For you, daddy.

I’m not ready to write this, but then again I don’t think I will ever be. This past week was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced, and yesterday I spent Father’s Day in a funeral home making arrangements to bury my daddy. It is only by the grace of God that I am still standing on two feet today; but here I am.

Grief is an odd thing. It comes in waves that drown you, then recedes back down into your soul, leaving behind this hazy fog that makes you question whether what you are experiencing is just a dream. But tomorrow, I know that fog will part and I, alongside my family, will have to face the truth; he’s gone. And while my heart is shattered, I can’t help but praise God for the nightmare that we experienced last week. Because in the midst of that darkness, I found the strength to do something I never thought I could do; say goodbye to my daddy.

My prayer from the beginning of this journey has been for God’s will to be done. As hard as it was to not beg and plead for him to just get better, I spent many nights lying in bed just praying that God would allow his good and perfect will to be. And that it was. He needed Daddy in heaven more than we needed him here and he prepared me for what was coming by allowing me to be with my dad the final days of his life, surrounded by the people I love most. We sat by his side, we talked even when we wasn’t sure if he could listen, and we let our hearts be known to God in the most vulnerable way. And in return he gave us the most precious moments we could have had together and the strength to say “You can let go now, daddy.”

There is nothing that can take this pain away and life will never be the same without him, but I smile a little every time I remember that my father and my Heavenly Father are now together watching over me. With that kind of love watching over me, what could I ever fear?

The darkest days are yet to come as we face life without him. But I know without a shadow of a doubt that we will get through this, and we will see him again one day. Until then, I will treasure every  memory I have of him and every glimpse of him I see in my own face. One of my favorite song lyrics of all time is from a country song and says “When somebody says I hope I get to meet your dad, I just smile and say you already have.” We shared a special bond because of the part of himself he bestowed to me. I loved how we could communicate without talking, and that understanding could be left unsaid because we knew it hung there in the space between us. And sometimes that space was bigger than I wanted it to be, as miles separated us. But I always knew he was only a phone call away. I have always valued every piece of me that came from my dad, and today I hold those pieces even closer than before. My only hope is that I can be half the person he was, because he was one of the best people I have ever known.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lordand on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

I may be a day late, but that would not surprise him. After all,  I am always late, for everything. But yesterday I just couldn’t find the strength to post this. But today, I woke up and put two feet on the floor. The pain that had pooled in my veins while I slept rushed through every inch of my body, and my heart broke all over again. But I got up, I thanked God for another day and I let him carry me, because that’s what he does when we can’t walk on our own. And today, he gave me the strength to say, Happy Father’s Day daddy, this is for you.

 

Tony Alan Cruse – June 22, 1957 – June 17, 2017

Daddy was a man of few words, but those that he spoke left imprints on the world because they were full of knowledge, justice, and love. He was strong, on the inside and out, and served as the fortress of our family. There is not a moment of my life, looking back, that I don’t remember leaning on him. He loved his family deeply, and he was loyal to those who he cared for most and kind to those he didn’t even know. He was intimidating at first, but once you knew him, you knew a soul that loved deeper than most people I’ve have ever met.

His work ethic was unmatched, and he worked hard for everything he had. He had a knack for taking a stone and building a rock, and fixing a splinter into a bridge. His hands and boots were worn, but that’s how he liked them because familiar was his safe place and labor was his tonic. To some, land is simply an existence of nature, but to him it was a haven. Farming was leisure and though his land was not vast, what he had was his heritage and it stood for all he had done. 

He was the husband that women pray for each and every day. He put his family first, and treated his wife as the queen of his heart. He did for her all he could, and loved her to his death. He put her before himself, and saw in her what God had created for him from the start. He was the father that God called him to be, caring for his children as if his own livelihood hinged on their happiness. He taught them to trust, to love, and to labor. He showed them how to live, how to have courage, and how to be proud of who they are.

He was inquisitive, and always wants to know how things worked. He would take things apart just to put them back together. And just as he could assess the most minute problem on one of his flea market treasures, he could detect a restless heart with just a glance. He always knew when someone needed him, and he was always there when they did. He took broken things, tractors, machines and other toys, that most had written off and brought new life to them. His knowledge was not just great in value, it was tremendous in expanse, for he knew something about almost everything. Although many knew little about him. 

But what everyone who knew him could attest to was his integrity and the truth that clothed his being. He was honest, fair, and wore the full armor of God every single day. He was who he was, and to him that was enough. Those who knew him were blessed to do so, and those who loved him are better because of it. 

I love you daddy, and I will miss you everyday.

 

*Lyric from “Song for Dad”, Written by Keith Lionel Urban • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

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.

Living Life with No Filter.

As humans, it is our nature to hide our flaws and cover ourselves to prevent our vulnerability. And as we live in a world of technology, we now have the guise of a computer to hide behind as we project the image of ourselves we want others to see through social media. But what if you stepped away from the computer, striped yourself of the coverings, and stood in the presence of others as you are, with no filters…what would they see?

While the revolution that is technology has reached a climax in our current day and age that has produced incredible advancements in fields such as medicine, it has also brought with it the likes of social media. There are refreshing aspects to our time online, like keeping up with friends and sharing our lives with those who may be far away from us, but it also brings with it a devastating mindfulness of our flaws. By having the ability to broadcast every second of our lives to those whose opinion we value, we enable ourselves to find a filter to put on our life that projects perhaps a happier picture of ourselves, a healthier picture, or a more acceptable picture. It allows us to pick and choose who we are to others.

This can be absolutely devastating to our spiritual lives as that mindset tells us, I can hide the things I don’t want others to see. I can cover up the bruises and imperfections and no one will know what I hide. But the truth is, your Heavenly Father knows your heart, your mind and every hair on your head. There is nothing you can hide from him.

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” Psalm 139:1-5

I am currently diving into a study by one of my favorite Christian authors, Angela Thomas-Pharr, entitled “Redeemed.” In one of her sessions, she was talking about selfies and social media and she said something that struck a chord with me, “living life without a filter.” As I worked through the rest of the lesson, I circled back to that phrase and sat on it for a bit. What did that mean to me? As a professional in the world of marketing and public relations, social media is a part of what I do. I am continuously learning and soaking up any knowledge I can about a piece of technology that is ever-changing. I am always strategizing, calculating each move I make on Facebook, Twitter and the likes as to how it will represent the brands I am a part of. And then I looked at how much time is spent by myself and others each day, creating just the right post to capture the attention of the people we follow. How much time is spent picking out just the right photo filter on Instagram to mask imperfections in our photos, from our photography to the glimmer of chaos that is caught in the frame. But what would happen if those filters suddenly disappeared, and we were left with just the raw film of what is taking place in front of us. Would our world look differently to those who see it through social media?

“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” Isaiah 59:2

I wonder if sometimes we get so caught up in building this brand for ourselves online, that we forget who we are on the inside. That we allow our desire to please mankind to separate us from our Heavenly Father. In truth, the opinion of man will give us nothing but a belief in God, and striving for his kind of perfection will give us eternal life.

As humans, vulnerability is naturally a scary thing. We are inclined to protect ourselves and hide our hearts from the rejection or distaste of those here on Earth, a desire that came to us from our ancestors of the Garden of Eden. If you visit Genesis 3 in your Bible, you will read the account of Adam and Eve and how their disobedience to God led them to the knowledge that they were naked. They sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves and their shame, and even hid from God. Our sinful nature is reflected in that of the first man and first woman put on Earth. God being a gracious ruler gave us free will, he gave us the power to choose to love him or choose to sin against him. That is why Adam and Eve were able to disobey him and because of it, were forced out of the paradise of the Garden of Eden. And today, we still struggle with the same temptations that they did. We are surrounded by influences that force us to judge our bodies, our hearts, our minds, and others. We are constantly gaging how we measure up to others and completely ignoring the glaring reminder that God gives us that we were made in his image. Rest on that a moment.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

The Lord of Lords, the God of ALL creation took his time and made you specifically in the image of himself. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God created any other living, breathing thing in his image. Only male and female.

How special are you that the Creator of Earth wanted you to be like him, the very definition of perfection?

And yet we struggle to accept ourselves, to accept others. We spend time staging just the right look, just the right pose, in just the right setting to fit the brand we want for ourselves that we think is pleasing to our fellow man. But what happens if you strip away those filters, and you are left with the raw film of your life. What does it look like? Are you happy with the stripped down version of yourself?

If you were forced to take a candid picture with no filters, and write a true, honest caption that represented your life, what would it say?

Maybe you are reading this today and you say, you know what? I am happy with my life. I have a great family, I have wonderful blessings in my job and home. I am happy right where I am and would show anyone that life in a moment’s notice. My question to you then would be, what if Jesus was at your door? In the midst of the chaos you don’t post on line, when you have had it with the day before you, you feel defeated and are at your absolute worst, the Lord and Savior shows up at your door. What would he find? Would you find a servant living their life as best they can for him? A Christian praying for peace and guidance in an upside down world? Or would he find a human that has strayed from their Heavenly Father, just trying to make sense of things and keep up a façade that makes everyone believe you’re ok, because you’re supposed to be ok?

Or maybe you are reading this today and tears are streaming down your face. Maybe you are sitting there saying, “I’m lost.” You recognize that you have strayed away from your Heavenly Father and have been working for men, not for him. That the happiness you just can’t seem to find is because you’ve been chasing the wrong joy. You’ve been looking for fulfillment in the things this Earth tells you should make you happy instead of filling that God-shaped hole in your heart with prayer and his word.

Whichever category you fall into, it is ok. God loves you regardless and he wants to help you. He doesn’t care about that blemish on your face, or the extra pounds you have gained. He doesn’t care that there is a scar on your body from where you took out your frustration on yourself. He doesn’t care that there are bruises, physical and emotional, on your body and in your heart because of the evil of another person. All he cares is that you love him and you want him to be in your heart.

Now I am going to ask you to do the one of the hardest things you will ever be asked to do. Take just a moment of your today and peel back all those layers. Delete those filters from your life. Scrub away every mask you have painted on in the name of survival. Now look at yourself in the mirror. Who are you? Is that person who you want to be?

I will tell you exactly who you are, you are a child of the Creator of everything. You are loved by God, who is the Alpha and the Omega and he is yearning for you to rest in his love. He is craving your desire to follow him and he is standing right there beside you, just waiting for you to give in to his glory. Let him take you, and make you new. Let him erase the past, and provide you with a future that is brighter than you can ever imagine. I can promise you that when you have a relationship with the Lord and Savior, no human attention or approval will match the tremendous joy that fills your heart, mind and soul. You are perfect in his eyes, let him love you.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

Days of Doubt.

I’ve struggled with what to write about this week. Not because of writer’s block or a lack of content, but because I have battled with how to put on paper exactly what has been laid on my heart. My dad has prostate cancer, a very advanced form of it, and right before my eyes I have watched a strong, healthy man suffer not only from the disease itself, but from the treatment. There are so many loved ones in my life who are either battling cancer or watching someone they love fight and it breaks my heart. I struggle for words every day to say to them and to my family to comfort them.

What do you tell someone who’s life has been ripped out from underneath them like a rug when they get yet another dose of bad news? How do you remain positive for them but be respectful of the fact that their heart is literally breaking in front of you?

And while it seems that every human instinct in me should be questioning why such a horrible thing is happening to people I love and care about, good people, instead my heart seems to draw closer to the Lord every day. It is so hard to explain to people how I can keep my faith, because the last thing that crosses my mind is to question God’s will. In fact, the question that is constantly on my mind instead is what do people do who go through these things and don’t have God to lean on because they don’t have a personal relationship with him? As I searched my heart for answers, I continued to pray to God for strength, for myself and for those I love. And that’s when Psalm 23 crossed my mind.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – Psalm 23

The magnitude of comfort that this Psalm brings is me indescribable. I have heard this preached, and taught, and recited since I was little and yet never has this passage meant more to me than now. I often describe the Bible, as many people do, as Christ’s love letter to us as Christians. Imagine sitting down and putting into a book everything that you ever wanted to tell or teach your children. How incredible this piece of literature is, as it is Christ’s personal instructions to us as to how to live life and survive whatever may come our way.

This Psalm in particular, to me, is so stripped down and honest that it resonates with my soul. Here is how I break it down and keep in hidden in my heart.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Wow. To take this line and apply it to your life really reveals the life Christ called us to live. The Earth is our physical home for now, but we do not belong here. God has destined us for a far greater home with him in Heaven and in this verse we know everything we need to know about life with God. Though our egos and our human nature demands that we have worldly possessions, though we judge our success by our things, and our value as a person by the opinions of others, this verse tells us that if we have God, if we allow him to lead us through life, we will be ok. God has provided us with everything we could possibly need to survive and thrive with him. We lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

For me this part is twofold. One, this part of the passage says to me that God will satisfy every need we have if we allow him to be Lord of our lives. The Psalm as a whole equates God to a shepherd and us as his sheep. As a shepherd, he knows what is best for us, he knows how to help us steer clear of harm’s way and he will always provide for our physical and spiritual needs. We all know those people who seem to be constantly searching for something in life, they never feel fulfilled. They buy Earthly goods, or seek the companionship of others, thinking that it will leave them filling whole. But in truth, that fullness can only be felt when we put our trust and hope in God. He will provide for us in a way that no one else can.

This part of the passage to me is also God’s way of saying he knows what is best for us and sometimes that means lying down in green pastures. As humans we are driven to fix problems, to control situations and often times it is a true struggle to just be still. But that is what God calls us to do in certain instances in our life, to just be still and let him work. Just as a shepherd will give his flock rest as he prepares for the remainder of their journey.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

This right here is the most precious part of the entire Psalm to me. God promises us as Christians that no matter how hard things are, no matter how absolutely terrified we are, he is always there. There is nothing in our lives that we should fear, or worry about. Not even the evil things of this world or death itself, for if we are living in the glory of God, he will protect us and lead us through the hardest and most difficult times of our lives. For me, this is the passage I want to repeat every single day to my dad, and to those around me who are suffering as well. There are dark times in our life, God never promised there wouldn’t be. He equates those times to the valley of the shadow of death, teetering on the edge of the demise of our physical being, and yet there even still he remains with us, guiding us with his light and his staff until we can make it to the other side of that valley. But what may be perhaps the most difficult thing about this, is sometimes that outcome, that ascent from the valley is not what we want. It is not the answer we search for. But what it is, is God’s will for our life and it is far better than anything we could have ever planned ourselves.

He knows every single second of our lives before we are even born and much as a storyboard is laid out for a movie, he knows what scenes come next. Take comfort in the fact that our all-knowing and ever-present God knows what lies ahead and he knows exactly what lies beyond and he will get us there, one way or another. We only need to trust him and take comfort in his presence.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Again, the Lord shows us that we will encounter enemies, whether physical or spiritual. There are beings and things that will drag us down and threaten our spiritual well-being around every corner. But he is quick to show us that not only will he help us merely survive those times, but he will provide everything we need to go through them and then some. We can compare the description of “preparing a table” to laying out a feast for us. He will not merely provide a slice of bread to keep us moving, but will fill us with all of our desires.

Anointing our head can only be described as a Biblical practice that was used to honor and dignify a person. God does that for us by allowing us to live a righteous life through him. Despite what evil and darkness we may find in our lives, God always promises a robe of white and a life of goodness and mercy if we trust in him. So much so, that as described in the Psalm, it will run over and burst from its container. For me, this is every time I read his word or worship him through song, I truly feel like my heart may burst from how much happiness and true love he gives me. When I think about the people that have been placed in my life and the impact they have had on me, I feel full to the brim.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

And our final promise from God is what we can expect from a life with him, if we trust in him with all our heart and lean on him, goodness and mercy, love and protection, will always be a part of our lives. He promises strength for the times that are hard, and mercy for when we fall short. The house of the Lord to me in my relationship with him through the Holy Spirit. Because I accepted Christ so long ago, his spirit has been within my heart, guiding me and protecting me. The fact that I will have that for every day to come is what helps me pick myself up and put one foot in front of the other, each and every day.

God never promised that our time on Earth would be free from suffering and pain. What he did promise was eternal strength and love through him at all times, especially those days when we need it most. He promised fulfillment and satisfaction in everything through him. We must only seek him and his will to fill the fullness that we are programmed to yearn for. And not only will God provide for us, he will give us more than we deserve. Not in physical worldly possessions and measures of happiness, but in every Heavenly desire our heart, mind and soul can crave.

Some days are just hard. There are times I just want to stay in bed, cover my eyes, and lock the world out. I want to be selfish and run from everything that threatens my happiness. I sometimes feel like the world is closing in on me and the heaviness of the weight I carry is suffocating me. But in those moments of doubt, in those seconds of anger, my God is always with me. He is whispering in my ear, “Be still child, for I am here to comfort you, to love you, and to guide you through.”

God loves you, and he understands that we struggle to grasp his grace and goodness. He gets that there will be days of doubt. But he calls us to never let those emotions win, to fight against them with the grace and love he has tucked away in our hearts. I encourage you, when you struggle to find your way, pick up your Bible and remember this passage. For our God is an awesome God and his word is true and good.

He will never, ever forsake you.

Love Without Abandon.

I’m a dog person, it’s no secret. If we are friends on Facebook, fellow Tweeters on Twitter or connected on Instagram, you know that my feeds are full of pictures of my fur children. I have two dogs, one little and one big. They have their own unique personalities but the one thing they have in common is that they love their momma. As I type this blog, my Doddle is literally resting his head on my shoulder.

Being a dog mom has taught me a lot, it’s given me patience and showed me that if I can make it through the puppy years, I can raise a child one day. But the most important thing that my sweet boys have taught me is how to love. It may seem strange to think of an animal that doesn’t speak our language or share our belief system as the perfect symbol of how we should love, but I truly believe that the love a dog shows is the purest love and the closest we will ever get here on Earth to knowing the true immensity of God’s love.

Let me explain.

My pups meet me at the door every time I come home, and their excitement is uncontainable. They are wagging their tails, licking my toes, and doing their very best to get my attention and let me know that they are so happy to see me. Our doodle is one-year old, and Andy my shih-tzu mix is only three. I remember their younger year very vividly. I got frustrated a lot and let’s face it, I still lose my temper with them now and again. But you know what? No matter how loud I yell at them, or how many times I get angry with them, they are always right back at my feet, begging to be loved.

As sad as it is, we see it all the time in the news. Every time a new animal neglect case comes up or animal cruelty pictures surface, those gruesome photos depict the face of a poor dog who loved its owner despite their cruelty and shortcomings. We see a heartbroken, defeated animal learn to trust a human again in such a short time. We see a puppy who gets a second chance with a new family and falls in love with them all over again. It seems that no matter what this world does to these defenseless babies, they bounce right back and learn to love in spite of it all. We could learn something from our furry friends.

But what may be the most rewarding thing ever about being a dog owner is their ability to love endlessly without expecting anything in return. Sure they like to be loved on, they are hearty eaters and enjoy the occasional stroll through the park with you. But they demand none of it. They would love you the same if you both sat day in and day out in one spot and never ate again.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

The greatest commandment that God ever gave us in the Bible was to love; to love Him with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And yet as humans, this is often one of the most difficult task for us. We are quick to judge others, we are afraid to expose our hearts and we hide behind walls that prevent us from loving unconditionally. And we are skeptical. We are threatened by anything that presents itself as pure love. We are quick to discount it, and toss it out of our way because it scares us.

Whether it is in a relationship with a significant other, a second chance connection with someone who hurt us or basking in the light of a potential love, we often run and guard ourselves from hurt. I sometimes wonder if it is that exact reason that often times people stray from the church and God’s love because they just don’t quite get how someone as awesome and powerful as God could love them, and forgive them and keep on loving them through all of the bad and the good. But the truth is, he does. Our God is an amazing God that loves us no matter what we do.

Do your reservations about love hold you back in life? Is it holding you back from the relationship with your Lord and Savior that you crave?

The Bible itself tells us to guard our hearts, they truly are important. But for us that typically means hiding our hearts, and containing them from the cruelties of this world. But I encourage you to not let the state of our world, or the hurt you’ve experienced keep you from a true relationship with God. Open your heart to him, only there will you find the peace and comfort you crave. The truth is, each and every one of us have a God-shaped hole in our heart that is yearning to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And if you have been holding God at an arms length, scared of what that love may feel like, you my friend are missing out on one of the greatest things we will ever experience. God’s love can change not only your life, but your eternity.

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Luke 6:35

And perhaps what is often times even harder than the immensity of love, is giving something so dear to you to someone who has done you wrong. But even so, God calls us to not only love Him, love ourselves, and love our neighbors, he calls us to love our enemies. If we are so guarded against love from those we care about, it may seem impossible to love someone we despise.

As Christians we have something that no one else has; the perfect role model. God is the very definition of perfection and his love is the purest and most real love you will ever experience in your life. He loved us so much that he sent his only son, Jesus, to be crucified on a cross, ridiculed and beaten, just so that we could have the choice to live free of sin. God himself said it in John 15 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” And that is exactly what Jesus did for us. I encourage you as Christians to look to the example of your Heavenly Father to love one another.

How are you holding back from giving your love away to those in your life?

Have you had bad experiences with love in the past? Were you done wrong by someone when you had just opened your heart to vulnerability of truly falling in love? Or maybe you had your love taken advantage of by a family member or friend and you were left feeling scorned and exposed. Whatever the case may be, I encourage you today to not let that experience keep you from experiencing one of the greatest gifts God has ever given to us. There is a hole in our hearts that is perfectly carved out to hold the love that we will carry with us through our lives here on Earth. God intends for us to find fellowship and companionship with our brothers and sisters on Earth through friendship, a church family, a husband or wife or even the joy of a pet. What he didn’t intend for us to do was take a gift so great as love and find a hole in the ground and bury it so we never have to be hurt by it.

So if you are on teetering on the ledge of falling in love, jump in with both feet.

If you are cultivating a new friendship, open your heart and soul to that person.

If you are married to the love of your life, cherish them and tell them how you feel every day.

If you have children, encourage them to love without abandon.

If you have a furry little head resting on your shoulder, give that sweet puppy kisses every day.

But don’t stop there, share your love with others by doing things out of love. Don’t do things because you feel obligated, or because you have to. Do things because in your heart you feel that small tug that says “this is right.” Look for ways to do small acts of kindness for others. And when you experience one yourself, find a way to pay it forward. If there is anything that we can do as Christians in a world so full of hate, it is love. You have no idea the amount of power you have sitting right there in your chest. If we open our hearts and let the love that our Heavenly Father gave us poor out into our everyday life, we can change the world.

I pray that every day you would pick up your Bible and read this verse. Memorize it, put it on a post it in every room of your house and carry it in your hearts. Live this verse, practice this verse and share this verse with the world because nowhere will you find a more perfect definition of how we are called to love one another…except maybe through the eyes of a man’s best friend.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

A Glowing Ember.

Forgiveness. What a mighty big word. But what is even larger than the implications that word carries is the responsibility it carries for us as Christians. Last week we talked briefly about anger and the gasoline that it can be.  While we touched on forgiveness, we focused more on the actual act of getting angry. As we settle in and set our sights on forgiveness and what that means, I want to look at a definition.

em·ber

/ˈembər/

noun

a small piece of burning or glowing coal or wood in a dying fire.

Now I want you to close your eyes, and use your imagination on this one. Imagine, you started a fire in your fire pit in the backyard and you’ve long since quit feeding it kindling in hopes that it will go out soon. The smoke and bright orange flames are long gone, but what’s left it a handful of ash with a small glowing ember in the bottom of the pit.

But is this fire a dying fire, or one just starting?

You could walk away from that ember now and if you’re lucky, it will go out and all is well. Or you could stroke it a bit by slowly breathing oxygen on the ember, or maybe feeding it a small log. It could slowly grow back into a raging fire if you want it to. But what if you walk inside the house, grab a bottle of lighter fluid and flood the ember with accelerant? That ember will quickly become a full fledged bonfire, lighting up the night. If not taken care of it could quickly escalate out of control.

Bu what if you put it out?

What if you grabbed the water hose and dumped a bucket of water on that ember? You would likely see a ton of smoke and the absence of its glow when the smoke cleared.

Now imagine that ember represents a grudge you’re holding onto against someone.

Maybe you’ve quit feeding that fire a long time ago, you don’t let things that person does or says affect you in any way. Maybe they have apologized and you all seem to be on sure footing again with your relationship. But deep within you, you know that there is still that ember burning ever so slightly. What you choose to do next, could change the course of your existence. Forgiveness is a powerful thing when we let it be.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

It’s so easy to hang onto anger, to let it linger in our lives until we convince ourselves that the person we are angry with owes us. It is easy to store the hurt from a wrong that has been done to you in your heart and pull it out as a trump card when the situation is right. But as Colossians shows us, God calls us to forgive. No where in the Bible does it speak of holding grudges, getting revenge or collecting on debts from those who have done you harm. In fact, in this very verse, we are called to forgive as God forgave us. Wow. What if we looked at our current resentment that we have against our brother or sister in comparison to the ultimate price that Jesus paid for us on the cross? How does whatever that person did to you compare to what Jesus endured while he was painstakingly beaten, shamed, tortured and slain for our sins. For the sins of us, people who didn’t even exist yet. How do the two compare?

You may think it seems silly to compare these two things but what we can pull from this verse is that no matter what we do in our lives, no matter how many times we pull away from God, screw up, or disappoint him, he will never not forgive us. No where in the Bible does it say that if you sin 10 times you will be forgiven, but if you sin 11 he is done with us. The God we serve is a loving, and forgiving God who takes us back with loving arms every single time we do wrong. So who are we to hold a grudge against someone who is merely human?

It is easy to tell ourselves that this is comparing apples to oranges, but the truth is that God has never called us to do something that he himself, or his Son has not already endured. Just as the verse tells us, God is asking us to be merciful with our fellow man and to forgive them each time they wrong us just as he forgave us and continues to every day.

In Luke 17, God even takes it a step further telling us there should be no end to our mercy for others.

“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Luke 17:4

We must forgive our brothers and sisters each time they fail us. Every time they come seeking our forgiveness, we must give it them.

So what happens if we don’t forgive one another?

Let’s revisit our scene from earlier. Obviously pouring water on that ember is the equivalent of forgiveness. We completely smother any grudge or resentment we have for the one we are angry with and extinguish that bitterness. But what happens if we don’t put it out, but just walk away from it? This is basically letting it go, right? Wrong. Sure, that ember could extinguish itself with time. But what if it doesn’t? What if a whisper of air comes flowing by and breathes a little bit of life back into the ember? What is a snide comment, or reminder of their wrongdoing cross our path? That ember will get a little bit brighter and a little bit bigger, slowly growing until it’s once again a raging flame. We often hear people distinguish between forgive and forget. I truly believe that to forgive someone, we must forget what they have done to us. We must move past whatever is grounding us to our anger and seek the Lord’s guidance to forget and forgive.

What about the lighter fluid?

Have you ever been so fed up with someone and their ways that you explode with anger? That you give up on them, express your feelings of anger in an uncontrollable way and then let that anger consume you for the rest of the day, putting you in a terrible mood to the point you are snapping at those who weren’t even involved? That our lighter fluid. Allowing ourselves to give into anger, to give into holding that grudge and harboring bitterness. When we do that, we are letting it control us and drive our actions until we don’t even recognize the person staring back at us in the mirror. If you let it, anger and bitterness can wreck your world, just as quickly as a campfire can turn into a forest fire. One that is unstoppable and headed straight for everything you have ever known and loved.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

Your Heavenly Father is calling you to let go of any resentment and anger you hold in your heart. He is standing right next to you holding a bucket full of water saying, “Put it out, child.” Will you  listen? I encourage you to pray this prayer if you are seeking freedom from the bitterness you carry with you.

God, I come to you now as a sinner. As your child who has let you down so many times and accepted your forgiveness 100 times over. I come to you asking for your help and your strength to let go of the bitterness in my heart. Help me to move past the anger I have stored up, and step out of the past into a future that is rid of the darkness that comes from letting anger rule my life. Forgive me for being so slow to forgive my brothers and sisters as you have called me to. And God, help me to see those that I am angry with as flawed children of God just as I, myself am. And God, help me to pray for those I have turmoil with, help me to pray for their weaknesses and their missteps and help me not only forgive, but to forget, right here, right now. I lay my bitterness down at your feet God, take it and make me whole again.

Fire and Gasoline

Don’t lose yourself in anger. It’s gasoline. You can burn it as fuel, or you can use it to torch everything you care about…

I have always been an avid reader, for as long as I can remember my heart has always been happy to curl up in the sunshine with a new book. The only thing that has changed since I have gotten older is the number of pages have grown. In high school, I was blessed to have a librarian that was almost like a second mom to me. She would always recommend books to me and I never hesitated to jump into whatever she suggested. And while I had favorites, there was no book that I read that had a more memorable line to me than the one above written by Karen Marie Moning. Words have always spoken to me and I used to keep a little notebook full of the song lyrics that I loved. It would just be a simple line from a song but something in them spoke to me. That was how this phrase struck me.

I’ve mentioned it before but we are merely human. Anger is a large part of our DNA for the most part, whether we like it or not. Just as easily as we can become sad or excited, we can get angry. But as for all human emotions, it’s not about the emotion itself, it’s about how you deal with it. And Karen was right, if you let anger consume you, you are pumping oxygen into an ember that is eventually going to erupt into a flame. But the thing with this flame is, it will turn into a raging forest fire before you can blink an eye.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20

The book of James tells us a lot about how we should behave as God’s children and in the verse above we see that anger does not produce the actions that God desires from his children. Does this mean that you can never be angry again? Not at all. In fact, God knows that we are human, he knows that we are susceptible to sin and human desires. All that he asks of us is that we approach those things with a loving heart full of his word and if we have that, he will guide us through how to handle things like anger.

I think so many times in our lives, we come across a person that just infuriates us. Maybe that person is a family member, maybe it’s an ex-spouse or someone you have dated. Or maybe it’s someone you are forced to see every day because they work at the same place you do. And we get mad at them for different reasons. Sometimes their beliefs are different than ours and maybe they aren’t shy about voicing them. Maybe they go out of their way to make you feel bad about yourself, or make themselves look better than they are. Whatever the reason is, they just make you mad. And often times as humans, we try to suppress that anger, to the point of letting it smolder right below the surface. But all that ends up doing is building up so much anger and pressure that one we day we erupt and explode. At that point, the anger is free flowing and words and accusations come tumbling out before we even realize what we’ve said.

And sometimes, once that eruption happens, something terrible happens. We feel better. And so the next time we get angry, we just let it all go until the next thing we know we are looking into a mirror we just punched because we dropped a cup of coffee on the rug. And sometimes, we hide that anger in our hearts to the point that it drives our other behaviors. It turns us bitter, and distrusting and makes us into a person that we never thought we would become. I’ve been in those shoes, I’ve let my anger become a torch and I woke up every morning full of anger and went to bed every night cuddling with hatred. I was miserable. I heard myself lashing out to the people I loved and I saw myself pushing away everything I cared about. But in that moment, for me the anger was worth it. I wore it like a cloak and let it become a part of my skin. Until one day, I woke up exhausted from it all. I was tired of the turmoil taking place in my heart, and I was tired of fighting. I was just tired. Just as I did with every other time I felt like I had fallen off the track, I dropped to my knees and I prayed for forgiveness. I prayed for God to take away the anger and the resentment, the bitterness and the hatred. I prayed for the people I thought I hated. I prayed for the people who had hurt me. And something amazing happened, it was like God took that cloak and plucked it from my back and all of a sudden, it was daylight outside.  There was sunshine and blessings in my life that wouldn’t allow me to hide in my hatred.

That moment is one of the ones that I think my Heavenly Father for the most because it taught me a lot about myself and my relationship with him. It showed me how dark a path without Godly love is and I truly believe that if I had stayed on that path, I would have wound up a very different person from what I am today. But even more so, that moment taught me to trust in God more than I ever had. It taught me not to worry, not to stress and not to get angry because he was in control of everything around me and the ground I stood on and all I needed was him. There was nothing that anyone could do to me to take that away and I started to look at people in a different light. I started to feel sorry for people I once hated, I started to understand that somewhere in that person was a longing that they couldn’t fill and didn’t even realize they needed to. That their lack of love and faith in God was what was driving them to do things that angered me. So I prayed for those people, and I still do today.

I also realized that life is too short to be angry. That holding a grudge may get you the last word, but it will leave you feeling empty and misunderstood. Now, when I have those moments when I would love to be angry or get mad about something, I stop and ask myself, is this really worth ruining my day over? It never is. Unfortunately sometimes I still do, but the recovery time is much shorter.

Does this resonate with your soul? How do you express your anger? Do you let your anger fester and smolder or are you quick to blow off steam?

Every person is different in the way they express their anger. And as humans that is natural. But what the book of James is trying to tell us is that anger can sometimes drive us to do things that God doesn’t approve of.

“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Colossians 3:8

God knows that by giving into our anger, we are opening ourselves us to be vulnerable to things such as rage, malice, slander and bad language. What he calls us to do is handle that anger we experience as a child of God. He doesn’t call us to get revenge, he doesn’t call us to tear someone down with our words. He calls us to turn the other cheek, literally.

I think for me that is the one of the hardest things about being a Christian, is constantly being beat down by those who are not children of God and standing there with a smile on your face and taking it. Sometimes you find yourself on the receiving end of that anger and you just want to fight back. You want to let go and give them a piece of your mind because after all, that’s what they are doing, why can’t you? But as Christians, we are called to turn the other cheek. And God makes that pretty clear in the Bible that it doesn’t matter how terrible the thing they are doing to you is, you are to turn the other cheek. Story after story in the Bible talks about these servants of God who are faced with opposition and anger from those who did not know God or approve of the beliefs that they had. We hear about how they were tortured or beaten, held captive or slain. And yet we find it so hard to just simply walk away from a person that is trying to tear us down.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that there is anger in life that comes from a wound that is so raw that your insides are screaming for you to get liberation. There are people on this Earth that endure so much more pain and hurt from other people that I couldn’t even fathom it. But what we have that the person standing over you holding the stick doesn’t is a Lord and Savior that is ready to step into the ring as soon as you are ready to tag him in.

If you are suffering from anger and rage that stems from something that is too much for you to bear, I encourage you to seek out guidance from someone who has been trained to help you deal with that. I encourage you to find a pastor, or a professional who can walk you through how to heal yourself from years of pain. But if you are someone who just seems to find yourself quick to anger, I invite you to do a little soul searching. What is it that sets you off so quickly? Is it a certain person, or a certain issue? Whatever it may be, get a grasp on it and really try to understand what it is about that thing that makes you so angry. Then I invite you to take that and talk to God about it. Let him know that you recognize that this thing is controlling you, that it is forcing you to let loose a fire that you can’t control. Tell him you are ready to put it out, once and for all. And then I encourage you to listen for that sweet, sweet voice of our Lord and Savior to tell you how to handle it.

I also encourage you to find little ways to deal with your anger. One of my favorites comes from a book that I read long ago, I’ve already shared that quote with you. Another comes from a devotion I did as a college student. A husband was talking about the fights he had with his wife and that one day he just decided to see her for what she truly was, a child of God. He spoke about how viewing her that way made it almost impossible to be angry or say harsh things to her because that person that stood in front of him was someone that God specifically created. Someone that God knew every hair on their head and breathed life into their very chest. That is something I have tried to do ever since and I promise you, it is so easy to let go of anger when you think about things that way. It has allowed me to let go of a lot of bitterness and hate that I didn’t even know was in my heart.

Human beings have a way of hurting one another like nothing else can, and the closer you are to someone, the easier it is to break their heart with your words. So I encourage you, the next time you find yourself in anger, take a moment and see things from God’s perspective. Take a breath and ask yourself, is whatever I’m angry about really worth striking a match that you don’t know if you can put out? Anger is gasoline, how will you chose to use it?

A Mere Whisper in the Wind

Many of us have been taught from a young age that when you are searching for answers or seeking guidance, to pray for God to send you a sign. This is such a loaded statement because who are we to know what is a sign and what is something we are interpreting the way we want to? Many times the desires of our heart drive what we see and what we hear. One of my all-time favorite stories in the Bible is that of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. This story is packed full of lessons that are cloaked in the narrative of one of God’s greatest messengers. Elijah is an interesting character in himself, for we can relate to his life very much so as humans. While we do not deal with quite the same trials and tribulations that he did, and our triumphs are of a different colors, the ups and downs of this prophet’s life are the same as the ones we face today. I encourage you to explore the entire story of Elijah, but for today, let’s focus on his time on the mountain.

Elijah, in trying to fulfill the will of God in his life, was faced with turmoil and trouble, resistance and heartache. He was tired, he was frustrated and he didn’t know what else to do. But the Lord reached out to him:

“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” 1 Kings 19:11-13

This isn’t a piece of scripture you see on a sign in someone’s house, and it’s not going to be a meme on Facebook. However, the message it sends to Christians is so loud to me and resonates with my soul. That’s why, as I mentioned above, it stands to be one of my favorites. See Elijah was in a period of wavering faith at this point in time. We’ve all been there. We are human and we fall short of the glory of God. So in times of hardship, we often back away from our faith and search for something more physical or permanent to make us feel better. And while those worldly things may offer immediate gratification and temporary relief from our woes, the strain of wavering faith is nothing compared to emptiness without Christ.

It’s hard, even as a Christian, to completely and utterly trust in God to deliver you from a time that is so trying that your body just wants to lay down and give up. We go through things that challenge us, things that beat us down until we feel like even with God we can’t get back up again. For some it’s the weight of problems you are currently facing. For others, it’s a constant resistance throughout life that at some point you just feel like you have to give up or lose yourself in the process. And in Elijah’s situation, that weight was his faith and his devotion to delivering the message God was calling him to deliver. This perhaps is the greatest challenge of all, to keep your faith when the call to action of that very faith is what is causing your suffering. God tells us in the Bible that it will not be easy for Christians that we will struggle and often be persecuted for our faith. And while we know that he paid the ultimate price for us, we are human and selfish and sometimes we just don’t think we can go on. That is exactly where Elijah was. He had just had his life threatened for the work he was doing, and the work he was doing was appearing fruitless and quite frankly, he was done with all of it. But the Lord came to him, in this most trying time and told him to go out on the mountain, that the Lord was about to pass by. So Elijah, being the faithful servant he was, pulled himself back to his feet and obeyed this command. What happens next is incredible.

The scripture says a “great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord.” Imagine, the worst storm we’ve ever had, then intensify that. We are talking a wind that is so strong, that it has the ability to tear pieces of rock from the mountain, to take rocks that no man could ever even begin to lift, and shatter them. We equate power with God, so this earth shattering wind sounds appropriate for such a higher power, right? But the Lord was not in that wind.

The next line says that “there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.” We know from experience that earthquakes are next to impossible to prevent. They can’t be stopped, we simply have to ride it out and pray that we make it through. No matter what procedures we put in place, there is only so much we can do to simply protect ourselves from this horrific event. One that shakes everything you stand on. And fires are devastating and have the ability to wipe out what would takes months to build in a matter of minutes. They can tear through a town without slowing down. Sure water can help fight them, but sometimes even that is not enough. There couldn’t be a more appropriate vehicle for the one who created the Earth, right? Wrong. The scripture tells us that God was in neither of those. But what comes next is the kicker, the line that gets me every time I dive into this chapter.

“And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

Three great, intense, and powerful forces of nature and yet Elijah found God in a whisper. So many times we look for these earth shattering, show stopping signs from God to tell us which way to turn and yet we often forget to listen for the whisper of his voice. We are so busy waiting on the search and rescue crew to coming sweeping in on a helicopter that we sometimes find ourselves drowning when all the while there was a boat sitting next to us.

What fork in the road have you come to that you have been praying for a sign from God to lead you? Think back, was there a whisper in the wind that you could have missed?

It’s human nature to fall down, for our feet to falter and for us to lose sight of our faith in times of trials. God understands that, and that is what makes him so amazing. Time after time, his grace finds us on our face and picks us back up and dusts us off. He is forgiving and takes us back every time we stray away. But what we have to do is learn to not just wait and look for the signs and miracles we think should come, but rather train ourselves as children of God to look for the whisper in the wind. One way to do that is by reading our Bibles, learning the scripture and holding it close to our hearts. This is a verse that I personally cling to when I feel my physical feet failing me. We must look to his word for the answers to our questions, and listen to his voice to find what we seek. It won’t always be a search and rescue team, it may not even be a boat at all. Maybe it’s just a life vest to keep you afloat until God picks you up and takes you to the place where he needs you most.

“…And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

God tells us flat out in his word that he will never forsake us or give us more than we can bear. No matter how defeated we feel, God knows our limits and he knows our strength…because he is both of those things to us. He tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that he will provide a way out of life’s hardships and he will help us endure it. So I invite you to take all of that time that you spend worrying, all of that time you spend trying to find your own way out of the darkness, and use that time to learn God’s word, pray to our Heavenly Father, and wait for the whisper in the wind.

Isn’t it incredible to know that the Creator of Earth, the God of all things, the Alpha and the Omega needs only a whisper to show you the way? What a mighty God we serve.

 

Walk Blind in Faithfulness.

You often hear people refer to children when they are trying to describe a feeling or an emotion. Perhaps it is because children represent a pure, unbiased vision of what raw human emotion is. Their perception is often untouched by life and its hardships, by politics and prejudice, but rather is stripped down to the very emotion that God created when he formed Adam from the dust.

What qualities do you miss the most when you think of your childhood innocence?

For me, it is the blind faithfulness. The ability to forge forward without a plan, or a care in the world, knowing that whatever happens, you will be taken care of. The amazing thing is, God has given us exactly that. I sometimes think the Bible is so much easier to understand if we just look at it through the eyes of a child. After all, that is what God is calling us to do, to put our faith in him and allow him to lead us where he wants us to go. So put on your Mickey Mouse sunglasses, your plastic princess crown, or whatever it takes to get you there and let’s look at today’s verse.

“For we live by faith, not by sight” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Woah. Terrifying right? But to a child, this is the core value of how they live their life. Although some may be too young to understand that there is a Lord and Savior, he has blessed them with this vulnerable spirit that trusts that someone will take care of them. Sometimes that someone is you; their mother, father, brother or sister. Their aunt or uncle, babysitter or teacher. But sometimes that person is God, and they don’t even realize it.

What would happen if we stopped trying to feel our way through life, looking for those markers that the world tells us exists, and just starting living by faith?

Think about it. God calls us to, metaphorically speaking, close our eyes and just start moving forward and trust that when we open our eyes again, he will have delivered us to the place we are meant to be. I sit here in awe of how great our God is just from simply writing that statement. There has been so many times in my short 25 years that I have laid awake at night wondering where my life was going. What was I going to be when I grew up? Where would I live? Who would I have to spend the rest of my life with? Would I have anyone to spend the rest of my life with?

In those instances, God called me to only be still and let him go to work in my life. There were times I listened and things turned out better than I could have ever imagined. The perfect example of this is my husband. God has truly blessed me with an amazing, Godly man to spend my days with. I look back on prayers I prayed when I was alone and it brings tears to my eyes to think that today that very person I prayed for sits right across from me at the dinner table every night. And you know what? He is better than I could have ever imagined. He has qualities I never even thought to pray about, but that God knew I would need the day he created each of us for the other. And every day God’s plan for our lives continues to evolve.

But there were times I didn’t listen. There were times that I was impatient, and selfish. There were times I thought I knew what I needed more than he did. But you know what? I quickly discovered that I was wrong. It’s no secret I am a headstrong person, I am driven to the point of driving other people crazy when I set my mind to something. I think back on so many stages of my life that I approached things with that headstrong attitude, only to be knocked back down to my knees, praying for God to show me the way.

So what causes us to be so stubborn?

We are scared.

There were so many times in my life that I was scared out of my wits at what was happening in front of me. I saw my life moving forward at an alarming pace and I felt like I was just holding on for dear life, praying for a stop sign.

The truth was, God had a plan for me and he was delivering me there.

Other times I felt like I was trapped in a corn field and everything around me looked familiar and yet strange at the same time. Like I was frozen in time, not moving forward and not moving backward. It terrified me. Was there something wrong with me that everyone around me seemed to be making progress, but here I was back at my dead end trying to make sense of it all?

The truth was, it just wasn’t time for me to move.

But no matter why we are scared, God is always with us and we are exactly where he wants us to be.

Isaiah 41:10 says “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Maybe things feel like they are spiraling out of control for you. Or maybe your life has become frightening still. Either way, hear me when I say that no matter where you are, God is there and he is the strength in your will. My advice to you is pray without ceasing for God to show you which way to turn, pray that he will lead you the way you need to go and he will deliver you.

We don’t like change.

It is human nature to cling to what we know, that which makes us secure. Again, children are a perfect example of this. They long for security and a constant in their life. They cling to schedules and repetitive days. But as adults, as mature Christians, we are called to go where God takes us. Everyone knows the story of Jonah and the whale. If you do not, or if you haven’t read it in a while, I encourage you to pick up your Bible and flip to the book of Jonah. It is not a long book, and is a light read, and has a blatant way of showing us just how important it is to follow God’s call for our lives.

Many people keep their toes on the edge of the water, scared to fully jump in and immerse themselves in the faith of God’s love. But the truth is, until you take that leap of faith, you will always be unhappy. You will be searching for more, all the while being tethered to whatever makes you feel comfortable.

Is there a decision in your life right now that you need to make that will take you out of your comfort zone?

Often times it is in those most pivotal moments of our lives that we feel closer to God than ever before. Maybe it is because sometimes they leave us feeling like the rug has been ripped out from underneath us. When you fear change, always remember that God is an ever present help in your life, he will always be there for you to rest your worries and sorrows on. Lean on him during times of change, look to him and trust that he knows exactly what he is doing with your life. Open your hearts to what he is calling you to do. That tug in your heart is his way of telling you, “Come child, it is time to move.”

We have expectations.

I know it sounds crazy to think of going through life with no expectations, especially coming from someone who just described themselves as being driven. But that is exactly what 2 Corinthians 5:7 calls us to do, to leave behind any idea of what our life would look like, or what the world tells us it should look like, and walk blindly in faith, knowing that what is meant to be, will.

This is never an easy thing. I am a self-proclaimed control freak and the thought of walking blindly and unprepared anywhere literally makes my palms sweat. But Jesus’ love in my heart is stronger than any human quirk I may have and so in times of decision or stress, I often feel myself take a deep breath, whisper a prayer, and I can physically feel the tension release between my shoulder blades. There is something to be said for feeling like someone else is handling the big stuff.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where often expectations come from other places than ourselves. They come from family, friends, and even perfect strangers. It seems that somewhere along the way, the world has painted a picture of what a “normal” life should look like. What we should be doing at every stage of our life. At every age I can remember the stress of worldly expectations and as I grow older, they never leave, they just simply change.

What worldly expectations are weighing on you today? What is the world telling you that you should be doing? Give it to God.

I encourage you to take a moment now to spend some time with God. I know its cliché, but kneel down by your bed or a chair, get comfortable and talk to God about what you are feeling.  There is something about humbling yourself before him that really allows you to let go. Let him know that this life is bigger than you, that you can’t do it by yourself. That whatever you’re facing, whether it is that scares you, makes you uncomfortable or just feels like it is not enough, that you know he is there with you, strengthening you to take on whatever it may be. And then I want you to give that to God. Whatever “it” is for you, give it to him today. Lay it down at his feet, even if you have physically write it on a paper, fold it up and lay it on the floor in front you, give it to God. Allow him to lead you to the place he desires you to be.

Now the last thing I want you to do is this:

Imagine your perfect life, imagine if you were exactly where you wanted to be right now. Not where the world wants you to be, but where you want to be. Got it?

Good. Write it down in a journal, or on a slip of paper and keep it safe. Open it in three, five or fifteen years. I promise you that where you are then, is better than you could have ever hoped for it to be.