Church Shooting in Texas: Choose to Focus on the Light

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  (Matt. 5:14-16) NIV
 
My heart and prayers go out to the many affected by the decision of one man to hurt many during their time of worship at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.
 
Mr. Roger’s mom was so right when she told him as a young boy to look for the helpers when bad things happened. During this tragedy, there were so many wonderful helpers/heroes. Evil came into that church, but good outshined any of the darkness.
 
The two men who chased down the shooter risked their lives so he couldn’t hurt anyone else or escape from facing the devastation he left behind. Many people flooded that church to offer whatever help they could and the people within that church loved and cared for the brothers and sisters in Christ they just spent the morning worshiping with. The first responders walked into the unknown to help in a situation none of us could ever comprehend, and to the country as a whole poured out their love and prayers for those who were lost, wounded, or a part of that harrowing experience.
 
Jesus’ light is not made from earthly materials. The Pharisees tried to snuff out Jesus’ light on the cross only to have it supercharged, multiplied, and returned as the Holy Spirit that now resides in you and me.
 
Darkness can only occur when there is an absence of light. What this man tried to do was force his absence of light on other people. He walked into a place full of light that exponentially became brighter as others came to help. Darkness is fleeting even in the presence of the tiniest of flames or the tiniest of creatures like the lighting bug who dots the night sky.
 
I am choosing to focus on the light, the helpers, and the heroes in this tragedy. I am choosing to focus on prayers of comfort, peace, and healing for all who are involved. I am praying for this man who chose to keep light out so he could remain in the darkness that speaks only in the language of evil. This is becoming more prevalent as these tragedies keep occurring but Jesus’ light can permeate any wall—even one encased in darkness.
 
Be the light of the world today. You never know whose flame you will light just by showing them yours.

The Princess from “The Princess and the Pea” is diagnosed with Fibromyalgia

I am convinced this princess didn’t feel the pea under that stack of mattresses because she had some princess spidey skills or keen princess pea detection abilities.  She had to have felt it because she had Fibromyalgia.

She wouldn’t have been diagnosed back then because the medical community is just now catching up with what thousands of men and women have been saying for decades—”We hurt!”

I am definitely no princess with fine linens and my bedding and sheets tend to look more like a pack of wolves were fighting for their territory, but when I lay down, I can feel even the tiniest crease in my fitted sheet touch the sides of my leg.  My nerve endings scream, “Get away from me pea!”  I then have to flatten out all of the wrinkles trying to steal away my good sleep.

It’s pretty ridiculous, really.  Sometimes when the pain is at full speed ahead, my sheets can look more like a snake pit rather than a comfortable place to rest my body.  A piece of string on my leg can feel like a hot, burning metal wire searing into my skin.  Every crack, crevice, and wrinkle now becomes my mortal enemy.  If I was on that stack of mattresses, that pea may as well have been a bowling ball.

The one thing I know to be true about Fibromyalgia is that it is just my human cross to bear living on this side of Eden.  In the DNA lottery passed down from generation to generation, I hit the screaming in pain, nerve endings on fire disease jackpot. I also know that it won’t last forever.  It won’t be my eternity.  It won’t define me as a person.  And it won’t change my place as a child of God.

We are all dealt a DNA hand of one form or another.  What we do with it and how we respond to it is what shapes our lives.  I have to admit I didn’t respond very graciously going through the “What in the world is happening to me?” process and most of that time I can honestly say I wasn’t seeking God for help or guidance.  I was just plain mad.

It’s been ten years since that diagnosis and many more years before when I knew something wasn’t right, and now I have gained something called perspective.  It’s when you crawl out of the soupy mess of your life and look down to see what you were actually swimming in.  Through this process I learned I needed God, I can’t blame God for my post Eden DNA, and it’s when trying times hit I need to move closer to Him, not further away.  My Fibromyalgia has steered my life in many different directions, and I can actually say in a bizarre way it has helped me. I’m stronger mentally, I’ve learned to humble myself and ask for help, and I rely heavily on my Father to meet my every need.  Even though my body dictates what I will accomplish in a day, it won’t ever stop me from doing God’s will.

Our adversities are what make us who we are.  Sometimes they also bring us to our knees which may be the only way we are willing to get there.  It’s how God got me there, and I wouldn’t trade a day of pain away if it meant going back to the person I was—the person who thought she knew Christ but really didn’t.  I’ve been refined through the fire and have many more burning hours to go.  How about you?

Have your adversities brought you closer to God or further away?

 

A Prayer for the Hurricane Irma, Katia, and Earthquake Victims.

To say that our collective hearts are breaking for all of those affected by the litany of natural disasters would be an understatement. I have family in Florida and can’t even imagine leaving my home behind to take refuge knowing that may be the last time I see my community in tact. The unknown is beyond scary.

Then I awoke to the news that Mexico has been hit with the worst earthquake it has ever seen just as Hurricane Katia was making landfall. Aren’t these the moments we look up to heaven and say, “Really, God? Couldn’t you hold back this devastation? What is the deal?”

Then I remember the God that I serve. Any one of us could be in the path of something bigger than we could ever imagine, but we have a God that is bigger than anything we could face. Why is this occurring? I have no idea. Can God still handle our questions, pleas, and doubts? Yes, He can.

I know He is with everyone who is feeling this devastating loss, and my prayers go up to the One who holds it all. He knew this would take place even before we were born to experience it. God knows the beginning to the end. During all of this devastation, it may feel like He has left us, but He hasn’t. He could have left us when we chose sin over Him, but He stayed and continues to stay because that is how much He loves us. We need to reach out to Him and in our hurt and confusion, ask Him to be the mighty God that He is and help all of those who are in the wake of this unleashing from nature.

Dear Heavenly Father, we know that you are mighty and powerful. We know you could stop all of this with an inaudible whisper. The reasons it still remains is beyond our human understanding. Lord, I may not know the why’s, but I know the Who. It’s you that I search and seek to provide comfort, calmness, peace, and hope in the midst of this scary time. It is you that I beseech to be with the people affected by these disasters whether we are experiencing the reality of the situation first hand or watching it from afar. It is you that I pray to because I know even in the fear, you are holding every person in your hand and living among them because you are omnipresent. You never turn your head away from us and you never leave us. In this I put all of my faith and trust. Please be with everyone during this difficult time, and please give the emergency workers the unobstructed opportunity to assist and save those in need. Give them your eyes to see who is in need and your supernatural strength to perform these tasks. Give our leaders the wisdom you possess in how to best help and serve the communities. Please unite our shields of faith and hear our prayers. We weren’t promised an easy life on this side of Eden, but some days, it can seem almost unbearable. Please Lord, give us your heart for comfort and help us to comfort each other. In Jesus precious name I pray. Amen.

Why do we fear?

Worry and Anxiety. Why do we willingly sit at the alter and watch the marriage of these two? We wrangle our problems out of God’s hands, sling them across our backs, and let them drag in the dirt behind us while we attempt to move forward. For some reason we feel more in control when we take control. Snatching our worries and concerns away from the One who is omniscient, omnipresent, and all powerful is not God’s plan for us. When we feel that we either know better how to handle them or deserve to be miserable because of them, that is not from God. That’s from our enemy. In the armor that God provides and Jesus willingly died for us to have, several pieces provide our defense but only one allows us to fight back. The Word of God is our sword. When we open its pages, we become sword wielding Ninjas with insight to know where and when to point it at our enemy. Let the love and strength of God’s Word pour over you as you release your fingers around the sack you are carrying and grasp the handle of the sword that is now revealed to you. Become aware of the coolness of the blade and trust that it will protect you from what the enemy is trying to take away–your peace.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Psalm 5:8, “Lead me in the right path, O LORD, or my enemies will conquer me. Make your way plain for me to follow” (NLT).

Do you dance?  Do you dance free-form or prefer the structure of the do-si-do?

I’m more of a free-former.  My arms and legs go wherever the music takes me.  This probably looked more attractive in my younger years, I’m sure.  Even so, it is still my preferred method of moving to the beat.

Sometimes, doesn’t it feel like life is making you dance and you don’t hear any music?  I run forward, I step sideways, I curve to the side with my hand on my forehead, and I jump to avoid the holes.  I’m unintentionally free-forming, and it’s not a pretty sight.

There have been times recently I have felt like I was on fire for Christ and moving forward in my walk with Him by honoring God with what He was asking me to do, and then I’m clothes-lined staring up at the sky wondering what just happened.  I went from marching to Christ’s beat to lying flat on my back.  This can be so frustrating.

I have to be reminded still that God didn’t say our roads would be straight without any curves or unexpected hits.  Our enemy is keenly aware of which roads we decided to take, and the more we choose the path of Christ, the more clotheslines and camouflaged pits we will encounter along the way.

Ever notice how someone who isn’t walking in the Word doesn’t seem to have as many of these awkward dance moves? Jumping, side-stepping, neck craning, moves?  It may appear that way, but it won’t last forever.

I may be lying on my back from Satan who is trying to deter my walk with Christ, but God gave me a friend’s hand recently that helped me back up.  I love God’s timing.  He let me lie there for a while to learn from this experience before offering me this hand, and I am grateful for both.

We may be awkward dancers on our paths heading toward Heaven, but dancing to the beat of anyone but Christ’s drummer will be a mistake.  There are many hands willing to pick you up.  Here, take mine.  I may need yours someday, too.

 

 

 

The Potter’s Clay

Isaiah 64:8

“But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.”

This may be my perception, but it seems like we are never closer to God than when we are infants or the moment we are edging nearer to the end of our lives.  It just seems these are the times we have absolutely no guards up or pretenses, demands, or influences.  It is a purity of state when we are laid bare and all that is before us or all that is behind us loses its hold over our thoughts and feelings.  We are His clay and we are more malleable during these moments than any other time in our lives.

I have two daughters, and I remember holding them at birth.  They were lost and frightened when not within my grasp, but once they returned from a nurse’s check-up and wrapped back in my arms, their worlds fell into place.  They were safe.

Neither of them had an agenda or notion of the world outside of my arms.  They weren’t influenced by anyone other than the comfort and love of their caretakers.  Looking at their sweet innocence, I knew the blank slate would soon be written upon by my own triumphs and shortcomings as a parent and the big bad world I couldn’t protect them from.  For now, their faces were still freshly kissed by God and each day they awoke set them on a course that would shape and chisel them one life experience at a time.

I feel like the definition of our life between birth and death is equivalent to being a teenager.  We think we have it all figured out, we know what is best for us, and our opinions of people and world happenings are ironclad.  Just read Facebook and you can see how set in stone one person is from the next regarding everything from politics to the best way to make Beef Stroganoff.  Is there really only one way?

During these in between years, we are molded by so much more than our Father.  Our culture has taken a hold of our attention and won’t let go until we pass.  Each day in the progression of our lives we fall further and further away from the kiss on the forehead from our Father who picked the time and place He would send us here in order for us to find our way back home to Him.  How scary it must be to send His children off into the world knowing our decision will ultimately bring us back to Him or away from Him for an eternity.

I am witnessing the end of life for my mom, and it struck me how much we revert back to the beginning of our lives when our independence is not formed but our dependence is necessary for our survival.  I recently bought a baby monitor for my mom so my dad could hear her during the night and be there when she needed him.  Her bed was moved downstairs because the stairs were too hard to navigate.  I felt fear that she was sleeping downstairs on her own.  What if she cried out during the night?

Our independence can pull us away from our Father just like our children’s independence causes them to pull away from us.  The one-year-old walker tries so hard to outrun us as they head towards the one thing in the room we don’t want them to have.  Our dependence makes us softer and more pliable and willing to hold the hand of the one who is caring for us.  It makes us migrate towards the source of the warmth and safety of the security they provide.

My mom is unable to read my book.  Her focus is limited and reading wears her out.  She asked me to read it to her, and it was one of the most precious experiences I have ever had.  She closed her eyes as she laid in bed and I read the words to her.  She was softly breathing and once in a while I slowed down to see if she was asleep.  She cracked open an eye to look at me and then I would pick up where I left off.

I sometimes wonder if I wrote the book for my mom.  The timing is just too perfect for me not to wonder.  When I read it, I believe it gives her peace hearing about how much her Father loves her, and the purpose of our life is to learn of Him and know He is waiting for His children with open arms if we are just willing to find Him.

I pray that God allows us the time for me to finish reading to my mom.  Her heart is so ready to hear of His love for her and how His forgiveness makes us as clean and lovable as a newborn baby.  She is soft and pliable, and I can feel the hands of our mighty Father molding His child, holding her in His arms, and feeling her dependence on Him to protect her from the shadows of death.  Christ defeated this and is slipping His Shoes of Peace onto her feet.  I pray that I allow myself to be this open to my Potter during these in between years, and I can’t wait to feel His kiss on my forehead once again.

Shoes of Peace

shoes-of-peace“And with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15 New International Version).

Dear Lord, thank you for your Shoes of Peace.  I’ve needed them these last few days.  I sent my daughter off halfway across the country with her high school band to perform in the Orange Bowl and just learned that my mom is going to die.  These ups and downs of life are enough to make our stomach do flip flops and at times, it can feel like there isn’t a seat belt that is holding us inside of the ride.

My mom has been sick with a lung disease with unknown causes for the last few years.  She recently ended up in the hospital for a 65 day, unwanted stay that we weren’t sure she would come home from.  She did come home, and now the news of her not staying on her Earthly home much longer saddens me.  We may have her for a year—maybe less.

It’s amazing to me, though, that with every whip-lash turn we experience, we do have a constant in our lives that never dips or turns no matter how fast our ride is going.  God is always the same, and He isn’t made seasick by our experiences even though He is right there next to us.  How often in our lives do we choose to buy another ticket for this Herculean-sized roller coaster instead of taking the hand of the One who can help us step out of the seat?  A few years ago, I am sure that I would have handed my money over to the one who would have loved for me to ride this ride again, but I won’t give my enemy the satisfaction.  My hand is reaching for God and His precious Son who won these Shoes of Peace for me and for you to wear.

The Gospel lets me know this world is defeated, that ride is temporary, and Satan will lose his job as ticket agent very soon.  He can’t force us to step onto the ride; we have to be willing participants in the fear and worry that he loves to create.  I know my Savior defeated death, disease, and worry when He went to the cross, and I am choosing to leave it there.  Do you have a ticket in your hand or will you walk with me to the cross so together we can leave our Earthy pain and fear with Jesus?  It’s time that we shut down Satan’s ride.

Much Love,

Crista