Hate Has Not Won

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We all woke to the horrific and heartbreaking news Monday morning of yet another mass shooting. Our hearts cracked a little more as we saw the numbers rising and the realization that this time, those numbers would surpass all of the other incidents that were already unimaginable.

As a fan of country music, this one hit a little closer to home. I’ve been one of those concert-goers, in cowboy boots, in outdoor settings, just simply enjoying the music that I love. Even in the uncertainty of the world we live in, it’s still hard to imagine why anyone would rein terror down on an unsuspecting, innocent crowd. We can’t understand it because it is not normal. It is not how this world is supposed to be.

But I have hope…

Hate has not won. We look around us and sometimes it seems as if it has. As if hate has a throat hold on love, compassion and humanity. But no, hate has not won and here is why.

I have read and watched a lot of the stories that have been pouring out since Monday morning. Some things I wish I hadn’t seen. It’s hard as someone with anxiety to not be overcome by the sadness and fear that is related in these stories. But I search out the ones that always prevail in these situations. The heroes and heroines. The selfless acts of kindness and humanity that rise above the nonsense of hate fired from a heart of pure evil.

The people who stopped in the midst of the spray of gunfire to carry someone to safety who had been shot.The girl who picked up a five year old who had been separated from his family as the crowd rushed past and spent hours trying to locate his family. (He was eventually reunited with his Mom and was unharmed.) The men who covered their wives, girlfriends, even people they didn’t know and died protecting them. The nurses, doctors, EMTs and police officers who stepped up as their job calls them to do and went into action without a second’s hesitation. And the thousands who stood in lines, some for five hours or more, to donate blood to the Red Cross.

These are the moments when hate hangs its ugly head and cowers away, because there are still good and kind people in the world whose hearts remain full of what has God instilled in us. LOVE. Love allows the bravery and mercy and self-sacrificial acts to prevail in tragedy.

We cling to HOPE, and TRUST that God continues to be in control and that His design for the human heart is fully intact in the outpouring of love we see when hate attacks.

What Satan means for evil, God will use for good.

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Made New

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I have always had a love for old things. Most of the furniture in our home, aside from our bed and sofa, are pieces I have collected over the years that were in need of a little love. My love for these things soon became a hobby and now the hubby and I buy and sell refinished items and use pallet boards that I salvage from work to give old things a new, yet rustic look.  Pouring love into these pieces is a type of therapy for me and I love doing it.

A lot of the things I have collected have come from local thrift stores or flea markets but I have also rescued things from my brother’s basement, the back of a co-worker’s truck (he was heading for the dumpster!) and the garbage pile at my husband’s work. People often have things they want to toss and ask me first. More often than not, I say “I’ll take it!” Most people would look at what I salvage and wonder what in the world I’m thinking, but I see potential in most everything and I hate to see a good piece of furniture get tossed aside. I have cleaned, sanded, painted and polished these things until they become “new” again.

Today I was inspired by a  paragraph I read in a book by Matt Chandler:

“…when I was at my lowest point, when I absolutely could not clean myself up and there was nothing anybody could do with me, right at that moment, Christ said “I’ll take that one. That’s the one I want.” You know the Bible calls the church Christ’s bride. So it’s like standing before Jesus, completely exposed, all of our flaws and insecurities and-worse than that- our sins are right there in front of his face, and against all reason and rationale, the song of grace becomes startlingly, exhilaratingly true because the Groom looks at us and declares us beautiful. Spotless. Righteous. Justified.”

I realized that often in our lives we feel like those things tossed aside in the garbage and Someone is looking for us, waiting to clean us up, polish us and make us shine.  The possibilities that I see in those broken down pieces of furniture are what God sees in each of His children. He says “I’ll take you! You have potential. You are mine!” You may be chipped and rusty and have a little dirt. You may have pieces that need to be fixed. God can do this for you! He wants so badly to show you how He can make you brand new again. He can do it for anyone. Invite Him into your heart and let Him pour His love into you. You will be a new creation.

 

“Looking Outward and Upward”

This is a post that was previously written in April of 2013. I had talked to someone about the book mentioned in the post and felt God nudging me to repost it. Maybe someone needs this encouragement today.

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“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” – C.S. Lewis

I told someone yesterday that I was convinced the universe was against me this week. Today I feel selfish and foolish for saying that. Yes, this week has been stressful. It seems that everything I tried to do went in the exact opposite direction that I had planned. Every single day held a struggle. (You know it’s bad when more than once a day someone looks at you and says “Are you okay? You look tired/stressed/wore-out/sleepy”)

So I prayed. I prayed for understanding. For a way to step outside of these things going on inside of me and just realize that they aren’t as bad as they seem.  A way to strengthen my faith once again. When compared to what has gone on in our country the past week, I knew that what I was dealing with was insignificant. But at the moment I just couldn’t pull myself away from my little pity party.

So this morning, I read the quote above from C.S. Lewis. I loved it! Then I recalled someone telling me about a book that C.S. Lewis had written in 1942, called The Screwtape Letters. I thought the name sounded very odd and wasn’t sure it was something I would want to read. I didn’t think much about it again until today and so I looked it up on Amazon. As it goes, there is a “senior devil” and a “junior devil”. The senior’s job is to teach the junior how to turn his “patient”, a newly saved Christian away from God, whom he refers to as the “enemy”.  The letters to his new student, describe perfectly  what you are to do if you do not intend to live your life as God has planned.

I began to read some quotes from it. This one in particular hit home with me:

If this fails, you MUST fall back on a subtler misdirection of his intention. Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves.”

Exactly what I had been doing all week. I was questioning God’s plan. I was turning my gaze away from Him and looking inward instead of outward and upward. Upward toward the One who holds all the answers. It’s easy to worry and stress over the things that are out of our control. I know that more than once this week I threw my hands up to the sky and said “How much more do you think I can take?!” I feel horrible for having done that. But in the moment, it was what I was feeling. I realize that I am not here to question anything. I am a servant of God. I am here to love Him. To love those around me and to spread kindness and comfort to others. To share His word and my faith. It is a constant work in progress. It’s not easy, I have to admit. Sometimes the easiest path is the one that takes you down a road of anger, pity and tears. But where does it lead? Nowhere. It’s a dead end. The hardest road is the one that causes you to look at yourself through God’s eyes and see where your thoughts truly lie. Then take that road anyway, brush yourself off and simply trust. I guarantee that road is not a dead end.

I think The Screwtape Letters will be my next read. I’ll let you know how that turns out. And if anyone has read it I’d love to hear what you think!

“A Little Boy Named Noah”

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Our little piece of Southwest Virginia has been reeling recently from the death of a little red-headed boy named Noah. Noah was reported missing by his mother on a Sunday, nearly two weeks ago. After a five day search, his body was found in the septic tank of his home. His body was laid to rest on Wednesday and yesterday, his parents were arrested for abuse and neglect of Noah and his baby sister. No further information has been released as to his cause of death. That is expected in a few weeks. A sad ending to a beautiful life that has touched so many hearts.

Teachers, family and friends of Noah described the five year old as having an infectious laugh and sweet smile. He loved sports and spider man, like most little boys. I have also heard that he dearly loved his little sister.

I began thinking about how many people have been touched by this little boy. How so many people helped search for him and prayed for him. I began to wonder if he had known this type of love and care in his short five years. I began to wonder if he was hugged often and told how special he was. I hope and pray that he was. I don’t know these things but I do know this. He is in a place now where the love he feels is overwhelming. He is being held by the One who created him. He is with the grandparents who went before him. He is not hurting or suffering.

The death of a child is not something we easily comprehend, especially if it could have been prevented. But in this case, I wondered if maybe God saw little Noah’s need for that remarkable love and He decided that He would give it to him a little early. Maybe he saw that the baby sister he adored needed to be saved and this would ensure that. I don’t have the answers, but take comfort in knowing God is holding Noah, like so many other little ones who became angels much too soon.

Having said that, I ask of you this:

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Pay attention to those around you who look like they are struggling. If you know of a parent who is barely staying afloat or a child who looks as their home life isn’t just right, do something.

Prevent Child Abuse America gives these tips on their website about how you can help:

  1. Be a friend to a parent you know. Ask how their children are doing. Draw on your own experiences to provide reassurance and support. If a parent seems to be struggling, offer to baby-sit or run errands, or just lend a friendly ear. Show you understand.
  2. Be a friend to a child you know. Remember their names. Smile when you talk with them. Ask them about their day at school. Send them a card in the mail. Show you care.
  3. Talk to your neighbors about looking out for one another’s children. Encourage a supportive spirit among parents in your apartment building or on your block. Show that you are involved.
  4. Give your used clothing, furniture and toys for use by another family. This can help relieve the stress of financial burdens that parents sometimes take out on their kids.
  5. Volunteer your time and money for programs in your community that support children and families, such as parent support groups, child care centers, and our state chapters and local Healthy Families America sites.
  6. Advocate for public policies, innovative programs and issues that benefit children and families.

And if you are that parent who can’t seem to cope, there is always, always help and there is no shame in asking. Talk to a friend, a family member or a pastor. Just let someone know you need help.

“Mirror, Mirror….”

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Take a look at yourself in a mirror. What do you see? If you are like me, you see flaws. Those tiny little lines forming around your eyes and the corners of your mouth. Maybe you notice a few hairs out of place, or a few gray ones. Maybe you see a scar or puffy eyes. Mirrors are good for showing us the imperfections in our outward appearance.

But how do we see those flaws that exist on the inside?

Take a look through the Bible, look at God’s word and how he expects us to live our lives. Those words are the mirror for our souls. They can show us the blemishes that exist from a life that wasn’t always lived according to God’s purpose. We can reexamine every aspect of our inward selves by reading through the scriptures. It is all there in black and white…and red.

How do you want your image to be reflected when you look into the mirror of God’s word?

 You’re blessed when you stay on course,
walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
You’re blessed when you follow his directions,
doing your best to find him.
That’s right—you don’t go off on your own;
you walk straight along the road he set.
You, God, prescribed the right way to live;
now you expect us to live it.
Oh, that my steps might be steady,
keeping to the course you set;
Then I’d never have any regrets
in comparing my life with your counsel.
I thank you for speaking straight from your heart;
I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.
I’m going to do what you tell me to do;
don’t ever walk off and leave me.  – Psalm 119:1-8

 

 

“The Beautiful Thing”

My spirit is bound by the darkness that holds it captive. The weight of it all most too much to bear in moments when I am at my weakest.
I pray that I might be like the sun when it is only hidden momentarily by the clouds surrounding it until a mighty wind forces the darkness away and the bright light bursts forth. It is a quick and effortless move and easily accomplished. But this is not me…

Instead I am the seed. I wait deep within the cover of the ground. It is cold and dark and the warm days seem as if they will never come. When will I gain the strength to break free and plant the roots that will allow me to stretch strong and tall?

Just as my impatience begins to further discourage me, I slowly begin to grow. It is an unhurried process but it allows me time to strengthen myself. Each day new parts of me are revealed and I begin to take shape. I start to feel warmer as I am pulled closer to the surface and I find myself growing more powerful. I suddenly erupt through the darkness and out of all that was holding me back. I finally rise up strong and tall. I radiate the love that was poured into me as I grew.

I am free.

I am the beautiful thing that God was making all along.

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“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; (Isaiah 43:2-3)

“Two Years”

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WordPress just informed me that today is my two year anniversary with them. Two years of being a blogger. Never really thought that was something I would be. If you had told me that, I would have laughed. Two years….

Two years ago, I jumped into the blogging world not knowing what I was doing really. All I knew was that my demons were chasing me and I needed a way to bring something positive to my life through photography and writing. Last January, I dreaded the turning of the calendar. I didn’t want to see that month come into focus because two years ago, it had been the worst month of my life thus far. But I survived it.

This year, I didn’t even really think about it. My transformation continues and this time around it didnt seem so bad. (So far…the month is only half over!) The phasing out of anxiety isn’t a quick process by any means. I’m sorry to say that for those who are going through it but it’s an honest truth. If I were to put a different spin on it though, instead of calling it a “phasing-out” process, I could say that the “transformation” God is making in my life isn’t a quick process. More so, it has been the beginning of a new relationship. That’s really what it’s all been about..and any good relationship takes time to build a solid foundation.

Just as when you meet someone for the first time and you start dating, you get to know that person. You learn as much as you can about them and you want to spend as much time with them as possible. You begin to like them more and more because of how they make you feel. You feel warm and fuzzy inside and begin to feel yourself falling in love. You can’t imagine your life without this person and feel like a part of you that has been missing for so long is now making you whole. You see your future together and you commit your life to theirs.

I have been lucky enough to have all of that happen to me and to fall in love (and recently become engaged to) a wonderful man that God brought into my life. Even better news is that I can have all of that through a relationship with Christ also. Although I already knew who God was, I didn’t begin to fully know Him until this totally new relationship began two years ago. As I leaned on Him more and more to get through the days that were dragging me down, I began to crave more of Him. I wanted to know more. I prayed, read scriptures, listened to worship music and began to live my life more as He would want me to. I still have a lot of work to do, but I have changed in so many ways.

Open your heart today and allow yourself to have that relationship with Him. No matter where you are in your life or in your walk, it’s never too late. It may take you two months or two years but trust during that time that God is working on you and keep focused on Him and how He is changing your life for the better.