Tag archive: love
I hope you continually:
Chip away at the obstacles that prevent you from doing what you love
Add to the myriad of layers that make you unique and interesting
Ignore how society attempts to define you
Seek counsel from others
Spend quality time with old folks
Listen to everyone’s opinions and then formulate your own
Learn from the negative experiences in your life as they will shape you as much as the positive ones
Embrace grief and pain but don’t let it mire you in depression
Tell and show people often how much you care about them
Roll with the changes
Let go of the past
Find new tribes
Try new things
Eat weird foods
Take care of your body
Experiment with your hair
Do things that frighten you
Expand the borders of your comfort zone
Acknowledge your fear but don’t let it confine you
Recognize that life is short; breathe each breath as if it were your last
Live in the moment and find contentment in the now
Look for beauty in the mundane
Connect with nature
Laugh at yourself
Laugh a lot
Take a stand
Defend your choices
Admit when you’re wrong
Find joy in bargain hunting
Permit yourself to spend some of that savings
Know that you are a work in progress until the day you die
Smile even when it hurts – it’s more for you than other people
Recognize when you’re not gifted in the thing you have passion for
Find passion for the things you are gifted in
Share your gifts and talents
Say NO when it’s warranted
Say YES because you can
Ask for help
Be brave and courageous
Allow yourself to make mistakes
Show kindness, mercy, and compassion
Grant others grace when they’ve screwed up
Allow yourself to ugly cry once in a while
Choose honesty over deception
Don’t let others take advantage of you
Build a reputation for being a person of your word
Give your very best effort in everything you do
Ignore both flattery and criticism
Desire to keep learning
Believe in your own worth
Build a relationship with God
Live YOUR life
And finally, a word from my dad for when that horse bucks you off and you get the wind knocked out of you:
Get up out of the dirt, brush away your tears, and
Get your ass back in that saddle!
Have you ever loved a horse so much that your entire life was altered by his very existence?
And have you gone to bed dreaming of him before you ever met him and then spent the rest of your life reminiscing about him after he was gone?
I have . . . and so did my father.
The following is an essay my father wrote in 1946 when he was thirteen years old and home sick with the measles. It tells the story of a boy who desperately wanted a horse of his own to love, ride, and teach tricks to, and the little black stallion that fulfilled his childhood dreams.
About 2 years after he wrote the essay, his 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Brooks, read it and asked him to re-write it for an essay contest, which he never did do. It’s worthy to note that Mrs. Brooks was quite fond of my father because he and his trusty stallion chased down her runaway horse and saved her one day, quite like another story he relays in the essay.
My dad and mom are full of tales about life with their horses but it’s a special blessing for me to have a copy of my dad’s original handwritten account regaling his love for and adventures with his all-time favorite steed. I didn’t edit the content of the essay; I only added some punctuation marks and a few stray words here and there that he inadvertently left off in his original writing. I’ve even left the paragraph structure intact exactly as he had written. He’s fully aware of my additions and has approved the minor edits. I wanted to leave the story as original as possible so that we are reading exactly what he, as a thirteen year old boy, had written in 1946.
There are footnotes below which give insight to the timeline of events and offer details rounding out some of the circumstances of which he writes. Of special note is number 9 – he’d like the reader to be sure to understand that he knows you don’t beat a horse to train it. Those words came from an inexperienced child and he went on to learn the finer art of communication with his horses. If reading footnotes aren’t your “thing;” I urge you to at least read that one.
And now, I present to you….
A True Story of a Horse
Written by Stephen Loren Illsey, 1946
Edited by Colleen Ann Guest, 2013
This is a story of my colt and I. But I must start at the beginning.
I was a boy at the age of thirteen  and I had always wanted a horse of my own. My mother had had several horses since she was a little girl and she thought that it would be nice for me to have one of my own, but little did either of us dream that it would come true.
My mother went one day to visit her sister who also lived on a farm. They got to talking and she told my mother about a little colt they had on the farm. He had been tied there most of the winter and they carried feed and water to him because they were afraid as he was a stallion, and he had tried to strike them when they tried to lead him.  Then mother went to the barn to see this little fellow who was only six months old at the time. On first sight she fell in love with this pretty little black colt for he was black as coal. Mom wanted to take him outdoors but her sister said that he would strike her; but Mother took her chances and fixed a twitch and put it on his nose and in no time she led him from the barn.
Oh yes, he did try to act up, but Mother was too smart for him, and the first thing he knew was that he was sitting on the ground. Then she called my cousin who was about thirteen, very light for his age, and sat him on the colt’s back. Once more she started leading him but what happened is he laid down. My cousin jumped and rolled away from him; he was scared. Mother said to him, “Where are you going? I’ve still got a hold of him.” But he only answered back, “I’ve heard stories about stallions before and what they’d do if they got you under them.” Mother laughed and said to herself, “They are really afraid of this little fellow.” Then she thought to herself, “Why don’t we buy him for ourselves?”
Someone had named the colt “Highboy” so we kept calling him that although the name didn’t quite occur to me. 
Mom came home and talked to Dad about getting the colt, but Dad didn’t seem very enthusiastic about it. Then Mom, seeing that she wasn’t making any progress with Dad, said, “He is a nice little colt and has the most intelligent looking head and every bit of him is pure black.
It was about a week after that and Mom and I hadn’t been making progress with Dad about the colt, or at least we didn’t think so, when one evening Dad and Mom were reading the paper and my brothers were playing or something, and I was thinking about how good it would seem to have a colt of my own to teach tricks to. I never realized how hard the task would be.
Then before anyone realized it, a truck stopped in front of the house. A man knocked on the door and my father went to see who it was. I could hear them talking in low tones but I did catch a few words. “Surprise” was one, and then I heard “he” and “fine” and a few others that didn’t make sense.
Then Dad called Mother and me out to the truck. And there it was – a small horse about the size of a pony. “There,” said my Dad “is your colt. Now let me see you unload him.”
At first I started to walk right up in beside him, but then I stopped all of a sudden, thinking, “What if he should kick?” Then I looked at him again and said to myself, “Well, if I’m going to handle you, I better start now.” Again, I started to walk up in beside him, but this time I didn’t hesitate. I untied the rope that held him and thought that I could push him out of the truck backwards, but that was useless. So I turned him around and tried pulling him out, but still, he wouldn’t budge. Then Mother said, “Here, let me help you,” and the next thing I knew was that he was standing right on the ground beside me. “How did you do it?” I asked looking very much puzzled. My mother explained, “Oh it’s quite easy when you know how.”  Come to find out, Dad had hired the man to go and get the colt. 
About a month after that, Dad told me that I had better start teaching my colt tricks because pretty soon he would get too big for me to handle, By the end of five months I had taught him quite a few tricks. Each one taking more patience and time, until I thought that he was the dumbest animal that ever lived; but one by one he caught on, and finally I had him so that he responded to each one of my commands. 
Soon after that I thought that it was about time I started in riding him, so one day I went to the barn and fixed my mother’s saddle and bridle to fit him. He didn’t mind my putting either one of these funny looking things on, but when I got them on him, boy, did he ever look awkward! Then I took him outside and before he realized what was going on I jumped aboard and hanged on for my life, expecting any second to go flying and hit the ground, but to my great surprise, nothing happened. Then I patted him and tried to urge him on but that didn’t go so good. So I kicked him in the ribs and yelled but he still wouldn’t move. So I got off and took him to the house to show my mother how he acted but this time, things were different. Instead of me jumping on I just took my time and the moment I was in the saddle I was out again. I picked myself up out of the dust and blinking my eyes, I looked around and there stood Highboy. I think that if he could have laughed like a person he would. “Why you tricky little mule,” I hollered as I went up to him. “You wait until I get a strap, I’ll teach you to buck when I’m not expecting it.”
So I got myself a strap and once more got on. But instead of just standing still or bucking he took me for one of the scariest rides I’ve ever had. All of the way down hill he ran just as fast as he could go, jumping everything in his way until he finally reached the main road, but not stopping for cars or anything. Neither talking nor pulling on the reigns did any good. But finally he did stop and when he did, he did it so quick that I found myself on the ground sputtering and yelling at my colt. I was so confused and puzzled about my new experience that I hadn’t stopped to think about what would have happened if we had collided with a car or if he had fallen. I was still so shaken up and every bone ached that I decided not to beat him and the expression on his face showed that he was sorry. 
A little while after that I got a new bridle and pretty soon I had him responding to each turn of the reigns.
After that my mother and I rode often together because she also had a horse.
One day two of my mother’s friends came up and wanted to ride although neither one of them could ride very good. We had four horses, so we let the girls ride, but we only had two saddles so we let the girls ride in them, so my mother and I rode bareback. Mom warned me that I shouldn’t ride Highboy bareback, but I finally succeeded in telling her that nothing would happen; but I was wrong.
We were riding through the fields, when one of the girls started running her horse. Then we all started.
We were going pretty fast and Highboy was in the lead. I wanted to see if anyone could catch me. I had forgotten that the girls couldn’t ride too good but I guess that luck was with them. All of a sudden highboy turned around without me expecting it. I didn’t have time to catch my balance before he turned again and then I fell.
All that I remembered is that somebody was talking to me. I woke up again to find myself home. The doctor was there. I asked what had happened but before anyone had time to answer I found out. Pains shot through my right arm and into my head. The doctor told me to lie still; that my wrist was broken.
Three or four weeks after that, my arm healed quickly. Highboy was turned loose in the pasture. My brother was walking in the pasture when all of a sudden Highboy started to chase him. My brother turned and ran toward our dump rake in the pasture. First Highboy would run one way and then the other way around the rake. My brother yelled and hollered hoping that someone would hear him.  Just by luck, I happened to be outdoors and I ran to see what the trouble was. I crossed the fence and ran down to the rake. Highboy stopped all of a sudden and looked at me. I knew at once that he meant to chase me also, so I ran right up to him before he had a chance to move and hit him. At once, he cowered and moved back .I hit him and then I had him in my power because sometimes if you show a stallion that you’re not afraid (of) him, he’ll calm down.  After I assured Highboy that I wasn’t still mad at him, everything was alright.
One day when I was riding, my saddle appeared too tight for Highboy, so I got off and loosened it. My mother said that we had better water the horses so we rode over to the creek. Highboy naturally just put down his head to drink. All of a sudden I felt myself slipping. Before I could do anything about it, I landed into the creek. I never heard anyone laugh before like my mother did. I guess that she laughed all of the way home.
Another time my mother was riding a horse that we boarded on our farm. The horse got to running with her towards home and she couldn’t stop him. We had ridden up to the neighbor’s house to buy a dozen of eggs and I was carrying the eggs when the horse that my mother was riding got to running. I didn’t know what to do, so I started after her on Highboy. Luck certainly must have been with us both that day. The road was slippery but yet I urged Highboy on. I knew that if the other horse ever tried to turn into our driveway at the speed he was going, he would fall down. Faster and faster Highboy ran. The wind blew hard against my face and made tears come into my eyes. But before I knew it, I was reaching out and pulling on the other horse’s bridle. I guess Highboy saved the day. Oh yes, I mustn’t forget tell you that not a single egg was broken.
Not many more things happened after that. Highboy was conquered and was at last ready to obey me.
Not hardly a day passed last summer but what my mother and I had ridden.
We are looking forward to a colt from our mare of which Highboy is the sire. 
It’s my great misfortune that I never knew this horse because he died in the spring of the year I was born. The mares on our farm had several foals sired by him, so I knew quite a bit about his temperament through his offspring. My mom had a feisty horse named Penny and the foals they threw were quite mischievous. I remember vividly one incident in which my brother and I had gotten chased down by one of those horses; it seems that chasing was apparently in their blood! She was a mare named Pride and I fondly recall her living on the farm and even which stall she occupied in our barn. At some point she had been sold and we went to visit her a few months after she left us. My dad sent my brother and me up the hill in her new pasture to call her down, and when she saw us, she came barreling down the hill after us. No matter which way we turned she snaked behind right on our tails. We thought for sure she was going to catch us and KILL us! We ran for our lives and bolted through the fence rails just as she was about to catch us. But when she got to the fence, it appeared that she was in fact happy to see my dad, despite how antagonistic she appeared to my brother and me. He had her trained to rub her muzzle on his cheek when he asked her to “give him a kiss,” and she happily obliged when he asked her on this occasion. It was the last time we visited her, and although I really liked that mare, I was glad we didn’t have to go through the chase ever again. Whew…my heart still beats fast in my chest when I think about it and I can almost feel her breath on the back of my neck to this day. I’ve got other, perhaps more harrowing tales with horses, but I was never more scared of a horse in my life as I was that day running for my life down that hill. If you ask him, I think my brother will attest to the same.
For the Love of a Horse
I am so very blessed to have been given a legacy of the love of horses and the ability to communicate with animals. When my dad speaks of his mother saying that it’s easy to handle a horse when you know how, I get it! My grandmother and parents taught me how to communicate non-verbally with all of our animals and that knowledge transcended simply training them. A phrase my dad used while working with me and the horses was, “Horses and kids – it’s all the same. If you can raise a horse you can raise a child.” I took that to heart and I’d like to think that it was valuable information which aided my parenting skills. But before I was a mom, my horse Sugar was my child, my best friend, and my soul mate. When everything else in my world went wrong, my horse would always be there to make it better.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my mother is an accomplished horsewoman herself and she spent countless hours helping me train the new foals on the farm and breaking the horses. She too has her own stories of how horses were the saving grace in her life. Long before I did the same, my mom, being troubled and not able to sleep, would go to the barn in the middle of the night and grab her horse for moonlight ride. I find it humorous and fitting that I sought solace in the same exact way.
Growing up on the farm with a barn full of noble creatures at my beck and call was an enviable position and I can’t imagine how different my life would have been without horses. It’s a shame that we’ve come so far in our civilization that these beautiful companions have been relegated to either occupying a place in history or their company is only enjoyed by a select few. They could teach us all so much about life, love, and loyalty, and their mere presence is therapy enough to give us the courage to face life and tackle our mental, spiritual, and physical foes.
The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears. ~Arabian Proverb
 My dad was born in January of 1933 and he and his family moved to the farm (the same farm I grew up on) in 1944. He was 11 when he got Highboy in 1944 shortly after moving to the farm, despite his telling that he was 13 in the story. He is about 6 months younger than his cousin who he also tells is 13. But after confirming the details in a phone conversation on 02/09/13, my dad and mom agreed that Steve must have been 11 at the time of acquiring Highboy and not 13 as he wrote, which means that his cousin was probably 12 and not 13 either. Steve must have written the story at age 13 which would make sense given that the horse had matured at least two years during the course of events he described. This time frame works out as my mom is certain Highboy was put down in the spring of 1966 which would make Highboy 22 years old at the time of his death. And that rings true to both of my parent’s recollection.
 Another of my dad’s cousins lived in Pennsylvania and raised Standardbred horses. One of his mares had been bred by a Morgan stallion and Highboy was the resulting foal. And there was a reason his aunt and her family were a bit scared of Highboy even though he was just a young colt. He had reared up and struck his aunt’s husband in the head and they had wanted to get rid of the horse after that incident.
 The truth of the matter is that the horse was named Highball, after the alcoholic mixed drink. My dad strongly disliked that name and had a devil of a time convincing his father that he had to change it. They finally came to an agreement and the name Highboy was settled upon.
 My grandmother had a gift of communicating with animals. She could seemingly talk to any animal she came across and I recall many instances where she would have wild creatures eating out of her hands. She took the time to observe their body language and respond to them in ways they understood, and she was patient beyond measure. Several of us have inherited her gift and have benefitted from her mentoring, but she was truly was The Queen of the Animal Kingdom.
 My grandfather traded a tag-a-long trailer for the colt is how my dad’s family came to acquire him.
 I asked my dad to tell me about some of the tricks he had taught Highboy as that was such an integral part of the early pages of the story. He said that he taught him to shake hands, kneel, lie down, sit up, and stand back up. While the horse was lying prone on the ground, my dad would back up several paces, run at him, place his hands on Highboy’s body, and doing a handspring flip over him and land on his feet on the other side. This was a favorite trick among the neighborhood kids in town. He also taught him to answer yes or no questions. To teach him that particular trick my dad had to prick Highboy in the chest with a pin. Highboy would bend his nose to his chest to rub it as if he had been bitten by a horsefly. After some time of repeating this he got so that my dad would only have to make a motion towards his chest and he would nod his head in a “yes” fashion. Similarly, my dad would take the pin and prick him between his ears and Highboy would shake his head as if to shake off a biting fly. Again, after he was trained my dad just had to make a slight motion towards his head to get him to shake his head “No.” My dad’s very close friend helped him and together they taught both their horses to do all kinds of tricks. I believe one of them was putting them both on a teeter totter together, but they stopped doing that one for fear of hurting the horses as Highboy had slipped off the board a couple of times. They took their horses to perform at schools and other local events and the kids would love to ask Highboy questions and get his yes or no answers. If the children got a yes or no response they weren’t expecting, my dad would quickly reply that Highboy didn’t understand the question and they needed to ask it again. And this time he would come up with the right response much to everyone’s delight.
 My dad also told me more of the story surrounding his first “ride” on Highboy. His father slapped highboy on the rear which launched him on the runaway ride. They ran down the hill, across the road and continued down to the creek on the other side. The creek wasn’t as deep as it is today but it was still quite deep. The reason they came to a stop is that Highboy couldn’t jump out of the creek and slammed his chest into the side of the creek bed. This sent my dad over his head and landed him on the ground.
 I’ve been raised around a lot of horses with my dad and mom, but my dad maintains that Highboy was by far the smartest horse he ever knew. My dad could take Highboy to the horse shows and never had to worry about him being a stallion around mares. Even when a mare was in heat all he had to do was whistle and Highboy would always come right to him. Apparently though, he was also the craftiest horse he’d ever known. Highboy would chase someone down in a heartbeat and he just knew a non-horse person when he came across one. My uncle, who was chased in the story, was apparently a constant target of Highboy’s and he was chased quite often. My mom recalls a few incidences when Highboy was being devilish. One time they were fixing fence and my dad set a hammer on top of a fence post and Highboy took the hammer right off the post and ran off with it. Another time my dad set down his shirt and either the dog, Samson, or Highboy picked it up. One thing led to another and shortly the two were playing tug of war, each with the shirt in their teeth, which culminated in Highboy lifting the dog off the ground while spinning around in circles.
 It is very important to note that this story is written from an inexperienced boy’s perspective and that he didn’t ever really “beat” his horse in a manner in which would be considered harmful or abusive. My father has long since gained knowledge and understanding of how to communicate with and train horses that don’t require hitting, beating, or other methods of intimidation. He would be mortified if the only impression left after reading his essay is that he understood little more of horse training than physical violence and brute force. Horses are highly intelligent creatures with feelings and are quite capable of understanding what we ask of them if we ask in a manner they can comprehend.
 The mare was a large, gentle work horse; perhaps a Percheron, named Mary. She had actually been pregnant with twins and gave birth to a filly and the remains of the twin were found in the afterbirth. Highboy had also been kept for stud purposes and besides the horses on the farm I remember, there were plenty of his offspring spread around the community. Through them, I know he lives on today.
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.
I was very blessed to be asked to walk the runway in an eco-friendly fashion show this past weekend during all the Earth Day festivities. I love fashion and the whole idea of using eco-friendly techniques and up-cycling vintage products to create garments and accessories makes me super-duper happy. It was a joy and a thrill to be a model for this particular show. The people involved are conscious of the environment and are very giving and loving individuals. Every designer I met and every person I spoke with glowed with their love for nature. And…I’m right there with them! Love me some nature!
Yet by the time I got to the second day of events and made an appearance at the outdoor festival which took up several city blocks of downtown Raleigh, something that was gnawing at me in a teeny-tiny way suddenly took on a ravenous appetite and began to devour my heart. I passed by a statue of a person posed with it’s arms wide open, face turned up towards the sky, and clearly in a position of worship. I looked around me and saw a myriad of birds, animals, people, celestial bodies, and all forms of created things replicated in some fashion (paper mache, statues, artwork, etc). And as I looked around some more, I saw rapture and awe on the faces of festival goers as they gazed upon the re-created things. Yep, I was right square in the middle of over seventy thousand people WORSHIPING. Worshiping not just created things – but RE-created things (can we say idolatry?). And I could almost feel the contempt for the CREATOR of the organic creations in the midst of all this “love.”
Whoa. Eye-opening and soul-baring moment. I needed to leave. It was time to sort out how to reconcile my love of nature with my love of the one and only God Almighty who created the earth, sea, heavens, and all things in them!
Let’s be clear about something. I firmly believe God calls us to be good stewards of the resources and creatures we are coexisting with. I do NOT advocate any practice that harms the environment! Yet at the same time, I fully recognize that it is my Father God who deserves my adoration and my worship – NOT his creation. So how do I share my love for God and not alienate/offend my environmentally conscious yet utterly lost friends? This is what scares me!! I don’t want people to dislike me and I certainly don’t want to say or do anything that would make them hate the Lord!
So I dug into the Scripture. Romans chapter one really spoke to me this morning. The Bible is very clear about the dangers of worshiping the created rather than the creator. I talked about this with my husband, prayed over it, and then I went to church with all of this burning on my mind. And in the middle of the teaching, the pastor said, “If all we do is love people (and not share the truth of the Gospel), then we are just making them happy on their way to hell.”
OK, so I’ve now feel both led and commanded to share what I’ve been thinking and feeling – fear be damned! If someone gets offended, then I just have to take that chance. I would hate to have someone whom I loved dearly but was too afraid to offend, look at me and say, “You knew this and you NEVER told me?” as they stand in judgement when the Lord sentences them to hell. So here goes…. (All bold and italicized emphasis is mine, New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica)
Let me share Acts 14:15-17 from this morning’s teaching:
15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
And here is what stood out to me from Romans (1:16-25,32)
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
BAM! STOP RIGHT THERE!! Is that me???
Do I continue to do such things and approve of those who practice them? ………………………………………….Um………no? (There’s that fear of offending people creeping in.)
Wait…let me use my big girl voice and be more definitive – NO. I do not!
(let the de-friending and nasty remarks commence while I duck and cover…)
Are you still here? whew….. Ok, well, then let me just sum it all up with some conclusions I’ve drawn about myself. After pondering, praying, and reading this morning, I’ve decided that I must take care that I keep perspective on my own environmental and animal rescue efforts so that I don’t get caught up in inadvertent worship of the creation. I must continue to immerse myself in scripture and surround myself with fellow believers so that I can be an effective witness to the great and awesome mercy of Christ; that He died for us while we were still sinners! And I must set my self apart from others who choose to worship the created rather than the creator. But by being set apart I don’t mean that I should abandon or remove myself from having relationships with folks outside the church – I need to be an example of Christian love and Godliness in every circle I am involved with. And I need to be involved in every kind of social circle available to me so that I have the opportunity to share the gospel with everyone and all may come to know the saving grace only offered by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.Details
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