Monday, November 7, 2016

time to take a stand

You hear it all the time: "I'm not going to vote, because one voice won't matter."

How about 90 million voices? Because, you see, that's the approximate number of eligible voters who didn't stand up to be counted for the last election. And among those 90 million voices, at least 4 million are evangelical Christians.

As believers in and followers of Christ, we know that God is ultimately in control. He knows exactly how this election is going to turn out. The thing is, we shouldn't be using that as a cop-out to excuse not going to the polls tomorrow. You see, God uses His people to carry out His will. If we don't stand up and speak out, we aren't doing our part.

Yes, God can use anyone and anything to fulfill His plans. If He wants, He can change people's minds when they start filling out their ballots. But here's the kicker: sometimes, God lets us get our way.

Sometimes, God gives us exactly what we're asking for so that we figure out just how bad we are at doing this ourselves. When His people cried out for a king, God told them that they didn't want one. He warned them that a king would take advantage of the people. He told them that He was the only Ruler they needed.

The Israelites answered, "That's all well and good, but how about You give us a king anyways? We want to be like everybody else." (That's my paraphrase of the events of 1 Samuel 8).

I'm afraid that we as a nation have quickly put ourselves in that situation. We've stopped trying to be different. We've started sliding down hill so fast that we can't get a hold on anything to stop ourselves. We've taken our eyes off of God and turned them to the rest of the world, and now we're desperately trying to look like everybody else.

That's not what we as Christians are called to do. We aren't supposed to be like the rest of the world. We aren't supposed to value what the rest of the world values. We are called to reflect God, the One who made us in His image.

"So, first and foremost, I urge God's people to pray.
They should make their requests, petitions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all humanity.
Teach them to pray for kings (or anyone in high places for that matter)
so that we can lead quiet, peaceful lives--reverent, godly, and holy--
all of which is good and acceptable before the eyes of God our Savior
who desires for everyone to be saved and know the truth.
Because 'There is one God and one Mediator between God and us--
the man Jesus, God's Anointed, who gave His life as a ransom for all
so that we might have freedom.'" 
~1 Timothy 2:1-6
So pray. Pray for our country. Pray for those who are voting, and pray for those who are running for election. Pray that our country will return to God. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God said,
"if My people, who are called by My name,
will humble themselves
and pray and seek My face
and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven,
and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Pray for your fellow believers, for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray that we will all humble ourselves before God and ask His forgiveness and healing for our land.
I know that the 2 main presidential candidates are far from anything we want--both of them. Neither one seems to be a reflection of the God I serve. But I feel it is my responsibility as a Christian to stand up and speak out. I can't in good conscience sit back and watch our country slide further down the rabbit hole, and I think that is what will happen if we as Christians keep quiet.

I also think it is my duty as an American citizen to vote. That's a right my brother fought and died for, along with many other brave men and women who would give just about anything to be voting tomorrow. We owe it to them and to the men and women who are currently fighting to vote for a Commander-in-Chief that our military can stand behind, someone who will support them, believe in them, and never leave a man behind.

Don't worry about the "politically correct" candidate tomorrow, because I've found that "politically correct" is most often the choice that stands in stark contrast to what God says is right. So pray, then vote, then pray some more. Pray that every follower of Christ will base their vote on God's word and His will. Pray that we will become a nation after God instead a nation intent on our own desires. Pray that our leaders will draw near to God and base their decisions on His word.

Vote--and if you don't, remember that you have no right to complain about the direction our country goes following the election.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

when you're lost...

So, I just realized that it has almost been an entire month since I last wrote...ouch. I have to tell you, I can feel that it's been that long because I can feel a little bit of my sanity melting away. My husband will tell you--I'm a much better person to be around when I write. In the past he's called writing my therapy, and I guess there are a lot worse things I could do to decompress.

I have to admit, though, lately words just haven't come easily to me. For a long time now I've been struggling with the thought that I'm a bit lost in the grand scheme of things. I've been begging for God to show me where I fit in His plan, but for some reason He seems to be silent on the matter.

Have you ever felt that way?

So often, I hear people talk about finding God's will as if it is a simple thing: just say a prayer, and God will tell you exactly where He wants you. Can I be totally honest? Sometimes, those people make me want to pull my hair out.

Because, you see, I've been begging to know God's will for at least 6 years now (though it's probably been longer than that, just not quite as desperately until I was getting ready to graduate from college). I can't even start to tell you the hours I've spent on my knees, the verses I've poured over, the prayers I've written out, and the tears I've cried.

But God has kept track of all of them.

That's the amazing thing that we lose sight of--God knows just how many tears I've cried as I've poured out my heart to Him. He remembers every word I wrote. He whispered to me through the verses, and He knelt down to listen to me while I was on my knees.

No matter how I feel--despite the little voice telling me that I've been forgotten and left on my own--God is faithful. No matter what our fickle hearts tell us, He never changes. In James we're told,

" Every good gift bestowed, every perfect gift received comes to us from above,
courtesy of the Father of lights. He is consistent. 
He won’t change His mind or play tricks in the shadows.  
We have a special role in His plan.
He calls us to life by His message of truth
so that we will show the rest of His creatures His goodness and love."
~James 1:17&18

I know that. Really I do; the answers are there in my head. The issue is sometimes just reminding myself of that. Even when I feel like I'm stuck on the periphery, out there by myself just watching everybody else fulfill their role in God's plan, God is consistent. He's got me in the palm of His hand. Even more amazing than that, God says "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." (Isaiah 49:16)

God has made me a part of Himself. If I'm engraved on His hands, there is no way that He can push me aside and forget about me. I'm not lost, even though I can't see exactly where I am. The path may be hidden from me right now, but God still knows exactly right where I am and where I'm headed.

And in the midst of my misgivings, insecurities, and messy issues, that is a thought I need to cling to.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

when self-reliance becomes something else

I'm big on self-reliance. My whole life, from the time I was little bitty, my mantra has been, "I can do it myself!" One of my dreams is to one day have a self-sustaining farm, one on which we can totally support ourselves and our loved ones without counting on anyone else.

Worldly self-reliance isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, God tells us to work and to support ourselves so that others won't have a reason to speak against us--"make it your goal to lead a peaceful life, mind your own business, and keep your hands busy in your work, as we have instructed you. That way you will live peacefully with those on the outside, and all your needs will be met without depending on others." (I Thessalonians 4:11 & 12, VOICE).

The problem comes, though, when my self-reliance comes ahead of my reliance on God. It usually sneaks in a little at a time, starting with something tiny, something I can handle on my own without "bothering" God about it. I want to handle things myself, but in doing so I start trusting in my own power and stop trusting in God.

"My goodness, how you've turned things around! You seem to think that the potter is equal to the clay; should the pot say about the potter, 'He didn't make me'? Or does the thing formed say about the one who formed it, 'He doesn't understand anything'?"
~Isaiah 29:16

When I start trusting myself instead of God, I'm like the pot saying that I know better than the Potter.
God doesn't expect me to take care of everything on my own. In fact, it's quite the opposite. He doesn't need or want my help taking care of things.

"Listen! The Lord, the Eternal, the Holy One of Israel says,
'In returning and rest, you will be saved.
In quietness and trust you will find strength.'"
~Isaiah 30:15

God doesn't need my strength--He doesn't even want it. To Him, my strength is nothing. Instead, He wants me to let go. He says, "This is the way; here is rest for the weary. I am showing you rest." ~Isaiah 28:12
That's hard for me, that "rest" thing. All I do is look around and see all the things that are being left undone, all the things I should be doing, all the things that I need to "fix." I have a tendency to do the same thing with God. He calls me to rest, but I start looking around and seeing all the things I think I should be doing.

In James, we're told, "Those who depend only on their own judgment are like those lost on the seas, carried away by any wave or picked up by any wind. Those adrift on their own wisdom shouldn't assume the LORD will rescue them or bring them anything. The splinter of divided loyalty shatters your compass and leaves you dizzy and confused." ~James 1:6-8
When I rely on my own strength and wisdom, I usually get myself lost at sea. And when I'm lost, being tossed around by the waves and getting more and more disoriented, I start paddling frantically trying to get myself back to shore. It's only when I'm undeniably lost that I start asking God to show me where I'm supposed to be. He can't always show me right away, because sometimes I've gotten myself so far off track that He has to lead me back through the waves and across the open sea before we're even in sight of where I'm supposed to be.
And it's only when a story comes along that rips the paddles out of my hands and leaves me totally incapable of doing things myself that I finally give in and let God. I don't want to do that. I want my first thought to be like the Psalmist's:

"When struck by fear, I let go, depending securely upon You alone."
~Psalm 56:3

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

what do I know of holy?

I've written a few times about songs that have meant a lot to me in some way, from childhood songs that God's used to remind me of truths I'd lost sight of to songs that helped me through some of the darkest moments of my life. Recently, I heard a new song that really got to me. It's by Addison Road, and it's called “What do I Know of Holy?”

If you haven't ever heard this song, here's a video. I highly recommend listening to it. I can't get blogger to work with me right now, so you'll have to watch at youtube. I'll try to fix that soon...


I have to admit, the first time I heard this song it was as if somebody had stepped into my thoughts: “I tried to hear from Heaven, but I talked the whole time.” Wait a minute—so that's not just me? Other people tend to carry on entirely one-sided “conversations” with God, too? I can't tell you how many times I've begged and pleaded for God to tell me something—anything—but never stopped long enough to actually listen.

“Be still and know that I am God.”
~Psalm 46:10a

“I think I made You too small...” I wrote an entire devotional about the power and magnificence of God, yet I'm still guilty of this on a regular basis. Every time I let fear overwhelm me, letting the stress and anxiety pile up until I feel like I can't breathe, I'm making God small. When I let the fears take over, I'm telling God that I don't trust Him to take care of me through all of it. I'm telling Him that my fears are bigger than Him.

“So do not fear,
for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
~Isaiah 41:10

“I guess I thought that I had figured You out...
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save--
but those were only empty words on a page.
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be;
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees.”

I've grown up knowing what we always called the “Sunday School answers.” I can tell you all the stories about all the heroes, all the times God worked on behalf of His people. I asked Jesus into my heart at a revival when I was 9 years old, and I have no doubt that I will spend eternity with Him. I can sing the hymns and quote the verses and name the books. But even with all of that, there are times when all of those things kind of blur together into a single, shapeless mass.

Don't get me wrong—I know I'm blessed. Sometimes, though (and too often than I want to admit), I forget just how amazed I should be at the very idea of being blessed by the Creator of the universe.

I've written about how studying physics and biology has given me a different view on how faith and science intertwine. Sometimes, I get a tiny glimpse into the absolute enormity of God's power, and I'm left in awe. I see brilliant minds who are humbled by the unbelievable simplicity that can be found buried underneath even the most complex of physical systems, and the complexity that lies within seemingly simple things. In those moments, I realize that I really don't know much of anything about God.

“For the LORD gives wisdom;
from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
~Proverbs 2:6

“Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of holy?”

Sunday, September 25, 2016

what about when your faith is broken?

Sometimes, life breaks you. It gets to be too much, pressing you flat to the ground with your face in the dirt. You know what you're supposed to do—pray--but you just can't seem to find the words. Everything has crashed down around you, overwhelming you, and you feel like you can't breathe. People tell you, “Everything will work out. Just have faith.”

But what if your faith is broken?

What if you simply don't have it in you to “just have faith”?

I've been there. I've found myself down in the depths while the people around me are saying all I need is the faith that everything happens for a reason (please believe me when I say that those words are seldom comforting) and that it's all part of God's plan. I've had my faith shattered into so many pieces that I didn't think it could ever be repaired.

“if we are faithless, He will remain faithful...”
~2 Timothy 2:13a

God knows that we will face things that shatter our faith into a million tiny pieces. He knows that we will feel abandoned, lost, and alone. He knows that sometimes it's hard to even remember to breathe in and out, and that everything else is simply too much.

Through all of it, though, He isfaithful. It doesn't matter when my faith is shattered, because His faithfulness can't be broken. And eventually, He gathers the shattered pieces back together. Piece by piece, He slowly mends our faith. He reminds me that I don't have to remember how to breathe, because He breathed into my lungs and they automatically strain for more of His breath. He quietly reminds me that He holds all of creation in place, keeping it from spinning out of control, so what makes me think that I can spin out of His control?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

sunrise rainbow

I saw something this morning that I've never seen before--a rainbow in the middle of the sunrise.

Believe it or not, I've seen a lot of sunrises. When Pop and I would milk in the mornings, we got to watch quite a few of them. There were even a couple of times when I was in the milk barn when Pop came in and had me stop to walk outside and watch the sun come up.

Every sunrise I've seen was beautiful; if you haven't seen one in a while, it wouldn't hurt to take the time to get up early one day and watch. It's a whole different world at that time of the day--it's quiet and calm and gorgeous.

I've seen amazing rainbows in the past. In our little corner of the Ozarks last spring, we got to see a double rainbow that stretched from one side of the sky to the other, touching bright green rolling hills on each end. The bright colors were spectacular against the bright blue sky. 

This morning, though, there was something amazing about seeing the sky on fire with the rising sun--all filled with pinks, reds, and golds--with a rainbow shining in the middle of it. It was just one end, hardly anything that filled up the whole sky, but it made my breath catch.

It didn't last very long, and the rest of the morning has been gray and dreary. There hasn't been a storm, just a constant drizzle that is enough to get everything wet but not enough for me to carry an umbrella.

Rainbows are reminders of God's promise, and this morning His promise to be with and to take care of His people struck me when I saw the rainbow in the sunrise. When the rain came, the rainbow wasn't visible anymore. The colors of the sunrise were replaced with clouds that hid the splendor of just a few minutes before.

Isn't life like that sometimes? You are given glimpses of God's awesome power, of His beauty and magnificence, and your breath catches. In that moment, everything seems right. You know that God has you, and that you can face whatever lies ahead. After all, He's right there.

But then, the gloom comes. The beauty of God is hidden by the dreariness of life, and you start forgetting about His promises.

Do you know what's amazing about a rainbow? The light is always there, even when you can't see the colors. The only reason you can see the rainbow is because the conditions are just right, with the light splitting because it travels through the rain. All those colors are still there; it's just that you can't see them all the time.

The same is true of our relationship with God. He is always there, and His promises are always true. We can't always see Him, but that's just because the conditions aren't always exactly perfect.

And just like it's the rain that lets us see the beauty hidden in the light, sometimes it's the hard times in life that let us see God's beauty. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

I can never be enough.

People are living in darkness--some because they've chosen to scamper back into the darkness after they've seen the light, others because they've never seen the light and don't know there's something other than the darkness they've always been in. Our job is to walk fully in the Light so that other people will see our deeds as being from God. We are called to love because He loves; we are called to speak the truth.

Judgement will come to the earth and to everyone who has ever walked on it. We are promised that over and over again, and reminded that it's a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Hebrews 10:31). All of us will face judgement for what we've done, and by our actions we are all condemned to death. On our own, we are far from worthy. In fact, we're closer to being worthless.

God's judgment--His wrath--is a terrifying thing. It is unrelenting and absolute, and no one can stand under the scrutiny of the Perfect Judge. As it says in Micah 7:9a, "I must bear His anger because I have sinned against Him." Isaiah 8:13 says, "After all, only the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, should terrify you. Only God is holy, only God should leave you trembling."

On my own, I have no chance. I could never do enough to earn my way into heaven--I can't be good enough or help enough people or give away enough of my own possessions.

I can never be enough.

If my story ended there, it would be a pretty dismal story. It would be hopeless, leading to an empty, worthless life that might as well be spent in the dark.

But amazingly, that emptiness is where the story--His story--starts. God looks at us and sees us in the midst of our failures, in the midst of our sins, and He offers us grace.

We could never be perfect, so God gave us an "out," so to speak. In the middle of the Darkness, He sent the ultimate Light. Jesus lived a perfect life, the only One in all of history who could do that. His grace was offered in the form of the perfect, blameless sacrifice--in the form of the One who could look down over the people who hung Him on a cross and pray that they be forgiven, even as the blood ran down his face to make Him see through a veil of blood.

The rest of that verse from Micah says, "until He argues on my behalf and rights all my wrongs. He will bring me out into the light, and then I will see His saving justice."

When we step out of the Darkness into the Light, it's a scary thing. Every fault and flaw is exposed; we can't hide anything. His Light shows us for everything we are. But then, just as Jesus saw people through a veil of His blood while He hung on the cross, God sees us through a veil of the blood of the Perfect Sacrifice. The blood of Jesus covers all our flaws, sins, and faults.

God sees us through His grace.

It doesn't matter that I can't ever be enough, that I can't do enough to earn God's favor, because the Perfect Sacrifice will always be more than enough. Jesus forgave
the ones who called for Him to be crucified,
the ones who drove the nails through His hands and feet,
the ones who shoved a crown of thorns onto His head,
the ones who spit on Him and mocked Him.
What makes us think that we're so different, so special, that our sins are too much for Him to handle?

Micah 7:7 says, "But as for me, I will look to the Eternal One, and my hope is in the True God who will save me. My God will hear me."

Despite all I do that drives a wedge between me and God, my God hears me. His grace covers all my sins, no matter how horrible they are.