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Monday, December 18, 2017

Metamorphosis



Joy Transformed to Sorrow


 ​     The air is crisp and the stores are bustling with activity. I am living a dream; married to the most special man I’ve ever met. We are so incredibly in love and overjoyed to spend our lives with one another. 


     God has provided in so many ways: our family and home, we adopted a puppy a few months ago and in addition, God has blessed us with a baby who is due in the Summer. My younger siblings have a Mom and my Dad a wife, after a difficult couple years. We are all so happy, it’s such a beautiful time. In the mountaintops and valleys of our life, this is definitely a mountaintop moment. 


     Yet I find myself at an unexpected place. I am missing Mom more than ever… The more blessings God grants, the tougher it is to think about the reality that I am unable to share them with Mom. 

     Getting into a relationship this summer would have put her over the moon with joy. She would have been elated for me, and loved on Andrew like a son, even more than she already had for so many years when he would hang out at the house with my brother. 

     She would have spent so many late nights with me hearing about all the details of my thoughts and feelings, and would have been full of wisdom for me to follow. It was everything she hoped for… to see her children happily married to a godly spouse who loved us more than any other, second only to their love for
Christ. 

     But she isn’t here to share that joy. 

     The news of her first grandchild…. I can only imagine all the excitement she would have had when she was told. She would have been literally jumping up and down with exclamations of joy. She would have gushed about what an incredible gift from God babies are, and that "Yes, childbirth is hard, but oh, you forget all the pain immediately in that moment as you hold that baby in your arms for the first time, and you know you would do it all over again because it is so worth it...”

Sorrow Transformed to Joy

     But can’t even really imagine what my life would look like now if Mom were still alive. Everything has changed so much and God has designed every detail to fall into place in such a way, to bring about the rich life I now live. I am truly so grateful to Him for it. Every day feels like a dream of which I hope never to wake. 

     But I do wish I had another chance to tell Mom I loved her; another moment to show her how much she did and still does mean to me. When those precious moments are gone, no matter how many times you said "I love you", it doesn’t feel like you said it enough. 

     These moments are indeed gone, but by God’s grace, the world keeps turning despite the times we get caught up in sorrow. I know I’ll see her in heaven, but right now that feels like an eternity away. 

     It’s crazy how I am filled with more joy this Christmas season than ever before, and yet because of these joys, sorrow runs deeper. 

     In my mind, love is undeniably worth the pain of loss; but God never promised it would be an easy path to walk. 


                    "
The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy..... Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them." Psalm 126:3, 5-6

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Whirlwind

      Last July I had the joy of becoming Mrs. Andrew Holets. A journey with moments I would at times say was a whirlwind of activity, yet other moments felt like they took a lifetime to reach. With the understanding that this was only the beginning of our journey together, we pledged under God, our unending love for each other; "Till death do us part."

     Thinking back on the wedding day, I was so grateful how well everything turned out. Many brides have said they don't remember much from their special day. However, Andrew seemed to be the one who came up short in the memory department. It took him a full week to remember a few of the details. Such as his dancing nerves right before the ceremony, sharing tears with several others as the bouquet to honor my deceased Mom was brought out, eagerly waiting for me to walk down the aisle and feeling impatient when I wasn't the next one to walk out, "Is that another bridesmaid?!", saving me from a bee that was threatening to wreak havoc during a special song, and of course, feeling ready to take off honeymooning with his bride after about song number two. For myself however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I remembered most of the prep time, wedding ceremony, and reception. 


     The wedding day evening weather promised only a hint of cloud-cover and a gorgeous bright sky. Yet as we stood up on stage while the pastor gave his opening comments, I glanced into the north and saw a dark storm brooding in the distance. "Looking a little sketchy but I think we'll be fine.


     I tried to take in every moment. To cherish this special time and make each part of the ceremony a heartfelt promise of my commitment to Andrew.  I sang a surprise song to him, we each said our vows, exchanged rings, shared in communion, and of course, sealed our commitment with a kiss. An upbeat tune began as we were announced: "Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Holets!" We then made our way down the aisle; slowly at my request, for I had discovered that my sparkly high heels and the fresh grass were not a pleasant combo. 


     Making our way back up for pictures it was clear... that storm was getting closer. As the cameras were clicking rapidly, the sun's rays were quickly masked by the dark and brooding storm. Being an aspiring photographer myself, I was perfectly happy with the cloud cover. After all, an overcast day is perfect for photos! 



     It was only when the photographer was just snapping the last of the photos that I felt it... A raindrop. I big fat NM raindrop. That was followed by another, then another, and another. I thought I'd state the obvious. "It's starting to rain." 

     "Yep" agreed one of the groomsman. "I felt it too." The wedding party was quickly hustled into the bridal chambers as the drops began to fall more steadily. Arriving in the room, we all stood there for a moment. I decided to sit down and give my feet a break from my heels. Andrew, realizing his legs were pretty tired as well, contentedly took his place by my side. 


     "Do you guys want some time alone?" asked one of the bridesmaids. At that moment, everyone in the wedding party seemed to unanimously agree this was a very needful thing, so Andrew and I quickly found ourselves the only individuals in the room. Amused, we looked at each other and smiled. I snuggled just a bit closer. Then the door burst open. 



     "Oh! I didn't realize you two were alone. Sorry about that." It was Andrews mother bringing us a couple guests who she knew we would appreciated saying hello to before they made their early departure. We were grateful. We chatted a bit,  thanked them for the well wishes, and bid them goodbye. The door shut behind them. We were alone again. 



     We sat back down on the couch. Where were we? Andrew slipped his arm around me as I moved closer to his side. We looked into each-others eyes. They quickly darted to the door as it burst open once again. 


     "Oops! Sorry, am I interrupting?",  my bridesmaid was quick to inquire. In her arms was her baby daughter. 



     "No problem, it's nothing anyway" we were quick to assure her. 



     "I've just got to nurse. I'll stay in the bathroom so I'm not interrupting. I'll just knock to let you know when I'm going to come back out." She gave a big grin that insinuated we would be doing more than just sitting beside one another. She left. Well, sort of. It was suddenly in the forefront of our minds that with only a thin wall and wooden door separating the bathroom from our view, she was basically sharing the room with us, privy to any noise or conversation. 



     So there we sat. We shared another smile. It was quiet for a few seconds. But this time I don't think either one of us were surprised when, once again, we were interrupted. A knock sounded and the door burst open. It was my matron of honor. She rushed in apologetically, quickly setting some items down in the room that had been soaked from the rain. The door which was currently ajar gave us a glimpse into the impending chaos outside. The rain beat down, creating a huge puddle by the door as our friends and wedding party struggled to get everything out of the way that would be ruined, if left in the downpour. Then the door shut. We were alone again... Minus nursing momma a wall away. 



     The door opened again. Andrew's mother was back with more guests. I felt like so much was happening beyond that door which everyone was making sure we didn't stress about. I appreciated it, but it was also nice to have another brief interaction with a couple of our guests, who were preparing to leave early, and thus scooped up by my new MIL so we would have the chance to say hello. 
     After they left we sat back down. Almost immediately following, the wedding party, having given us ample time to do whatever they thought we needed to be alone for, were ushered back into the room with us. 

     As the rain finally slowed and revealed a dimmed sunset, roughly forty minutes had passed and we were ready to eat. All of our guests had been ushered into the church (So thankful we had it available on the property) and were happily chatting and eating there. Due to the lost time from the rainstorm, any thought of dramatic introductions of the wedding party was cast aside, as we managed our way across the huge puddle in front of the door. Slipping through a side door, we made our way into the church. After greeting all our guests, we finally managed to sit in a quieter part of the room, and grab a bite to eat. 


     The rain had stopped by now as groomsmen, bridesmaids, bride, and groom made our way to the front of the bridal chamber. Guests took their places at the tables outside, and an only slightly wet wedding party were announced as we found our seats in the grass. Toasts were given and as the last of the sun set, we had our first dance. I then danced with my Dad, then Andrew, with his Mom.  

     The lively music played as the real dancing began and although that portion of the reception was brief, I enjoyed myself. There was something beautiful and refreshing about the raindrops that were left behind on the grass and dripping trees in the clear air, as everyone danced under the pergola, gently lit in the darkened night. 

     The sendoff, though a bit chaotic trying to remember everything before we left (Which included a valiant rush for a forgotten bag by my matron and maid of honor) was beautiful. The sparklers were going strong, the night air was clear, and I was pleasantly surprised that the groomsmen hadn't done anything too crazy to our vehicle. Yay! We were off, leaving behind our friends and adventures, for a week up in Taos. 



     Thinking back on the wedding brought to mind certain correlations with my life up to that day. I don't lead a particularly exciting life. At least, not in the sense that some may imagine. However, the events and circumstances I have previously encountered on a personal level, have created what feels like a full lifetime of experience. 



     My Christian walk had been a myriad of questions, study, and mistakes that led me to the place when I was finally ready to make this faith my own. Struggling through a very difficult church split was what ultimately pushed me to begin this quest. Some time later, my Mom passed away within less than a year of her cancer diagnosis. With the many joyful memories I have of her, the suffering she endured throughout the disease created many difficult, and unpleasant memories during that dark time. But I was then granted a newfound joy that was fresh and beautiful, as God brought Andrew into my life. 

     As we walk in a world of hurt and pain with a God who reaches beyond, it's easy to lose sight of His hand, through the storm. It's easy to think our moments of sorrow are too great to bear, so we bear them alone. We grind down and struggle through the trials without appreciating His vast sovereignty throughout. The omnipotent hand of God is something we will never understand. Yet a little insight can be reached, if we don't shut our eyes through it all.

     Our wedding day was full, bringing with it the joy of anticipation, and the fear of the unknown. It created an unexplained thrill, yet serious moments of sacred repose. Nerves were strung tight, yet joy and love were burning strong. Yes, the unwanted rain and storms had rolled across the once clear skies. But it didn't remain forever rushing with severity and chaos. Instead, it created a grand showcase of God's hand, lasting memories during, and a refreshing beauty after. Just like my life had felt, leading up to our special day. 

     Through everything that has happened in my life thus far, it has been a whirl of emotion. The sorrow runs deep, it's unexplainable. But the depth of joy through it all and the love I have been granted for my Savior helps me realize that if I could go back and change it all, I wouldn't.


  Life is full but God is good. When you trust Him, not only can you rest with joy after the hardship, but you can be granted peace during the storm. 

Tempests of clouds and rainfall is not the most desired experience to be had at a wedding... But having experienced it and looking back, I can boldly say I wouldn't change it for the world. 
      

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Lydia's Miracle

     My Mom was dying.. I could see this plain as day.  I knew she couldn't have long in this world. Her body was being taken over by this deadly disease called cancer, and there was nothing my family or I could physically do to stop it. But we could pray.

     One thing was certain, my Mom, Lydia Hoppman, was prayer warrior. Years of her Christian walk contained hours upon hours of prayer for those around her. Heartfelt, desperate, genuine prayers. Crying out to God on behalf of those He put on her heart, filling notebook upon notebook of her spirit to the Lord, as a David in these moments in time, she pleaded, repented, glorified, and honored her Yahweh-God.

     But this time, the prayer warrior needed prayer. She needed a miracle. Desperately, she needed one. Her faith was showcased in a beautiful way, as my Mom pleaded as a child to her Father, requesting  this death sentence to be lifted. She knew, without a doubt, that God could work a miracle of complete healing in her broken body, if He so desired. Multiple times in her past God had spared her life, saving her from eternity in Hell. She was well aware of the power worked in her and through her when the God of Heaven reached down and pulled her out of her hopeless, rebellious state, to save her sinful soul. That was an act of God. That was a miracle of which to marvel.

     So to me it was no surprise to hear her asking God for another miracle: Total and complete healing. I knew God could do it. I hoped beyond all hope He would. Yet I held myself in check because I was afraid to be taken off guard. In my eyes, knowledge gave me time to prepare emotionally. If I could learn to handle the worst case scenario in my mind, surely I would be okay. Of course, I really wanted to believe that my Mom would be healed. I think I mostly did try to have faith in it for her sake. But somehow, I couldn't make myself believe that healing was going to happen in this lifetime.

     And as my Mother's body weakened, breathing got to be more difficult, her arm continued swelling with lymphodema, and her neck grew harder and discolored, I couldn't help but stare at what was clearly in front of me and face facts: Mom wasn't' getting better. Mom was dying.


     Yet her fervor grew. Her faith increased. Little moments of fear were immediately overcome with delight in her Savior. A tiny doubt in her heart was quickly defeated by her childlike trust in His plan. She knew he was going to do this miracle. Surely this is why He has her suffering. Surely this is the best way to glorify His name. Surely, this is what God was going to do. And it was going to be awesome.

     I loved to see her have joy in her hope, but I hated it at the same time. Reality is what it is. Hoping in what to me seemed to be a pipe dream was a cruel deception to allow anyone to believe. I would never try to paint a perfect picture of my world to disguise a bitter corruption beneath. I wanted my Mom out of pain. But that's about as far as I dare let myself hope.

      I remember one of the times she had difficulty breathing and she had to be taken to the ER. Glancing around nervously her gaze fell on me as she spoke, an unusual hint of fear in her voice. "Kelsey, I'm not getting better...". Even so, she trusted God knowing he was in complete control, no matter what. I trusted God too, but what did that mean coming from me, when my Mom was the one who was sick? She was the one living in that disease-filled body. She was the one who was forced to endure so many hours of pain.

     Then it finally happened. Early Monday morning on September 29, 2014, Mom passed into the arms of her Savior.

     And the revelation of the miracles Mom received was staggering.

     In her past, she had received a miracle of healing from sin. God had saved her and brought her to a place where she was living a life that was probably unrecognizable to those knew her before Christ. Going from a steady path of destruction to a 180 turn to God, this miracle was hard to deny. (Please ask me about it if you'd like to know her testimony)

     Then, in September 1999, her life produced another miracle. Twins. As a forty one years old with signs of Perimenopause, this miracle was almost impossible to deny. She would later give birth to two others after that, Josiah Ezra and Keturah Abby.

     By the beginning of 2014, she had discovered that she had breast cancer. She was gone before the end of September that same year. This brought with it her last miracle. A miracle of healing. It may not have been on this earth, but I know without a doubt that she now lives in joy before her Savior as a new creation, without sorrow or pain. And nothing in this world could ever bring greater comfort and peace.

     Her miracle was everything God had done to bring her to himself. Her miracle was the time after time God spared her life, preventing her from an eternity without Him. Her miracle was the unfathomable grace that was shown to someone lost in darkness and rebellion.

     She wanted a miracle of healing. It was a prayer God answered in more ways than one. Taking her to be with Him in heaven granted her complete healing. God had worked miracles not just once in her life, but over and over again. Standing above and beyond time and saving her soul from death in Hell, he brought her to life that He might be glorified in the death of her body. This miracle is unequivocal.

     Furthermore, Lydia Hoppman died on the 29th of September... the twins 15th birthday. Her death took place on the day God granted her this miracle, the birth of twins. Such a perfect reminder of His control over life and death.

     Mom was praying that God would showcase his glory through her healing... He did and it was in more ways than she could have ever anticipated. And I believe He will continue to do so for the rest of my life, and beyond.

     The morning she died revealed miracles that were amazing. They were undeniable. That night the sun lowered itself below the horizon as it always did, and the next morning it opened up again in bright glorious brilliance. As sure as I could trust it would continue to do so every day of my life, there were no questions or doubt in my mind of God's sovereignty and loving hand.

     Requests made by the tender pleading of His trusting child, brought the hand of an omnipotent God into a life who Satan had long since deemed his own. Omnipresent, transcending time, her Father God reached through the space of her existence and intervened. Through His sovereignty and with the knowledge of her future prayer, He guided every moment and detail, and granted Lydia her prayer.

     That, my friend, is a legacy that leaves evidence of the power of God which will continue beyond the end of time. It is testimony of His grace that reaches out to the far ends of the earth. Some could even say... It's a miracle.

"The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. May the name of the Lord be praised." 




Friday, July 15, 2016

El Shaddai

     Why is it we do not courageously fight against the attacks of the enemy? Is this not God's command? Why is it we cower in shrinking submission when challenged by the world and it's devices of wickedness?

The battle of good versus evil is a reality every Christian must be willing to face and ready to overcome. What stops us: We don't trust God. This is the bitter truth of the matter.

 But we must, we MUST trust Him. With everything, proclaiming it as our battle cry, "We trust." 

"God our Rock" alludes to strength and refuge. The name of our Lord, "El Shaddai" means literally, "God Almighty". At His Name and with the reality of the truth it carries, may the knees of our every enemy tremble. 

May we trust... even when we think our way is the better plan. 
Trust... Even when our confidence outlasts all else. 
Trust... Even at the times we are at our weakest.
Trust... Even when the truth is too scary to face on our own. 
Trust... as our proclamation of surrender. 

In order to win the battle, we must give all and be ready to lose all for the One who is our Savior

To trust means we must surrender if we want to win the battle. 

To trust means we do not fight alone. 

Trusting in God's strength, we must lay all at His feet. 

The giving up of ourselves to Him wholly, to act in surrender, to rest in faith, to know it is not by our might that we win the battle... This is to trust. 


Psalm 37:40   And the Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they trust and take refuge in Him.

Isaiah 50:7     Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced.  Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Heavens Eyes

     The people of Israel were in exile. Rejecting the word of the Lord for their own pleasures and idols had separated them from the One who had done so much to free them from their bondage in Egypt.

     As a God of holy perfection, Israel's "Jehovah Jireh", the Lord who provides, was unable to commune with His people, so cankered were they by sin and moral corruption. Justice and compassion were forged together as a paralyzing example of what happens to those who defy the living God who rules in righteousness over His people, yet is filled with a passionate love no man could ever understand.

     Justice had come to Israel; justice was deserved. But God spoke: and he spoke to them with love. Desiring their sanctification through him as he gathered them from their enemies "That they will know that I am the LORD their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land, and I will leave none of them there any longer..." (Ezekiel 39:28), the Lord spoke through the prophet Ezekiel to the people of Israel:

     "...I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none."  (Ezk. 22:30)

     Through all that God had done for them, his deliverance, his compassion, his love, Israel chose to reject him. The judgment they were experiencing was justly deserved. And yet... Yahweh looked for one; one who would stand in the gap, intercede for the people, and desire to follow after righteousness at a time faced with vile wickedness and immense compromise among his people. For this one, the nation of Israel may have been spared. But he found none.

     We face a dilemma today in our country. We the church, those who claim to follow Christ, are rejecting our God for idols made to feed our desires of self gratification. We serve the god of media, of social status, of achievement. We live either to serve the god of our bodies or use our bodies as a god to serve us. Our focus is inward and our goals are often cheap and vapid.

     Yet... God looks for one. One person to stand in the gap. One person to rise up in prayer as a David against the Goliath of our culture. One person who will not conform. One who will lay down their pride in a humble cry, Lord here am I, send me".

     Our God is holy. This means he is perfect and righteous. It's because of his love and justice that we must someday answer to our actions. Yet heavens eyes seek that one.

     Are you willing to make the sacrifice? Will you stand in the gap? As a bond-servant of our Savior will you allow yourself to be used by him no matter what the costs? Even when you are rejected by those you love? Even when you are spit on as the fool while all the world looks on and laughs?

     Don't let this culture define who you are or the gods you serve. When the eyes of heaven gaze down in the sludge and grime of our sinful ways, may we stand with unwavering resolve against the compromise of the world around us. May we be surrounded by the convicting words of the gospel presented through a humility that displays, in glorious splendor, the name of our awesome God.

Heavens Eyes are searching. The world's eyes are watching.... Who is ready to rise up for all to see?


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Skeptical Surrender

     Sitting in a room of young ladies, mostly older than herself, sat a 12 year old girl. Her experience at this Christian home-school convention had been okay so far, but definitely not a great one. After being dropped off at the wrong room by her brother, her terrible sense of direction found the young introvert forced to ask one of the volunteers for help. He had taken her to the correct room now, one story down from where she was at, and the soft-spoken girl was now seated in the very back of the crowded room, late.

     The speaker had already begun. She was upbeat and engaging as she chatted small talk with these girls, introducing herself and talking about hobbies. Then she pulled out a piece of paper.

"I want you to pass these around", she said. 

     The girl received her little slip of paper and a pencil. Worried about having to write something she may not know about, she waited tentatively for her next instructions.  Satisfied that everyone was ready to go, the lady smiled and continued.

"On your own slip of paper" she began, "I want you to write something you really want to be when you grow up".  

Okay good, thought the girl. That was pretty simple. But I hope she doesn't make me read this aloud. 

     Some of the girls took a little while to think about their answer, most wrote their "One thing" pretty quickly, but the girl was probably one of the first finished. She knew for sure that she wanted to be a Mom. Her desire for this future had never been anything different. She knew that was what she was called to do and she felt sure that's probably what all girls were called to be; a wife and mother; a homemaker. 

     A basket was passed and the girls were asked to put their slips of paper into it. The girl was glad. She realized she wasn't going to be asked to read it aloud, but perhaps this speaker-lady would. She hoped so. She hoped hers would get picked too. All the other girls probably wrote a career, she thought in disgust. The other girls probably wrote selfish things. But clearly her choice was the best one. It was the one that God would be happy with, not that other stuff. While feeling very good about her godly choice for a future, the girl was completely oblivious to her blatant pride. 

     Sure enough, the speaker, having received the basket, began to pull out a few slips of the white paper and read them aloud. As the girl suspected, they were all career related. 

"Doctor, chef, veterinarian, actress, engineer, designer, geologist..." Then the speaker stopped. Her hand, now holding several white slips of paper, was suspended high over the basket. She paused dramatically and slowly looked around the room. Taking one paper into her other hand, she read it again: 

"Basketball player". Crunch! The lady made a fist and the piece was nothing but a tiny ball. 

"Actress" Crunch! As the first, she had smashed it into a little bit of nothing. 

"Nurse" Crunch!

 "Teacher" Crunch! On it went. 

     Satisfied that she had their attention, the speaker lowered her hand and slowly dropped the crumpled papers onto the floor. 

"This is what you have to be willing to do with those dreams." she stated softly.

 "We all have things we want to do, people we want to be, plans, hopes, and dreams... but girls, we need to be open to what God has planned for us. We need to be ready to give him everything..."

      She lifted the basket, "This may be something we want to do, but whatever it is that God has planned for us and called us to... it may not be this... And that means, no matter what we end up doing, we have to be willing to surrender ALL our desires to God."

     Indignant, the girl sat stiffly in her chair. How dare this speaker stand there, with the basket containing her piece of paper, and try to tell her that being a wife and mother may not be God's will? What if this speaker had grabbed up her paper and crumpled it up like some of the others? Her slip said she wanted to be a Mom. She honestly wondered, would the speaker have been able to crunch that up? The girl was now glad she was in the back. She didn't like this speaker so much anymore. 

     The woman continued with her message, but the girl wasn't really listening. Feeling a prick on her heart, she mulled over the words that were just spoken. She knew she was supposed to give God everything. She knew the speaker wasn't wrong to say we need to follow God's will and not her own. But the girl felt she was doing better than those other girls in the room. Her desire to be a keeper at home was biblical. It was God's will... right?

      She decided she wouldn't let anyone else tell her differently. Let those other girls hear this message. They don't understand that they shouldn't be seeking a career. They needed to hear this... But she knew she was doing what God wanted. Sitting there feeling very self righteous, the girl was still oblivious to her arrogance.

     Throughout the years as she grew in the Lord and matured as a Christian, God had to teach this girl many things. She had to learn how to give up her plans to Him. She realized through firsthand experiences that she really didn't have control. She could think she did. She could fake it. She could try to make things happen, but when it came down to it, that couldn't actually change what happened around her. 

     She realized how prideful she was about her choices. She realized God needed to be the center of her entire life and every decision along the way. This meant she had to be willing to do whatever God had for her and rest in His guidance in her life. This included the stuff she felt sure was God's best. Leaving it all in the hands of her Father gave her peace knowing He would be the one to work out her future. 

     No longer a little girl, she dealt with some trials and difficulties in her older teen life and young 20's. But in the midst of it all she could say God brought her through, because He had taught her what it meant to trust Him with her piece of paper that held her desire for the future. That speaker, all those years ago, was absolutely right.

     In case you didn't catch on, that little girl was me. It wasn't until quite recently that I remembered this story and realized it correlated so perfectly with my life now. I hope it will speak to your heart as well.

     Friend, we can try to understand the will of God, follow Him with our entire being, read his word, pray, and live in devotion to him. But guess what, we must be ready to give up everything for him. Everything. This means the stuff we want. The stuff we've prayed for. The stuff we've felt sure we're supposed to do with our life. We must be able and willing to lay it all at the feet of Jesus and rest in Him to be the One who guides our future, because let's face it, we'll be miserable if we're fighting His will.

     If God's not the one leading our lives, can we really say we are living a life that honors Him? Christ gave up everything on the cross at Calvary. This was the biggest act of submission ever to take place. In trying to be like Christ, should not our obedience towards His command to follow be to submit to Him as the One who determines our every step? 

Isaiah 26:3- "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." 

May our minds be "Stayed on God", our hearts full of childlike trust, and our will and desires surrendered to Him, that He may grant us perfect peace and we can fully rest in His direction and grace during every step of our lives. Praise the Lord.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Motherless Mother's Day

     As I was working at a flower shop this past week, one of my jobs included handwriting people's various messages to loved ones to be put with their bouquet delivery. It was sort of a strange experience... Writing message after message of "Happy Mother's Day...", "I love you...", and "You're the best mom in the world..!" I was writing the messages I would give almost anything to tell my own Mom, but could not. I also wanted to give a message to all these people writing to their Moms. I wanted to tell them not to wait for that visit. Don't wait to put in the time. Don't wait to show your appreciation. Don't wait to say the stuff you've wanted to say but never got out. Because you probably won't know when that "I love you" will be your last. 

     Throughout the week as I thought of Mother's Day, I was sad to realize this was a holiday I was no longer apart of. But then I thought about it some more. I thought about how much my Mom poured into this family. How much she sacrificed, and the amazing offering of love that was given to lead her kids to witness a real life example of what it means to be like Christ. Her being gone doesn't change that. It doesn't take away the seeds that were planted in her family. It doesn't discount the incredible legacy she left behind. 



     So while this will be the second "Motherless Mother's Day" for my siblings and I, I'd still like to honor my Mom for everything she did for this family. Hours of prayer on our behalf, hours of  labor for her household, hours of emotion and passion for the things we pursued, hours of time and talks with her children, hours of teaching us the word of God... all of which create a lifetime of love which we will never be able to repay. But that's the kind of love that we are to follow. You know, Christ like love.  


     So to a mother who never let anyone tell her that her job doesn't matter; who realized she was raising a generation to honor God and live to serve Him, poured into her family, and understood the influence of her home as her battle ground, thank-you.... Through guiding and training the hearts of her children, she understood the power behind the vital truth that she was creating a legacy with the ability to build up or break down a nation. 


     This is the example I was given every day of her life, and one I hope I too will someday be able to emulate, at least a little. And it's with much respect and love that I honor this legacy of motherhood today. Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Avoiding Religion Part Two

So in Part one of "Avoiding Religion" I discussed the dangers of religion for the Christian. In this post, I'll be focusing on the dangers of religion for the non-Christian.



     Religion is a dangerous commodity. In fact, I believe our country's push toward religion is one of the primary reasons we're seeing a lack of interest in regards to God and the church.

     The fact that we, as a nation, are pulling away from God is no surprise to me. We are a people desperate for something more, yet blind to everything that could save us. The more we disregard God's word and the very existence of God, the more willingly we accept and even welcome immorality... and certain destruction.

     But what is the reason behind our country's obvious acceleration to sin? Is it something specific? Could it be that our country has been so saturated with religion in politics in the past that people are just tired of it? Maybe our generation is hit hard by the hypocrisy and unrealistic impressions of morality in the church. Personally, I believe the morality children are being taught in our schools and homes is largely to blame. They are taught good and evil. Smiling, sharing, loving...? Good. Lying, cheating, and stealing...? Bad.  But based on what? Are they given something to back up the reasoning and purpose behind such claims?

      It's no wonder we have so many problems with our youth today. There is nothing to stop them from creating morality for themselves. Nothing to hold them back when they decide they think something's right or wrong. Notice, THEY choose. (Proverbs 14:12 - There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death.) 

     There is another reason that I believe has a great affect on our culture's decline in true Christianity. More often than not, those who claim "Christianity" do not really hold fast to the true meaning of the word. Many call themselves Christians, but have no clue what that really means. Or worse, the Christian knows, but looks no different from the world. So this leaves onlookers confused. What's so great about Christianity if it looks no different than everything else? What's the point?

     So how does the overuse of religion fit into all of this? It's simple. Not unlike religion for the Christian, it takes the focus off of the Truth and instead, onto self; what man can do to be good enough, to fit in, to measure up, or to feel positive about himself.

     When doing a good deed for others, the motive becomes self gratifying if it isn't done in the name of Christ. "Meditating" to feel spiritual only opens the doors of the mind to any evil Satan cares to slip in. Going to church just to please "The Man Upstairs" in case our good deeds weren't enough to weigh out the bad this week, means nothing when we are commanded obedience over sacrifice.

      We live in a world built of religious people who have good intentions but remain uninformed. In seeking to be enlightened they have lingered in the dark. In seeking to be religious, they have become a generation who have advanced willingly towards their silent killer, and so continue to be pervaded with it's deadly poison.

     Standing on it's own, religion means nothing, at least in the sense that it gains nothing. When we let ourselves get distracted with trying to be spiritual enough or appear religious enough to look good, please society, or make ourselves feel better, we miss the point.  And when our deeds are not done in the name of Jesus Christ, we may as well have not done them at all. It makes us feel good about ourselves for doing these good deeds and thus only pull farther away from God in trying to measure up to the standard we've set. And I'm afraid it's a pretty low bar, people.

     We are witnessing a country who completely rejects God by using religion as a mask to cover the reality of certain destruction. The irony is painful, and the day of destruction is so much closer than they may think.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Avoiding Religion Part One



Avoiding Religion: To the Christian
     There once was an enthusiastic woman. She had a husband to whom she was completely devoted. In fact, she promised herself she would remain dedicated to him forever. In doing so, she also decided she needed to prove herself worthy to him so he could truly love her.

      So this woman decided to learn about her man. She wanted to understand every aspect of him, ways she could better help him, when this devotion started, and in what ways could she encourage it to continue. But the woman didn't just stop there. She traveled to all the places he'd been, walked where he walked, and even talked like he talked. She met his friends... and his enemies. She learned about him in every way imaginable. She acted in a way that she knew would please him. She knew she had to be the perfect wife.

      While on her expedition, anyone who met this woman was impressed. The ladies wished they were more dedicated like her. Men wished they had wives who loved them as much as this woman seemed to love her husband.

     "Such a devout wife", they would remark. "This is a woman of character. She is not afraid to work hard to get what she wants. She sets out to find what she's looking for and is successful. And all of this to please her husband..."


      It made her feel good inside to hear these things. It pushed her to try harder and work harder to be the one her husband would accept. In fact, as she did so, she had this hope in the back of her mind that this would be a way to prove the validity of her love to this man.
   
     Then, the day came.... Her journey had reached it's end. The people she met were gone, the places she had visited were but a distant memory, and her aspirations and dreams were fulfilled. But would it be enough to impress the man she loved?

     She went to the door of her house, and crept inside. Her eyes traveled across the room, from the empty living space, to the messy kitchen, and the barren dining area. Suddenly, an elderly man entered the front room. The woman jumped back with a start.

     "Who are you?" She demanded, a little taken off guard. "I'm looking for my husband."

      The deep-set wrinkles in the man's brow increased as he looked at her closely. He took a step forward.

     "I", he stated slowly, "I am your husband." The woman stared in disbelief.

      "That can't be!" she countered. "I know my husband. Better than his own mother! I've studied him and everything about him. You sir, cannot be that man." However, he continued to look at her sadly.


     "You don't recognize me because you haven't spent any time with me. While I was taking a morning walk in the neighborhood, you were off touring my childhood home. The days I came home from a rough day at work with cold dinner as my only consolation, you were reading documents at the library about the day I was born. As I sat alone by the fireplace at night with a cup of green tea, you were having dinner with those I haven't seen in over 20 years. While my life forged on, as does any other, you were not there because you were too busy trying to learn about me and earn my respect. But I was right here the whole time. Waiting for the chance to learn and grow along side you. Waiting to care for you. Waiting to love you. Baby, you don't recognize me because you don't even know me." 

     At this point, tears were streaming his bride's face. She had made a mistake that cost her the relationship she had devoted her whole life to maintain. In trying to earn the right to be cared for, she had lost her one chance to experience a relationship that would have melted any fear of rejection. A love given that could not be gained through something she did, nor ever could be. In trying to earn a love her spouse gave freely, it had all been lost... 


     I don't consider myself a religious person. Actually, I aim to avoid "religion" as much as possible. Classifying myself as one who is "Religious" immediately puts all religions at the same level. Buddhism, Mormonism, Christianity, Hinduism... All are forced into a crowded and invisible coffin of good works and unobtainable perfection. To be religious is to be piously moral, saintly, or devout. What's wrong with these things, you ask? Well, everything... when done in our own strength. When we are trying to be "religious", we are trying to attain something that was already achieved; the saving grace of Jesus Christ. In the story above, we saw a woman who went to great lengths to learn all she could about her husband. She worked hard. She was unrelenting. She was determined. Yet she forgot the most important thing,.. spending time with her husband. You know... Relationship.

     Being religious denotes self. It brings glory to the good behavior and holy living of a working saint, rather than bringing to the forefront the actions of an awesome Creator.

     Works are not the coupons we parade during our Christian walk in order to gain the good deals of God's blessings. He loves His people. Nothing we can do or say will ever change that. Instead of using our works to help self, we offer them to God as a meager sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. Our good works should proclaim the goodness of God and showcase His power to save those who are utterly unable to do so themselves.

     You see, with the right approach to our Christian walk, we will lose all aspects of a simple religion, at least in the way the world would see it. As we draw closer to God, we find instead a relationship with a Father who loves us. With this perspective in our hearts and the experience of the grace of God in our lives, the idea and practice of Christianity as a "religion" really couldn't be further from the truth.

Jeremiah 33:3 - Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

Revelation 3:20 - Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

James 4:8 - Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded.


   

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mirrored Reality


      We have two mirrors in the  restroom downstairs. One is a normal mirror and the other, an antique mirror that is slightly tinted with a gentle pinkish tan shade. It's slight, however; hardly noticeable unless you compare the two side-by-side.

     When looking at myself in the mirror, washing my face, or putting on makeup, the temptation is to look into the one that is tinted. It's right in front of me. It's a charming mirror. Not to mention, I feel better about myself this way. My face is less marred and even a bit tan. It's nice... But it isn't authentic. For a true depiction of my skin tone and facial state, I must look in our other mirror, sitting quietly to it's right. But that mirror tells all. That mirror doesn't hide my flaws. That mirror is the mirror of reality.

     In life, we are given two mirrors. The first mirror arrogantly stands in front of us as our default. It makes us feel good about ourselves. It makes us feel indifferent and justified. This mirror is the mirror of the world. Facing myself through a glass wall that is tinted with egotism, complacency, bitterness, conformity, and self-gratification, I feel pretty good. With all of this to compare as a marred reality, I know that I am winsome and ethical in the sight of the society of this world and every glorified idol to which it's devotion lies.

     The second mirror stands for absolute truth. It doesn't hide my flaws. In fact, as I look at my barren reflection, I see not only the defects I was aware of, but many others that would have, were it not for the honest image staring back at me, remained in happy oblivion.

     Sin is a bitter reality we don't like to face. It's easier to ignore it, look away, put off the inevitable, pretend it doesn't exist. What happens then? Nothing at first. No spiritual growth, no innovation, no joy. Nothing to show for a life that should be a plethora of wisdom and vision, hope and tenacity. Then... the changes happen. Sin doesn't just sit in one place in our heart and mind. It is constantly moving, constantly working. Not just satisfied to infect our life, it's passion is to destruct our soul.

     We stare into one mirror and see a veiled existence that feeds a lie. This is when destruction comes because we don't know the sin is even there, to deal with it. When we look into the mirror of truth, the infallible word of God, it's not always easy to face. The true reality? We are full of disgusting, ugly sin. However, God's word not only brings us face to face with truth, but provides us with a way of escape. It grants us cleansing that comes only through Christ's blood, which washes away all impurities, creating an image that reflects God's unfathomable glory.

     When you look into a mirror that is tinted by the world, you give yourself to be bound by its chains, through sins you never knew existed because you chose not to see them.



Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Here...And Gone...


     Time is a puzzling thing. Often, life flies by so fast I feel I can hardly keep up. Things that took place a while ago seems to have happened yesterday. But then, I look back at events in the past few years of my life that feel an eternity away.
     These thoughts were running through my mind this past Saturday as I stood a few feet away from the bonfire, laughter, and chatter at Family Camp, in Prescott AZ. I turned to look into the dark woods to my right, suddenly realizing that this was the last place I had spoken to my Mom. One year ago, only a week early to the day, I had talked to her on the phone and told her "I love you" for the very last time. It was a strange realization. I remember thinking I could almost believe she wasn't sick, as I heard her cheerful voice on the other end.


      Time is something we may never understand. I remembered this bonfire taking place a year ago and it felt like it happened only weeks prior. Yet as I remember the terrible battle Mom faced with her cancer, it seems years and years away.
     I'm so thankful we serve a God who stands outside of time as the Creator of time. He is the great "I Am". As we were entering the first of Mom's diagnosis, He was waiting at the end. As we were in the middle of the hardship, our God had already seen us through.
     Unbound by time, Jehovah Jireh, our Provider WILL see us through because He has ALREADY seen us through. And I think few things in this world could ever bring more comfort.
     This day comes with much love to my Mom, as on her birthday, she resides in the place where tears are wiped away, sin is forever defeated, and where she may joyfully praise her Savior, directly in His glorious and most holy presence. It sure doesn't get better than that. ‪#‎Hoppman2015‬