Saturday, April 9, 2011

This Is Where The Healing Begins

"But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you." Luke 6:27-28

I know that I haven't updated this in a while, because most of the learning that I have been doing..although it's been helping me out through the stuff I've been going through right now, it was something that I was doing for myself. A 'For My Eyes Only' type of thing where I could just really get down into the events that have happened to me that I'm just not comfortable sharing with the rest of the viral world. But, I've decided that it is probably a good idea to let you know where I am spiritually and I finally found enough free quiet time to fill you in.

Over the last week or so, God has really put on my heart that I need to start repairing the broken relationship that I have with my mom. We've had our moments where we have Mother-Daughter time, but those times are few and far between. And I know that our relationship could begin to heal, I know it can never go back to the way things were when I was much has changed and we each have been through our own personal hells, but since I'm going off to college in a few short months I really feel like I should start the healing process between us. 

The only problem is that I'm not one hundred percent sure that I'm ready to completely forgive and start over. I know that I have a lot of pain and hurt from everything that I've been through, just from being in this family. As a result however, I've allowed my heart to grow extremely cold towards her, and I hold a lot of resentment against her. Although I know that the bible calls us to respect and honor our parents, I find it extremely hard to honor either one of my parents, because I've lived such a hard and hurtful life at their hands. It is the one thing that I will admit is my weakest point in my faith. I know that I need to have that respect for my parents, but I can't bring myself to get past my own hurt in order to forgive them. I know that my family needs a lot of healing, and I know that I would probably feel so much weight lifted off my heart if I do forgive her, but I just can't let go of my pain long enough to allow that healing to happen. I wish I had the ability to let hurt roll off of me like water drops on a plant, but I can't. Every time I get hurt, or someone disappoints me, my first reaction is to bottle it all up in the hopes that it would naturally diffuse in the darkness that is at the bottom of my heart. When I am hurting it seems like the best plan because it stops the pain from hurting at that moment. It just seems like the easiest least painful thing to do.

Although I know as Christians we are called to become like Christ and live our lives in such a way that shows love for the rest of the world to see, it's not the easiest task to accomplish in my house. We don't have the family time that I know other families do. But as the years have past, I've sort of given up on almost all hope of that happening in this house. We don't even enjoy the company of each other around a table when we eat our meals, everyone just goes back to what they were doing with out any sort of interaction with each other. Not that I don't try, I try everything that I can think of to try and get my family to sit around a table to enjoy a simple family meal together. With that kind of disappointment even at meal times, I know that trying to have a small amount of family bonding time would never be a thing that they would accept as something to do.Trying to pick up all the shattered pieces of my family isn't my job to do, I feel like it is something that I should at least attempt to do because Mom would never try to, or even notice that our family is that detached from itself and our own problems that each one of my family members has to work through and heal from.

With everything I've been through, and everything that I've seen, I just can't help but be amazed at how much God has influenced me to become a better person and grow stronger because of my pain, and not let it hold me back in life. I really do hope that in the coming months before I leave for college, that my family can grow closer to eachother...but I'm really tired of fighting this uphill battle. The more I try to fight to get us to be closer it seems that I just end up getting more hurt and dissappointed. There comes a time when you just have to realize that you're fighting a losing battle, and no matter how hard it might be to admit defeat, sometimes you just have to give up in order to protect yourself from getting hurt worse. I still care for my family, and i would just about do anything in the world for my brothers, but I can't care enough to make up for everyone. I already have enough to deal with as it is...I just hope that they see how much we need to be a family, before all of this is too far gone to repair.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Beauty Beyond Compare

"You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you." -Song Of Solomon 4:7

Sorry That I haven't posted anything in a few days, I've been so busy studying for my exams that I just haven't had the time to sit and write on here. But, I do hope that you like this, after my short break from writing. 

Have you ever had those days where you just feel like it is a "National Hate On Me Day?" Those days where it seems like you and Murphy are just the best of friends? I have, and actually I've had a lot of them growing up. I was picked on a lot during my elementary and middle school years. To be completely honest, it tore my self-esteem to shreds. I didn't fit in anywhere. It was very hard for me to make friends, and I wasn't the social, out going person that every one sees today. I was a completely different person before foster care, if you would have known me back then you would have never recognized me.

There were days where the attacks and bullying in school were so bad that I would come back to the house, lock myself in the bathroom and just cry. All those days when I would stand in front of our bathroom mirror and cry because I felt like I just wasn't good enough for anything. With the torment that I faced at school, and the abuse that I received at home, there was no escape for me. Eventually, if your told something and literally having it beat into you, you start to believe it. During those years, I felt truly alone. But I now know that I wasn't. I didn't know about the love of God, but looking back now I can see that he was working through my life in the most unusual ways. Even though the circumstances were awful, it served a greater purpose in my life. 

Looking back is something that I find myself doing more and more as my Senior year progresses. I find that through all my pain, and personal tragedies, I've grown to be a stronger person in my faith, and in my compassion for other people. I could have been one of those people who lets their own pain consume them and shut out the rest of the world, forever fostering the pain that lives inside of them. I remember the day as clearly as if it was yesterday way back in third grade. Sitting in class hearing the phone ring and instantly knowing that something bad had happened. Walking down to the office and seeing that lady from the state standing in the room. I knew my life was never going to be same, but I wasn't prepared for how bad things would actually get. But I knew at the moment when I walked out with that lady and I saw my older brother sitting in the van crying, Ryan was crying, and so was Wayne, I knew that I had to be strong enough for all of us. The thing that I was lacking was the love and strength of God, who carried me through all of it, and provided me with the strength to make it through when things got really bad.

I could have taken the easy way out. I could let all my pain consume me, and stop caring about the world because the world never took the time to care about me.  But I chose strength, to me there was no other option. Life isn't just going to hold my hand and wait for me to get over my pain on my own. Life doesn't wait for anyone. If I succeed in anything in life, I want it to be that I was able to help other people through their own pain, and face their own skeletons even though I'm too scared to face mine. 

I think that we all go through life's struggles for a reason. I know that the world will try everything in it's power to pull us away from God, and convince us that we're not worthy of God's love. I know that's complete rubbish. God loves us so much, he created us in HIS image. God thinks we're beauty that is incomparable to what the world defines as beautiful. I will admit that there are days when I do let my insecurities get the best of me, and I fall into the trap of believing what my insecurities are telling me. Those are the days that I feel the farthest away from God. Sometimes I just have to pause, take a breath and tell myself that God loves me, and in his eyes I am worthy, and since I am made in his image, I can take pride in knowing that I have Godly beauty. Even if the entire world is set  on making me believe that that is not true.

I would have to say, getting to know God, and having the relationship that I have with him, has been my biggest self-esteem booster that I've ever known. Knowing that he can see past my flaws, and see the beauty inside me and love me for who I am. It's one of the things that I have come to treasure so much in my faith, knowing that when I screw up, or I make a really, really, REALLY stupid choice, God will always be there to carry me through the hurt, and he will never cease loving me for who I am in him. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lift Us Up To Fall

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

These verses sends a very clear and very powerful message. It’s a message about trust; if we trust God then he will guide us to where he wants us to be. But we can’t just say “oh yeah, I trust him, he is God after all.’ You have to trust him completely, with all of your heart. There can’t be one tiny little shred of doubt that God isn’t in control in your life. The plans God makes up in heaven, we can’t understand and grasp way down here on Earth. Because God, as I’ve come to know all too well, works in very mysterious ways. Something might happen in our life that makes us want to question what exactly his plan for our life really is, turns out to be something that inspires someone else to want to walk with Christ in their live.

We just have to trust in him and know that he is in control of our lives. If we do trust in him with all of our hearts, and we live such a life so that he is reflected in everything that we do, he promises to make our lives glorified by his name. He will lead us to the places that he wants us to go, and keep us from the places that could lead us astray from him. He will take us down the right path of life, and as long as we keep trusting him and living a life that reflects him, we’ll stay on that path. 

Do you want to know something else that is amazing? He also promises to direct the people who are lost and want to follow him, but are so utterly lost in their sins that they aren’t even sure if they are worthy of his guidance. He promises guidance to everyone and anyone who asks him for it. God wants to work through us, and he wants to see us make the most of our lives though him. Not only that, but he isn’t just going to show us the general direction that we are to go to and then leave us to wander our way through. He’ll be there by our sides, making sure that when we stumble, gotten lost, or we feel like we want to give up completely, he will be there to make sure we keep staying on that path. He will fill the holes of sin that we could fall into, and he will cut down the branches of worldly possessions that try to prevent us from staying on the path of righteousness. He will do everything in his awesome and mighty power to make sure we are getting to where we need to be. 

It doesn’t matter who we are, or what walk of life we’ve been down. God loves us all. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Preacher at the little white church who has known God all your life, a single mom working three jobs who found God through the kindness of a stranger, a recovering drug addict trying to reconnect with his kids to make up the time they lost him to the drugs. Because, to God, it’s not about what you’ve done, or where you’ve been it’s about where your brokenness had led you too. It’s the path that led you right into the arms of a God who wants nothing more than to carry you. God wants to help everyone live the best life that they possibly can. The only thing he asks is for faithfulness, He wants your complete and total trust. He wants you to acknowledge him in everything that you do, and to know that he IS the one in control of everything.

Yes, there will be times when it rains, complete with the thunder and lightning of hard times, but if he lean unto God during those times, he will be there to carry us through. God only asks us to be completely faithful to him, and reflect him in the entirety of our lives, and considering all that he has done for us, we should be anxious to live our lives so that they please him.

Monday, February 28, 2011

I'll Cherish These Forever

"This is my command-Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

Jeff, this one is going to be dedicated to you. This way you'll quit bugging me about it. :P In honor of the year-ish that we have gotten to know each other, I'm going to write about the adventures we've had. 

There are those people in your life, that you wonder how you lived before you met them. There are people that God put in our lives, so that we could be inspired to be the best person we can be everyday. So, Jeff here's to you.

I've met a lot of those people in my life, and I'm grateful for every second that I've been able to spend with them, and they are people that I'll never forget. 

If I could, I'd talk about all the people that have changed my life. But, I'm pretty sure you'd be here reading this for a number of hours. So, since Jeff is leaving to go start his new life with his AMAZING FiancĂ©e Melody, I'll just talk about the impact and change that he's made on my life. 

Last Summer, Ashleigh and I had many, MANY conversations on the topic of religion, because up until then, God wasn't in my life. But, Instead of telling me how screwed up I'd be without God in my life, she invited me to their Church Lock-In. It would be centered on God, but I wouldn't feel the pressure of an actual Church environment. I decided to go. I can't even begin to tell you how glad I am that I went. It's where I met Jeff, and in the beginning, I think I weirded him out. :)

We had a great time bowling, and I even managed to beat him. I don't think that he was very happy about it though. We went back to the church and we had pizza, watched a movie, played sardines, and then we had a devotional. 

When Jeff said that we were going to have a devotional, I froze. I knew nothing about the bible, and nothing about Jesus. I've never had a problem being the smart one in a class, but sitting in that pew listen to all of them talk I felt extremely out of place. I had no idea what they were talking about, and I couldn't keep the conversation straight. I became lost in this...'fog' if you will about how much I actually needed to know this stuff. It was from that point that I knew I needed Christ in my life. 

Even with everything that I went through as a kid, no one told me that there was a savior out there who wanted to take all my pain, and keep me from collapsing from the weight of everything that I had to carry. No one told me that there was a God who loved me so much that he would send his son to die on the cross, just so I could spend eternity with him up in heaven.

That lock-in changed my life. I know that God was working up there that day. I've met many great, amazing people, and they are people that I hold very near and dear to my heart. Jeff, you're one of those people. 

We've had our own set of adventures, ranging from the Scary Mold in your fridge, the hole in the wall, the pie in my face, and who could forget Rake 'n' Run? And who could possibly forget Fernando, Statewide, and CIY? Those are memories that I won't forget, and I've come to grow quite attached to you. I'm really going to miss you.

Life will move on, with or without us. We can try and fight it as hard as we can, but in the end life wins. I'm so blessed to have been able to met Jeff, and Melody and I know that I will miss them as much as they miss me, but I know that they are just starting a new chapter in their own lives. 

So, as sad as I am, I'm so thrilled that they get to start another chapter in their lives, but together as a married couple. I know that I'll see them soon enough, and they just won't disappear on me. 

God put them in my life for a reason, and getting to know Jeff, I can't help but feel blessed at the opportunity to see him begin this new chapter of his life, with an amazing person as his soon-to-be wife.
I, personally, can't wait to see what God has planned for their lives. 

So, Jeff here's to you. And all the crazy things that we've done, and to the memories that will never fade. I'll miss you greatly, but I know that you'll make an impact on the people that you meet down there, and I know you'll have plenty of adventures living this new chapter in your life. I'm really going to miss you, and thanks for all the great memories, I'll cherish them forever.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

You Create It Into Beauty Once Again

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)

How often do we speak before thinking of the consequences of our words? We’ve all had negative, offensive words spoken about us at some time that we’ve never forgotten. We may forgive, but it’s nearly impossible to forget. 

I've come to know just how true that is. From the time I started going to school, I had a hard time fitting in. I got picked on a lot because I was different than everyone else. Everyday I was tormented by my peers. They all picked on me, and took every insecurity that I had and tore it to pieces. I didn't talk to anyone in class, and I never participated in class. I lost myself in book after book. I became extremely withdrawn from everyone around me. That didn't stop them from picking on me. When I walked home from school, I'd get attacked because they were waiting for me. When I was younger, I switched schools a lot. There was a lot of crap going on in my family, so we were bounced from school to school. Even at schools that I was new to, I'd get picked on. No matter where I went, I could never fit in. I felt so alone growing up with the abuse at home, and the torment that I faced at school. It felt like I couldn't escape to a safe place.

I learned very quickly that the phrase "Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." was a lie. Words hurt. Personally, words hurt more than any physical abuse I could be put through. But, why do words hurt so much? They hurt because, when someone says something negative to you, it hits right at your insecurities, and it's like someone took an emotional knife and stabbed you. Words pierce our minds and hearts, they leave scars that take a long time to heal, even longer than physical scars. 

Words are filled with power. I don't believe that any of us are truly aware how much power are contained in words we say recklessly, off-handedly. But the truth is, the hurt is real, and the pain cuts deep when we are careless with our words. It seems that when we are hurt we reserve the right to take the gloves off and wound in return. But that's not what as Christians, God calls us to do. 

God calls us to be responsible with our words, and build the people around us up with our words, not tear them down. We are people created in the image of God. He took special care into making us the people we are today. We are made just the way he wants us to be. Something to keep in mind is this: Reckless words can tear the ones we love into pieces. Words that build up and are kind, gentle, patient, and loving create peace. Before you speak, think of the life you want to live. 

What kind of life do you want to live? Do you want to live a life of Peace, or Pieces?

There are days where I let my insecurities get the best of me, and I feel like I'm back in middle school. The days where anything and everything is getting me down. The days that all I hear is that I'm not worth anything, and that I'll never make something of my life. On those days, I just want to give into it all and break down. But then I remember, there's a God up there who loves me. And then I remember that HE thinks the world of me. On those days, when I'm sitting in my room fighting back tears, There's something that I try to remember. God made me in his image, and when people try and tear me down, I remember that I mean the world to Him, and to him I am beauty beyond compare. 

I find comfort in a saying that I read somewhere. I can't remember where I heard it, or who it is by...but it is something that has stuck with me ever since. It says "Man looks at our outward appearances, and judges us, seeking out our flaws. But God, God looks at our hearts and loves us despite our flaws." 

I hope you also find encouragement in those words. When the world seems to get you down, just remember this; God loves us. It's okay to feel hurt, but you should never forget to see your incredible value to God. He's there for us when we are hurting, and he will provide us with everything that we need, and he will carry us when we are hurting. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

All It Takes Is A Little Faith

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

When I had decided that I would start doing this devotional everyday, I really struggled with starting it. I was afraid that people would read it and they would critique me because I was completely missing the point of what I was writing. Sometimes I have doubts because I’m so young in my faith, that I completely miss the point of what is being said. It’s only been about three days since I started this, but the initial feedback is all positive and supportive. This fills me with happiness, because that means I’m actually doing a good job at this.

So, as I’m flipping through the concordance in my bible looking for a new topic to write on, I saw the word ‘Faith.’ Intrigued I started to look up all the verses and thinking about how I could write on Faith. There’s an interesting characteristic of my bible. It’s a teen devotional bible, and it highlights verses and gives little devos on the verses, and how it can be applied to the problems that teenagers face. It’s actually been a great help while writing this. It gives me some insight on the verse that I probably would have missed otherwise. I just wanted to acknowledge that, because it really helped me in writing this one.

Going back to my favorite personal assistant, my Webster’s Standard Dictionary, I looked up the meaning of the word Faith. Faith: unfailing trust, belief with out firm proof, fidelity. Faith; Unfailing trust, there probably isn’t a better definition for that. It’s not really a surprise when you stop and think about it. God will always be there for us, the times that we’re hurting, and the times that we heal. God promises to never forsake us, and his love for us will never end.

To me, that’s the best promise in the bible. God will always be there for us. He’ll be there for us when our lives get rough, and he’ll be there when life is clear water, and a gentle breeze. But, get this, an all powerful, ever-present God, the creator of the Universe only asks one thing. Faithfulness, that’s it. Every single time, it never ceases to amaze me.

God promises us peace, and he only asks us to be faithful to him. The peace he promises isn’t the ‘everything in my life from here on out will always be perfect, and I’ll never be sad, or upset ever again’ kind of peace. The peace that God gives us is the confidence and security that everything that happens to us in this life will be used as an opportunity to get closer to him. The peace that God promises us is the courage to reflect him in everything that we do; knowing that whatever comes of it will be used to further his kingdom.

It’s still something that continues to amaze me how a glorious and perfect God could give us so much, and continually bless our lives, and ask so little in return. God wants to see our lives filled with joy, our bodies healthy, and our faith grow stronger and deeper. When we are going through rough times, we need to turn to God and let him turn a hardship into a blessing. There’s such satisfaction in giving all of our struggles and burdens over to God, and watch him turn our lives around in such a way to further his kingdom.
God can do so much with our lives; everyone has the potential to be someone who does amazing things in their life, and furthering God’s kingdom. We just have to have faith, and trust that God knows what he wants to do with our lives, and how he wants us to get there to do them.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Will My Heart Feel?

In Acts 15:22 it says: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”.
This one verse contains a truth that most of us don’t really want to ponder. The average person doesn't sit there and think "Hey, I wonder what kind of pain I'll be put through today."  For the most part, the things we struggle the most with are the pains that come upon us unexpectedly. We're not prepared for the sudden dose of reality that life sends our way. 
When life does hit us however, we often forget that we have the best team in the entire universe. Why? Because we have God on our team, and you know he always wins. God will never give us more than we can handle. 
When we have to endure and fight through our momentary struggles, we will be granted a reward that will last for all eternity.  We are in a very real battle on this earth as the enemy of our soul seeks to rob us of our joy and darken the hope that we have in Christ.  He is unrelenting in his attack, but we also must be unrelenting  and unwavering in our faith as we stand on truth as conquerors in the army of the living God.  We cannot be defeated for our victory was paid by the royal blood of Christ on the cross. 
 But the fact is that if we have put our trust in the finished work of the Christ and have made him our Lord and Savior, we will go through trials and testing as our faith is proved genuine.   Paul tells us in Romans 8:17 that we are co-heirs with Christ  “if indeed we share in his sufferings that we may also share in his glory”.
Just because we go through trials, hardships, and pain here in this life, doesn't mean that it won't be worth it when we stand before him. This is told everywhere in the bible. My favorite one is this: "If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name." 1 Peter 4: 14-16 How will it feel to stand before him, and hear him say "Job Well Done, Faithful Servant." Everyday, I try to live my life in such a way that when I stand before him, he'll be proud of the life I've lived in this life. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Make Me Salt, Make Me Light, Let Your Holy Fire Ignite

“And he said to them. ‘Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket, Or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lamp stand? For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.’ ” Mark 4:21-22

Often times, we are called the light of the world. We are the ones responsible to spread his glory to all of those who don’t know it. And we are here to remind others that do know his word, that we are the ones to hold each other responsible to his plans. I know too many people who go to church just to make it look like they feel the full glory of God. Once they get home though, the bible goes in a dresser drawer, their Sunday best comes off, and they go back to living their lives according to what they think is right. Completely forgetting what they were told that day in church, it becomes placed on the back burner until the next time they need to pull it forward to impress someone. They don’t take the word to their hearts, and go on living their life completely unaware what they are doing is only fooling themselves. I often wonder how they’ll look standing before him as he’s going through their life. Will he be angry? Will he be hurt? I know I would be hurt, because pretending to be something your not is far worse than admitting to yourself that the life you live is a lie.

There are so many Christians out there that feel like they don’t need to spread God’s love, grace, and hope to the lives of people who need it the most. Why? Because someone else will take care of it. But there comes a time, where we need to be that someone. We often pray for things that we need God’s help with. Examples that come to mind are things such as; strength, wisdom, patience, compassion, and guidance. God could just bestow all of these things on us, but would we truly grasp the lesson behind them? You pray to God for strength, so he gives you opportunities to be strong. You pray to God for wisdom, God will give you the chance to be wise. You pray to God for patience, God gives you an opportunity to increase your patience. You pray to God for compassion? God gives you situations to show compassion to people who need it most. You pray to God for guidance, God will show you where he wants you to go in life.

Do you see the pattern here? God doesn’t just GIVE these things to you, Because if he did, it would be like a person who is struggling pay check to pay check, winning 13 million dollars from the lottery. Things become lost from perspective when that happens. God wants to help us reflect as much of him to the world as we can, but he doesn’t want us to forget why they are important in the first place. So, instead of just handing us everything that we want, God wants us to remember that he should be the center of our lives, and all of our values should reflect him. Core values are not important unless they reflect God’s values.

Our values come from the lessons that we learn in our time here on Earth. There are so many lessons we learn in life. Some we learn through unfortunate circumstances in our own lives and those lessons are the ones we tend not to forget. There are also lessons we learn from the pain and hardships of another’s life. We learn that the stove is hot and not to touch it by watching our older brother touch the stove and burn his hand. Lessons we learn through watching the other people around us are lessons that we try hard not to forget, less we end up making the same mistake in our own lives. Even though we make mistakes, there is a God up in heaven who is willing to forgive our deepest sins because he loves us so dearly. He loves us so much, he sent his one and only son, the perfect one, the one who shouldn’t have to carry the weight of others, came down here to Earth, to die on a cross, so that we will never have to forget who loves us the most.  Even when it feels like there is  no one down here on Earth that cares for us, we are comforted by the fact there is a God who loves us so much, and is willing to look past our flaws, our imperfections, our sins, just to tell us how much he loves us.

There is so much more that could be said about his love for us, but I’m afraid that would take me farther away from my original topic. While writing this, I happened to hear the song “The Motions” by Matthew West. One of my favorite lyrics from this song is “I don’t want to go through the motions; I don’t want to live one more day, with out your all consuming passion inside of me. I don’t want to spend my whole life asking “What if I had given everything, instead going through the motions? This song hits a spot in my heart that I try to fulfill everyday. I don’t want to have any regrets, knowing that I could be a better person than I was. I try to be the best person I can be every single day.

I don’t want to be a person who when I get looked at have people wonder if my faith is genuine or if I’m just a pew warmer, here because it will look good when people see my life, and what I’ve done with it. I want people to see me and say ‘yep, she’s filled with God’s love for the least of us.’ I want to change the world, but I want to do something that will make a lasting impact on the lives of people, and their families. I want to stand before him, and hear him say ‘Well done, faithful servant.’ I want to be filled with the peace of knowing that I have done everything in my power to make life on earth as great as possible for people who are hurting.

People often say that I have a big heart, but I like to think that I’ve just lived a lot of life in the 17 years that I’ve been here thus far. I know that there are people who have been through the pain that I have had to go through, who shut down, and lock out the entire world. They want to have all their pain to themselves. They don’t realize how selfish that is though. God gave us pain so that we may know happiness. God gave us tears, so that we realize how beautiful our smiles are. There’s darkness in the world to give us a better appreciation for the light.

No one said that life is easy. In fact, that’s the farthest from the truth. Let’s face the truth, in life, no one has ever made it out alive. Our lives will be tough, we will be faced with uncertain times, pain, grief, despair, and we might even question our own faith at times. But if we hand everything over to God, and let him carry us through our rough times, we just might make it out ok.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Encourage One Another

I was reading a magazine when I came across this article. I didn't write this, but I did take the time to type it all out and post it here for you to see. This article was actually written by a man named Dr. Tim Woodroof, and I really liked the message of it, I do hope you enjoy it. :)

A Message of Encouragement.
In 1957, a scientist named Curt Richter conducted a series of experiments with rats on the subject of persistence. How much stamina do rats have? How long will they keep going? What help or hinders their ability to persist?

He devised an experiment that could not be done today. He filled a tank with water. The sides of the container were too steep for the rats to climb out. The water was too deep for the rats to stand.  The tank forced the rats to swim, swim, swim.

Here’s how the experiment went. Place a rat in the water and start a stopwatch. Watch the rat carefully as it swims around the tank. Observe how long it takes for the rat to reach exhaustion. When the rat gives up, sinks to the bottom of the tank, and drowns, click your stopwatch and note how much time has elapsed.

Guess how long the average rat kept swimming? On average, 15 minutes.

At this point, Carl Richter threw in a wrinkle. He put rats in the  tank, let them swim to the point of exhaustion, and just as they gave up and began to sink he picked the rats up, dried them off, and let them rest and get warm.

Then, back to into the tank and start the stopwatch.

Now, how long do you think the rats swam? At 24 hours, they had to take the rats out of the tank. One rat swam for more than 72 hours before finally being rescued.

A Picture of Encouragement?
I’m not sure what to make of this experiment or how to explain this remarkable change of behavior. Do rats feel hope? Having been rescued once, do they keep swimming in expectation of another rescue?

Whatever this means about rats, I see in the results of this experiment a picture of the power of encouragement for human beings.

You are swimming along in life, cold and tired. You reach the point of exhaustion. You’re ready to give up. You start to sink. And then someone reaches in and lifts you up, warms you, strokes you, and lets you rest.

Nothing has actually changed about your life-the water is still there, more hard swimming lies ahead, the hard work continues.

But something has changed about YOU. You find fresh energy. You face the future with fresh enthusiasm. You feel like you can swim forever.

No Pain, No Gain. Really?
According to the wisdom of the world, people only change as the result of pain. They must be coerced into changing-corrected, critiqued, compelled, censured, condemned. Undesirable behaviors should be punished, penalized, reprimanded. The best tools for changing people (in the world’s view) are disapproval, fault-finding, and criticism.

How at odds this is with the gospel. According to Jesus, real change happens in the lives of people only when they are loved immoderately, forgiven excessively, shown grace and mercy constantly, granted second chances freely, and encouraged, and encouraged, and encouraged, and encouraged.

Many Christians want the changes promised by the gospel but use of the means offered by the world. They are far more comfortable with the critical remark than the encouraging word. They try to prompt change with sledgehammers. They believe that harsh words, strict judgment, and unsparing truth are more likely to result in godly changes than patience, trust, and forgiveness.

They are stuck in Deuteronomy. They have not grasped the essential dynamic of Calvary. And they are allowing people in their families, their churches, and their jobs to swim to the point of exhaustion-to despair, give up, and sink slowly into the “slough of despond.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. Christians can pursue a different course. It begins with a commitment to encouragement. Trust that what people need most is a warming word, not a warning word. Trust that lifting up people with your words and actions, offering them rest, giving them a pat on the back, speaking your confidence in them will do more to strengthen and hearten those around you, than all the well-meaning criticism and helpful corrections you could offer.

People, just like rats, need a reason to keep swimming. 
Be the person to give them one.