Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I saw Jesus

I saw Jesus.

I met Jesus the other day. I was on my way home from work and had just taken my exit off the interstate. While sitting at the stoplight, I saw a man holding a sign that said, “Hungry, please help.” He looked to be in his 60’s or 70’s and was limping as if his right leg was damaged. His deep gray eyes, disheveled silver hair and leathery tan skin told me that he had been on the streets for a while and his story was long and hadn’t been easy.
I knew that I didn’t have anything in my car to feed him, but I did have a $5.00 bill. I rolled my window down, signaled for him and held my hand – and the money – out of the window. He came to me as quickly as his crippled leg would let him. Reaching for the money, he...

Friday, January 13, 2017

How much of yourself do you reveal?

What makes us so hesitant to be ourselves with others? Why do we close ourselves off, only showing what we want others to see? 

There are so many possible answers to these questions, but I think it all boils down to fear. Whether it is fear of being judged, laughed at, cheated, or even fear of being hurt. It is likely the basis of why we only open a few windows to our inner selves. 

This is especially true around strangers. 

Why?

It could stem back to how we were raised and it could also result from experiences we have had in life. Painful moments mold us as much - if not more - than joyful moments do. Without getting into too much of the intricacies, we will just say that all of our life experiences make us who we are -- and thus can reveal a lot about why we only show certain parts of ourselves. 

Let me tell you why this has been on my mind. See, I discovered this Christian writer's conference I would really like to go to. It is at a camp -- similar to a retreat. They have what they refer to as "hotel rooms" that come in single and double occupancy. When I attempted to book it, it looked as though the private rooms were sold out -- which leaves me with a double, should I choose to go. 

The very idea of sharing personal space with a complete stranger just doesn't sit well with me. At all. In fact, I'd love to go to this conference but the mere fact that I may be sleeping next to Jane Doe just, well -- let's just say it is enough for me to think ahead to booking early for the 2018 conference. 

This whole scenario has made me think -- why am I having such a hard time sharing a personal space with a stranger? What am I afraid of? (People have done this for years, I know)

I thought about Jesus and how he was, in a sense, homeless. He would stay with people as they welcomed him into their home. He embraced people. He loved people. Even people he didn't know. 

Jesus didn't put a wall up around himself to protect himself from strangers. Jesus spent time with people he didn't know without fear. In fact, Jesus even kept company with the outcasts and the undesirables -- the people you think would be feared the most. 

Jesus shared himself with everyone.

How did he let himself be comforted by strangers and be himself - Jesus - without worry? He lived breathed, and walked on the earth just as we have. So why wasn't he scarred or bruised from years of living. Why did he not feel the need to protect himself? (Duh.. he is Jesus).

Jesus knew that he wasn't alone. He knew his Father was with him and that his father would protect him. He knew not to fear -- for real. We quote verses from the bible and we talk about not fearing, but we do anyways. But, Jesus -- he didn't. He lived out the peace spoken in his words, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." - John 14:27 (NIV) 

Jesus knew he had nothing to fear. He knew there was a purpose and a plan for everyone he met. We should know this, too. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What is love?

Love. 

We use this word freely when we speak. Statements like, "oh I just LOVE going to the movies." Or, "I am so in love with this delicious Thai food." So, I guess it could be the word to use when you really, REALLY like something since, well, love > like, right? But, what is love? How do you define it? Can you even define it? 

Two teenagers with their whole lives ahead of them spend hours each week together and are always in contact when they are apart (thanks to today's technology). They talk about the future, they talk about their hopes, their dreams, the family they one day want to have. They talk about getting married and how their life together would be -- how they would do things differently than their parents. They argue and fight as hormonal teenagers do, then they make up. He was her first kiss. They hold hands in the movies and he buys her a rose each week. Is it love? 

A dad is lying in his bed in the nursing home while his daughter reads to him. He never knows she is there, but she goes anyways. She reads his favorite books aloud to him and she decorates his room for every holiday. She kisses him when she arrives and again each time she leaves. Does he feel it? She believes so. She bought him new bright, fuzzy socks for Christmas last week. He opened them, smiled, and said he loved them. Then he asked her who she was. Fighting back her tears, she says, "Oh, dad, it's me -- your only daughter." He doesn't believe her. He never does. She faithfully comes back every day to visit, despite the pain in her heart. Is it love? 

A man is trying to provide for his family. He messed up really bad in his past which has made finding work one of the most difficult things he has ever had to do. He has recently enrolled in night classes to earn a degree. He hopes that his degree will somehow override his past mistakes. His family cant wait, though. So he gets up every morning before the sun and he goes to wait in front of the local Home Depot. He knows this is the spot where foremen come looking for day laborers. If he gets there early enough, he will get a spot on the truck -- which means his family will have food and shelter for another day. With all of his time away from them, he worries his kids are not going to know him like he knew his father. Is it love? 

A homeless man collects cans to recycle. He carries a large, clear garbage bag every day and scours the streets for aluminum. He doesn't have a place to live and he doesn't know where his next meal is coming from, but he knows he needs to keep collecting the cans so he pushes on. It is important. When his bag is full, he begins the 6 mile trek to the recycling center where he turns in his cans and receive his compensation. Today he made $16.48. He then walks the 6 mile trek back to his neighborhood. When he gets there, he rounds up other homeless people from all walks of life and they slowly make their way to Burger King. With today's funds, each person is blessed with two hamburgers and a small coffee. With tomorrows funds, he will buy several pairs of socks from the Dollar Tree. Sure, he could keep the money for himself, but how could that benefit anyone else? Is it love? 

Love takes on many forms. Its the love between a daughter and her father, the love between two teenagers with so much more to learn in life, it is a man trying to give a better life to his family, and it is a broken stranger taking care of other broken souls. 

Love is a hug. A look. A packed lunch on a rushed morning. Love is a beautiful word. Love is a good intention. Love is protection. Love is a smile. Love can take your breath away. Love can make you cry. Love can be unspoken. Love can be physical. Love can be a song.

Love is devotion. However you define love, it is amplified a thousand times greater by God. His love goes beyond love for your spouse, your parents, your siblings -- and even your love of Thai food. God's love is unconditional and it is for everyone. It is a love that surpasses any type of human love. God's love is so great that it is almost undefinable. 

So -- what is love?

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV).

"...God is love." - 1 John 4:8 (NIV)

LOVE... 4 little letters, immense meaning. 

Seek God. Seek Love. Fill your heart with a light of unconditional love 
and sweet devotion. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas perfection

Over the last few years, it seems like I have struggled every year around this time. Internally, I fight between what I have always known Christmas to be (and what the world tells me it is) and what my heart feels Christmas truly is. I get caught up in all of the commercialism, all of the gift-buying, all of the secret shopping and time away from loved ones. The constant search for Christmas perfection.


And then I fight within myself -- why am I doing this? Why can't I just stay home, bask in the glow of the Christmas tree lights, watch movies or play games with loved ones? Or why don't I spend my shopping time giving back, rather than buying for those who already have so much in comparison? Why do I spend money trying to make Christmas huge and magical when the actual idea of Christmas is already huge and magical?! I strive for Christmas perfection, but Christmas is perfect just the way it is. 

Our world is filled with sinners, including myself. We focus on our desires, rather than what is important. We want the biggest TV to watch the football game on, rather than just enjoying the time with family and friends -- while watching that football game. When we clean out our closet, we let others have first dibs on the best clothes, then take the leftovers to those in need. We go into the store and spend $279.00 on presents, then drop just a few remaining coins in the salvation army tin outside. 

Why do we do this? 

I shouldn't have to fight within myself. I know what is right, but I still can't help myself -- I still get swept away in the commercialism of today's Christmas. I am sure there are others out there that feel this way, too. 

I often imagine a simple Christmas. One filled with love and fellowship and celebration of the birth of Jesus. I'd like a Christmas where we forget all the hustle and bustle and just be. I find this hard to do because we all grow at different times and in different ways. We have all been taught all our lives what Christmas looks like -- so it is not an easy thing to change. Have you ever seen the Hallmark movie, Christmas in Canaan? It is one of my favorites to watch this time of year. In Canaan, they feel that everyone "deserves a little Christmas," even though they cannot afford to buy gifts. So they wrap up a picture cut out of a magazine, showing what they would give for Christmas if they could afford it. It is the thought and the story behind the picture that actually means more than the real item ever could. 

Jesus wasn't born anywhere fancy -- he came to us in a manger. Humble and simple. And all the while we strive for perfection -- the perfect tree, perfect gift, perfect feast, even the perfect ugly sweater! When the truth is, God made us perfect WITH our imperfections. We are perfect just the way we are and Christmas is perfect just as it is. We do not need to spend so much time, money, and energy striving for perfection. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" - Matthew 5:48 (NIV)

We need to learn to just love -- it is the greatest gift -- and let everything else go. Besides, something tells me that if Jesus were standing here, he would shake his head at us for all of the hoopla over his birthday. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" - Mark 10:45 (NIV)

I leave you with a new song I discovered this season, I Need a Silent Night by Amy Grant. 
"...December comes then disappears
Faster and faster every year
Did my own mother keep this pace
Or was the world a different place?
Where people stayed home wishing for snow
Watching three channels on their TV
Look at us now rushing around
Trying to buy Christmas peace..."




Monday, November 14, 2016

Reach out

Sometimes I forget why I chose to do what I do. I made a huge change in my life recently, trying to transition into writing full-time. In order to do that, I have had to learn a great deal. I have spent so much time researching, reading, searching, writing, reviewing, posting, etc. that I sometimes have to stop and remind myself that it is for God that I write. I mean, it is for him that I am even able to write! I started this goal with him in mind -- build an audience, create a platform, share God's word. When I start to feel a little off, I begin to find that I have lost my focus; I have started to look too much into how to succeed as a writer, rather than looking at God and succeeding as his disciple. 

I am sure I am not the only one who finds herself in this situation. I know many of you believe in God (if you don't, we need to talk) and have God in the forefront of your mind. Do you ever forget to focus on the real reason you are here? Do you get caught up in the business of human existence rather than preparation for your eternal existence? 

Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. - Proverbs 4:25-26 (NKJV)

The most simple answer to combat this would be to never lose focus -- never lose sight of God. But he created us as humans and, well, we are quite a bit faulty. We are going to lose focus and we are going to mess up (thankfully, he is so forgiving!) So the 2nd best thing to do would be to make sure you remain in touch with yourself and you will know when you are not feeling right. When things just seem to be out of whack, your attention is hard to find, or you feel a bit off balance -- that is when you know you need to reconnect and find God. Ignoring these feelings will only push you further and further away from him. 

Today is one of those days for me. I am taking some time to think, to talk to God, and to get back on my track. I know that he is still there, he is just waiting for me to push my door back open. I need him to continue my climb in life.

He is waiting for you, too. Seek him first.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

He is so much bigger

As of the time I am writing this blog, it is election day and the polls are still open. I have an idea of the outcome, but I cannot predict a winner. I cannot even really say with confidence that we will know who that winner is tonight... I have a feeling that is not going to be so easy this time around. I did, however, cast my vote early and I do have my eye on a particular candidate. 

In all honesty, I have gotten more involved with my emotions personally than I ever have in an election. Perhaps it is because its outcome could intimately affect me and my family in ways that it may not affect yours. Or perhaps it is because I get frustrated at those around me casting votes based on the sex or race of a candidate or because they are followers rather than free-thinkers. 

Voting is not to be taken lightly. The outcome can have real affects on real people. 

I wanted to tell people (and I think I actually did tell a few) "if you don't know who you are voting for or you don't care, then think of me. Think of Tina. Think of my family. Protect us." And I found myself getting upset because it didn't seem to matter. This was something so real and close to home to me and I didn't understand how those who love me didn't care. (And, yes, I know... it is not all about me).

Then, I stopped and listened. I calmed my fears and came to this reality -- It doesn't matter. Really, it doesn't. No, sir. Why on earth have I been letting myself get so emotionally involved and upset in a political election!? See, the government may control the speed I can legally drive or the amount of taxes I pay, but they do not control me. I abide by the government's laws, but only because God wants me to. He is the ultimate, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. 

"The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good." - Proverbs 15:3 (NIV). He sees it all and he knows the wicked from the good. Am I going to remain caught up in politics? Or am I going to remain focused on God? Am I going to worry about who may or may not affect me here on earth? Or am I going to trust that God has a plan for anything and everything that I may encounter? Am I going to show all that is good to God? Or am I going to fall victim to the wicked ways of our self-absorbed society? 

Trump or Hillary may end up being declared the next President of the United States by the time this blog posts and my family is still going to be intact. We will get by and we will do what we need to do to take care of our rights in any way that we can. God has been so good to us and has protected us, provided for us, and guided us this far...and he surely isn't going anywhere! 

Even those who don't realize that God is watching over them, have his protection. All the hate that has been breeding because of this election is not pulling us toward God, but dragging us further away. Hebrew 12:2(MSG) reminds us to, "Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed - that exhilarating finish in and with God - he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God."

LIFE IS SO MUCH MORE THAN ELECTION DAY. No matter who is elected to lead our country, we will still have love, each other, the moon, the sun, the wildflowers, and God. That does not change.

Remember what is important and, tomorrow, re-build any bridges that may have been torn down over an election that we could never control in the first place. God is good. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Day ONE

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. It begins now. Everything that you did five years ago, last week, or even 30 seconds go does not count. All of who you were does not have to be who you are. When was the last time you considered that? 

We always try to be someone we are not. We are always trying to keep up with the Jones'. We put on a smile when we are sad. We act as though our lives are perfect when we know deep down that nothing is perfect. Social media has opened a platform for us to portray an unrealistic image of our lives. Our fake portrayal can even lead to someone else feeling inferior because their life doesn't match up to our perfect fake life. What happened to being real? When did real become not good enough? 

Many, many of us never accept that fact that it is just fine to be who we are; to be who we were made to be. We even try beating ourselves up for our past mistakes. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." We have all done wrong, we have all messed up -- you are not alone. 

Let go of your ties to old friends who you know drag you down. Let go of old habits. Let go of the self-destructive behavior that your past taught you to be so good at. Let go of the guilt. Let go of the hurt. Let go of the pain. Let go of the fake perfection.

You are forgiven for all of that. Completely forgiven. Jesus died for you. And for me. For all of us, really. He died so that we could be free. He took your sins, my sins, the sins of our family, of our friends, of our great aunt Hilda, and even the neighbor's dog. He took them all. And in return, He gave us freedom. 

Now is your chance to start over. 

Now is your chance to find your freedom. 

Now is your chance to do things whole, good, and right. 

Now is your chance to be the person God created you to be. Find the REAL you.

A new day is dawning on the horizon. 
Your day. 
Make something of it. 

DO SOMETHING. 

You have more power than you know. You could let go of everything holding you back and make a huge impact on the world. And, if not the world, then on one person. Even one person. That is enough, isn't it?  

But you cannot move forward until you find the freedom to do so. 

All you have to do is talk to God. Let him know you are ready. Let him know that you are tired of everything that has kept you from him and is still keeping you from him and you are ready to live for him. Ask for forgiveness. Ask for his guidance so that you may travel on the path he laid out for you, rather than your own. 

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" 1 John 1:9

Go on, you can do it. There is no better day than today and no better time than right now.