Photo by Kryziz Bonny, some rights reserved, creative commons

That I might not be silent

 

Life is one big balancing act sometimes, where you have to figure out how to take the good and the bad. And sometimes you run into situations where you’re powerless to help. There are some things in life that you can’t fix. Eventually, we all have to face the reality that life is more than we can handle alone.

And that’s where God comes in. With God, we can face any challenge, conquer any enemy, and win any battle. Maybe some days it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s the truth. And when we know we have God on our side, we can stand up to the troubles of the world with our head held high, and we can laugh–genuinely laugh and honestly rejoice–in the face of darkness. Because we have faith that God will bring us through.

So throw off that robe of mourning. Yes, there’s a time for it, but that time will eventually pass. Abandon that hiding place where you’ve taken refuge to recover from your wounds. There’s a time to rest, but that time passes too.

It’s time to get back to what we were made for. Forget the quiet. Let’s get loud. Let’s remind the world who Jesus is and what He’s done for us–and what He will do.

Psalm 30

Photo by Kryziz Bonny, some rights reserved, creative commonsI will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you restored my health.

You brought me up from the grave, O Lord.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.

For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

When I was prosperous, I said,
“Nothing can stop me now!”
Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.

I cried out to you, O Lord.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
“What will you gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
Can it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O Lord.”

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

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Looking for the light when all you see is darkness

Everyone knows that one person who always sees the bright side. They’re sickening, aren’t they? The ones who pipe up in the dark moments with the obscure silver lining that’s absolutely true and positively irritating? I know, because I’m one of those people. Practically Pollyannish, people have called me. Unfailingly cheerful to the point of living in denial.

It’s true that those overly positive people can make you want to claw your eyeballs out or plug your ears (or at least stuff a sock in their mouths), but the reason they’re so irritating is that we know they’re right. Especially if you’re a Christ-follower, you know there’s always a bright side. Now, that doesn’t mean we can’t be sad. That doesn’t mean we should grieve. But it does mean that grief and sorrow shouldn’t ever get the better of us, because God is stronger.

We don’t have to live in darkness, because if you follow Jesus, you can always look for the light.

Today’s verses are Micah 7:7-8.

As for me, I look to the Lord for help.
I wait confidently for God to save me,
and my God will certainly hear me.
Do not gloat over me, my enemies!
For though I fall, I will rise again.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.

What is light anyway? It’s all well and good to talk about light and darkness in symbolic terms. It’s very poetic, but I’m practical. What does it even mean?

All throughout the Bible, God calls Himself the Light. Jesus calls Himself the Light. The Word is called the Light. What do all those things have in common? Well, one major thing is that They’re all 100% true. God can’t lie. Neither does Jesus, neither does the Bible. God’s truth is light that shines in the darkest moments of our lives.

Even when we’re surrounded by the darkness of fear and uncertainty or loneliness or sorrow or pain, what we need to remember is that all those things will lie to us. Fear and uncertainty tell us we’ll never be good enough. Loneliness and sorrow and pain tell us that this life is all there is. And that’s not true.

In those moments when the darkness threatens to overwhelm you with its lies, remember the truth. Let God’s light in. Stop hunkering in the shadows, letting our enemy whisper his devious lies to you to break you, to stop you, to scare you. That’s what he’s doing. Don’t let him.

Instead, get up and look for the light. Look at your situation and try to see God in it. If you’re a Christ-follower, He’s there somewhere. He may not be obvious, but He’s present. He probably won’t be where you expect Him to be, but He’s there. But you don’t have to acknowledge Him for Him to work. He’ll do His part without your knowledge, but if you can see Him, it makes life a lot easier.

On one hand, it’s irritating to be around people who always see God working. They just have this effusive cheerfulness that nothing seems to touch. And in some cases, that’s bad, because humans need to feel. We all experience sorrow and sadness, but if we don’t allow ourselves to feel it–to admit to feeling it–and to learn to manage it, we’ll run ourselves into the ground.

Even negative emotions have a purpose, and you should never ignore them. Just don’t try to face them without God’s help. You won’t get through life without falling. Everyone falls, but you don’t have to stay there. Get up. Look for God’s light. And don’t stop until you find it.

So don’t let the darkness slow you down. Don’t let the lies break your spirit. God has plans for you, friend. He’s seen them, and they’re good.

 

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?

St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO

How do you trust God when life isn’t fair?

Life doesn’t always work the way we want it to. We can make as many plans as we want, but we can’t know the future. We can’t control our lives, as much as we try to. And when those moments come that blow all our carefully laid plans apart, we have a choice. We can either give up or manage the broken pieces as best we can, trusting that God will put them back together again better than they were before.

But it’s hard. It’s really hard. Because we get our selfish little hearts set on things that we want, and we are totally capable of convincing ourselves that God has told us we can have something. And maybe He has. But it has to be on His terms. And the plain truth is that when God says yes to our wants or our desires, we’re rarely in the place in our lives when it’s time for us to have them.

We have to live some more. We have to learn what the desire of our heart really is. Many times it changes and grows as we get older, and even when stays the same, as we age, it gets bigger, broader, as we understand more about ourselves and the world.

But that answer is difficult to accept when we want our way. And it’s so easy to sit back and focus on how unfair life is.

Because it is.

Life is unfair. Work is unfair. Ministry is unfair. Because the world is unfair.

And I don’t know where we (Christians, that is) get the idea that life on earth will be fair when nothing here is fair. The world is broken. We broke it, and it’s not going to be fixed again until after Christ comes back for us.

There’s nowhere in Scripture that says life is fair. There’s nowhere in Scripture where God promises that we won’t have trouble. In fact, the Bible says the exact opposite.

St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO

St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO (where I spent my weekend)

Today’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.

This is Jesus talking to the Disciples. Maybe you read that differently, but to me that sounds like a confirmation that sometimes life is going to suck.

This world isn’t our home. We don’t belong here. I think it’s in Hebrews where the writer calls us pilgrims and strangers, aliens in a world we’re just visiting. We’re just passing through.

So why are we surprised when things don’t go our way? Is it the well-meaning teachers of the prosperity gospel? I’ve heard what they say. Those people claim that if you do what God says is right, you’ll have everything you want. Never mind the Bible never says that.

The Bible does say that if you obey God, you’ll be blessed. But being blessed has very little to do with getting what you want. So many times we don’t even know what we want or what we want is bad for us. So how would God be good if He allowed us to have something that would ultimately hurt us?

How many times has God provided what I needed? How many times has He showed up in my life at the pivotal moment? How many times has God let me down? I mean really let me down? I can’t think of once. I can’t think of one promise He’s made me that He hasn’t kept–to the letter.

And how do I repay Him? By whining when I don’t get my way? By grumbling when life isn’t fair? Hasn’t He proved Himself to me by now?

It’s hard to see the big picture. It’s hard to fall back on God when we’re so disappointed. It’s hard to keep trusting when you feel betrayed or let down or like God didn’t hold up His end of the bargain. But when you feel that way, ask yourself if you really understood the bargain to begin with.

God never promised we wouldn’t have trouble, and He never promised that He’d give us whatever we wanted. He just promised that we’d never go without what we need, and we’d never face the struggles of life alone.

We’re going to have trouble. And we’re not always going to get our way. But God always knows what He’s doing. God always keeps His promises.

So just hold on. The world isn’t fair, but Jesus has overcome the world. That means He’s bigger than any trouble you’re facing right now. And if you can just hold on long enough, He’ll prove it to you.