Too Beautiful

I’ve always been a Christian. Well, ever since I was four years old at least. Growing up homeschooled and in a church, I knew more Christians than non-Christians. For the longest time I thought that forms of taking God’s name in vain were the swear words. By the time that I was fifteen, God was everything to me. I professed my faith, and headed off on a missions trip to Mexico. Today, my faith is even bigger and stronger, but the new world around me is crumbling apart.

“There just stories to inspire people.”

“People like Albert Einstein just used religion to help them when they were having trouble with their work. It helped him because he thought it helped.”

“I believe in the things that have been proven like sure, Jesus was a prophet who walked on the earth, but how can I believe that he rose again after he was crucified. There isn’t any proof.”

“I don’t think that God exists.”

I’ve heard it all said by now, and for a moment I feel like a fool. A man dying for the sins of the world and rising from the dead does sound strange when you think about it. I can’t actually see the face of God either. How do I know that He exists? What am I to say now?

But then I look around me. I see the trees and sunshine and the bright blue sky, the ocean and waves and the sand. So beautiful. I look at people, each unique yet perfect with their shining eyes that see so clearly, bodies that can dance and jump and run, minds that think up great poems, stories, ideas, and emotions, and voices that convey these thoughts. So beautiful. I think of where I am today. I remember the sorrows that I have been through, the pits I’ve fallen into, and I realize that I have come quite far. So beautiful.

Now, I wonder at them. I don’t like to call names but really, it is foolish not to believe in God. There is such beauty in life that the world and humans could not have just “happened.” We cannot just exist and go through trials and pains and come out of them without a good and gracious God overseeing and helping us. It’s too beautiful for words, really. Too beautiful not to have been created by an infinite, eternal, and loving God.

When you ask me why I believe in God, I can only say this: “Why don’t you believe in Him?”

Not In The Club

Sometimes, life has too many rules.

You can’t wear that…

You can’t do that…

You can’t say that…

You can’t be that…

To be a real Christian.

It seems like we have to follow a code to be ‘in the club.’

To be accepted, respected, and loved.

But is that really what being a Christian is about? Is that acceptance, respect, or love?

I’m all for following God with all of your heart. I believe in the Ten Commandments and I try to fulfill His desires. I know that there is right and wrong. I know that actions speak louder than words. I understand that we must live by example. I realize that following God is more than just talk….

But I still don’t get the rules. The ones that exclude, shun, and disgrace us. The ones that try to kill our faith, and mock our efforts. The ones that bring us away from God, and refuse to love. Are those what God really had in mind? Somehow, I don’t think so.

No, God didn’t want judgement, hurt, or lies. He doesn’t want people to be shunned, or taken down. He wants us to become nearer, not farther from him. He didn’t make the Christian life a club with a strict code. He wants love, not hate.

So forget the club and it’s code, and ditch the rules. God created us for something greater!

Reading With My Heart, Mind, And Soul

Scroll of the Book of Proverbs

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes I wonder if we as Christians actually read God’s word. Yes, we quote and memorize from it, and open it up at church but do we ever, actually read it for what it is and embrace it? Because I’ve seen a lot of bad reading jobs lately. I’ve watched pre-formed beliefs, the difficulty of it’s language, and off-hand comments from others block our view of God’s word. And I’m not excluding myself from this group. No, I’m including myself whole-heartedly for I am the worse culprit of this misinterpretation of my Lord’s word.

I’ll get mad at the Bible because it is confusing. I’ll refuse to read controversial parts such as Titus, and parts of Corinthians, and Proverbs. I will skim through the genealogies in the old testament. I’ll opt to read a novel in the morning instead of Leviticus with all it’s long ago laws and punishments. But yet I profess to be a Christian,  and I carry my infamous Bible to church with pride. What is this?

It is…

The actor in me coming out at the wrong moment and pretending that I know it all…

The writer in me creeping through in the worst way and re-writing the Bible to fit my beliefs and desires…

The child in me that was unflattering enough when I was 6, but even more terrible now that I’m 16, pouting because I don’t like what I see…

It’s the sin in me taking over and forgetting the most important commandment…”Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and all of your mind and all of your soul””…

I’m taking a fresh start at reading my Bible now. I’m not going to pretend I know it all, or re-word what I don’t know, pout about the things that make me mad, or refuse to read the parts I don’t like. No, this time I’m going to realize that I’m just a human who doesn’t know anything, reading a book by a God who knows everything. I’m going to read every nook and cranny of its pages, even when I don’t understand or it makes me mad. I’m going to seek, ask questions, and find as many answers as I can. I will read faithfully and I won’t put it down. Most of all, I’m going to embrace the Bible, and try to love the Lord with all of my heart, mind, and soul.

You Can’t Take Away My Love

I stand almost alone in the grave yard, in front of a casket baring her I love. I look at the roses laid for her, I feel the rain on my shoulders. I try to say a prayer for her but the words won’t come, I want to cry for her but the tears won’t fall. Still, I’m overcome with grief. I wonder how God could let Satan do this to me. I hear the devil’s laughter and I feel his satisfaction. I don’t want to leave but eventually I have to. The devil laughs again and tells me to look back but I don’t.  The rain continues to fall, touching my silver locket that I wear around my neck. I touch it and I smile. She gave it to me! I remember and instead of looking back to her grave like the devil wants me to, I smile again and retort “You can’t take away my love.”

The tears fall down my cheeks as I’m tormented with the thought of never being with her again. I want to scream, I’d like to yell. The devil laughs again in his evil, satisfied cackle. I fall upon my bed and cry. My head hits a heart-shaped pillow…I stop…she gave it to me a long time ago. I sit up and wipe away my tears. I look around me and see glimpses of her everywhere: in my cherished collection of books, in the shirts that I haven’t put away, in the lap top on my desk, in the suit case I’ve yet to unpack, in the stuffies she bought me as a child. She is here, love is here. I scorn the devil again with my words: “You can’t take away my love.”

I pound my fists against the ground, I let the carpet absorb my tears. I miss her! I want her! I just want to hear her voice, to see her face, to hug her warm body one last time. The devil cackles and tells me that my wish will never be fulfilled. Suddenly, a force pulls me up and I reach for the phone. Nervously, I dial her number, the one I’ve known by heart since childhood. It rings. It rings again. It rings several times…no answer…but an answering machine. I hear her voice again. I listen and cherish. I go and get the photo album and I flip through pictures of her holding me on her knee, and smiling down at me. I recall and I remember. I think on happy times with her and to the devil I say: “You can’t take away my love.”

I sit in dismal fate at the table, missing her. I still want her. The devil challenges me. I pick up the thick red book with the gold lettering on it and begin to read from the last chapter. I read about Heaven and Hell and the end of times and I remember where she is and where I’ll be then too…with her. And to the devil I say: “You can’t take away my love.”

Now my silver locket gleams in the sunlight, shining clearly with love. I smile as a friend notices it. I tell them that she gave it to me. I open it and close it and open it again. It is empty, just as she is gone but I know that won’t be for long…perhaps at present she is  not with me but I’ll always have her in my memory and I will meet her again one day. She is not really gone and I am not really without her. “No Satan…no matter how hard you try…you cannot take away my love.”

Part 2: Filled

This is the second part of a series about my travels in Mexico last summer,  a trip that God used to teach me many lessons in love, humility, beauty, and wealth. If you missed Part 1, click here.

It was 6:45 AM and I sat in a corner of the YWAM dining hall, with a cup of tea steeping on the table before me. I had just awoken after the worst night of my life. After my youth leader talked to me, she finally convinced me to go downstairs. Pretty soon after that we had chapel, which was good…until we started to sing, that is. At YWAM they played loud, crazy music that I wasn’t used to and even worse than that — they danced, something I was not very comfortable with. Soon, I couldn’t take it any more and I just started to cry. I tried to stop myself but the tears kept flowing…so I went up to my room and got ready for bed. I couldn’t sleep though for I was too hot inside of my sleeping bag and the evil thoughts kept churning in my head. Things only got worse when my roommates got back and were chatting happily. It seemed like forever until they stopped and turned out the lights. But even then I couldn’t sleep and when I did, I still woke up empty, for the sleep could not fill me.

I sipped my now ready tea. “Yuck!” I thought, making a disgusted face. “It must be that powdered cream.” I continued to sip my tea, trying to get used to the taste. But no matter what I did, the tea did not cleanse my emptiness, the flavoured water with the powdered cream could not fill me.

“Can I sit here?” I looked up to see Matt, my youth pastor, looking down at me, a cup of coffee with the same disgusting powdered cream in his hand.

“Sure.” I replied, trying to smile. Instead, I felt the tears coming so I looked out the window where a dog wandered aimlessly and a boy helped his father put up a fence.

“The worship is sure different here than it is at church.” Matt finally said after a long silence.

I nodded. Again, the tears clouded my eyes for his words, no matter how loving or kindly intended, could not fill me either.

Breakfast, of which I scraped half of into the garbage, was served shortly thereafter. But neither it nor the steady companionship of friends filled my empty heart. My feelings were the same as they had been the previous day and I was more confused than ever.

“Elizabeth, we need to get you a devotions book. We have chapel at eight.” Matt said to me, as I returned to our table from the garbage can.

“Ok.” I replied. I gulped. His words reminded me that I had skipped out on my own devotions in Acts this morning.

Once I had the book, I settled comfortably (or rather, uncomfortably but as nicely as you can when you are on a creaky top bunk) with it, a pen and my bible. The devotional instructed me to read first Joshua so I flipped to it in the little travel bible that my mom had given me the night before I left. Before starting I said one thing to God: “Please Lord, I’m here for a reason. Show me that as I read. Fill me again.”

If I hadn’t already believed in God I would have started at that moment. No sooner had I said this prayer and turned to Joshua, I was starting to feel better. Though nothing “earth shattering” is said for the first eight verses, just reading God’s word made me relax and feel comforted. And then I read it! The verse that changed me! The passage that showed me what I was to do! The verse that filled me!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged: for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. 

Joshua 1:9

Suddenly, I knew that God was indeed with me and that He really did have a purpose for me in Mexico. My homesickness, my pain, my tears, my emptiness all disappeared. With that verse God threw them into the darkness, not to be seen again for that trip and replaced them with His heavenly touch, He filled my heart up again. And although I was only at the beginning of my journey in Mexico, and despite the fact that many hard things were up ahead, I was filled in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and in that I had confidence, reassurance, and hope. I would not be discouraged or terrified: I would be strong and courageous for I was filled.