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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Shades of the Past

  "...We wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men."
                      - Isaiah 59:9-10

   The cloud-fog hangs low and despairing over the world outside. Deep and sinking, it shrouds the mountains that stand so tall and imposing. Even more, it hides the light so needed. No warmth. Just grey nothing...just masked emptiness. So, too, is the inner soul. The soul is trapped in the hallow loneliness of hiding. The darkness follows. Night or day, it is forever invading the supposed peace one thinks they have. The shadows linger on with no light to break them...waiting for Light, beholding obscurity. Stumbling continuously. Treading in "desolate places" like the dead. This is a life-less existence. This is the broken purpose.
  But, into these penetrating clouds, into this darkness, appears a hope. Intent on finding a way to rescue, to give sight, to bring illumination, comes the Savior. He in whom there is no darkness, steps into our own without fear. Life approaches the nearly dead. Bringing an offering of joy and life-abundant is the One who saves eternal. In Him, the obscurity vanishes, our sight returns, and we become resurrected. We become alive!

   The fog breaks, and the warm rays of the sun drive it running. The mountain grandeur returns, and all becomes clear. Apart from the promise that the God I need (even when I resist it) will find a way to reach me where I am is what keeps me from returning to those shades of my past. He is what holds me back. I realize that my deliverance is when I am defeated. This groping about, this wandering, led me to the foot of the cross. And while I regret my years of hiding, of running from His love, I do not regret that I ended up at surrender. And the love that drew this fearful soul out won't let me go until its work is completed. I am God's beloved. All has turned to light. To His Light. Now the blind sees. And darkness no longer reigns.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Question of the Week

The question of the week:

When did you first become open to Grace?

I would love to hear about the journey that allowed you to fall in love with life and become open to the Giver of Grace. 

Comment on the homepage of my blog, email me at the address given on the "Contact Me" page, or also comment on Google+ if you prefer.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Winning Your Spurs

  Recently, I was introduced to a beautiful song, thanks to the musical group, "Libera." I had never heard this before and was deeply moved by the powerful words. They are as follows:

" When a knight won his spurs, in the stories of old,
 He was gentle and brave; he was gallant and bold,
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand,
For God and for valor he rode through the land.

No charger have I, and no sword by my side
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride,
Though back into story-land giants have fled,
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead.

Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
'Gainst the dragons of anger, the ogres of greed;
And let me set free with the sword of my youth,
From the castle of darkness, the pow'r of the truth."
- words written by Jan Stuther

Whatever battles you may fight today, be they internal or external, go win your spurs with faith and joy. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Necessary Mendings

  Shingles fly past the window. Debris falls with a thud. Everything looks of an ending - a death of sorts. With each rip, what is under becomes exposed. The old is done away with, making room for the new. This is how life is, is it not? Only in the stripping away, the tearing apart, is the soul exposed. Could much of the answer lie in the simple fact that I cannot discover Grace until I know myself? Maybe the long sought after healing lies in the fact that my heart must be broken, the falsehood that covers must be torn apart, before the truth of who I am can be revealed. 
  The Master never wounds without planning to restore, never allows suffering without intending to heal. Redemption is always at the core of His plan. But sometimes, it's hard to see the hidden Grace. It's hard to picture life coming from death. When everything around you shows decay, ruin, a world fallen, where can you view the Divine? Where does hope show itself? Is it not in replacing the broken with the whole, in exchanging  a death for a resurrection? The ripping, the tearing out must take place if I am to transform. Everything that has sealed in the decay must go. Truth must replace the lie. Exposing is the path to life, to joy, to fullness. Hiding only holds in the sin. Only keeps the darkness in deeper. To truly experience the mending is to witness the rot. To acknowledge the pain is to open up to the repair. 
  Gentle Hands put pieces together. New replaces the old. Parts come together. All is made well.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Quote of the Day

  " In affliction we learn the lesson of the necessity of living by faith and not feeling or perception. God teaches this by the uncertainty of life's changes: hope today, and tomorrow at the point of death; good news today, and bad tomorrow; comfort here, and soul-wounding terror there. O the ebbs and flows of earthly hopes! What a woeful, heart-dividing life is the life of sense!...It is bandied up and down between hopes and fears, to be baffled to and fro between maybes. It is like the mariners upon the tempestuous sea. They mount up to heaven, then down again to the depths. Their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro and stagger like a drunken man and are at their wit's end. Thus, God teaches the necessity of a life of faith through our disappointments."
                                      - Thomas Case in Voices From the Past *

* This book is available from Banner of Truth Trust and is copyrighted 2009.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Value of Music

  As a musician, I have long seen the positive effects of music on the human soul. In some of the happiest hours of my life as well as the darkest, music has been a way of expressing my emotions when no words could. So often, I have either made my own music or relied on that of someone else to give voice to what is within. Sometimes it is celebration; other times it is grief. Whatever the need, music has been there to comfort and encourage me through so many seasons.
  Over the years, I have come to believe that music can have a powerful impact on the hurting heart, that a beautiful melody can soothe the inner turmoil created by the storms of life. Recently, I was made aware of another who shares this perspective and has applied it in a very unique way. Arthur Bloom, a professional pianist and composer, saw a need in our young injured veterans who were recovering in the hospital. He realized that music could be yet another way to help heal the hidden wounds of war, and so he set up the organization, "MusiCorps." The following video tells the story of how this program was born and the immediate affect it had on our nation's warriors:

  Shortly after its founding, MusiCorps staff members saw a remarkable drop in the wounded warriors' use of antidepressants and other forms of medication. Depression rates went down as those recovering were given a positive direction for their pain. The overall morale of those participating in the program was high. The injured were now picking up their instruments and playing in the long hours of the night rather than sitting and battling their inner darkness. MusiCorps provided a new avenue for them that they did not have previously.
   Studies have shown that even certain types of music are more beneficial for healing than others, and specific styles of music actually have the ability to rebuild neurons in the brain. Music can be a very influential part of someone's emotional and physical recovery.
  I can personally attest to the healing power of music, remembering back to when my dad was deathly ill in the summer of 2007. Playing the piano was sometimes my only escape from the worry and pain I felt regarding his situation. Even after he returned home from the hospital and life started to regain its normalcy, I have continued to turn to this incredible God-given gift as a source of hope in my life. Perhaps you have discovered this as well.  
  I am thankful that God has given us this incredible gift. Where would our world be without the beauty, inspiration, and healing that music brings to us! Music comes to us from its Designer and blesses this broken earth with its peaceful harmonies, lifting us to a place of hope no matter how dark our situation may be. 

* To learn more about MusiCorps and its work, visit:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Girl in the Mirror

  I look in the mirror, and I see her. She is so full of life, so happy. There is a glow to her face that speaks of joy. Everything about her says, " I know who I am; I know to Whom I belong." She seems to radiate Grace. But one would never know...
  It was not always so. Not that long ago, a different girl stared back from the glass. She wanted so desperately to feel alive, but she didn't. She lived her life in fear: fear of others' rejection, fear of her own failure, fear of what might be discovered were she to tell the whole truth about herself. Constantly, she sought to be validated for the choices she had made in her life - choices she knew were unconventional yet always seemed to bring doubt from those around her. She felt as though her life had no purpose. While she continued to try to reach out to others, she withdrew inside because she thought that they wouldn't understand her. She tucked away her pain. She tried to hide her heart from them. She hoped they wouldn't notice...
   This is the working of Love: that one so afraid, so unhappy inside, could one day become a conduit of hope to a hurting world. Hope once seemed like a dream to her. She thought she would never find it. In reality, it found her. Those days of wondering if she belonged - those times of thinking that others might judge - those long nights of lying in the dark feeling lost and alone - she reflects on them often. She knows the pain of feeling as though God had let her down. She knows what it is like to wonder if the hurt could be redeemed. She knows it all well...
    And she knows what it is like to become open to Grace. She once asked for the life she now enjoys. Inspired by the example of another, she prayed the most daring prayer of her young life: "Whatever it is that I am seeing, I want that for myself. I am willing to do whatever it takes to obtain that. I just want to change. I want to help change others' lives like that. I want that joy. I want my life to look like that." In time, she would realize what it was that she saw: it was a life that was open to God. It was a life open to Grace. And the desire to have that same openness would lead her on a journey she would never regret.
    She has been given what she asked for and so much more! Everyday, she wakes up and thanks her Creator that He has allowed her another day to live. Another day to give hope, to continue to become what she knows she wants to be. What she knows she can be. Her life has transformed into this never-ending cycle of Grace, of receiving and giving back to the Giver what is His. And this has made her whole. This has removed the fear that once stood in her way. She has come to know that she is dearly loved. She now believes that her purpose is to embrace this life-giving Grace - to embrace the One from Whom it comes. And, in doing so, she will then touch the lives of those around her...even the ones who have never understood her journey. She is no longer afraid of what they might see because she knows that her Savior isn't afraid of it. His love has made the difference. 
   I look in the mirror, and I see her now. She is fully living. She is fully embracing. She is open to Grace. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Being Free

  What does it mean to be free? Many say that it is a life without rules; others say that it is a life without authority; some say it is even an existence without God. So many answers beyond those exist...
  But what does it really mean to be free when, so often, we feel bound by this thing called life. We want to be out from under the pressure of performance; we want to escape  the sense of shame we carry; we yearn to move past the pain we have endured. We want to be able to live abundant and full existences. And yet, we begin to think it's impossible...because there is just too much holding us down.

   I want to pose a question, though: could it be that, in order to arrive at the freedom we desire, we must learn to face what we feel bound by? Perhaps the reason why we feel like we are alive but not living is because we have looked for freedom from our bondage yet have been unwilling to walk through it.
  At an earlier time in my life, I wanted escape in the worst way. Feeling the burden that I carried, all I hoped for was that it would go away. But I later learned that I could not be free without walking through adversity, nor could I be free without someone to give me hope. In time, that "someone" was God. 
 Maybe being free means tasting of sorrow; maybe it only comes when you have exhausted every other option of salvation, when you've tried to seek release in all other places except the One where you will truly find it. Maybe, by walking through the lowest valleys of life, you will find the hand of God that will bring you the peace, the joy, that you so desperately want. Maybe being free from the hold of yourself is the greatest freedom of all.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Quote of the Day

"God's goodness is sometimes hard to grasp. When I worried if He would ever show up, He was already there...You might be tempted to believe that the Lord is not in control,  that He has forgotten to take care of you. I know what that's like. But I also know what it's like to realize that He was there the whole time, weaving things together in a way that would one day blow my mind."
- L.A. Dodgers pitcher, Clayton Kershaw in Arise *

*This book is available wherever books are sold and is copyrighted 2011

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Raise the Dead

  Thomas Case once wrote:
      "...If God can raise the dead, he can conquer the greatest difficulty. He can put life
       into dead men, life into dead hopes, and raise up our expectations from the grave of
       despair. He can put life into dead bones and life into dead faith. We are proud crea-
       tures and full of self-confidence, but God, by strange and unexpected providences,
       hedges up our way with thorns. He brings us to despair even of life and brings us
       under the sentence of death that we might not trust in ourselves, but in him who 
       raises the dead. He overturns us by despair, shows us what...fools we are in ourselves, that we might know nothing but God." *

 Daily, there are reminders of my inability to rise from the death of my broken past without His life-giving favor. There is forever a fallen warrior inside called the "self" that is trying to destroy me despite God's final victory over it. The war may be won, but the battle still wages. 
 How comforting to know that He calls Himself "the Resurrection and the Life" and that I can come to Him and let Him be this for me, daily. I must be raised continually. I must despair in myself, die to myself, then be raised. For it is in this that I become alive. 
God, who raises dead men,
Raise the dead inside of me;
Take my life and make me
Fit for eternity.

God, who raises dead men,
Breathe life into my soul;
Take what is dead and dying,
And make me fully whole.

God, who raises dead men,
Reach down to my despair;
Come into what is broken
With grace to meet me there.

God, who raises dead men,
Bid me to arise;
Make me stand before You
And gaze into Your eyes.

God, who raises dead men,
Resurrect and then revive;
Restore to life-abundant
So that I can be alive.

God, who raises dead men,
I see my need of Thee;
Raise the dead inside;
Lift me to eternity.

* from Voices From the Past published by Banner of Truth Trust. Copyrighted 2009.

Friday, April 18, 2014

How Love Wins

  This song illustrates why the Easter season matters so much to me. Like the thief who died at Christ's side, I, too, need the Love that forgives, the Love that wins a victory over my sin and shame, the Love that heals my deepest wounds. That such a Love exists is, to me, a miracle. That God would give His Son away because He loved me. All I can do is offer up my thanks, feeble though it may be. Without such Love, I would have no hope, and this broken world would be without redemption. Because of what He did, what He gave, there is a promise that sustains in the darkness: even this will be made beautiful. What is dead will rise again. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Because of Love

  The days are leading up to Easter. There is a feel of springtime in the air: gardeners wait for the first signs of new life to pop out of the cold earth; people search for the perfect Easter outfit for church; the stores bustle with shoppers looking for chocolate bunnies, Easter eggs, and Peeps. And yet, I wonder - why all this? Why is Easter reduced to such things as these?
   I ponder the concept of Easter: what is at the heart of this so-called "holiday"? Why does it matter? Why does the idea of a flower rising from the dark ground into full bloom count at all?

  Love. The theme is love, I say. At the center of this thing we call Easter is a re-birth of love. The reason this day matters is because of what it pictures: God chose to love, deeply. He had no reason to. Humanity did not care about Him. We did not wish to love Him back. We would rather choose our own way than His. But...He loved enough to give the best that He had - the gift of Himself. In order to gain the forgiveness which mankind needed - in order to purchase the hope they longed for - in order to embrace the pain of their lost condition - he died. He died because He loved. Had the dying not occurred, there would be no hope. No resurrection. No life.
  Such is the way now: the flower, its seed, must be buried in the ground in order to rise to new life, and I must die, too - must die to myself, to all things selfish, - in order to taste the rising power of Grace. I must die in the darkness of my past before I can experience the re-birth of His love.
  The Easter miracle is that His love wins. No life is too lost, no story too destroyed, that He cannot redeem it. His love makes things new. It has and is making me new even now.
Resurrection happens because love drives it. If God had not cared for mankind, even as we did not care for Him, the world would be destined to nothingness. There would be no meaning. There would be no hope. A choosing-love. This is why the love transforms, heals, restores. Because it chooses to. This is why no human could have accomplished what took place on bloodied beams of wood over 2,000 years ago.
   Wondrous love. On Easter morning, I will rise and sing it with those who celebrate it. I will celebrate the re-birth. I will wait for the new life to come again. Because it is in this renewal, this resurrection of all things dead, that I come to know, for myself, this wondrous Love. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Quote of the Day

"Christ's love has depths in which the daring soul may drown, and abundant shallows for the humble to safely wade."
- Vincent Alsop in Voices From the Past *

* This book is available from Banner of Truth Trust and is copyrighted 2009.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Returned Prodigal

  I see now how much God really loves me. He was so patient to wait for me to cease my wandering. Somewhere in the journey, I stopped believing. I lied to myself that He wasn't enough, that His wounds that bled for redemption somehow fell short. Darkness was a better choice - better than exposing what I felt I had to hide. I refused to know the Grace I heard that He could offer and would not allow Him to heal the bruised heart within me. I took all I had and, instead, ran away from the Love He wanted to give me. I shut Him out and left His open arms in search of something else. How it must have pained Him to see me turn and bid Him good-bye. Yet, He waited and continued to call me to return to what I had thrown away. When I came back, a broken soul with crushed dreams, He still stood there with open arms.
  As I found His embrace, I asked if He had been there the whole time. "Child," He said, while wiping away the dust and tears from my face, "I never left. You did. But forgiveness covers all. I knew you'd return because you belong to me. Although you couldn't see me, I was there. I kept my promise to never leave. Welcome back to Love. Come, and join the prodigals who have returned back to me."

Monday, April 14, 2014

Whose Love?

  Is it really my love for God that prompts Him to embrace me? So many tell me that it begins with me. But what do I make of the years that I turned my back on Him? How could I suddenly desire Him when, until then, I could've cared less? Can I just will myself to long for God? If so, I can just as easily will myself to deny Him and turn away.  If the relationship depends solely on me, then it is destined to be short-lived. On my own, I cannot sustain a friendship with the Divine. An outside force must motivate. Something beyond me must keep me pursuing His love.
  Could it be that He is the beginning, the source? Yes, and so much more! He is not only the start but also the continuum. Not only what begins but what keeps it going. I can only give what I am given. At its core, my heart is hateful to all things heavenly. It is unable to prompt itself to turn that hate into affection. To those who say it starts with me, I say, it is not that a rebel has decided to suddenly arise and embrace a holy God but that a  holy God, who has every right to judge, has laid aside His wrath and embraced a rebel in spite of his ugliness and shame. The motivation begins, continues, and ends with Him. I only respond. I  am overwhelmed by such unspeakable love! What He has purposed, He will finish to the end. He is the One who holds me close and keeps me in the Grace I so desperately need. When I am prone to wander, the love that is His won't let me go. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Quote of the Day

" Only self can kill joy...Joy is a flame that glimmers only in the palm of the open and humble hand...The moment the hand is clenched tight, fingers all pointing toward self
  and rights and demands, joy is snuffed out. Anger is the lid that suffocates joy until she
lies limp and lifeless... And I see: I had thought joy's flame needed protecting...My own
wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy... there it is: the secret of joy's flame: humbly let go. Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control...let go of my own way, let go of my own fears... Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of will."
- Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts *

* This book is available wherever books are sold and is copyrighted 2010.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Simple Pleasures

  I look down at the shoes and socks strewn about on the floor, the pants abandoned in favor of "new" fashion. Out of the closet I hear sounds of laughing girls and rustling dresses. As they appear one by one, I watch as an old debutant gown is pulled out, a cheerleading outfit is donned, and the game of dress-up is in full swing. As we each laugh at the silliness of it all, I realize that this is one of the simple pleasures of being a girl. It's the princess in all of us that loves to pretend and dream of castles, knights, and kings. And even though it may have been awhile since we last pulled out the tea set and placed a fancy hat on our head, the little girl inside has never fully left. As the four of us, cousins all, threw caution to the wind and continued to raid closets, looking for the next dress that caught out eye, it struck me that such joy could be had over something as silly as a crazy outfit. No one was embarrassed. No masks were up. It was all just us. Fully being ourselves. Alive. Embracing. Completely child-like. Free to be who we are without shame. It was over far too soon, this fun we enjoyed, this moment of pure delight. But it brought us together. It forced the love out: love of life, love to each heart the same, bonding in simple pleasure, savoring the beauty of a care-free experience. I want to retain such pleasure, to hold onto and cherish what I felt amid the piles of over-sized clothing long since worn. The giggles still ring in my mind. And my heart sings. Once again, I soak it up, thankful, alive.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Quote of the Day

"As long as thanks is possible, then joy is possible. Joy is always possible. 
Whenever, meaning - now; wherever, meaning - here. The holy grail of 
joy is not is some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak
experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing
ache of now, joy might be - unbelievably - possible!"
- Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts *

* This book is available wherever books are sold and is copyrighted 2010.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

In the Dark Times, Laugh...

 This song challenges me to find joy, even when it hurts to do so. In the dark times, laugh; in the sad times, sing. No matter what is going on in my life at the time, the fact that I have been accepted and forgiven by the Savior is enough. 
  Whatever your difficulties may be, take His hand and be filled with joy. This day, right now, laugh...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Filled With Joy

  Filled with joy. Three simple words that carry so much meaning. How can one be filled with joy when so many things try to steal it? Every morning, a new fight for joy begins. Every day, it is a constant struggle to look for the God-given grace in each situation. In the good times, it seems easier to find joy - anyone can be happy when life is going well. But, when it gets hard - when the pressures and stresses begin to mount, when everything feels like it is spinning out of control, when the only thing you want to do is make it stop, when you think that you can barely hang on - where is the joy? How does one learn to laugh in the dark times, to be thankful in the painful times, to sing when everything around you tells of something different? Filled with joy. This concept is changing the way I live. I spent so many years thinking that I could not find this joy unless life was going the way I planned it. And yet, this joy has come to me because I learned to let go. To dare myself to see the blessing inside of every moment, even the ones that hurt the most. Here is where I am the most tested: will I seek the Grace that this joy comes from, the God who grants it to those who ask? Will I do this every day? Will I do this in the valleys of life when the pain runs deep and the wounds sting hard? Will I be filled with joy? Discovering this joy can be a lifeline to hope when the world around you says the opposite. In the small minutes that make up a day - in the long nights when you seem to be the most alone - can you be grateful? Can you smile when all is going wrong? Can you call it the best day of your life, even if it appears to be the worst? Filled with joy.
How I long to be filled with joy. Filled to the brim with what can sustain me through any season of my life. Daily, I need a heaping dose of it. Daily, I ask for an unending supply.  Daily, I pray for more. Because it always seems to run out so quickly. So many things try to take it away from me. Always. But, the supply is limitless. I know where to get a refill. I know Who gives it in abundance. And I know that being filled with joy - with His joy - is the answer to making it in this uncertain world. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring Thaw

  The sun is shining down with penetrating warmth. Its rays run deep and thaw the icy cold of the earth below. The snow that has long blanketed the ground starts to melt as the crystals are turned into droplets that sink into the dry dirt. The frozen water drips off of the roof, falling gently to the earth. But it hasn't always been this way. The spring thaw was once just a hope...
  Before the melting could happen, there first had to be winter. The freezing cold of those dark days and long nights, that wondering if the warmth of spring would ever come. So, too, have been the winter seasons of my life. Those times of missing the sunshine, of only hoping that a brighter day would come. Sometimes, it was just a wish - not even a hope. A wish that, perhaps, things would get better. But, the winter lasted long. Too long, it felt. How could a spring ever happen? Will the sun ever shine again?
  And yet, here it is once more. The promise of hope has come alive. The thawing is beginning to take place. The darkness is turning into light; the frozen streams start to run. The birds fly around busily, making nests for the soon-to-arrive new life. The nights aren't so long now. The sun is warming both outside and in.
  A young man named Grant Fraser once said to a friend of his,
  " Sometimes it is dark for so long, we forget what it's like to see the light;
       but, if you keep getting up everyday, one day you will wake up from the
       sunshine on your cheeks."

  Waiting for the winter to pass...every one of us must endure these dark days, these long nights. But it is in this waiting that the promise of a spring thaw becomes dearer to us. We hold this hope a bit closer. We trust that the sun will shine again, that we will wake up one day with its warmth on our face. 
   If you are in the winter-time, take heart. The spring thaw will come. It is only a matter of time before the sun will shine again. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Slowing Time Down

  How do you learn to slow time down? When you feel like life is flying past, how do you stop and count the ways God manifests His blessings? When you know time is limited, when moments go by so swiftly, how can you see the Grace in every one of them?
  Nick Magnotti had to figure this out. A couple of years ago, Nick was diagnosed with appendix cancer and given a terminal diagnosis. He was a young husband in his mid-twenties with much of his life still ahead of him. But now, time had become an issue. He had to learn how to accept the gift of time and make the most of it because he knew he wasn't going to be around forever to enjoy it. A man with a deep relationship with God, Nick and his wife welcomed a beautiful baby girl into their lives part-way into his long battle. Once he had embraced God's plan and the hard reality that his life might end soon, Nick determined to do all that he could to live fully, to make memories, to invest in the lives of other people and to see the Grace in each, precious second. Thanks to social media, Nick and his wife were able to share their journey with many people as Nick's life slowly ebbed away. Just a few months before his death in January of this year, Nick made this video for his daughter and posted it on YouTube:

  With a smile on his face and hope in his heart, Nick learned to embrace the pain that life had thrown in his path. While he walked through the uncertainty and the sadness of his situation, he exemplified the importance of slowing down time. 
  Life is too short to go rushing through, taking relationships for granted, and missing the hidden blessings that are all around us. Nick knew he didn't have forever - he had to make the most of how long he was given to live...and he did it to the fullest. This is what it means to be open to life: to laugh through the dark times, to accept each moment as a gift, to value those who have been placed in your life to make it richer, and to prize every second as, potentially, your last. 
  If it all ended tomorrow, could you say that you soaked up every bit of Grace from the days you were given? Could you say that you slowed down time and savored the life you were blessed to have? Perhaps how we answer this question determines how we'll begin our day in the morning - will we continue to rush on by, or will we thankfully live and savor the Grace-filled time that is ours to enjoy?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Look for the Helpers

  He was a soldier stationed at the Army post near where I live. Since I met him at a gathering for injured military personnel and their families, I knew there had to be a story behind why he was there...and so I asked.
  It was a simple training exercise that had gone terribly wrong. Being in an airborne unit, parachute jumps were routine for him. He had several under his belt and, today, he prepared to add another one. The plane flew along. He got ready to jump out. When the time came for his turn, he stepped out of the plane and began to drop. He pulled the parachute cord. But something was wrong. He pulled again. Still nothing. The ground was coming at him far too quickly. He tried to think fast. As the tree line was fast approaching, he realized that he might be about to meet his death. "God," he said out loud, " You're gonna have to do something real quick here." All he remembers is hitting the ground and blacking out. But, what he doesn't remember is, perhaps, more profound.
  He knows that he owes his life to God - after all, he told me, "Since I'm still here, I guess God heard me." Yet, he has also been told of the efforts of his fellow soldiers on his behalf. "From what I'm told, they did a fantastic job getting me help and everything." Miraculously, all that he sustained from the fall were a few broken ribs, a cracked pelvis, and a broken leg. 
  Haven't we all had times when we felt like we were in free fall? Haven't we all experienced moments when the things we thought were our parachutes didn't deliver, and we thought we saw our impending demise at hand? As we saw the hard fall fast approaching, as we tried to think of anything we could do to save ourselves, what did we turn to, who did we turn to, for help? Did we cry out to God, knowing we were now at His mercy for our very existence? Did we trust that there would be hands to catch us, hands to tend to our wounds, to soothe our pain, even when we were unaware? Did we look for our helpers - for God? for those who care about us?
  So often, when our own life comes crashing around us, and we feel like we are holding on by a thread, it is these moments that we learn about trust. See, when your parachute (whatever it is you put your trust in) has gotten you safely down many times before, you think you can check off one more jump in life. No big deal. But, when it fails you, when you're at your wits' end as to what to do to stop your fall, suddenly, you have to trust in something beyond yourself. You can do nothing to stop the hard crash. To perhaps stop you from your own death. The hands that stand ready to catch you - the God that is ready to hear your cry for help, the loving arms of your fellow soldiers in life - they wait to come to your aid. But you must trust in them to be there. Your fall may still come, but it can be eased by the help of others. 
  Trusting in these sources of assistance, especially that of God, is what eases the impact when our parachutes fail to open. And, like the soldier I met, turning to God, believing in His ability to save, and trusting in the care of those around you, can make all the difference in the world.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Quote of the Day

"A strong sense of purpose, high hopes, abiding faith, self-love, a positive attitude, fearlessness, resilience, and mastery of change will take you a long way, but no one makes it alone...Whether you acknowledge it or not, you depend on those around you...No one on this earth succeeds without benefiting from the wisdom, the kindness, or the helping hands of someone else. We all need supportive relationships. We all must engage with kindred spirits."
                                 - Nick Vujicic in Life Without Limits *

* This book is published by DoubleDay and is copyrighted 2010

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Becoming Open

  Have you ever thought of how common it is for us to feel the need to keep others at an arm's length? It seems to be a human problem. We get protective about our emotional space. For hurting individuals, it is a very sensitive issue. Defensiveness often results when we feel like our emotional privacy has been invaded. Those who become emotionally protective, who tend to keep most of their problems to themselves, will largely distance themselves from having close relationships with others. They are afraid to let others get in too close because they fear that others will be turned off by what is being hidden. To them, their emotions are so personal, sacred almost, that they trust no one else with their feelings, only themselves. 
 The soul was created to function in relationship. No person was ever intended to walk alone in life. While we acknowledge this fact, more often than not, we live exactly the opposite principle. It's an inner paradox really: knowing that we thrive on the friendship of others, we are still afraid to risk whatever it takes to receive it. 
 Emotionally unhealthy people lack an understanding that enables them to view emotions as a natural part of being human - the ability to love, to cry, to laugh, to hurt are all born into each of us for a reason. We were meant to be touched, to be deeply affected, for the good or the bad, by what happens to us. The fact that we can respond to life's situations this way proves that we are created human beings possessing a conscience and a soul. It is not a bad thing for us to give ourselves permission to feel these things. There is no shame or weakness in such a response. It is part of who we are.
 Emotionally healthy people are not afraid to welcome the risks of relationships. They do not feel the need to hide anything. If we are to embrace the relationships in our lives, we must get beyond this notion that being vulnerable is a bad thing. People respect and are deeply moved by the expression of feelings. Whether it be someone sharing their personal story with a tear in their eye, or another weeping over the grave of a loved one; perhaps it is the smile and awe of new parents as they gaze at their newborn baby, or the twinkle in the eyes of a guy about to propose to the girl of his dreams. Maybe it is even in the passionate hug of a once-estranged child and parent as they come back together. These emotions belong to all of us. We were meant to demonstrate them to each other, both in good times and bad. It is really too bad that we have such a hard time letting the walls come down.
 If we are to take an honest look at ourselves, we need to ask what it is that we are so afraid of. Is it the fear of being judged? Is it the fear of being rejected? Of being mis-understood? Identifying the response we imagine we will get if we let others in will give us a real insight into why we are holding them at arm's length. Once that has been determined, we must decide: are we willing to risk and give of ourselves to others, inviting them to see us for the way we really are? Opening our lives up to those around us gives us permission to be human - to love, to laugh, to grieve, to cry, to live. That's what relationships are all about. That's what life is all about. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Relationships Matter

  As yesterday's post described, relationships matter. This video is a wonderful example of this, and I wanted to share it with you. It is the story of two brothers and how they stuck together through loss and hardship. The bond that they have between them is quite touching. See the amazing surprise the older brother gave to his younger sibling following his own return from an overseas deployment.

Relationships matter, indeed...