Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Commitment vs. Distractions

It never seems to fail that once I start something new or make a commitment to a goal, distractions multiply and seem to come out of the woodwork!

Take today for instance...

Somehow, my alarm clock was changed to a radio station instead of an actual alarm (I'm sure it was something I did when setting the time). However, I was gently awakened by music and was 2 HOURS LATE to work! So much for trying to read my chapters before I started my day.

On my way in to work, I had to stop and run an errand, making me even later.

Once I got to work, I realized that today is the day I have a lunchtime Bible study in Fayetteville. AUGH! Why did I even come to Peachtree City if I had to turn right back around? At least the Bible study was a bright spot in my day and I read, studied and prayed with some lovely ladies. But, since our Bible study wasn't on Genesis 4-7, I still have my reading to accomplish!

Back at work, problem after problem found it's way to my desk. My inbox is overflowing (my literal AND my virtual inbox). When will I find the time to read?

Also, at the back of my mind is the fact that I'm supposed to see a movie tonight with some friends and really wanted to finish reading the book first. I still have 100 pages to read and only 4 hours before the opening credits.

And none of that takes into account the giant "to do" list I created this morning.

Have you ever had a day like that? You start out with the best of intentions, but when the day is over, you wonder what happened to the time?

Maybe I should take a moment, right now, and spend a few minutes in the Word on Route 66. Hold on. I'll be right back.

...

Ahhhhhh...Now, why didn't I stop and do that this morning? I need to learn not to let the distractions of every day life interfere with my spiritual health. If I'm hungry or thirsty, I stop what I'm doing and meet those needs. Why is it not the same for spiritual hunger? It should be the same.

Father,
Help me hunger and thirst after You and Your Word. Help me put aside distractions, frustrations, and anything else that stands in the way of my time with You. It's only by Your strength that I can accomplish what has been set before me. Help me.
Amen

And, I'll be praying for you, too! I'm glad we're walking this journey together so we can lift one another up when we're discouraged or falling behind.

Monday, April 25, 2011

In the Beginning

Genesis 1:

The first chapter of Genesis gives us a synopsis of the creation account.  I love that it opens with “In the beginning…” because, that’s really where everything began.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit were already there as infinite beings, but this account is where we mark the beginning of time, the birth of creation, and the first steps on this journey of humanity.  In the beginning was God and He created the heavens and earth and all that inhabit them.

Day 1 – God creates light and separates it from the darkness

Day 2 – God creates the sky

Day 3 – God separates the water from dry land, seas from continents; He creates all vegetation

Day 4 – God creates the Sun, Moon and Stars.

Day 5 – God creates the creatures of the air and sea

Day 6 – God creates the creatures of the land; He creates man

I love that God created the world over the span of six days instead of in just a moment.  I believe He had the power to simply speak everything into existence in a  twinkling of His eye, but instead, He chose to demonstrate that not everything is built in a day.  There is a time and a purpose for everything.  And, there is a time for rest.  Order and balance are important and the threads of that are seen throughout the creation story.  

One of my favorite things to note every time I read this passage is that the Lord created light and darkness 3 days before He created the sun, moon and stars.  In our human way of thought, we tend to think of the sun and stars producing light and the moon reflecting it.  But, the Lord says they were given to govern the light that He already made.  Isn’t that beautiful?

Genesis 2
There is a time for rest.  Even the Lord of creation took a day to rest and appreciate His work.  God is always giving us examples of holy and healthy living.  He set aside the seventh day as the Sabbath, from the very beginning, so that we would see His example and take time to rest and reflect.  In our fast paced society, it’s difficult to remember how important that is.  It’s counter-intuitive to us, yet exactly how our Creator intended for us to behave.

The second chapter of Genesis is one of the most beautiful and nostalgic to me.  It is the brief moment in history when everything was perfect and right between God and His people.  This chapter zooms in on the creation of man and woman, like a well told story, so we may see our origin more clearly.  

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (2:7).  

It is because of the breath of God within us that we have a soul, that we have an existence different from the animals.  We were made in the image of God, formed from the dust of the ground, and life was breathed into us.  Isn’t that beautiful?

But, for the first time in the creation story, God looks and says that something isn’t good.  It wasn’t good for man to be alone (2:18).  And so he created woman from the rib of Adam and so began our journey as humanity.

“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (2:25).  And they felt no shame.  Sigh.  For one perfect moment, all was right with the world, we were rightly related to our Heavenly Father and to all of creation.  What a beautiful moment.

Genesis 3
And then came the fall.  Adam and his wife were living in a paradise more beautiful than we can imagine.  Brand new and completely fresh, they stood before the whole world and were rulers over it.  But, a seed of darkness crept into Eden in the body of a serpent.

The serpent came to the woman and planted thoughts of doubt in her mind.  He made her question whether God was really good or if He was holding out on her.  He twisted words and tempted her with the beauty of what God had placed out of bounds for her.  She longed for wisdom and to be like God.

And with that one bite, our relationship with the Creator was broken and a need for redemption entered the world.

The man and woman hid from the Lord.  They knew shame for the first time.  Their eyes were opened and I’m sure they desperately wanted to turn back time.
The blame game began and continues even until this day.  “It wasn’t my fault, I was tricked!  I was tempted!”  But, whatever the case, the perfection had been broken and they were cast out of the garden.  Everything became more difficult.  The serpent was cursed to and made to crawl on his belly.  The woman was given pain in childbirth.  The man was given the task of toiling for his food and survival.

And so it begins.  From the fall to the cross to the empty tomb to the day when the perfect is restored, we begin our journey of redemption.

Route 66: Journey through the Bible in a year

As a church, we are journeying through the 66 books of the Bible in one year. I've been asked to blog about the experience and my reflections. I'll be copying my blogs to this site as well. I hope you'll join with us!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Celebrating 59 Years of Marriage

Today is my Grandparents' 59th wedding anniversary. Can you imagine? Married to the same person for 59 years! I am in awe of such an accomplishment and so thankful I have a marriage like that to observe.

It's always so interesting to me when I talk to my Grandparents about all of the things they have done and observed over the years. There is so much wisdom to be found at the feet of those who have already walked the road.

My Grandpa has always been a hard worker and very good with his resources. He has always done what he needed to do to provide for his family and he is a skilled craftsmen at so many things. He's patient and kind and generous. He's a good, good man.

My Grandma is a very creative person. I love seeing how she chooses to express herself through her artwork. And, she has a passion for passing that love of painting on to others. She loves to teach and watch her students grow. She has, along with my Grandfather, raised 5 children and watched as they have had children and grandchildren. She loves to talk about Jesus and the things she learns.

And, I'm blessed because they both love me very much.

I pray that I one day have the opportunity to live life with someone for such a length of time. Although, my cousin did point out that even if we each got married this year, we'd be 91 when we attained this benchmark.

Congratulations, Grandma and Grandpa Solly! Thanks for bringing my Dad into this world and teaching him what it means to be a good parent. Thanks for loving me and being there for me when I need you. I hope my grandchildren can say the same of me one day. I love you!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Closing the Cirle: Unconfessed Sin

Below are the notes from my sermon this morning. Before I spoke, Mrs. Katie (as Corrie Ten Boom) read an excerpt from Tramp for the Lord.

Closing the Circle
The Power of Unconfessed Sin in the life of a Christian

James 5:13-20

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

In preparation for this message, I read through the book of James. This book has a lot of wisdom to offer for the Christian life. He tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance (James 1:1). And he also tells us that “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (1:5). He teaches us that it is not God who tempts us but we are drawn away by our own evil desires and enticed by sin: “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”(1:14-15)
James talks a lot about sin, it’s effects and how to avoid it. He wisely says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (1:19-20)
He calls on us to be doers of the word (1:22) and to walk out our faith in our actions by caring for the poor, the orphaned, and the widowed (1:27).

In chapter 2, James instructs us not to show favoritism but to love equally and invite all to the table. And, again he tells us that our faith without works is dead. He wants us to show the fruit of our salvation.

Much of chapter 3 is devoted to learning to control the tongue. I’m learning a great deal about that particular spiritual truth and it is mentioned in most wisdom literature. Our words are powerful and we must choose them carefully. Wisdom comes from heaven and is pure, peace loving and full of mercy. That should be reflected in our words if we are the children of God.

In chapter 4, he talks to us about the fighting and back biting that can go on among us. All of these quarrels are rooted in sin and choosing to love the world and the things of the world. None of us is promised tomorrow, so we should live each day to the fullest and not pin our hopes on a future that is uncertain. One especially interesting point he makes in chapter 4 is found in verse 17: “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” So, it’s no longer about the sins you commit, but also about a failure to be obedient. James has a lot of wisdom, but also some very tough truths for us today. We are called to a difficult road as Christians, but we are promised joy in the process.

The last chapter of James begins by reiterating some of what he has already said. Do not oppress the poor (5:1-6) and be patient in suffering (5:7-12). But, when we come to the summary regarding prayer, there is a portion we so often overlook.

James says if anyone is in trouble, he should pray. That makes sense to us. Easy.

Then he says, if anyone is happy, they should sing praise songs. Sounds good.

Or if anyone is sick, he should call on the elders to pray, lay hands on him and anoint him with oil. He says that the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. He will be raised up and his sins forgiven.

All of that falls very much in line with our Christian doctrines, beliefs and actions.

It’s the next portion that starts to make us a little squeamish.

“Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Confess my sins to someone else? I don’t know about that. That would be humiliating!

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” There doesn’t seem to be any gray in that, does there?

James doesn’t stop there, he continues in the same breath to say “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Are my unconfessed sins weakening the power of my prayers? According to James, yes. As you heard in the story of Ms. Corrie Ten Boom, unconfessed sin in our lives breaks the circle of protection the Father desperately wants to keep around us. By holding in those dark secrets, we allow Satan to get a foothold in our hearts, in our minds, in our spirits. We start to fill up with things that block the communication between us and God.

When I read the notes regarding what Pastor Greg wanted me to preach about today, I laughed out loud. The Lord has a funny sense of humor. You see, last week, as we prepared to take communion, Pastor Greg read from I Corinthians 11:17-34. Paul was addressing a situation in the church in Corinth where the Lord’s supper was being taken in an unworthy manner. Pastor Greg charged us to take a moment to examine our hearts and confess any sin to the Lord before partaking in the Lord’s supper. As I prayed in preparation, the Lord revealed some things in my heart – some sin that needed to be confessed. I took that moment to confess those things to the Lord and repent of them before taking the Lord’s supper. But, James says we must also confess our sins to each other and pray for each other.

I have a great network of support and accountability. My best friend has been my best friend since I was 14 years old. She knows me better than just about any other person on the planet. And, she loves me fiercely and with a grace I hope I return to her in any portion. She’s someone I know I can call and confess my sins to and she will love me, offer gentle wisdom and correction, and pray with me that I may have victory over whatever it is. I have found this to be priceless in my life; absolutely priceless.

But, as the Lord’s sense of humor is a complicated thing sometimes, He continued setting up His punchline for me. There is a situation in my life for which I’ve been praying for some time. Lately, I’ve begun to pray that the truth would just rise to the surface, but I haven’t seen any movement in that direction. But, since I’ve confessed the sin in my heart and to my friend, suddenly, truths have begun surfacing. It’s small, but to me, it was a confirmation of the truth the Lord was proving in my life.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16).

It was after all of this that I reviewed the notes for this sermon. I really couldn’t help laughing out loud at how the Lord works. He’d already walked me through this journey so that I could stand before you and be transparent and have fresh proof of His truth.

But, James also gives us proof. He references the story of Elijah from I Kings 17-18. Elijah was sent as a prophet to God’s people. He called down the judgment of God in the form of a drought. No rain, not even any dew, would be on the ground until Elijah asked the Lord. It was three and half years before the people again had rain.

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Because Elijah was obedient to the Lord, he performed and witnessed many miracles. He saw a jar of flour and oil remain miraculously full while the drought remained. He raised a boy from the dead. And, he took on 450 prophets of Baal and proved that our God is real and powerful.

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

In what areas of your life are you lacking power in prayer?

Are you feeling like your prayers are just bouncing off of the ceiling and not making their way to heaven’s ears?

What in your life may be weakening your prayers and opening the circle of the blood of Jesus in your life?

Dig deep. Don’t be afraid to search them out – there is healing in shining the light on the dark places. Find someone you trust and confess your sins and pray together. There is healing there.

James ends by giving us this truth: “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (5:19-20)

There is life, healing, and freedom in the confession of sins. It’s a discipline that we don’t like to embrace. We don’t like to unzip our hearts and show the darkness inside. But, the Lord offers healing and power to those who are willing to close the circle and be surrounded by His blood.

Tramp for the Lord: Chapter 30

This is an excerpt from Tramp for the Lord by Corrie Ten Boom

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

Chapter 30: Closing the Circle

It would seem, after having been a Christian for almost eighty years, that I would no longer do ugly things that need forgiving. Yet I am constantly doing things to others that cause me to have to go back and ask their forgiveness. Sometimes these are things I actually do - other times they are simply attitudes I let creep in which break the circle of God's perfect love.

I first learned the secret of closing the circle from my nephew, Peter van Woerden, who was spending the weekend with me in our little apartment in Baarn, Holland.

"Do you remember that boy, Jan, that we prayed for?" Peter asked.

I well remember Jan. We had prayed for him many times. He had a horrible demon of darkness in his life and although we had fasted and prayed and cast out the demon in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the darkness always returned.

Peter continued, "I knew God had brought this boy to me not only so he could be delivered, but to teach me some lessons too."

I looked at Peter. "What could that boy, Jan, so filled with darkness, teach you?"

"I did not learn the lesson from Jan," Peter smiled. "But from God. Once in my intercession time for Jan the Lord told me to open the Bible to I John 1:7-9. I read that passage about confessing our sin and asked the Lord what that had to do with the darkness in Jan's life."

Peter got up and walked across the room, holding his open Bible in his hand. "God taught me that if a Christian walks in the light then the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses him from all sin, making his life a closed circle and protecting him from all outside dark powers. But - "he turned and emphatically jabbed his finger into the pages of the Bible - "If there is unconfessed sin in that life, the circle has an opening in it - a gap - and this allows the dark powers to come back in."

Ah, I thought, Peter has really learned a truth from the Lord.

"Tante Corrie," Peter continued, "even though I was able to cast out the demon in Jan's life, it always crept back in through the opening in the circle - the opening of Jan's unconfessed sin. But when I led Jan to confess this sin, then the circle was closed and the dark powers could no longer return."

That same week the wife of a good friend came to me for counseling. After I had fixed her a cup of tea she began to tell me about all the people who had prayed for her, yet she was still experiencing horrible dreams at night.

I interrupted her conversation and drew a circle on a piece of paper. "Mary," I said, "do you have unconfessed sin in your life? Is this the reason the circle is still open?"

Mary said nothing, sitting with her head down, her hands tightly clasped in her lap, her feet together. I could see there was a strong battle going on in her life - a battle between spiritual forces.

"Do you really want to be free?" I urged.

"Oh, yes," she said.

Suddenly she began telling me about a strong hatred she had for her mother. Everyone thought she loved her mother, but inside there were things that caused her actually to want to kill her. Yet, even as she spoke, I saw freedom coming into her eyes.

She finished her confession and then quickly asked Jesus to forgive her and cleanse her with His blood. I looked into her eyes and commanded the demon of hatred to lave in the name of Jesus.

What Joy! What freedom!

Mary raised her hands in victory and began to praise the Lord, thanking Him for the liberation and forgiveness He had given her. Then she reached over and embraced me in a hug so tight I thought she would crack my ribs.

"Dear Lord," she prayed, "I thank You for closing the circle with Your blood."

Having thus learned to close the circle by confessing my sins, I wish I could say that ever since then the circle has remained closed in my life. It is not so. For since Satan comes against us so often, then it is necessary to confess often, also. Regardless of how old a person may be, or how long he has ministered in the Name of Jesus Christ, that man still needs to confess his sins again and again - and ask forgiveness.

This truth became painfully clear to me recently when I was invited to Washington, D.C., to speak to a luncheon of businessmen and women. I love to talk to businessmen and was very excited about the meeting. When I arrived, however, I found only women present. This upset me for I felt that men needed to hear the message of forgiveness also.

After the meeting a fine-looking lady came up to me. "I am in charge of arranging the program for the world convention of our ladies'group,"she said. "Some of the most influential women in the world will be present. Would you come speak to us in San Francisco?"

I was still miffed that no men had been present for the luncheon. It's not that I disapprove of women's meetings. But I am concerned when men leave the spiritual activity to the women. God is calling men. Thus, I gave her a short, discourteous answer. "No, I will not. I must speak to men also. I don't like this business of all women."

She was very gracious. "Don't you feel that you are the right person?" she asked.

"No," I said, "I am not the right person. I do not like this American system where men go about their business leaving the women to act like Christians. I will not come." I turned and walked away.

Later that afternoon I was in my room, packing to catch the plane. The Lord began dealing with me. "You were very rude to that woman," He said again, gently.

I argued with the Lord. "But Lord, I feel that Your message is for all people, not just the women."

"You were very rude to that woman,"He said again, gently.
He was right, of course. He always is. I had been speaking on forgiveness, but was unwilling to ask forgiveness for myself. I knew I was going to have to go that gracious woman and apologize - confess my sin. Until I did, the circle would be open in my life and Satan would be pouring in many other dark thoughts as well.

I looked at my watch and saw I had only enough time to finish my packing and get to the airport. It made no difference. If I left Washington without closing the circle, I would be no good anywhere else. I would just have to miss my plane.

I called the front desk and found which room the woman was in. Then I went to her room. "I must ask your forgiveness," I said as she opened the door. "I spoke to you rudely."

She was embarrassed and tried to pass it off. "Oh, no," she said, "you were not unkind. I understand perfectly. I, too, feel that men should be the spiritual leaders, not women."

She was returning my unkindness with kindness, but that was not what I needed. I needed for her to admit that I was wrong about not speaking to women, and forgive me. I know it is often more difficult to forgive than to ask forgiveness, but it is equally important. To withhold forgiveness often leaves another person in bondage, unable to close the circle, and thus open to further attacks from Satan. It is as important to forgive as it is to ask forgiveness.

This sensitive woman understood. Reaching out and tenderly touching my hand, she said, "I understand, Tante Corrie. I forgive you for your remarks about women's groups and I forgive you for being unkind to me."

That was what I needed to hear. In the future I would indeed speak to women's groups. I would also keep a watch on my lips when tempted to speak unkindly. I missed my plane, but the circle was closed.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Healing through Tears

I've been listening to this song, over and over, for the last couple of days. It has connected deeply with my heart and I want to share it with you.

Blessings
by: Laura Story

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause What if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing through tears
And What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we can not feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd faith to believe

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
And what if trials of this life, are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win we know
The pain reminds this heart that this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
And what if trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise


8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55:8-9


We so often think we know what is best for us or how a situation should be handled. We ask the Lord, all the time, for things we don't understand. I love the line that says, "You love us way too much to give us lesser things." The plan the Lord has for us is so much greater than we could imagine, and yet we constantly ask to settle for less. "What if Your blessings come through raindrops, what if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near? What if the trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?"

What if?

What if the pain I'm experiencing today is preparing me for something down the road? What if I'd crumble without my experience now?

What if the disappointment I'm facing is God's grace for me in a way I can't yet see?

What if, when I pray for healing for a loved one, the Lord chooses not to heal or to call them home? Who am I to question that?

He hears me. I know that. His "no" is the kindest answer He can give, sometimes, even if we don't see it that way.

His ways are higher than ours.

His thoughts are beyond our comprehension.

What a blessing to have a Father who knows and sees all and is working all things together for our good. All things. Not just the things we think are good. All things. (Thanks, Daniel, for pointing that out). Romans 8:28.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSVqHcdhXQ

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Be Kind. Always Be Kind.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." - Plato

That quote has been rattling around in my mind for several days. I think it is one of the wisest and gracious things I've ever heard. I've heard it from time to time over the years, but this week, it really has penetrated my heart.

We don't know what goes on in the hearts, minds, and souls of the people around us. Sometimes, the ones who seem to have it the most together are the ones who are really grasping at a final thread. Sometimes, when someone snaps at us or is cross, it really has nothing to do with the person, moment, or situation at hand, but about the battle they may be fighting internally.

In dealing with difficult people, I often step back and ask the Lord to allow me to see them as He sees them. This approach has radically changed the way I deal with conflict. If someone offends me, says something hurtful, or acts in a way that is unpleasant, I try to see the root of their pain. I once heard it said that "wounded people wound people". In most cases, if someone is causing you pain, it is coming from their own internal pain.

How much more peace would we have if we all remembered to be kind and not assume that everything is completely about us?

How would we respond to insults if we realized that they may be coming from a place of great pain?

Would we take things less personally?

Would we hold fewer grudges?

I know that there have been times in my life where I have been in great emotional, mental, and internal turmoil. In those times, I know I have lashed out at the people who have only wanted to help me. It's part of our human nature and not so different from that of the animal kingdom. Imagine a dog who has been in a fight and is wounded. Even though he knows his owner loves him, his pain overrides that knowledge and reacts. He may snarl or bite at anyone who causes him more pain by trying to cleanse his wounds so they may heal. It's just his instinct, as it is ours sometimes in moments of great pain.

So, it bears repeating:

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

You never know when you may need for someone to be kind to you.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Self-Censorship

I've had some thoughts stirring around in my head lately and have been struggling with how to express them. My first amendment right, as an American, tells me I have the freedom to speak my mind. And, this is my personal little corner of the blogosphere, so this is where I choose to do just that. No one is forced to read it. No one is under any obligation to agree with it. And, it is open for comments and rebuttals in the spirit of fairness and engaging conversation.

But, just because I have the right to say something and I feel like I want to, does that mean that I should?

I just finished a month of reading a chapter of Proverbs every day. Much of what I learned was about holding my tongue and not stirring up strife. So, as I thought about my blog post today, I thought it through to who might read it and how they might respond. This is usually my process in writing; it's always a good idea to consider your audience. I also consider the consequences.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone says something they believe in and then get angry at those who have counter arguments, or who "punish" them for their stance. It's always interesting to me when people claim their right to free speech while simultaneously wanting to inhibit others when it comes to voicing dissent. So, if I put something out there, I have to know that I am prepared for the backlash and that it is something important enough for me to fight for it.

Today I had to make that decision. I had in my mind a blog I wanted to write, but I knew that it would offend and possibly hurt some people. And, while I choose not to live my life in an effort to please others, this particular battle didn't amount to one I wanted to fight. So, because of my renewed vigilance over my tongue and the pause I give myself before posting, I thought through the writing process. It turned out that I didn't have to write it in a way that was offensive at all, but could concentrate on the beauty of the ultimiate point I had hoped to make. I think it was a much better piece because of my partial censorship.

Just because it is my right to post whatever thoughts tumble across my mind doesn't mean it's wise, good, or edifying to do so. Today I found a way to share my thoughts without making any of it seem personal to any of my readers. And, yet, it's personal to all of us because the themes are universal.

So, thank you, 31 Days of Wisdom for giving me pause and saving me (and others) needless drama.

The Beauty of a Bride

As a vocalist, I've been involved in more than my fair share of weddings. I've also had the honor of attending a number of them as a guest. And, tomorrow, I will be helping photograph one for the first time. So, as wedding season approaches and I prepare by learning new music, practicing the piano, and brushing up on my photographic skills, I've had the opportunity to think a lot about brides.

I love wedding ceremonies. I think they are beautiful. When I've had the honor of singing for a bride and groom whom I love deeply, I fight hard to remain professional and not burst into tears in the middle of a song. I love the beautiful dresses and the fragrant flowers. I love getting to be part of a day that means so much in the lives of two people.

But, what I love most about weddings is that they represent the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church. It's an earthly picture of that moment that awaits us when we are finally face to face with our Beloved. It's a glimpse of what it will be like to stand before our Savior, clothed in white, washed clean and brilliant from our sins, and be made complete in Him. It gives me chills to think of that day.

I've been searching the scriptures about this relationship between Christ and the Church lately. And, I've been searching them specifically for correlations between the husband and wife relationship. The more I read God's Word about how that relationship should be, the more beautiful it becomes to me.

Do you know what my favorite part of a wedding ceremony is? It's that one moment when the groom catches the first glimpse of his bride. I love to watch the expression on his face as he sees her coming toward him down the aisle. In that moment, she is as we will one day be when presented to the Bridegroom. She is clothed in white, radiant in beauty, fully in love, and preparing to join her life forever with her beloved. It's priceless.

I do hope the Lord gives me a husband while I am here on earth, but as I walk more with Him, my longing for Heaven grows stronger. I long for the day when I will stand before the Lord, part of His Church, and be welcomed as His Bride. In that day, I want to hear "Well done, good and faithful servant." Whether I get to be a bride here, I know that I am a bride who is waiting for the return of her Bridegroom and preparing for his arrival.

And, so that is why I love weddings; why they fill me with joy. The beauty of a bride is reflected in the love of her bridegroom and it's clear for all to see. It's a glimpse of what awaits, and it's beautiful.