Monday, May 23, 2016

The Magic Kingdom

This is a post I wrote a few years ago. Something inside of me wanted to share it with you again today. As we all plan our fun, family vacations this summer may we always remember that the BEST is yet to come....

Let the memories begin!  Disney's motto is written all over the flags that adorn the outside of their theme parks.  We were giddy with anticipation on the outside gates of Disney's Magic Kingdom at about ten minutes until opening time while we slathered sunscreen all over us and prepared for a day of fun as we park-hopped all across the four theme parks.  We decided this would be the cheapest way to experience the parks - and yet it still cost us an arm and a leg for four people.  We'd better have fun! 

Memories of my childhood came flooding back to me like a tidal wave.  We spent a lot of time at Disney when I was a kid - but it was the one over in California (Disney Land).  I teared up a bit as the Mayor came out, along with all of the Princesses and characters waving and welcoming all of us at the gates as we counted down from ten to one and the gates magically opened to our day of fantasy and adventure!

We squeezed through the narrow gates of the park entrance with thousands of other people who imagined this might be a good week to come, since it wouldn't be so crowded (yeah, right - it's Disney!) and were face to face with Main Street USA.  All the people who were working in the stores were standing outside in their fun and bright costumes, waving and smiling - so happy to see us!  

It was all so "perfect".  Walt Disney has managed to tap into something inside of each of us that few people have managed to tap into.  What is it?  Fantasy?  Dreams?  Wishes?  Magic?  It's amazing to me that Walt Disney was fired from a job as a young man for not being creative enough. There's something about this place that makes everyone who goes there turn into a fool to experience it.  We spend outlandish amounts of money for this experience.  We travel great distances.  We purchase over-priced food and souvenirs.  We walk at least ten miles in a day and endure crowds of people that would normally make us run for the hills.  There was even a recent news story of a woman who tried to sell her newborn baby for $15,000 to take her other children to Disney World.  Unbelievable.  I'm telling you - this is powerful.  I'm intrigued.  

As the morning progressed, we found ourselves looking around as we stood in long lines, watching small kids come unglued as they were tired, hot and done with all the "fun".  People were getting frustrated and complaining about the heat, the crowds, the waiting, the price.  Then a minute later they would pose with a Disney character and all would be well - everyone smiling.  

I know I may seem cynical and I sincerely apologize if it seems that way.  But I am really struggling to understand what it is that we are all drawn to in this fantasy world that doesn't really exist?  Where is the authenticity of this fantasy land?  Is it that what we're drawn to, after all - a place where everything seems perfect and filled with joy, laughter and unity?  If so...why are we looking here?

Friends, as much fun as we had in between the frustrating parts of our Disney trip the other day (and I will admit - it was fun - I'm not trying to deny that!), The Magic Kingdom has nothing - and I mean nothing - on The Kingdom of God.  And His Kingdom is one that lasts forever.  I'll never have to go back.  That is something I'm willing to be a fool for.  I suppose that's why I do what I do - speak and write about His Kingdom.  I think this is why Walt Disney was able to tap into that place in all of us that has made his earthly kingdom very rich...we all have a place in our hearts and souls that longs for this Kingdom.

Oh, friend, can't you see it?  Listen....everyone is eager to enter into God's Kingdom and it can only be entered through a narrow gate, but must be entered into by those who are like children (Matt. 5:3, Matt. 7:13 & Luke 16:16) It is goodness and peace and joy - only it's authentic because it's based on God's Spirit, not a fake smile given by someone who's not really feeling joy down deep (Romans 14:17).  It's a place where we will share in God's glory and be where Jesus Christ is (not a fantasy land with a pretend mouse that has a squeaky voice) and it will be unshakable and will stand forever! (1 Thess. 2:12, Hebrews 12:28, 2 Peter 1:11; Daniel 2:44).

Maybe the reason Walt Disney is such a genius is because he's discovered how to market that void in all of us that screams for filling from God and he's shown that when it's tapped into, people are willing to do just about anything to fill it.  It's a place that God put inside of each of us so we would search for Him.  Disney is an expensive and temporary substitute that satisfies us only for a moment...but it can never replace that void inside all of us that is specifically there for God's Kingdom.  We yearn for it with everything in us...and though it cost Jesus everything to offer us this Kingdom, it won't cost us a cent. He just wants our heart.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Do We All Pray to the Same God?

During one of my radio interviews after my appearance on Survivor, one of the announcers at a radio station said to me, "I consider myself a Christian, but I must say I was very disappointed in you for leaving that Buddhist ceremony on Survivor. I mean, we all pray to the same God, right? Would Jesus really have been upset with you for bowing to Buddha and praying?"

I thought about that question. I mean, I suppose you could say some religions do appeal to the same God - God Almighty. However, if you believe that the Bible is God's Word to us, it is very clear that Jesus Christ said in John 14:6, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life - no man comes to the Father except through Me."  He didn’t say “A way, A truth or A life,” He clearly said He is the way, the truth and the life. That tells me there is no other.

So my answer was just that. I told her that we may appeal and pray to the same God, but since the Bible is clear that Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life - no man comes to the Father except through Me," then we need to understand that not everyone is getting through. The only way to get to God is through Jesus.  Jesus is our Mediator!  Without Him, we may have good intentions, but our prayers will not get through.

As I thought about my conversation with the radio host later in the day, I realized that I've actually heard it said a lot - we all pray to the same God, so why aren't we accepting of one another's religions and beliefs and let people do what they feel they want to do.  We are told not to let it divide us, to just allow them to believe what they want to believe.  This is a way to be accepting and tolerant, they add.  

Can I just say that I am so glad that my friends did not allow me to continue to believe that my way was working!  Oh, but by God's grace He sent these precious people into my life to challenge what I thought was true.  I'm so thankful they risked everything to share His truth with me. I could have turned them down, shut them out of my life and ignored them. But I didn't.  The risk of losing me as a friend was nothing to them compared to the importance of showing me the truth. What a gift!

Jesus Christ said, "I did not come to bring peace, but to divide" (Luke 12:51). Why would He say something like that? Perhaps He knew that we would have to take a stand at some point and say that He is the only Way - and not everyone would agree with us, therefore causing divisions. I believe this breaks His heart, but it's something we see every day. It comes down to this important point: Do I believe the Bible is the Word of God, completely true and reliable and that Jesus Christ is who He said He is? If I do believe, then I know that the scriptures are true. HE is the Only Way. Yes, sometimes it will divide.  But sometimes it will show someone we love the important, life-saving truth that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.

It's time to take a stand for truth. That doesn't mean imposing my beliefs on others, or arguing; but it does mean I should be very confident in my beliefs and not afraid to speak truth (with gentleness and respect - 1 Peter 3:16) when necessary.  I didn't get into an "I'm right and you're wrong" argument with the radio host, but I just spoke the Word of God and let it speak for itself. I remembered that Jesus "opened not His mouth" (Isaiah 53:7) when confronted by others. I hope that it planted a seed in her heart. God’s Word has a way of doing that, you know.

Is there a situation in your life today where you may need to take a stand?  Are you willing to stand up and speak truth (in love), even if it means you might be rejected? Jesus is not asking us to do anything He wasn’t willing to do Himself.  Isaiah 53:3 says He was despised and rejected by men.  But we all know that in spite of how it was initially received by people, His stand for truth has opened the door for many to follow Him and have a restored relationship with God through His sacrifice. When asked why He came, Jesus simply said, "I have come to testify to the truth."

Truth wins, friends. Never be afraid to stand for it. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Troublemakers

Remember being in your second grade classroom and the one kid in there who caused all the trouble made the teacher punish everyone? I would get so frustrated when my teacher didn't listen to me - only to the loudmouth. I was nothing like that troublemaker, but because he or she was in my group, I was punished and misunderstood. Their hateful, loud words did not represent my heart. But that was all my teacher could hear.

I think that troublemaker follows us in some form or fashion throughout our lives. They are the ones who make entire groups of people seem awful. They are the ones we hone in on when we "type-cast". They are the ones who stir up anger, start fights and misrepresent the entirety of the people. 

Unfortunately, they are the ones who get all the attention.

Proverbs 6:16-19 (MSG)

Here are six things God hates, and one more that He loathes with a passion: 
eyes that are arrogant,
a tongue that lies, 
hands that murder the innocent, 
a heart that hatches evil plots, 
feet that race down a wicked track, 
a mouth that lies under oath, 
a troublemaker in the family.

See. Even God "loathes them with a passion." Make no mistake, these people are no good. 

Perhaps it's time we stop focusing in on that troublemaker, sit down and really listen to the others - the ones who are genuinely trying to be and do better in life. The ones who are trying to be understood but continually get misunderstood. Otherwise, perhaps we will end up being the troublemaker.

Proverbs 22:10-12  (MSG)
Kick out the troublemakers and things will quiet down;
    you need a break from bickering and griping!
God loves the pure-hearted and well-spoken;
    good leaders also delight in their friendship.
God guards knowledge with a passion,
    but he’ll have nothing to do with deception.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Light and Darkness



"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."  
John 3:19-21


Light is a beautiful thing. It's warm, inviting, revealing, life-giving and we are naturally drawn to it in a dark room. If we even see a small speck of light, that is exactly where our eyes naturally go. Light makes the trees grow upward and outward, the flowers bloom and the birds sing! It's beautiful. God describes Himself as Light and He even says there is no darkness in Him at all. Jesus said, "I am the Light of the World". It makes sense we are drawn to the light.

 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12

Darkness, on the other hand is cold, secretive, frightening at times, and the only things that grow in the darkness are deadly things like mold, moss and fungus. Sin can also grow in the darkness. Just as life grows in light, 
death grows in darkness. 

The more we keep things hidden without sharing what our struggle is with a trusted friend or confidant, the more likely it is to grow. The moment you share something that you know is keeping you from God's best for your life with a trusted friend (who will pray with and for you and not gossip) is the moment it loses it's grip on your life. Yet, we keep things hidden anyway, usually out of fear of judgment or a desire to keep it hidden because we have convinced ourself that it is not destructive and we want to continue the behavior.

Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.” John 11:9-10

May I suggest that if we want to keep something hidden, that is a clear indicator that the secret is destructive. Life grows in light. 
Death grows in darkness.

Darkness becomes very comfortable after awhile, though. It lulls us to sleep and gives us a false sense of "comfort". Think about how it feels after you've been asleep in a dark room and someone comes in and flips on a bright light. You immediately wince, cover your eyes and perhaps even get a bit angry at whomever it was that flipped on the light. Light is revealing. But after awhile, you begin to adjust and realize that if you want to live, you must be awake. You must walk in the Light.

But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

My prayer today is that if God is bringing something to "light" in your heart, you will embrace it and not run from it. Share your heart with a trusted friend who loves the Lord and seek God's best for your life. We think we know the right thing, but our hearts are desperately deceived. Painful as it may be, walking in the Light is truly the way to Life.

One last thing to remember in our journey: Mold can be deadly, but when it is processed it can also be medicinal. God can use the brokenness and difficulties in your life that came from a dark place to heal someone's heart once you go through His merciful process of healing. 
He is the Redeemer!  
He wastes nothing. 

What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! -Matthew 10:27

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Letting Go

Letting go is hard business. I would know, as I've had to let go of a lot of things, people and dreams in my life. Sometimes I hold on to things with white knuckles because I'm so afraid to let go. Recently, this was the case in my life.

I have worked in Christian radio for about 12 years now and honestly, I'm not sure I've ever loved a job as much as I love encouraging people over the airwaves. But almost a year ago, my husband and I purchased a fitness center in downtown Travelers Rest, feeling that God was leading us to this sweet community. I knew when I signed the papers last June that I needed to go "all in" with it. And I have - for the most part. 

One thing I have had a hard time letting go of was my very part-time job at 106.9 The Light. I was a weekend radio host and though it wasn't a lot of hours, I'm kind of a perfectionist when it comes to show prep and I really believe that if you're going to do something, you should do it with excellence. I did cut back my hours and let a couple of things go a few months back, but I couldn't bring myself to let go completely. Even still, I wasn't giving it my best and I knew it. I had a hard time focusing and I could feel God telling me it was time to let go.

I guess my difficulty in letting go can be summed up in one word: fear. Yes, the dreaded word that can get us stuck and give us anxiety had invaded my heart and I was allowing it to make it's home there. But what was causing the fear? 

When we bought this fitness center, we knew it was God directing our steps. He wanted us all in and He made that very clear. If you've ever done business before, though, you know that it takes awhile to make a profit (or even break even) and a huge majority of small businesses do not succeed. I think I was afraid to go all in, just in case it didn't work. I wanted to have a safety net. I guess there was fear that if I left completely, I wouldn't have that job to go back to if it didn't work out. Sounds logical, but if you have ever walked with God, you know logical is not always His way! In my prayer time last week, as I prayed for wisdom in making this decision, I had the thought, "Where's the faith in that?" Honestly, I knew I wasn't trusting God to make this work enough to let go. 

Another thing that filled my heart with fear was that I love to encourage people on the radio. I think radio ministry is such a beautiful tool that God uses to reach into hearts and share His love. I love being a part of that! I didn't want to let that go. As I prayed, I realized that He has given me a place to do that, though it's not on the airwaves. It's in a little town in SC called Travelers Rest at HUB Fitness. And honestly, I needed to go all in.

So I told my supervisor (who, by the way, had been praying for me for months since she knew I had been struggling) that it was time to let go. She completely understood. I couldn't stop sobbing, though. It was sobs of grief and relief all at the same time. It hurt a lot more than I thought it would and I wanted to retract it as soon as I said it but I didn't allow myself to do that.

Letting go is one of the most difficult things God asks us to do. I am beginning to realize more and more, though, that God is just waiting for us to let go and go all in so He can go all in, too. I have to wonder if I was inadvertently holding Him back from blessing our business fully because I was unwilling to go all in and trust Him? Time will tell. 

But one thing I know, I'm sure I did the right thing. And I know that even if things don't go as I hope and pray they will with our fitness center, God has a plan for my life. He didn't give me the gift of encouragement so I'd sit on a shelf somewhere. I can actively seek ways to do this, on or off the radio, whatever role He brings to me and whomever He brings into my life!

If you are holding on with white knuckles to something God is clearly asking you to let go of, please pray hard and ask Him to give you the strength to let go. Before we can truly live, it seems a part of us must die. Letting go of something we hold dear to us can feel like a death, but we all know what Jesus did to death! Resurrection is coming, friend. Let Go(d).


Thursday, March 3, 2016

How Then, Shall We Act?

It's a rough world out there. And right now, in America, it's even more rough as we are in an election year. Nothing stirs up our passions, anger, frustration and opinions like politics! Whew, it can get down right ugly. So, how are we supposed to act as believers in a world like this? Let's take a look at what the Ultimate Authority has to say on the subject...

If you look at the stories of the great leaders of the Bible - Joseph, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, etc...you will find that every single one of them respected and submitted to the authority that was above them. Because of their submission and humble attitude, they found favor in the sight of not only the kings and leaders, but in the sight of God and all without compromising their values and morals. 

All this does not mean that we are to disobey God in situations where the law of man may conflict with the law of God (Acts 4:18-20; 5:40) but we are told to continue to respect authority—even when those in positions of authority have abused their offices (or we think they likely will).  If we want to be heard, if we want to make our points clear, we must be humble and submissive. The fact is, God can use us in the midst of even the most corrupt leadership! He did it time and time again in the Bible. So, what do we do?
 
Micah 6:8 says "The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. 
 
Are we showing mercy to those we oppose? Are we being loving in our approach? Gentle? Humble? Patient? Maybe instead of putting people down and being angry and slanderous, we can show mercy and faith in our God and pray for them? We cannot forget who our battle is really against (Ephesians 6) here. It's not other people, it's not leadership - it's the enemy of our souls. And he's awfully bitter, incredibly angry and is the king of slander.

It all boils down to this: God wants us to be respectful and submissive for His sake, not for ours or even theirs (1 Peter 2:13). Perhaps this is one of those times when we can come together, in agreement, and begin to do what is right, love mercy and walk humbly with our God - the Ultimate Authority. We can't do that when we are walking in anger, fear or bitterness. 
 
Here's how we can do it:

SUBMIT:  Romans 13:1-2 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted and will be punished. 

DO NOT SLANDER OR QUARREL:  Titus 3:1-2 Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.

RESPECT: 1 Peter 2:13-14 For the Lord's sake, respect all human authority - whether the king as head of state, or the officers he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.

PRAY & LIVE PEACEFULLY:  1 Timothy 2:1-3 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.
 
Oh, and please - VOTE!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Wonder Woman?

I found a book in my husband's office the other day called I Married Wonder Woman - Now What?  I suppose at first I was a little flattered.  My husband thinks I'm Wonder Woman?  How sweet!  Then I realized it was a book about the Proverbs 31-type woman of this century (a P31 woman is a woman that the bible talks about who has is a sort of wonder woman). Someone who's got it all together, who is organized, efficient, and has a great balance in her life as she seeks and conquerors the next big adventure!

Nope.  Doesn't sound like me at all! 

Ok, I admit it - I do seek adventure.  But organized?  Having it all together? Efficient?  Balance? Not so much.  I mean, I try.  I try a little too hard at times.  I must admit it's tough being a woman today.  And if I am being compared to Wonder Woman, the stakes are raised even more!  I mean, have you seen how tiny her waist is? 

Have you ever looked at another woman and thought that she had it all together?  I hope you never looked at me that way.  It couldn't be further from the truth!  But if that's the case - if people think that - then I'm doing something wrong.  I must be wearing some sort of mask (does Wonder Woman wear a mask?).  Today I'm feeling the need to rip that mask off though, and let you know how it really goes down for me in my house:

Proverbs 31:11 Her husband can trust her; and she will greatly enrich his life.
Reality:  My husband must remind me to do just about everything and I often feel as though I probably make his life more difficult sometimes.  He says it's a good balance and that without me he'd be too straight-laced.  I say I'm blessed to have a husband who looks at it that way.

Proverbs 31:12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
Reality:  I wish.  It seems he spends a great deal of his time fixing things that I mess up because I tend to act before I think.  God bless him for loving me in spite of this!

Proverbs 31:13  She find wool and flax and busily spins it.
Reality:  I don't know what flax is and the only time I spin is in my cycle class.

Proverbs 31:14  She is like a merchant's ship, bringing her food from afar.
Reality:  The grocery store is like a mile up the road.  I bring our food from aclose, not afar.  And sometimes, I bring it from Taco Bell.

Proverbs 31:15 She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the days work for her servant girls.
Reality:  I do get up before dawn but I don't do it to prepare breakfast - I do it to have some quiet time before the household wakes up.  Once they do, they pretty much fend for themselves with breakfast because I usually enjoy my quiet time a little too much and then wake them up late.  And about preparing a plan for my servant girls....um...I wish I had some servant girls to prepare a plan for!  This verse makes me realize that the P31 woman gets a lot of help and maybe THAT's why she's so amazing?!

Proverbs 31:17  She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.
Reality:  I hit a wall by about 3pm and slide down from there.  Coffee helps.

Proverbs 31:18  She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night.
Reality:  I am lucky to make it to 10pm. 

Proverbs 31:22 She makes her own bedspreads.  She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.
Reality:  Seriously?  I don't sew.  And I don't wear linen because it requires dry cleaning and pressing - no thank you.  I rarely wear purple - mostly black because I hear it's slimming.

Proverbs 31:26  When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.  
Reality:  When I speak, I usually try to take back what I said because it didn't come out the way I intended.  I try to give instructions with kindness but if I were honest, I'd admit that it doesn't always happen that way.  I can be kind of cranky at times.

Proverbs 31:28 Her children stand and bless her.  Her husband praises her.
Reality:  My children often tell me how I am the only mom in the whole entire school that doesn't volunteer all the time and how they wish I would be more like so-n-so's mom.  My husband does praise me but I think it may be because he knows my love language is words of affirmation.

I think you get the picture.  I'm usually falling woefully short of the P31 woman standards.  But you know what?  This wonder woman isn't reality.  But reading about her can help me to evaluate and set some goals for my life.  Look over this passage every now and then for a reality check and to take inventory of your own life, but don't hold yourself up to that standard.  God loves you and is changing you one day at a time.  This can take a lifetime to do!  In the meantime, thank God for the small victories you have as you become more and more like Christ with each day.  He does love you - no matter how much like wonder woman you are (or aren't)!

On a side note, I just told my husband that I can't believe how UNlike the Proverbs 31 woman I feel I am.  He said "Maybe you're more like the Proverbs 3.1 woman?" 

Gee.  Thanks, honey. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fear of the Unknown

There's a lot of scary stuff going on in the world today and I can honestly say it is just more than I can process in my mind at times. What is going on in our world?  It can be tempting to begin to fear. Fear the "what if's" and the "how come's" that we naturally feel when things don't make sense. And on more than one occasion lately, I believe those very words have come out of my mouth: This makes no sense.

In Matthew 14:22-33, we read about a storm the disciples were facing on the boat in the middle of the sea where they were being tossed by the waves.  As frightening as that may seem to us, there is no mention of the disciples being afraid until verse 25..."Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying 'It's a ghost!' And they cried out in fear." 

I think that is interesting.  They were just fine with the storm, but it was something they could not explain or comprehend in their mind that tipped them over the edge into fear.  When our brains see something unexplainable, we panic. 
Immediately, Jesus said, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid."  Another version of the Bible says "Take courage! It is I; do not be afraid."  And yet another says "Take heart! It is I; do not be afraid."  So, Jesus knows they are afraid of what they do not understand and he knows that in order for them to overcome that fear, they must take courage.

Did you get that?  It wasn't something that came naturally.  It was something they had to take, a choice they had to make, an action they had to take.  And in His presence, they were able to settle their hearts.  Peter even had the opportunity to walk on water!  But once Peter began to walk on water, his mind, again, didn't comprehend how he could be doing it so once again he became afraid and started to sink.  Again, Peter was faced with another opportunity to "take" when he reached out to take the extended hand of Jesus and He pulled him out of the water. Jesus understood the fear Peter felt and had compassion on him, but again, it had to be a choice Peter made to take what Jesus was offering freely.

Today, if you are beginning to feel paralyzed by your fear or if you are sinking because you feel like it's more than you can comprehend, I want you to remember this verse and repeat it over and over in your mind:

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJ)

We cannot trust in our own understanding when things don't make sense, but that doesn't mean we have to panic or fear.  God is still in control.  He is still sovereign, or He wouldn't be God.  When we cannot trace His hand in a situation, we can always know His heart. He knows what is happening and He has a plan, even if we don't understand it. 

"Lean not on your own understanding" would also include when we don't have any understanding at all. Instead of focusing on the things we don't understand, as Peter did when he began to sink or as the disciples did when they saw what they thought was a ghost, let's reach out for the One who understands everything completely.  His arms are always reaching for us and He will give us peace in the midst of chaos, joy in the midst of uncertainty and rest in the midst of a world that is most definitely in a state of unrest.  Fear can be paralyzing or mobilizing.  We have a choice.

So, what's going on in the world today?  I'm going to trust in the Lord with all of my heart and lean not on what I do or don't understand, acknowledging Him as Lord along the way.  Then, and only then, can I "take heart".  It's a choice I must make.  It's a choice we all must make. There are always going to be things we may not understand, but one thing we can always know for sure...God is still God.  That will never change.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Lifting the Cynical Fog

My friend let me borrow the book A Praying Life by David Powlinson a couple of months ago and it has taken me awhile to pick it up due to my busy schedule. I finally picked it up last week and for some reason, I began reading it in Chapter 9. The title of the chapter? Understanding Cynicism. 

I was instantly drawn to it, as if it had all the answers to all the questions I'd been struggling with for the past year and a half. I've read Chapters 9, 10 and 11 so much I've practically memorized them at this point! They all deal with the sin of cynicism.

I have always been an optimist, a very happy, half-full kind of spirit. I went through some rough spots in some different areas of my life, where I began to see that not everyone was genuine. It seems as though every couple of years, I'm faced with the reality that people are not always what they appear to be and I somehow would be able to push through with God's help. But this time I just didn't seem to have the strength to fight the lies. I kept telling myself that it didn't matter, I needed to focus on Christ, people are not perfect...I kept telling myself those things, but clearly I was not listening.

Fast forward a year and a half later and I've got a real struggle with cynicism. The very thing I hate the most.  And I am learning a lot as I work through this. I process things so much better when I write them out, so here are some of the things I'm journaling about in this journey - I want to share them because as I talk to others about it, I'm realizing this is a big, big problem in the church. We all know it's a big problem outside of the church, but that's for someone else's blog. I'm just going to address what I've seen inside because that's what Paul reminded us to do in 1 Corinthians 5.

Here are a few "gems" from the book:

Cynicism is the opposite of a childlike spirit. It dulls your soul. It questions God instead of believing Him. 

Cynicism begins, oddly enough, with too much of the wrong kind of faith, with naive optimism or foolish confidence. At first glance, genuine faith and naive optimism appear identical since both foster confidence and hope. But the similarity is only surface deep. Often, with naive optimism, faith is put into the goodness of humanity instead of the goodness of God. But optimism rooted in the goodness of people collapses when it confronts the dark side of life.  

A cynical spirit will give you the illusion of righteousness. It assumes you know better than others, it assumes motives of others' hearts and basically, it's rooted in pride.

To be cynical is to be distant. While offering a false intimacy of "being in the know" cynicism actually destroys intimacy. 

The first sin was initiated with cynicism - questioning God. The serpent used cynicism to get Eve to question God. We've been doing this ever since. You see the results!

Cynicism makes us go from seeing the bright side of everything to seeing the dark side of everything. It shifts our focus from Christ to our circumstances.

A cynical spirit clouds your judgment. With every lie you believe, imagine the fog settling into your vision. I've noticed that when I'm cynical, I get depressed easily and I cannot see the good in much of anything. It reminded me of the photo of my front yard view on a sunny, clear day contrasted with the same view on a cloudy, foggy day. Nothing has changed except the circumstances around me. The view is the same, but I cannot see it. I must have faith that it is still there, even though I cannot see it. Cynicism tells me it's not there anymore.

So could you be cynical? Ask yourself a few questions:

Do you question other people's motives? Do you trust less than you used to trust? Do you find intimacy with others difficult? Do you isolate yourself? Has anyone in a ministry or church leadership hurt you and as a result, has it effected your faith? Are you focused more on the circumstances of your life than you are the truth that God is good?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, please pray and ask God to show you the root of your cynical spirit. I've been struggling through this and though it has not been easy, it is really helping me to understand that a lot of my cynicism comes from my naive optimism - my faith was in people, not God.

Here's a Psalm that has been helping me, too. I almost gasped when I got to verse 11. It nailed me down to a tee! God's Word cannot fail, my friend.

Psalm 116

I love the Lord because he hears my voice
    and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
    I will pray as long as I have breath!
Death wrapped its ropes around me;
    the terrors of the grave overtook me.
    I saw only trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “Please, Lord, save me!”
How kind the Lord is! How good he is!
    So merciful, this God of ours!
The Lord protects those of childlike faith;
    I was facing death, and he saved me.
Let my soul be at rest again,
    for the Lord has been good to me.
He has saved me from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling.
And so I walk in the Lord’s presence
    as I live here on earth!
10 I believed in you, so I said,
    “I am deeply troubled, Lord.”
11 In my anxiety I cried out to you,
    “These people are all liars!”
12 What can I offer the Lord
    for all he has done for me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and praise the Lord’s name for saving me.
14 I will keep my promises to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.
15 The Lord cares deeply
    when his loved ones die.
16 Lord, I am your servant;
    yes, I am your servant, born into your household;
    you have freed me from my chains.
17 I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
    and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people—
19 in the house of the Lord
    in the heart of Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

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