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!

“Our Day”

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Lately I have had what I refer to as “wedding brain”. With just a little over four months until the big day, I have a constant stream of plans and ideas zig-zagging through my mind. I have also spent the past week fretting over the reception venue which has changed three times. (Problem resolved and all is well on that front I’m glad to say).

But today I had to ground myself a little. In a constant flurry of Ebay searches and Pinterest oogling, I brought myself back to the real reason this wedding is happening. LOVE. Now don’t think that I had forgotten that all important notion but I have allowed myself so much stress and worry over the little and not so little things that I had to pull myself back a little and just relax.

Our wedding will not be a huge event but it will be special. As special as the man I am going to marry. Because in the end it’s all about the marriage, not the wedding. Can I rant for just a minute and say how annoyed I get when people say that the wedding is all about the bride? I get even more frustrated when I hear a bride herself say that this is her day. I worry that those types of opinions won’t get your very far in the reality of what marriage really is.

This will be OUR day. Mine, Greg’s, Callie’s, with our families and friends and God as the focus. I have said it here before…God has to be the center of your relationship. Likewise, He will be the center of our wedding ceremony. It’s not solely about the bride or the groom but the two of them together with the One who taught them to love in the first place. He will not be forgotten in my vows. He will be thanked and praised and everyone will know that He is the reason I am standing there taking my vows with the man that He brought into my life through a carefully orchestrated sequence of events.

LOVE is what it is all about. We love because He first loved us. God is LOVE .How else can we explain this wonderful, amazing feeling? It wasn’t man-made. It was given to us and it is our choice to accept it. God’s own love for us is unending and immeasurable. How can we possibly love one another without first allowing God’s love to dwell within us? It’s yours for the taking, and it can make all your relationships so much stronger if you allow it to be the center of those relationships. If you love God more than each other, then you can love each other even more 🙂

“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)

“Be Still and Know That I Am God”

I stood in the snow, looking over the banks of the river. The low temperatures had caused the surface of the water to freeze overnight. It looked as if the river had stood still.

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I am often amazed at how the water continuously flows, every second of every day. But today it looked as if it had come to a complete halt. It was an unusual yet beautiful scene. Our church services had been canceled due to the snow squall that had blown in with blizzard-like force the night before, the winds whipping across the road so fiercely that it was making our commute back home almost impossible. But with the morning came warmer temperatures, calm air and blue skies. I ventured out with my camera to capture the scene that had been created overnight. I had my quiet time with God along the river, crunching through the snow. I spoke with Him and told Him I was open to whatever He wanted me to know.

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Then I began to think about the stillness of the water. It seemed calm on the surface but there was still so much going on underneath. The river still flowed. I couldn’t see it but I could hear the ice cracking as the water below kept moving. I immediately compared this to my relationship with God. So many times, it seems as if He is unnervingly still and quiet. I want to hear from Him and yet it seems as if He is nowhere to be found. It is in those times that I have to remember that He is still working in me and for me. I may not always see it, just as I couldn’t see the water moving but He still working behind the scenes and below the surface to keep His plan for my life in motion. It is in those moments that I must be the one to be still and know that He is God.

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“Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10