Darkness Will Never Overcome Light

Do you ever just look around you and shake your head in disappointment?
There have been several occasions when I’ve done it myself.  I’m referring to the different places you and I go where life happens; home, school, work, stores, just every day places where we interact with others. . . Bob on Sesame Street sang about it years ago, “…the people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet each day…”  As I recall those memories it sure seems as though those were much simpler times, and perhaps happier times.

I’ve been living for over 50 years now, and things have certainly changed from when I was a child.  People are different, or at least they seem to act differently than they used to.  I think when I got to about the age of 30 I really started noticing that the culture in America was rapidly changing and because I had become a mother of four, I was becoming more concerned about certain things which may not have bothered me as much before motherhood.  Having children and taking responsibility for how they “turned out” was taken very seriously by me.  I had had a hard time growing up, mostly because I was a foster kid who had been abandoned by my birth mother and separated from my siblings.  And, even though I was eventually adopted by the second set of foster parents, they were only able to do the best they could with what they knew.  While they were far from perfect (as we all are) I can honestly say if it wasn’t for them, I have NO IDEA where I’d be. . . but that’s a story for another time.  The point I’m trying to make is the reason I poured myself into parenting my children, is to hopefully reap the rewards of knowing they would grow up to be wonderful people, who know how to love others, make a positive impact on the world around them, find their purpose and live it out, and if they are blessed to have children, then hopefully they would follow my example and be an even better parent than I.  Not trying to brag or boast because believe me, I messed up on so many levels.  But this I know–I may have loved imperfectly, but I loved each of them uniquely and passionately.  I did my best to engage with them individually and build them up, always making myself available and letting them know I would never turn my back on them, EVER…no matter what.  I sacrificed for them in ways they never knew or understood, but their needs were always more important than my own.  I didn’t completely neglect myself, but I knew that one day they would be gone and I would have time for myself when that time came, so I did what I had to do to so that they would know that they were loved, they were important, and their lives mattered.  I wanted to raise up confident human beings who would be compassionate and caring, bold and courageous, who would be willing to step up and make a difference where they could and always be willing to help their fellow human beings.  I prayed for them and tried to teach them to think of others before themselves hoping that they would never become vain, selfish, unkind, greedy, uncaring, self-centered, miserable people who only take from others or look for how they can benefit themselves in every situation.

I am happy to share that I am proud of each of my children and the ways that they have chosen to live their lives.  I still pray for them daily and I am reaping the rewards of doing my best as a parent.  My two oldest have families of their own and are doing their best (and are probably realizing why I did some of the things I did.)  And, as dysfunctional as our family was while they were growing up, they are each still growing daily with a desire to be a better person than they were the day before.  I hope they continue to be the compassionate, caring, kind and courageous people who live to make a positive difference in the world around them because our world could sure use more people like that.  Which brings me back to why I started this post in the first place; I am overwhelmed by the amount of self-centered, ugly people in the world.

Working in retail, I was daily exposed to what seemed like the worst in people.  I tried to think positively and look for the good in people, and on most days I tried to “combat evil” with goodness.  But,  I not only had to deal with this from the guests in the store, but also from a very miserably unhappy co-worker who did everything she could to stir up strife and bully those around her.  She lied, manipulated, and was flat out mean to people for unknown reasons other than she had an “ugly heart”.  Needless to say, there were days when I really hated going to work.  I had to learn to not take things personally and to walk away from situations before they got to me.  There were so many moments that I seriously had a hard time believing my eyes and ears; situations and attitudes that left me speechless, and at times heartbroken, as I considered the condition of humanity.  Lazy, disrespectful people making a mess of the store, dropping things without picking them up, ripping open packages, stealing, and treating others with rudeness.  Teenagers disrespecting their parents, and parents completely disconnected from their children.  People walking through the store on their cell phones using vulgarity with no concern who can hear them.  Couples speaking with contempt toward one another, and children screaming at the top of their lungs while their parent is staring at their cell phone or looking at merchandise.  These are just a few of the examples of what society looks like at a glance, I have also seen and experienced some darker issues as a guest service manager at a hotel, and I understand that if we were able to dig deeper we would see the real issues that cause such ugliness, brokenness, and dysfunction.  We all suffer from the same “disease” at the core of our being.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know there is hope because I found it.  I can’t change the world, but I can make a difference in the places that I go and for the people that I meet.  I can choose to love instead of hate, bless instead of curse, and forgive others as I have been forgiven.  I can choose to look for the best in people even when they show me their worst. And, I can choose to shine brightly in a world that seems to be getting darker every day.  I refuse to become part of the problem and I’ll never stop believing that good overcomes evil every time.

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”  ~ Jane Goodall

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In God I Trust

The familiar cry of the mourning dove stirs within me memories of my first mornings in Texas when I was doing plenty of my own crying. It’s strange how certain sounds, smells, and even seasons can evoke such powerful memories within our heart and mind, and no matter how much time has passed since a certain experience, the emotion attached to it can suddenly seem so very strong, as if it only happened ‘yesterday’. Thankfully, I have grown to move quickly past the painful emotions attached to memories and I am able to remember them with joy and gratitude.
The move to Texas was also the beginning of an important part of my journey of faith; one that many times felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster and at other times an intense spiritual boot camp. Most of the time, I had NO IDEA what was happening. I can still imagine myself metaphorically hanging on for dear life, with white knuckles and a tear-stained face. Countless times I wanted to give up, but the Spirit inside of me would not allow it. I thank God for His promise to never leave me or forsake me. When I couldn’t fight, He fought for me. When I didn’t know what to believe, He helped my unbelief. When I doubted God’s love for me, He pursued me. When I was angry, He was patient. When I cried out, He answered. And, when I was faithless, He was faithful. He surrounded me with friends and people who prayed for me, and with me. When I was in need, He would provide through the generosity of others. He never gave up on me. Through it all, He proved to me that I could trust Him, not that He needed to prove it, but I needed to realize it and then choose to trust Him, no matter what.
So many treasures I discovered throughout my first five years in Texas, but learning to trust in the Lord with all my heart rather than rely on my own thoughts and understanding was pivotal in my relationship with Him, because you can’t have a strong, healthy, lasting relationship with someone you don’t trust. I learned years ago that love is a choice, now I know that trust is a choice as well.
Proverbs 3:5-6
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.”
Are you trusting the Lord with everything?
Is there something you need to surrender?
Something that you need to stop trying to figure out, and stop trying to tell God how he should work it out?
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Two Paths

Everyone has to walk their own path, make their own choices, and deal with the consequences along the way; unfortunately our paths cross with others and we can be affected by it…like getting into an accident in an intersection – sometimes the damage is minimal and repairable, and other times…not so much.
I think the hardest thing for me, however, is to watch someone and not be able to help them; to see them making choices that will hurt them, and walking down a path that leads to destruction, and I have to accept that it’s their choice.

Imagine the incredible aching of God’s heart as He also has to watch so many of His creation turn and walk away from Him and all that He has offered them…

Over the past several years there’s been a popular teaching that people want to accept because it makes them feel better, however, it is contrary to what the Bible teaches. Some say that God is a God of love so therefore he wouldn’t send anyone to hell, and everybody gets to go to heaven. They are right, that God is a God of love, but he is also a God of perfect justice Who judges with perfect righteousness and holiness, and he has prepared a place for the wicked who hate him and who rebel against his ways; people who think their ways are better than God’s ways.

My reply to this false concept of “everybody gets to go to heaven” is, why would “they” want to? If they want to live life their own way according to their own “rules and morals”, and ignore the fact that God created them, and established “laws” to live by, they reject everything about him, mock him, insult him, etc,- why would these people want anything to do with spending eternity with someone they hate?

The beautiful part is that God does still love them, he just doesn’t force them to believe in him, or love him back. And, he’s waiting for the day that they will respond to His love and turn from their wickedness SO THAT He can save them before it’s too late.

“Hebrews 9:27-28 And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Notice how it says those “who are eagerly waiting for him”)

Hebrews 10 describes how God’s enemies will be destroyed along with all those who turn away from him to their own destruction (their choice). I think the problem is that the enemy of God has deceived many and distracted them from the truth that there is a spiritual war going on, and we each have to choose sides.

Hebrews 10:37-39 “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.”

Which side will you choose?

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Choose Love

If part of my purpose is to love no matter what, then the hurtful things that others do, whether intentional or unknowingly, should not matter to me…unless I take offense. One goal of a follower of Christ should be to NOT be easily offended.

I must always keep in mind that the One I follow and learn from, came to a broken and lost world to bring healing and restoration, and as He went about fulfilling His purpose He didn’t get caught up in the politics of the day, or theological arguments, or whether or not one sin was “worse” than another.
He came to teach the truth and to set the captives free.
He wasn’t mad and bitter when others disagreed with Him or didn’t understand His mission; He wasn’t even bothered by His own mother, brothers, and sisters who called Him crazy. And while He may have seemed a little ‘annoyed’ with His closest friends who were a little slow in ‘catching on’ to what His purpose was, He still loved them and ‘put up with them’. And even though he called the people of that generation, ‘wicked and perverse’, He chose to take the punishment for their sin so that they wouldn’t have to. The night that He ate His last dinner with those who knew Him best, He spoke many words to them in an effort to prepare them for what was to come as they fulfilled their purpose on the earth as they continued the work that He began.
Twice He said to them, “This is my command: Love one another”.

This seems so simple in words but clearly, we are living in a time when people do not know what real love is. The word ‘love’ has been overused and misused. We say things like, “I love chocolate!”…”I love sports!” …”I love horses!”…”I love pizza!”
But real love, according to the source of Love, is when you are willing to put someone else’s needs before your own; to lay down your life for another, unselfishly and sincerely concerned about the well-being of another.
We have allowed a wicked and perverse generation to twist and distort our understanding of true Love. What a sad time we live in; but what a perfect time to choose the Way of Love and start living it out every day.

We are all created in the image of God but we certainly don’t reflect that. One person came to make a difference and bring hope for a lost and dying world. He asked His followers to do the same; it’s a perpetual commandment to all who choose to follow Him and to be like Him.

Love is not easily offended.
Love is patient and kind, not jealous or rude.
Love is not boastful, prideful, or selfish.
Love is not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not gloat over someone else’s faults, but
Love rejoices in the truth.
Love always bears up; always trusts; always hopes; always endures.
LOVE never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)love

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Truth is a Lifeline

I’ve always questioned everything. Just because “everyone” accepts something as true doesn’t make it so. Most people are too lazy, I suppose, to question and think about stuff, or maybe too stupid to think for themselves.

I could never just go along with certain things just because “that’s what’s always been done”, or “traditions” and “teachings” of men. Likewise, I can’t continue doing anything, or “believing” anything that has no eternal significance.

We live in a world that is under the influence of evil and deceptions of all kinds. It’s mind-blowing to me how many people don’t want to know the truth because they enjoy the “pleasures” of living in the deceptions.

Over 2000 years ago Pilate asked Jesus, “What is Truth?” We live in a postmodern world that denies that truth can be known, but that’s a lie because Jesus said, “I AM the Truth…” and we can know Him if we want to. But once we begin to live in relationship with him, he opens our eyes to the deceptions all around us and we have a choice to make; trust and follow Him or, continue living in the world and believing the lies. Jesus also said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…” Which means we are set from free from sin, free from condemnation, and free from death (Romans 6:22; 8:1–2). The foundation of knowledge and understanding is established when we believe in who Jesus is and what He came to “do”:
“You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:23–24) (The words of Jesus)

However, simply believing who Jesus is, isn’t enough because the Bible states that “even the demons believe and tremble..” but, obviously they are evil.
Once we have a foundation laid by acknowledging and confessing who he is, then Jesus says we must “hold fast to his teachings” which means we not only believe but also obey his teachings.   As it is written in the word of God:  “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16, ESV).

If we really know Jesus we cannot live as the world lives, trying to conform to their thinking and adapting their “beliefs”, teachings, and traditions. I’ve tried.
It doesn’t work.  It only brings inner struggles and frustrations, and lack of peace and joy.

It takes courage and determination to not only live in the truth, but more so to live OUT the truth. Because once a true disciple starts living as he is called to, ridicule and rejection abound. This is when you need to be more concerned about remaining in pure faith then caring if people “like” you or not, or whether or not they “understand” why you do what you do, or more so why you WON’T do what you don’t do.

I write this from a place of spiritual grief. I see so many people caught up in wrong thinking and pointless living; strangers and people I care deeply for. I’ve lived in the dark, and I’ve lived in the light. I hate the dark. The hardest thing for me to accept is that although I know the Light brings Life, some people still love the darkness and choose to stay away from the Light, rejecting the Truth and embracing deception and ultimately, eternal death and darkness.

I can’t understand why anyone would do this, but I can respect that we all are free to make our choices, and I can still love people where they are.

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The Word Lived Out

While working at a hotel, I had many opportunities to interact with people from every walk of life.  On occasion, my interactions would become somewhat personal; more than just checking someone in for a night, answering frequently asked questions, explaining how to adjust the TV in their room, or helping them find the best place to eat.  Some of those encounters turned out to be, what I refer to as, God-moments; divinely orchestrated opportunities allowing me to let my light shine, by offering some encouragement through a friendly word of hope, helpful words of wisdom, or a light-hearted, humorous perspective to an otherwise frustrating circumstance.  These moments always developed seemingly out of a practical need of a guest, however, I usually didn’t realize it until after the fact.

I remember one unique encounter with a stranger that transpired on a quiet night when I didn’t have much to do.  It began with a plea for help, followed by a casual conversation which turned into serious moments of confessions, contemplation, laughter, and tears.

This particular guest had come to the front desk to ask for my help in successfully placing her take-out order.  She explained to me that the phone in her room didn’t seem to be working, and she was frustrated because all she wanted to do was eat some pizza and relax.  Looking at her with a puzzled expression, I proceeded to ask the normal questions I would have asked anyone in this situation.  Through the process of question asking, it became clear to me that there was something else going on “under the surface”.  This guest-in-need, who quickly professed our new-found friendship, appeared to be trying to hide a wounded soul and an aching heart.  My questions led to a somewhat relaxed confession from her, “I’m sorry. I’ve actually had too much to drink…maybe that’s the real reason I’m having trouble with the phone.”  We both laughed, and I told her I understood and would be glad to help her out.  She handed me her credit card and asked if I would order her a medium pizza with everything on it. “Do you think a medium will be big enough? Have you had dinner yet? Are you hungry?” she asked.  “No, I’m not hungry, but thanks!” I replied.

I dialed the number to the pizza delivery place while she stood by patiently waiting and smiling.  With the order placed I hung up the phone, handed her credit card back to her, and told her it would be about 30 minutes.  “Should I wait for it here?” she asked.  “You don’t have to,” I explained, “You can go to your room if you’d like, and I can tell the delivery person where to bring your pizza when it arrives…It’s completely up to you.”  She decided to stay in the lobby and wait.

After a few minutes of waiting in silence, a conversation began. Wanting to explain to me the reason she had too much to drink earlier that evening, she described how she had spent the day in an uncomfortable, heart-wrenching situation she would have rather avoided because she knew the painful past that she had been running from for the past eighteen years was going to come rushing in, and there was nothing she could do to stop it.   “My grandfather passed away and I came back for the funeral,” she began, “I moved away when I was twenty years old, and I haven’t been back since.  I haven’t talked much to my family since I’ve been gone, either.  I’ve just been busy living my own life, trying to forget the pain of my childhood.”  She continued to tell me how she had spent all day trying to pretend that everything was fine, and trying even harder to convince herself that the things of the past couldn’t hurt her anymore. However, it was obvious as she told me her story that the pain was still very real, and being around her family trying to avoid all the uncomfortable questions was more than she was prepared to deal with.

I mostly listened, offering a sympathetic smile now and then, and only speaking words of support or understanding where I felt they might help. I empathetically offered examples of my own painful past, and we connected on similar hurtful situations that we both had experienced.  As I shared some of my memories, she would occasionally reach out grabbing my hand in excitement as she realized that I could relate.

As I listened to her sharing parts of her life with me, she would unleash certain words and vulgarities that I would rather not hear, but never once did it ‘offend me’ or cause me to try to end our conversation.  I just listened.  Because, in that moment, I came to realize that it wasn’t just about ordering a pizza for a stranger. It was about letting a stranger know that someone cared enough to listen and that someone else knew and understood, at some level, that life is hard at times, and, at times, life just doesn’t make sense.  It was a chance to encourage her with the truth that although life can be hard, and sometimes painful, it’s never so difficult that we should quit or give up. I wanted to speak words of comfort that might give her hope and possibly help her sleep in peace that night.  In a somber moment, she looked straight at me and said, “I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this, I usually don’t open up this way, especially to strangers…but, you have such sweet eyes, there’s a kindness in them, and yet a strength. I know that you have experienced a lot of pain in your life, but it has made you stronger….”

Then she suddenly blurted out, “OH! I just need to give you a hug!”  And, she did.

In fact, we hugged several times during our conversation, and also shared laughter and tears. Yes, I know the alcohol probably had some influence over her words and actions, but I also believe that the kindness of a stranger at just the right time can be the perfect remedy to a soul in need.

Before the pizza arrived, I had the opportunity to share with her that God was the source of the strength she could see in me, and the hope in me was available to her as well.  “Bad things happen in this world and evil does exist,” I explained, “but Jesus can heal our deepest wounds, fill our hearts with His amazing Love so that we can forgive others who have hurt us, and give us hope as we continue living, knowing that one day all of these things won’t matter anymore.”

She thanked me for listening, for sharing, for caring, and for making her laugh.  After she signed the receipt for her pizza and thanked the delivery guy, she gave me one more hug and said, “Stay strong and keep smiling!”  As she hurried off to her room, I wondered if she would remember our conversation, I was hoping that it wouldn’t just become a blur to her, but that maybe it would be the beginning of her finding healing and reconciliation, and that she might even consider continuing to seek this hope that I spoke of, instead of continuing to run from her past.

Later that night, as I was alone and thinking about something she had said, a smile came to my face as I realized that it wasn’t really me that she was so comfortable ‘opening up’ to, but, in fact, the very One who is able to bring true healing and wholeness to her soul, the One who dwells inside of me and gives me strength, hope, and love for others. It was because of my own experience of painful circumstances that I could connect with her, and it was through my own healing that I was able to offer words of hope and comfort.  Because I decided to let Love guide me, and because I chose to be sensitive to the needs of another, I was able to be a living example of what I believe.   As I considered my encounter with a stranger, this thought came to me:

“If you’re really going to love people, you can’t be offended by them; if you REALLY love people, you love them right where they are…in all of their ‘mess’.”

Suddenly the words found in 1 Corinthians 13 rang true to my heart, “If I could speak all the languages of men and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy to understand God’s secret plans, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  I could give everything I have to the poor and even sacrifice my body, but if I didn’t love others, I gain nothing.”

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Peace Through the Storm

I had a few errands to run yesterday afternoon. As I drove, I could see the clouds forming in the west. “Looks like that rainstorm they promised is about to arrive…” I thought.
As I drove, I kept my eyes on the sky almost as much as I kept them on the road. Mostly because when you’re living in tornado country that’s what you do, but also because I really enjoy watching the formation of clouds. They amaze me.
The clouds quickly turned very dark and ominous. The air was still and humid, and as I drove into the town of my destination, the warning sirens were blaring. At 4:00 in the afternoon people were everywhere; driving, walking, and going about their normal routines. But, as I looked around I could see most of them were doing the same thing as I…looking at the sky and listening for the message to come after the siren finished. Then, there it was. As I sat in the truck with my window rolled down I heard, “SEVERE WEATHER WARNING. TAKE IMMEDIATE SHELTER.”
I wasn’t finished with my errands, so I drove on and kept watch of the clouds in my rearview mirror. Arriving in the next city, I heard the sirens blaring there as well, the clouds had grown even more dark and ominous, and the wind was beginning to blow. Instead of passing the Braum’s, I decided to pull in, thinking, “A hot fudge sundae sounds good.” Standing in line, I listened as the workers all nervously chatted about the gathering storm outside. I took my delicious treat over to a table at the window so I could watch and enjoy the weather. I love a good storm. Lightning strikes, booming thunder, rain coming down sideways, and I sat peacefully eating my delicious mix of hot fudge, vanilla ice cream, and nuts. “What a beautiful way to spend part of my afternoon.” I thought. Soon the side door was getting pulled open by the wind, and then it would slam shut. Next, there was a torrential downpour, quickly followed by hail. I finished my sundae and sat watching and waiting for the storm to pass. It wasn’t long, just long enough for me to take a break in my day and rest.
I finished my errands and drove home in the rain. As I arrived, I glanced at the sky and was treated with a beautiful, complete, double rainbow. “WOW!” I exclaimed. “Beautiful.” No matter how many times I see a rainbow, I always feel like a little child seeing one for the first time, with awe and wonder filling my heart.
The day was coming to a close, the evening was peaceful and calm. I didn’t have a care in the world.
As I woke up this morning, the sun was shining brightly, the sky was blue and the Lord whispered to me, “Welcome to another day.” As I sat drinking my coffee and enjoying the quiet morning. It was as if He was talking to me about yesterday’s storm, and helping me remember the peaceful feeling that I had through it all.
I let Him guide my thoughts, as I begin thinking…
“Why was I so calm and peaceful?” –because, I had everything I needed; shelter, information, a place of rest, a yummy treat to enjoy, but most of all assurance. The assurance that I belong to God, and He is in control of every detail of my life, and…every storm. (Hmmm… I need to remember this daily.)
He is a good God.
The rainbow is not only beautiful and wonderful to look at, for me, it is always a symbol of His faithfulness and a reminder that He can be trusted because He is true to His word.

Desert Streams's photo.
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