Death is just a doorway between life and Life

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that God is good. I mean, you know He’s good in that distant disconnected way like the elected official is good or the popular spiritual leader is good or the hero you admire is good. He’s good, but He doesn’t really get you. There’s a big difference between knowing that God is good and truly understanding His goodness.

There’s so much sorrow in the world. There’s so much hurt. People hurt each other physically and emotionally. We say things to each other intended to cut and demean. Some are the brunt of general meanness. Others are not even involved in the evil that’s happening, and they still get hurt. And even in the innocent passing of time, we lose people we love. Sometimes we expect it, due to sickness or age. Other times we don’t. Either way, it still hurts.

And that’s the world we live in. That’s life here. Sure, there are joyful moments. But then “real life” rears its ugly head and reminds us that life isn’t going to get better down here.

If that’s our future, if that’s all there is, why do people keep living? I couldn’t do it if I didn’t have the hope of salvation, the peace of knowing that God really is going to work everything out. Because the truth is that God really is good–and not just in some distant, disconnected way. He’s here, in our lives, seeing what we feel and hurting with us when we hit those dark times of sorrow and sadness. And there’s something really important that we need to remember about this crazy, screwed-up, hot mess of a world we live in: It’s not all there is.

doorwayToday’s verse is John 16:33.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Jesus wanted His followers to understand that even though the world was broken, they could still have peace with God through Him. He’s the one who made the way to be saved. He’s the one who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we would have the power to overcome the world.

Do you know what that means? To overcome the world? It sounds awfully dramatic, and maybe it is. But in a practical sense it means that the world has no power over those who believe in Christ. The world can be identified as a lot of different things. The influences that pressure you to disobey God. The powers of the enemy. Just the brokenness around us that threatens us with a hopeless, meaningless existence. However you define it, the world is powerless against a Christ-follower.

Even death itself has no power over a Christ-follower. We don’t have to fear it. We don’t have to run from it. We don’t even have to hate it. Because of what Jesus did for us, death is just a doorway between this life on Earth and our eternal welcome in Heaven with God.

It’s important to know that we will have trials and sorrows. Multiple trials and sorrows. And it’s important to know that it’s okay to mourn. It’s okay to grieve the loss of people you love, the destruction of relationships and families, the consequences people have to face for the choices they’ve made. When you’re sad, you need to grieve. Don’t bottle it up and put on a cheery face to make people feel better. Be sad, but know that you don’t have to stay sad.

The world is still under the control of death, the control of the enemy, the result of our sin. As long as that brokenness endures, we will live with pain and death and sadness. Oh, but we don’t have to stay here. There’s a day coming when we’ll get to go home, where nobody hurts each other, where nobody dies, and where we’ll never have to say goodbye again.

The world is full of death and sadness, but Jesus is stronger than the world. He overcame it. And because He overcame, we can too.

Pretty purple trumpet flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Never write a letter when you’re sad

I’ve always heard that you should never write letters when you’re angry. That’s really good advice, because when you write a letter and you’re hacked off about something, your letter ends up matching your mood.

Now, granted, I recommend writing letters when you’re that upset. I just don’t recommend sending them after you’ve written them. For me, writing my feelings down helps me process. If I’m upset, I really just need to sit and write about it. Then, usually, I feel much better. But you’d better believe that document is subsequently destroyed.

But have you ever heard of not writing letters when you’re sad? I never thought about that until recently. I’m also a corporate communicator for my company, along with a marketing copywriter, so I was ghostwriting a letter for one of our executives. I sent it along to my boss to proof before it went to the requestor, and the note came back: “This is so sad! Did you write this when Katie left?”

Any of you new followers, Katie is my best bud. The other half of my brain. Almost literally. And in July, she hopped the pond to do amazing work in video ministry around the world. But she’ll be gone for two years. And, yes, she had just left before I wrote that letter.

I thought that was kind of funny. And then, you know what I did? I went and did it again. Katie got an opportunity to come home basically for a weekend since she was “in the neighborhood” doing some filming in Haiti. So I got to see her! Day made. But then she left again. Of course, she did. She had to get back to work, and so did I.

And I happen to be in the middle of a series of character posts on my book series blog, Morningstar, to promote the launch of my debut novel. So I was noodling a few days ago on one of the characters, just scribbling some thoughts down. I sent them to Katie, and she informed me that I am no longer allowed to write anything after she leaves…. because it’s just too sad. Yup. I’d done it again. That silly character post was so full of angst and heartache …. it’s actually kind of funny.

I didn’t even know I’d done it.

And that got me thinking about how I really handle sadness and grief. How do I react to it? What do I do? How do I manage it?

And, just being honest, I don’t necessarily know if I manage it at all. I don’t like drama. I don’t like emotionally overwrought reactions. They’re uncomfortable, and they make other people uncomfortable. And there’s just nothing worse than having snot running down your face when you’re trying to have a real conversation, you know?

But grief and sorrow and sadness are things you can’t run away from. If you try, they’ll eventually catch up with you, and they’ll be exponentially worse to survive. Christians are really bad at this. We think everything always has to be happy. We think even the worst things in our lives need to be celebrated. We think bad news should be cause to rejoice and shout hallelujah.

And you know what? That’s true. We have every reason to be happy. Even the worst moments in our lives are worth celebrating, but not because it’s bad news. The point is that bad news shouldn’t stop us from celebrating in spite of it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be sad.

There’s nothing wrong with grief. Or sorrow. Or sadness. Not when it’s needed. Not when it’s what you feel.

Today’s verses are Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

Pretty purple trumpet flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Pretty purple trumpet flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

Life on earth is broken. Bad things happen. People die. Kids get sick. Families break up. Jobs get lost. Friends leave. And all of that just plain sucks.

There’s no getting around it. And trying to convince yourself that something horrible makes you happy? Trying to get your broken heart to rejoice when your life is in scattered pieces at your feet? That’s not healthy. That won’t help you. And I truly believe it’s not what God wants.

God knows when you hurt. God knows when you can’t take one more thing. And He knows you haven’t lost faith–you just need a minute to remember who He is. And that’s okay.

Recognize that you may be sad now, but you won’t be sad forever. And the sooner you let yourself be sad, the faster that day will get here.

So if you’re hurting today, if you’re sad, don’t hide it. Don’t run away from it. Don’t be afraid or ashamed of it. Believe me, all of us have been there. And if you need to talk to somebody about it, do it. If you need a write a letter, do it…. just don’t send it. 😉

aamilne_lucky

White rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Don’t give up on God

I’m ridiculous. Do you ever feel that way? Like even when you have it all together, you’ll never have it all together?

I know the truth. I know what God says. I know what’s right according to the Bible. And I really, honestly believe it with all my heart. But I still want my own way.

I want to do things my way. I want to live the way I want to live. I want to use my resources the way I want to use them. And I can get downright stubborn about it.

I cling to my childish understanding of the world and my own life, and I refuse to let go. Maybe it’s comforting because I can wrap my head around it. Maybe that’s why I don’t want to let go, because if I can control it, I feel better. But it’s a lie. I don’t control anything.

White rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

White rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Jeremiah 10:23.

I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own.
    We are not able to plan our own course.

The prophet Jeremiah understood it. He grasped the concept that God is in control. But what I find ironic is that Jeremiah understood this at one of the darkest times in Israel’s history.

Nothing was going right for Israel at this moment. They were under siege. They were miserable. And Jeremiah himself wasn’t doing so hot either. Imagine being God’s messenger at a time when your country is being chastised for its behavior.

Yeah. Lots of messenger shooting going on.

But even in the midst of all that, Jeremiah could step back and accept the truth. We’re not in control. We never have been. We never will be. We’re not big enough to control our lives, and if you think you can,  just wait a while and something will happen that’s too big for you to handle. And when life spins out of control that wildly, you’ll wish you knew someone big enough to handle it for you.

It’s hard to trust God sometimes, especially when it feels like He’s taken something away from us. But let’s be honest here. Who is God anyway? In the good times, we don’t have trouble believing in Him or believing that He knows what He’s doing. It’s only in the bad times because our trust is shaken.

We have this idea that if we do what God tells us to do we won’t ever have to face troubles in life, and that’s just not true. Even the best, most righteous Christ-follower in the world has to go through trials and struggles and days that just don’t seem fair. But just because what we’re going through sucks right now doesn’t make God any less who He is. Just because we’ve hit a rough spot in life doesn’t change who God is. If it did, He wouldn’t be God.

So whatever trouble you’re facing today? Whatever heartache or frustration or sadness or darkness, don’t give up on God just because you can’t see the end of the road. If you can’t see the end, it’s just one more reason why you need hold on to Him tighter.

Because you can’t control your life. You can’t plan your life. Our lives don’t even belong to us. They belong to Him.

So doesn’t it make sense to let Him have His way?

Moonset at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

How much do you trust God?

I’m ready to go home. Anybody else ever feel that way? When it just seems that the whole world is falling apart? No matter who won last night, I’m positive the lack of civility would have continued either way.

I have to say, I was shocked by a lot of the despair I read, and while I will admit that I’m rather disappointed at the choice the country has made, I’m not too worried. In fact, I’m a bit excited. Because the closer our country moves toward socialism, the more our country embraces their selfishness and indolence, the closer we get to the end. And when the end finally gets here, all of this grief will be over.

It won’t be easy to live through. And the very patriotic part of my spirit is grieved for what America has become, but God doesn’t make mistakes. Do you think last night’s outcome surprised God? No. And that encourages me. And it helps me face today with positivity and excitement. And you should too, no matter if you’re disappointed or not.

Moonset at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KSToday’s verse is 1 Peter 4:19.

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.

The problems facing America right now are about to get a lot more complicated. And the obstacles in the path of true believers are going to become more difficult to overcome. The further away our society moves from the ideals it was founded on, the more difficult it’s going to become to be a Christian.

Let me rephrase that: It will become very difficult to be a Christian who believes the Bible.

You think it’s hard now? Wait.

But in waiting, remember that this is supposed to happen.

I believe the Bible. So when the Bible says in Romans 13, that all authority is ordained by God, that includes President Obama. I don’t agree with any of his politics or his programs or his approach to just about anything, but he is the President of the United States, and I will respect him. If you say you follow Christ, now’s the time to prove it. If you say you follow Christ and you didn’t vote for Mr. Obama, respect him anyway because he is the one God wants directing America right now.

I don’t have the time to go into it in depth, but Daniel 4 recounts a time in Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, which was to serve as a warning. Basically, the king had been doing some things he shouldn’t have been doing, and God was going to strike him mad until he understood a very simple fact: “The Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.” (Daniel 4:25)

We’re in a tenuous position in our world. This blog isn’t intended to be political, and I apologize for three straight blog posts with political undertones. But this was important. And today, I think it’s more important than ever to focus on the real question: How much do you trust God?

Do you trust Him enough to keep following even when He makes no sense? Do you trust Him enough to believe that He knows what He’s doing when we can’t see the light at the end of this tunnel? Do you trust Him enough to jump when He says jump or to wait when He says wait?

How much do you trust God?

If you need some encouragement along those lines, maybe you’ll find it where I did this morning in 1 Peter 4. What’s beautiful about Scripture is it rarely requires commentary. Commentary can help, but honestly the Bible can speak for itself.

1 Peter 4 (The Message)

 Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don’t understand why you don’t join in with the old gang anymore. But you don’t have to give an account to them. They’re the ones who will be called on the carpet—and before God himself.

Listen to the Message. It was preached to those believers who are now dead, and yet even though they died (just as all people must), they will still get in on the life that God has given in Jesus.

Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!

Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.

If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!

It’s judgment time for God’s own family. We’re first in line. If it starts with us, think what it’s going to be like for those who refuse God’s Message!

If good people barely make it,
What’s in store for the bad?

So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.