Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Remodeling the Seasons of the Heart

If your past self from two years ago looked forward at the person you are today, would your past self be pleased or disappointed?

This is the question I found myself facing yesterday afternoon as I sat in pajama pants on my couch, lit only by the light of my computer screen and what little sunlight managed to make its way through the blanket of clouds outside.  It seemed a fitting question for December 30th.  Tonight, around the world, people will celebrate the new year and wish farewell to the old one.  Some people wait in fearful anticipation of the coming year, some are more than happy to wish 2014 farewell, and even others still, greet 2015 with excitement.  Personally, I fall into the group that happily wishes 2014 farewell. 

But regardless of which category you fall into, I can pretty much guarantee that we are all very different people from who we were at the beginning of 2014, and even more so from 2013.  This week I took a walk down memory lane and was forced to realize how different of a person I have become from just two years previous...and I was not sure I liked it.  Granted, there are certainly changes that I like, and some battles I have won, but in reality I think the things I would like to see change about myself far outnumber the things I actually like.

So there I sat, crushed to realize that I had become a person I did not actually like.  I don’t know where I’m going in life, and I am not sure I want to have anything to do with my old life.  Searching and praying for answers, the Lord, ever good and faithful, brought me broken and bewildered to the book of Ecclesiastes. 

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:
“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless”
(Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, NIV).

Here I was, thinking I had wasted the past two years as I read Solomon’s words.  “This guy gets me!” I thought.  Here is a king who has been blessed with everything a man could want, wisdom, wealth, women, etc. and he is looking back on his life and calls it meaningless!  For the rest of the evening, I sat there on the couch and soaked up all 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes, and although I had read those same words, countless times, I was blessed with a fresh glance at the book.  And there in those pages, I found all the answers to my many questions.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Beauty in Pots Cracked by Pain

Life is beautiful, but it is oh, so heavy.  There is nothing that exists in this world more wonderful that is so incredibly hard to bear.  Every school year I inevitably reach a point where I just feel weary.  Usually, it hits me sometime around February, but this year it hit me within a month of being back on campus.  I feel like the man from those old Geico commercials who pulled a cord hanging from the ceiling and had a millstone fall on his head.  This early on into the school year and I’m already finding myself wishing that Life Alert made a version of their handy buttons for my life.  All I would have to do when the weight of the world brings me to my knees is press a button and moan the classic line, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

But I don’t write this particular blog post to complain about my lot in life, rather, hopefully, as an encouragement to those who are going through circumstances much harder than my own.  You see, my own exhaustion as well as a TED Talk I watched tonight about light and darkness, started me thinking about how the Lord has used the various trials in my life not to break me down, but rather to build me up.

Now it would be easy for me to say my last sentence if I had not ever experienced any real hardship in my life, but from the age of three, God has brought into my life a number of defining trials.  I most certainly cannot claim that the life I have lived has been an easy one, but I can say with the utmost confidence that it is a good one.  During the various hardships of my life, God has taught me a few things which I would like to share with you in this blog post.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Modesty: What Most Men Won't Tell You

Blog author's note: The following blog post is written in response to the attached article. I recommend reading it to best develop your own opinion, however I have quoted from the article in my post so it is not necessary. 

Now I know I’m gonna be in the minority here by a long shot, but upon reading “Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means” by Rachel Held Evans, I felt the need to give a male response to the article.  What I’m about to write is something that most men don’t tell women because of one of two reasons; the first reason being that we have bought into the modern concept of modesty ourselves, or the second being that we secretly like immodesty because it looks nice. 

In the attached blog post by Rachel Evans, she says, “ are responsible for their own thoughts and actions when this happens; they don’t get to blame it on what a woman is wearing.” She then goes on to say, “regardless of whatever synapsis involuntarily fire in a man’s brain when he sees a woman’s body, he alone is responsible for the decision to objectify a woman or treat her with respect. Placing that burden upon women is unnecessary and unfair.”  First off, on the one hand I totally agree with her. When it comes down to it, every man that looks lustfully at a woman has to answer for his own actions.  However, without making a judgment on whether or not immodesty is wrong just yet, I want to point you to 1 Corinthians 8:9-12.   “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” Paul is talking here about eating food sacrificed to idols which is not wrong, but should someone who thinks it is wrong see you doing it and eat it anyway, then they have sinned and you caused them to do it.  (Now ladies, please don’t think that I’m comparing you as meat sacrificed to idols because I am most definitely not.)  As Ms. Evans says, if men lust, they are the ones sinning; this verse does not disagree with that.  However, if someone causes somebody else to sin, according to Paul, then “you sin against Christ.”  Granted, some men will lust over a woman who has done nothing to cause him to do such a thing other than the very fact that she exists. In such a case, I would say that only the man is at fault, however in many cases, that is not the case at all.  I will be so daring to say that wearing a bikini is wrong. Yes, it looks good, and no I’m not saying you have to hide your femininity.  What I am saying is that, if for no other reason other than the fact that I KNOW both from experience and others, that dressing such a way causes guys to stumble.  And to cause someone to stumble is, according to Paul, a sin.

Now ladies, I don’t think you realize how much of a struggle sexual sin is for men, but suffice it to say that I do not know a single guy who does not struggle sexually in some way.  For those of us who care about this and try to keep it at bay, it is very hard to have our sisters in Christ dressing immodestly in such a way that it makes it harder on us.  Let me give you an illustration to maybe put it into perspective. The first is imagine that your brother was an alcoholic. You knew that if he had a drink it would make it very hard for him not to stay sober.  The natural thing to do would be not to have alcohol anywhere near him. You would probably not only not let him have a drink, but you yourself would not drink around him.  In the same way, if you know that your male brothers have a tendency to struggle with sexual sin, why would you not help us in fighting that struggle by dressing in such a way that did not tempt us?  Let me use another illustration. Now we have all cut out sweets or gone on a diet at some point in time.  Say that you are.  Now imagine that you are invited to a party.  Now during the course of the night, everyone keeps asking you if you want to have a piece of cake. Now if nobody had asked you, it wouldn't have been too hard to restrain yourself, but with each person that asks, and each time you see someone eating a piece of that cake, the harder it becomes to not eat any cake.  If you do give in, it will be your fault, but your battle was not made easier by those offering you the cake.  In the same way, yes we can guard our eyes, but ladies, the more your batter our defenses with these things, the harder it becomes for us to squelch the temptation!

A Meditation on Light

It has always been a source of amusement to me that insects are so attracted to light. I still laugh at the scene from Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, where we see two flies next to a bug zapper.  As the one fly approaches the light in a trance-like state, the first fly screams, “No Harry, no! Don’t look at the light!” to which fly number two responds in a monotone voice, moments before perishing, “I can’t help it. It’s so beautiful!”

We laugh, but over the years I have noticed that humans, too share this attraction to light. Obviously not unto death in the same way as an insect, but have you ever been riding passenger in a car at night down a mountain road?  Perhaps this is a personal issue, but on the rare occasion that a car passes by going the other direction, I find it very hard to keep my eyes from staring straight into the light.  It ruins my night vision and even hurts a little, but it takes quite a bit of self control to keep from staring straight into the oncoming headlights.  But why is that? Why this attraction to the light?  I believe that man was created with a need for light.  Not only does sunlight provide our bodies with the necessary Vitamin D, but it can also provide us with comfort and peace when used as a night-light for children, etc.

But where does this need come from?  Man was created with a desire to be with God, a desire that was no longer able to be satisfied after the fall.  No longer could man commune with God in the same way.  James 1:17 calls God “the Father of the heavenly lights” (NIV).   In Revelation 21:23, we are told that the city of God “does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”  So it seems that our desire to be close to light stems from our desire to be close to God.

Now yesterday as I sat on the edge of a cliff staring out at North Chickamauga Pocket Wilderness, I began to think about how much people miss by not looking up.  There is so much beauty contained outside of the usual 45° that we tend to look at.  Because of this, far too many people in my generation have never seen a shooting star, never fully appreciated a sunset, and never watched magnificent thunder clouds roll in over the land.  As I sat there staring out over the river stretching out below me, I contemplated the reason for such a tragedy.  Then it occurred to me that it all had to do with light.

A Meditation on the Forgotten Faith of Sinking Peter and Doubting Thomas

It's amazing how you find new things hidden in scripture every single time you read through the Bible! This time it has been some unexpected lessons from Jesus' disciples; bear with me.

Have faith! When times are difficult Christ is still in control! In the same way that He allowed Peter to walk on the stormy sea, so Christ can lift you up above your troubles if you just have faith in Him! Do not let yourself be like Peter and lose faith; you will only slip into the stormy ocean!

When your trials seem unbearable remember that God has a plan for you in them. Romans 8:28 says “All things work together for the good of those who love God” Blessed are you who have not seen God's plan fulfilled and yet still believe! Do not allow yourself to be a doubting Thomas!

I am not questioning the truth behind the above two statements, however, God has recently shown me that they are only half of the lesson held within the stories.

As fallen humans we love to point out other's mistakes lest we ourselves appear guilty of any wrong. We love to show despair at Peter sinking in the waves while we take secret pleasure that he was fallen just like us.  Thus we subsequently ignore the fact that Peter had the faith to step out onto the water at all!  Sure he sank, but he got out of the boat in the first place! That is more than most of us can even claim, myself included. We cannot have the faith to stay above water if we do not ever have the faith to step out onto it in the first place. In the same way, how can we expect God to use us if we are not willing to risk the stormy waters that He may bring. Modern day Christians love our comfortable lives and don't want to risk rocking the boat with any discomfort. Perhaps the lesson we should focus on from Peter's story is not to have the faith to stand on a stormy sea, although that too is important, but to be willing to allow God to bring stormy seas into our lives in order to teach us to stand strong through them.

We love to call Christians with less faith than ourselves a Doubting Thomas. In the famous story, Thomas didn’t have the faith to believe in the claims that Jesus was risen from the dead unless he could place his fingers in the nail-holes and his hand in the spear wound in Jesus’ side. As we all know, Christ then appeared to him and allowed him to believe through sight, but blesses those who did not see, and yet still believed.

How'd I End Up on This Mountaintop?

So I guess it's about time I jump on the blog-bus! It seems that everyone and their grandmother has a blog now.  Heck, I don't even know if anyone even reads them, but I figured I would give it a shot.  Now I know me, I won't post that often and if I did, it wouldn't be anything that y'all would care about.  However, I also know that on occasion I'll invoke the muses and inspiration will hit.  Rather than post a massive Facebook post as I have in the past, I figure I'll post it here. If you look at this blog, you'll see a couple of posts that you may have already read on Facebook, but I am posting here just to get it started, as well as one new post.  Hopefully someone reads it and maybe even enjoys it.  At the very least, my hope is that it makes you think.