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“The Crownless Again Shall Be King”

There is a  poem that I love that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in the “Lord of the Rings”.  My favorite line is the last line, “The crownless again shall be king.”  

Of course, the king Tolkien was talking about in his book was the Ranger Strider who later becomes King Aragorn.  There is much symbolism made in Tolkien’s books that refer to Christianity.  I love it!  Today, I’m going to share my twist of this last line of the poem.

We know that Christ touched many lives (figuratively and literally). I think most people thought that there was nothing special about Him. I have often thought about how Christ did not much look like a King during His reign on Earth; in fact, he probably had similarities to that of a ranger.

Through God‘s words, the Gospel in the Holy Bible, we know that Christ is the truth we should all seek.  We also know that while He lived on Earth… few really “knew” Him.  Of the few that knew Him…some  betrayed Him.  In fact He suffered greatly at their hands.  In the end, He wore a crown of thorns.

Why was Christ crucified?

The Apostle Paul explains very well for us. Paul says that, “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us . . . We are now justified by his blood.”; thus the crucifixion began.  Christ endured many painful experiences for us so we could live our lives…the lives we often choose for our self.

As humans, we often choose the life we want to live for ourselves.  Although, there are times that we experience pain as a result of those that choose to live their life for them self; such as, physically, spiritually, verbally, emotionally abusing others. This is not always the case; but, it does happen more than we care to know…often times go unnoticed by our self, or others.

…Anyway, in dealing with our painful experiences we must understand that a deep healing can take place, if we allow it. We must desire for this deep healing to take place.  We can not begin to understand how this deep healing works, unless we understand His grace and mercy…of dying for us.

We must learn, and try to understand, that there is hope in healing, and His hope leads to freedom.  Freedom will come when we have faith to trust in Him.  Truth is our hope is found in Christ; but, lack of faith can stand in the way of our passion to heal. Like our doubt, faith must be learned.

How do we learn to have faith? 

Having faith is learning His truth.  Ultimately the truth is that it is not within our power to heal ourselves. We will fail alone–every one of us. That is why we need the “Author and Finisher” of our faith.  The One who is able to keep us from falling. Christ can lift us up.  As Casting Crowns song “Who Am I” says, “He lifts me up not because of who I am or what I’ve done; but, because of who He is…the One who cares to know my pain.”

Christ endured great pain on the cross.  He died for our sins so that we could live.  Christ fulfilled what we could not do.

If the Gospel brings about true freedom, then His message brings us hope.  Not just for today, but for the future of His Kingdom.  One of my Pastors told me that, “God’s grace gives us freedom from despair and pride.”  Truth is, that we can have hope to “carry on”, if we let His grace free us of our idols of our sinful nature…or from our past of painful experiences.

I want to share  parts of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s poem.  It is as follows:

“…Not all those who wander are lost;

…A light from the shadows shall spring;

…The crownless again shall be king.”

Again, the only crown Jesus wore was a crown of thorns.  But through the Gospel we find hope.  We learn that the truth of God’s mercy, grace, and justice sets us free.  Knowing all of these things, we should be able to have faith that His Kingdom is very real.  He has Risen!  Yes, the Lord has risen indeed!  He is risen in a kingdom where the crownless again shall be King…of all Kings.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  ~ Galatians 2:20

God’s Valentine Promises to Us

There is no better gift to get for Valentines than receiving, and knowing, God’s Valentine promises to us. God’s Love for us is greater than anything we can imagine.  His sacrificial gift to us was His son, Christ.  God is love!

     “…nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  ~ Romans 8:39

I saw the Hallmark Valentine commercial.  I have to admit, I’m a sap for romantic gestures, especially this time of year…ok, I’m pretty much a romanticist all year.  I love the idea of someone telling me I’m beautiful.  I want someone to tell me they want to grow old with me.  Who wouldn’t want to have a super hero rescue them?  And, I never grow weary of someone saying they need me, or love me.

After watching the commercial, I realized that God is constantly trying to send me His own “Hallmark” greeting. God tells me He delights in me.  I ask Him to never let me go, so He promises to hold on to me.  He comforts me.  God wants to be my “Super Hero“, if I would let Him.

God has also told me that He loved me so much that He sent His only Son to give me hope by dying on the cross…so I could live.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever  believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

His promise doesn’t end there.  You see…I was sexually abused as a child.  I have harbored lots of pain, shame, and guilt.  It took years (almost 30 years to be exact) before I understood that God did not condemn me for what happened.  People may condemn me; but, He never does.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” ~ John 3:17

We all have struggles.  It’s nice to know that we have hope in the midst of our struggles.  There is hope in the very lives we live.  Christ’s love is our hope.

There were times I wondered where God was in the midst of my suffering…literally suffering at the hands of others..

My pastor reminded me that God had been beside me every time I have suffered.  In fact, He is present in the suffering and struggles of the world today.  He controls the suffering, and guides it for His purpose.

God’s promises don’t stop there. Oh no they don’t!

Another of God’s promises totally sweeps me off my feet when I think about it.  He tells me that He has plans for me.  He says in the midst of my struggles, He has plans for me to prosper.  God is molding me to be in the image of Christ. He is not finished with me.  He wants me to invite others into His kingdom, so that they may prosper.

I know you are thinking, “What you talking bout?”

I’m talking about what my pastor (Tom Gibbs) said, “We are all walking the road with our elder brother…Christ.  The path can and will lead us to glory.  Our present sufferings are identified with the struggles of Christ.  While we are walking with Him (during our struggles) we are being formed in the image of Christ. We are no longer subjected to the bondage of this world.  God comforts us in this world even when we have lost our way.  The world offers us meaningless and randomness sufferings; but, God is in control of the suffering.  Our sufferings guide us for His purpose in the end.”

So in all of this suffering in our world…there is hope. Hope in the love of Christ.

As Valentine approaches, remember that even during our struggles–God is wining and dining us.  He is the true lover of our soul.  We should take the time to express that “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

This Valentines Day my prayer is that we will remember that God’s valentine promises to us are very real and present in our lives …today and everyday.  God is near.  God is Love!

Begin With the End. Begin With Him!

I, personally, have a hard time focusing.  Not only do I have ADD, I have trouble concentrating on what’s important at hand.  I’m not exactly the best at seeing the “big” picture.

I teach school and we have been participating in Stephen Covey‘s program: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“.  The first two habits talk about being proactive, and begin with the end in mind.  One must start with a clear purpose in mind of where they might want to end up.  I thought about this idea, and this is what I decided.

HHHMMM!!!!  Begin with the end.  Begin with Him!  I should focus on the cross.

My purpose in life should be knowing Christ, and building a relationship with Him.  Now, I have a bad habit of focusing on my self.  I tend to deal with things that pretty much-well…include me.  I don’t focus on the big picture–which should be Christ.  I begin to day dream and get caught up in “self”; thus, losing sight of Jesus.

Part of my problem is my lack of organization.  Other problems may include idol time, and lack of passion to set the goal of learning His word (which should be a high priority).  I want things to come easily.  I don’t necessarily want to put out the effort.  I tend to look for shortcuts.  Not that doing these things, or wanting them, are always bad; but when I begin not to see the necessity of the cross…then my faithfulness has become quite superficial.  I need to stop taking the easy way.  Sometimes the “road less traveled” may be lonely, but necessary.  My pastor, Tom Gibbs, has made emphasis about these shortcuts before.

Covey talks about being proactive versus reactive.  Proactive is when you define a clear purpose of what you are working toward…with the end in sight.  Reactive is when people live in the past, or can’t get out of the present.  Their purpose is kind of minimal.  They may remember the old way, and  seem to get stuck on only dealing with that type of situation.  They really don’t look to the future, and what could happen in the long run if they focused.

My pastor, Tom Gibbs, says that we are called to be active in our faith.  Even when we continue with the shortcut, Christ is taking the hard way to draw near to us.  He is our champion!  He is our Savior!  It’s right to give Him thanks and praise–at all times.

Sometimes I think I test the sincerity of God.  Is He really for me?  Does He really have my best interest?  I tend to do all of the talking. It’s a one way relationship between God and myself.  I lose focus of His plan for me, and I just look ahead to my plan.  Instead of talking all of the time, I should be listening to what God has to say.  He does have some skills–hahahaha!

Part of being able to focus sometimes means I might need a “time out”.  This past summer my pastor took a Sabbatical.  Now, I haven’t actually talked to him in person, but he has told the congregation how great it was to renew his relationship with the Lord, his wife, and kids.

I consistently need to be renewed if I am to press on in this life.  How can I expect to build a relationship with God, or any other person, if I don’t take a break.  In this case, taking a break to become renewed in Christ may mean taking a break from the ways of the world.  I may need to meditate and pray more on His words.  I will need to do my best to really listen to Him.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” ~ 1 Peter 1:13

There are different ways to become renewed.  Physical activity is a great way to become renewed.  Eating right and exercising will give me strength and the energy I need to focus.  With better focus, I could deepen my thoughts in my mind on His words.  With the commitment of focusing on Him, it would touch the very core of my spirit.  I would draw nearer to Him understanding that His grace and mercy is for not just for me…but for everyone.   With having a renewed spirit, I might be able to begin to build relationships with others.

Building relationships means that I will have to build trust.  When I build trust with another person, it gives me hope.  I know that there is hope in Jesus.  He is forever faithful to me.  Because of Jesus’ faithfulness, I will be able to be more faithful to Him and to all that He commands of me.

I will say that a big obstacle of my focusing on His faithfulness, is meditating on His words.  I’m a pretty decent prayer warrior; but the meditating on His words is tough for me to focus on.  That’s where coming together as a community of believers to worship is great for people like me.  The service at my church is like a “full meal deal”.  There is so much going on, and it touches  all aspects of a great worship service.  We have meditation, prayers, music, greetings of peace, the sermon, communion, and a benediction.  It just goes on and on–in a good way.  My needs are definitely met, and I feel quite full of the Spirit when I leave.

Drawing near to Him, and being able to draw on all my resources of renewal, allows me to become uplifted.  Being uplifted allows me to focus on Him without being distracted.  Therefore, focusing would allow me to concentrate not only the uniqueness of myself, but others; thus possibly making a difference in how I see the big picture.

Christ shall be the focus of my renewal of my mind. I will be proactive with my faithfulness for Him by drawing near to Him. I will build trust in my relationship with God by becoming a better listener. I should begin with the end. I should begin with Him…keeping my eyes focused on the cross.  Amen!

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” ~ Romans 12:2

Break Free! Break Free From the Chains!

Many of us understand what bondage feels like.  We feel like chains may be wrapped around multiple times constricting us with each action we make.  I, personally, want to break free from the chains, and to live a life filled with God’s grace.

I realize that many of us have different battlegrounds; but, the thing we have in common is the overwhelming feeling of being held hostage within our own chains. I often wonder how am I ever going to be released from the chains in my life?  These so-called chains that  hold me back.  Most of the time it’s my own idols holding me hostage; but, on occasion–it’s someone else’s idols holding me hostage…and that’s another blog.

Being aware of my own guilty feelings (from my past sexual abuse), I began to look inward to myself for help, instead of outward toward Him.  I have worn many chains since the actual abuses have taken place. I have meticulously layered the chains of guilt, shame, perfectionism, and “pleasing others” around my neck until they have utterly weighed me down.  I felt as if I were suffocating me.  I was suffocating!

There are times, I have claimed freedom in Christ; only to let my past fears, and sometimes present, sneak in and take control–again. I forget that I’ve been saved by His grace.  Instead I seek the wrong kind of hope, and I wait in the dark for help.  I tend to put faith in myself.  I tend to think that I will be able to break free from the chains on my own rather than putting my hope in God to help me break free from the chains.

I fear I am part of a commonality with other struggling Christians. I don’t always know who I am with Christ, nor do I fully understand what it means to be a child of God.  And why not?  In Romans it says that the Spirit Himself bore witness with my spirit to be a child of God.  Ok, then why don’t I sense the feeling of being that child?  Could it be the chains I’m wearing?

Last Sunday my pastor Tom Gibbs said, “We tend to resist being a Christian!”  He said, “We have no excuse for knowing the God that we try so hard to suppress.  We practice the lies of idolatry by suppressing His truth.  Our idolatry is our way of manipulating the world around us.  We are committed to our idols when we feel threatened.  In essence, we practice a lie; thus, suppressing God even more.”

Tom is right!  Instead of looking inward to myself for help in breaking free from the chains; I should be looking to Christ–who has the answer of truth and grace to set me free.

The first step to breaking free from my chains is to resolve my personal and spiritual conflict by genuinely repenting, and then totally submitting myself to God. I should follow the KISS example: Keep It Short & Simple.  I need to stop with my self-serving tendencies, and stop hiding behind my mask.  I tend to want to masquerade that I’m obedient even when I’m not dependent on His Spirit.

I am thankful that we are taught about the kingdom of God; but, we also need to understand the kingdom of darkness.  Satan‘s wickedness lies in Heavenly places.  That’s why there is a need for discernment…to be able to know that some things are just lies.  Lies that chain us down.  Our battle is not against flesh and blood; but, the forces of Satan’s darkness.

We must understand that the battle is for our minds.  The battle is whether or not we will believe the lies or will become transformed…made new with Christ. We must understand that God does not lie!  God is truth and grace.  Satan does lie!  He is wicked and full of darkness.

In the Bible, Paul wrote that he was free from bondage. He expressed that he had confidence that his freedom was real. In Corinthians he said that, “I will not be enslaved by anything.” Paul said this following up to those who had been sanctified (saved by His grace) and justified in Christ (because of His death), but were continuing to be held in bondage by their old idols.

Being a good disciple, like Paul, means being a good counselor as well.  The two are intermingled.  Discipleship counseling is where two or more people meet in the presence of God.  Together, they learn how God’s truth and Word can help break them free from the chains of idolatry; thus, being able to conform to the image of God as one begins to learn to walk by faith.

The other day a particular song came to mind by Wilson Phillips.  The song was “Hold On”, and some of the lyrics are as follows:

“I know this pain
Why do lock yourself up in these chains?
No one can change your life except for you
Don’t ever let anyone step all over you
Just open your heart and your mind, mmm
Is it really fair to feel this way inside?…

You could sustain
Or are you comfortable with the pain?
You’ve got no one to blame for your unhappiness
You got yourself into your own mess
Lettin’ your worries pass you by
Don’t you think it’s worth your time
To change your mind?

I know that there is pain
But you hold on for one more day and
Break free, break from the chains…”

Tom said another thing that really stuck with me.  He said, “We should be humble and faithful disciples of Christ.  It’s a matter of the heart so that we are actively doing what God has called us to do.”  He said, “Our performance vindicates our dependence on God.”

I realize that my support system does not always include Christ.  I had, and have, not cast my anxiety and fears on Christ, and I am anything but dependent upon Him.

My chains have brought me nothing but darkness; but, in my darkness God has helped me to see His Light.  I can’t, nor anybody else, set me free.  Only Christ can set me. I can’t bind up my broken heart; but, God can.  God is my “chain breaker”.

In order for me to break free, I must have a true knowledge that I am a child of God.  Where am I going to learn that?  From His Words in the Bible.  If I really know God, then my behavior will change radically.  My biggest deterrent mentally and spiritually is me not understanding His true freedom.

Tom mentioned about John Newton’s analogy… having a good “spectacle for the scripture”.  I must delve into His words so that I can have a good relationship with Him.  I must focus on Him.  I need to begin to live more by faith and begin renewing my mind.  Knowing God in terms of “heart matters” will be a sign of maturity; thus, it will help me become a step closer to the freedom in Christ without wearing chains.

Living and growing in Christ may mean I will encounter different  and new chains to wear.  But, I must remember that I have been made new.  I have been called to do what He wants me to do, and that is not to be bound  with the chains of fear from my past. Grace is not just about obedience; but learning to be dependent on His Spirit.  This kind of obedience can only happen in and through His grace.

For freedom Christ has set us free; ‘stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery’.”~ Galatians 5:1

This bondage breaking power that Paul talks about is available to me.  I’m not really comfortable with the pain I cause for myself, or others.  I am the one to blame most of the time.  It’s time to make a change, and break free…break free from the chains.

Teach Me to Walk

My oldest daughter, Erica Hairston, is expanding her very own spiritual journey with our Heavenly Father.  It has been a blessing to watch her mature and grow spiritually, and all aspects of her life as well.  I often stand in awe of her.  She has a beautiful spirit about her, and tries to be a friend to all…especially to those in need.  She is a people magnet!  Erica’s gift from God attracts people to her…in which she is better able to share the Good News.

My other children, Jess and John, are just beginning their own journey making a difference in their own way to further His kingdom.  I’m so very proud of them all; each with their own unique God-given talents that they share with others on a daily basis…especially with me.  What a blessing to be called “Momma“.

I’m actually going to focus on Erica for this blog because of a recent event.

Here is a brief synopsis of Erica.  From an early age she  has  thrived on “being in the thick of things”.  She has a lot of energy, and knows how to harness it and channel it to work for herself, and others, and in a good way.  Erica has been in sports most of her life, and has proven to be a great leader on the softball field and mission field.  She earned  the title of best athlete at her middle school, and earned first team all district honors in softball for her high school team a couple of years.  Erica has made lots of friends, loves life, and truly cares for people.

Yes, she has faults.  I know I painted her better than Mary Poppins; but, she does have special God-given talents.  Plus, we already know that we are all sinners and fall short.

Erica has a mission, and it’s to further His Kingdom.  She puts her on twist on the way she furthers His kingdom with a  flair that only Erica can do.

This past year, Erica attended Baylor University.  She has made a network of amazing Christian friends, and it has literally pumped her up for Jesus!  They are a well oiled “tight knit” group ready to fight in God’s army.

Recently, in one of Erica’s quiet time, God revealed to her some of her strengths and weaknesses.  She told me that God had revealed to her–that He was going to teach her how to walk.  He was going to teach her His way, and it would be better than she has ever walked before.  They would start over and take it from the beginning.  Even though her spiritual walk is strong; He was going to make her walk stronger than it has ever been before, and all for His glory.

I work at a summer camp now, and it’s very hard to get a hold of me.  My cell doesn’t have service unless I stand on top of the zip-line on one foot.  Ok, that is a little exaggeration…but not much.

Erica finally got a hold of me to tell me what God had revealed to her; then, she casually added that something unexpected happened a couple of days later.

I thought, “I wonder what unexpected event?”

I knew she had gone to Minnesota to spend some time with one of her future roommate; and then she said, “By the way, I got to go jet skiing and tubing for the first time.”

I thought, “Awesome!”

Erica also told me that she went water skiing, and that the skis were too loose, and she had trouble getting up; therefore, she tightened the skis. The problem was the next time she was getting pulled out of the water (because she is strong) she was pushing harder with one leg, and the ski was under water slightly.  This is not a good thing while trying to ski on top of water.

I’m thinking this is all really cool!

Then, her next words were words that would pain any parent’s heart, and my very soul writhed with pain for her. Erica had an accident.  The iliofemoral ligament (the strongest ligament in the body, had detached from her hip, and will be having surgery on Tuesday.

BTW…prayers would be good now.  Prayers for the doctor and healing would be great; especially since she is a Packer fan and a Cowboy’s doctor will be performing the surgery.  She may have to change her allegiance after the surgery; but, she should see how it turns out first-hahahaha!

My eyes began tearing up as she told me what had happened.  I was trying not let her hear the pain in my voice; but, I’m not the best at hiding my emotions.

I immediately asked if she had a life jacket on, and she said, “Yes, she did”.  I was somewhat relieved.  I was happy that she had thought of safety first, and that it helped her to keep a float while writhing in pain waiting in the cold water.

Erica went on to tell me of the events that followed, and she felt certain that she would have drowned (because of the severity of the pain) if not for the life jacket she was wearing, and the other “Life Jacket” that covered her with strength and comfort.

A boat drove by and said they would call the sheriff to get help.  Those blessed people also drove around the lake to help clear it so that the waves would not continue to make her move so much…and cause her pain.

Her future roommate, Elizabeth Papetti, and another girl, Kristen Pool, dove out of the boat into the water, and each of the girls got on Erica’s side  to help support her until emergency service arrived.  I am thankful to God for all of their support to help their friend…their sister in Christ.

She told me about the air life that came; but, that an ambulance was actually able to get to where they were.  Erica said that placing her on the backboard was an excruciating pain that she will never forget.

My heart was hurting so bad!  A parent never wants their child to suffer such pain.  I wanted to be able to take it away, and there is nothing I can do.  Then I realized I can pray, and that’s one of the best things I could do for her.

All of the sudden Erica’s voice, despite being a little pain stricken, became more upbeat.  She said, “Momma.  I got to talk to the people in the ambulance about Jesus.”

My whole body became engulfed with a beautiful warm, spirit filled feeling.

Then Erica said, “Momma.  I’m going to have to learn to walk again.”

The realization of her accident came rushing over me again.  I felt sick to my stomach.

Then Erica said, “Don’t worry, Momma.  I have faith.  Plus remember, I told you what God had revealed to me that He was going to teach me how to walk.”

Ok…now, I really need a tissue.  This beautiful, sweet child of mine finds the beauty in her own pain.  What a testimony!  It’s true!  He is going to teach her how to walk in His truth and way.  How awesome is that?

Erica has made it back to Texas, and has a great support group of friends with her.  As a mom, it’s so hard not to want to know how everything is going.  How I wish I could take her pain away, and be with her.

Erica reassured me she was in the great hands with her friends, and of the best hands in the Father of the Heavens and Earth.  I have no control in th situation.  Not controlling the situation is a big leap of faith for me.  Since my mini-stroke in May, I have had to learn to let some things go, and not worry so much.  It’s definitely a test of faith for me, and being able to put my trust in Him…despite my weaknesses.

I truly can’t do much for her while I’m at camp, or any place for that matter; but, I can definitely pray.

I listen to K-LOVE Christian radio quite often.  Their link is also on this web page.  As I got off of the phone with Erica, I was reminded of a Jeremy Camp song that I really like.  It’s called, “Walk by Faith”, and a part of the song is below.

“Well I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see
Well because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me

Help me to win my endless fears
You’ve been so faithful for all my years
With one breath You make me new
Your grace covers all I do.” 

Those words are so true!

As my pastor, Tom Gibbs, has told me many times…even if I can’t see and I may be in a season of brokenness, God will teach me to do His will.

God will help me with my many fears that follow me from my past to present shame and guilt of abuse.  I must not listen to the lies.  I am His beloved.  He has made me new.  And the most important thing…His grace covers all I do…just like Jeremy’s song says.

If one looks closely…one can always find beauty from within their pain, or brokenness.

Tom has also told me, “You have to draw near, be patient, and listen to what God is trying to tell you.”

I suppose if I can continue to do those things then beauty will be able to spring forth from the pain that has built up over the years.

My new prayer for myself is for the Lord to teach me to walk…walk in His way of truth, and not my way of lies.  Praise His glorious name!

 Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.  For great is your steadfast love toward me;…”     ~Psalm 86:11-13a

Hope: Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

I was thinking about Hebrews 12.  Since I had been abused by my stepfather, I sometimes associated the verses in this chapter with my Earthly father.  I realize there is no comparison between My Father in Heaven and my stepfather; but, I also realize both had the potential to discipline me.  Remembering my past, I decided I would compare a coach to My Father (only in this case).

I thought about how my coach used to discipline me.  I got the jest of what was said in the chapter, but I let my anger cloud my thoughts of what I truly needed to understand.  I suppose the writer of Hebrews is stating that discipline is not always pleasant, but if I train hard (with my “coach”) then I can become stronger-bringing about great joy.

I am hopeful that this new found joy will lead me to great worship, or intimacy, with Him.  I am being made new in the Light of my darkness.

Although the “coach” may be a good analogy, God does not want me to think of Him as a coach…but as the true Father.  There are hopes, fears, and angers in memories of a father. Though God is not like my stepfather I suppose He instills hopes, fears, and anger as well—but on a different scale.  I understand the thought behind this verse, but I will have to switch gears on my thinking.  I still like my “coach” analogy, but I suppose I should think of it as a different approach and not in context of that verse.

I am a “Lord of the Rings” nut!  I love these books, including the “Hobbit”.  There is so much said about life underlying in these beautiful books.

Anyway, I was thinking about when Gandalf falls in the mines of Moria, and the looks on the faces of the Frodo and the companions as he is most certainly meeting his doom.  The expression on their faces was not a look due to loss of love for a coach, or a guide, but a different kind of love—perhaps for a dear loved one–perhaps like a father.  Their faces told so much.

I was also thinking about Denethor, in the “Return of the King“…not as a father, but as a comparison to myself.  Denethor was overwhelmed by the forces of depression that Sauron inflicted on him.  I, too, let the Evil One do the same with me.  Like I have said before, I let the evil one tell me that I am worthless and that life is meaningless.  My mind is like the palantir, a place of deception.  The evil one uses it to show me only what he wants me to see—that I am worthless.  This allows me to live in despair rather than the goodness of great joy and light.  Like Denethor, I continue to battle the great forces of evil, but when the battle is really at hand—I want to flee.

Denethor was blind to so many things: hope, courage, and love.  He grieved so much about the passing of his son Boromir dying that he could not fix his eyes on anything positive.  Gandalf says something like, “Despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt…”

I am like that with my hurts from my past.  Instead of fixing my eyes on Jesus, I dwell in my past.  This leads to great despair.

To make problems worse, Denethor sends Faramir out to do his job. The job which Denethor should be doing himself—to battle against evil one.  When Faramir comes back to his father, and he is thought to be mortally wounded; it is only then that Denethor begins to regret what he has been doing—that he was only thinking of himself.

This last loss breaks Denothor’s spirit.  He thinks only of suicide.  He has no hope.  But in reality there is hope, but he is too blind to see this.  In his fit of insanity he has his soldiers build a pyre for him to be placed upon.  He feels that he deserves this kind of death because he has been dishonorable.

I kind of understand this feeling.  I have felt that same fit of insanity, and shamefulness.  It is hard to get out of this state when it seems that everything is spiraling, and who would come to save you.

But like Christ to me, Gandalf does come to try and save Denethor.  Gandalf rebukes Denethor.  He tells Denethor, “Authority is not given to you, Steward of Gondor, to order the hour of your death…And only the heathen kings, under the domination of the Dark Power, did thus, slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own death.”

Gandalf was trying to tell Denethor that he did not have this right to kill himself; but, Denethor does not listen.  In the end, we  know what happens to Denethor…he chose death over joy.

Thus later after Denethor’s death, the conversation between Gandalf and Pippin and Pippin says, “I did not think it would end this way.”

Gandalf replies, “End?  No, the journey doesn’t end here.  Death is just another path, one that we all must take.  The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.”

Pippin says, “What?  Gandalf?  See what?”

Gandalf replies, “White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

You see, there is hope amidst the darkness.  How wonderful is that?  I am trying so hard to hold onto this thought.  I must pray for strength.  I am still in the beginning stages, and will continue on my grand journey.  I am going to continue to submerge myself into His healing waters–into His word, and prayer.

My friend, Jeff Judson, once told me, that he didn’t see it as a curtain between life and death, but a curtain between our current false perceptions and truth as God made it. “So when we actually lean into our problems, face them head on with the power of the Holy Spirit, they turn out to be just curtains of rain.  They are opaque and seemingly solid, but when we walk through them into the arms of Christ, they are just a curtain of water, and our delusions are washed away with the water of the spirit as we step through the curtain”.

He asked me, “Who would want to live in a fake world of lies and distortions?  So why do we choose to do just that in our daily lives?”

With knowing this I should never feel threatened by the forces of darkness that surround me.  Jesus was declared the victor over evil, and there is hope.  That is not to say that I won’t have bad days; but, it is nice to know that I can be free of that bondage.

It’s like the side view mirror on a car that says…”Hope: objects in mirror are closer than they appear”.  The object of my desire is hope, and it’s closer than I think.

“…and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” and  “When you were dead in your sins and in the circumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”                                                 ~  Colossians 2:10, 13-15

When Did My Faith Become Real?

When did my faith become real?  I believe receiving faith is never-ending; therefore, my faith becomes more real with each “real” season I experience.  I recently told a friend that my current season of tribulations was like a bad reality TV show, and that I sincerely hoped that it would not be picked up for another season.

All joking aside, one of the worst trials I have ever had to go through was when I was a child.  I was sexually abused.  That terrible season has left many battle wounds and scars that still have not completely healed.

That experience led me to live a life that was not always conducive to spiritual growth.  I lived in fear of others…especially men.  My relational skills were lacking, and thus my communication skills followed suit.  Because I let my anger get the best of me, I became one who began to contribute to the pain of others.  The pain I caused was mainly due to my own selfish idols, and of my own making.

I was like a horse wearing blinders.  I could not see the pain I was causing others because of the pain I harbored inside, or even the pain I was causing myself.

As a result of my past abuse I have carried a backpack full of idols, pain, and fear.  I lack self confidence.  I am a skeptic when it comes to thinking that my Father could give me the grace of forgiveness that I so desire.  Even though I did not wish this abuse on myself, in the back of my mind I always wonder if I deserved it.

My husband, Sam, has explained his take on the situation.  If I had gone into the doctor’s office to get a physical, and several days later I got strep throat…did that mean I wanted to get strep throat?  Of course not, nor did I expect to get it.  Strep throat  causes many to become quite ill.  In fact, I usually get a headache and nausea along with it–making it a triple whammy!   Under the circumstances, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I never asked for the strep throat, and I certainly never asked for the abuse. My friend described the abuse like an illness that was given to me.  I couldn’t help it!  It was given to me.  I was so very young, and the abuser had no right to pin the abuse on me as my fault.  To threaten me with harsh words, and fists to body…warning me to never tell or he would beat me up.  No child deserves to be treated with such disrespect. To be made to feel like scum, and then told that no one will ever want them because they were tainted.

I believed him!

I have always wanted to run in a race; but, definitely lacked the passion to train.  Trust me, I am no runner.  When I was at Baylor University I was on the track team; but, as a javelin thrower.  Running was definitely not my forte.  In fact, one year I did not qualify in the javelin for the Texas Relays, so I had to run the 10K.  It took me an hour and six minutes to run that race.  The man who ran the half marathon passed me up.  BTW…now I would be lucky to walk a 10K.

Now I am remembering that I have this awfully heavy backpack, and I am thinking how do I run with a heavy backpack?  I see the military, or fitness gurus running with heavy loads to train; but, I don’t want to train with a heavy backpack.  I am not a fitness guru, and I definitely don’t want to train with a heavy load.  It would be extremely hard!

So how do I lighten the load in my backpack?  I have carried the load for many years.  I have become quite attached to my many idols, and I don’t know which ones should stay or go.

Then my Heavenly Father suggests to me to give Him my backpack.  I asked Him, “Why do you want my backpack?”

He answered, “Because, I love you, and I want you to run to me. I want you to fix your eyes on Me.  I have made a promise to  carry your heavy burdens, and I want you to run the race that is set before you.”

Okay, so even if I were to give Him my backpack, how would that help me to see Him?  How would that allow me a clearer vision to be able to run to Him?

I know now that I lacked a true passion for recognizing my Father, and his promise that He made to me.  I lacked faith and hope in the words He was telling me to obey.   I must really enjoy my bad reality TV show because that’s where I was headed…back to “seasons gone bad.”

I tried to focus on Him; but, I could not see Him at all.  I only recognized my stepfather, and all of the horrible things he had done and/or told me.  He was no father to me.  He did not protect me, or love me.  I became scared…so much so, that a couple of times during the race I considered suicide as an alternative to facing my fears.  Truth is, my own hindrances of my own  idols were causing  me to lack the faith I needed to run the race…to run the race with patient endurance.

I wanted to hurry up and train for the race my way.  I wanted to be in control.  In the back of my mind I wondered if I could run the race by myself?  Did I really need my Father?  Could I train without any help, because asking for help might mean I was weak?  I certainly did not want to look weak and unworthy to anyone.  I mean my stepfather did say that no one would want someone as worthless as myself.  I wanted to believe I could prove my stepfather wrong.

I learned quickly that training, and running alone, did not seem to be working for me.  Training by myself, I noticed that I seem to fail every time. I was extremely out of shape.

I wondered do I really  to need the “Author and Finisher” of my faith to help me train for this race?  Does He really know what path to take to get to the finish line?  Would He really be the only One who would be able to keep me from “jumping the gun” at the start of the race, and would certainly keep me from facing disqualification?  Would He do this for me just because He loved me?

I had to really dig deep inside to see what I really desired.  Did I want to continue carrying my heavy backpack, or give it freely to Him? My faith was lacking; but, He told me, “Come ye who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  He was telling me to cast my burdens upon Him, and He in turn would help me cross the finish line so that I could rest.  I definitely need rest.  I look horrible!

With His help, I found the faith, hope, and strength to go the distance…even when I could not always see the finish line. I knew that I would be able to reach the prize–which had already been fulfilled by Him.  I knew that He would give me rest.

I have decided that my faith in Him should not be just wishful thinking, but having a true passion; a trusting confidence that His promise of grace is for me–despite my past secrets, my present idols, or my future mistakes.  Through faith, God’s grace gives me freedom to be me—broken and scarred.

So when did my faith become real?  Every time I step out the door and experience various seasons.  Just putting one foot in front of the other, and walking out the door.  Now that’s having real faith to me!

 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.”  ~ Hebrews 11:1

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