Thursday, April 24, 2014

Changing Seasons

Remember the Polar Vortex? The sub-zero temperatures. The bitter blustery winds. I remember all too well. We had the bright idea to get a 12 week old puppy just days before the onset of it all. 

It was a long winter. A very long and unpredictable season. Uncharacteristic for Virginia. 

We complained, we grumbled, we griped. We hated the cold. We were tired of the snow. We couldn't handle One. More. Snow. Day. Spring couldn't come soon enough. 

Now we're experiencing the Pollen Vortex. Some say it is a direct effect of the harsh winter. Allergy sufferers everywhere don't have to be warned. They're experiencing the full-blown effects of every budding and blooming speck of dust wafting through the air and being inhaled, much to their detriment. 

Have we already begun hoping for the dry, hot, humid summer yet? 


I dare say we could understand this statement more having experienced such unpredictable seasons. Evenso, as Virginians, we've come to understand a certain order. We can know with hope that come June, July and August we'll be sweating in sweltering heat, with full assurance that by October our trees will turn colors and we'll wake up to brisk autumn mornings. There is a certain order to it that we can expect, even when it's at its most unpredictable state. 

In our seasons of life we have this head knowledge that "this too shall pass" and yet in that present moment, it seems all we can do to get through. It can feel as though it will never pass. We can sense that it's always darkest before the dawn, yet we wonder if the light will ever truly break through.

"Though He causes grief, He will show compassion. So great is His unfailing love." Lamentations 3:32



It is but a season. A temporal, impermanent period of time. The problem with time and changing seasons is we somehow think we can control - or predict - what it should do. Who can tell the winds to obey? I know it's certainly not I, yet how often do I find myself shouting out commands for the storm to blow over? Oh yes, I am guilty of this. 

Timing is God's perogative. Timing is His choosing. The season may last because we prematurely think we've already endured. Only He can decide this. Only He tells the wind and seas to obey and they listen. Only He directs the steps and order of time and season. The more we try to control and impact its presence in our lives, the more we should come to understand how utterly out of control we truly are. 

The seasons do change. As do the circumstances in our lives. But only when an Eternal Sovereign God says so. And until He does, we rest in His presence, finding His mercies new each morning, despite the forecast. 



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Loving Life in Lynchburg

Lynchburg residents have taken this article viral. It's a former resident explaining why he's thankful he doesn't still live here. 
I LOVE the list someone else compiled to share the reasons why you might consider moving to Lynchburg. Check that out here.

Maybe as irony goes, this video is also going viral. Lynchburg residents in familiar settings. Sigh... 

To the naysayer, here is my response as to why we are better off without residents like you: 

1. The families who are being raised here are much better off without complaining transplants who would choose to stay here and make it miserable for everyone else. As a kid raised in the outlying areas surrounding Lynchburg, I witnessed "rednecks" and African Americans struggle with their identities and differences. I gained a better perspective and appreciation for culture, diversity and understanding who you are while embracing the differences around you. That comes with your environment, what you're exposed to, the people, places and happenings. We're sorry what you saw isn't what you got - or wanted. But we're really glad what we saw in you isn't what we're left with.
We welcome transplants all the time. Much of the "city" is accustomed to a flow of traffic that come and stay for a time. We embrace those who choose to take up residence in our hometown. We bid you farewell when you feel you've outgrown our town.

2.There's a certain novelty about "downtown" in the heart of any city. Lynchburg doesn't boast a great downtown. It's not. So knowing who we are and what we have - or don't have - to offer, is the first step to admitting there's a problem. (Or maybe the problem is all in how you perceive things.) I, too, was a former business owner on that sprawling nightmare called Wards Road. Ironically, when this business was sold to a new owner, she moved it to downtown Main Street. I admit I had my doubts and thought surely it was a foolish move. I stand corrected more than 7 years later as she has made a name for herself with a thriving, growing business in the heart of the city.
Downtown isn't great. We know this. We visit there for a few novelty shops and restaurants that are rising above to make it better than what most hoped or expected. We're thankful for them. It seems you are, too, at least the few shout outs you gave.

3. It's sad, isn't it? Small businesses trying to make it and, as you said, closing their doors before others even knew they existed. It's not so much the town. The scattered locations, the various "outskirts," seem to all contribute. After all, everything is a 20 minute drive. But wait! Everything is only a 20 minute drive! (Not to mention how much bigger the possibilities grow when you travel an hour in any direction.) Having worked with dozens of small businesses, trying to help them advertise and "make it," I witnessed firsthand that a lot of it just boils down to a business owner with a GREAT idea and not a lot of help in marketing. Ultimately we decide, the residents, who will be "the best of the best," and certainly who won't.

4. The bearded rednecks. Thank you, Duck Dynasty, for making "dirty" the new cool. I am certainly not one to celebrate it. The stand-out hippies. Surely they are attempting to send a message while not wanting to be noticed yet actually really seeking attention. Kids these days. These are the embarrassing ‪#‎tbt‬ pictures that will inevitably haunt them in a decade. I don't think this is solely in Lynchburg, though, at least not from the vast travels and cities and states I've explored. I dare say we aren't embracing it. Rather, those "Liberty vs. Lynchburg" kids are usually the ones witnessing to them.

5. I used to be a cheerleader in the field that is now "Hell-Mart." I can recall the dynamite blasts that were required to remove the rock that was hidden beneath the earth so they could clear the land for the first of the box stores. Somehow one wasn't enough, so they built them in the outskirts, too. Across town. They remodeled other box stores in other parts of town. You think traffic on Wards Road is bad - have you been down 221 or Timberlake?! Clearly there are SO MANY PEOPLE flocking to this area that we need MORE townhouses and apartments. Clearly. You'd think we'd stay away from that generic hell. And yet we don't. We flock to it for shopping, eating, regular errands. We muddle through the stop lights, traffic and poorly designed traffic patterns. Why? Because this is where we live, work, shop and eat. And after all, even one trip down Wards Road still doesn't compare to the ridiculous traffic elsewhere. We'll get to that next.

6. You want to know what I hate? Those left hand drivers who go 10 miles UNDER the speed limit. Stupid is as stupid does, right? I recall sitting in 3 hours of traffic to go 20 miles in Los Angeles. Trying to drive 6 people, 3 of them children, to the Bronx Zoo was like being one of those zoo animals displaced from its original habitat and transplanted to navigate some unknown territory, dodging cars, stopping and going, slamming on brakes, being cut off, flipped off, cussed at. All for the sake of saving a few minutes?! I'll keep my life and get there late, I guess. I can't even begin to tell you how dirty that place was. Let's not even talk about D.C. Downtown? Forget it! Oh yes, it's a wonderful city to walk around. I simply love all the quaint cafes, the Starbucks on every corner and the amazing cuisine. TRULY AMAZING DINING!! I love to visit there, for a day, then come home to my quiet cul de sac just on the outskirts of my generic town.

7. Lynchburg has some of those "born and raised" generations with blood running through their veins who forever will oppose anything from "Jerry Falwell." They have yet to realize he died almost 7 years ago. Certainly the path now being carved out by his son and his namesake is similar, and yet so very different. Have you heard that Liberty is trying to bring a Civic Center to campus and town? Can you just imagine the controversy, battle and debate?! Good thing you don't have to hear about it on the local news since you're no longer local.

8. It was an quincinera in El Paso, Texas. I will never forget the authentic, fresh, homemade Mexican food. I will probably never taste it again, unless I go back. My husband and I visit a locally owned Mexican restaurant at least one, maybe twice, a week. It's not the same as that which I enjoyed just miles from the Mexican border. I can't really expect it to be. But it's our little place. Lynchburg's, that is. And the crazy thing is- it's always PACKED! They have a number of them all over town, new ones popping up every time you turn around. Somehow this disappointing tex-mex is thriving in a town that embraces and supports this small business and thanks them for an albeit small taste of culture. For some in Lynchburg who will never travel to El Paso, this is the next best thing to "authentic."

9. Remember those rednecks I mentioned going to school with? They were waving their rebel flags. They were teenagers. They only knew what their families had taught them. They didn't yet have their own ideals. I'm thankful I saw hate, because it taught me to love. That "breath of fresh air" above the Mason-Dixon line is somehow smothering to me when you try to throw a multitude of cultures together and instead of getting acceptance, you get even more segregation. Oh yes, no one "judges;" they just turn the other way. I'd rather be friends.

10. I saw a few guys witnessing to a family in Wal-mart the other night. I felt certain this was probably their Evangelism assignment. And yet I stopped to pray as seeds were being planted, however contrived the situation might have been. Ironically, you are teaching Christian education to people all across the country for this Liberty vs. Lynchburg mentality, just as I am. We are colleagues. We don't have to share the same faith, religion, beliefs, and thank goodness, the same city. But I do pray we share the same God as Lord and Savior so that whatever differences of opinions, we can ultimately stand undivided as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

You Love Me Anyway

There are moments weighted down so heavy with guilt that I can't fathom any thought of grace.

There are memories so heavy with looming thoughts of the past that I cannot see any hope for the future.

There are gruesome mistakes parading in front of me that I know leave me too far gone.

The time we're given on earth, the mere breath that makes up the expanse of our life, it's but a moment to God, a few decades to us. Yet somehow in this blink of an eye that I've already been given I've managed to fall so far from grace that surely I've landed outside of His reach.

Dare a blessing fall before me, I never think it rightfully mine. It simply cannot be, for I am the worst of sinners. There is no room for mercy mixed into the momumental follies of my life. 

I am the thorn in your crown.

I am the one who has caused You so much pain. I'm the one who cut so deeply with all the force of my wrong doing thrust upon You...

But you love me anyway.

I am the sweat from Your brow

I am the one pouring salt into Your already wounded face. I am the one You came to save and yet I am the one You are suffering for...

But You love me anyway.

I am the nail in Your wrist.

I am the reason You hung there. My sin, my wrong, my choices placed upon You on the cross that should have been mine. I am the reason You cried out asking God why He had forsaken You. ME! I am the one who would forsake You...

But You love me anyway.

I am Judas' kiss

I am Your betrayer. I am the one who followed You then so easily fell prey to the enemy's temptations and schemes. I am the one who chose another way. My kiss on your innocent face was the ultimate betrayal, the kiss of death, Your death...

But You love me anyway.

Surely I have fallen too far from Your reach. It must be said of me that I am outside the limits of Your grace. 

But You love me anyway. Your grace, Your mercy, Your sacrifice was for me - even me! 

At the point where I thought my sin was too far gone from Your forgiveness, You stretched out Your arms and showed Your love for me.

At the point where my life was too far beyond redemption, You shed Your innocent blood to cover all my sins.

At the point where every choice, every bitter thought, every crowning deed of my sinful life was placed upon You, You exchanged my filthy rags for Your robes of righteousness. 

I don't know how You can love me. I don't know why You hung there for me, even me. 

But You love me anyway. 


You Love Me Anyway - Sidewalk Prophets
I am a thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway

Friday, April 18, 2014

TGIF

TGIF!

We wait for it, anticipate it, look forward to it all week. For most, Friday is the first indication we've made it through another week. Another week of school, work, responsibilities coming to a close. It usually comes with a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of relief that the weekend is within reach. 

It's Friday. It should bring celebration and rejoicing but on this Good Friday it brings a different kind of feeling. I'm reminiscent, reflective, contemplative of what this day represents. 

"It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. When he had said this, he breathed his last." Luke 23:44-45

It seems ironic to reference this day as "Good Friday," but it comes as no surprise that simple research reports that Good Friday is a day of prayer, repentance and reflection to meditate on the agony, suffering and ultimate sacrifice of Christ's death on the cross on this day 2000 years ago. 

It doesn't necessarily come with "celebration," but rather commemoration of what Christ did - the cost of my sin, the sacrifice He endured, the exchange of His life for mine. 

If ever there was a Friday to look forward to, today is the day. We honor His life, His death on the cross, His sacrifice. We know today marks the beginning of the biggest weekend there ever was. If ever there was a weekend to look forward to, it is this weekend. It is looking forward to what we know comes on Sunday. Thanking God it's Friday takes on a whole new meaning when we know that Sunday is coming!

TGIF...Thank You, Lord, for this day. This Friday. This Good Friday that serves as a reminder of the cross you endured. This day that brings your life on earth to close yet represents the resurrection and the gift of eternal life that is ours to come. This Friday that stands in remembrance of the suffering when You chose to take my place. This day when You traded Your will for God's plan. This weekend when You overcame death. Yes, TGIF!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Do you see me?

I can see you hurting and I know that you're in pain...

To the one who's in the thick of the battle, court dates and lawyers, bitter fights and gruesome accusations. The divorce is inevitable. Your heart is breaking over the children, the love lost, the choices made, the destruction that follows. I can see you hurting.

To the one whose heart is breaking, wrestling with all the things you were told, every word you bought as truth, now somehow trying to convince your mind and your heart that this ache will go away. Your loneliness is suddenly magnified. Your singleness once again identified. I can see you hurting.

To the one who is yet again undergoing tests, waiting for results, visiting doctor after doctor, and enduring appointment after appointment, praying for wisdom with treatment plans, praying for an even bigger miracle. Your strength and faith is to be admired, yet I can see you hurting.

To the one who is waiting, yet another month goes by and disappointment comes once again. You've cried tears too many times. You wonder why God would give you this desire without giving you a child. You endeavor such a private, painful struggle, enduring all the questions of unknowing friends who wonder when you're going to have a baby. I can see you hurting. 

To the one who finds yourself with an unexpected pregnancy. You certainly didn't see this coming. You know this baby is a gift from God, but you're having a hard time understanding His plan in the midst of all that swirls around you. I can see you hurting. 

To the one who sits alone, wondering if your marriage will ever survive. Hope and prayer seem too far gone for you at this point. No one truly knows the ache in your heart and the depth of the distance that's grown between you. It would take a miracle now, and that's the only thing you hold onto. I can see you hurting. 

To the one who feels too far from grace. Your burden is laden with guilt, weighing you down to the point of paralyzation. You wonder how forgiveness could ever be yours. You feel too far beyond His reach, too covered in sin to ever be redeemed. I can see you hurting. 

I've been there too. Hiding the silent pain you endure, wrestling with hope, prayer and reality. Trying to make sense of your circumstances, and trying to find the strength to make it through one more day. 

You are never beyond His reach. Your burden is never too much for Him to bear. This is the point, at the very pit of the valley you find yourself in, where you look up and let The Lord take over. Your miracle may not come right away - and it may not come the way you expect or are praying. But rest assured this is exactly where He gives you the strength to make it one day at a time. He sees you and He knows - the pain you're hiding, the tears you silently cry. 

He knit together the very heart that is crushed within you. He formed the very spirit that is now too weak to carry on. He breathed life into the flesh and bones that seem to be failing you. 

He sees you hurting. He knows you're in pain. He sees every tear and knows every ache in your soul. He sees you, He knows you, He created you, He loves you and He has never left you. 


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Just One Touch

"Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I will be healed."
Matthew 9:20-21

Just one touch. That's all she was after. Whether she wasn't brave enough, not feeling worthy enough, or simply not able to press beyond the crowd, she wasn't even face-to-face. She approached Him from behind seeking one touch. 

Just the edge. Other translations refer to the hem, the fringe, or even the tassel. Just one tassel. One thread of his garment. Just the very bottom - the fringe that most likely resulted from wear and tear. All she needed was one shred of His garment. 

"Jesus turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed from that moment." Matthew 9:22

Her faith had healed her. Through the power of Jesus Christ and the faith she certainly clung to, the suffering she'd endured for 12 long years was instantaneously healed from that very moment of her great exchange with Christ.

It's a nice story to read. One of distinct faith and awesome power, but in the present day I wonder if we can find the application for ourselves. Do we seek Him so directly? Do we believe with wholehearted faith that just one touch, just one fringe would be enough to provide the healing we seek? Do we have faith that such an encounter would instantly and dramatically change our lives? 

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

When we cast our burden on Him, when we take His yoke, it is a spiritual transaction. We must acknowledge that He is sovereign and in control of our lives. The outcome is ultimately up to Him. The faith in Him is up to us. We make a spiritual exchange, lightening our own burden by taking on the rest He promises. When we give Him our burden, we relinquish the responsibility that we are somehow in charge of things beyond our control. 

We may not find instantaneous relief from the suffering of our circumstances, but we can immediately receive peace and rest from Him at work in our lives. Just one touch from Him, just one heart pursuing Him so directly, just one moment, just one exchange of our burden for His yoke that is light. 

Reach out and touch His hem. Seek Him. Be willing in faith to exchange your burden for His peace. He is just one touch away. 



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Delight

"Delight yourself in The Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

Oh yes, Lord. How many times have I prayed this to you? Too many times for me to recall, I've come to you with the desires of my heart. 

Your word says... That God-breathed scripture I've read over and over, underlined and even prayed gives me full access to You with my heart's desires. Right?!

I feel it. I can almost feel the pity party getting ready to start. I am, of course, the hostess and will be donning my crown of whining complaints. He is nonetheless the guest of honor, invited by my beckoning prayers to tell Him over and over again what it is I desire and why I want Him to "bless" me with an affirmative to my requests.

"Whom have I in heaven but You? Earth has nothing I desire besides You." Psalm 73:25

Oh dear. Oh no. That simply... I've gotten it all wrong. 

Oh Lord, I haven't been desiring YOU. I'm upset. Confused. I don't understand. I don't know why there would even be this desire placed in my heart if it's not YOUR WILL! Take it away! Remove it completely! Replace MY desire for what I want with a desire for ONLY YOU.

"My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:26

Yes, Lord! It is so true of me! My flesh is willing but weak. My heart is full but often overwhelmed. Be my strength. Be my vision. Be my desire. Be ALL that I seek, need, ask or desire. Be everything to me. Be my everything. 

"Delight yourself in The Lord..."

I missed it. I skipped right over it. I jumped way ahead to what I want, what I think is best, what I choose, what I desire for myself and my life. Take me back, God. Take me back to You. Take Your rightful place as the desire of my heart. You are my delight!