I remember the huge celebrations growing up as that clock ticked and the crowd counted down the remaining seconds before “Happy New Year!”
As a child I’d smile, watching the ball drop on TV at Time’s Square, fireworks exploding all around. As an adult I’d cheer and turn to my husband for the customary kiss to start the new year off right. Now…
Now, as a mother and as someone who very much feels the weight of time passing like sand through my fingers, my face is more somber. It’s like I’m saluting the year that passed by so swiftly, the pain and triumphs and milestones that it held, never to experience again.
I see a world that is almost hesitant now, if not just as somber. The joy and laughter are almost hollow in some ways, the crowds are gone, the ball drop? A silent affair.
Are we setting ourselves up to expect more hardship? Forgetting the new day(s) and it’s opportunity for joy and restoration? It’s time we throw our fears and woes back at the devil’s face and say, “this is going to be a great year!”
Instead of new year resolutions, why not try new year declarations:
1. This year I’m going to see miracles
2. This year I’m choosing joy!
3. This year, my family will be reunited.
4. This year, Is the year of revival!
(Insert your own)
Resolutions our what we say to ourselves, declarations is what we say to our spirit and perhaps those words carry more power?
Our minds are influenced by our thoughts and what we feed it daily. Are we feeding on Hope and surrounding ourselves with positivity? Your mental health with reflect what you are focused on and what you have trained your mind to do. The power to transform your life begins with transforming the way you think.
I highly recommend reading “Battlefield of the Mind,” by Joyce Meyer, and coupling that with reading/watching books/videos by Dr. Caroline Leaf, a pure genius of the mind who is also a Christian.
As for your own 2022 declarations, get out a sheet of paper and write down as many as the Lord places on your heart to write and hang them in a place you can speak them aloud daily. It can be a part of your morning routine—setting your mind and heart on joy and positivity before each new day.
And one day at a time…you’ll see God move through your words and they won’t return to you void. Only just remember this…every spoken word from you (and God) will be tested and tried.
You may find yourself experiencing opposition and possibly “the opposite” of what you declare at first. This is the devil trying to undermine truth. Hold fast and don’t stop declaring! This is a spiritual battle but you know who is victorious…your words have power or he wouldn’t be attacking them.
You will win. Trust in God. Keep straight the path ❤️
These past couple years have hurt. Deeply. Everywhere I turn it’s the same story, like a broken record. Pain—loss—fear. It’s more rampant than ever, and Hope? More scarce than ever.
The church (as a whole) made a grave error. Many turned their backs during a time when the world needed them most. In a lot of ways we collectively said, “Jesus isn’t enough,” and the world heard the message. And a bleak hopelessness set in…
We all carry scars now that we were never meant to carry, particularly alone. The devil has done what he set out to do, and now that Christmas is drawing near—he’s ever more dedicated to his cause. Is not Christmas and the coming Easter worth our final stand?
The two months that bring us Hope and remind us of the giver of Hope are under attack in ways we do not realize. I have friends who have turned from church and God, those who have lost so much these past years…and what kind of Hope can I give them?
Have I lost my Hope as well?
I’ve tasted depression and the void of loneliness that only comes in the absence of God in my life. There, my friends, is where you discover what hell is like. You see, we have a tendency to pull away from what would heal us when we are hurting. As “progressed” as we like to think of ourselves we are far from it!
Without God, we cease to have purpose and therefore begin to die. We can’t fully live without Him—we can’t go against the grain of our destinies.
Last night I read the story of Jonah and how he tried to flee from God and his destiny. As you know, he wasn’t given the choice to back down. After a fierce storm and time in the belly of a fish God had prepared to both discipline and protect him, he finally accepted his call to warn the people of Nineveh.
What happened after that? The people of Nineveh repented at Jonah’s warning and the city was saved. But Jonah again needed a lesson from God to remind him how valued each and every soul is to Him.
It reminded me of our own destinies. The church may have turned its back like Jonah on God’s call to save—but I believe, that also—like Jonah, they will be reminded of that call and either will repent and see a revival or completely fall away from their faith (pruned away like a rotting branch from the vine).
Those who turn from God will not find rest or Hope, they won’t even find contentment and wholeness because they’ve denied who they are and why they were created.
But those who heed the call and cling fast to Jesus during this time of trials, will find everything they need and more to withstand the storm yes, but also to heal and mend those who are hurting and point them to salvation. A gift that cannot be taken from you (unless you give it away).
And so I urge you brothers and sisters to turn your eyes back to God. It is very easy to get caught up in the things of this world but we can’t afford to lose sight of what matters most and sink beneath the waves like Peter. There is a reality that is unseen, that is more “real” than this plane of existence. Those who perish do not truly die, those who suffer now do so temporarily and are allowed to do so so that the love of Jesus can be demonstrated on this Earth.
We’re ambassadors from another place, representing the most High God in our words and by our actions.
This Christmas Eve, remember Jesus. Born in a disgusting manger, hiding from King Herod and his men. God on Earth—come to die at our hands, so that we could be with Him forever.
And that…is a reason to sing!
Not Covid, nor death, nor persecution, nor suffering, nor what powers govern our world—NOTHING can take this from you!
He is my reason to sing. Always and forever.
Even when I don’t feel joyful in the moment, or when I’m mourning…More of God is always the answer—not less.
Life has been in the fast lane lately for me as the holidays roll in and my son grows more daring. In my sparse moments of pursuing Facebook, I came across this post from my friend, Jared.
For those of you who don’t know. He is the very one I wrote about in my previous post titled: A Thief in the Night. In a nutshell, Jared and his family (friends with our pastor for many years), felt called to move to Ohio and join our church.
They sold their home and came up, Jared, his wife, Rachel, and their, at the time, 2 year old son, Isaac. We were overjoyed to have them as part of our church family—but it was short-lived.
The devil, like a thief in the night, took Rachel from us suddenly. From there our church struggled through a time of grief and loss, while Jared and his son struggled all the more. He had to keep smiling for his son, pick up the pieces of their lives, and overcome the biggest hurdle of all…continue trusting in God.
His journey of healing and hope has inspired hundreds. And now, a-few years later—Jared and his family continue to inspire.
Here is his most recent post I really wanted to share with you:
My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can!
James 1:2 The Passion Translation
Yesterday, I went for a drive, the first in a while that I didn’t have to feel rushed or have my mind on the next task (it’s good when we get these moments). I started to pray with a request, then I remembered to bring out my thanks first. There’s a lot to be thankful for in this season of life, things have gotten to a place of normalcy for Isaac and I-to the point where you think after describing a week’s glance to a friend, “gee, that’s a little boring.” I know not to fall prey to that as a father, nothing is ever truly “normal” as a parent haha.
One afternoon this last week, Isaac and Jess stopped by my work after school was out and Isaac proceeds to walk through the parking lot like a cowboy. “Why you walking like that bud?” “My pockets are full of cuh-kahns.” (Pecans…y’all can fight over the “proper” pronunciation amongst yourselves…I’m going with this one from now on lol). No joke, he had cuh-kahns alright, two pockets full. A tree on the edge of the playground at school has been dropping them steadily and Isaac had been loading up while at recess.
A day or so later after dinner, he whips open a small box to reveal his new treasure, “daddy can we open these?” Being in a new house (okay…it’s been 3 months, but it still feels new), the kitchen is so well organized (not my gift, but the wife’s), I can’t locate a nut cracker or remember if we even had one haha. To the toolbox!
I give Jess a c-clamp and I get out the pliers. We proceed to launch cuh-cahn shrapnel all over the room. We hear a hull rickashay off some metal, isaac ducks, he pops up still smiling (Jedi reflexes), it’s our kind of chaos. “I got one!” Jess mastered the c-clamp and got a perfectly cracked one. I had been pinching my fingers with pliers, but this wasn’t my first rodeo, as Isaac and I used to do this at my parents house; with Jess this was the first time . All that pain and torment of cracking things open was worth it for what was inside. When Isaac sees pecans again, you know his pockets will be loaded and our little cowboy will be leaking them as he gets in the car at school.
When I looked at the pecan in this scenario, the meat inside holds such a high value to us that we will invest our time, energy and resources into a single nut to gain what’s inside (or we will pay the $$ for them already shelled haha). My pinched finger, the first few pecans that obliterated by the c-clamp, that all gets forgotten, in a sense we are thankful for what we go through to gain what’s inside. If sometimes we could only see what lies inside the pecan of our situations, troubles, fears and heartaches.
It says in Hebrews 12:2, for the joy beset Him, he endured the cross. Jesus saw the cross as that un-cracked pecan, and said to Himself, “for joy I embrace this torture, because I want them (us).” It took all that He was, and then some, to do what He did. It wasn’t just those three days, but the preparation, looking into the eyes of the ones He healed, enduring his trade as a carpenter and praying to His father and perfecting His daily faith. He did that for you and I. The cross is symbol for what was done, not a PTSD reminder of what he had been through.
This takes me back to one of His earlierappearances in the book of Daniel. In kids class at church, the funny sounding names of three believers, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego endured a great phenomenon called the fiery furnace. If you’re rusty on the story, it’s a great read in Daniel 3. We have a crazy king wanting everyone to bow to a statue of himself, and these three guys will only worship God and end up being thrown in a fiery furnace as a result. Only they didn’t burn…they walked right out and the king’s heart is changed as a result and he declares God as “the god.”
One day I read this story and scratched down like three pages of notes. There’s a lot of details in there, I don’t chew gum anymore because I overchew, and I think my mind runs the same way lol. There’s a lot of credit to be mentioned to these guys (I mean they made the Bible), they were living in a Godless land, maintaining their relationship with God, but also being at peace and a good citizen. Their character was excellent enough, that the king hired them to work where they were, so obviously they were in a place of influence. Their belief in God was a asset for the king…until it became his liability. We don’t ever see these guy’s faith deviate. The scriptures do not say, but I believe that they prayed for the kingdom that they lived in. They prayed for their king, on his behalf and as political climates go, they don’t just change overnight. As things would ever increase, this furnace gets thrown into the mix, and the leadership I’m sure got pretty fond of using it or at least threatening with it. That had to wear on these guys minds daily. Yet they maintained.
One of my favorite quotes when they get brought before the king, “do not do this thing,” as if to warn the king out of a place of care. Who does that? Only someone who speaks from a place of confidence in theirGod that they could potentially be persecuted for. They were tied up and thrown in (brute forces were ordered in just for fun). Once inside-surprisingly they are seen walking inside this fire with a fourth guy (Jesus). They were called back out of the fire by the king, and they walked right out, not even smelling of smoke and they get promoted in their work and God is made “the god.” So much awesomeness.
There are so many great details here, keep in mind, this is pre-crucifixion, pre-day of Pentecost and the Bible is still on scrolls down at the temple someplace else. The spirit of Lord was still not upon believers (only in certain instances), Jesus was just a prophesy and the Bible wasn’t widely distributed. In spite of all of that, S. M. & O. (Yeah I’m not spelling them out haha) still expected God to show up in their situation and didn’t try to dodge duck or dive when they were tied up or talk their way out of it (other than issuing a warning). God had destroyed whole cities that were deemed evil, yet His goodness would save a whole city if He only found a few faithful. The furnace that was meant to consume, God used to disintegrate what bound them and display His power to a king. That king was given the ability to see the men in the fire, call out above the flames and be heard (big fires are loud) and for S. M. O. to exit. S. M. O. were in the presence of God in that furnace.
God wants to use the furnace that you’re in. He’s just as present at your lowest low as your highest high, He’s in the step that you are on. The difference between us and S. M. & O. is that we carry God’s indwelling spirit within us. When we accepted Christ as our savior, our spirit became alive unto God. We carry that with us, but I believe when we come into those furnace situations, God’s comfort and grace are available to us, He doesn’t abandon us.
You may feel bound by your situation, without a next move, but He’s gonna give you a pivot. In basketball (I’m not good at it…I went to camp in high school and got most improved even though I was worse afterwards lol), the player with the ball can pivot one foot without a dribble and change directions. God wants to pivot your situation, whether past or present. The same spirit that is upon us is the one upon Christ in Luke 4:18…we are given the ability to proclaim our liberty and the liberty of others. What the enemy (John 10:10) sent to do harm for my family, I’ve allowed and expected God to turn for our better.
It wasn’t always easy.
Many days we spent trying to crack that pecan. We pinched fingers. We broke things. But we didn’t give up. Now, I’m at a place in life where I’m blessed to be able to proclaim that there will be no smell of smoke upon me and my son’s life and that grief and trauma will not haunt our path. That gives me the ability to give thanks for what would normally harm me. I can give thanks for the sweet memories, for the 1997-2001 Honda CRV’s that I work on (my first wife’s was 1999).
I give thanks for her life. I give thanks for the opportunities that arose after her death. The hurting people I was able to share my grief with. The bond that was strengthened between my son and I. We can do that because we possess creative thankfulness. We can be thankful for our furnace, for the cross. That’s how death loses its sting.
I love being a mother, but 79% of the time I feel like a broken record. Repeating my commandments (rules), and divvying out proper punishments when they aren’t followed.
“No! We don’t play in the dog food, it’s yucky!”
“Please! Stop making a mess, you’ll have to clean it up!”
“No, we don’t hit, son, that isn’t kind!” ….
In the face of a child we see the very raw form of mankind. It’s rebellion and potential for both good and evil, even whilst we are innocent to what is good and bad. We learn very quickly how to lie and manipulate. As if it is second nature to us.
As parents, we have our jobs cut out for us to remove such nature, to restrain it and teach our children to do the same. In order to function as a society, rules and restraints are necessary. Upholding morality and the rights of others is in line with the Will of God and breeds peace and prosperity. And in fact, it also does the body, mind, and spirit good!
Without learning self control we would indulge in our every whim. Drinking what we wanted, eating what we wanted, spending what we wanted, never truly satisfied. Our bodies would suffer from such a selfish lifestyle, and those we love would also suffer for it. Our prisons are full of people who simply couldn’t control their primal urges, who placed their selfish wants above the welfare of others.
As Christians, we know the importance of rules, obedience, and submission most of all. The world views us as “enslaved”, “held back” by our self control. Ironically, they do not see that their selfish (undisciplined) life style is doing that exact thing.
They are chained down by sin, unable to break free of their addictions and selfish impulses, a slave to their flesh and its desires. Is that really freedom?
True freedom comes through self discipline, surrender to God, and following His commandments. When we fast, for example, we are forcing our flesh back into its proper place where it cannot rule us. As creatures of worship we WILL worship something, even if we are atheists! Something will always rule over us—but if God rules over us we will be truly free.
God merely wants a relationship with us, as His children. His commandments and His discipline are done so that we may be free of sin and live a full/prosperous life. As I discipline my son, I do so because I love him and want him to be free to make choices and be independent someday.
What is unpleasant for him today, will reap joy for him in abundance tomorrow as he begins to make the right choices automatically. As other parents struggle with their selfish teens, trying to force them to comply, my son will have already learned and “earned” the fruits of obedience which in turn would lead to freedom.
I see it all around me. People who need set free but do not see it. They come to church wanting a band-aide, someone to fix their problems (the outcomes of their life styles) but unwilling to submit to self discipline, thinking: where’s the fun in being good?, what do I gain by submission to God and His rules?
Such lost souls never really grew up. They hate authority and anyone telling them what they should do, just like children who despise rules, unable to see how they exist to protect them and their rights.
Today, churches are caving for the sake of filling their pews. They want their buildings full and their tithe boxes fuller. They’ve lost the way…they’ve cutaway all the aspects of God that convict the heart and soul to change. The Jesus who flipped tables now is the Jesus who doesn’t really get angry about anything.
We cannot forget our mission! Why we exist! It’s not to pat everyone on the back and say “you’re doing fine,” meanwhile they are not doing fine! They’re on a highway to hell! And if we cared about them at all we would risk telling them! We would give them a choice and let me tell you no matter how you put it to them it is a hard choice! It requires self death! A severing of what our flesh craves for the sake of Christ and redemption—eternal life!
Just as the parent who spares the rod HATES their children! So does the church who spares the rod of truth—HATES the children of God!
The church and many of us, care more about what others think of us more so than what God thinks. We’ve grown afraid and insecure, selfish even about our image and our identities (which are wrapped up in church and our positions more so than as children of God).
We worship the image of church, of modern Christianity. We’ve made it an idol—removing the true God from and replacing Him with something of our own liking.
If this makes you feel sick to your stomach good!! That is a feeling every Christian needs to feel again, that convicting spirit that discerns what is righteous and what needs cut away.
I say all of this because we are living in unprecedented times. Very soon we will all have to take a side. We can no longer sit on the fence (the grey area) between the world and God. As persecution rises the church will be pruned and many “churches” will fall away. We need to re-evaluate what we believe and to what extent we are willing to stand on those beliefs.
Would you be arrested for Jesus?
Would you be beaten for Him?
Would you stand on the whole truth (the Word of God from cover to cover)?
Will you clearly say to evil, “this is wrong!” Even as the world attacks you and labels you for it?
As I look at my sweet son, after an ornery episode, I think to myself, “I love you too much to let you stay in that place of disobedience. You’re so much more than that! You have a very good heart and future ahead of you.”
The same goes for all the children out there and adults, who are lost or struggling with their faith. I see them and, if you ask God He will show you what He sees when He looks at them. I see the image of God, I see all the amazing qualities that make them unique and loved, and it’s just all muddied over by sin and deception, like buried gold waiting to be found.
No one is truly whole. Their complete selves. We are only seeing a glimpse of who they are. And it’s God’s joy to help each of us become who He created us to be.
Submit to Him, let go of your “self” and you might actually find yourself.
Have you ever noticed that we really hold God to the big things and forget all the essential “little” things He does for us on a daily basis?
Or that maybe, we think the bigger the blessing the less likely God will oblige our wants/dreams.
As Christians we often settle for less and call it humility instead of believing God truly does want to bless us—His children!
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
Love at its core is sacrificial. When you love someone you sacrifice your time, energy, and resources ($$). That is why we have so many ‘giving’ holidays—we love to bless those we love!
How much more does God want to bless us? Hasn’t He already given His only Son? That is the greatest blessing He could give and He did so freely when we were still lost! So is it really so wrong to ask Him for things?
There are circumstances when God’s answer is “not yet.” But understand that He cares about what you care about—and He also knows what’s best for you.
Some blessings can easily become a curse if they are given prematurely. Sometimes we aren’t ready to receive them. And if we aren’t ready to receive how can we hope to keep them?
A job promotion (at work or church)…A winning lottery ticket…A new house/car…A inheritance…all things that can backfire if mishandled.
“…70 percent of lotto winners lose or spend all that money in five years or less.” (Readers Digest)
I don’t know about you, but there have been many times in my life I thought I was ready for something, was forced to wait, and then realized that it was God’s timing that saved me from a world of heartache.
I remember falling in love with boy and asking God to be able to marry him—turns out He had someone far better in mind for me. And I can remember the first time I tried to serve in our old church Kids ministry and just wasn’t cut out for it. Turns out God wanted me to learn and grow, gaining experience until one day I was “cut out” and even anointed to do it excellently.
God’s blessings and promotions have always been right on time. And He has even given me things just to show how good and invested in our lives and interests He really is.
He’s spontaneous like a lover after His Bride’s heart. It has always been these little blessings that amaze me most because they prove God is personal, thoughtful, and involved in our lives.
I’ll give you one of many examples of how God drops these little blessings into my day-to-day:
I’m a big Star Trek fan, and I’ve been longing for some more books to read. In fact, I’ve had a list saved on Amazon for some time—just sitting there because I didn’t want to selfishly spend so much on them new.
Our local library started a book market and I figured I’d stop in and find some books for my son (secretly hoping to find at least one good Star Trek novel). When I got there I gravitated toward the sci-fi section and gaped at the huge row of donated Star Trek novels, hardback, and many of the ones I wanted to read.
I came home with a huge box full as well as a few books for my son (one is is favorite right now) all dirt cheap.
Little blessings or divine appointments like this happen all the time. The moment I think of something I need or really want—it suddenly becomes available to me in ways that make me smile to the heavens in thanks.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that God knows you. He wants to give you good gifts and pour out His love upon you. All you need to do is believe, position yourself to receive, and wait.
And remember that you are blessed by God already. He gave you His own Son. The breath of life. And so much more….
Many of the gifts God gives me, such as my stash of Star Trek books, will fade away to dust. But the everlasting gift of salvation through His Son, will never fade and cannot be stolen from you.
Only you can give that away.
So count your blessings, no matter how dark this world gets, no matter what you see happening in the world around you during these uncertain times…count your blessings. Remember who you are, what you are here to do, and the everlasting home you will return to someday.
Praise Him, our Good Father, day and night…let your first and last prayer be that of praise and thanksgiving. Amen!
Since the beginning of humanity, God’s people have been attacked, killed, and led astray. If one were to find themselves in doubt over the legitimacy of the Bible, he/she need only look at how this world still hates the Jewish nation and Christianity.
No other religion is hated/targeted worldwide. And in fact, the most violent of beliefs (Islam), which exists to purge the world of Jewish/Christian followers (infidels), manages to do so widely unchallenged. It would seem that no amount of violence could solicit the same hate that “we” get by merely breathing.
I say this not with an “us against them” mentality, but to shed light on the fact that the devil is still the ruler of this world. He is our enemy whose deception fails to mask his hatred and “mission” to destroy men and women of God.
This proves that the Word of God is true. Especially, when you take into account the resiliency of our Faith. Withstanding the hate of the world for centuries—and still growing!
The Jewish nation of Israel, for example—is still standing and growing in number/advancement, even when attack wages against it from every side and its allies fail to assist them.
The devil may run the world, but God is ultimately in control.
Our faith is not for the faint of heart. In the picture above, we see the final act of hatred. Genocide. Beginning with the Egyptians, Philistines, Assyrians, and in this picture, the Romans…who destroyed the great temple (a second time) and crucified many Jews.
No one knows the exact number of crucifixions. At one point, entire forests were leveled in the making of crosses, and 500 Jews a day were killed…
After Roman rule, the land of Jerusalem continues to be captured, conquered, ruled, and dismantled, and even today is under constant attack from Palestine and Islamic terrorists.
Jerusalem isn’t the only place of long suffering. As we know from WWII, the Holocaust (over 6 million Jews were tortured and killed). Christian genocide is also happening throughout the world, but not gaining the same public recognition/outrage. It would seem that the Holocaust was the last time the world cared about the lives of Jews and Gentile alike.
Based on the yearly findings of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC), an estimated 100,000 Christians are martyred each year.
Other sites agree that this equates to a Christian being killed roughly every 5 minutes.
Burma, China, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Vietnam are listed as “countries of particular concern” for Christian persecution by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2020 report.
That of course doesn’t take into account the latest developments in Afghanistan this year and how that has effected the region’s Christians and underground churches.
Here in America, there is also a hatred, and that hatred is being fanned into an ever growing inferno against the Christian morals and churches in this country.
Suddenly, we’re being labeled as evil, close-minded, uncaring, judgmental, racist, and hateful…and sadly, there are some religious spirit filled churches and people who haven’t exactly loved like Jesus.
It is up to us to break the stigma, to love like Christ, and stand firm on the Word of God and it’s moral truths.
Why? Because sin =destruction (death)
And as for our faith?
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”’ —Matthew 16:24-25
It’s all or nothing…when you become a Christian you are openly siding against this world and it’s leader. You are in many ways painting a target on your back, taking the road less traveled, and welcoming persecution in every form.
You are choosing self sacrifice. Selfless love, and surrender. You are declaring that truth, what is right, should be upheld regardless of how the world flees from it. Your offering up your life, your talents, your time, and your treasure onto God saying, “do as you will.”
In the years to come, you will be forced to decide between what is right and what is easy. You will either make a stand or bow, fight or flee, stand on God’s Word or conform to this world’s “truth.”
The age of American Christianity is (more than likely) nearing its end. And it will give way to real Christianity…the kind that doesn’t bend, can’t be contained, and isn’t easily extinguished. The kind that martyrs are made from.
Are you ready to pick up your cross? To follow Jesus to the very ends of the earth?
I’m not declaring that we will all perish as martyrs. My goal with this post is merely to awaken us to action, and to reflect upon our faith.
Regardless of what happens in America, it cannot be denied that times are changing and the church must react before that right is taken away. We need to ditch our fear of man, fear of dislike, and understand that if we wanted to be liked we wouldn’t be here, doing the ministry of Christ.
When does it become real? What side will you stand on when persecution knocks on your door?
I only just met you, but already knew so much about you from my church family. They told me story after story as we painted and cleaned up the home you would be moving into.
God called you all to do ministry with us in Marion, Oh. You sold your home in Virginia, left your job and packed up your little two year old for the long trip towards a new beginning.
The church rejoiced. I’d never seen our pastor and his family so excited (they watched you grow and saw you as their own daughter).
I honestly felt overshadowed by your brilliant light. That you would very quickly replace me in their hearts because of your history, your love, and your faith. But it was a selfish fear and I drove it away by pouring myself into servitude. Helping prepare the way for you to come and settle here.
I wanted to know you. To be your friend.
You were here only a short while. I met and played with your beautiful son. I laughed with your amazing husband. And I hugged you, in passing, as we hurried about one Sunday. I hope to get to know you more—there will be plenty of time for that. I thought as we smiled and went our own ways.
Things were looking up. God was with us and nothing could stop our momentum as a family of believers….until…
I climbed into my car after work, and heard my cell ring. I answered and it was my husband Aaron. With a heavy voice he told me that Rachel Sullivan was gone.
I couldn’t believe it. The world stopped, and I saw Isaac’s precious face and her husband Jared’s smile flash across my conscious.
“There was a car accident…” Aaron didn’t say much more because he had our pastor’s son with him.
I hung up the phone and for the first time in my life I screamed and punched the dash, cursing God. “F**! F**!” I yelled with everything inside of me.
I had to pull myself together, after all…I didn’t lose Rachel…my church family did. Those who knew her since she was a small child, those who laughed with her and spent hours in her company.
Our pastor’s kids wanted us, needed us…
They came over and we hugged for a long time, and we took them for a long walk. And I vowed I would try to fill the bottomless void Rachel left behind.
I never did come close.
The next few days were slow, and shock filled. Isaac didn’t know and didn’t understand.
My mom had him and the pastor’s daughters over to swim and we all smiled and played with him while I balled inside. “THIS IS NOT FAIR!”
God why did you allow this to happen? You called them here!! Are you not our protector? I thought you were good! That I could trust in you!
My resentment and distrust grew. My rage and brokenness remained even as everyone else picked up their lives and tried to move on in faith.
I comforted, I cried, I prayed…and Rachel still remained gone.
We drove all the way to Virginia to attend the funeral. It felt so wrong…Isaac was turning three…and his mommy was going to miss it, and all the birthdays after that.
I remember the happy pictures on the slideshows…I remember Jared. Alone and crying. Living the worst nightmare. And I remember sitting in silence with my church family as they played the song, “Oceans (Where Feet May Fall).”
Rachel always wanted to have a baby and Isaac was a dream come true. She loved being his mommy. She loved coffee and people (working at Starbucks-where she was headed before the car accident).
She was gentle and fun loving. She was faithful and a good friend. I know this because of all those her life touched. She had ministry dreams which her husband is now pursuing.
It was this that put a wedge between me and God. I pulled away from Him and began to doubt He was who He said He was.
I wish I could say that I have fully overcome or that I have the answer as to why this happened to those I love with all my heart. But I haven’t and I don’t.
Honestly, I have to learn to accept that I probably will never know the answer. I have to chose (just like with any tragedy, loss, hardship, and attack of the enemy) to still trust and to still believe regardless of what I see or feel.
The reality of God and His Word have to be more important than my own feelings and this world’s realities. Death is coming for all of us someday…young or old it will find us. This is a temporary plane—and so we must fix our eyes on eternal matters.
We’ll all see Rachel again. And what a glorious reunion that will be for everyone her life touched here.
The devil’s sole purpose is to make us forget who God is, who we are, and our authority to change our lives and those around us. I know that if we were to ask Rachel whom she loves and trusts—her answer would not have changed, even now.
If I don’t trust Him…who will I trust? Who has the power to save? Who is our only hope of salvation and restoration?
I’m beginning to realize how much I need God. Whether I live or die (to live is Christ to die is gain), I choose to believe in Him and trust Him to make all things new.
He is still my protector and shield. His plans for me are good. What happened to Rachel was not His will or His plan for her. But He has brought beauty from ashes…and her legacy lives on (still transforming lives and bringing hope).
Our church is as strong and united as ever! In our pressing onward God has poured out His goodness and blessings.
Life goes on.
I say all this because I know that we share this brokenness. Some hurt dealt us by the enemy. He is the one who robbed you like a thief in the night, he took from you what was not his to take.
Please hold on. Don’t give up on God or fall into the trap that says; “He isn’t good!” What do I know of goodness? What do I know of fairness? Fairness would have been for all of us to die for our sin instead of Jesus.
Doesn’t God deserve the chance to explain and answer your questions in Heaven someday? Hasn’t He done enough for you to deserve at least this?
Rachel may have died, but God blessed her with so much all the years before her death. Look at her son, her husband, the thousands who knew and loved her. I refuse to let her life be summed up into this one accident. Her memory deserves so much more.
I’ve made the decision to keep climbing. Keep pressing. Even if I’m bloodied and broken I am going to finish my race! And the devil can push, torment, and beat me all he wants, I’m not letting go of this ladder! I’m going to stand back up every time! Because I can’t go back to not knowing the truth. I can’t deny who I am and who God is! No one can rip this from me!
If I made a list of all the good things God had done for me, it would go on and on endlessly…and my list of all the bad things that seem to fill my mind so easily would be very very small.
Fight the good fight, run your race. Don’t be afraid of death but of a life/eternity without God. That is the final death the “real” death we can all easily avoid.
Love God and love people, and when it’s time to die—you won’t die. And your legacy of love will live on long after, paving the way to Christ’s return.
You, my brothers and sisters, have a bright future. Don’t ever forget it! Rachel was a window into the brightness of Heaven. Surround yourself with others who share that same Jesus light so you never forget what is waiting in Heaven and what you can release now.
On a daily basis we subconsciously ascribe worth and beauty to what we see around us. From the roses in our garden to the new girl on the block.
As I remodel my home and simultaneously search for a literary agent who will take on my first novel, I am left to wonder whether others will value my hard work as much as I do.
As I stated once before, no one will know the blood, sweat, and tears I shed, the time I spent, and nights I burned the midnight oil working. The truth is, the more we work/sacrifice for something—the greater it’s worth (personally).
Take a child, for example, who was freely given a toy. And another who worked hard, completing chores, picking up small jobs in their free time for weeks in order to buy that same toy.
Who do you think will value it more?
I tied beauty with value in this post because often what we value we also find beautiful in some way. There is an inward pull, an appreciation we feel toward it or them.
We are creatures of worship who also crave beauty (I speak of course, of a beauty that transcends what we outwardly see).
When I worked at a window factory, with its drab walls and machinery, I found myself starving for beauty. Those things crafted by the hand of God instead of by man. Sometimes, I would look up from my station and try and snatch a glimpse of the green trees through the high vents. And I would even smile when I caught a whiff of rain, or saw a dandelion seed float past.
Once home, I would immediately head outdoors to my hammock and just soak up the surroundings. Feeling rejuvenated and content.
Of course, to another, perhaps beauty is in the simplicity, instead of in the complex. What I found distasteful, another may find appealing.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…
Do you see how different we are? Driving through town I often catch people picking through garbage cans and curbside boxes (dumpster diving) the night before trash day. Apparently finding worth in that which another found worthless.
Do you see how wrong we can be? “Oo-ing” and “awing” over celebrities (many of which are quite ugly underneath) while we turn away from those who have a heart of gold beneath their average appearances, wrinkled faces, and plain clothes.
That is why I am glad that God is the one who ascribes our worth. That He is the one who calls us each beautiful, looking purely at the heart beneath our temporary shells.
Jesus died for both the sinner and the saint. He loved us at our worst, at our ugliest moments. He looked at us “mere dust” and called us “priceless!”
If you find yourself staring in the mirror lately, noticing all too quickly the scars, weight gain, stretch marks, wrinkles/blemishes etc. It is time for you say, “I don’t have the power to define my worth—God does, and He calls me beautiful.”
Particularly us women always try to live up to the standards of men. We want to impress them with our looks and personalities—when really all we should care about is pleasing God (which in turn would open the door for the right man to come into your life). Our identity is found in Christ—placing it in anything or anyone else will always lead to disappointment and depression.
I really hope this speaks to someone out there. “You are more precious than rubies…” (Proverbs 3:15)
I’ve had this song on my heart this year, and I really believe it was written for such a time as this to remind us of who God is.
The devil is trying is best to make us forget and believe all that God isn’t. In all the fear and uncertainty surrounding us, we must be sure of this one thing—God is Good—and He is a way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper, and light in the darkness (hope) to this hurting world.
I want to break down this chorus phrase by phrase and back up these titles with biblical truth. Please feel free to listen to Way Maker while you read.
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)
“…God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
“Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters.” (Isaiah 43:16)
“You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” (Psalm 77:14)
“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”’ (Mark 10:27)
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)
“The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book.” (John 20:30)
“Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” (Joshua 21:45)
“For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)
“…Who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions…” (Hebrews 11:33)
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
Light in the Darkness
“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
“His radiance is like the sunlight; He has rays flashing from His hand, And there is the hiding of His power.” (Habakkuk 3:4)
“From the brightness before Him Coals of fire were kindled.” (2 Samuel 22:13)
“And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.” (Matthew 28:3)
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
“For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28)
Thanks to bizarre circumstances the housing market has never been higher. Everywhere you go people are listing their homes in the hopes of scoring big…we’re one of those hopefuls.
But our home’s been a work in progress for over 5 years now. The ugly carpeted four-layered linoleum kitchen, super glued wallpapered dining room, and heavily wood paneled walls are all gone. More work remains, and now, that work has a timetable.
In order to sell we have to finish remodeling and do it as soon as possible (since the market prices will likely drop back down within this year—or even in a few months!).
And so these days you will find me chipping away at our grand list, alongside chores, caring for our son, working on my novels, and fulfilling church obligations…I’m tired, I’m sore, but I’m also excited.
My blood, sweat, and tears will pay off—whether we end up selling or not. Our home will finally be finished! But no one will know how much work it took to get it that way.
The more work that goes into something the better it is. Take paintings for example…if you go to a gallery you’ll get to appreciate beautiful works of art, but what you won’t see is the hours and frustrations behind the finished works.
Aren’t we the same way? Each of us are (hopefully) under construction. Everyone is at varying levels of completeness (but no one is really complete). When you see an athlete perform or even a world renown person of Faith like Billy Graham preach, you are merely seeing a small piece of an unfinished masterpiece.
Oftentimes, as a Christian, I feel people look at me and think, “life has been easy for her.” They see the smiling faces in my picture frames and on Facebook and think they’ve got me figured out. As if anyone’s life is picture perfect.
A person’s character or faith isn’t something handed to them, but something earned/forged through the overcoming of life’s difficulties. That is the measure of a good man or woman—their perseverance despite the devil’s attacks—to do what is right and to become something more.
I’ve been watching the TV series, Smallville, lately and couldn’t help but understand/sympathize with the lead villain, Lex Luthor. No matter how hard he tries to do the right thing, his plans always backfire. His father doesn’t love him, the town he’s trying to help recover financially isn’t respecting him, and even his best friend (Clark Kent) is lying to him…
“The road to darkness is a journey, not a light switch.” —Lex
I found myself believing that he’d somehow earned the right to retaliate—to give up on being good because the “do-gooders” around him weren’t what they appeared to be.
In many ways they painted him as a man of character and integrity, fighting his way out from under his evil father’s thumb. Now…I realize that it wasn’t “righteousness” that he sought after. But what came with it.
As much as he loathed a father who placed greed and wealth above him, he was no different in that he envied what the townspeople, particularly Clark and his family, possessed.
Clark’s father was a good man, his mother was alive, he had friends who trusted him, and (outwardly) wasn’t burdened by wealth or responsibilities. Lex wanted to be a part of all that, but couldn’t escape his father’s shadow.
This envy is what leads to the fall of many “good” people because inwardly they never really wanted to do the right thing. Just as many give their lives to God simply to avoid hell—missing out on the real reward which is a relationship with Christ.
This world is full of Lex Luthors. People who are selfish and prideful, chasing after their own lusts and desires. Such people lack character and sacrifice. Instead of allowing God to transform their scars they take each failure as another reason to trust in their own misconceptions of reality or morality.
In other words, they are proud of their disheveled home, where cobwebs are forming upon unfinished projects and scattered tools. “There’s nothing wrong with my house,” they say as they judge their neighbors from the porch—unwilling to surrender and admit to themselves that the state of their home is in shambles.
If you seek righteousness for righteousness’ sake, it will not matter how many people oppose you or how many times you face hardships. Why? Because you aren’t doing it in vain or for selfish reasons—your doing it because it’s the right thing to do and nothing the devil throws at you from within or without can change that.
As I remodel my home, I surely hope that I am also under construction. That I remain humble and willing to allow God into my heart to do only what He can do.
I don’t want my heart in shambles, or collecting cobwebs in neglect. I want to constantly be in a state of remodeling until the good Lord says I’m complete.