Wednesday, June 28, 2017

for when you spend two hours writing only to have your chromebook erase all of your work

Y'all I am in tears, streaming, forcing myself not to ugly cry in the middle of a coffee shop.  Back on my beloved Wednesday morning I have been sitting here pondering and pouring onto the keys praying that my words would be an encouragement to another.  And then, a frozen screen, a restore, and nothing.  The site that usually, dutifully saves every word as you go, did not do it's job.  Minutes from being finished, a paragraph away from a conclusion, and now nothing is left except the tears on my cheeks, an empty cup of tea and a half eaten piece of blueberry pound cake.

My mind is reeling, wondering if it's God who did not think my words were glorifying or Satan who did not want them read.

I hope I can conjure back up the heartfelt reminders and encouragements about the call to be pioneers in our lives, about letting Faith guide us to blaze new trails for others as we ultimately follow the True Pioneer of Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who is able to empathize with us in every way.  But that time is not right this minute.

Until then, please pray for me to see His hand in something as little--and big--as a technological failure and as I pray for you I want to leave you with this...

"Father, you know us in secret, and you know all our secret places.  What we do to benefit your kingdom will not be lost if it is not seen by others, for you see and you reward according to your grace and mercy."  G.K. Chesterson

Friday, June 16, 2017

because He wants our first fruits

Alongside of our circle drive, in the perfect location for me to accidentally back into them on those early morning school runs when the sun has not quite yet sent it's rays down upon us, sits a large patch of blueberry bushes.  While their age, to us anyway, is unknown, they have been planted long enough to tower over seven feet and have enough strength for their blossoms to withstand this years early Spring freeze that demolished every azalea in the county.

Going on three summers we have watched and waited as the little round green nubs grew and changed colors until the bushes are full of dark bluish purple berries ready to be picked and either popped directly into your mouth if you are my children or turned into delicious muffins, cakes, and cobblers if you follow my line of thinking.

Those first fruits that come off the tree never cease to bring a feeling of awe to my heart.  They are a testament to the process started by a seed that continues to cycle around for almost no other reason than God created it to happen in that way, at that time.  A physical, tangible reminder of how He sets things into motion and cares for them until the fruit is borne.  Whether through frost and drought, or the perfect growing season, we, and the occasional bird and deer, are blessed to take from the branches.

There was a time when the giving of the first fruits of your harvest was required by law, with reverence and a holy fear, these items were offered up and only after were the rest able to be taken and used either for use or profit.  This first fruits offering found its fulfillment in Jesus, as "He is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Cor 15:20) 

Because of Christ, we do not have to earn favor from God as we are each His favorite if we are hidden in Christ, the Spirit inside calls us and guides us to desire to give our own first fruits to Him.  There is nothing we can do to make God love us less, and likewise, there is nothing we can do to make God love us more. But, to both glorify His name and as an outlet for the overwhelming thankfulness that builds up when you seek to learn and understand how much He has, is, and will do, our Spirit longs to offer our own personal first fruits to Him.

In this scenario, minds may jump first to money, giving back some of that which the world counts as most valuable in our society.  Some may think of giving their time and service, helping their brother in need, coming alongside their neighbor, sacrificing to walk with another and bear another's burden.  Each of these have their place of importance in the Kingdom we are called to live in, however, if the first fruits of your heart are not set aside and offered up, than any act done comes before Christ and not with Him.  He wants us first, and we need Him first.

While reading through Life Together, some wonderful ladies and I struggled through Bonhoeffer's suggestions of how a day for a believer should look.  When you get a group of moms together there will inevitably be talk of how there is not enough time in any day to feel as if you are caught up on anything.  And while Dr. John Trainer--though it's often credited to C.S. Lewis--does say "Children are not a distraction from more important work.  They are the most important work." there is still a great desire to feel accomplished and productive outside of that realm.  When your list of what you consider are needs and desires is constantly growing, it is most difficult to be told that your day needs to include even more.

Excuses were made that this book was written so long ago that obviously we can not assume that it is applicable to our day and age, but we each knew there were Truths set forward that were more than just good advice, but items necessary for our hearts to be set in order.  Just as God does not often work on all parts of our hearts at the same time, neither do we need to try to overwhelm ourselves with incorporating all the things we see simultaneously either.  For me, this was where the thought of first fruits began to grow.

Taken from Psalm 57:7-8, Bonhoeffer says, "For Christians the beginning of the day should NOT [emphasis mine] be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day's work...let the first thought and the first word of the day belong to him to whom our whole life belongs."

Our thoughts and words, the first fruits of our day, given to Him.  An act of praise and thankfulness with the first conscious moments of a new day full of new mercies so graciously given again and again.

In the last few months there has been special attention placed upon those first thoughts and first words of mine after turning off the alarm but before my feet touch the floor.  There have also been wondrous closeness felt with my creator and savior because of it.  He is faithful when we are faithful.  But praise Him even more, He is faithful when we are faithless (2 Tim 2:13)

Because, lest you think I now am living the utmost holiest of lives uttering nothing but praises as soon as the sunrises, think again.  Just as you encounter in your life, I know all to well the constant pull of countless items that fight for your attention.  Some, such as the caretaking of your children, home, profession, friendships, family, church community, living community and the like are noble and necessary.  Others, like the temptation to peruse various social media venues, desires to fulfill dream like scenarios, and the occasional or not so occasional desire to hide and distract from real life through a countless list of activities can be given no noble title, yet are succumbed to much more than any other thing.

But when there are so many things clawing at you, demanding that you look at them first, it can be difficult to distinguish in that moment which direction to give your focus.

When in high school, if I was confronted with a difficult or dangerous situation that needed to be avoided but could cause embarassment or uncomfortableness from my peers, my parents would tell me to just blame them.  Let them be the reason.

God has given us the answer of where our focus goes first.  He has given our 'need to make everyone happy hearts', an 'out' so to speak.

He, and He alone, gets our First Fruits.  Period.

To be able to give those first fruits in our first moments, that will inevitably train our hearts to give him our first fruits in every moment, our minds and hearts need to first feel thankfulness for those moments to begin with.

This comes through three things...

          1.  Abiding in Christ.  When you are seeking him, hiding in his word and being, your inner dispositions
               change.  It is an involuntary action.  As your inner dispositions change, you begin to see how your
               Spirit longs for more of Him, more of Him in those first moments and in every moment after.

         2.  Practice.  Wake up tomorrow morning and thank Him for the new day.  Ask Him to help you be a                 blessing to someone.  Ask Him to help you see His hand throughout the days events.  Ask Him to
              help you wake up the next morning and thank Him again.  The words do not matter as much as the
              heart behind them.

         3.  Give yourself grace when you fail.  I promise He will.  You will wake up one morning and check
              facebook instead.  You will get halfway through your day and suddenly remember you were
              anything but thankful.  You already are forgiven and you will be loved anyway.  You fail daily.  He
              has promised to love you for eternity.

This is an ongoing challenge for myself that I am now extending to you dear friend.  Give Him your first thoughts, your first words, your first fruits of the day.  It can take no more than a moment but that moment can carry you, because it's Him carrying you, for much longer than you can imagine.  

I'm praying for your first fruits to be for Him, pray for me.

Friday, June 2, 2017

for when you need courage to take the next step

When on a vacation with your extended family which includes 12 adults and just as many kids all of which are under the age of 10 and more than half of which are 5 years old and younger, peace and quiet is not something you count on achieving.  Though fun and energy are most definitely daily tasks that are being checked off, when your soul leans more to the introverted side and thoughts do not tend to come to fruition until quiet moments are found, a writer's heart, such as mine, assumes that another week will go by where that part of herself needs to be placed to the side so that the energy needed for creativity and pondering can be funneled instead to being in the moment and enjoying it to the fullest.  Are there those in the world who do not have to voluntarily transfer their mental energy on the daily? If you are one such soul, be thankful my friend.

However, my doubt was overcome by His promise yet again and on a morning with a cup of tea in hand I sat on the front steps in Florida air mixed with humidity, a faint breeze, and the mottled noises of a houseful of folks beginning their day and came away with one thought that has continued to grow since, "It's time to keep going forward, I promise I'll tell you if you need to stop."

He speaks friends.  When you listen, you hear.

One of my children not only needs step by step instruction, but he needs it clearly written and sequential in order to complete everything needed.  If instructions are spoken instead, he requires the time to complete one, maybe two at a time, before adding to the list.  If given too much at one time, all is forgotten and nothing will get accomplished.

I simultaneously love and get frustrated with this quality of his.  The love comes from my own inner need for order and lists and wanting to make sure everything is done that is needed to get done.  The frustration comes from not understanding how, even when it's the same routine over and over, there is not an immediate and habitual moving on to the next thing.  What is keeping that little mind from using past experiences and context clues to just keep going?

Can you see where I'm heading with this?  The dawn of understanding pieces of yourself often comes through observation of others.  This is not judgement, in its negative sense, it is the judging that brings understanding, wisdom earned through situational discernment with a good dose of humility on the side.

The Christian life is full of unknowns, not for our Creator of course as He wrote our stories before the beginning of time, but for us and our minds personally.  Situations that have not yet come to past, experiences that have not yet been lived through, and wisdom that has not yet been gained are all dotted along our paths to be.  Sitting there for their planned time and place.

However, like my precious boy, we can find ourselves waiting, hesitant to take the next step because of the uncertainty of what will happen when we do.  Whether we admit it or not--and I have a feeling most of us would admit it freely--there is a great desire for a list of steps.  A sure, written in stone, sign that says go and do this exact thing.  Forgotten are the Words left with us and the example of those gone before us.  Distrusting are we to the people placed in our lives presently that mentor and guide.  Even ourselves we doubt.  What if we did not really hear what we thought we heard?

So instead of using our own context clues from the information given, instead of allowing our habit of walking in the Spirit propel us forward, instead of living in Faith and taking our own "leap from the lion's head" we sit, and wait, and look for a 100% no fail guarantee.  Both instances, the childhood chores and our spiritual stalling, stem from immaturity.  Both do not just improve with age, but with practice as well.

There are times we are called to wait.  Where there is a deeply felt need to stop trying to constantly take control and to sit and be still instead.  I have experienced a season of wait myself.  Never is a true wait on the Lord wasted, because not only is the wait required for building up those lovely qualities of patience and contentment, within it is also a process of preparation.  Whether God is preparing your heart, mind, soul and strength for the next step or preparing other people and places for your arrival, there is work in the wait. Says Oswald Chambers, "To wait upon God is the perfection of activity.  We are told to rest in the lord, not to rust."

Some can sit, wait, and look for a lifetime.

"It never works to wait for God to do what he has clearly called you to do."  ~Paul David Tripp

For myself, there are three things possible on the horizon, three things firmly planted in my heart, and for almost a year I have been trying to discern which one was supposed to be first.  Agonizing over taking a secure step forward and instead circling around trying to pick the right path.

I do not know what has been placed in your heart, but I do know that if you have prayed about it, sought the counsel of another about it, and it is still firmly planted--assuming whatever it is is not completely heretical of course--that it's time to leap, it's time to keep moving forward trusting that He will tell you when to stop.

He promises to make those paths straight, not smooth or easy or quick, but straight to where He's guiding.

The end results might matter and they might not, what changes your heart the most is the walking forward when you do not know the way but ever Trusting that God does. So go, and in the words of the ever wise Will Ferrell, "Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the results."

 I will be praying for you as you discern and take those next steps in Faith, pray for me.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

For when you long for peace

It has happened more times than I would care to count. There I am, sitting in a state of mind full of peace, calm, and contentment that suddenly turns into a state of anxiety, emotional chaos, and irrational thought.  The reasons may vary, the environment may change, and the intensity may wave, but the core remains the same.  An event, a situation, a response lets flesh attempt to take my heart captive and push out the Spirit to make a home instead. 

Peace, that blessed feeling that sends hearts back to normal rhythms and breathing back to a purely involuntary action, is one that is gifted to us through Christ.  One that means to be complete, to be whole.  Third on the list when describing the fruit given through the Spirit, Peace, when truly felt, provides your heart with such an amazing, tangible comfort that many times it can stop you in your tracks forcing you to feel it overpowering all of your humanity placing instead a feeling of awe from the warmth enveloping your soul filling all your empty places.  Wholeness.

Those distinct moments in life where you can literally feel the wave of Peace that passes all understanding are worth writing down and remembering because it is those memories that hold reminders of the Faithfulness of a Good God who loves well.

There have been many times, countless times, that I wished life were a list of tasks to check, lessons to learn and move past because once learned, never forgotten, much like riding a bike.  However, Peace, that contentment of soul, like all the other gifts, is not one and done.  Instead, they are journeys full of practice and mistakes, knowledge slowly becoming wisdom as you gain a little ground at a time as that promised daily renewal continues.

After a recent episode, that may or may not have been instigated by a 7 & 8 year old baseball game, there was prayer and reflection and a bit of begging to understand better the ins and outs of a lack of peace.  Why when it seems so solidly in place, does it also seem to leave so easily?

Yes, yes I know, and I pray you know as well, that true Peace is not found in circumstances, it is found with, through, and by Jesus alone.  This is the base of any and all things, HE will keep us in perfect peace, but this personal search was for the specific trigger, the flipper of the switch.  When you ask, when you seek, be ready to listen, because a still small voice--or in my case a completely normal tone because my Creator knows how much I hate whispering-- might be quick to respond.

Expectation robs you of Peace.

It is well known that comparison is the thief of joy, but so many other things take away that fruit promised to us, and your expectations, my expectations, of how life should go, how people should act, how situations should play out, will rob you of the Peace gracefully given and humbly received.  

We, whether we would like to admit it or not, expect our children to listen, we expect our spouses to respond with kindness and compassion, we expect our friends to be there every time we need them and say the exact words we would like to hear, we expect strangers to agree with us, we expect teams to win, actions to be rewarded, disagreements to be resolved.  We expect that no one will shove pennies in the WiiU console--hypothetically speaking of course.  But when they don't, when the world and everything in it proves again that it is far from perfect, those expectations come crashing to our feet taking the self created peace from perfection with it.

Expectation robs you of peace and then it points to a deeper root, unbelief.  

Losing your composure, not clinging to that peace given and allowing it to carry you, is most definitely natural, but is still a side effect of unbelief.  It is an attitude and posture that does not, at that moment, believe that whatever the outcome God is sovereign, that does not believe He can and promises to work everything for good, that does not believe it might be needed to redirect hearts, to sanctify, to guide, or to even bless another.  His top priority is not to make our wishes come true.  He is not making sure we win win win no matter what.  His top priority is to crowd our hearts and fill them to overflowing with Him and Him alone.

We build up our expectations because we want to create the ideal life but in doing that what is actually being said is we do not believe that the life that has been created for us is good enough.  That does not mean you sit idly by while life goes on as if you have no responsibility in the matter, it just means that if peace is never felt, then maybe you are expecting too much of yourself and of this world instead of expecting perfect plans and perfect love from the only One who can fulfill, in His way and on His time.

Peace comes from abiding in Christ.  That is where it starts and where it ends, but on the way are twists and turns that will teach you how to remain abiding in Him.  Expectations rob me of peace but that is not the exhaustive list.  Each heart is different, each person is different, each one is searching to remain in the One who is never different, always the same.

What robs you of peace, what tempts you away from abiding in Him, from forgetting that contentment comes through Him but instead placing that role of peace giver in another?

I pray you will continually grow in Spirit, asking and seeking and learning the ins and outs of your heart and His peace, pray for me.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

for when you need to say things out loud

I remember what his face looked like.  The expression of complete regret and fear with eyes that were starting to show relief.  He sat across the room, knees apart serving as a place to set his elbows, hands up ready to catch his head if it fell forward from the raw emotion swimming inside.  I knew what was coming and even though it was the last thing I wanted to hear, I begged for him to just say it, say it out loud, because then the ice would be broken, then it would be out in the light...

Our lives revolve around communication.  Even in the most isolated places on earth there is language, the ability to speak and respond in some manner so that community can work together, rejoice together, disagree with one another, and live life.  However, unless you are under the age of 4, one can not just go around saying aloud every thought that comes through the mind.  Honestly the under 4 category probably shouldn't either but so far I have yet to find someone with the skill to enable that filter.

Words harm and words heal.  The phrase "If you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all" is well shared among the southern states.  It is also well known that if you are told hundreds of wonderful, positive things about yourself and then one negative, it's that one negative that will stay with you the longest.  It is for these reasons that we are told to be kind to one another...(Eph. 4:32) and to no unwholesome word come out of your mouth but only what is good for building others that it gives grace to those who hear it. (Eph. 4:29)

Filters are a valuable thing.  They strain out impurities so that what you are taking in holds only that which is good for you.  In the world this may be referred to as your conscious.  Good ol' Jiminy Cricket sang a very catchy song about letting your conscious be your guide.  Listening to the inner voice telling you what is right and wrong.  In Christianity, we believe this is the Holy Spirit.  What Jesus left with his children here on this earth living inside you and guiding is your filter. Through it, with knowledge of the Word, filters our words, actions, and thoughts sifting out impurities and changing them to be more like Christ.  A point worth mentioning however, is that whether we follow the Holy Spirit's leading or not we are still loved and forgiven and never left alone.

I know no one who does not have regret over something they said that they wish they could take but as we talk today about words we speak, it's not the ones we have said to others that is the focus, it's the ones we haven't said, the ones we hold onto inside.

Maya Angelou said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." And while it is easy to immediately think that she is referring to letting out that budding writer that may be inside some, it can also be very easily applied to the story we each live out.  Each life is a story written by the greatest Author, meticulously planning and allowing experiences that will mold and shape us to become what He has designed us to be at story's end.  But within life there is beauty and despair, joy mixed with sorrow, refining and rebuilding that needs to be done and our hearts and minds often want to pull away instead in hopes to keep away the difficult parts of the process.

While much concentration is done to learn to filter our words and only let out what is helpful to others, there is an equal amount of concentration by us to hold our words inside because of what others may think if we let out our true selves.  

I would be willing to bet there is at least one thing that even right now you are keeping inside, afraid to say out loud because of how it might come across, how it will sound, how it makes you sound, because it may be wrong or because of what another may think as soon as you finish the sentence.

If you are scared to say something, that is a usually a good sign that you need to say it!

Words can eat at you if you leave them hidden, causing agony as Mrs. Angelou said, and worse keeping them in darkness, away from the Light, where they can be twisted so violently that you begin to believe the lies instead of allowing in Truth.

As a "counselor in dreaming" I have developed a simple two step process to help release those words from inside your heart.

1.  Find someone to say them to-  Lucky for you, there are two people with you all the time that you can speak to.  One is yourself, the other is God.  Yes having a bosom friend or spouse who will listen and love you no matter what you say is a pearl above price, but please do not think you need to drive anywhere, wait for your next girls' night/bible study/community group/workout/counseling session or wherever else you might have conversation.  The first priority is not to have your words heard, it's to get them out and give them a voice.

2.  Say them out loud-  Quite often this one small but not so small action is the only thing needed to bring healing and relief to your soul.  It takes courage to speak out the things you have hidden and as soon as the words have left your lips there can be peace and understanding that what you have feared so much to say may not be scary after all.  This one action is an act of faith and that act is rewarded with a precious peace that passes all understanding.

Everything we say out loud that is bottled up inside will not be right.  We have hearts full of sin and our thoughts will skewed, our opinions will be unjustified, our words will be full of envy, or unforgiveness, or doubt.  Even if more steps need to be taken to process through whatever the words reveal, they will be out, confessed, given a voice, and brought into the light and THAT is when healing can begin, when perspective is given, when wisdom is gained, and when our inner dispostions begin to change.

You may say hard things, you may hear harder things but He is faithful and just...He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

I pray that you will give all the parts of your story a voice so He can do just that, pray for me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

for when you are looking for joy

This isn't the first time this exact subject has been shared, it's not even the second, or even the third.  It is in fact the fourth version of this post that has come from keyboard to screen to others' eyes.  So for a list of verses that will pull your heart in please take the time to visit one of those links.  
The original reasoning behind sharing this again was because for the third time this year some yucky germs have filtered their way through our family and constant cleaning, laundry, care taking and/or being cared for has been happening for a week straight.  Writing something original today felt like a task weighing too heavily upon my shoulders, yet skipping completely, though done before when need arises, didn't feel right either.
However as thought and word came together, the original reasoning took a back seat to fact, I needed to ponder these words and verses again, to be reminded of their truths, and to see the growth that has come because an ever faithful Father has been working in me, always working.
There have been countless times in my life where I have struggled with finding joy.  Times when I didn't feel right, just not quite myself.  Years ago, God started opening my eyes to the circumstances around these feelings so that I could begin to pinpoint when it might happen or at least recognize the cause when the lack of joy was felt. At the time, four triggers were noticed that caused the heart to dip and joy to leak instead of remain full, (1) exhaustion (2) feeling overwhelmed with too many tasks, thoughts and decisions (3) not spending time with friends who encourage me (4) letting the lives others make me feel discontent with where I am in my own life. Since the original list, another has been added.  (5) letting past trials take up too much presence in my present.  
The past longs to haunt you, to bring you back down to where you were or who you used to be but all the while God is reminding you that you are not who you were, you are a new creation, being renewed day by day.
Today the past had no hold on me, and in a situation where frustration would usually reign, where triggers would  usually flip and hard roads would be trodden down yet again, Joy was there to greet me instead.  The most beautiful part was that I didn't even have to choose Joy, Joy chose me. 
O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
Months ago, literally, there would have been more than one pity party, frustrated outburst, and emotional meltdown mixed in with the extreme search for joy in the midst of the not so normal.  Even with the hard learned knowledge that my joy does not come from me or my surroundings but only because I am a child of God and that I have an amazing Savior who sacrificed himself so that I could not only have everlasting life BUT that I may also enjoy the life he has placed me in here on Earth despite the circumstances I am in, there would have just been non-holy guilt for not living that out instead of the Joy it so beautifully describes being able to live out regardless of life's bumps.
Joy came in the morning.  It fought against flesh and won the battle and in turn reminded me that no matter how many times I have failed at this in the past, the Spirit is constantly working and changing those inner dispositions to be more like Christ so that each day I can look and see that He is good.  He is so faithful, completing that work in each of us.
But Joy is not alone.  The fruit of the Spirit takes many shapes and we each struggle with different aspects of it at different times.  We look at life and get discouraged that we aren't as patient as we would like to be.  Not as loving.  Lack self-control.  And yes kettle, this pot may be calling you black but listen anyway.  Remember you are being renewed day by day, not immediately.  Don't be discouraged by your failings, be encouraged by the one who continues to pull you forward especially when you fail.  Because when you "ask  it will be given to you; seek, you will find; knock, it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." (Matt 7:7-8)
I'm praying that you can see Joy, but even if right at this moment you see anything but, I pray that you will ask for it and seek it out because if you are abiding in Christ you will find it.  Please pray the same for me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

because in the midst of beauty and despair there is always a faith that keeps walking through

“How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us?
You have allowed rivers of blood to flow, mountains of suffering to pile up,
sobs to become humanity's song--all without lifting a finger that we could see.
You have allowed bonds of love beyond number to be painfully snapped.
If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself.
We strain to hear...

The juxtaposition of beauty and despair is a constant for us all. The scales may dip to one side or another, staying down at times longer than anyone would wish or staying up so long the next dip down catches us by surprise more than it should. Growing up you learn in school about America and it's Melting Pot of colors, faces, cultures, foods. I, for one, do not remember specifically being taught that life is also a melting pot of experiences, the good the bad and the ugly as it were. There was always work hard, follow directions, and do your best with either the assumption or adult given guarantee that everything would be okay. But then things do not work out the way you thought. The formula didn't equal the intended result.

Recently I was lying by a pool with a view of Zach in a beautiful pool playing with our boys in the foreground and the mountains of southern Utah in the background while reading a book about a young girl abandoned by her mother, for her own protection, to live in extreme poverty in Nazi Germany yet still understanding compassion for all others when the world around her claimed superiority. Beauty and Despair.

It's difficult to share a cross country experience with your sons the same day you read about Syrian children losing their lives because of chemical warfare. Or checking on social media to look at pictures of a beautiful newborn right next to another showing pictures of their young son diagnosed with cancer. Or feeling helpless as you hear about yet another couple's marriage falling apart because of sin and selfishness when your own, after a similar heartbreak, is full of grace, forgiveness, and healing. Beauty and despair.

There are a few responses our hearts and minds revert to when faced with these two opposites living side by side. There's guilt, much like survivor's guilt, that your life seems easy compared to the struggle of another. There's naivety in believing that another deserves what they're getting while you deserve the rewards you are reaping--consequences are part of actions, but grace is the only reason we see blessing in our lives--Then there is that pesky desire to ignore other's plights while you just concentrate on your "good fortune" doing whatever you can to make sure the tide doesn't turn. You have probably guessed that none of these seem to be the path we should take.

A goal for many in everything life related is calm, peace, no waves, just a constant state of positive. Actions are directed at keeping the scale dipped as low as possible to the side of our earthly vision of beauty. Heaped on top of that plate to weigh it down are a combination material possessions, shared experiences, church visits, donations, and all things that bring a sense of happy no matter how short lived.

But how do we explain with our earthly sense when the scale seemingly stays tipped to the other side whether in our own lives, the lives of our friends, or the lives of strangers on the other side of the world?

The opening quote is one by Nicholas Wolterstorff in his book Lament for a Son. But that is not the full quote. It ends with this, "But instead of hearing an answer we catch sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God."

When you picture that balance scale in your mind, and just so you know my picture includes a very LOST like image with black and white stones on either side, picture God, His Son, and His Spirit fully present on both sides so that one never outweighs the other because in every beauty there is an understanding of despair that would come if we did not have Him to call on and in every despair there is an understanding of beauty because He is always with us.

Hope always exists in every place hopelessness tries to overtake.

Emily Freeman said, "By faith, we trust he is building his kingdom even while we wait for the day when we can see with our eyes how he is making all things right again.

Much like my pastor's definition of love, Paul David Tripp has one on Faith that is simple to understand yet full of depth when pondered through. He describes faith as having two parts, both as important as the other. The first is believing that God exists. The second is letting that belief radically change how you live your life.

"Trust in the dark, trust in the light, trust at night and trust in the morning, and you will find that the faith that many begin, perhaps by a mighty effort will end, sooner or later, by becoming the easy and natural habit of the soul." ~The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life

So how do we explain the reasoning behind beauty and despair living side by side? We don't. Somethings are unexplainable and then again somethings just do not need to be explained. Instead, we just walk in it. Walk in the Faith that believes God exists and then continue that Faith by letting our actions shower Christ over others so that whether they believe themselves to be in a moment of despair or beauty all they will really see is Him.

As Pat Dye is known for saying, "There's going to be a lot of days where you lay your guts on the line and come back empty. Ain't a damn thing you can do about it but go out there and lay them on the line again. And again, and again."

The Truth of it is, you'll never come back empty handed if who you are laying it all down for is Christ.

Praying that in that mix of beauty and despair you can see the Faith in your life growing and the actions of your life being radically changed. Pray for me.