No arms, no legs, no worries…

I’m having a bad day today. You know those days? Nothing is actually wrong, but your attitude and emotions are just a bit off. There are just some days where all you want to do is cry. And you usually find ways to do so. Maybe that’s just a girl thing. Men don’t cry, right men?

I attended a funeral today for a beautiful woman I unfortunately never had the chance to really get to know personally, but she lived a wonderful, faithful, blessed life and in her 89 years, she knew what was most important to her: God, family & truly living life to the fullest. She did it right.  And to see the couple hundred people that showed up today to celebrate her life, that’s just a testament on how right she got it. There were no regrets.

If I’m being honest with myself, on a daily basis, I’m not sure I could say I’m living life to the fullest. I’m not sure I could say that I am truly joyful and grateful and thankful in life. This I know, so sometimes I purposely go looking for inspiration. I found that in Nick Vujicic. I recently came to know of him from church this past Sunday and since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking of his story. My heart sinks because I have this aching feeling that if I was in his position, I don’t think I’d be so motivational. I don’t think I’d be living life to the fullest. I have no evidence to show otherwise because with all the blessings and gifts God has given me each day, I still find so much fault in everything… I’m ashamed.

When I come to the end of my life, I will want to know three things: Am I right with God? Am I right with family? Did I truly live my life to the fullest? If I died tomorrow, I’m not sure I could say yes to the last question. Could you? Could we answer yes to all three? I know if I’m living life to the fullest the way I know it to mean, I wouldn’t have to even ask those first two questions… They would be automatic.

Nick chose at an early age that nothing was going to stop him from living his life to the fullest. He’s different, yes. But he’s a child of God and so beloved by God. He knows this. So he’s choosing to be thankful for the gifts God has already given him and joyfully accepting them. What an inspiration that truly is. What a gift it is for me to see people like Nick and so many around the world or even right in our own families to know that you know what, things could always be worse. I will always have a thorn in my side. But life, as hard as it may be, still has gifts and blessings and if we just look for them, accept them, embrace them, we could truly have joy. We could truly live life to the fullest. We could truly have peace.

I don’t know about you, but that’s what I so painfully want. A joyful, peaceful heart. And to know that at the end of my life, whenever that day may come, I took all that God lovingly gave me and truly invested it right back into life, living it gracefully and yes, to the fullest, with no regrets.

I want to reach those pearly white gates and have Jesus say the most wonderful words I will ever hear,

Well done, good and faithful servant. 

Why I like Macklemore’s, ‘Same Love’ …

Let me start out by saying that this post is not meant at all to take a side, start a debate or make a conclusion about homosexuality. Seriously. If you’re looking for a debate, please go elsewhere. You won’t yield any arguments from me.

This post is not about the issue of gay rights, straight rights, whosever rights. It’s about loving those around you, no matter who they are.

In my last post I stated Jesus loves everyone. I meant that. Jesus loves you whether you’re straight or gay. And Macklemore’s song is not necessarily discussing the homosexuality debate either. The lyrics are more geared toward a simple love… and how hateful this world can be towards it.

I hate hate. (Is that an oxymoron?)

I think Same Love by Macklemore is a pretty cool song. And although I never met Jesus in person, nor do I claim to know everything he thought or believed, I do have this sense that it’s a song he would have hummed along to. Why not? It’s catchy.

Jesus didn’t spend time with righteous Christians. He spent his time with the broken. That would have included me. That would have included you. That would have included someone gay. That would have included someone straight. That would have included a prostitute. That would have included an addict. Would we spend time with the same people?

As a Christian, I tend to cringe at some of my peers who call themselves followers of Christ and then wave their finger in the air at a gay person, or anyone against what they believe. What are we teaching others about Christ when we do this?

Has it ever occurred to you that the person you wave your finger at may just want to come and worship the same loving God you worship? Yet now we’ve pushed them away from the One who would never wave His finger. From the One who would say, Come. What gives us the right to say he is our God, but he is not someone else’s?

Can you imagine going up to Jesus, the sinner you are, hearing so many amazing things about him, how loving and forgiving he is, and he put his hand on his hip, waved his finger at you and said, “Loved? No, you are not even welcome here.” How would we feel? Jesus would be sending an extremely mixed message.

Yet we, Christians especially, send very mixed messages everyday. I’m no better. I do it all the time.

That’s not the Jesus I know. That’s not the God I know.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Jesus Christ: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage… (Philippians 2:5-6)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another, (John 13:34)

There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:12)

Same Love is asking us to end all hate. And I couldn’t agree more. Especially from those who call themselves righteous… who are we to judge? We are not God.

My job as a follower of Jesus Christ is to simply love. I have absolutely no right to judge a single person. Honestly, when I discovered this amazing truth, it was such a weight lifted off my shoulders. There is so much I will never understand about a lot of these issues. None of us will. The incredible truth to this is that we don’t have to know the answers. We just have to know Jesus.

Our Savior came as the ultimate lightning rod for the hatred of difference as he became the faultless model for those who are a part of the abnormal. He was despised and rejected, and still, his life made room for all of us who choose to walk a countercultural path. The beautiful struggle, and the compassion that flows from our Christ-centered hearts, is the same compassion that we have staked our entire life on, knowing that Jesus had the same compassion on us. It’s time to start including into that compassion those people many of us have thought to be the center of all things abnormal. (Love is an Orientation – Andrew Marin, founder of the Marin Foundation)

Hatred breaks my heart. Why do we continue to hate? Why do we continue to push people away? There are so many hurting people out there who are crying out for help. The last thing any of us should do, especially the Christian church, is turn them away.

My prayer is that someday we can bridge these gaps, especially between the church and the GLBT community, focusing more on loving one another than using the Word of God as a mode of defense for whatever side we’re on, initiating hatred toward each other. That’s not how God intended it. His intentions were clear: Love.

To anyone reading this who calls themselves gay or straight, normal or abnormal, healthy or sick… here I am, arms wide open, asking forgiveness for my righteous Christian heart.

I’m sorry… And as Jesus loves you, so do I.

Jesus Loves Porn Stars

BuzzFeed tells us a lot of things. And sometimes they are flat out awesome stories. Like this story about Brittni Ruiz:

enhanced-buzz-wide-15822-1375892866-9
click image to read her story!

Did you know that Jesus loves porn stars?

Brittni Ruiz knows this. She was one.

This is what I love about Jesus. He doesn’t care what you’ve been, who you are, or what you do. He’s going to love you. Whether you’re a porn star or a pastor.

Jesus loves every race, every nationality, every economic class, every criminal, every saint. Whether you’re black, white, blue, orange, straight, gay, bi, transgender, whatever, whoever. Even Miley Cyrus.

Want to know what would be really cool?

If we loved that way too.

I’m living every day trying to do just that. It’s hard. But I’m trying.

I hope you are too.

Because, well, that’d be really cool.

Who can you show some love to today?

Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31)

Calm My Anxious Heart

I love listening to the sound of the ocean. For how raging and forceful the ocean can be, the sound of it can be such a calming force, too. The sounds any body of water makes is so soothing to me.  That’s why in the summer, as long as I am in ear shot of some kind of body of water, I am at peace.

Lately, my heart has been so anxious. I don’t know if it’s because summer is slowly becoming out of reach and we’re heading into the hustle and bustle of fall and winter, the holidays and cold weather. I suppose that is part of it. I believe more so it’s because of a book I am currently reading. It’s slowly revealing to me all the ugly truths of my heart that I knew were already there, but have been too proud to confront. Perhaps convicted is a better term to use than anxious. My heart is convicted.

If you’re wondering, the title of the book is the title of this post. Calm My Anxious Heart, written by Linda Dillow. Thanks to a good friend of mine who let me borrow it, I haven’t been able to put it down. Convicting, indeed.

It’s a book about finding contentment. If you brush by the title, you may think it’s just another self-help book like so many out there that give you three easy steps to finding happiness in life.

First off, contentment doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. Let’s get that truth out of the way right now.

That is simply not the case here. This book really digs in and finds the motives of your heart and shows in scripture what God truly says about our earthly ways. The truth I’m finding is telling. I am discovering holes within me where I can neatly fit all my earthly treasures into.

Linda Dillow is a missionary. She spent many years of her life overseas living in countries where women and their families simply had nothing. She was there to teach these women how to lead small groups and bible studies – something that sounds so easy. At the time, in certain countries, if women were caught leading bible studies, they could have been persecuted or worse. These were highly secretive meetings, but these women desperately wanted to know God. Talk about faith.

There is one conversation Linda had with one of these women, Eva. It’s a conversation I cannot get out my head. Eva was from Poland and at the time she and her family were living like gypsies, jumping from one place to the other, never knowing where their next night’s sleep would be. Eva had come to visit Linda at her home which what seemed like a mansion compared to those in Poland.

After Eva hand-washed her daughter’s diapers because she was “used to doing so” even after Linda encouraged her to use her washer and dryer, Eva put her daughter to sleep,

After Monika was asleep, Eva and I sat and talked. I asked her the question that had been roaming around in my heart all day. ‘When you see all the modern conveniences here for mothers of small children – washing machines, disposable diapers, baby food in jars – how do you feel? Life for you in Poland is so much more difficult!’

Her response pierced my heart.

‘Linda, when I lived here in the West, I observed Western women. They have so many things that they don’t need God.’

Convicted. Ashamed. Guilty… to name a few feelings that jumped out of me at that moment.

I shut the book, read Psalm 139, asked God to give me contentment and all was swell.

No!

It doesn’t work like that. Oh how I wish it did. This type of conviction calls for a complete gutting out of my insides. A verse popped into my head,

He must become greater, I must become less. (John 3:30)

I wanted to scream, Why?! My selfishness emerged from the depths within me. Or was it really that far down? Maybe my selfishness is right in plain sight, for all to see. After all, it seems to emerge quite easily.

Being content is extremely difficult and a daunting task. It is not a one time decision. It’s an ongoing, everyday choice that needs the help of God for us to even remotely come close. Linda Dillow touches on these points in helping us find contentment,

  • Everything belongs to God
  • Heart attitude is the issue
  • God comes first and possessions come second
  • Possessions are to be used, not loved

All of those sting. Because at any different moment throughout the day, whether consciously or unconsciously, I’m living the opposite.

  • Everything belongs to me
  • My attitude is not an issue
  • Possessions first and then some time with God
  • Possessions are loved and God is used

That sounds more accurate. For a lot of us. Right? Why is it so hard? Why is it incredibly difficult to just accept and know that this life actually isn’t about us at all? Did you know that? Life isn’t about me. Or you. Or anybody. It’s about God. He makes that so clear for us in scriptures. All the information is right there in front of us. We just have to choose it.

If we want to be women (or men) of contentment, we must choose to accept our portion, our assigned roles from God. We must make the choice to dwell on the positive aspects of our role in life. If we don’t, we’ll be discontent, always wanting something different from what we’ve been given.

Or maybe we need to stop comparing ourselves to each other.

When does a woman become an adult? Perhaps it’s when she stops comparing her life to other women’s.

Facebook certainly doesn’t help that. Nor does Instagram. Flashes of nothing but beautiful moments, never seeing the ugly. Always watching someone’s highlight reels next to your everyday life doesn’t make for a good comparison, does it?

We’re all culprits and I’m as guilty as any. Maybe it’s time to put the phone down and enjoy the moment instead of capture the moment. Maybe it’s time to put the credit card away and realize you’re in way over your head, and maybe you’ll never have as much as she has but you realize you have a God that has everything you need. Maybe your husband or your wife or friend or sibling has more meaningful words to say than everyone else’s Facebook statuses.

We can stop waiting for something better all the time. A woman who is single wants to be married. A woman who is married wants to be married to someone else. A man who already has a beautiful wife wants a supermodel who does it all. You have an iPhone 5 but you need the 5s just because. You have kids but just can’t wait until they’re at an easier age so you can do this or that. When it’s summer, we can’t wait for fall, when it’s fall we can’t wait for winter, when it’s winter we desperately want spring.

When are we ever wanting, let alone accepting, what we have right now, right here, in this current moment? Have we gotten so indulgent in our things & possessions & comparisons that we forgot to enjoy what God has already put in our lives? God hates greed and we are as greedy as they come. I am as greedy as they come.

We don’t need everything we have. I know, shocker. But God has still blessed us and entrusted us with plenty. The least we can do is be thankful, accept it and even enjoy it. In this, though, we need to understand the biggest truth underneath it all. And this is key.

Even if you lost every last possession, every last penny, every last piece of your identity, God is still there.

Sometimes we need to be stripped down to nothing to see what’s been underneath it all the whole time.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

Where is your treasure? Chances are your heart is there also. To be content, we must remember these things. Steer our hearts back in the direction of God and know that all of this is His. When we have something that isn’t ours, that someone let us borrow, we tend to protect it more, watch it more, take care of it better. Why? Because that person entrusted us to care for what is theirs until we give it back.

Doesn’t God deserve the same of us with what he’s let us borrow? Because it’s all borrowed, you know. It all goes back.

When a game of monopoly ends, it all goes back in the box.

Where is your treasure?

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20)

Contentment comes when we deliberately store our treasures in heaven, knowing that our possessions here on earth are not ours to gain and that everything comes from a good and loving God. When we accept the portion He’s entrusted with us, no matter how big or small the cup, and throw away any comparing, judgmental and bitter thoughts towards it all, we see life for what it truly is. A gift.

And gifts are to be cherished.

“So what if it does?”

What if your biggest fear came true?

My friend and co-worker, Peter Gowesky, above, took this question and dissected it with our church just a few short weeks ago. He knows all about his biggest fear coming true. I hope you take the time to listen to this excellent message.

I ask myself that question almost daily. Not because I want to be miserable all the time, but to be prepared. To daily give it to God and pray Your will be done.

Does that make it easier? No. Honestly, I’m mortified of some of my fears. I know myself. If my biggest fears happen, without God’s help, I would not survive it.

This happens to be a signature weakness of mine. I fear more than trust. I am a “glass half-empty” kind of gal. I fear the worst, I expect the worst, I believe the worst. Adam is ten minutes late… he’s dead. No other explanation. What a horrible thought process, right? Talk about having anxiety. It is a non-stop, ongoing, daily process to take my fears, anxieties and worries and give them to God. I simply would go insane if I didn’t. Not to mention many have a persona of me to be very laid back, which I am, but often because there is so much billowing up inside I become more shutdown on the outside!

Like my honesty here? It’s the truth. My mind is flooded, which would make you think I’d be all over the place, but it’s the opposite. When your mind is constant, it tends to make you go blank outwardly because you’re always trying to filter through your own thoughts. At least that’s the case for me. Is this making sense to anyone? Hence why writing is easier for me. I can sit and calculate every thought.

See, I really need God. 

Relying on God has to begin all over again, everyday, as if nothing had yet been done. – C.S. Lewis

Truth. Everyday is new and brings new troubles. Why not let God worry about what we cannot control?

I find it mind-boggling when someone tells me they don’t have a belief in any kind of higher power. Whether it’s God or not. To me, that’s bold. In a way, they have more faith than I do because I’m like … Do you have the answers to life? How do you do that? That’s crazy frightening to me to think this life is all I get and I have no basis for meaning. So then, this is all there is for you? Where do you turn when things go horribly wrong? 

Many see God as a crutch for weak people. You know what? It is. I’m weak. I’ll take it. I’m limping.

I listened to a sermon once and for the life of me I cannot remember who it was or whom he was speaking about when he told a story of another prominent female pastor who struggled with similar anxieties I struggle with. Her biggest fear was losing her husband. It absolutely haunted her. One day, when wrestling in prayer with God, she felt God prompt her and literally ask, So what if it does? … What?? How can God even ask that?! After collecting herself, a conversation ensued (and I’m paraphrasing her words here).

Well, I would be devastated. I would be angry with you. I wouldn’t get out of bed and I would cry all day, everyday for an entire month – I won’t do anything. I will feel like I want to die.

And then what?

Well, I’d stay in bed and cry for a whole other month and feel like I want to die.

And then what?

Umm, well, maybe I’d get up and shower, but then I’d still won’t leave my house for another month!

And then what?

Maybe I’d begin to breathe again, step outside for a moment, let people care for me. But I’d still want nothing to do with you.

And then what?

I think you see where this is going. God continued and profusely asked “And then what?” over and over again, until she landed on Him.

Finding my way back to you, through your Word and Love, I would find peace and rest, as you strengthen me and help me move forward with my life.

Exactly.

When I first heard this story, chills went up and down my spine. God sat there and worked through all her fears by just asking the simple question, So what if it does?

So what if it does? Every time my fears creep into my mind and my anxieties begin to overwhelm me, I think of this story. And ask myself, So what if it does?

God is not a God of It never will. He’s a God of So what if it does? Jesus himself promises us trouble (See John 16:33). But he doesn’t stop there. He has overcome the world… And then what? 

You see, he already knows the answer. The answer is Him.

What if your biggest fear came true? Would you trust God to bring you through it? Have you ever asked yourself, So what if it does?

Let me ask you… So what if it does??

And then what?

The Total Trust Theory

The Total Trust Theory

When I was a little girl, I had total trust in Santa Claus. I swore by him. I never thought someone was more real. Every Christmas, I wrote out my wish-list and knew all I needed to do was get that list into Santa’s hands. I did not know how Santa went around to every child in the world and delivered gifts in one night and I did not know how he would have all of my gifts ahead of time as he approached our home on Christmas Eve. I simply trusted. I trusted he would deliver. Every time. Every year. All I needed to do was make a list. And not only would I just make a list, I would literally tape it onto our front door… Why? Because naturally if you didn’t have a fire place, why wouldn’t Santa just come through the front door?? I covered all my tracks.

I wish I could be this trusting with God.

As a child, your priorities are always a little skewed. As an adult, though, I still find it easier to get a child to trust in Santa than to trust in God. My goodness, we put a creepy toy elf on a shelf, as it freakishly “moves” from place to place in the middle of the night as if it were alive just to make sure our kids know, Santa is watching!! I don’t recommend this when teaching your child about God…

As you grow older, life alters you. Bad things happen. Life is harder. It’s easier to let the harshness of life get you down. Julia Roberts says it quite poignantly in a classic and one of my favorite films, Pretty Woman,

The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?

I love that line. It’s so simple yet so true.

How many scars do you have from the battles of your life? We are so wounded, aren’t we? It can really ware us down. I wake up in the morning exhausted. Did I even sleep last night? In my own world, I can boil it down to one word: Trust. I do not have enough trust in God. And when you do not have enough trust in God, you are trying to control your life in a way that is unsustainable. Without full trust in God, every day I am fearful. Every day I am anxious. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve gotten down on my knees and said, God, why can’t I simply trust you with my life? What am I doing wrong? I know all the right things, I can say all the right things, but my heart is not where it should be. My heart is idolizing this world, instead of You.

I focus so much on all that I am not and all that I should be doing and all that I should be believing instead of just being. Instead of just finding the little faith that God has already given me. God is screaming, no no, scratch that… God is whispering, I’m right here. As Pastor Steven Furtick says, He whispers because he’s close. He doesn’t have to scream when he’s standing with you.

For me personally, it’s so hard to believe and trust in something that I do not have all the answers to. Of course, I say that now after I have admitted to having full trust in Santa, where I had no basis of an argument on how he could actually be real. But, seeing the world evolve as I’ve grown older, watching life take its harsh blows to the gut, it’s incredibly difficult to have faith and trust in a God who sometimes seems like He’s too busy to love me.

I listened to a sermon this morning called The Total Trust Theory, hence my post title. Which, by the way, you can click on and it will bring you to the video of this message if you’d like to watch it. Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church out of North Carolina spoke of this kind of trust and I just can’t seem to shake some of what he said when he first realized who the kind of God was that he worshiped,

I don’t have all the answers. I never will. But I serve a God who even when the answers aren’t clear, His love for me is.

What an amazing truth. No matter how much I waver, question, doubt, ponder, the flip side is I have a God who NEVER wavers, who NEVER questions, who NEVER doubts, who NEVER ponders, and loves me no matter how far down I fall. This is true for you too. Did you know God loved you? I mean really loved you? No matter how broken you are? I hope this truth is freeing for you.

Furtick goes on to say,

Instead of investing all of my energy in trying to have a faith that I can figure out, I wanna have a faith that holds me fast even when I can’t figure out what I’m facing.

My goal in life is the latter. May I always have a faith that sustains me even when I don’t understand all that is happening in my life. Even when the worst possible storm hits, I pray I know and trust the God who will meet me in it. Because He will.

If I let God, he’ll use my pain to show somebody else purpose in theirs.

If I let God … in other words, if I trust God…

Furtick’s sermon was based on a powerful verse in the Bible that I hope to learn and memorize. It’s a true word of encouragement about who God is and our purpose in Him. The Apostle Paul wrote this in a letter, while in prison no less, having no idea if he would ever get out alive, to a fellow disciple, Timothy… I will end my post on this verse, praying you read it, ponder it, and remember it. The Apostle Paul writes this in 2 Timothy 1:9-14:

9He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

The Table

The Table

I haven’t had much inspiration to sit down & write for quite some time. I’m not sure why. Partly because I’m a lazy bum. Partly because it takes a lot out of me to write. Partly because sometimes you’re in a season of life where writing simply doesn’t feel right. I try to write to inspire. Nothing inside me is inspiring right now. This is me trying to find it. Rambling. Rambling. Rambling…

I can, however, show you something inspiring. I don’t always have to write it. I listened to this message recently. It really was a wonderful message on love, family & what’s most important. About those who sit around your table. John Ortberg is an incredible author & pastor. And I hope this inspires you like it has inspired me.

“When I think about love, I think about a table…”

The one with a bridge…

It’s 5:30am and I’m happy to be writing, because I’m saddened by the fact that it’s been four months since I wrote. I call myself a writer. I’m not writing. I’m sensing a problem here.

Okay …

When you see train tracks, what comes to mind?
I first think about the movie, Stand By Me, a classic from the 80’s.

mqdefault 2

standbyme1 2

PD44511661_STA018C_1917804b 2

I always picture this scene above when the boys are literally running for their lives over a long bridge as a train is plowing its way through. Before this though, Vern Tessio, the short fat kid of the group played by Jerry O’Connel, is paralyzed in the middle of the tracks, terrified of falling. When he gets halfway, he begins to crawl his way over each track, thinking this is the safest option for himself until …

“TRAAAIIIIINNNNN!!!!”

The boys start running for their lives, forcing Vern to his feet pushing him, screaming at him to run, to go, go, go. Even at his fastest, he is the slowest, and the train is inching closer and closer to him, threatening to swallow him up. Eventually he gets close enough to level ground and jumps off the tracks, sending him tumbling through a ditch and rubble, as the boys run to his aid, making sure he didn’t just free-fall to his death.

I love that scene because it somewhat describes many scenes in our lives. There will come a point where you’ll have to cross a bridge; you’ll have to step out onto the scary tracks and move forward, but so many times, we become crippled in our fear that we just stop in the middle of the tracks. I do this time and time again, before I find myself crawling along, pretending progress is being made. Thinking, “Okay, this is a safe, good pace. I can do this. One tiny step at a time.”

Until …

“TRAAAIIIIINNNN!!!!”

The unexpected.

Or was it? You’re on tracks, aren’t you? Tracks do have a tendency to produce trains…

What I’m trying to say is, we are on the road of life. And that road will have the unexpected from time to time. We all have a little bit of Vern Tessio in us, but the question is, what part do you play? Are you paralyzed, sitting in the middle of the tracks unable to move? Or the one who begins to crawl, one step at a time, playing it safe, trying to make it across on your own time? Or are you the one to jump up and start sprinting for your life only when something is threatening to take it?

How will you respond if you lose your job?

What would you do if you lost a loved one?

What would you say if someone close to you reveals a bomb-shell of a secret?

How will you react to a bad diagnosis?

[Insert an infinite amount of questions here.]

Life is hard. There is absolutely no questioning that. How do we respond to those difficult moments? That’s the most important question, isn’t it? The train was threatening to derail Vern Tessio, to make him “abandon ship” and jump the tracks.

The train was unexpected. The train wasn’t wanted. The train was still coming. And sometimes there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

So what do you do?

On a much, much smaller scale than the scene described above, some family members and I spent some time on Mother’s Day after dinner walking the train tracks near my grandmother’s home. They’re not technically abandoned, as a few small freights will make their way through from time to time, but we really didn’t have anything to worry about. We were determined to make it to the bridge that goes over the Passaic River. When we made it, however, we realized we had gone so far that if we turned back now, it would be pitch black by the time we got home. So we now knew we had to cross the bridge to get to the other side and continue to the main highway. (Where we phoned Daddy and made him pick us up.)

The walk had been fun and relaxing up until this point. Now, this bridge was not like the one in the movie – much shorter, less scary. Nevertheless, I had flip flops on. Flip flops and train tracks don’t go well together. Especially when over the bridge, the gaps between the tracks were wide enough to fall through. One miss-step…

I really didn’t think we’d ever walk over the bridge. It was unexpected.

It was in this moment where this scene popped into my head. My sister and I had been cracking jokes this whole time, quoting from the movie and others alike, like Fried Green Tomatoes. But once we actually began crossing the bridge, my joking stopped. I was TERRIFIED. I felt like Vern, letting a good 15-30 seconds go by before taking each step to the next track. Heart-pumping, legs shaky, I just wanted to get to the other side. Alive.

Lucky for me, there was no train revving its engines behind me. Then I started to think, what would I have done if there was?

I want to say I would have high-tailed it across that bridge, leaping like an Olympic long-jumper, never thinking about the human-sized holes between the tracks… I want to say that.

Why?

Think about this world. There are billions of people in it. Billions. That’s a number we can barely comprehend. My world is small and finite. It’s a snippet of the history of this earth. So when there’s mornings where I don’t even want to get out of bed, when too many unexpected moments creep into my life, when all I want to do is freeze on the bridge and cry, I think of the billions of people out there, still taking each step, in flip-flops no less.

When I see my best friend who just lost her father get out of bed every morning, go to work, plan her wedding, and continue to push forward…

When I read what those women in Cleveland suffered through during their kidnapping, and yet come out of it alive…

When I watch a close loved one receive a cancer diagnosis for the second time in her life, yet still focus on her children and family…

When I look at parents in my church raise children with extreme special needs, yet thrive as super-parents, loving on their children unconditionally…

None of the above asked for this. None of the above expected this. None of the above wanted this.

Yet they continue to walk the tracks – one step at a time.

Who am I to say I can’t too?

This world is so broken, so evil, so incredibly horrible at times. Yet I’m seeing people all over the world, who have every right to jump the tracks with what they’ve been through, still crossing the bridge. This amazes me. This humbles me. This encourages me. It should encourage you too.

The circumstances in our lives can cripple us with fear, anxiety, direst. It has for me many times over the years. I’ve responded to circumstances in my life wrong before. I’ve froze in the middle of the tracks, afraid to grow up, to move forward, to accept what was happening, to embrace change, to face the life that stood before me. It’s not easy. It never will be. I still have days where I long to just sleep the day away, ignoring life’s daily tasks.

But I’m learning. I’m crossing bridges.

We must cross over the bridges. We really have no other choice. The train is coming.

I crossed the bridge. As terrifying as it was, it was beautiful on the other side…

969505_958248475499_340770731_n 3

The one with a story…

I’m reading this book called Epic where the author, John Eldredge, describes our lives as a story. We each are living an epic story, and our lives are only understood when told as a story. Humans love stories and we all want to tell our own. We are a story-seeking world. Here’s an excerpt of his book …

“Life, you’ll notice, is a story. It doesn’t come to us like a math problem. It comes to us the way that a story does, scene by scene. What will happen next? …

But here’s where we run into a problem. Life, for most of us, feels like a movie we’ve arrived to forty-five minutes late.

Something important seems to be going on…maybe. I mean, good things happen, sometimes beautiful things. You meet someone, fall in love. You find that work that is yours alone to fulfill. But tragic things happen too. You fall out of love, or perhaps the other person falls out of love with you. Work begins to feel like a punishment. Everything starts to feel like an endless routine.

If there is meaning to this life, then why do our days seem so random? What is this drama we’ve been dropped into the middle of? If there is a God, what sort of story is He telling here? At some point we begin to wonder if Macbeth wasn’t right after all: Is life a tale ‘told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’?

No wonder we keep losing heart.

We find ourselves in the middle of a story that is sometimes wonderful, sometimes awful, usually a confusing mixture of both, and we haven’t a clue how to make sense of it all. It’s like we’re holding in our hands some pages torn out of a book. These pages are the days of our lives. Fragments of a story. They seem important, or at least we long to know they are, but what does it all mean?

We need to know the rest of the story…”

One of the main reasons I’ve always believed in God, in a Creator, is because our hearts wrestle every single day with our meaning in this life. Deep down inside our core, nothing satisfies us. We are always searching for the meaning to our existence. I just can’t seem to settle on this world happening by accident. As C.S. Lewis once said it, and I’m paraphrasing here, if this world has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning… In other words, we wouldn’t know any different. We wouldn’t care to find the meaning to life because it would have never been put on our hearts to search for it.

I used to lie in bed when I was little, stare at the ceiling and literally whisper to myself, “Why do I exist?” … even before I realized my beliefs in God, I was wondering what it all meant.

I believe God made us aware enough to know there is something bigger going on, but unaware enough to understand it all. Why? Because He wants us to rely on Him. He is the ultimate answer.

Again, I’ll quote C.S. Lewis …

“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

If this world is by accident, then why the heck are we here? Why are our souls always searching?

The author, Neil Postman, of Science and the Story That We Need, whom Eldredge quotes, puts it like this:

“In the end science does not provide the answers most of us require. Its story of our origins and our end is, to say the least, unsatisfactory. To the question, ‘How did it all begin?’, science answers, ‘Probably by an accident.’ To the question, ‘How will it all end?’, science answers, ‘Probably by an accident.’ And to many people, the accidental life is not worth living.”

Science is intelligent, jaw-dropping, and sometimes down-right awesome. It opens our world to infinite possibilities. But it will never satify the aches inside us for the life well-lived.

“The accidental life is not worth living.” Yet here we are, getting out of bed every morning. Why? For another day of soul searching. Something inside us is reaching, fully aware there is something greater in our grasps. We have to go searching for it. We have to get out of bed…

Yes, but maybe you are feeling accidental. Maybe you’ve had enough. Maybe you’ve submitted to the notion that life really is meaningless and your life is not worth it. You’re not getting out of bed anymore. I’m not going to sit here and tell you you’re problems aren’t real, nor would I dare try to understand what you may be going through, downplaying your issues to force you “out of bed.” What you may be facing could be earth shattering. I don’t doubt you’re in bed for good reason…

What I will tell you is that you are part of a bigger story. What you do actually matters. It may not feel that way all the time, but every story has a beginning, middle and end. Maybe you’re somewhere in between, maybe you’re stuck on a word, maybe you’re simply scared to turn the page. I don’t know. But I’d rather turn the page, than close the book, never knowing what could have come next.

If God, an all-powerful, loving God, really created this world, that means He created us too … and that is reason enough to get out of bed. Because we’re here for a reason. We’re here to live a story worth telling.

John Eldredge says it best:

“For when we were born, we were born into the midst of a great story begun before the dawn of time. A story of adventure, of risk and loss, heroism … and betrayal. A story where good is warring against evil, danger lurks around every corner, and glorious deeds wait to be done. Think of all those stories you’ve ever loved – there’s a reason they stirred your heart. They’ve been trying to tell you about the true Epic ever since you were young.
There is a larger story. And you have a crucial role to play.”

The one I’ve been meaning to write…

You know that moment after a funeral is over when the phone calls, food and support just, kind of, stops? From the moment your loved one passed on leading up to the funeral, you’ve been overwhelmed by the tremendous support from others. Really. It’s incredible. But something usually happens a day or two after the funeral. It stops. People get back to their lives. It’s not anything intentional, but for them the grieving process is over. For you, it’s most likely just the beginning. You ask yourself, “So now what? I’m supposed to go back to my life too?” It’s one of the worst feelings in the world. A person you love is gone and life doesn’t care.

As I laid in bed on Christmas Eve trying to fall asleep, I kept wondering if this is exactly what some families were feeling in Newtown, Connecticut…

I spent the day in Newtown Friday before Christmas. Several people have been eager to hear what it was like. I knew I eventually wanted to write a small reflection, but I just haven’t been able to come up with the right words to say. This may come as a little late being it’s heading into late January, but it’s a sensitive subject, and I don’t want to make the town of Newtown or the people in it just something to “write about.” Being respectful is my first priority.

So first things first, I’m extremely thankful to the people of Newtown allowing myself and a few others to enter their community and pay our respects. They are as kind as they come.

If you can imagine an entire town in mourning, then you’ll have a slight picture of what I saw that day. As myself and four other leaders at my church drove into town, as did so many others with the traffic built up to the point of just parking and walking was easiest, we passed a church that was holding a funeral. That’s when it hit me that I was about to encounter something I never could prepare for.

If I had to choose one word to describe the state of the town, I’d choose somber. It was quiet, rainy and cold. So many people were on the streets, yet it was eerily silent much of the time. The memorials were beautiful and so many items had built up since the beginning of the week. It was overwhelming to see. You couldn’t help but tear up about every five minutes. My heart ached for each and every person there.

As two different funeral processionals drove by that day, and as I stood staring at the Fire House where so much took place just a week before, it became so very real for me. I spent some time talking with a lovely Newtown couple that very night, and I admitted to them in an honest voice, “I really didn’t want to believe it.” I stood their teary-eyed for a moment in their town, in their grief, and they took the time to comfort me. It was extremely sobering. And I was extremely humbled. These people, I thought, are incredible.

I had never heard of this town just one week earlier. Now here I was in front of the fire house where so many hearts were broken. Yet what I took from that day wasn’t that lives were taken, though that was the unfortunate fact, but that people were coming together in so many ways and loving one another. Like the family from North Carolina who drove up so their daughter could bring them her stuffed teddy bear. Amazing.

The quote from the musical, Les Miserables rings true for me in times like this. “To love another person is to see the face of God.” That was never so imminent than during my time in Newtown. There may have been evil done to that place, but there was nothing but love now.

From that day forward, my heart expanded all the way to Connecticut. I will never forget that wonderful place. No body wants to be remembered for what Newtown will be remembered for, but if for some strange reason anyone from Newtown happens to read this, I want you to know I will not rememeber you for what happened there. I will remember you for the love you showed to not only myself, but to each other. I will remember you for your strength and kindness. I will remember the beautiful, quaint, lovely town you created. I will remember you for what you will become from this.

My heart felt a lot of emotions that day that it had never felt before. But there was one thing I knew as we drove out of town late that Friday night …

Newtown, Connecticut is a beautiful place.

%d bloggers like this: