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

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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.

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.