Posts Tagged With: spirituality

A King Among Beggars: An Easter Story

Recently I saw my first bald eagle. I was driving home from class, winding through North Florida country- woods on my right, woods on my left, and a curve ahead. I slowed slightly while rounding the curve, and tapped the break a bit more upon glimpsing the flock of vultures partially in the road, to allow them an extra few seconds to gain some altitude. Only half paying attention to the flapping wings, I suddenly caught sight of a white head providing stark contrast to the others. I did a double take, and after a quick glance in the rear-view mirror, slowed the car to a stop with a nod in silent gratitude to the country roads that bask in solitude. I craned my neck hoping to find him, and sure enough the white headed wonder was soaring just over the tree tops.

Maybe it’s a result of growing up in a big city, or just my long standing fascination with birds of prey, but I felt humbled by this stoic, proud, fearless, unapologetic creature. He is it. The king. The lion may be king of the jungle, but the eagle is king of the skies. Every knee shall bow.

What I couldn’t resolve, though, was the question of why in the world this bald eagle appeared seemingly out of nowhere in the midst of beggars. What possible business does he have sharing air space with them, or a meal, if that’s what he was doing? It’s just unbelievable.

But the answering thought was,

“Because that’s what the best kings do.”

The best kings walk among beggars; a true Savior befriends sinners. 

Whether risen from a roadside grave, or a tomb of stone, a true King is unmistakable. He befriends vultures: the lepers, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the cowardly, the drunks, the suicidal, the afraid, the abused, the abandoned. A true King doesn’t care what the world says of you, or what you’ve done…only your heart and your response to his outstretched hand.

As I watched the bald one circle and rise, unchained to any earthly anchor, the beggars followed suit, unashamed. I thought to the cross, to this day, to Easter. I thought of my Savior, the One unchained. The One the earth couldn’t hold. And I thought of the beggars. Because that’s all I am- a beggar.

All I am, is a beggar, with a King who unbelievably walked with beggars on Earth, so that when He rose, when He called my name, I would have the freedom to follow suit, unashamed.

 

 

Thank you, Jesus. I will follow. 

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The Realization that will Help you Forgive Anyone Who Ever Hurt You

“It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’ “

-Matthew West, Forgiveness

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When Jesus was hanging on the cross, why did he say, “Father, forgive them, they are blind fools they know not what they do.”

How could they not know what they are doing? They consciously chose to be there, to make the long walk up to the Calvary hill, to drive the nails through His flesh. How could they not know?

Maybe what Jesus meant was they didn’t know He was the Son of God, and if they knew, or rather, believed that he really was the Savior, things would have ended differently.

I don’t think that’s all Jesus meant. I think it goes much deeper. He’s not just asking God to forgive the men who hung Him on the cross, He’s asking God to forgive every human and every sin and every hurt ever inflicted.

In most cases it’s not that we don’t know the difference between right and wrong, at least if we really sat down and thought about it. It’s that we are completely incapable of going through our lives without sinning, without doing wrong, without hurting people.

If we could, we’d never need a Savior to begin with.

We are all of us, fallen, sinful, broken people.

Fallen, sinful, broken people in need of Jesus.

Why is this the realization that will help you forgive anyone who ever hurt you?

I propose this because through this lens, you look at your overly critical mother, your absent father, your sibling betrayal, your thief of a friend, your teacher who embarrassed you, your boss who blamed you, that stranger who sexually assaulted you, that trusted mentor who stopped standing up for you…

And on the other side of that lens, what is left? The cross. And our desperate need for it.

Forgiving someone is not saying IT’S OKAY or IT DIDN’T MATTER. It’s saying IT DID MATTER but with the acknowledgement that humans disappoint other humans. It’s saying we cannot hold our fellow humans to the standards only Jesus can meet. It’s simply understanding that the person who hurt us needs Jesus, and He responded and died on the cross for them. He was whipped and beaten not just for our sin, but for theirs too. And once we start looking at them through Jesus’ eyes, forgiveness becomes inevitable. The anger begins to fade and a level of compassion begins to form.

We don’t forgive, because the person deserves it, we forgive, to release them to the cross. We set them free, and in turn become free ourselves. 

That person who hurt you? It wasn’t okay. But God is still at work in them, He’s not done yet. And more importantly he’s not done with you yet either.  Jesus is filling empty seats and holding open doors and mending broken hearts.

Who do you need to forgive? Do you think looking through the eyes of heaven rather than the eyes of the world can help you achieve this?

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This song “Just Another Birthday” by Casting Crowns, is heartbreaking yet beautiful. It’s an example of pointing to the cross in the midst of brokenness and emptiness and allowing Him to fill the holes left in our hearts be fellow humans.

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According to Your Faith

”The Bible says in Matthew 9:29 “According to your faith it will be done unto you.” That’s one of my favorite verses in the Bible. What are you expecting God to do in your life? This is the law that God has established. It’s called the Law of Expectation. The fact is, we tend to get what we expect out of life. We tend to see what we expect to see. We tend to hear what we expect to hear. We tend to feel the way we expect to feel. We inevitably accomplish what we expect what we’re going to accomplish. This is the law of faith. God says you get to choose. Because “According to your faith it will be done unto you.”

– Rick Warren

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christianphotoshops.com

Jesus talked a lot about faith in his time on Earth, and examples of its power go back to the beginning of the Old Testament. We are told that with faith the size of a mustard seed we could tell a mountain to move from here to there and it would move, and nothing shall be impossible for us (Matthew 17:20), and that if we tell a mountain to be taken up and cast into the sea, it shall happen (Matthew 21:21). Jesus healed people, and told them it was their faith that made them well (Mark 10:52), and again we are reminded of what we can accomplish, that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). All things, not some things, but all. After all, if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)? We can walk through life re-assured, because greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4), and no weapon formed against us shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17). He wants us to be the head, not the tail, on top, not the bottom (Deuteronomy 28:13).

I declare these verses out loud on the way to work every morning. I declare His blessings and favor over my day and thank Him for already being at the end of the day waiting for me, thanking Him for things He has done before they even play out in my life. In doing this, I notice those blessings pour out and my mood is better, I’m happier and more positive.

When I take a step back and look over my life and how far I’ve come, over the past year, the past two years, five years… I’m amazed at the growth. I’m amazed at where I am today. In many ways I’ve worked very hard to get here, but there are also many situations and blessings that I couldn’t have done anything about, that had to fall into my lap so to speak.

Maybe that’s what faith is about, maybe it means we can’t do everything on our own, but it also means we can’t just sit back and expect God to hand us everything out of thin air. Maybe God helps those who help themselves. Maybe we have to do everything we possibly can, and then when we can’t do anything more, when we are at the end of our abilities and resources, we then lift our gaze to heaven and trust God to do what only He can.

Image     The Secret was a film and best-selling self-help book from 2006 displaying the power of thought and the law of attraction. Everything we could want or ask for we can attract through our daily thoughts and focus. If we think positive, we attract positivity. If we have a negative outlook, more negativity comes our way. This can be life-changing and affect wealth, health, and happiness. What you seek you will find. This concept is based on science and brainwaves and frequencies.

The funny thing is, this scientific concept, this eye-opening phenomenon that grabbed the attention of millions, has been around for a couple thousand years.

 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” -Matthew 7:7

     It’s funny how today we see things as either science or religion, one or the other, right or left, yes or no. Maybe it’s both. In Rob Bell’s video “Everything is Spiritual” he suggests the answer is simply, “Yep.” It’s both.

“Is it science or is it religion?”

“Yep.”

       Maybe we have more control over our lives than we think. We can do more and go farther than our circumstances suggest. Maybe what it takes is faith. Faith, backed with a humility as mentioned in Matthew 18:2-4, to be child-like, humble and teachable, without pride or haughtiness. To know that we can’t do it on our own, that we need Him, and then believe that He will show up.

      So, will we climb out of the boat we are in, and step out of our comfort zone, onto the crashing waves where Jesus is holding out his hand?

     Will we stand before a giant with just a sling and a stone, surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors shaking in their armor?

     If we can ignore the world laughing at us and reminding us of all the times we’ve failed, and choose to listen to the voice of truth, maybe we’ll find the stone was just the right size to put the giant on the ground, and the waves don’t seem so high from the top of them looking down. 

Are you walking by faith today?

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Help Me Find It

 

This song by Sidewalk Prophets has been stuck in my head for days. It has a catchy tune, but also powerful lyrics that speak a prayer held in many of our hearts. “If there’s a road I should walk help me find it, if I need to be still give me peace for the moment.”

None of us have a crystal ball or can see the future. Though many of us often wish we could. Humans throughout history have searched for the meaning of life and questioned our purpose on Earth. I don’t think that answer is one we can ever fully understand, but there is a simple response. We are here to seek God, to reside in his presence, to grow and learn and evolve, and to spread his Kingdom and bring glory to him.

Of course it doesn’t always work out this way because of a tricky little thing called free will that we all have and a tendency to want to make our own choices.

What we often forget, is that letting go and deferring to God’s will and God’s plan will actually make us a heck of a lot happier, and bring us much more joy and blessings than we could ever achieve on our own.

Learning to come to the well and rest, let go of our anxieties, and have a little faith…. is the key to a peaceful life. And when I say peaceful, I do not mean easy. Life will never be easy. Jesus warned us that it would never be easy. But there is an inner peace, in the midst of utter chaos and stresses, that comes from the Spirit alone.

I once heard, “fear is faith in the devil.” I like that. We have what many call “healthy fear” but I think of that more as knowledge, and wisdom. To not be reckless, and to understand when things are going to hurt you…that’s being wise, not afraid.

If we have faith “the size of a mustard seed” we could tell a mountain to move from here to there and it will move. Faith, allows us to walk on water, to part the sea. The same power within Peter and Moses is within each of us: The Holy Spirit.

I admire that kind of faith, that kind of peace… and I’m not there yet. I pray I get there someday.

Lord, your way has always brought me farther than my way. My way brings struggle and stress, and your way brings freedom and peace. If there’s a road I should walk help me find it, if I need to be still give me peace for the moment.

 

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Jeremiah 29:11

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picture by Sandra Parlow

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

What an incredible promise. A promise from our Father, that he has plans for us. That he doesn’t just stand back and watch and whatever we make of our lives then so be it, no, he actually has a plan, a purpose for each of us. He has created each one of us for a purpose and he wants to prosper us and give us hope.

I can be a little dramatic sometimes, a dreamer, a sap, a mushpot…whatever you can call it at the time. Sometimes I get in these moods where I’m frustrated where I’m at. I want more. I want to  trade in my job where I go through the motions and the only purpose to go each day is to make money, for a job where I make a difference, where I can impact people’s lives, provide inspiration and hope to others. And I feel hopeless and impatient and desperately want to see the road ahead leading me to this place but I just, don’t see it. I get worried that I will live a life of no influence. When I get like this God usually comes along and finds a way to remind me to have faith. Some reminders are very subtle and if I am not looking for the message, I’ll miss it. Others smack me right in the face. Each time my Father knows exactly what I need to find hope again.

God knows the significance Jeremiah 29:11 has for me, he is the one that chose this passage as the first verse that would truly touch my heart. In October of 2005 as I sat on a bench in the chapel at Remuda Ranch, out in the desert outside the town of Wickenburg, AZ, having arrived a week earlier for treatment for an eating disorder, I looked up at a picture sitting on the wall and for the first time read what it said. This verse was written across it with a picture of an eagle or dove or something I don’t remember, for that part didn’t matter. Reading that verse for the first time broke something in me. Broke something in a good way. Like the first stone crumbling away from a dam. A dam strong and unforgiving, not letting any little thing pass through. That stone crumbled away and light had been waiting for the opportunity, an opening to shine through.

It was a foreign concept to me then, that God could possible have a plan, a purpose for my life. That he could possibly want to give me hope for the future. I was 18 years old at this time and couldn’t imagine making it to my 21st birthday. I never dared to imagine that God, the creator of the earth, sun, stars and sky, ever planned anything personally for my little old life. And now, whenever I feel a loss of direction, or a bit of frustration or monotony in my day to day, my Father usually finds a way to bring me back to Jeremiah 29:11. And he has a way of making it feel like that verse was written just for me.

As silly as it seems, my little frustration with my jobs and what I’m doing versus what the dream may be… As insignificant as my little feelings are in the grand scheme of things, in the grand scheme of the world- war, poverty, natural disasters and tragedy… somehow God still cares about the smallest discouragement in my heart. It’s amazing. A couple days ago this frustration visited me. It started late morning. I didn’t want to be at work. I don’t want to be working two jobs. I was frustrated and felt like I was wasting my time. These thoughts infected my mood into the early evening, where God planted Jeremiah 29:11 in the heart of a nice couple who came out to eat and who I was fortunate enough to serve that day. At the end of a busy rush, my mind scrambled, fresh with chaos, this table had left and I went to pick up the check off the empty table and right on top was a business card for a Christian bookstore with a note on the back. My name, saying, “you did great!” and “thank you” and “Jer 29:11” with the man and woman’s names at the bottom.

I could feel a wetness in my eyes as I stood there and froze for a few seconds. Here it is again. A reminder. I spent my day being ungrateful, wallowing in disappointment and self pity, instead of counting my blessings and being grateful for the immense grace and goodness God has provided me, and yet he still gave me that gift. He used that couple, Tom and Cherie, to give me that gift. Those words. That promise. Those people have no idea how much that meant to me, or maybe they were in on it more than I think.

Nevertheless, it’s the verse that always comes back. He had a plan then, in the little room in the middle of the Arizona desert, and he has one now. I may be more interested in microwaving, but God is into marinating. And the promise is that he is still marinating me today. He has brought me this far, all he asks is to have a little faith that he will continue the process. He promises that when he begins a good work in us he will see it out to the day of completion. All we have to do is put our life in his hands and trust.

I don’t believe God puts dreams in our hearts if we don’t have the tools to carry them out. I don’t think he ever wants to leave us stagnant. I think he loves us too much to ever leave us the way we are. But maybe sometimes we have to marinate for a while, we have to strengthen our muscles and do things we don’t always want to do. Grow in spiritual strength and mental and emotional strength, in discipline. Learn the lessons presented to us along the way.

     When Chris Tomlin sings, “where you go, I’ll go, where you stay, I’ll stay, when you move, I’ll move, I will follow…” there isn’t a clause in fine print at the bottom specifying that we will go and stay and move when we feel like God is moving fast enough or only when we can see the point or the bigger picture. Sometimes it’s easy to forget all this. Sometimes I forget. But thankfully, when I do, God is always there to remind me… that he is with me. He hasn’t gone anywhere. There are two sets of footprints in the sand. Image

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