Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Heroes and Villians


Heroes and Villians

Can you call yourself a hero
If you champion the wrong,
If you're heart is simply set
On pleasing the mighty throng?
Can you call yourself a hero
If your heart is set on fame,
If your goals end in destruction
While promoting your own name?
But there be many who do the very same.

Yet can they call you a villian
If you champion the right,
If your aim and sole ambition
Is for the truth to fight?
This day the villains are many
And real heroes are too few
So now let me ask: which one are you?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Their Living Memory

  Memorial Day has always been my favorite holiday. This might seem a bit odd to some, given the fact that it's a rather somber holiday - a day of remembrance instead of celebration. To be honest, it's not even a "holiday" at all...except for the businesses that close on that day to observe it. But sadly, many have made this day into a "holiday" like all the rest, and it has increasingly bothered me that so few even realize what this day is for. 
  Memorial Day was actually originally called "Decoration Day" in honor of those who had given their lives in service to the country. It was a day to "decorate" the graves and to reflect on the memory of those brave souls who sacrificed everything for their nation's freedom. Great Britain rightly calls their observance of this "Remembrance Day." Thus, we set aside other days like Armed Forces Day to remember those who are currently serving and to thank them for what they do on our behalf. Veterans Day became the observance of those past warriors who are no longer actively serving in uniform. But Memorial Day was for the fallen. 
  And yet, it has become more like Armed Forces Day, Veterans Day, and the 4th of July all rolled into one...with a little remembrance of those who died thrown in. But the focus has shifted. And unfortunately, most have forgotten what these dead heroes did. Even though I grew up having been taught the meaning of the day, it wasn't until I lost someone I knew in the War on Terror that the meaning of it became more real to me. These fallen men weren't just names on plaques and gravestones, they were faces with stories and lives full of promise that were cut short for the cause of liberty. 
  This past April, I had the opportunity to travel to the East Coast for a family vacation and, while there, the meaning of sacrifice took on a whole new impact for me. Walking the battlefield at Princeton, New Jersey and picturing the field strewn with wounded and dead men, the injured being taken into the Thomas Clarke house (which still stands today), and George Washington bravely riding between the lines of fire as he inspired his rag-tag army to fight for freedom - suddenly I felt a bit of what they felt. Their eyes saw this same ground. I was walking on hallowed soil where their blood was spilt for the cause they believed in. 



 Strolling down the Continental Trail where this same troupe of men, who had just crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey in late December 1776 with plans to surprise the German Hessions at Trenton, I knew what sacrifice was all about. This same trail was  bloodied  by the feet of those soldiers who marched along with no shoes, ill clad for the harsh weather and battling not only their own discouragement but also the elements. I thought of how they must've questioned on more than one occasion whether Washington was crazy and if this fight for freedom was worth it. Walking along this very same path, under a sworn oath of silence lest their presence be discovered by the enemy, these men knew what hardship was. Some even froze to death along this march en route to Trenton. In the providence of God, the cause turned in their favor upon reaching Trenton and successfully executing the attack...but I couldn't help but marvel at what they went through so that I could be here all these centuries later and have a chance at a free and fulfilling life. 



 And then, there was my visit to Arlington National Cemetery. This one sacred and hallowed place of remembrance was a must-see on my list of things to do. For one, I needed to make a solemn pilgrimage to the grave of Marine Cpl. Michael Lasky whose death in Iraq nearly ten years ago has changed my life forever. The meaning of sacrifice hit me hard en route to his grave for, on the walk there through the cemetery, I witnessed a   caisson procession for a fallen leader, a scene that is synonymous with Arlington for those who are familiar with it. Hearing the clip-clop of the immaculately groomed horses and hearing the strains of "America the Beautiful" wafting over the graves, I felt a stirring in my soul. This was only heightened upon my seeing the famous changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Later, I wondered: why do such moments have to be contained to military ceremonies and cemeteries like this? Where has the observance and the national memory of the fallen gone? 



 In reflecting on this sad but true reality, I realized that two factors play into this lack of respect: 
 First, many people have not personally had their lives touched by war. Many do not even know a person serving and thus, they have no reason (so they think) to give it much thought or attention. It's easier to simply throw a cook-out together and hang out with friends. I'm certainly not judging these folks or saying that BBQs and the like aren't okay. It's just that many choose to treat it like any other day off instead of incorporating the true meaning of Memorial Day into their plans. I'm encouraged that some make the effort to attend local ceremonies and observance events, but I do wish there were more. 
 Secondly, most are not being taught the history and the importance of this day. We are not taking our children to the places and the events that will help them to learn that this day means something. That sacrifice is to be commended and honored. We are not motivating ourselves to learn our history, to make it personal, and to perpetuate it to generations yet unborn. We have, quite simply, forgotten who we are. We have forgotten where we came from. And the names of these individuals, the stories of their bravery, is being lost to history. We are rushing past and missing out on the true meaning of why we're even here anyway. Think about it for a minute: if the brave men who fought for our Independence hadn't been willing to stand up to a tyrannical power and declare that every man, woman, and child has a free opportunity at "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," we would not be here. If the heroic men of WWI and WWII had not stood up to the oppressive regimes of Germany, Japan,  and others and given their lives to protect those at home, we would be speaking foreign languages. If our current generation had not been willing to go over to the Middle East following 9/11 and fight a war on international soil, we would be seeing our country taken over by terrorists and our relatively peaceful lives would be greatly altered. 
  You and I owe much to the courageous acts of those who have given their lives in war to the service of their country. And we ought to be profoundly grateful. But I am afraid that their deeds often go unnoticed, and our lack of thankfulness is a disgrace to their memory. While their lives have ended, their memory has not, and it is our duty to keep it alive. If you ask any living warrior what their greatest fear is, it is not that they will possibly be numbered among the dead themselves...it is that their fallen comrades will be forgotten. God forgive this nation for neglecting to be appreciative and to acknowledge that such great individuals have graced it!
  This Memorial Day, let's do our part to remember. Whether it is attending a ceremony of remembrance near where you live or simply stopping at the 3 o'clock hour in your time zone to observe the national moment of silence, let us ensure that our fallen shall not have died in vain. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Just A Common Soldier

 This weekend, please take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of those who have given their lives in service to our country. The real reason, as this video will say, isn't to spend time around the bbq but to solemnly remember that freedom isn't free and there must be brave souls willing to defend it. 
 Have a safe and pleasant Memorial Day! 


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Seeing In the Dark

 The way to see in these dark places is to reach for the hand of God. The answer to all these impossible questions is simply - Him. His presence is enough to banish every fear. I face such mountains of uncertainty in the sure hope that today, He will give grace sufficient. Such grace isn't a carry-over from yesterday, nor is it borrowed grace from tomorrow. It is only given for today...right now. The here. The present. When the shadows have swallowed the light, faith must be hope-giver that points me toward Him. That is the only way to bravely walk through this day in hope. 
 Whatever dark moments beset your path today, reach for His hand. That is where you'll find the light shining through in the broken spaces. 



Friday, May 27, 2016

Facing the Impossible

 What do you do when you're facing the impossible? It's a question I've been asking myself a lot lately...because faith seems to be demanded of me every single day.  
  I'm beginning to understand that life often offers us things that seem impossible. If we're realistic, marriage honestly is sort of an impossibility: truly - how do you love another fallible human being and continue to forgive and give grace when you yourself seem to lack it? Parenting is often the same: how can you keep raising a young life and teaching them to believe God and to love their neighbor and to do right when your own weaknesses betray you and you fall short more often than you want to admit? Being a friend calls you to be selfless and to think of another more than yourself but sometimes all you want is to think of your own needs...to just stop giving out because - well, it's impossible. Work offers us impossibilities too: how to please that difficult boss or co-worker than simply wants to make life hard for you. Our health sometimes leaves us facing certain death and wondering if miracles are simply fable and this crisis is impossible. The list could go on and on of things that we stare down and, if you're like me, sometimes you just want to run and hide. Forget trying to be brave, be true, and face fear. Just forget everything because - you can't handle it. 
 I'm starting to realize though how many times I must deal with an impossibility of daily life that makes me want to fear, to worry, to elevate the heart rate in hopes that somehow that will solve the situation and will bring peace to my mind. I'm seeing how many times I am, simply put, blind. Blind to the one thing that will lead me to the green pastures of life and grace. Blind to the Savior who promised to carry all my burdens for me, to give me yoke that is easy and a burden that is light (Matt. 11:30). 
 I am noticing now that so much of my trouble is self-made. I create my own storms when there is no reason except my own distress. I miss so much because I am focused on the impossible instead of the One with whom all things are possible! My unbelief keeps me from so many blessings because I am focused on trying to be my own solution. He has showed me the way to true happiness: to walk humbly with Him. To believe even when I see no answers. To trust even when the road gets hard. That's all He has asked of me. So why, in my foolishness, do I think that I can do His part and mine?! He hasn't required me to figure it all out. Only to place my hand in His and to keep on saying "yes." 
 The path to abundant grace-living isn't about coming up with solutions. It isn't about trying harder and doing more. It's quite the opposite. It's about simply letting go. Leaving a chaotic world filled with uncertainty in the capable hands of the Master and leaving my worries with Him. Doing so won't eliminate the impossibilities but it will instead create opportunities for the possibilities to be seen. It will inspire moments of praise and wonder for the way in which His answers have come...not on my own timing but on His. Not in my own way but in His. 
 So today...turn loose of your fears and face the world bravely. Because your Savior is standing strong beside you and giving you the assurance that it's His battle to fight after all. It's His job to take care of you. So let Him do it and simply follow. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Quote of the Day

"The answers to our whys may be obvious now, or they may never be answered in our lifetime. But even if we knew why, it's likely we wouldn't be satisfied with the answers anyway. We ask God why, believing the answer will provide us wish some kind of deep soul satisfaction. But too often, we don't get the answer we want. I don't think that means we should give up asking questions; we just need to understand their role in our brokenness...God doesn't owe us an explanation this side of heaven. There's nothing in Scripture that tells us we're entitled to an answer. It's not that God is secretive and doesn't want us to know; it's that we're incapable of seeing the big picture. "
                         - Laura Story in When God Doesn't Fix It

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Grant that in every fall I may sink lower on my knees, and that when I rise it may be to loftier heights of devotion."
                            - The Valley of Vision

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Quote of the Day

" 'Even Jesus asked God why he was forsaken.' This is what my therapist tells me. Today, I feel forsaken. I feel abandoned within the hull of hollow faith, a hull haunted by ghosts, and without an escape hatch. But the therapist keeps telling me to turn in to this darkness. 
...'When you go into the dark places of your own soul, write how you feel. Describe the emotions, the sensations. And when you feel that there is no God, when you ask why he's forsaken you, don't be ashamed. Remember what I said about Jesus, how even he asked?'
'Even Jesus' - this is quite the pairing of words...I hear these words now, and somehow they are a comfort. 
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Please do not leave me or forsake me."
                                - Seth Haines in Coming Clean

Monday, May 23, 2016

Quote of the Day

"To reject the shared suffering and sorrow with our Lord is to invite despair, and to walk as a burden bearer with him is to oppose despair. Sorrow is the the very place that hope and joy intermingle, because without sorrow, there is no whisper of hope. Joy is a sustainer, the strength in weakness, and hope is what calls us forward toward our healing. In this world, we will have trouble, but our great Peacemaker walks in the sorrow with us, and he is our joy. He is our peace. He is our hope. Sorrow does not overcome."
                                       - Amber Haines in Wild In the Hollow

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Quote of the Day

"There is something we're all struggling to let go of. God is stirring something in our hearts and encouraging us to trust him. Maybe he wants us to surrender it, to loosen our grip, and allow him to take it...We don't gain God's blessings by hanging on. We gain them by letting go. And when we gain them, that's when we can use them to bless others. Not matter what God asks, I pray that my hands are open and my grip is loose."
                                     - Laura Story in When God Doesn't Fix It

Friday, May 20, 2016

Quote of the Day

"The glorious and infinite God, who made the worlds, and upholds them by his word, who is praised continually by his heavenly hosts; this God, has sent you a joyful message to raise you from the dust, and banish the terrors and troubles from your hearts, and help you to live like the sons of God. He takes notice of your sorrows. He stands close by when you do not see him and feel he has forsaken you. He attends you with the greatest tenderness when you say he has forgotten you. He numbers your sighs and bottles up your tears. He feels the groans of your heart. Providence heaps up mountains of daily mercies, but do you see and feel and taste his mercy and love? Do you live wholly on it? Do you doubt it, and so hardly acknowledge it? The flesh plays a part in this and the remnants of our corruption. The serpent will always bee suggesting false thoughts of God. But soon, our Redeemer will return to give you such a convincing demonstration of his love as to leave no room for one more doubt...Looking off to these yet unseen blessings is an eminent part of our faith. It is in the apprehension and expectation of our yet unseen heavenly blessings that our earthly peace and safety depend."
                                         - Richard Baxter in Voices From the Past

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Prayer of the Day

"Glorify Thyself in me whether in comfort or trial, as a chosen vessel meet always for Thy use."
                       - The Valley of Vision

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Quote of the Day

"What keeps us under trouble is either we do not expect what God has promised, or we expect what he did not promise. We are grieved at crosses, losses, wrongs of our enemies, unkind dealings of our friends, sickness, or for contempt and scorn in the world. But who encouraged you to expect any better? Was it prosperity, riches, credit, and friends that God called for you to believe? Do you have any promises for these things in his Word? If you make a promise to yourself, and then your own promise deceives you, whom should you blame for that?"
                              - Richard Baxter in Voices From the Past

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Look To Him!

 I was listening to this song earlier today and wanted to challenge you today to look to Jesus no matter how tough your circumstances may be! I know that there are days that you just can't find the strength to go one step further. You feel like giving up. Grace seems to have run out. I've been there before too...
 But I've also seen God stoop low. Get personal. Demonstrate His love under the most broken of conditions. That's why He sent His son to earth: to come down from holy Heaven to where sinful, dying people are...to feel what they feel, to hurt and weep as they do, to identify with them so that He might save them, raise them with Him to new life through his death, burial, and subsequent resurrection. 
 He knows what you're going through and He wants you to seek His face even in your struggles. He will be Himself for you in your pain and will show you His grace where you least expect it. He will shine brightly in your darkness...He only asks that you open your life to Him and let Him do what He does best!
 Turn your eyes upon Him today! The fears, the hurts, the struggles will grow "strangely dim" in the light of His grace!


Monday, May 16, 2016

Miracle Moments

 When I was younger, I realize that I missed so much. I missed because I didn't know where to look. I didn't understand the power of what I call "miracle moments" - those special touches from God that remind you that you're loved always, that He exists, and that He cares about you in a deeply personal way.
 Over the years as I have begun to notice the seemingly small but significant ways that God demonstrates His notice and care of us human beings, it has changed everything for me. My life has become one big adventure...one giant discovery of the "thousand little things" every day that speak, "He is with you."
 On a recent family vacation I saw this concept in full display. Just to name a few of the "little things"...

The day I got the privilege of sitting in the Princeton University chapel, taking in the tremendous history of the place and its campus - thinking of the amazing preachers of God who graced its pulpit and the future leaders of a new nation whose spiritual minds were formed under their teaching. Then, as an added gift from Him, the chapel organist came to practice that afternoon, filling the chapel with the sounds of beauty and lifting my soul to Heaven.


A beautiful afternoon when I visited the Johnson Ferry House on the banks of the Delaware River and learned of the Slack family who lived there: God-fearing people who felt called to assist the cause of liberty on December 25, 1776 as they helped Gen. George Washington and his rag-tag Continental Army safely cross the Delaware and have a safe place to re-group before their surprise attack on the Hession barracks in Trenton, NJ. Realizing what hours of studying the scriptures took place there, what prayers were raised there...feeling the lingering power of God there...that was yet another miracle moment. 


  


Taking a warm, sunny day to visit the home of George Washington, Mount Vernon, and seeing an eagle take flight over the rooftop of his beloved Potomac River abode:





Paying respect at the grave of the "father of our country," George Washington, and seeing the inscription above his tomb: a verse of scripture from John 11:25: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live again." 





The countless other times when God granted little blessings, unplanned opportunities, a special moments that showcased His care about every aspect of this poor life of mine. To me, the longer I go on, this life is one great miracle. The fact that God chose me to live at this specific time in history shows that He has big plans and great work for this fainting heart to do - if only I will trust Him and accept His will. The amazing wonder that He called this doubting soul to Himself and demonstrated grace while it cared little for Him! - radical love expressed in full through His death, burial, and subsequent resurrection! 
 You see...your life and mine is no accident...and these "miracle moments" are everywhere as tokens of the grace and love of our Savior. These gifts prove that He holds this vast world in His capable hands and that He is invested in each of our lives in a special way. We are not alone. We are not our own. We have been chosen to play a unique and awesome part in God's plan for humanity, and we will become more embracing of that plan when we stop and take notice of the ways in which He is actively working. He never ceases His labors, never stops revealing Himself to us in exciting and fresh ways. But sometimes we can miss it because our eyes are blind and our ears are closed. Don't lose out on the greatest journey you'll ever take: that of walking with God and seeing Him show you the many miracles He has in store for special you!   

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Quote of the Day

"...Is it not wonderful that God should help us at all? Have we not wondered hundreds of times at the singular help He has given? If we have not, what ungrateful blindness! HE has been giving it ever since we were helpless babies. The very little things, the microscopic helpings, often seem most marvelous of all when we consider that it was Jehovah Himself who stooped to the tiny need of a moment. And the greater matters prove themselves to be the Lord's doing, just because they are so marvelous in our eyes. Why should we fear being brought to some depth of perplexity and trouble when we know He will be true to His name and be our help, so that we shall be 'men wondered at' because we have been so marvelously helped! Let us turn out special attention to it each day. We need help of all kinds all day long. How just observe how He gives it! Even if nothing the least unusual happens, the opened and watching eye will see that the whole day is one sweet story of marvelous help. And perhaps the greatest marvel will be that He has helped  us to see His help after much practical blindness to it. And then the marveling will rise in praising the name of the Lord your God who has dealt wondrously with you."
                           - Frances Ridley Havergal in Seasons of the Heart

Friday, May 13, 2016

Prayer of the Day

"Show me my sinfulness that I may willingly confess; reveal to me my weakness that I may know my strength in Thee."
                                   - The Valley of Vision

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Quote of the Day

"He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true wayfaring Christian. I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. Assuredly, we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather; that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary."
                                               - John Milton

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Our Mighty Fortress

 You know those times when sight happens? We've all had those moments when we can suddenly understand, can see things we've been told our whole lives come to life in a brand new way. 
 For many years of my life, I've loved the timeless hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." It reminds me of the God I know and how He comes through every time that the war against the world and fear gets too hard. Every time that my faith is weakening, it speaks of the fact that the One who holds the world in His strong hands also is fully capable of holding me too. That He has won the victory I never could and that I am an overcomer because of Him. He fights for me, and that is enough. 


 Recently though, this hymn took on a whole other meaning while I stood in the strong defenses of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, MD. The sight of a fierce bombardment that threatened to make our nation foreign subjects once again just a short few years after our becoming a new country, it was also the sight of the writing of the "Star-Spangled Banner" which later became our well-known national anthem. As I walked around the fort and saw the massive artillery housed there; as I thought of the men who fought through that terrible rain storm and refused to surrender to the enemy, I suddenly thought of these ancient words...and they now took on a new depth for me: 

"A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God's own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him. 

That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God's truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever."
- Martin Luther

 Those enemies that threaten to prove my undoing? They cannot stand a single hour against the power of my God. Those fears that bombard me incessantly? They will not prevail against the faith my God has and will grant to me in that hour of testing. Just as the flag still stood following the battle of Fort McHenry, God's truth has stood and won the fight. He provides what is needed when the fight seems too much. He gives what is asked for in the hours of battle when the storms rage, the rains pour, and it seems the victory is in doubt. He never fails. He will endure...and so must we. Because we follow Him, we must continue to fight for Him, to look toward Him, to be courageous like Him. For we can be assured that, no matter how rough the fight gets, we are safe within the fortress of our God, and He will win in the end. 


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Keep on Shining!

 Wherever you are today, radiate His love in the dark places! Even if the journey is tough, remember that He wants you to shine His light no matter the circumstances. Let's keep on glowing in the dark for Him this week! 




Monday, May 9, 2016

Sight In the Dark

 My mind runs back to the last evening we were on the East Coast for our recent vacation. Our schedule had been so busy that a late night drive into Washington DC to see the monuments was our last opportunity to do so. So...we hit the road at 9:30 in the evening and spent the next few hours walking around the National Mall, looking at the monuments at night. 


 The monuments are beautiful and moving anytime you visit them but there's something special about seeing them lit up at night. You can see the definitions of the sculptures almost clearer than during the day. There was something extra powerful about seeing those amazing structures standing majestically silhouetted against the dark night sky. 
 This experience made me realize that our lives are much the same...we sometimes need the night seasons to help us to see things that would otherwise be hidden if we lived in the daylight all the time. If everything stayed easy and prosperous all the time and we never experienced the darkness, we would not fully appreciate things in their full depth and definition. Our grasp of the essential truths about ourselves and about the God who loves us would be shrouded in deeper mystery if we didn't see them at the dark times. 



 In this moment, I feel it driving into my soul - yes, Lord. You must take me through the darkness in order to fully embrace and know the light. You must show me things not just in the broad daylight of the human experience, but You must also take me for a walk through the heart at the times of hardship...because You know this is when I will understand. This is when I will listen. This is when I will see You for who You truly are.
So let me accept these times as being for my benefit. And let me learn all I can. For someday I will reflect and will thank You for showing me these things not when things were going well...but when they weren't going well. Because otherwise, I might have not have fully embraced or truly loved. Instead, I might have simply walked by and not even noticed at all. 



Saturday, May 7, 2016

Rising Stronger

Today, I want to encourage you as well as myself...whatever mountains of fear stand in your way, whatever challenges present themselves to you, whatever doubts need conquering - our Savior is greater than them all. Faith truly is the victory and, thanks to the Giver of that faith, we can rise again stronger because of the grace He grants us. Living in that grace takes courage. This life isn't for the faint of heart. But keep going friend...it will be worth it in the end! 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Quote of the Day

"While he doesn't always answer our prayers the way we would like, God gives us everything we need to abound in the good work he has for us. And when we do, our story will bring God glory because he can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine."
                            - Laura Story in When God Doesn't Fix It

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Quote of the Day

"I have found that even in the obstinate prayer, even in the prayer that is not answered to my liking, I can survive the pain...I can allow my will to be bent to his so long as I know that God abides even in the mystery of the divine no. He is here, even in this.
 Does bending the will of man to the will of God mean that praying for the desired outcome ceases? Quite the contrary. If those prayers ceased, men would never be required to face their inability to change the eternal aspects of life. If those prayers ceased, would men pray in the hope that, yes, sometimes God changes his mind? If those prayers ceased, would we understand the presence of God as being with us in conversation, or would we rather see him as the dictator of divine edicts? The Good Book shows us example after example of God-fearing men who prayed in the face of certain answers. Sometimes God changes his mind or relents. Sometimes he does not. All this is part of the divine mystery...This is an expression of faith that hurts. The bones of faith are brittle. This is a product of the human condition. When our prayers go unanswered, when God does not meet us at the point of our desires, we turn to the lowercase gods to ease the pain of living...I feel the anger of faith unanswered, and I tell God. Yet I feel relief that God is present, that he is speaking even in the divine no..."
                            - Seth Haines in Coming Clean

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Thou bringest order out of confusion, and my defeats are Thy victories."
                                  - The Valley of Vision

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Prisons

 One tiny ray of light. That's all. A little window too far above your own head for you to even look out - that's where it came from. Concrete walls all around, cold stone for your bed every night. This is what a prison feels like. 
 For the first time in my life, I stood inside such a place and took in the surroundings. Here, at the famous Ft. McHenry - site of the penning of our national anthem - I looked around and imagined those who had been held captive here over the fort's history. Prisons break down the mind and also the spirit. Prisons make you despair. They hold you in and make you lose hope. You start to think that you'll never be free. And the darkness runs deep. You forget what the outside world is like. You forget to live...because you simply feel like giving up. Dying.


 But then, my mind began to think of the many prisoners throughout history who called such a place their home for the simple reason of calling themselves followers of Jesus. They wrote epic letters and books of inspiration and hope from cells much like this one. John Bunyan penned the immortal Pilgrim's Progress while imprisoned...simply for being a pastor and teaching others how to follow God. Thomas Case wrote his Treatise on Afflictions while enduring cold nights in a forsaken cell in the Tower of London. Even the Apostle Paul wrote much of the New Testament from prison, giving us amazing letters of theological depth and insight into the character and mind of God. 
 I asked myself, how did these men not go crazy under such conditions as this? After all, they were human beings too. They had to have moments of depression and hopelessness. But they somehow made the choice to turn their worst moments into something beautiful for God. They decided to change the world...from a prison cell. 


 Then it struck me: a physical imprisonment is one thing. You can hold a person's body captive, yet their mind can run free and unbound. An imprisonment of the soul, however, is another thing altogether. There are many who walk around as free people physically but their heart is just as bound as those who sit behind stone walls of this sort. And it is just as true that those who may sit behind iron bars for the sake of doing God's will may continue to live a fulfilling life simply because they made the choice to turn their situation into an opportunity. 
 Just because your current circumstances are not ideal doesn't mean that your soul cannot sing. The heart can still praise...even in the darkest hours of life. I've never been physically to prison before, but I've spent many a dark hour locked in a cell of the soul, staring at that one little ray of light and wondering if I would ever be free. I've learned though that living in grace doesn't exclude you from moments such as these. Suffering will beset the path of any person striving to believe, to love fully, to hope. But it's how you choose to put those things into action when circumstances go against you that determines who you become. This is where faith can prove greater than fear. This is where God can use one willing person to change the world - even as they wait through the darkest night of their soul. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Quote of the Day

"You must submit to supreme suffering in order to discover the completion of joy."
                                         - John Calvin