all the hardships in our lives. And what I know now is that God is our Savior, our ever-present help in times of need. And it is only through his love and salvation that we can lay our head down at night.

Wednesday I wanted to cry, I wanted to sit down right there in the middle of the floor and break down. But I didn’t, I sat my phone down, I took a deep breath and I walked away. But as I did, I started praying for my friend, for her family, for their loss, and for their comfort. I started praying for strength to help her through this, and grace to handle it in the way God would have me handle it. And I ate a little more ice cream that day, because the world just seems a little easier to handle when you have ice cream in your belly.

People always say that time heals, but maybe it doesn’t. Maybe each day that we live past the hole left in our hearts from loss, especially a daddy-shaped hole, we learn that we can still wake up everyday, put one foot in front of the other, and make the most of what we do have. The Lord gives us an amazing strength when we need it most, it is the love of God that holds us up during times of grief. And I saw that in full force at the funeral home as I saw the strength with which my second family carried themselves through one of the hardest days of their lives. And I know that it is only for the love of God that they were able to do that.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Mourning is something that there is no recipe for making it easier. There is not material things, or vice that will allow us to move on faster or easier. It’s an ugly process but we have the Creator of Heaven and Earth to lean on during those times. He can’t take the pain away, but he can hold you, lift you up, and find a way to remind you of the life your loved one lived. And the life that my best friend’s dad lived was a glorious one. He was blessed with a beautiful family, enough love to build a bridge to the moon, and most importantly the grace and Holy Spirit of God. The only sadness he had at the end of his life was that he couldn’t do more for the Lord as his time here on Earth was cut short. What an amazing testament of a man he was. And because of that, the ones he left here on Earth know that his heart is shining with the love of God in Heaven today.

At this stage of my life, I don’t have the knowledge to write about how to make it through grief. What I do know is that the only reason I am able to pick myself up after things like this is because I have my Lord and Savior close to my heart. But I was reminded of perhaps one of the greatest hymns of all time that speaks to the true purity of a heart of God and is the best representation I could come up with to honor someone that I thought so much of. It comes to mind from one of the most powerful testimonies I have ever experienced from a man who attended Living Hope Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He told of his battle with cancer and his decision to be at peace with whatever happened to him. He played the most glorious performance of this piece that I have ever heard on the piano and it struck my soul. I can’t think of more fitting words to honor those we love who have passed on. So, I pray today for my dear friend and her family, and I leave you with this beautiful tribute. Share it, cherish it and remember it, because this is the life he now has. May God bring us even a taste of the peace he has.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

In loving memory of Garry Caswell.

It is Well with My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

Written by P P. Bliss, Gloria Roe • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Warriors of Christ.

When your heart is in turmoil, it feels like every day you fight to see the sunshine peek through the clouds. Sometimes it can feel like you’re scratching and clawing your way out of a hole you’ve stumbled into, only to feel the land give way beneath you. But what we sometimes forget as Christians is we are fighting for our lives every day, regardless of the situations we find ourselves in.

God has called us to be his children, but we must work for that honor every single day. 

I think as Christians, we often get hung up on the idea of life on Earth. We strive to achieve Earthly standards of accomplishment like wealth, career achievements, and personal relationships. We put so much stock in the things that satisfy us now, that we sometimes forget that this is not our home. We are so distracted by the things around us, that when tragedy strikes, we often find ourselves lying on the ground wondering how we got there. As my family has experienced first hand the devastation that a disease like cancer can deliver, it seems that my ears are more in tune to the number of times I hear people question why things like cancer, death, illness, and tragedy happen. You hear people talk of the goodness of a human, their service to others, and the love in their heart and how it simply isn’t fair that such a person has to suffer through such terrible things.

But what my heart is constantly drawing me towards is the promise in the Bible that our days on Earth will not be easy. In fact, we find the pages of our Heavenly Father’s beloved book packed full of verse after verse encouraging us to move forward in the hard times, to stay strong in him when we face suffering. Our love letter from Christ tells us that life will be hard, even more so because we are cloaked in the Heavenly spirit. But what we can lay our head to rest on is the promise that for whatever suffering this life may bring, our Heavenly home will satisfy a desire in our heart we have yet to uncover and the immensity of the happiness we will experience there will leave whatever sufferings we encounter here on Earth in the dust beneath our shoes.

Instead, what we should remind ourselves is that every single day, we are fighting a battle for our eternal lives. We are facing our demons, Earthly woes and things we cannot even begin to understand in our quest for an eternal seat at the Father’s table.

And what that battle requires is preparation. It doesn’t call us to weep about our troubles, or cry out for an explanation. It demands that we take refuge in the love of God and allow him to carry us when we cannot go on anymore. This week it was laid on my heart to simply talk about staying strong on the battlefield of life and training everyday to handle whatever life throws at you. I encourage you to spend your days seeking the guidance of God through scripture and prayer. If you train your heart each and every day, you will be better equipped to handle anything that is thrown your way. You will be in tune with your Father and have that foundation to lean on when your foes fall on you.

In my quest for a way to write just what was churning around in my mind, I stumbled upon yet another prayer from the book of Psalms. And like Psalm 23, this too was written by David. In this Psalm, David is crying out to God in a moment of trouble, asking for his help and his guidance. We see this vulnerability from David as he is fleeing for his life from Absalom. What this Psalm holds for me, is a prayer to God in the midst of a storm that although the Earth is shaken, and although the enemy seems stronger than ever, I know that my God is there with me, fighting alongside me.

Psalm 3

“Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him’.”

People often say that when it rains, it pours. And oftentimes we find ourselves in a situation where it feels that as everything is crumbling around us, the very floor beneath us seems to be failing as well.

What are your foes? Are you struggling with temptation, are you facing an illness? Maybe you are fearing for your life literally, or you can feel yourself losing a grip on who you are and who you want to be. Does it feel that your back is against a wall?

And in those times, as we find our world straying farther and farther away from God’s word, it seems that when we walk through valleys of hardship, we must also dodge the contagiousness of negativity and doubt.  I think that David was experiencing this very same thing all of those years ago. He was in a bad place, he was fearing for his life, and it seemed that the foes were too many to count. And undoubtedly he had a host of people questioning his faith in God and why he would end up in such a situation when his God should have delivered him. But although he is questioned, and although he is challenged, David knows that his God is near. As should you.

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lordand he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.”

David speaks to the power and strength of having God as your fortress, equipping yourself with his word and his grace to face your biggest threats. He knows that it is only because of God that he is able to lift his head up and move forward in the wake of hardship. He also trust that God will help him through, giving him the strength and the will when he has neither to continue in his battle. As Christians there will be times when we simply can’t go on, that is when Christ picks us up and carries us. He gets us out of bed in the morning and lays our heads on his armor at night. And because of his glory and his love for us, we should never fear whatever it is that we face. Even death. For we have the creator of Heaven and Earth on our side, whom shall we fear?

“Arise, LordDeliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.”

It is with this verse that I like to imagine David laying down his worries at God’s feet and asking him to arise and deliver him. Have you ever been in a dark place, or struggling with a mound of fear and finally come to the point you knew you couldn’t face it alone? As Christians, we can lay down our ego, we can say “I give up,” and we have a Heavenly Father that is ready and willing to go to battle on our account. Some days, we won’t be strong enough to fight, but with a personal relationship with God, on those days he will be near and he will deliver us.

It’s easy to give up when your heart is so full of angst and worry, when you feel like your back is against the wall and your life as you know it is crumbling. It is easy to feel that there is no hope for your situation, or that you won’t survive what it is you face on your battlefield. But what is even easier is crying out to the glorious God and Savior and simply saying, “I need you.” Then we are able to fight side by side with God. And I pray that if you find yourself in this battle, that you would push away doubt and the need to understand this life and call upon the strength of the Lord’s armor. We will never belong here, therefore we will never be at peace here. We will face battle after battle in the name of the Lord. But we will always have deliverance in Christ alone, and we will have a Heavenly home waiting for us that far outweighs all.

When Darkness Comes…

The world can be a dark place.

You know that moment when you wake up in the middle of the night and it’s pitch black in your bedroom, and for a split second, you panic? Whether you’re scared you overslept, or you remember something you had forgotten the day before, that heart wrenching panic exists, if only for a brief moment. These days, with the shape that our world is in, I feel like with every new day that I walk through, that darkness follows me. I feel like with every new story I read, or every new video I come across on Facebook that speaks to the sheer evil that exists, is a weight added to my feet, dragging me down into this darkness, to the point that I feel as though I am suffocating.

What darkness have you experienced today? What tragedies and crippling heartbreaks have you experienced?

It’s funny that for my first post for a blog entitled “Shining Son” I would write about darkness. As a Christian you are naturally drawn to the light, and when the light isn’t there, you panic. You want to replace evil with kindness, you want to replace disappointment and distress with faith and grace. You want to tidy everything up until it is a pretty picture of salvation, just the one we think the Bible paints for us. But the truth is, the world can be a dark place. And every day, I find myself asking, can there be any more evil on this Earth? And now with the multitude of communication channels that exist, we are faced with the horrid events that just makes you question the humanity of people around every corner. If you stop and think about it, it can swallow you. You can almost feel a weight bearing down on you, threatening to consume you in the all too familiar darkness. And I’m human, sometimes I let it bear me down. Sometimes I want to walk outside and scream at the top of my lungs, hoping maybe someone, anyone will hear me and wake up to the reality that is our world. But every time I feel that weight, I also feel a tug in my heart. I feel a warm glow radiating from my heart that lets me know that everything is going to be ok. People laugh because I sometimes live by the philosophy that ignorance is bliss, but when it comes to the evilness of this world sometimes it is the best policy. It helps to push away the fear, the anger and the disappointment and pretend it doesn’t exist. Pick up your Bible and drown yourself in His word.

Psalm 27:1 says “The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?”

God knew that our days here on Earth would turn darker. He knew that mankind would struggle with sin, he knew that from day one. Take comfort in the fact that he not only anticipated it, he sent his Son, his one and only Son, to die on a cross so that we may have the chance to escape that sin. But he also knew that even that would not be enough for some. He knew that some of our brothers and sisters would succumb to evil. He knew that the threats that exists today to the goodness and kindness of people would grow stronger every day. And he knows that one day, that evil will prevail. But that, my friends, is when he will deliver us from this Earth. Verses like Psalm 27:1 were put in the Holy Word for days when you feel the burden of sin and evil raining down on you. It is for the days that it just doesn’t seem like there is any good left on this Earth.

Sometimes I like to imagine God sitting in his rocking chair on a front porch somewhere, staring out over his beautiful creation and writing in a journal all of the things he wants to tell us when we finally meet him. I imagine him whispering to himself, “Things will be hard child, there is no doubt about that. But I will always be here for you,” as he drafts verses like Psalm 27:1. Much as a parent or guardian yearns to protect their child, God will always protect us. And no matter what circumstances we find this world in, the one ever-present joy will be in that our Holy Father, Lord of all is the King and Ruler of this world. And no matter how bad, or how dark our days may seem, he is there.

Every day when I am faced with how truly corrupt and sinful our world is, I keep this verse close to my heart. I keep it where at a moment’s notice, I can pull it out and recite it over and over again until that shadow of darkness that I feel creeping over my shoulder subsides…or at least hangs back a few feet until tomorrow.

Let’s break down the verse.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation…”

This is where you ask yourself, is the Lord my light and my salvation? It utterly pains me to think about the people on this Earth that are going through these dark days without the Lord Jesus in their hearts. Every time I attend a funeral, I stop and ask myself, if I did not have hope and faith in Jesus Christ, how would I ever deal with such a tragedy? It is heartbreaking to me that there are people who carry the weight of this darkness on their shoulders, going through every day of their life believing that there is nothing that can change it. The truth is, if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, there will always be a way to change it. You simply turn your face to his blinding light and let it wash away the fears and the pain. If you’re reading this and you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, please hear me when I say that there is a way to change the darkness. There is a way to stamp it out. All you have to do is acknowledge that he is Lord of your life, pray to him to save your life and come into your heart and live for Him and Him alone.

Romans 10:9 says “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I invite you to reach out to someone close to you that can mentor you and show you what this verse truly means. Ask them to help you find the light.

For those of you who have given your life to Christ, take a moment and pray to him and thank him for his glory and his grace.

God, I give you this moment of my day to say thank you. Thank you for speaking to my heart and guiding me to your light. I am forever grateful for the day I gave my heart to you and I pray that you will help me to continue to grow and develop as a Christian each and every day. I want to strengthen my relationship with you and live your will each and every day of my life. Amen.

“…whom shall I fear?”

Our world has consistently praised those resilient athletes and leaders that grace the cover of Sport Illustrated and Time Magazine, those that in the face of devastation, or adversity, rose above it to conquer their goals and dreams. We often wonder how someone could ever find the strength to do such a thing. And yet right in front of you, you have a personal love letter from your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that is telling you, who should you fear? There is not a person, not a thing, not an obstacle or a tragedy or ANYTHING in this life that you should fear. There is someone who can literally take every scary, frightening thing in this life and flick it away with a wave of his hand. How awesome, how immense does that feel to read that? Let that soak in.

What are the things you fear most in your life? What are the things that wake you up in the middle of the night, stricken with panic? Write them down.

Now I want you to take the piece of paper you wrote those things down on, and I want you to wad it up like you would something you are going to toss in the trash can. Now throw it away. Literally walk to your trash can, and toss that ball of paper in. That is what our Lord God does with our fears. He takes those fears from the weight of our shoulders, and he tosses them behind him into the dust. He is the Creator of this world, and because of that, he is greater than ANYTHING we face. He is more than any fear we have. If you like superheroes, think of God as the greatest superhero of all time, walking beside you each and every day, holding your hand or lifting you up to carry you when you need him to. There is NOTHING that can touch you, because you are His.

“The LORD is the stronghold of my life…”

In the Bible we read about the times of war and how armies would surround their towns and their bases with large, strong walls to keep the enemy out. We read fairytales about castles surrounded by moats to protect the royalty from danger. We equip our own homes with security systems, each one better than the next, to protect ourselves from whatever may try to harm us. God is all these things and more. He is the stronghold of your life. That means that he is that safe place that we read about, dream about and hope for. He is where we go to find comfort and peace, to relax and know that we are cared for and we are watched over.

The easiest thing I can equate this to is a newborn child. We all know, whether we have been parents or not, that a newborn baby will often cry when it is placed in a crib or laid down. But the moment its caregiver picks him or her up, they are comforted and the crying subsides. That person is a safe place for that baby. Their arms, coddling their small frame and wrapping it up tight, gives them security and peace. If a small child can understand this, why can we not? God has his arms wrapped around us daily. He has gathered us up to himself and he holds us there every day of our life. We often look for ways to protect ourselves or guard our belongings. God has surrounded you and I with the biggest force field you have ever seen and He alone is our protection and our stronghold.

“…of whom shall I be afraid?”

When you look to the definition of being afraid, you see the phrase “feeling fear or anxiety; frightened.” But it also says being “worried that something undesirable will occur or be done.” Not only does God take away our fears, he takes away our worry. He gives us the opportunity to walk through each day with our eyes focused on him and the confidence that we are forever in his care. I told you I’m human, I worry everyday about what this world will be like when I have a son or daughter, what evil they will encounter in their lives. But God calls us to leave that worry and anxiety behind when we come to Him. And we do this through faith. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is literally God’s definition of faith.

Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

This verse tells us that by having faith we are putting our confidence and assurance in the fact that God’s willing and able to take care of us.  We all hope to be safe and protected, to feel secure and content. God can give us that. And although we can’t see him, and we can’t see the shield he has placed around us and our hearts, it is there and it is stronger than you could ever imagine it is.

The truth is, thought the Bible often paints a beautiful picture of what a relationship with Jesus Christ is like, the Bible spoke of dark days. But it also promised us eternal light for those who believe. So today, I pray that when you feel that darkness, when you witness that darkness, that you will remember this Psalm. Hold it dear in your heart and let it guide you. Because alone, the darkness is deafening, but through God, the darkness is behind us and we hold tight to a light that will never be put out.