Sunday, January 30, 2011

an ironic God?

If you live anywhere remotely near where I do... you had a beautiful Saturday. For the first day in months I sat outdoors and enjoyed the sun's rays and did not have to wear a coat. I was at home in Hattiesburg, mom was riding her horse in Madison... so Bea (mom's dog) and I sat in the swing for hours. My observation of God's creation made me think...

... do you think God likes to be ironic? Because He is... a lot.

I took this picture of the sun yesterday.

Look at the way the rays of the sun beam out... they shine so far even on a cloudy day. According to Wikipedia, the Earth is about 93 million miles from the Sun. It's a well known fact that no one can touch/go/see up close the sun because they would die. In thinking of that... and the beauty and light that something 93 million miles away can bestow on me, sitting on a porch in South Mississippi... I began to think about God... who is also unseeable and untouchable in these two stories in the bible.

Moses:Exodus 3: 1-5

1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father,[a] the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

God revealed himself to Moses through fire

(... last time I checked, the sun was a big ball of fire.)

Saul --> Paul: Acts 9:1-16

1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

A light from Heaven shown on Saul and though he was not like Moses and was afraid to look, God blinded Saul so he could not look.

Both of these men overcame great odds and the doubt of many (including themselves) to follow God's Will for their lives and as a result their stories became pivotal example of the transformation God can bring in ones life. Moses, by all accounts, had some sort of speech impediment... yet he is the one cried out to Pharaoh, "Let My People Go!" (And Pharaoh did...) Saul, the King who persecuted so many Christians only God himself knows the number became one of the most respected teachers and preachers of his day. I believe, that the impact of those transformations are made more evident through the physical light that was shown on these men.

The light of the sun will blind you if you are too close...

God who in three persons is the also the Son was not able to be seen either...

{Ironic?? }

I don't think God does coincidence... everything is a lesson with Him. So... I'm trying to figure out what my lesson was yesterday. I think I may understand it... but am waiting for confirmation. Ultimately, whenever we have those sun/Son light moments... it's what I do with that lesson that matters.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Love Y'all,


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A beautiful picture...

Tonight, I imagine a beautiful picture.

My grandmother walking....

My grandmother walking down the streets of gold...

My grandmother reuniting with her husband...

...then her son...
... her parents...

...and then her brothers...
... hugging her brother she has not seen since he went to war so many
years ago and never came home.

Then I imagine her meeting her Savior. Him welcoming her to her new home...
... Her new home where she is whole, healthy, and able...
... where there are no wheelchairs and walkers.
No insulin or oxygen machines.
Today was a wonderful day for my grandmother... it was her Homecoming day.
Amazing Grace by: Chris Tomlin (adapted)
Her chains are gone
She's been set free...
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

{Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!}
2 Corinthians 5:17
I am so thankful for nearly 28 years with my grandmother... though for many of those she was sick and unable to get around as she would have liked. I was and will continue to be blessed by her love, devotion to our family, support and humor. Though it is sad to know she is gone... the vision of her walking around Heaven without the assistance of anything but her son's arm or her mother's hand squelches any desire I might have for her to be back on this earth. I look forward to the next few days of celebrating her life with our family and friends, but ask that you pray for us as we lay yet another family member to eternal rest... and oh how restful it is in the arms of our Savior!
I love y'all,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.

Honestly, sometimes I get tired of being... or trying to be strong. And sometimes it doesn't seem like I'll be satisfied just by walking closer to Him. However, I know that's what I need to do... what I need to try and do... and something that I cannot get tired of trying to do. Reality and Spirituality are sometimes hard to connect. Though I feel like sometimes I don't want to try... I know that the Holy Spirit is sitting right here beside me as I go through this season of life.

I think that the subject of death is a head/heart debate, especially for us Christians. Your head says that your loved on is in a much better place... free from hurt, pain, sickness, etc... whereas your heart dwells on the ache of loss, the Why?, the reason (maybe backwards from logic on which part debates what... but I think this is the way it goes). Your heart doesn't necessarily think of the pros... just the cons. And it just compounds if there are other frustrations in life.

Tonight is one of those nights that I need to be reminded that He is in control and nothing I can do or say will change His mind. I just want to be in His will so bad... but I am at a place where I don't know if I am... and that hurts most days. To be honest sometimes I get a Job complex and wonder why so many bad things have happened since I moved to Birmingham... but then I'm realizing that I am discounting all the blessings that have happened since I moved here. Is God testing me and I am epically failing? Or all these all just lessons to teach me to be a better _____. Most likely it's this... it doesn't have a freaking thing to do with me... and I'm just being self centered by wondering how all this relates back to me. Shouldn't I be thinking about how it all relates to Him?? As much as I am trying to focus on Him... sometimes that view gets distorted. I'm praying that as the uncertainty of this week approaches that I'll constantly be reminded of His presence.

Please pray for Mawmaw Cole... she is in the hospital and not doing so well. We have been in this situation with her before... so I have no clue what the future holds for her... but just pray for God's will for her and that the family will be comforted no matter the outcome.

I love y'all,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Thoughts on Perspective... it's enlightening

Anyone that knows me would say I am a positive person... Negativity annoys me. I have been reading through Psalms and have been overwhelmingly annoyed with King David. There are so many of the Psalms that exude cynicism and negativity... poor pitiful me King David appointed by God. In some, King David is totally in the bitter barn. He's calling out anybody and everybody who ever did him wrong. Praying that God not have mercy on them... that his enemy be destroyed...

Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living. (Psalm 52:5)

But... what I had not thought of was this:

... for a big part of his life, prior to be King, David was chased by Saul with a price on his head... He hid, he ran, he begged for help. Many people lost their lives because they helped David.
So my guess is that these uber negative Psalms, the ones not about Praise, Worship, or Thanksgiving... were the ones written during David's valley moments.... some bibles note when certain Psalms were written... and others do not. Those that don't have any notation... because of a little perspective, I wonder if they were written during his time in the cave of Adullam. (Maybe prior to the time the army of 400 showed up, when he actually had a little peace and quiet) Actually as a whole, the Psalms make much more sense after reading books like 1 Samuel, where we learn about David hiding and the difficulties he had to face while running from Saul. However, in a long story short - okay King David is not as annoying as I thought he was because I am connecting the whole story now - format, here's the Psalm he wrote after the Lord delivered him from his enemies: (Some of my favorite parts in bold)
Psalm 18
For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD. He sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said:
1 I love you, LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.
4 The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
5 The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
6 In my distress I called to the LORD;
I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.
7 The earth trembled and quaked,
and the foundations of the mountains shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
8 Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
9 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
13 The LORD thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, LORD,
at the blast of breath from your nostrils.
16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the LORD was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me. (??? That's something to aim for!!)
20 The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD;
I am not guilty of turning from my God.
22 All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
23 I have been blameless before him
and have kept myself from sin.
24 The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
25 To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
26 to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
27 You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
28 You, LORD, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.
29 With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall.
30 As for God, his way is perfect:
The LORD’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God besides the LORD?
And who is the Rock except our God?
32 It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You make your saving help my shield,
and your right hand sustains me;
your help has made me great.
36 You provide a broad path for my feet,
so that my ankles do not give way.
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
38 I crushed them so that they could not rise;
they fell beneath my feet.
39 You armed me with strength for battle;
you humbled my adversaries before me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
and I destroyed my foes.
41 They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
to the LORD, but he did not answer.
42 I beat them as fine as windblown dust;
I trampled them like mud in the streets.
43 You have delivered me from the attacks of the people;
you have made me the head of nations. People I did not know now serve me,
44 foreigners cower before me; as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
45 They all lose heart; they come trembling from their strongholds.
46 The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!
47 He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me,
48 who saves me from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes;
from a violent man you rescued me.
49 Therefore I will praise you, LORD, among the nations;
I will sing the praises of your name.
50 He gives his king great victories;
he shows unfailing love to his anointed,
to David and to his descendants forever.
{Long story short: I need to look at things from a different perspective sometimes.}
I mentioned Mr. James Graham as a prayer request a few nights ago. Mr. James passed away yesterday. Please keep his family in your prayers.
Thanks... and Love Y'all!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Snowmageddon 2011: The Biblical Lesson

After looking out the window at the snow for several hours, I decided I wanted to take a walk around campus. Snow is not something this South Mississippi girl sees very often... In the 5 years since I have moved to Birmingham I have seen more snow than the previous 23 when I lived in Hattiesburg. One of my favorite parts of the snowfall is the period before anyone walks on it, plays in it, or messes with it... when it is a blanket of white (not a very thick blanket) that is pure and peaceful. As I walked down the sidewalks with my head down to avoid the sleet hitting me in the face I took notice of just how white snow is. I know that may sound rediculous, but it was nearly midnight, but it was bright outside in a way... the light color of the ground made everything else lighter. I couldn't help but think of an old hymn and consequently a biblical simile as I gazed tried to determine where the sidewalk and grass met.

Tho' Your Sins Be as Scarlet, by: Frances Jane Crosby
"Tho' your sins be as scarlet,They shall be as white as snow;
Tho' your sins be as scarlet,They shall be as white as snow;
Tho' they be red like crimson,They shall be as wool;"
"Tho' your sins be as scarlet,Tho' your sins be as scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow,They shall be as white as snow."
Hear the voice that entreats you,Oh, return ye unto God;
Hear the voice that entreats you,Oh, return ye unto God;
He is of great compassion,And of wondrous love;
Hear the voice that entreats you,Hear the voice that entreats you,
Oh, return ye unto God!Oh, return ye unto God!
He'll forgive your transgressions,And remember them no more;
He'll forgive your transgressions,And remember them no more;
"Look unto Me, ye people,"Saith the Lord your God;
He'll forgive your transgressions,He'll forgive your transgressions,
And remember them no more,And remember them no more.

"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:
though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Isa. 1:18.

There are other references to this simile in the bible...

In one of his Psalms, King David wrote the following after he was confronted by Nathan about his adultary with Bathsheba... it is one of the many phrases of repentance for David:

"Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."
Psalm 51:7

In Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation, the simile is used describe God:

“As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze."
Daniel 7:9

"His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow."
Matthew 28:3

"The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire."
Revelation 1:14

What a humbling and amazing visuals:
  • Because of my salvation, I am as white... as pure as that snow that I love so much to look at...

  • Our Lord... dressed in clothes white as snow, a paradox to the other items compared to fire.

Ultimately it's important not to forget that the two are connected. Without my Savior, dressed in white... I can't become white. Salvation cannot come without a Savior. We can't be white as snow without the One who created the snow, who is dressed in white as snow.

Prayer requests:
- Rep. Gaby Griffins from Arizona... and the families of those who died in the tragedy in Tuscon.
- James Graham, my cousins stepfather... he is very sick and the family is gathered at the hospital. Pray for comfort for Mr. James and the family.
- Continue to pray for baby Garrett... he is gaining wright and doing better!
- My friend Kaylie is going on a mission trip to San Francisco this week. She leaves on Tuesday and with Snowmageddon we are hoping none of her travel plans get delayed. Please pray for safety and opportunities for her on this trip.
Now that it's 2:30am I should probably get to sleep (Snow Day tomorrow!!). If you get to see the snow, think about how it relates to you and enjoy it for its beauty and what it represents...
Love Y'all,
p.s. Mom, the new boots were great for my late night walk! Thanks! love you!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A call to bear fruit...

At the encouragement of a friend I am currently readying "The Gospel According to Jesus" by John MacArthur. Simply stated, in the few chapters I have read Mr. MacArthur's writings are enlightening me to think of some things in a different manner, so of course, the blog is the place to share...

When one makes the decision to become a Christian, (and I do believe there has to be a decisive moment) what are they really being called to do? ... To be a good person? That life will be easier because they are a Christian? That they have the assurance of eternity in Heaven?

Those may be a part of the bargain so to speak... but I believe it is much more than that.

“The gospel Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship,
a call to follow Him in submissive obedience,
not just a plea to make a decision or pray a prayer.”
(page 37)

For those who think being a Christian is easy, I challenge them to reevaluate that thought and their relationship...

Do you think that just because you ask Jesus to be your Savior that life automatically changes with the utterance of those words? No… that’s not the way it works… eternity changes, life does not. Things will still be hard, there will still be challenges, tragedies, and turmoil. The difference is who is in your corner, who is on your team… who you can turn to during those times. Non believers don’t have a higher power to turn to… Christians do. We may not always get the answers we are looking for… but we know the One in control, and if you have true faith, blind faith … that assurance and comfort of eternity is enough… even in the deepest darkest valley, the assurance that you will spend eternity with Christ has to make the bad days look better… otherwise, let’s be honest… what’s the point? True Christianity is not a call to comfort. A true Christian acts… they do something with the knowledge and Spirit they have behind them… whether that’s encouraging others or using your talents in a ministry of some sort… God does not call us to be idle. He called us to action.

So that brings me to the topic of fruit...

yes, Fruit.
What am I doing with my relationship with Christ? What are you doing? Who are you in these verses... the good fruit or the bad?
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:15-23)
I think it is important here to remind us all what we are here for... and it comes from my favorite verse in the bible... I don't believe any Christian can be self conscious after reading these words.
{For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.}
Ephesians 2:10
I know I have written about this before, but just as a reminder, the word "workmanship" is synonymous with the word Masterpiece... which is why I don't think any Christian can be self conscious, knowing the you are His masterpiece... wow.
Anyway, back to the point of the story here... God created us to do good works, to bear good fruit... and we can all do that in different ways, but the ultimate point is that we must do it!!! What good is faith without works!!?? So many times you hear that Salvation is through Grace and not works... which is so true... but once you have the Salvation... we must be compelled to act on it! If you accept Jesus as your Savior… he must also be your Lord. They are not mutually exclusive. You can’t have one without the other. That is not even a decision that you make because Jesus is Lord of ALL regardless of our thoughts, opinions, choices. He became Lord of ALL when HE CREATED EVERYTHING!!! So... simply put, He tells us to do it... so we should!!
To truly understand God's grace: "In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace." Colossians 1:6 (NIV)
To life a life worthy and pleasing: " that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God..." Colossians 1:10 (NIV)
This challenge to bear fruit... this calling... it's for all of us. I know that I am able to bear new fruit, and different kinds of fruit... I just pray that as the year goes on I won't be the only one to see it. I pray the He will see my faith through my obedience in trying to bear and produce good works to glorify my Lord and Savior... and Him alone.
Love Y'all,