When Aslan Calls

aslan

When Aslan calls 

No beast or man

Can turn their face away

It awakens something in them

And they know they must obey

To ignore the call would hurt them

A spiritual decay

For what can we hope to gain alone

Without Aslan to lead the way

His call stirs up courage

We remember who we are

His roar is like a rushing wind

unvieling every heart

Though full of love and mercy

To our enemy His roar is fierce

There’s nothing tame about Him

He’s a lion to be feared

But to His Sons and Daughters

He’s as gentle as He’s kind

His goodness overflows

His love it never dies

And beauty wraps around Him

In a mane like pure fire

Causing every knee to bow

And heart to come alive

When Aslan calls

This truth rings out;

Victory has arrived.

Listen and Remember

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He was clicking his pen in frustration. It seemed like hours had passed like this, with him sighing and scribbling and pausing to look out the window at the never-ending stream of rain. It struck the glass in angry gusts and dimmed the room considerably. Why write at all? I’ve no ideas and the rain is distracting! He thought miserably. This woebegone young man was like many of us, wanting to be inspired and yet finding himself in one of those moments when nothing seems to spark the creative corners of the mind.

He went by the name of Milton, with dark curly brown hair and hazel eyes, that at the moment were quite bloodshot. He lived alone in a cramped little apartment near the city working as an author…or at least, trying. The few books he had written were informative, dense, and well…dull. It was time for a change, and Milton was ready to write his first novel, in an excited rush, he dived for his pen and paper and had stared expectantly at the blank sheets as though they would suddenly fill themselves with the greatest story yet to be told. But as the clock ticked, pen clicked, and rain tapped…Milton’s spirits dropped. What he needed was an inspiration, stories that would awaken his soul to greater possibilities. Have you ever needed that? A story that could bring you to another world for a while…long enough that you might bring back some souvenirs, but not so long that you would wish to stay there.

Milton stretched and left the room in dismay, he trudged toward the phone as he had done before whenever he needed advice he could trust. He dialed and waited, his friend Tom was a small-town family man that had attended his church growing up. Tom was middle-aged now and usually hard at work in his woodshop. As gifted as he was at making rocking chairs, cabinets, and tables, he was even more so at giving wise advice.

Tom answered on the third ring with the usual, “Hullo Miles, what can I do for you?” He always asked it with a smile, or at least, that’s how it sounded to Milton. He shared his dilemma and waited, Tom usually took his time responding as he chewed on what he had heard. “So you need inspiration? You want some fresh ideas is that right?” He finally asked. Milton sighed out a “yes sir,” and added, “maybe I can try the library, I’ve gone there before when I was in a pinch.” Tom chuckled at this and replied, “I know a better place, in fact, it is the best place for you to hear the greatest of stories.” Milton cocked an eyebrow, “to hear the greatest stories?” Tom laughed again as though withholding a great surprise. “How about I just tell you the address of the place, it’s just outside the city.” Milton agreed and after jotting down the address and thanking his friend, he hung up the phone in utter confusion and yet, hope.

The rain had finally slowed to a drizzle as Milton drove on, past the city lights reflecting on the wet pavement, past the people hunched and covered in long raincoats and umbrellas, and past the old church of his youth, standing strong and immovable against the dark and heavy skies. He turned into the driveway of his destination and nearly laughed. He had pulled into Peaceful Meadows Retirement Home. Still gripping the wheel Milton shook his head, “really Tom?” He said aloud. But despite his confusion, he unfastened his seat belt and stepped from the car, his face set and mind determined to carry on. Tom’s advice had never steered him wrong before, so there’s no reason to turn back, yet.

The place was stereotypically what you would expect. It smelled like a hospital but with a more “lived in” feel. Voices were hushed but the place was full of people. Nurses rushed about and some elderly residents were scooting past with walkers or sitting on benches. Milton took it all in as he walked up to the reception desk. “Hi, are you here to see someone?” She asked in a well-practiced chipper voice and plastered smile. Milton smiled back, in a more forced way and replied, “Well, actually I’m an author looking for inspiration. I was told to come here and…,” He looked around as a short elderly lady wobbled past, ” …listen to some stories.” The receptionist blinked at him and then shrugged, “Go right ahead dear, you’re an author huh? What have you written?” Milton excitedly began sharing his books until he saw that the receptionist had clearly zoned out, his voice trailed off and he awkwardly side-stepped away from the desk.

Now if only he knew where to start. He scratched his head and peered left and right down the quiet halls. In his pocket, he had a notepad and his trusted pen, in case he found anything worth writing down. He pulled these out and began walking slowly towards the first open room he saw.

It was the rec room, with tables and chairs set up for bingo night that would take place in a few hours, some laid-back blues were playing in the background, or so Milton thought until he saw that the sound was really coming from a beat-up boombox in the corner. An elderly African-American man sat listening, arms folded and eyes closed, nodding his head to the beat. Milton approached and pulled up a chair, the noise caught the man’s attention, his eyes opened and he smiled, “Hello there.” He said extending his hand, Milton shook it and introduced himself. They chatted for a while, Milton shared his mission and asked, “so, what’s your story, sir?” The man, who Milton now knew was named George, leaned back in his chair, rubbed his chin, and stared up at the ceiling in thought. “Son, where do I begin? I’ve lived a lifetime of moments worth remembering, and I must say, I’ve never had anyone to share them with until now.” He locked eyes with Milton and the inner loneliness was evident on his wrinkled face.

This was the moment that forever changed Milton. This moment, listening to the most amazing and wonderous of stories, a man’s life laid out before him as if it were his own. As if he had walked in his shoes and experienced his sorrows, triumphs, and accomplishments. He told Milton of how life was back then when there was nothing but you and your imagination for entertainment. When dinner was spent at the table surrounded by your family, even if it was only bread and soup. He shared the torment he endured when he was drafted into the Army, how many white people that had started as his enemies, soon became his allies. “A war will do that you know?” He said, clicking off his boombox, “it will erase everything that makes you different from one another, and highlight everything that makes you the same.” After coming home, his comrades kept in touch with him until the day they died. “I lost my last friend, only a few years ago.” He added sadly. “That song you heard me playing was one we would play together in our small town Jazz band.” Milton listened on and on, clinging to every story until the call for bingo to begin snapped him to reality.

And this was just one man, one storybook. Milton had filled his notebook..and had done something else, had put the name “George” on the cover. That night he went to the store and bought more notebooks, and each day he returned to that little-forgotten retirement home, until he had heard every story, every name, and had written every word down. Soon he had 50 life stories, condensed and cataloged on his desk at home. He stared at them thinking I had started out wanting to write my own story, and now look at me! I’ve written 50 others for those who had no voice. How inspiring it was! Milton had learned a valuable lesson as an author. That unless we learn to value the stories of others, we cannot create valuable stories ourselves. How empty they would be, and very dull.

To the overwhelming joy of the residents at Peaceful Meadows, Milton had soon published their stories, in a book titled, Listen and Remember. It became a best-seller.

The rain was falling again, Milton sat at his desk, clicking his pen with bare paper before him. So many stories, so many ideas, of heroes and villains, love and romance, entire worlds to explore swam through his mind. What do I write next? I’ve so many ideas! He thought excitedly. He glanced out the window and smiled, And it’s the perfect time to write, the rain is so inspiring…

Dedication:

This story was written in remembrance of those whom I’ve had the privilege to listen to. My Uncle Herman who told me stories of WWII, Grandma Barb who shared both the joys and hardships she faced growing up, Uncle Cecil who was an avid gun collector, and could tell me the story behind each one’s purchase. I will miss all your stories, told in the way only you could tell them.

All To Jesus

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“Peter began to say to Him,

“Behold, we have left everything and followed You.”‘

-Mark 10:28

All day I’ve had the song, Gracefully Broken by Matt Redman stuck in my head. I keep hearing the first part of the bridge, which says, “all to Jesus now…holding nothing back.” It’s a fitting phrase, as we just returned from a church leadership retreat in which the theme was how we can better mirror Christ in our church, and what we can sacrifice/give as a family to fulfill God’s call in our lives and reach the lost.

We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) as fellow believers, and that should mean that we are united in purpose, and in love. And yet, people search and browse through churches like they are looking through a catalog because unfortunately, the body is divided and the people of Christ aren’t all on the same page.

Churches tear and separate for various reasons, some over more serious matters than others. Each church has it’s own “vision statement” and specific beliefs and priorities. Many churches have huge age gaps and are designed and orchestrated around those ages. Some churches are all about image, they run things like a business striving to make Jesus look appealing through flashing lights, great worship, and free handouts. Other churches are content keeping to themselves and not drawing in attention. They enjoy their solitude and potlucks believing that God called them to hold down the fort until He returns, like in the Parable of the Three Servants (Matthew 25:14-30), the servant who was given one bag of silver dug a hole and buried it. For those who don’t know-the master wasn’t pleased.

I believe that each church has a specific calling and leading from the Holy Spirit, but that shouldn’t separate us from the rest of the bride. Our unique talents and callings should compliment one another. There isn’t a different Holy Spirit to be found in a different church, He is one and the same in all of us, as well as His heart. He awakens our giftings in the hopes that we will work together and become stronger as one. If only we worked as one body, with one mind, and one heart. Then we wouldn’t fall into those ineffective categories listed above because we would keep each other grounded in the truth. We would encourage and build up one another so that we could continue growing and eliminating the darkness of this world.

Jesus never referred to the church as his bride(s), just as he never referred to it as an eye, leg, and ear instead of as a body, comprised of many parts working together. He spoke to the church as if it is one, saying, “YOU are the salt of the earth…YOU are the light of the world!” (Matthew 5:13-14). I believe that God’s vision is for a future in which we no longer will say, “my church….”, or “your church…” but “Thee church.”

This church once existed, and it can still exist again.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2)

The church in Acts had everything in common and that was reflected in their actions, they did everything together. They all gave, did communion, worshipped, and enjoyed every minute of it. You don’t see them arguing over how to go about reaching the lost or asking the body what it can do for them. They simply did what they felt was right and let the Holy Spirit guide them on the finer details of what that looks like. They didn’t come to be served but to serve. And look at the impact this church made in the surrounding town and city! They enjoyed the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily! It wasn’t hard. They were simply enjoying fellowship and servitude and it caught the attention of the lost around them. True family, True love is appealing to EVERYONE.

The main message I want to get across today is this…we are all in this together, and if you feel you do best on your own, I’m here to ask you what that kind of life has accomplished for you and others. I don’t know your story, but I bet you were stung and you fell away from the church because of it. You told yourself that you were done and that God must have a different destiny for you that doesn’t involve relationship with other believers.

For a while that might work for you, you may feel pretty justified and righteous in your thinking, and to add to that you most likely will feel life is pretty peaceful and easy. But someday you will be lead astray, in fact, you are already on your way there….satan has succeeded in cutting you off from the pack through unforgiveness and fear. And I’m sure you have seen enough nature films to know what happens next…unprotected and alone, the enemy comes in for the kill. In this case, he will come in to pull you further away..not just from the church but from God Himself and His word, and ultimately you will forget your identity in Him.

I almost became that lone wolf, in fact, I had started to believe myself that being involved in a church wasn’t altogether necessary. I’ve been a part of multiple churches that failed, the last one hit me the most because it was then that I was old enough to understand the weight of what had happened. I saw only too late how the enemy had worked his way through our walls and into our minds. We all hold that responsibility-it’s never one man’s fault. And if somehow one man could tear down a church the bigger problem is that the church gave him the power to do so and did nothing to stop it.

Paul knew the importance of unity, he wrote letters to the church, called them out on their mistakes, praised them for their accomplishments, and sent other believers, if needed, to help build them up. He prayed for them and would have gladly died for the bride of Christ even if it meant his own salvation was considered forfeit.

That’s holding nothing back.

If we truly loved God…we would reflect His heart, and if we truly reflected His heart, we would fight for the church. We would have a heart for people.

Relationships are messy…family is messy. But we can’t live life without either, and I don’t believe deep down that anyone truly wants to be alone. So it really comes down to this…are you willing to believe and fight for the heart of God? Even when the church fails will you believe and fight for it? Like a husband for his bride? Will you believe in the Word of God even when satan attacks it and tests it in your heart? Will you hold nothing back? …..it’s going to be painful, it’s going to take sacrifice…but you know what? Nothing great, nothing wonderful was ever discovered by those who gave up. To enjoy the view from the top of a mountain you must first be willing to climb it.

Are you truly a follower of Christ? Then take up your cross…it’s no longer about you. No, you’re part of something bigger, and it’s not a democracy. No, in this kingdom the first become last, and the last get a crown. We all serve and we don’t gripe about it. With the right heart, we see it as an honor to love others and to be loved. Forgiveness isn’t earned but given freely in this kingdom of ours, and nothing we do, each step we take with the cross on our backs, is in vain.  No, it’s all worth it, more than you can ever know.

“Anyone who is to find Christ must first find the church. How could anyone know where Christ is and what faith is in him unless he knew where his believers are?”

-Martin Luther 

From Saul to Paul

A.D. The Bible Continues

“Now for several days, he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?”‘ 

-Acts 9:19-25

I have always known that Paul had once persecuted those of the faith, but never had I truly considered what he was like before his encounter on the road to Damascus. The image above is from TV series, A.D. The Bible Continues, in which Paul first arrives on the scene as terrifyingly cruel and insatiably zealous. We see that even as Saul, he was a passionate man who could persuade others. He was also very loyal to the temple and high priest, but not quite as loyal as he was towards Judaism. All these traits that Saul had twisted, would be incredibly useful tools in ministry later on. But at this point, they had made him a monster to be feared, and who could not be stopped from his pursuit.

“And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You. ‘And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.” –Acts 22:19-20

When the Lord wants you, He will take you for His Kingdom and Glory. Saul discovered this on the road to Damascus, which he was traveling towards to acquire letters allowing him permission to arrest and bind any Christian he may find and take them to Jerusalem. In a moment his world was flipped upside down, the truth was undeniable and his eyes were opened. And then he lost his sight.

This was Saul’s defining moment, he received a new identity, he also probably felt the weight of his sin come crashing down on him for he didn’t eat or drink for a few days after this encounter. Now a Christian, blinded, and alone with his confused escorts, he had only one idea as to what to do next. God had given him the name, Ananias, who would be able to heal his eyes.

Ananias also received God’s call to assist Saul. Can you imagine the fear he probably felt? It would be the equivalent of a modern-day Christain being called to heal an ISIS leader. With Saul’s eyes opened, he was immediately baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. And at once he went to preach the good news in the city.

Remember, Saul’s identity may have been completely changed, but his personality, the traits that made him a man to be feared before, now made him a considerable ally. The zealousness once fueled by hatred was now fueled by love and grace, and could not be contained. Saul is the ultimate go-getter here, and I’m sure Ananias had his hands full.

At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept a close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. –Acts 9:20-25

I believe that A.D. The Bible Continues does a great job of portraying this transformation in Saul. Just as he was filled with rage and contempt to the point of being driven to foreign lands after Jesus’s followers, he now carried such a great passion and love that he was driven immediately to the streets to proclaim the name of Jesus.

I never considered what happened next, Saul returned to Jerusalem in the hopes of being welcomed in just as Ananias had accepted him. But instead, he was met with fear and trepidation. It was still fresh in everyone’s minds the kind of man Saul was, the torture he had put the disciples through. Barnabas shared Saul’s story, and through time and the power of forgiveness Saul was accepted as a brother.

The change in his countenance would have been compelling proof enough of Saul’s change. We see this today when people are born again, they seem to carry a light, a weightiness is lifted from their shoulders and something in them comes alive that wasn’t alive before.

Saul’s passion leads him to preach in Jerusalem until the disciples fear that he will be killed for his boldness. They send him away to Tarsus, the land of his birth in the hopes, I think, of him calming down and returning to his family for a while. But I believe that Saul continued to preach and to grow in his faith.

From there we begin to better know Saul as Paul. He helps establish the first churches, guides them, is continually persecuted, and is known best by his letters; Thessalonians, Galatians, Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon, and Romans.

In those letters we see Paul, we get to know his heart, not just for Jesus, but for his brothers and sisters in Christ. What an amazing testimony to the transforming power of God, that a man could change so much. That a monster could become a man of admiration and respect.

This is a testimony we should all remember and cling to. That there is hope for all no matter how far it seems they have fallen. God can restore and redeem anyone. It is His perfect will to save the lost and give them a new identity in Him.

From Saul to Paul. From _______ to _______. Fill in the blank, all things are possible through Jesus.

 

 

Star Trek: Quotes

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“Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.”

-Mr. Spock

This quote is a well-learned lesson for Mr. Spock, as, throughout his voyages on the Enterprise, he discovered that logic isn’t always enough, especially when dealing with humans who rely on intuition and emotions to guide them.  Logic is simply limited by what we know. A logical response for you may not be so logical to someone else, or in this case, may not be logical in another world.

Logic is generally what “makes sense”, and what makes sense is brought about through experience and reasoning. But what about the unknown? The things we encounter that, on the surface, don’t make sense? This is where logic isn’t enough, and we must rely on something greater.

To Mr. Spock, when logic doesn’t fit, he relies on his human side to fill in the equation. What feels right, or the things that aren’t logical but often true nonetheless. This is the beginning of wisdom as he describes it. A new level of understanding gained through time and maturity.

What I want to add to this is the Christian perspective, in that for us, wisdom is gained through a relationship with God. True wisdom, that which is understood only through revelation and faith. Though God created the world and it’s known science, He also created much that is unknown and even unseen. A world not governed or limited by our science or scientific laws. A world where our logic is not so logical at all. It is when we realize that limitation and start to see things openly that wisdom starts to grow in us. It involves humility and faith in that we must believe in something that can’t be fully understood.

That’s the heart of it, logic will only take you so far, eventually, you will have to have faith in something because we will never know all the answers to everything, whether you are a Christain or even an atheist, you will need to have faith to believe in what you do. And you will need the wisdom to make the right choice, a choice arrived at through objective means.

What are your thoughts on Logic vs. Wisdom?

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”-Proverbs 3:13-18

 

 

Heart of Healing

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“…A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill.”

-Matthew 12:15

 

Finally, the snow has parted here in Ohio, along with it’s freezing temperatures. And just as the heat of summer starts to roll in…I get Strep Throat. Even as I type this now, my throat is hurting and swollen. However, I’m thankful that it has motivated me to write again. Life has been rather busy, and all my blog ideas have just been quickly jotted down on the backs of recipes and bills, in my phone and between the pages of books. It is almost a treat to be sick enough to be given time, a break from the busyness of life.

That very thought has led me to write this blog, as I struggled to pray for healing over myself when I felt the oncoming symptoms appear, I realized that part of me didn’t mind being sick, it was like I partnered with it, if only slightly. Healing didn’t come and here I am taking penicillin on day 2 of missed work wondering if I would have been healed if I had fully wanted it.

I know there is much we don’t yet understand about healing, why some people are healed and others are not. Why some healings are instant and others take years is a mystery to us all. I believe there are multiple factors at work, limiting us from our full potential. The same Holy Spirit is within us after all. He is the one who worked within the disciples, raising the dead, casting out demons, healing everyone regardless of how severe the ailment. So what has happened?

There is nothing in the Bible that says the power of the Holy Spirit has left us, and how confusing would it be for Jesus to send us the Holy Spirit, demonstrate His power, and then take Him from us. Would it not be the equivalent of holding out a precious jewel and then snatching it away just as our hands were outstretched towards it? Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit in great excitement and with a promise:

12 “I can guarantee this truth: Those who believe in me will do the things that I am doing. They will do even greater things because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do anything you ask the Father in my name so that the Father will be given glory because of the Son. 14 If you ask me to do something, I will do it.

15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper who will be with you forever. 17 That helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it doesn’t see or know him. You know him because he lives with you and will be in you.  (John 14:12-17)

Jesus guarantees us that if we believe we will do even greater things than he? And what did he do? He did countless miracles! Not only that, but he goes on to promise that the Holy Spirit is with us forever, not just for a time as many people have come to believe today, simply because they haven’t seen the Holy Spirit work in their lives.

The truth remains that what we seek we find. I grew up believing in the Holy Spirit but failing to see His power. But, what is more likely? To believe that Jesus lied to us or to believe that maybe we got something wrong ourselves? Maybe we have let doubt cloud our hearts, maybe we have forgotten who the Holy Spirit is. Even the disciples had to learn and grow in their understanding. It took an incredible amount of faith and an unshakable trust in Jesus to propel them forward on their journey.

Are we truly surprised to discover that maybe we will be required to have that same faith and trust?

I know a pastor who pursued healing for many years. It seemed hopeless, everyone he prayed for walked away unchanged, and man did he do bold things, putting his faith to the test..as this was going on, something tragic happened, his sister died of cancer. It was a defining moment, would he give up on healing? Instead of feeling hopeless, he became angry. Satan had had the last laugh, it was all or nothing. With renewed passion, he continued to pray over people, and that’s when…the miracles happened. Today, he sees miracles all the time. He believes without a doubt that God is good and his will is for everyone to be healed and restored. I know this man, in fact, he has opened our eyes to the miraculous.

I share this testimony in the hopes that you too will continue pursuing God’s promises. They are all worth fighting for with everything we have. Words alone won’t be enough to change the world, we need to prove that God is good and He is at work through us. That is what Jesus did, he taught and he did miracles, the two went hand in hand and we are called to mirror him.

And Jesus healed every single man, woman, and child that came to him. And those who came to him, whether they were blind, crippled, or diseased…were asked this question, “do you want to be healed?” I find this question is very easy to miss…we think to ourselves, of course, they want to be healed! But Jesus isn’t going to give you something you won’t receive, something you don’t want. Maybe this is a factor we also overlook today, we never ask people what they want, we just pray for them and even pull them up from their wheelchairs in the belief that healing will come by force.

The heart of a person can be the heart of the problem. Everything we do stems from our heart. How easy it is to pray over the obvious, the outward effects, that point to a deeper problem. Our bodies and minds can become warped by sin and brokenness, and only the Holy Spirit knows the heart. We can’t heal without his power, and we can’t heal without his guidance.

Ask him how to pray for someone, get to the heart of the issue, have that person say aloud what they want to happen…their words are just as powerful. And be willing to do what the Holy Spirit asks of you, don’t hesitate.

Believe that the miraculous is possible, seek it out, and you will find it. But be prepared and warned. In order to grow, to see more, you may have to step out of your comfort zones, out of your idea of what healing should look like, you may just have to trust yourself in the hands of the Holy Spirit.

 

“Faith without works is useless.”

James 2:20

Pause and Reflect

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Sometimes I need a reminder. A walk through God’s sanctuary. And no, I’m not talking about a church building, not even the oldest of cathedrals with its stained glass and towering steeples compares to where I am going.

I keep driving, with the windows down waiting for the city smell to fade and a new wild smell to take its place. The smell of pine trees and wildflowers, of earth and streams, and constantly growing breathing life. It beckons me, awakens me as I go, each mile closer to home.

Oh, how I need this reminder. Something that brings the Words of the Bible to life. A memory that will sink in, held captive by my heart to be played back during life’s storms. I had felt the questions rising up again…Is God my provider? Is He truly present? Is God Good? These questions can be natural and can grow our trust, but left unattended they can twist themselves like weeds around our minds until we are too afraid to seek the answers that will set us free.

My hands grip the steering wheel, I will pull these weeds up by the roots! I will set my mind right and leave this sanctuary equipped and ready for battle. And yes, the life I’m driving from is a battle. Beauty and wonder are so essential to truly living. I can forget this, in the day to day grind, and in forgetting I start to feel a void growing, a disconnection from my life source. A gnawing hunger building. A thirst that no amount of city tap water can fulfill.

I pull into the gravel parking lot, I am alone. Stepping out of the car is like stepping into a new world. A blue sky barely visible amidst the tall pine trees. I listen to the birds and the wind dance around me. So entirely different than the hard grey walls of the factory back home. This place is alive.

I set about looking for my reminders…I know they are here. A particularly small chirping sound reaches my ears and I look up to see a birds nest filled with baby sparrows. So expectant are they and yet peaceful, with their eyes closed and their mouths open ready to receive and knowing they will. I can’t help but smile as their mother swoops into view, feeding each hatchling until they are full of grub.

“Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”-Matthew 6:27

The verse played out before me, “thank you, God,” I say aloud. As I continue walking I soon come across a tree stump and sit down. I watch the sunbeams fall on every blooming flower, laugh as chipmunks go skirting around trees with their mouths full of nuts and seeds. A butterfly with wings so beautiful, it’s as if they were made from the finest royal silk, lands daintily upon a leaf and begins drinking dew droplets. Such a masterpiece surrounds me, and yet God set it all into motion for me. Sitting on the stump I start to sing praises to my Father, thanking Him for placing me in the center of His heart, what a love story this is. And it is just the beginning.

As I sing I feel everything stop and listen, the birds whose voices always sing pure and on key, the beating of wings both large and small, the whisper of the trees, a never-ending sound of applause, and as I sing my final tune I hear the Lord say, “yours is my favorite voice amidst these.” A tear trickles down my cheek and lands upon a flower petal, a wild rose. I stand up, no longer hungry, no longer thirsty…no questions left unanswered.

I have been reminded.

God is provider, He is present, God is Good.

 

 

 

For Granted

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 “Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship – a different kind of “sacrifice” – that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.”

-Hebrews 13:16

Have you ever went on vacation and towards the end wish you were back home? We get excited at first, packing our bags and loading up the car, ready to leave the cold busy town for a quiet hot beach somewhere. But then after a while, once the excitement wears off, you start to miss your own bed, the familiarity of your town and life back home. You miss your friends and any pets you left behind. Suddenly the vacation is over and you not only return refreshed but you remember why you love your home so much. You learn not to take what you have for granted.

In America, we take everything for granted. The amount of complaining that can be heard shows just how ungrateful people have become. No one is content with what they have it seems, either they aren’t rich enough, aren’t skinny enough, aren’t popular enough, or at the end of it all, aren’t happy enough. The fact is, we all need to be reminded every now and then that everything we have is a gift, and those gifts can be taken back, thrown away, or destroyed if we don’t learn to value them properly.

We are on our second year owning a home, and it has been met with challenges. Expensive challenges, but we expected to have to sacrifice time and money into making this place a home. And despite the costs, I am grateful to live in the country. Growing up in a busy and ghetto-like town has made me even more grateful that I get to live away from all that, surrounded by nature instead of fences. If I started to take this place for granted, I would ignore its problems, forget what my life was like before, and the house would eventually come to ruin and neglect. If I’m not careful, I may just end back where I started, living in an apartment in town wishing I lived in the country.

It’s a never-ending cycle; on rainy days we miss the sunshine when it’s hot out we miss the snow, and when it’s snowy we miss the heat of summer. We want to leave town, we want to come home, we want to visit friends, we want to be alone, we want to be a kid, we want to be full grown, we want what we can’t have, and we have more than we know.

That is why we remind ourselves, why we have holidays and memorials, and history books. We must remember what it was like before, what was sacrificed, what decisions led to destruction, and what battles led to victory. We can’t afford to take what we have for granted and risk losing it all. Even the Israelites forgot what it was like in the wilderness, they forgot all that God had done for them, and it took considerable loss and devastation to bring them back to understanding.

I believe that Adam and Eve may just have taken the garden of Eden for granted. People keep saying, “If I would have been in the garden I wouldn’t have eaten from the tree.” If we were plucked from the present and placed in the garden today we wouldn’t eat of it, but if our memories and perceptions were wiped clean and we were placed as if just created beings into the garden, each and every one of us would have made the mistake Adam and Eve made. Why? We are living in the outcome of what that mistake cost. We know death and sin and suffering, and because of this we long for the time before all that, we want to get back to paradise. Eve, on the other hand, knew nothing of death or sin, she only knew the garden, she only knew beauty and peace and became curious about life outside of that.

She took for granted the blessings of God, and it cost her everything. She thought God was holding back from her and that one deception made her forget all that God had poured out on her. Every fruit and vegetable imaginable, every animal, nothing but sunshine and water springs, God walking in the evening breeze, Adam by her side. The tree of life, God never said to stay clear of that tree, and yet it was left untouched. Thrown away, discarded was the paradise God gave man.

And now, years later, many of us have taken the cross for granted. The great pain and suffering the Son of God went through to bring us back to him. On Easter, everyone seems to come out of hiding and flood the churches. If it wasn’t for that reminder, would people even give it a thought? If it wasn’t for Easter would people look to Jesus and say, “thank you.” Some people accept Christ like He’s a get out of jail free card. There is no love or recognition, just selfish desire to be in paradise again. A gift taken for granted will never be understood, valued, or cherished. People that take Christ for granted, don’t know Him, or what He gave to save them, they don’t care about the scars on His hands or the thorns on His brow. And yet, Jesus loves them still…why?

He never takes us for granted. He loves us, and values us, even though we don’t deserve it, even though apart from Him we have no value. He chases after us, fights for us, and died to know us.

Is there anything/anyone you have taken for granted?

Movie Reviews

 

Hello everyone! Hope you had a great Easter!

What a privilege it was to worship Jesus Friday and Sunday and see new faces at our church, it is my prayer that they received peace, joy, and love as they remembered the cross. Another privilege this Easter was relaxing with friends and family and watching these two amazing films that I would like to share about with you today.

The first movie I watched on Netflix, called The Case For Christ, is based on a true story by Lee Strobel, a former Atheist turned to Christian after doing an in-depth search for truth. This movie looks into the topic of faith and proves that regardless of belief we all have faith in something, and even require faith to fill in the gaps of our understanding. The truth is we will never know all the answers to everything, but we can gather enough evidence to support the existence of God and Jesus.

Dr. Craig: Lee, do you want to know the truth, or is your mind already made up?… When is enough evidence enough evidence?

Some of the facts that Lee discovers completely shut down his arguments and debates. And soon he is left with a choice, to believe or not. This movie truly is amazing, for both believers and those who are still uncertain.

The second movie truly left me speechless. I Can Only Imagine is the story behind the famous song by Bart Millard. A story of forgiveness and following your dreams. God is the ultimate redeemer and this song was birthed from that redemption. You become immersed in the story as Bart grows up under an abusive father who loves to shatter Bart’s dreams and confidence. As time moves on, Bart learns he can sing and that dream is put to the test as he struggles to make it in the music business with his band, Mercy Me. Unfortunatley, the past he left behind seems to follow him, and he comes to the conclusion that he must go back home and face his father. It is there that God does something amazing, and through that miracle, Bart writes this beautiful song.

Both of these movies are based off true stories and are testimonies to the goodness of God. I highly recommend them to anyone who is hungry for more passion and zeal for Christ.

God bless you all! Thank you for reading!