Tag archive: God
WARNING – this post may trigger some of you to put on your God-police badge, don your God-judge robe, and be ready to swing your God-executioner ax across my scrawny neck – all in the name of love I’m sure – but I urge you to stop right now, take a deep breath (or several) and prepare to simply read with an objective, peaceful, frame of mind. My thoughts may or may not align with yours, but that doesn’t make me less of a compassionate human for thinking them.
God is real. I really believe that! But finding Him and figuring out which sources to trust while seeking Him is a daunting task. Throughout my life I’ve attended many churches, researched written texts, reviewed archaeological findings, and listened to personal testimony all in an attempt to put down a concrete foundation which proves His existence in a way I can settle the matter once and for all. Along the way, through all my “discoveries”, I’ve found myself waffling between being firmly convinced of His accessibility to being utterly disappointed in His apparent lack of engagement. Yet, I still haven’t given up my intrinsic belief in the Almighty God’s existence and I continue to seek Him.
Everyone has their own world view which is in part based upon their past experiences, education, hand-me-down opinions, fantasies, and pure blind faith. What shapes one person’s view in such a way that helps them make sense of the world around them may be so completely foreign to another person that the two find themselves at irreconcilable odds. On the surface and viewed objectively – knowing that people are willing to kill (and die) to defend their personal belief in a particular way of life (and way of after-life) – the very idea of a God-seeking humanity seems utterly absurd. Yet people vehemently stand by their belief systems and still no one I’ve come across seems to be able to provide proof positive that their way is THE way. Because I was raised in a Christian home and Christian community, my world view and belief system has always been, and probably always will be, skewed towards filtering things through my Christian lens.
But I’ve often wondered how I can be SURE that I am on the right path to the one true God and His calling in my life. And who hasn’t pondered the reason for man’s existence and the wondered about what the afterlife looks like? Are there really eternal implications of how we conduct our lives in the here and now? If only I could ask someone – someone with the authority to answer – you know – like God himself.
As a small child, my pea brain churned over these thoughts and sometimes I would ask the trusted adults around me if they knew the answers. They gave me kind, loving responses indicating that God had it all worked out and I don’t need to worry, which placated me at the time but left a gnawing feeling that something was missing. How could I know– and not just believe on faith? Where exactly is God anyway so I can ask him directly?
Lots of silence was the answer to that.
Once I could read, libraries were my favorite place to hang out and dig a little deeper on my own– but the going was slow; the materials were limited and often outdated.
As I grew older I spent time in counsel with church members and leaders trying to get their take on the matter, but they didn’t seem any more convinced than I was as to His exact whereabouts when I pressed them with challenging questions.
Insert droning, audible silence.
I’ve read countless versions and translations of the Bible and studied with fervor both in groups and in solitary.
What was that sound? Oh, it’s silence.
The advent of the internet with its growing instant availability to articles, documents, opinions, and other materials along with its access to actual people in other countries and their cultures, has expanded my knowledge base considerably regarding how other people view life, God, and the hereafter. Of course, we have to be extra discerning in this digital age considering any wacko can self-publish anything on the internet (you’re reading MY blog, aren’t you?) but, I think that with enough cross examination and objectivity one can scrounge up “reputable enough” internet sources to be content with their veracity. All I got for my efforts was…
Mind numbing silence.
I’ve prayed to, sung to, talked with, yelled at, argued with, and wept with the God I believe is in power. At times I’ve felt like I’ve been heard, but not answered – not really.
Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence.
I’ve come up short on answers thus far but I’m not giving up. I still really just want to go to the top (God) with my questions but I’m at a loss as to how to get there. One thing I have learned through all my research and reasoning, is that surely God – THE God – must be known to other cultures and peoples which coexist across this globe who are outside of the sphere of Christian influence. To place limits on God’s presence, activity, and preferred ways of communication is to limit God Himself. And lets face it, a limited God is nothing more than a god (small g – man’s delusion) and is not the one true God who created the heavens and earth and all things in them. So, let’s talk about God (big G). Not WHO He is – I don’t question His existence – but rather WHERE He is.
If you have to ask then you don’t know.
God is with me – just a prayer away I’m pretty sure. But sometimes His presence feels elusive, like He’s just out of reach, hiding around the corner. There are times though, when His whereabouts are utterly unknown to me and I feel like I’m all alone living in a void. Yet at other times, it feels like he’s right next to me chatting like an old friend and hugging me close. And on some rare nights He visits me briefly in vivid dreams which leaves a long-lasting impression of a thought I need to embrace or an action I ought to take. So how do I reconcile this alternating sense of His divine, loving presence with apparent icy, cold aloofness? Does He actually leave me like it sometimes feels? Or, could He really be there all the time and I’m simply blindly unaware of His presence? Is it my own sin that separates me from recognizing Him, as I have read in the Bible and been taught by many a pastor? If that were the case, then I would most likely never feel His blessed companionship, for nary a day goes by that I don’t commit one sin or another – either unintentionally or (gasp) in full awareness. And I suspect that the rest of humanity (including all the dedicated pew fillers) is not too unlike me in that regard – most of the time we try to avoid sinning but we just can’t seem to keep from stepping in the steaming piles of poo we have blatantly squirted in our own paths. And if Jesus died to save me from my sin (all of my sin – not just the sin I committed before accepting his gift of saving grace), then He surely knew my sinful nature is pervasive and not something I can easily or completely control. No, my sin alone cannot be the thing that separates me from an awareness of God’s presence at times. Honestly, I do feel like He’s with me most of the time, but if he does take a Colleen break… where does He go?
He’s probably at church, right?
Let’s focus on Christianity here for a moment and say that I want to seek God out in a place of worship when I feel the need to put Him back into my personal space. Which church is the one true church – the one actually condoned and endorsed by God Himself? They all claim to have a corner on that market, yet there are so many differences between them – pretty darn big differences I might add. As I examine various paths of Christendom: Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Protestantism, Baptist, Pentecostal, non-denominational, or even Mormonism, each branch would say they are following His one true calling and His one true religion. They can’t all be right. Or can they? Could it be that God wants to show us that He can be reached through a variety of methods and that He’s less concerned about the nuts and bolts of daily life than He is with the big picture? The big picture being, that as Christians, we are to recognize Jesus as our savior, forsaking all other gods, and share His Gospel with others. But what if you’re not a Christian? If God is capable of endorsing all of the Christian sects as legitimate (I’m not saying He does), then couldn’t He also allow many other forms of worship and religious expression to be valid as well? Or, perhaps He doesn’t hang out in any place of worship at all since everybody insists with all of their “divinely inspired” piety that He’s exclusively at their place alone and people who claim otherwise are going straight to hell. However, there is no authority, past or present, which can validate with one hundred percent assurance the legitimacy of anyone’s claims of ownership of the one true God. Perhaps God is bigger than a place and form of worship…
Doesn’t the Bible have the answer?
OK, focusing again on Christianity here, this brings me to another sticking point. There is NO WAY the “Bible” has all the answers, because which Bible are we talking about anyway? Why are certain books included in the Bibles of some Christian denominations and yet considered Gnostic by others and therefore excluded, (and to be honest, downright vilified)? Still other texts exist (supposedly written at the same time as the original scriptures) which are written off as fantasy and heresy and are not included in any Bible anywhere. Such weighty decisions – the inclusion of texts deemed to be holy scripture inspired by God himself and the exclusion of texts determined to be of purely man-made origin – I’m told, were made by men long ago as a result of divine inspiration and we have no business questioning them. But why wouldn’t the Spirit (God himself) allow the men in charge to be consistent in their knowledge of which scriptures are the legitimate ones? Why are His people worshiping over here in one building allowed to affirm only certain books as Holy and other people in a different building right next door allowed to peruse bonus books? Each denomination’s Bible of choice, and the various accepted translations of it, is paraded within their communities as the only true Bible. Yet that cannot be the case. If we allow that Catholics and Methodists are children of the same God, why isn’t there more unity in what we consider to be the holy word of the Lord? Perhaps we should examine all scripture (sanctioned or not) and ask God to enlighten us as to what He wants us to believe or toss to the curb. Regardless of your opinion of the man, Martin Luther may have been right about giving the people access to the scriptures instead of relying on clergy to disseminate it. I’m a firm believer in doing one’s own research and one cannot possibly be satisfied with information passed down from a singular source (or collection of sources from the same segment of society). And then of course we haven’t even broached the topic of what is written about (and by?) God and passed on in other cultures and religions around the world. So far, I’m not convinced God lives between the covers of a book…
Ah, God is in your heart then…
Logically it seems to follow, that if God cannot reliably be found in a particular place of worship, or by reading a particular “approved” scripture, then he must reside in the hearts (figuratively speaking) of mankind alone. But is the heart of mankind to be trusted? From social media alone, it is evident that people all have different notions as to what constitutes the truth and they have different comfort levels in, and aptitudes for, telling lies. Ask every person you know about God and you’ll get wildly varying testimonies of His existence or non-existence. So, if I’m unsure that God keeps an apartment in your heart, how can I trust that my own little blood pumper isn’t uninhabited as well? I’ll tell you this – I KNOW my heart cannot be trusted! Some things I dearly believed in my heart to be true at one time turned out later to be a compete falsehood and fabrication in my own mind (Santa Clause anyone?). And who of you hasn’t been severely disappointed by something or someone which, upon reflection, have come to realize that YOU are to blame for your own reaction. YOU expected more out of a job, a relationship, a vehicle, (or whatever) than it was ever capable of providing. You gave that other person, thing, or situation qualities they never possessed and when they didn’t live up to your expectations, you were devastated. But it was your own heart that misled you into believing all those false expectations which you, yourself, created. And it’s the realization of knowing that we cannot trust our own hearts – which, by the way, is among the most sobering moments in life – that makes me doubt how God could ever want to dwell such a deceitful, fickle, organ as the human heart – figuratively or otherwise.
If you’re still reading, you may think I have come to the conclusion that God cannot possibly exist because I’ve shot down any confidence in establishing His whereabouts. Au contraire – I still believe in the existence of the Almighty Lord with all of my poor, pitiful heart, deceitful as it may be. I see His handiwork all around me. I cannot find it within my logical brain to embrace the idea that every living thing and its supporting ecosystems is simply a random assembly of atoms and cells which combined without any divine direction whatsoever to form the world as we know it. I’m pretty sure God’s divinity is bigger than what any book, building, or body part can hold. Certainly, I have more questions than answers and like all of mankind before me, I will die with these questions unanswered. Not unlike most of you, I hope to find a glorious future in the afterlife, but I’m not sure how to ascertain it in advance with complete assurance. But, despite my unending quest for answers, there are some things I DO know already:
- I know that forgiveness is a powerful tool. I employ it often and enjoy the peace it brings.
- I know that living in the moment is a gift. I try to stay out of the past, and hope today’s actions help bring a better future.
- I know that my thoughts and actions are my own. I don’t hold other people responsible for my choices.
- I know that love is comes in many forms. Even when you think it’s gone, there’s always more love to give.
- I know that as long as I can draw breath, I will get up off the ground and get my ass back in the saddle.
And I know that God, and the truth, is out there.
If you have answers, or even more questions, please share them with me here. I’d love to entertain your thoughts!Details
Heroes are born from adversity
Being extremely organized (not OCD!), I was up early to consider my needs and re-pack my provisions for the day. I would need some basic items like food, water, and rain gear but not all my clothing and toiletries. I could forego the unwieldy (and obnoxious) tail bag if I carefully filled the precious space in my tank bag – NOT that I wanted to carry that ugly thing either, but a full day’s ride meant I needed to pack like a prepper. My buddy Greig Hochreiter (of Devolve Moto) had assembled a fine team of superheroes to mount an assault on the winged, fire-breathing beast slumbering in the mountains so my partner David and I were obligated to arrive with a complete arsenal of weapons of our own. Feeling satisfied that all was in order, I got dressed and strolled downstairs with all my gear in hand. We ate a leisurely breakfast and killed time chatting with our gracious hosts until the riders up call was sounded. Our meetup was at high noon in Bryson City, about an hour and twenty minutes west of our current location, so if we left at 10 AM we would have plenty of time to get there and dally along the way. While David was outside checking the oil in his bike, I frittered away some time playing with Charlie, who was intent on ferociously shaking and “killing” her favorite toy: a dragon no less.
I contented myself with a cursory T-CLOCS inspection not being overly concerned as the Falcon is practically brand new and it was in fine shape last night when I kissed her goodnight. Eh, it all looks the same as ever – turn signals work, brake lights work, nothing puncturing the tires, oil is good, hey is that a little bubble in my brake fluid reservoir? Nah, it’s probably always looked like that. Well OK then, all good to go! We mounted up and launched off down the ski jump driveway. Wheeeeee … hmmm, do my brakes feel funny? Well, that was a heck of a hill we just came down; I probably had to squeeze the lever harder than normal to stop … I’m sure it’s my imagination … Gee, I don’t remember David’s bike smelling like that yesterday … Is that smoke? OK, yes, that is most definitely a huge plume of black smoke. What in the WORLD??? By now I’d figured out there’s something seriously wrong with his moto which is blowing oil like the Exxon Valdez. I backed waaaaaay off to keep from getting splattered and choked to death by the geyser spewing forth from his bike but I had to find a way to get him to stop. Fortunately at the next intersection as I wheeled up to him frantically trying to get his attention he had figured out there was a problem, especially seeing as his right pant leg, now sopping wet with oil was the only thing stemming the gushing tide of black gold. A look down and – DOH – he had forgotten to replace the oil cap.
<Deep sigh>. Back to square one we went. While David got busy hosing down his now slick and glistening motorcycle, Michael, kindly went to the store to buy him more oil. Have I mentioned that our hosts are the most gracious people EVER??!! With our early head start blown, instead of killing time, now we were going to be late. We texted Greig and he was running behind too so no worries, we were OK. For real? Whew, dodged a bullet there. I shook off the anxious feeling that this was a bad sign.
An hour and a half later, bike and man were good as new and here we go down the ski jump again…. Uh-oh, I am NOT imagining it, my brakes feel really spongy. Ignore, ignore ignore, lets just get on down the road. Um… that bubble in the reservoir is most definitely getting bigger – it’s like taking up half the tank now. UGH, I do NOT want to deal with another delay, especially one that requires a mechanic to fix. CRAP, I can’t ignore this any longer. So I blew David off on the highway and took the next exit knowing he’d follow. We pulled into a gas station and inspected the situation. There was indeed a leak and you could see fluid spurting out the bottom banjo bolt with every squeeze of the brake lever. It was nothing we could fix ourselves so now I had to face the fact that I had a real problem. My hopes for meeting the guys and riding the Dragon were dashed. I was just praying I could locate a motorcycle shop that could take me in on the fly at noon on a Saturday and patch me up good enough to get back home. If not, I figured I might be able to buy some brake fluid and keep refilling the reservoir as it leaked out and at least limp home praying nothing broke loose for real and left me with no brakes at all. “Go on without me, I’ll only hold you back – Save yourself” I dramatically cried and offered myself up sacrificially like the damsel in distress whose twisted ankle struck her down amidst a zombie horde hungrily clawing at her legs. Or maybe it more like a stoic admission that I was doomed but there was no reason he couldn’t at least accomplish what we set out to do – someone has to survive to slay that dragon!! AVENGE ME….. (Hey, it’s my story – there’s room for zombies, Vermithrax, and Wolverines.)
But in true loyal, hero fashion, David refused that notion outright and stuck by me. He was magnanimous enough to accept that if nothing else, we had an adventure in just getting this far. Another text to Greig to tell him that I had a breakdown and we probably couldn’t make it at all was answered by, “Get it fixed and hit the road, we’ll wait.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? These are some patient and good-hearted fellows I’m surrounded with! Feeling emboldened, I started Google searching for motorcycle shops on my phone. The first shop that came up was the one I called: MR Motorcycle in Asheville. They are not a Ducati dealer, but after explaining my symptoms it seemed like something they could repair and they could get me in immediately. Thank you Jesus again! It was only 6 or 7 miles away and as long as there weren’t too many stops I could manage by engine braking – I do that most of the time anyway, which is why my leak probably didn’t show itself more than it did before now. Pulling into their lot was a bit like pulling into Motorcycle Mecca. They had a separate building for service and their showroom eclipsed anything I’d ever seen at least in regards to non-Harley shops. Jason in service was kind and easy to work with and Tex, the mechanic was incredible!! He finished his lunch early so he could get me fixed up. While we waited we strolled through the showroom in what I called the Candy Store. OMG they have EVERYTHING… I want one of those, one of those, two of those… I honestly wasn’t too disappointed to be stuck there, but my bank account might have suffered irreparable damage if we lingered too long. Fortunately the guys were quick and efficient and got us out in no time. And yet there it was again – that nagging feeling this was another bad sign …
By now it was well after noon and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. There was a little bar/restaurant nearby so we swung in there to regroup and refuel. Upon leaving we had to wait on a little uphill incline before we could jump out into 2 lanes of fast moving traffic to our right. We waited forever it seemed and finally David settled on a wide enough gap in the oncoming cars to make his move. I released the clutch to fall in and BAM! In a blink of an eye the Falcon and I were suddenly and savagely slammed to the ground. She had bucked me off like a bronco stung by a bee in the belly. Who the? What the? How the? My elbow was in immense pain and I was lying in the middle of a street with a 400 lb motorcycle on me, so I couldn’t take time to ponder how we got there. I had to get my horse back on her feet – NOW. I tried the backwards lift thingy I’d seen demonstrated on videos, but holy cow, that’s not as easy as they make it look. I got her about up to my calves and was about to go for another heave when a red Jeep Wrangler came screeching in behind me. The guy jumped out, picked my bike up like it was a 10 speed and asked if I was OK. I told him I was fine and before I could hardly thank him, he and his girl sped off out of sight. Thank you Jesus for sending angels to my rescue yet again.
Right about now, David had figured out that I’m not in his mirrors so he’s thinking there might be something amiss. Ah, there he is, I knew he wouldn’t leave me. After a U-turn, he arrived on the scene and was clearly shocked to find me standing next to my bike and not on it. He took charge and calmly helped me to a nearby parking lot and I tried to make sense of what in the hell just happened. I could feel my wobbly, adrenaline filled muscles begging me to just sit down quietly but my elbow was screaming in pain and I was torn between crying like a little girl and kicking the ever living shit out of something. I opted instead for objectively assessing the damage to my body and the Falcon before giving any more thought to why or how it happened. I took off my jacket and made a visual inspection of my right arm. Oooh, that’s gonna leave a mark.
I’m pretty tough though and have survived much worse (like my horse brutally breaking my nose with the back of her head causing a fountain of blood to spew down my front as I tumbled to the ground writhing in pain. Not once, mind you, but on three separate occasions). My current injury wasn’t that gruesome and nothing appeared to be broken or in need of stitches, so while this was going be sucky, it was far from sidelining. The Falcon suffered only minor, superficial injuries: the tip of the brake lever snapped off (no big deal, my hunny had already ordered me hot new sporty, shorty racing levers for my birthday!!), the right mirror was scraped up and loose but fully functioning with a little tightening, and there was a scuff on the muffler cover. Like every warrior, my Falcon obtained some battle scars to add to her character and charm. I could live with this.
Unlike the earlier brake line failure or great Gulf oil spill, there was no blame to pin on another party for this setback; it was all on stupid me – on soooo many levels.
- First, I chose my riding attire based upon two things – warmth and looks. It was easy to justify: It’s chilly in the mountains and I should be wearing my warmest gear, and, everyone knows you’re going to get some cool professional pics while riding the Dragon, so I should be sporting my best Fonzie leather look, duh. Buuuuut this is my only jacket without elbow armor. — Oh believe me, I mulled that over before I left my home and still went with that choice anyway. I even mentioned my misgivings about lacking those crucial pieces of protection to Michael, David, and Wendy before leaving the mountain side retreat this morning. Karma??
- And second, the Falcon didn’t just decide to violently throw us both into the pavement. Nope. I popped the clutch and stalled her. BTW, stalling an 803 cc Ducati is nothing like stalling my little 250 cc Suzuki. Not. Even. Close. And why did I pop that clutch? My only defense is that I was holding it in the friction zone to keep from rolling backwards on that little incline and I needed to be able to gas it and go when a sliver of an opportunity presented itself. I didn’t reckon on sitting there so long though. I guess I just forgot where my hand was and when I let it go it was already so far out that the little bit of throttle I rolled on wasn’t nearly enough. As my dear, dear friend Pastor Jim Gillespie always says, “more throttle.” Apparently there’s no problem big enough that more throttle can’t fix; so far in my experience he’s been spot on with that advice. <Bigger Deep Sigh>
So just how thick did we have to be? There was no mistaking it now, this was surely a sign from God telling us to just turn tail and skip the ride altogether. The day was getting on and we still had 3 hours to go just to get to the base of the Dragon, then we had to somehow survive that storied monster, and ride back to Asheville the same night. How many more demons could we withstand? It seemed insurmountable.
Hold on a minute – – I’m not a sacrificial maiden. And I’m not a quitter dammit – even when I should be. David isn’t either, God bless him. So with all the resolve we could muster we beat a path to Bryson City where our cohorts were (not so much now) patiently waiting for our arrival. We had a beast to tame and wussing out was not an option!
The final chapter is about to unfold.
Once upon a time, when my brother and I were very small, we used to get terribly excited over the prospect of the first snowfall of the season. When it became that time of year and the first flakes started to drift to the ground, my mother would announce in a very excited voice, “Come look, it’s snowing!” and my bro and I would run down the hall and press our faces against the glass on the storm door and gaze with wonder at the magical flakes cascading down from the sky. Inevitably it was after dark when this would happen which only added to the mystery and enchantment. It seemed so magical then. There was a palpable sense of something ethereal unfolding and a profound happiness bore down to the very core of my soul as I witnessed those sparkly gems float to the earth.
Later, as a teenager I loved to take my horse out for a ride on moonlit winter nights, traversing hundreds of acres of wide open fields and woodlands uninterrupted by roads and other evidence of human existence. My folks live on top of a picturesque hill overlooking an incredible valley, so I would end my ride at the peak, getting off my horse, turning her loose to paw at the snow and graze on anything she could find, while I lay on my back in the snow. I would stare up at the winter stars and moon (btw, there’s no full moon bigger or brighter than a February moon shining over my farm in NY), my view unobstructed by obnoxious light pollution from the city, and if I was lucky, those magical crystalline flakes would silently fall from the heavens, gently swirling around my upturned face. It was so peaceful and serene. I loved those moments! They soothed my soul and quieted any teenage angst lingering in my heart. God Himself spoke to my soul in those sublime hours I lay sprawled out on my back on the top of that snow-covered mountain with my horse pawing and snorting plumes of steam a few feet away.
Then I grew up. I moved off the farm, and made my life in town. And something dark and insidious took the place of the peace and tranquility that used to fill my heart when it would snow. Slowly, I became hardened to the beauty and magic of it all and became depressed and bitter over the gray skies, dreary days, FREEZING temps, and endless mountains of dirty, sludgy piles of frozen misery filling every available space. I had to drive in the stuff, shovel the stuff, and look at the stuff for months on end and it seemed like it would never go away. I learned to curse the stuff. Approaching the Fall of 1997 I had had enough. I couldn’t take another winter of misery so I packed up my family and moved us to the hope of happy times the sultry South offered with her seductive promises of sunshine and blue skies. I told my family that if they wanted to see me for Christmas, they would have to make the trek to me because I would never go back home in the winter as long as I live. And for 15 years I’ve held firm in that conviction and have only traveled back home in the Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Until this year . . .
January 26th 2013 marked my dad’s 80th birthday and a huge celebration was planned. One of my aunts was gracious enough (and insistent enough) to help me travel back home via airplane (I still resolutely refuse to drive through the Poconos in the winter!). I was a little apprehensive knowing that I’d be back home during the dreariest part of the year and the forecasted temps for my visit was to be at or below zero at night and only in the single digits or low teens for the day. ~Heavy sigh~ This was the very thing I moved away from. But it was my Dad’s birthday and I wanted to surprise him (and everyone) with my visit and this was an occasion that I really shouldn’t miss. Sooooo I braved the possibilities of flight delays and cancellations, packed my warmest clothes, said many prayers and off I went.
Well, for the record, simply spending time with my family made it all worth breaking my stubborn vow. I thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship and bonding, but another unexpected joy beyond my anything I could have imagined took me by complete surprise. It began to snow one night. And not just any snow; MAGIC snow!!
That’s right – just like when my bro and I were 5 years old with our faces pressed against the glass – it was that magical snow that makes everything right. It was so cold that the snow looked like crystals in the hovering in the air and it spread out on the ground like a sprinkling of diamonds. The snow, glistening and shimmering, danced to life before my eyes under the glow of the full moon. (You really have to stand in the middle of it to appreciate the magic). Oh, and it crunched under my feet!! I had forgotten how it did that. I couldn’t believe it, but I missed that! It awakened a part of me that I had forgotten existed. The next day the sun shone on the fresh fallen snow so that it blinded me with a myriad of colors reflected from the prisms of the snow crystals. Although the temps were well below freezing, I didn’t feel cold. I was enraptured and felt more peace in my heart than I’ve felt in many, many years. I was 15 again laying on the top of the hill with my horse a few feet away. . .
A trip home in the winter wouldn’t be complete without coming down sick with a sinus infection (they call our area Sinus Valley for a reason) and I caught a doozie! Because my congestion was exacerbated by the hot, dry air from the wood furnace, I couldn’t sleep very well, so I would get up in the middle of the night and just stay up until morning. My Dad (even though he wasn’t sick) would get up and join me in the living room and we whiled away the hours talking and laughing, and in general, solving the problems of the world. In the minutes just before daybreak he and I would stand in the middle of the house and through the floor-to-ceiling windows watch the moon setting on one side and turn around to watch the sun rising on the other. For a brief, spellbinding moment each morning, we saw the light simultaneously reflecting from both heavenly bodies on the fresh-fallen snow and it was BEYOND beautiful; it was MAGICAL. And it was beyond special to share those precious moments with my Dad! Thank you God for snow – magical, beautiful, healing, snow! A part of me I didn’t even know was missing was restored by this unlikeliest of substances.
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
~Robert Frost, New Hampshire 1923
Buried in the waters of Baptism, raised again to new life in Christ!
Those were the words I heard going under and coming out of the cool water on the first weekend in June. But more than the words in my ears and the water rushing over my body, I felt something that I rarely ever do. I felt the Holy Spirit moving and speaking to me. The words “Well done good and faithful servant” played out in my head as I was briefly transported away from this earth and back again in the few seconds it took to go under the water and come up out. I honestly and truly believe I died and came back in some sort of literal sense..not symbolically. A few inches under the cool water I felt a peace, calmness and beauty that cannot be described and most of all I felt the overwhelming presence of the Holy One right there with me the whole time. “Supernatural” comes to mind. And I was COMPLETELY caught off guard by the whole experience.
Romans 6:3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?
In the moments leading up to the actual “dunking” (as I’ve affectionately called it) I was thinking about how I should be feeling about it. In fact, for days prior to the big moment I was struggling with how I should feel. I was saved as a child and I’ve always known Christ was my Lord; my salvation has never been in question for me. But being raised in the Methodist church where people are “baptized” as babies, it never crossed my mind that I should do it again as an adult even though I’ve been attending evangelical Baptist churches for the past 10 years or so. In these churches we are taught that being baptized after salvation is an act of obedience and a testimony to the world that we are believers in Christ. While baptism itself is not a prerequisite to salvation, this simple act is one that Christ himself asked us to do as a demonstration of our faith. Even Jesus himself was baptized – and there was certainly no question about his eternal home.
Romans 10:9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Mark 1:4 This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.
Matthew 3:15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.
Soooo….what to feel? I knew in my head that I should do it, my church was requiring it as a part of my membership, and I had no good reason why I hadn’t done it before. So there I stood, waist deep in the water along side hundreds of fellow believers and over 30 people who were in the process of being baptized themselves and suddenly something sparked. I watched intently as the children’s pastor baptized the very children that he had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with. Kids that he taught for years and prayed over daily. Those precious little ones who heard the Word and were convicted by it were joyfully doing the thing I had avoided doing for decades. While watching each child go under and come up I was overcome by emotion. How wonderful must this pastor feel to actually baptize the people (in this case many children) with whom he shared the love of Christ? My heart broke once again for all the people who I had failed to share the Good News with, and that in one day this pastor welcomed more people into the kingdom than I had done in my entire lifetime. I renewed my conviction that my sole purpose in life is to share the love of Christ – all other things are insignificant if they don’t ultimately aid me in that intention.
If nothing else happened that day I would have gone home feeling that being baptized was worth it for that conviction alone. But something else did happen. I was not prepared for and I did not ever suppose that the Holy Spirit would invade my personal space during any moment of the day. After I came up out of the water I gleefully waded around to others for jubilant hugs of congratulations. I tried to put into words what I heard and felt. I couldn’t come up with the right words or descriptions, but one of our pastors did for me – He said I was Obedient.
Obedience – – YES, that’s it!! That’s what I had done that I had failed to do for such a long time. And even though my salvation was never in question, I had not been obedient to the calling of Christ in this one area. I had no idea how much it pleased the Lord and how much His pleasure would spill over to my very soul for such a simple act as proclaiming Jesus as my savior with my lips and then being dunked under the water for a few seconds in public. Being baptized isn’t about me or doing some ritual to join a church, it’s about being obedient. And for that alone my Father is well pleased with me. My husband put it best when he said, “If it’s good enough for Jesus to do, then it’s good enough for me.” I walked away a changed person that day and I will never be the same again!
Romans 6:4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Galatians 3:27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.
Why did he lose his job again? They’re all strong in their faith and have been shining examples of what Christians should be. What purpose can this be serving in his family’s life?
Why did she die? She was too young and had so much life in front of her. Her family certainly prayed hard enough. Why didn’t God heal her?
Why did they get divorced? They were a perfect couple. How can this be what God wanted for them?
Pondering these (real) situations today makes me question God’s motives as I’m sure (if you’re honest) you do too. How can a good and loving God allow us to go through this garbage? Doesn’t our faithfulness to him count for just a little bit of favor? So many questions….
Earlier this week I posted a Bible verse on my facebook page: “[Trials and Temptations] Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3 NIV).
Perseverance? Perseverance for what? More trials? It seems like a vicious circle.
But when I quit complaining and airing out my questions and anguish to no one in particular and really dig into that verse and have a conversation with the Lord, I discover something. I discover that God, MY God, the father of our dear savior Jesus Christ, has something for me. He’s got all the answers to all my questions!! But he tells me that if I want to make the tough decisions and have my heart wrenched open 100% of the time, then I could do his job and have the answers too.
His job seems a bit tough to fathom, though. Watching people destroy each other spiritually, emotionally, and physically? Watching people destroy the environment and themselves? Watching a mother grieve a murdered child? Watching a father commit suicide because he feels inadequate for not having employment to support his family? Watching a child suffer abuse and become hardened to love? All these and so much more? And not just singular isolated cases, watching ALL people suffering these things simultaneously all day every day – – 24 hours a day? And not just watching all these things but knowing WHY they are occurring in the first place and having to chose how to interact and discipline and comfort? WHAT??!!!
Um, no thanks! I have a hard enough time dealing with the few trials that come my way along with those of the people I love. If knowing all the answers comes with knowing (and feeling) all the pain and making choices that I know will cause more pain but it’s the right thing to do, then I think I’ll just shut up, and consider it pure joy when I do suffer trials. Those trials produce in me the perseverance to get through this life and make it to the glorious home that awaits me in heaven. It also provides me the strength, wisdom, and empathy to encourage others on the same journey. Our faith WILL be rewarded – we just have to TRUST that God knows the answers and knows why he’s shaping us in this way. And knowing I have a loving father who cares enough about me to NOT tell me all the painful answers – to just embrace me in his arms and quiet my soul – gives me the courage to press on.Details