It is time.

It is time.
Time to deal with
the pain,
the past,
and let it go.
Forgiveness.
Rejection
is no longer
a fear.
Your confidence
is in your God,
not in man.
His acceptance
is all you need.
It will
quell
those voices
from the past,
those that say
“You are not
worthy.
You do not
deserve this.”

See, you
are His child.
And you deserve
what He says
you deserve.
And that
is good.
Peace.
Joy.
Hope.

But God, don’t You see me?

Yes, child,
I see you.
But not as
you see yourself.
I look at you
through
eyes of
mercy
love
compassion
and forgiveness.

You need to
forgive
yourself.

For what?

For falling short
of your own
expectations.
For failing
in what
you thought
you should
do or be.
See, My plans for you
are not what
you would choose.

What a shock. I thought I had that one figured out. After all, look where I am and how I’m living.

But
that
is
coming
to an end.

Let
Me
Work.

Yield to Me.
Be sensitive
and willing.

Oh, what I have for you, My child! Let Me work it in you. Stop the fighting. Let go of your pride and fear and let Me work. For I am not some vengeful master, but a loving Father. I desire good for you if you will accept it. I don’t wait for you to stumble so I can whack you. I am not your dad – I am your Father.
©1-29-1997

In Search of Worship

I have been searching for a new church since I moved back to this area a year ago. I have had to leave several services early because the music was so loud it gave me a migraine. Is this really worship, or is it a concert? Does it enable the average church member or visitor to set aside the cares of the world and focus on God, or is it meant to entertain? Do we need a darkened auditorium, spotlights, and fog machines to proclaim the majesty of Almighty God? What I see from my seat in these environments is less and less participation, especially when the “worship team” chooses songs with too many words or a melody line outside the range of most average singers. It is becoming a spectator sport instead of a way of coming together as believers to give reverence and awe to the God who gives us hope in a lost and dying world.

I know this will age me, but I was taught that praise and worship served a purpose, and that was to bring us into the throne room of God and prepare us to hear what God wanted to say to us. It was a way of setting aside the worries and concerns of daily life, unifying us as a people, and focusing on the One who could give us hope when all hope was lost. It was, at times, a sacrifice, especially when we were struggling or hurting or angry. It was a way of declaring that even in the midst of our trials and tribulations, God was still on the throne, and we were going to set aside this time to focus on Him instead of ourselves.

Our worship team was seen not only as a vital part of the ministry of the church, but also as people who set an example for young believers and newcomers. We dressed appropriately, wearing modest clothes so as not to draw the eye of the weak to areas they shouldn’t be looking at. We were not seen as the focal point, but rather as vessels. Our goal was leading the church into the presence of God. Being on the worship team was a privilege and a responsibility.

I fear that in the search for contemporary relevance and relatability, and in an attempt to get more backsides in the seats, we have lost sight of our vision. We have watered down the truth of the Gospel to pacify people who want to come to church, but don’t want to change. They want to feel good about what God has done for them, but they don’t really want to do anything for God. They don’t want to alter their lifestyles, give up their sinful behavior, or make any significant modifications to their lives.

We have taken the phrase “Come as you are” and forgotten that an intense, sincere relationship with God will not leave you where you were when you began. Failing to challenge believers to become more holy, to be in the world but not of it, and to seek to become more Christ-like is falling far short of the mark of excellence we are called to as Christians. We should be different. We should be peculiar, odd, & seen as out of place on this planet where sin, hate, strife, and division are spiraling out of control. We should be a light in the darkness.

It is simply not enough to come to church on Sunday, sing three songs from the current CCM radio station playlist, listen to a feel-good sermon, and walk back out the doors unchallenged and unchanged. That is not worship…. It is entertainment.

C.S. Lewis on Christmas

Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus

by C. S. Lewis

And beyond this there lies in the ocean, turned towards the west and north, the island of Niatirb which Hecataeus indeed declares to be the same size and shape as Sicily, but it is larger, though in calling it triangular a man would not miss the mark. It is densely inhabited by men who wear clothes not very different from the other barbarians who occupy the north western parts of Europe though they do not agree with them in language. These islanders, surpassing all the men of whom we know in patience and endurance, use the following customs.

In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card. But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what these pictures have to do with the festival; guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the marketplace is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness.

But having bought as many as they suppose to be sufficient, they return to their houses and find there the like cards which others have sent to them. And when they find cards from any to whom they also have sent cards, they throw them away and give thanks to the gods that this labour at least is over for another year. But when they find cards from any to whom they have not sent, then they beat their breasts and wail and utter curses against the sender; and, having sufficiently lamented their misfortune, they put on their boots again and go out into the fog and rain and buy a card for him also. And let this account suffice about Exmas-cards.

They also send gifts to one another, suffering the same things about the gifts as about the cards, or even worse. For every citizen has to guess the value of the gift which every friend will send to him so that he may send one of equal value, whether he can afford it or not. And they buy as gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself. For the sellers, understanding the custom, put forth all kinds of trumpery, and whatever, being useless and ridiculous, they have been unable to sell throughout the year they now sell as an Exmas gift. And though the Niatirbians profess themselves to lack sufficient necessary things, such as metal, leather, wood and paper, yet an incredible quantity of these things is wasted every year, being made into the gifts.

But during these fifty days the oldest, poorest, and most miserable of the citizens put on false beards and red robes and walk about the market-place; being disguised (in my opinion) as Cronos. And the sellers of gifts no less than the purchaser’s become pale and weary, because of the crowds and the fog, so that any man who came into a Niatirbian city at this season would think some great public calamity had fallen on Niatirb. This fifty days of preparation is called in their barbarian speech the Exmas Rush.

But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine. For wine is so dear among the Niatirbians that a man must swallow the worth of a talent before he is well intoxicated.

Such, then, are their customs about the Exmas. But the few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)

But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient. But the priest replied, “It is not lawful, O stranger, for us to change the date of Chrissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left.” And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, “It is, O Stranger, a racket”; using (as I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for a racket is an instrument which the barbarians use in a game called tennis).

But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible. For first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about Crissmas. And secondly, the most part of the Niatirbians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in the Rush and drink, wearing paper caps. But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in. And now, enough about Niatirb.

Random Thinkerations

IMG_20190214_100117052
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. Stunning!

Yep….I made up a new word. More than thoughts….progressive development of thoughts created by thinking about thoughts. Like it?

So today I’m sitting at the library in Waycross, GA. It seemed as good a place as any to stop and take advantage of power as well as free wi-fi. It’s been a week since I last made an entry; this one is more about me and less about others.

See, I’ve been learning a lot since I hit the road. God speaks to me in all kinds of cool ways through all sorts of neat things. I’d like to share some of them with you.

First off, we look at things not only through a mirror, as it says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, but we only see a teeny little bit of everything going on around as well as within us. For instance, I have some issues. (Yeah, I know – what a shock!) When I look at them, I see what appears to be a massive tree right in front of me. It blocks my view of anything else as well as shutting out the sun, rain, and anything else of positive note. All I can focus on is that silly huge tree blocking my way, with massive branches hanging over my head and threatening to fall on me, destroying who I am.

Well, guess what? That tree isn’t even really there. It’s more of a tumbleweed, really. It’s only part of what makes me who I am, but the reason I see it as being so big is because I’m limited by who I am, what I’ve experienced, and how I see the world. Everything I’ve gone through in my life affects how I view a crisis, challenge, or what I see as a failure. I take things very personally, partly because of how I was raised, but also because of how that upbringing conditioned me to see not only myself, but the world.

See, I grew up being compared to others and always, in my mother’s eyes, falling short of hitting the mark. I wasn’t thin enough, or active enough, or social enough. I had “a pretty face,” but this meant I was fat and needed to lose weight. This isn’t intended as a criticism of my mom, but an explanation of why I am who I am and the reasons I struggle with accepting my existence, weaknesses and strengths without feeling the need to justify everything or tear apart every failure. I’m great at criticizing myself, but not so good at accepting that I’m good or deserve anything positive.

Even though I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus at a relatively young age (14), I struggled then and continue to wrestle now with accepting His love towards me just the way I am. I can never seem to feel like I quite hit the mark. I make silly mistakes, jump off into deep water seemingly without thinking, and I can’t keep my mouth shut. I have no filter and very little in the way of tact. This causes crises that further reinforce my sensation of undeservedness and fuels my feelings of insufficiency. It hasn’t caused me to lose my faith; in fact, it has given me reason to cling even more desperately to the Father like His love is a life raft and I’m in the eye of a hurricane. Without my faith, I’d be dead. No doubt. However, this whole mess colors how I look at myself and my life both in general and in day-to-day situations.

I think we all suffer with this tunnel vision to some extent…..some of us more than others. I know people who appear to breeze through life without a trial, tribulation, or loss of anything that appears significant. They have good jobs, nice houses, and their kids are successful as well. However, what we see on the surface is only the visible. Who knows what they deal with inside their own heads? Do they doubt themselves as much as I do? Do they accept the love of God without fear? Do they beat themselves up every time they make a mistake? What about the pressure to keep up with the income, the possessions, the reputation? Do they ever want to do what I just did — sell everything and move into a van?

Anywho….to get on with my point…..when I was out west for my first frantic trip, I saw lots of cool stuff. One thing God used to speak to me was the desert. It looks kinda dry and barren, but things still live and even flourish there. Cacti absorb water when it rains to feed themselves and a wide assortment of wildlife in the dry season. Insects burrow into the sand in the heat of the day and come out at night. In the spring, there are flowers and fresh growth shows up everywhere. Lavender grows wild on the roadsides, adding a gentle beauty to the sand and scrub brush. What looks kinda desolate is actually teeming with life of a different sort — the kind that grows, propagates, and brings beauty to the environment around it.

So why do we complain when we find ourselves in the desert? Instead of bemoaning the lack of surroundings we’re used to, could we look instead for the hidden blessings and opportunities for growth? Could we garner something positive and develop our characters so when we were in seasons of drought, we’d still have resources to draw on? Could we become people who never stop looking to learn, reaching for the positive and the possible?

It’s the same with the northern climates…..yeah, snow is cold and wet and hampers movement and it can be as dangerous as the desert. However, its purpose is plain. It allows perennial plants to go dormant, preparing for the next season of growth. It provides moisture for forests and fields, enabling all kinds of life to be sustained. It even gives people the opportunity to rest inside by a fire, enjoy a day of skiing or sledding, and have some down time with a cup of hot chocolate while relaxing alone or with loved ones. John 12:24 says a seed has to fall to the ground and die before bursting into life; are humans the same way? Sometimes we need a period of rest and just being still before moving on to the next thing. We don’t always need to be doing things. It’s okay to sit at Jesus’ feet and just be.

So anyhow, those are the beginnings of my rambling thoughts. I hope maybe they make sense to someone and even possibly bring a blessing to another pilgrim struggling, like me, to make some kind of sense of life….or just to live and enjoy it and stop trying to figure everything out…..

because, yanno, we can’t. Only God can.

Blessings.

Where is your faith based?

If your faith as a Christian is based on how much you are financially blessed or the state of your health, you’re in for a rude awakening. NOWHERE in the Word of God are we promised an easy ride. What we are promised is that God will be with us along our journey. I can uncategorically testify that the struggles I have been through in my life have strengthened my faith, and despite the fact I can’t afford the finer things in life, don’t have perfect health, and live on disability because of my health issues, I have an unshaken, unwavering, undoubting faith in Almighty God and His ability to turn even the worst things that have happened to me for His good. He is faithful. He is good. He is my security and hope in the middle of the chaos that is my life. His unchanging love makes my life worth living….that He cares enough to love me in the here and now, in this mess of a body, with these failings and shortcomings, gives me the strength to keep going. It’s not about what I have or don’t have, whether I’m rich or poor, whether I live in a mansion or a tent….God is God is God….and that is enough.

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] {John 16:33 Amplified Bible (AMP)}