Tag Archive | #truth

Light in the Dark

A Light Shines Best in the Darkness.-3

The above words came to me as I was praying last week about the mid-term elections. And it reminded me of Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:14-16, when He says, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (NLT version)

Rather than thinking, “Yeah, that’s cool. Heard it before. Christians are supposed to be the light, uh huh,” I stopped to analyze why light shines best in the darkness. What are its properties? What are the differences between light and dark?

When I think about light in today’s terms—in the forms of lamps, candles, campfires, etc.—I come up with a sense of calm, peace, warmth, protection, contentment, thanksgiving, joy, comfort. (How many more traits can you add to this list?)

But in view of Jesus’s command, how does the Bible see “light”? Away to Biblegateway.com I went, to do a quick study on when the word “light” appears in in the Bible. Aside from when it’s used in terms of weight, here are just a few verses I found (NLT version):

In Exodus 13, we have God revealing Himself as a pillar of light to the Israelites as they escaped from Egyptian captivity. Light implies guidance.

In Psalms 119:105, David says, “Your Word is a light for my path.” Here it implies insight & illumination.

In John 1:5, John says Jesus is the light that “shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (can I get an amen?!).

In John 12:46, Jesus likens himself to light when he says, “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.” Light is salvation.

Philippians 2:15 commands us to “live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” Light is innocence and purity.

1 Thessalonians 5:5 says, “For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.” Light is our identity.

Ephesians 5:8 says, “[O]nce you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” Light is the Holy Spirit.

Did you catch that last one? When we make Jesus our Lord & Savior, the Holy Spirit—God himself—comes to take up residence within us. We have His presence. His power. His love. His light shining through us to a darkened world. He is the light we should bring everywhere we go, whether it be a physical place like the grocery store, or online like social media.

Light shines best in the darkness because it stands in stark contrast to its surroundings. And it can’t help but draw people closer because of that difference, because of its love, its promise of life.

Can we say our lives look different from the world around us? Do our lives exude love and a promise of life? Or have we allowed the world to influence our behavior and dim our light? How do we stand out in the 21st century if our lives look the same as (and in some cases, worse than) our non-believing neighbors?

You’re not going to like what I suggest. Not at first, anyway. It’s extremely simple, yet if it were easy, we Christians wouldn’t have such a problem. But the truth of the matter is that deep down, we don’t want to do this.

I’m not talking about trying harder. It has nothing to do with trying harder.

If we’re going to live out our faith and be a light that attracts others to Jesus, we must start by reading the Bible.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

The world tries to convince us it knows better than God on how to do life. And we are caving to those lies because we spend countless hours scrolling through social media that reflects the world’s values, and watching endless hours of entertainment that reflects the world’s values, which feeds our minds with those values, which skews our thoughts about God and His ways, which causes us to doubt Him (note: instilling doubt is how Satan got Eve to eat the apple in the first place).

And when we don’t purposely make the time to spend with God and read His Word, how can we possibly think we’ll have what it takes to know His heart or fight for what He values when we’re in the trenches of daily life?

Don’t feel like praying or reading the Bible? No problem. Tell Him. He already knows about it, anyway. 🙂 Unsure what or how to pray? Again, not a problem. Pray through the Scriptures. When I was in college, the youth pastor at my home church suggested we pray through the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) each morning. In those chapters, we have Jesus’s teaching about anger, adultery, divorce, revenge, loving our enemies, not judging others, generosity, the “Golden Rule,” bearing fruit, etc. I did this during my college years, and yet I still learn new things as a forty-something whenever I reread it.

Colossians 1:9-12 is also a powerful place to start: “We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. 11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.”

And I can’t forget to suggest Ephesians 1:16-19… “I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. 19a I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.”

Are these not amazing words to pray over ourselves and our loved ones?!

If we’re sincere about changing our behavior and habits, God will lovingly ignite that spark in us to want to know Him better…and fan that flame that compels us to change our ways…and grow that fire into a personal testimony that encourages others in their struggles.

It’s time to shut off our TVs, put down our phones, and pick up our Bibles. Time to wear out our carpets and floorboards with prayer. Time to speak the truth in love, not anger; with compassion, but not concession.

After all, there’s a dark world full of lost souls God desperately loves, who, in turn, are desperate for a bit of Light. May we be ready and trustworthy to bring it to them.

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Do I Trust God at His Word?

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve entered my book in several contests over the last few months. Tinsel in a Tangle was the runner-up in the Selah Awards Debut Novel category (yay!), but I’m still waiting for the calendar months to flip a couple more times to find out the results of the others.

One contest, however, has nothing to do with my book. Some of you might be familiar with the magazine, Guideposts. Every two years, they hold a short story contest in which twelve winners are chosen to join their week-long writing boot camp in Rye, New York. I first heard of this contest about four years ago, but never bothered entering because short stories and I gel like oil and water.

But after a gentle-yet-firm nudging this spring from a woman in my Bible study, and feeling like I had a story in me to tell, after all, I decided to go for it. If I’m not one of the twelve winners, I’ll post my entry here sometime next month (I find out mid-August). If I am one of the winners…then I’ll let you know which Guideposts issue to look for. 😉

The point of this post, however, isn’t about contests and winning, but rather about losing…and how that’s not always the negative thing we think it is.

streamer-1194567_1920See, it was just a few days after I entered the contest when I indulged in a small-scale pity party. (I’m happy to say I’d barely gotten the streamers hung before I called it off, though the cake ingredients were out on the counter…) At that time, I had already learned the outcome of the Selah Awards, knew I had very teeny-tiny odds of winning the Guideposts contest (I never got a confirmation email from them, so did they even receive it??), and felt overwhelmed by the minuscule odds of winning one of the other contests…so, yeah, I was lamenting the fact I might never have it all-together to win a writing contest.

Because when we win a contest—whether it be in the creative arts, or music, or sports, or any other skill we’ve taken the time to hone—doesn’t that prove to the watching world that we’re good, maybe even exceptional, in that area? It definitely gives us a boost of validation, right? So, during my “party,” I figured if I never won at writing, then that meant I wasn’t exceptional—maybe not even good—and then I began to wonder (again!) if writing was what God wanted me to be doing—

—when He stopped my thinking in its destructive tracks and whispered to my heart:

“NOT winning a contest doesn’t mean you’re ‘less than’ in some way. It means you’re available to do and concentrate on what I have for you in that moment.”

Oh. Huh. Really?

On the heels of His whisper, I had to ask myself:

Do I truly believe God wants the best for me in all situations? Do I believe what Romans 8:28 says, that “…[He] causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them,” even when it feels painful?

Because if I claim to believe it, then I must conclude that not winning in the Selah Awards was God’s best for me in that particular situation.

This doesn’t mean I’ll necessary understand why that is, but if God is worthy of my trust and fealty, then it behooves me to believe He has the best in store for me, regardless of my emotions.

cropped-trust-in-godIn the case of this Guideposts contest, if I’m one of the winners, I get to go to NY for a week in September. A good boost for my writing. A bold “check” on the validation scale. Yet both my girls start new schools this year—one heads into high school, the other into middle school. This new chapter in their lives could come with a lot of emotions and anxiety and behavioral issues, and understandably so. Thus, if I don’t win, then I’m physically present that particular week to support my girls in ways that might seem mundane and unimportant at times, but which could be the “best” God has for me this September. Because maybe His best in this situation has nothing to do with me as a writer and everything to do with me as a mother. Or as a wife (Sept is the beginning of hunting season; gotta support the hubs). Or maybe even as a friend. Who knows? The possibilities are endless, really, yet I’m so good at limiting God to only what I see and know at any given time.

But when it comes down to my plans, my comfort, what I think is best, God isn’t about pleasing me. He’s about growing me. His best isn’t to make all my wishes and dreams come true, but to mold me into a woman who reflects more and more the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Yeah, my family will be the first ones to tell you I could use growth in all those areas!) God stands outside of time and knows which outcomes will strengthen my character and draw me closer to Him…and which ones would only serve to ratchet up my selfishness, jealousy, pride, etc.

So if I never win a writing or book contest, that doesn’t mean I’m not a good writer. It doesn’t mean I’m not supposed to be writing. It just means God has something better for me, either down the writer’s road or in a different area altogether. And I pray I have the eyes to recognize it and thank Him for it when it comes around.Signature

What Do We Expect?

This started out as a Facebook post, but I changed my mind in the end. Did I take the coward’s way out? Maybe (although I did link this to my home page). FB is such a volatile place these days, I don’t want to add to it. But does that mean I stay completely silent? Sometimes, yes. This time, no. Will I get a backlash from some? Possibly. I have to take that risk.

First, let me say that what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is horrific. As I read the newsfeed in the privacy of my home yesterday, I sobbed for the futility in it; I cried for the families who have needlessly lost loved ones. I prayed–and continue to pray–God shows up in amazing ways; that His presence is felt; that His children in the area and beyond pour out love and support to those hurting families; that in the end, it will be shown that good did triumph over this evil.

But I do have a question in light of the following…

*Since the early 1960’s, we’ve slowly but surely taken morals, values, ethics, and the sanctity of life out of schools.

*We’ve torn apart the foundations of the family unit.

*We’ve taught children that evolution is fact…which means, to be consistent with this belief, that people are nothing more than random particles stuck together…which then means people have no real purpose in life.

*We’ve allowed children access to video games that desensitize them to the act of hurting or killing a person (video games the military uses to desensitize their troops in the case s/he must take a human life).

*We’ve allowed little kids access to pornography through the internet, as well as R- and X-rated movies (Deadpool, anyone? Fifty Shades of Grey? No, I haven’t seen them. I don’t need to, to know their negative effects on a developing mind)…which means seeds have been planted for a future addiction to porn, a desensitization to sex, and warped thinking about women and sex, as these children grow into adults.

*We’ve taught teens that if it feels right, do it; abstinence is futile; girls need to put out; guys need to act on it; and we turn a blind eye to the sex-fest that goes on in many colleges & universities (dare I say all?). We hide the statistical repercussions for such behavior–emotional, mental, physical, spiritual–and then wonder why marriages and other relationships are falling apart. To top it off, once these kids grow up and enter the work force, or even worse, should they land a government job, we then penalize them for the very actions we once condoned.

*We’ve glorified Hollywood and its on-screen actors, most of whom live broken lives off-screen.

*We’ve encouraged the love of Self above Others with the tsunami of social media.

*We’ve taught children that all truth is relative…which means, to be consistent with this claim, that for some people, adultery is considered allowable; it’s their truth. Rape is considered allowable; it’s their truth. Stealing & lying? It’s fine; it’s their truth. Murder? Why not? People are just random particles stuck together, anyway, and it’s their truth. On and on I could go. Does this sound harsh? Not if we’re being consistent with relative truth. Who has the authority to say these things aren’t allowable, if there is no absolute truth? “But it’s against the law in this country.” Says who? The government? Who sets up the government? Man? What is man? We just learned man is nothing more than random particles stuck together. Where do random particles get the authority to tell other random particles what’s considered right and wrong? Let’s be consistent if we’re going to claim relative truth.

(Er…guess I touched upon one of my hot buttons with that last one.)

Here’s my question:

Given this kind of upbringing, what do we expect these younger generations to look like once they’ve reached adulthood?

Hint: They won’t look like law-abiding, respectful, considerate people.

If the adages are true, that “you reap what you sow,” and “you are what you eat,” then the older generations have sown disrespect, a lack of accountability, a lack of self-control and self-worth, dishonesty, hypocrisy, promiscuity, a sense of hopelessness, greasy grace, among so much more…and the younger generations have eaten from that harvest. We’re beginning to see the results. It will get worse.

It could get better—if we start by re-instilling those morals, values, ethics, sanctity of life, and yes, absolute truth. It starts there. (And I would argue it actually starts before that–with the Church on its knees.)

But are we willing to make the sacrifices required, in order to weave those threads back into the fabric of society and mend the brokenness?

That’s My Girl

Several years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to delve into the world of smartphones shortly after the iPhone 5 had been released. Cut to four and a half years and one battery replacement later, the antenna in my iPhone 5 finally went kaput last week. Though I can’t receive or make phone calls, I can still text and use Safari, so we were a bit slow to mosey into a Verizon store.

But it eventually happened, and my new phone arrived this past Friday. While I anticipated the FedEx truck rumbling down my driveway, I scoured Amazon for a new case. It was almost overwhelming, with all the choices available these days. Did I get another Eiffel Tower case…or maybe something with fairies? Those Christmas designs looked like fun, but several inspirational quotes had appeal, too.

This quote, in particular, stood out to me:

“You don’t have to wait to hear ‘Well done.’ If you do it right, you can know every day that God is smiling and saying, ‘That’s my girl.'”

I love that last part. Love the idea that God could be so informal as to say, “That’s my girl.” I know it in my head—that He’s with me every day, that He’s my friend (Romans 5:11)—but when Life takes a curve I wasn’t expecting, it’s hard for my heart to sense the reality of those intimate terms.

However. I do not like the part that says, “If you do it right…”

As a perfectionist and one who is sometimes overly concerned with making sure I’m following God’s will and doing it God’s way and careful not to step a toe out of line, I’m very much aware of my shortcomings and inability to do things right (parenthood, anyone?). How do we know if we’ve done things right, anyway? There’s no sign that flashes above us in reassurance. Sometimes He’ll whisper encouragement, but more often than not, all we can do is try to do things right. (I’m not talking about black and white moral issues. I’m talking about the gray areas. The areas where I can find examples for both sides of my argument/decision/situation, but it’s a matter of what God wants me and my family to do, not what He asked the Joneses to do once upon a time. Make sense?)

On occasion, my father-in-law has said, “The desire to please God pleases God.” And while that is a hard concept to believe when my head is full of murky, depressing thoughts, it gives me a sense of relief when I’m in my right mind. Plus, it correlates to parenting our children, doesn’t it? If my kids desire to please me, to obey me because they love me, that, in turn, pleases me. I’m far more understanding and patient with their blunders when I know their hearts are in the right place.

My heart is in the right place when it comes to following the Lord. I will not always get it right. I will lapse in moments of weakness, say and do things in moments of impatience or anger or when I’m on the defensive. But I’m trying my best.

So, I’m switching this saying around a little. Here’s what I think it should say:

IMG_7032-2

Image courtesy of Braelyn Germaine.

Now that’s something I wouldn’t mind splashed across my phone case.

But in the end, I went with a different inspirational quote that sums up everything in just a few words:

“If God is all you have, you have all you need.” John 14:8

What about you? Do you have a case that reflects part of your personality? If so, what does it look like? (I admit, I also went with the dancing fairy.) Or are you more sensible (as we all should be when toting around full-blown computer!) and use something like an Otterbox? If that’s the case, what would you rather see covering your phone? 😉 Leave a comment below–and if you have a brand you love, share that, too.