These scars are beautiful!

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When I was a young boy I received a bicycle for Christmas, it was blue.  I rode that bike all over the place.  I loved that bike.  There is something freeing about those moments as a young kid riding a bike around town and facing new adventures with that new found freedom.  That freedom took me to the scene of my accident…that sounds more dramatic than it really was.  I fell off of my bike and in the process I gashed my knee open.  The “accident” wasn’t very traumatic or memorable with the exception that there was a lot of blood localized around a cut on my knee.  Upon further review I probably should have had stitches but it was bandaged and wrapped and slowly it healed.  In the healing process it itched, occasionally it burned, but over time it formed into a white lined scar right across my right kneecap.  It is still there to this day, though smaller just as that young boy was so long ago.  

We all have scars.  

Some scars are there to remind us of how foolish or negligent we’ve been in our lives while others were inflicted on us by an outside source.  Regardless of how they were formed they have become part of our identities now.  

Some scars though,  have not marked us on our bodies but rather our hearts and our minds through hurtful experiences inflicted by others around us.  These scars too are long lasting, some we carry with us to this very day and they mark us and are a part of our current identity.  

What kinds of scars do you have?  I would be willing to guess most of us carry with us both types of scars.  We have known the pain of physical afflictions and accidents which have left their marks on us, and we have also known the psychological and harming pain of scars of words slung our way and even the pain of losing a family member to death.  These scars cut us deep and leave their impression on us…sometimes for life.  

Can you recognize the beauty in your scars?   

We have lived.  We have not come through this life (thus far) unscathed.  We have experiences to share with others.  Wisdom to convey.   We have knowledge that we wouldn’t have possessed before earning (or falling victim to) these scars.  

Could I ever relate to a parent in mourning at the loss of their child?  No absolutely not.  I can empathize.  I can weep with them, but I cannot completely understand the heart-wrenching pain involved in that scar.   Although I cannot relate, other parents who have lost children along the way can share their wisdom and understanding during such a time of heart-wrecked agony.  These scars carry with them beauty.  Not because life is lost but because hope can be conveyed.  

I don’t wish to imply any of these scars are lovely when inflicted on us.  They burn.  They hurt…sometimes severely.  Sometimes they maim and disfigure us either physically or emotionally…but there is beauty on the other side of our healing.  There is knowledge and understanding…there is opportunity to relate with others and to help in their healing.  

From our scars to His…

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“The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” by Caravaggio

Jesus held out His hands towards Thomas.  We call him “doubting Thomas”…I think we all can relate to him.  Jesus had died.  He had suffered horribly.  His agony had been witnessed, and there was no way to come back from that.  How could the other disciples say Jesus was now alive again?  How could they make Thomas’ soon to be scar in his heart hurt any more?  It was like salt on a fresh wound.  And so He doubted their accounts of a risen teacher.  He vehemently drew the line and was unwilling to cross it until (as if it would ever happen) He physically touched Jesus’ wounded body.  So the scars came to Thomas.  The wounded hands and feet of Jesus suddenly appeared to the disciples in a hide out along with the rest of their Savior.  He stood before them and Thomas had to place his hands into those nail scared hands and a spear pierced side…then He believed.  

Scars are beautiful…

I don’t mean to say that in a masochistic sort of way or idle fascination in pain and maiming, I mean that in relational love and experience.  Thomas placed his inexperienced hands in the nail scarred hands of the Savior and was forever changed.  Jesus knew what it was like to suffer.  Jesus knew what it was like to carry these scars with Him…and His beauty marked the hearts and left a sacred scar on His disciples.  

What was meant to be evil and  damaging in totality had become beautiful and life-giving.  What was meant to destroy and cruelly maim had become healing and salvation to all the world.  These scars are beautiful!  

Do you have scars like these that you can share with the world around you?  These are the scars of experience and understanding.  These are the sacred scars of healing and restoration.  These scars say “I understand and I can relate to what you are going through!”  God doesn’t bring these scars upon us, but He can bring something marvelous out of our trials and experiences.  The damaging things that this life and even Satan himself can throw at us God can turn into victories.  

The scars of a recovering alcoholic who has beaten the odds and stayed sober can lead other alcoholics to find Hope.  The scars of an abused woman who has turned her life around and escaped that wounding lifestyle of physical abuse can bring hope to another woman who is still stuck and imprisoned in that life of hell.  

Do you have scars?  
Can you bring hope?  
Do you have a story to share with one who needs to hear it?  
There is victory in the scars.  
There is hope in the nail scarred hands of a Savior who understands.  

These scars are beautiful!  

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My Feelings About Fred Phelps Sr. – Pastor of Westboro Baptist Church

“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

 

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Pastor Fred Phelps Sr. is dying.  Over the course of many years now the Westboro Baptist church has been at the forefront of many controversial public protests.  You might remember them for their many anti-gay signs and their now infamous quotes like “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “Thank God for 9/11”!  (Link: http://nypost.com/2014/03/16/westboro-baptist-pastor-in-hospice-care/)

I’m not here to slam Pastor Fred.  He’s already taken a lot of heat and his “church” has even been labeled a hate group.  I will say however that I seriously doubt Jesus would have ever stepped foot in the doors of a church like this…okay maybe He would have to confront them perhaps…I digress.  But I’m not here to judge them on their merits or lack there of.  I’m not even here to condemn this pastor.

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I wonder what it would be like to go to the hospice facility that Pastor Fred is now located at and hold signs not of hate and condemnation, but signs of love and concern?  I’m not saying we should do this but it certainly would be interesting to see the response.  Another thought that came to mind when hearing about his impending death – every person should face death with human decency and dignity including Pastor Phelps.  

At the end of the day if we stoop to the level of outrage and hate like these protests conducted by the Westboro baptist church, we in essence are no better.  I’m not implying that we’re better than they are, don’t get me wrong, I’m just suggesting that instead of celebrating his soon to be passing, let’s pray for Pastor Fred and others like him in our world.  

This world is already too full of hate, too full of extremist fundamentals (and to be fair on the other side of things extreme leftist liberals as well)…this world is already too full of condemnation as well.  We don’t need to fall into these ranks as well.  Jesus once said; “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

2 reasons to love our enemies and pray for them: 

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1) It frees us of hate

This section is hard for me.  I personally want to retaliate when someone wrongs me, I want to inflict the same kind of pain on any person who dares do me wrong…but I shouldn’t because it only empties bitterness into my heart.  They say you become what you think about most often, and if I allow this thought of hurting my enemies and vengeance inside me then I am no better a person than they are.  When we open our hearts, as Jesus suggested, to love we catch a glimpse of the divine original purpose for all of humanity.  If I love that person, if I love Pastor Fred despite his actions, I free myself of a kind of hate that destroys hearts and lives.  

Does this mean that justice isn’t pursued or sought out?  Of course not, but remember that God is the judge and ultimately every person will have to stand before Him, so be careful that we have sorted out our own hearts and motives for wanting such justice on others.   

When we are freed from hatred, we can learn to love more…and this leads to being like Christ in our pursuit and His workings of Holiness.  

2) It opens up opportunities for our enemy to find salvation

 

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What takes place when we extend grace to those who have spurned us and done us wrong?  One it really messes with their heads (not our purpose of course) but two, it hopefully causes them to want to change!  Obviously not every one of our enemies will change because we loved them, I don’t want to sell you a pipe dream here, but God can and still does perform miracles does He not?  Enemies still need salvation too, and perhaps someone to show them what real authentic love looks like.  

I want to pray for Pastor Fred Phelps Sr, and for His church.  I know that hate is our natural response to others who show hate, but if we’re to be like Christ, no matter how hard it may be for us, we ought to show love as our response.  Shining dark into dark will only make things darker, but if we shine the light of Christ into that absence of light, lives can be redeemed and drastically changed!  

Pastor Fred, I pray for the remaining hours of life that you have here on earth.  You have a Father in heaven who loves you and wants you to love Him back in return.  May His grace, peace and especially love find its place in your heart.  To the members of the Westboro Baptist church I say, love opens doors that hate never will.  Repent, seek grace and forgiveness and know that other Christ-followers are praying for you with the love of Christ.  We also pray that you will once again see what God is truly saying to you and that you seek to bring peace and grace into the doors of your church.  

-Sincerely in Christ.

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.” 
― G.K. Chesterton

Hey Guess what? You matter!

We are so

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in a very, very, big

 

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yet…we 

           are

                   Not

 

Image We are never

Alone. 

In our 

                   little nature

                                                God

                                                                                Image

In our small view of things

He is…

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So why do we

struggle with our 

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                               Do we falter 

 

                                   why do we 

 

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                                  our 

                               existence?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is 

                     a  Reassurance: 

                                                                  God.

                             

 

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Loves

 

Image….

-just a thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resurrection

 “Resurrection”

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It’s a new television show…but it’s something more than that.  Something deep within us longs for just a few more minutes with our loved ones who have passed away.  We wish within our hearts that they could see what we’ve become or that they could see how much our children have grown.  Life conceivably has a beginning and an end, but in this new television show on ABC, “Resurrection” is happening all over the small town of Arcadia.  It is a mystery as to why this is happening, but those who are “coming back” seem to possess intimate knowledge and even DNA coo-berating their identities.  

How we wish such a miracle could take place here on earth.  Most of us would dream of a scenario where we could once again hold a loved one that we’ve lost and to spend more quality time with them.  The ABC producers of “Resurrection” certainly hope that we become transfixed to this concept and keep coming back for more.  

Can television shows truly sell us hope?  Are YOU in need of hope today?  

Jesus knew a lot about life.  He lived and He died, but He was also resurrected on the third day.  During His ministry He even resurrected one of His friends, Lazarus, who had been dead for four days.  Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6)  Jesus holds the keys to Eternal life for all of us and this should give us authentic hope in our lives today!

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TRUTH – We all possess eternal souls.  We have been created by God himself who formed us in His image, and a part of Him is within us, which is eternal.  These earthly bodies will one day wear out because they are temporal.  We will one day face death…BUT the expiration of this human existence is not the end of our eternal existence.  Life will go on.  The real question is what destination will we choose?  You see if we want to experience eternity with God and with those who followed Him and have gone on before us, we have to choose Him in the here and now!  John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 

If we choose to follow and love the Creator of Heaven and Earth, we will experience a resurrection beyond what television or even movies can give us.  Real resurrection will happen and we should find hope in the fact that death of the physical body is NOT the end.  

Check it out – “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”              (1 Thessalonians 4:16)  It won’t be some horror show, or television script, this will be for real.  I don’t know about you, but I want to experience this resurrection and new life with Christ in Heaven as well!  

I love supernatural shows, and “Resurrection” looks quite interesting to me.  Perhaps it might get some of its viewers to consider how precious life is and also to consider how very real Eternity will be for all of us.    

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(My review is strictly my opinion and not the opinion of any television network or affiliation) 

 

The God who holds our hand

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When our first son was just an infant he slept in a crib which was right next to our bed.   Each night we had a routine that we had to go through in order to get him to sleep.  Perhaps it was because we were first time parents or perhaps he was just a needy baby.   But each night, after he was dress in pajamas and had his blanket he would stick his hand out from between the crib railings and demand he hold either my hand or his Mom’s.  Try as we might we could not break this cycle with him.  He needed to have physical contact with us in order to fall asleep.  He needed to have this assurance that we were there watching over him and that he was save and sound.  

Sometimes I think back on those moments and wonder humorously why we didn’t buy a fake hand for him to hold on to or why we didn’t just break him of that dependence all together.  But as I consider those precious moments that we had with our first born I realize how important those moments of contact were for him as he was growing as an infant.  He needed to feel our touch, to know we were there and to be reassured that we were not going anywhere.  

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God still does this for you and for me as well!  We constantly question if He’s there.  We sometimes cry out to Him just to check if He is listening.  We hold out our hand, sometimes in a demanding nature and hope that God’s touch will reach us.  We hope that He’s really there and willing to remain near us.  

The truth is God desires so desperately to hold our hand and to remain right beside us.  He loves us so much that He longs for us to trust Him and to reach out to Him through every season of this life.  Are you willing to reach out your hand to Him today?  He is here, right now and He is not going anywhere.  Trust Him.  Lean on Him.  Allow His love to fill your life with His joy, grace and peace. 

 

-Just a thought for the day. 

Forgiveness and Peace

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Anger

            Bleeds

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  Red

 

Sometimes 

                                          the things

                      we 

                                                                   said

make 

 

                            jagged 

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broken 

                                              beds…

 

we  lie in them

                       the cumbersome

oozing regret.

 

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                                                                BUT

Reconciliation 

                                   is Not

NOT

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                             too far away. 

 

Make a break

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get away

                         turn your 

pride  

 

                                      into 

 

 

                                                                                           Forgiveness…

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                         clean

                                                                       the mess

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                                            confession

               regress into 

                                         peace again.  

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Finding Hope

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Sometimes it’s a hopeless world around us and all anyone can seem to do is just survive.

                                                             I don’t want to merely survive,

I want to bloom and grow and thrive in the place(s) that God has placed me.

                                                            Sometimes though I think that we all can just sort of settle for the “just good enoughs”.

I’m not talking about materialism or stuff but about our life circumstances and our hopes and dreams….

you see

 

when we were just kids

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We dreamed.  We welcomed imagination.  We hoped to become, and in that becoming the sky was the limit.  

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We weren’t weighed down by endless doubts, or the “not good enoughs” or the “I can’ts”…

 

 

we just imagined and dreamed big dreams…

 

 

 

                                                                                          but

 

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over time…

 

we started to believe what others thought about us.

 

over time…

we bought into the lies that this world told us.

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over time…

we accepting the truths of the fallen, instead of the truths of the risen.

 

So, for just a second, will you accepted this breath?

Will you accept this gift of hope again?  

 

Will you take these written words to heart…

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and believe again? 

 

 

 

Here is the hope that I have for you for me, for us 

 

today…

 

 

 

 

This is what I know HOPE to be: 

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H.elping us

 

O.pen our eyes to the 

 

P.ower of 

 

E.ternity 

 

 

This isn’t something readily accepted.  This isn’t something generally practiced…even though flowery speeches and whole sections of bookstores are devoted to “self-help”…they can fall short.  

Hope lifts our eyes.

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Helps us see beyond what this earth

has taught us to know.  

When we can begin to look up, accept divine help…

our eyes can become truly open to the possibilities again.

The power

God’s power, brings us closer, 

                        so much closer 

to the way things were created to be 

                               in the first place. 

Don’t be limited by your hopes and dreams…find hope…

                                                                                         and….

 

                                                                                                     let it….

                                                                                                                  set…

 

                                                                                                                           you…

 

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January 1st = Forgiveness (The 70X7 Principle)

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New beginnings.  That’s what some people are hoping for at the start of 2014.  Cue the song “High Hopes” (I’m really not being cynical here either…really).  I believe in the God of second chances, do you?  I believe that when His disciples asked Him how many times they had to forgive Jesus told them seventy times seven (Matt 18:21-22).  I know that He wasn’t just giving them a random number out of His head and it wasn’t legalistic in the sense that they only had to forgive 490 times (that’s 70 X 7 by the way for us who had to use a calculator cause we suck at math).  I believe the disciples eventually got Jesus’ point.  Forgiveness isn’t really about how many times we have to forgive but rather about the conditions of our hearts and the willingness to find grace for others.   Isn’t that what God has done for us?  We mess up royally and we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness and yet His prevenient grace is offered to us through Christ.  He forgives us COMPLETELY!   

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I don’t wish to imply that there are conditions on forgiveness here but think of it this way: Forgiveness of others and those who have wronged you alleviates the burdens and scorn you may still have in your heart for that person(s).  They may not even seek sincere forgiveness from you but when you wipe the slate clean of transgressions done to you, you are clearing the weight of that burdens of wrongs done to you.  It may sound selfish, but why live life burdened by the wrongs of others?  It holds you back.  It holds you captive.  You will always be a prisoner to their wrong doings done to you even if they have moved on.  So why let it fester?  Why let that kind of emotional/spiritual sliver remain?  Pluck it out and move on for your own health and well being. 

Secondly, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you become naive and trust people who haven’t earned that trust yet, but it does mean that you move on.  We must be wise in how we let others effect us coupled with the decisions we make which also impacts others.  Forgiveness and trust aren’t always mutually the same.  What forgiveness allows you to do (and the offending party) is to move on.  I don’t believe that we have to automatically forget but we forgive.  Afterall we can’t expect someone who has been sexually or physically abused to forget what was done to them right out of the “forgiveness gate”…it will take time to heal and to cope.  In the same way that it may take years of counseling and healing for the abused, those who have been wronged in other ways will find that time needs to pass before trust and “forgetting” can ever take place.

Lastly, I mentioned earlier about what the year of Jubilee meant in the Hebrew culture.  It was a year in which all debts were erased and people could start over.  Perhaps 2014 is that year of Jubilee for you.  Perhaps you’ve been holding onto pains, hurts, and grudges that need to be wiped completely away.  Forgiveness heals and lifts burdens of all parties.  

Are you willing to forgive?  For those also who are seeking to find forgiveness, be strong.  It takes a lot of courage to own up to wrong doings so that you can grow and move on.  Don’t miss this opportunity on the first of the year to begin on the right foot!  

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-Just a thought for new beginnings.  

Faith – A Rules Changer

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My daughter is five years old, and already she is very clever.  If you ever cross her, I don’t envy your position because she is the most cunning strategist that I know at the age of five.  

It all began with a game.  Actually it started when she wanted something that her twin brother had, and she was determined to have it and get it her way.  So she played a game with him.  It was a kicking game, and she made up the rules right then and there.  In a very commanding voice she told her brother, “If I kick you I win, and if you kick me I win and I will win the mask“.   -the mask was what she wanted from her brother.  She had devised a game with rules in place in which the outcomes would benefit her either way.  At no point in this game would her twin brother, who is taller and quicker than she is, have an edge or even a chance to win.  

My daughter’s cleverness made me laugh.  In part I was proud of her for being quick on her feet, yet surprised at the lengths at which she would go just to obtain what she wanted most.  She had devised a strategy in which she could outsmart her brother even though she knew that she was no match for his physicality.  

Sometimes life is kind of like that isn’t it?  We are greatly outmatched and the thing(s) that we want so badly are just beyond our reach.  We want our families to be closer, our health or the health of loved ones/friends to be better, our financial situation more profitable, our jobs more enjoyable, love and respect that goes unfulfilled.  Life can sometimes be like that cruel master which dangles a carrot in from of a donkey just to get it to work and be productive.  We want so desperately to change the rules, to make a life more to our advantage…to win.  But what do we really desire to win?  Will we truly be happy?  Can we really change the rules in life?  

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How does faith play into this thing called life?  Is faith important?  The simple answer is YES, absolutely!  Despite how much we might plan for every contingency and strategize for every positive outcome, life doesn’t play according to our rules.  Life can sometimes be unpredictable and we can find ourselves grossly out of winning options.  But faith isn’t some wild card or last resort.  The key is the source behind our faith.  If our source is simply our own powers and motivations we will eventually face disappointment and discouragement.  But if our source is God, in whom made all things and our faith takes us to the understanding that we are indeed loved and important to the Creator then regardless of what happens to us we can have this immeasurable unending faith.  

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 Faith is a rules changer.  Faith can propel us from self-sufficiency to something much more sustainable and everlasting…if we allow it to grow in us.  Are you willing to let this kind of everlasting faith take root in you?  Give it a try and perhaps you will begin to see life in a whole new perspective.  

-Just a thought.  

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