Unfortunate misconceptions…

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In usual fashion, this post is quite long…ramblings of a sort. I’m honored if you make it to the end. Words fill my heart and head. And when they start to flow, I don’t want to hold them back. I hope each of my words touch your heart and leave you with love and compassion in a cruel world.
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Misconception

In light of the recent tragedy in Orlando, Florida, I’ve heard of and witnessed many stories filled with or fueled by hate. I’ve also heard many stories of the outpouring of love and support for the families of the victims involved in the senseless murders of 49 people and the many others injured, forever scarred by evil desires. It’s a mixed up world we are in and unfortunately, in a time when we should all come together in support of one another, we remain divided, allowing anger to fester between us. These are my own thoughts. Feel free to comment with your thoughts as well, but leave hate out of it. There’s no room for anymore hate. Comments filled with hate, from any point of view, will be deleted.

Misconception – a view or opinion that is incorrect because it is based on faulty thinking or understanding.

Religion – “the belief in a god or group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or group of gods; an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group.

Tragedy – “an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.”

On September 11, 2001, thousands of people breathed their last breath. A country was impacted by the tragedy of violence, hate, and murder. A country mourned. The world mourned. We still mourn.

December 14th, 2012, in the peaceful town of Newtown, Connecticut, a young man walked into an elementary school and murdered 20 children and 6 adults. The children were 6 and 7 years old…still babies, learning to read and write, to dance, to share with one another, to walk in a line, to whisper, to live, to love. Their lives were invaluable to those who loved them but to that one young man, their lives were meaningless.

June 17th, 2015, in a small South Carolina church, a group prayed together. They welcomed a troubled young man into the church and prayed with him just before he took their lives. A tragedy of violence, hate, and murder.

On June 12th, 2016, at a night club in Florida, men and women danced, laughed, sang, and breathed their final breaths as a gunman ripped their lives away. A moment of terror left 49 dead and many others injured. Hundreds of lives, forever changed, by violence, hate, and murder.

It’s been said that many of these tragedies are done “in the name of religion.”

This is true. Many acts of hate and evil have been done “in the name of religion.” What this means is people, filled with hate towards a select group of men, women, or children, committed acts of horror, terror, violence, and murder and claimed to do so based their belief that in doing so, they would be fulfilling the desires of their god. When this happens, the unfortunate misconception is that religion is to blame. We lump all religions, every group of people who gather to worship a higher power, into one category. We label religion as evil. But that’s where we are wrong.

When religion is based strictly on a set of rules or laws that one believes must be met in order to receive salvation, that opens the door for competition, jealousy, anger, rage, and hate. It creates a need to “one-up.” It puts people in a position of attempting to attain the impossible … perfection. When religion is based solely on the grace and mercy of one man, sent from the Creator of the earth, we are humbled people, learning to extend compassion and forgiveness, understanding we are no better than any other, knowing we are all broken people in need. This removes ourselves from being the source of our own salvation and places that salvation in the wounded hands of the only Savior.

Not one of those lives stolen deserved to die that way. Not one. Not the youngest of the children at Sandy Hook, not the heroes who rushed into falling buildings to save the lives of others, not one man or woman based on their sexuality, their feelings, their desires, period. Not even the men who began their lives as one tiny heartbeat, 10 little toes and fingers, a light, soft swoop of hair on their head, raised and taught to hate to the point they would brutally torture and rape women, or sacrifice their own lives to selfishly and hatefully take the life another, in the name of religion. Not one of them should have died. Not one.

Let’s get something straight…

Religion did not carry a gun into the the flashing lights and crowded dance floors of a night club in Florida and the gun did not walk in there on its own. A man chose to allow anger and hate to fill his heart. He chose to carry guns inside a night club filled with people. He chose to murder many innocent men and women and forever change the lives of many others. A broken man. A man with empty places filled by hate. Religion is not to blame. Evil is. Religion did not fly a plane into the World Trade Center with the intent to kill thousands. Broken men did. Religion did not walk into a church, sit among a group of people as they prayed what would be their final prayers, and then rob them of another breath. A broken man did. Religion did not enter an elementary school, open fire on a terrified, helpless, innocent group of 6 and 7 year olds, and destroy the lives of many. A broken man did.

We are all broken. Hear me, we are ALL broken.

As broken people, we need each other. We need love, support, encouragement, hope, peace, faith. Each of us is designed to grieve, to mourn, to desire fulfillment, closeness, relationships, and more. But in a broken world, we are left empty in many of the places we need, so deeply, to be filled.

For some, those places are filled through work, friends, activities, addictions, religion, etc. Others find themselves filled through what most would call religion, but what I will call a relationship and faith. Faith in something better. Faith in a loving God. Faith in a God who became flesh to teach us, guide us, and love us. Faith in a grander place and a grand design. Faith in humanity. Hope.

A successful relationship comes from knowing someone. You learn about their character. You grow to understand them. Through prayer, through reading Scripture, I’ve been able to understand more about the God I believe created the world. I have learned He is a God of love, not hate. He is a just God, who will punish evil, but at the same time, reminds me to live with peace and unity among all, including those who have different beliefs, make different choices, live different lives, and even with my enemies. He instructs me to pray for my enemy, those who hurt and betray me. Praying for those who hurt me does not wipe away the hurt, the wounds are not forgotten, and the pain is not removed, but the hate that could fill my heart is replaced by forgiveness, love, and hope. What could make me bitter, angry, and hate-filled, instead, allows me to look for the good, to appreciate the blessings, to love the unlovable. Religion is much more than a set of rules. It’s a relationship with the One who gave me life, and gave His own, in order that I may truly live. Without a relationship, without that appreciation, without the mercy and grace given as a gift, we have nothing.

Marriage does not work without communication.
Parenting without nurture wounds a child.
Religion without Christ, the giver of grace and mercy, is empty.

Perhaps we need to create some sort of substantial separation between what we define as religion and Faith. I’m not even sure that works because there are peaceful, loving Muslims. There are peaceful, loving, Buddhist. There are peaceful loving people in all sorts of “religions”. And there are broken people in them, just the same.

As a Christian, I believe we all need…we all need a savior and I believe the source of salvation is not in acts of goodness, service, kindness or in acts of control, hate, or murder. I believe our salvation is based solely on the grace and mercy of a loving God by His own flesh, Jesus Christ.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

Are bad things done in the name of religion? Yes.
Does that make religion bad? No.

But these words in my Bible, that I believe are breathed straight from God through man, serve as instruction and guidance for my life. They very clearly say that I am not saved by acts of kindness, service, or a good heart, nor am I saved by acts of evil, hate, or murder. I am saved by the acts of one sinless man, the very God I believe in, the one who created everything out of nothing, the one who fills darkness with light, the one who walked on earth in the form of flesh to experience the very same feelings and emotions we experience, in order to draw us closer to Him, to show He fully understands, to set an example before us of how to extend hope, love, and compassion to those around us, who created us with the purpose of doing good. Acts do not make me a Christian and believing in God does not make me good. I am a sinner. I have made bad choices. I have hurt people. Being a Christian, a believer in Christ, a follower of Christ, makes me a person who can freely admit that I have dished out my own fair share of wrongs and had wrongs done to me but am saved by the grace and mercy of one God, who took on the sins of the world through flesh, with the purpose that I will do good in His name. That in the name of God, because I have faith, I will love. I will show compassion. I will try to understand others. I will accept as they are, just as He has accepted me. I will pray for peace.

Do I profess to fully understand all of that? Nope.
Can I explain it without any doubt so that anyone else will also believe? Nope.
Do I have faith anyway? Yes.

There are a lot of “religious” people who spew hate and disgust at people who are different from them.  There are a lot of non-religious people who hate the religious bigots. That means there is a lot of hate going around. I don’t understand why this happens and I can’t explain the hate some are filled with.

Unresolved anger?
Fear?

Maybe there are no answers or maybe there are hundreds of answers.

What I do know is that we are designed with a desire and need to be with one another, to love one another, to support, encourage, and care for one another. From the moment a child is conceived, she has a need. She needs nourishment from her mothers body to enable her to grow inside her mothers womb. She needs comfort and protection as her organs form and she prepares to breath her first breath. And in that moment, the moment she takes her first breath, she needs love, comfort, and nourishment. Without those things, she will die. We are created to need one another.

While some people frown upon the word sin, one fact is, sin separates us. No matter what you believe or don’t believe, as a human being, you are not exempt from the effects of sin (or the wrong/bad choices people make). As a Christian, I believe sin separates us from God. I believe in a good God who can take no part in the evilness of sin, who mourns and grieves with us because of the evil in our broken world, but who promises us a place of peace and hope, to fill the emptiness left by the sinful acts committed by us or against us. As a person, who walks in the flesh, I believe sin separates us from each other. It doesn’t matter what religion you are or if you believe in anything, you are still subject to the effects of sin. Gossip destroys relationships, reputations, and lives. Infidelity puts walls between couples and robs them of the trust in their partner. Jealousy leads to dissatisfaction and a lack of thankfulness in the blessings of the meaningful things in our lives. Rape takes the innocence of an act designed to be pleasurable, fulfilling, intimate, and turns it into something horrific, a brutal, damaging form or torture that follows one throughout their life. Murder not only destroys the lives of many, but it robs the murdered of another moment, another breath, another chance to extend hope and love. It is an irreversible choice.

Sin, evil thoughts or acts, crimes of rape, murder, jealousy, infidelity, and so on, create in us a cold, dead heart. Not in the physical sense, but by us placing the value of a thing above the value of a person, in pursuing our own desires before those of another, in forcing things upon another against their will, in stealing ones innocence, in destroying the lives of others. It takes the love and warmth that was meant for us and replaces it with hate, anger, rage.

Religion did not destroy the lives of more than a hundred people at the Orlando shooting. Hate did.

While some claim hate in the name of religion, what people need to understand is, you cannot lump all those who have faith in a higher power under one title. Religion is not the source hate anymore than a tree is the source of money. An individual persons choices and actions are the source of and result of hate. Hate comes from many different people, religions, cultures, groups, beliefs, and so on. Hate can be found in a classroom, in a church, in a store, on a baseball field, in a group of friends, in a marriage, on a highway, or anywhere and in anyone’s heart.

So can love. It’s our choice what we fill our hearts with.

Religion – “the belief in a god or group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or group of gods; an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group.

Can religion be the source of hate? Yes.
Does that mean religion is evil or hate-filled? No.

There are many peaceful, loving, caring Muslims who believe their God is a God of peace. There are many Christians who pray daily for peace, grasping for bits of hope for a better tomorrow, believing in a loving God.

And then there are those who have their own motives, fueled by their brokenness, filled with hate.

I can only speak from the Christian perspective because it’s what I know.

Do religious people hurt people? Yes.
Do non-religious people hurt people? Yes.
Do Christians hurt people? Yes.
Do non-Christians hurt people? Yes.

Does the Bible speak of hate, murder, sexual immorality, punishment, war, and many other horrors? Yes. Does that make it hard to comprehend? Yes. Have countless people asked, “How can a loving God allow so much hurt and pain?” Of course. Is it possible for that to create doubt in a loving God? Yes.

Here’s the thing…doubt comes from a lack of understanding. I can say that because I’ve been there. For most of my life, I’ve doubted that I was worthy of the love of a good and loving God. I also spent many years believing He was punishing me for being a bad person. I lived in fear, doubt, hopelessness. I wanted to believe in a good and loving God but I couldn’t imagine one who would accept me.

Broken people need.

They need healing.
They need hope.
We are ALL broken.

At some point, in my own life, I knew I couldn’t make it on my own. I was in a place of desperation. The only choice I felt I had was to depend on a God I couldn’t see, one I feared hated me, one I was certain would never accept me, but one I placed my faith in anyway. It was a choice. I don’t take pride in any of the choices I have made but I am thankful for the direction my life took that led to the choice I made that sunny September morning in 2005. What I’ve learned is the God I believe in truly is a loving God. He chooses broken people. We are broken, created with many needs, leaving us each with empty places, that I believe, only He can fill. He uses broken people. He uses them for good…not evil.

So when someone commits a horrible crime, destroy lives, robbing them of a future, of hope, and they do so in the name of religion, we need to understand there is a difference in them, their beliefs, and mine. Religion is not hate. Religion is a group of people, worshiping a God they believe in, because it is important to them. That does not mean religion can be defined as hate.

Are there some religious people filled with hate? Yes.
Are there many other religious people filled with love? Yes.

Please don’t put us all in the same category based on misunderstanding of religion or the differences in religions.

Personally, I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in forgiveness. I believe in hope. I believe that someday, there will be no more pain, tears, suffering. I believe because it’s what I need. It’s what works for me. I have lived through many tragedies of my own. I have lived a very broken life, with many hurts, many moments of darkness, and many thoughts of escaping this cruel world. I have questioned the God I believe in. There are things I will never understand.

I have sat alone in a cold, empty room, having had everything even down to my underwear stripped away from me and in that darkest, loneliest moment, the comfort of God’s words were all I had.

“I will not die but live, and proclaim what the Lord has done.” Psalm 118:17

Those words were with me that night. Whether you believe in God or not, I believe those words came from Him, over 2,000 years ago, and in that moment, He used them to comfort me, to give me peace, to restore my faith and bring life back to my worn and tattered soul. He gave me hope that I could breathe another breath, that I could face another tomorrow, that somehow, someway, I could help another through the struggles of this life as well. I was not alone. Though physically, I had nothing but a hard cot, a scratchy blanket, and a set of paper scrubs, I was not alone and He provided exactly what I needed in that very moment. Those words were everything.

And still, I find myself asking at times…

Why does a mother have to say goodbye to her child before it can even take it’s first breath?
Why do people fulfill their own sick desires by violating innocent children?
Why does a man walk into a night club and murder many innocent, precious, people?
Why do we not value each and every life, breath or no breath?
Why does a child face starvation and desperation?
Why are people hated because of the color of their skin, their physical disabilities, or their sexuality?

What brings a person to the point that he or she sees no value in the life of another?

I could go on and on with the questions but there are no answers. The only answer that brings me peace is that the God I believe in is faithful and promises hope, love, and healing. He promises to never abandon, to provide strength in times of need, to hear our cries, to mourn with us.

There may be religious people who hate. But religion itself is not hate. Religion is a group of people in a shared group of beliefs in either a God, laws, rituals or whatever. But hate is what fills a person. Religion may teach works, hate, or murder. Religion may teach hope, faith and love. Each of those things are what a person is filled with and each of those people are given a choice in what they will be filled with. A man who chose to murder 49 innocent people in the name of religion chose to be filled with hate. A person professing to be a Christian, shouting hate-filled statements of disgust and anger towards a group of people based on their sexuality, makes the choice to hate. A person who denying the beliefs of any greater power or a different higher being and in turn mocks, condemns, or ridicules someone else because of their differences in beliefs, chooses hate.

Why? Why are we so afraid of people who are different from us? Why are we offended when someone chooses something we don’t agree with? Why do we feel our beliefs and desires have to be the beliefs and desires of everyone? Why, like God, do we not allow people to make their own choices, and extend encouragement, support, and love? Perhaps if the gunman in Florida had been nurtured and loved, raised to accept the differences in others, to embrace those differences, to love in spite of differences, maybe he would have chosen love instead of hate.

And as a Christian, I know there are many “Christians” who express disgust towards homosexuals, yet when one is found guilty of adultery, gossip, slander, stealing, or something else they deem those “sins” as inadequate compared to what they believe is the sin of a homosexual. What someone does in their bedroom is their business. It’s not mine. It’s not yours. It’s theirs. If you believe in God, then you also know that Scripture says…

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

Basically, it says butt out. Mind your own business.

While that may sound harsh, leave the judgment to the God you believe in. If you feel the need to do something or say something, follow God’s word and pray. Don’t pray to change someone who’s different from you. Genuinely pray for them, that whatever is best for them will be, that the God you hold so highly, wrap them in His loving embrace and comfort them in any times of trouble. Cry out to God with your frustrations, concerns and fears. When we fail to trust the very God we expect others to follow and trust, we are no example to them. If we believe, as we say we do, in a loving and just God, then we should show our trust in Him by leaving the judgment and correction to Him and extend to others the grace and mercy He has given us.

The greatest commands are to love God and love others. Before anything else, we love God and others. A friend said to me, “Does your Bible say homosexuality is wrong?” Yes, it does. It also says tattoos, gossip, infidelity, stealing, murder and more are wrong. And it says we are all broken. It says we are all in need of something to fill our empty places. And it says we all have choices on what those empty places will be filled with. And it says if we choose to let those empty places be filled with love, we are full-filling the greatest and only commands we need to follow. By loving God and loving others, everything falls into place as it should.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:36-39

“Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8

“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:1-11

These are verses from my Bible. These are the commands of a loving, sovereign God.

Do bad things happen? Yes.
Does God punish people for the bad things they do? I believe He will.
Does He still mourn and grieve for those who turn from Him, those who do wrong, those who are hurt by the hands of another? I believe so.
Does He offer mercy, grace, and forgiveness? Yes.
Does He withhold that from anyone? No, it’s available to all.
Does He command us to do the same? Yes.

So while there are many things in Scripture that I may never understand, I do know God’s love is available to anyone. And I believe He loves everyone.

“… when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6

Christ died for the ungodly. Not the saints. Not the perfect people. Not the holier than thou. But for the broken, the needy, for all of us, not based on religion, sexuality, age, color, or name. We are all His creation. His desire is for not one person to be lost. But with that, He gives each of us the choice. He won’t force us to choose Him. We are free to make our own choices.

A religion may be a group of people who share a common belief, or even believe certain rituals or laws, but each individual is responsible for the choices they make. There are bad people and there are good people. There is sorrow and there is joy. There is pain and there is healing. What will you pour into others?

Many non-Christians or non-religious people say the Bible is filled with hate. I admit, there’s a lot in the Bible that makes very little sense to me, things I don’t think I’ll ever understand but as you really begin to understand the God of the Bible, you see, it’s His letter to us of guidance, hope, and love.

“We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” 1 John 3:12

Cain was evil. He was affected by sin. Each of us are given a choice. We can allow sin to control us or we can take control of that sin. Cain allowed his anger, his jealousy, to enrage him to the point he murdered his own brother. His deeds were evil. Cain made a choice to commit an evil act.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16

Each an every heart that ever beats is precious in God’s eyes. Every single one. And each and every person is given choices in life. The hate-filled men who murdered thousands of innocent people in the name of religion as they brought a country to her knees on a beautiful September morning…they were created, intricately, in the depths of a woman’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully made. And in a broken world, they had a need. They had an emptiness that only God should fill. Instead, the choices they made led those empty places to be filled with hate and evil. What should have been filled with peace, love and hope, was occupied by plans of devastation and murder, and done in the name of religion.

But religion did not cause the events of that September day. Broken people, who made hate-filled choices did.

Does God allow evil?

Each of those twenty precious babies from Sandy Hook Elementary had value. They had value to their parents, to their families, to their friends, and to a loving God. Did God want fear, suffering, and death for them? I don’t believe so.

I believe from the very beginning, from the moment God took the dust of the earth and formed it into a man, He had a plan. A grand, beautiful plan, but a plan we would play part in. He could have created us as robots that followed everything He desired but instead, He allowed us to make that choice for ourselves. Without a choice, there would really be no meaning or no purpose in our lives. With choices, we would learn to put others before ourselves, to love one another, to mourn with each other, to laugh and be joy-filled together, to pray together, to live together. And with that, we would learn differences, and with differences would come jealousy, anger, and hate. And we would have a choice. We could choose to look beyond those differences in acceptance and love, or we could choose to allow bitterness to take root and grow into a hate-filled heart.

If God is all-knowing and in control, how do our choices make a difference?

Because He is all-knowing, He knows our hearts. Our comprehension and understanding is inadequate compared to Him. After all, He created everything, with a single breath. Can you do that? His ways are beyond our understanding. But He is good. His purposes are good. His desire is for us to choose Him, to come to Him in our own free will…not forced, but to make a choice to serve Him, a good, loving God. Being in control means He is aware of the outcome and in the end, He wins. Evil cannot win. Evil does not get the final say. Hate does not win. Love does.

Some people bring up the Old Testament laws and use them against Christians today, calling us hypocrites. I understand that and honestly, there really are plenty of hypocrites in the church, and outside the church. I’ve been one myself. Again, we are all broken people. I’ve been a thief. I’ve been jealous. I’ve gossiped. And on, and on, and on. And I’ve loved. I’ve served. I’ve grieved. I’ve suffered. You name it, I’ve probably done it. I’m broken just like anyone else.

But I have something that the man who walked into a night club and took the lives of 49 innocent, precious, beautiful sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, did not have. I have faith in a good and loving God. My religion is not hate. My religion is Christianity. I am a believer in Jesus Christ. I believe in a God who became flesh as an example of how to forgive, to love, to care for others, to bring comfort, to serve, to live. I believe in a God who became flesh to show me that He understands the temptations and sufferings I would experience on this earth and that He alone can provide the strength and courage needed. I believe in a God who promises to be with me through every moment of joy and through every painful tragedy. I believe in a God who is not filled with hate or disgust for any person, because after all, He created each and every one of us, loving us from before our hearts even beat for the first time, with a grand plan that someday, we would join Him in a peaceful and perfect world, but only after He allowed us to choose that for ourselves.

Religion is not hate. God is not hate. Evil is hate.

“The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

People have a choice. Love or hate. Choose love. No matter what you believe, no matter what you’ve heard or what the media blows out of proportion. No matter the differences, no matter your location, no matter your history, no matter your future, choose love. Hate destroys what is meant to come together. Love brings unity and that is what God desires. We are “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” We are one nation. We are America. We are broken. We are all in need of something. Don’t let hate be what fills your empty places.

Let love win. Let love win. Let LOVE win!

 

 

No Greater Love | Day 3

This is Day 3 of “No Greater Love.” Be sure and read Day 1 and Day 2!

2016_NoGreaterLoveSeries_Day3

No greater love…

Comes with purpose…
Purpose in each and every little detail…
A perfect plan.

Comes with healing…
True healing…
Healing that can only come from God.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

No greater love…

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

Can you imagine giving your life for the sake of another? How great is that love?

“The soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull. There they crucified him.” John 19:17

He gave His life for me…and you.

He walked that road an innocent man, a saint, a healer, a comforter, a friend. He hung on that cross a mighty warrior, knowing what was to come. A moment of suffering was nothing compared to what He knew was coming.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

On that day, a man laid down His life for ours.
His body was laid inside a tomb.
And days later, the stone was rolled away.

God’s not dead! (Shameless plug…God’s Not Dead 2 comes out in theaters soon!)

He’s Alive!

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. Mark 16:7

Just as God had planned, he would send a savior into the world, a final sacrifice, the ultimate love. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die there on that cross atop Calvary, for us.

What a beautiful love!

Our Creator God came in the flesh to bear the wounds we deserved so we wouldn’t have to.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Mercy and grace at its fullest.

“Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:32-33

We have a purpose. God has a plan. His plan is a perfect place for us…those who love Him.

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

We live in a broken world, but in a life of momentary affliction because He says, these troubles are temporary but the beauty that is to come is eternal. Friend, I can only imagine that these trials we face in this brief life on earth is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the majesty that will one day be revealed.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21:3

We have healing. In all our struggles, all our pain, all our suffering, we have help. We have hope.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

Friends, know this…

He wins. God wins.

Darkness cannot overcome light. Evil cannot overcome a good God…and He is good. We may not always understand. We may never understand.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

But He knows. He knows what’s behind us and what’s to come. He knows our hopes and our heartaches.

He loves you.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

He loves you. There is no greater love.

Happy Easter…He lives!

 

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No Greater Love | Day 2

Welcome to day 2 of a three day series of the greatest love story. If you missed day 1, please check it out here. Then come back and join me as I share my own thoughts about His amazing grace and His beautiful love for us.

Friend, I’m praying for you…praying you find my words helpful and His truth healing.

We were created to need Him. Without sin, we were unable to fully see that need. But with sin, comes suffering and pain. And because He knew we would suffer, He gave us His Son…

“The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head.” John 19:3

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First, let me tell you a little story about the image above…since we’re talking about love. My sweet friends, Shane and Christy, allowed me to photograph this beautiful, yet heart wrenching crown of thorns. I couldn’t look at it without knowing just how big God’s love for us is. Shane crafted this crown of thorns with his own hands and then gifted it to his beautiful bride, an example of his love and the ultimate love.

We live in a perfect world, created by a perfect God who allowed imperfections, sin, and satan. Why? Why would God allow so much devastation, pain, horror? Many stories in the Bible share evils we can’t even begin to understand. We know stories of war, death, disease, and so much more. There is pain and suffering all around us.

And…there is healing.

“Oh Lord, my God, I cried out to You and You healed me.” Psalm 30:2

What a beautiful thing…healing.

My six year old daughter is playing soccer. She seems to enjoy these bumps and bruises she is racking up on the playing field. A few times recently, she has shown me some of these “battle wounds” as we refer to them. Each time, I remind her how within a few days, they will heal and how amazing it is that God designed our bodies with the ability to heal themselves.

We don’t have to do anything to a bruise for it to heal.

“…I am the Lord God who heals you.” Exodus 15:26

Sure, some wounds need extra help but isn’t it amazing to think that our Creator made our bodies in such a way that they could heal themselves? And beyond that amazement, He gave us the ultimate Healer for the things He knew we could not possibly heal on our own.

We, born into lives filled with sin, unable to truly right our wrongs or wipe away the disastrous results of our bad choices, mistakes, and sin. We cause pain in our own lives and we cause it in the lives of those around us. Sometimes, we do this without intent and other times, we do it with full intent of causing pain or harm.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

We are incapable of repairing the damage done by our own sins and the sins of others.

But God…

Knowing this, being part of His grand design and plan, sent us the ultimate healing in His Son, Jesus Christ who would walk this earth as a man, showing us the perfect example of how to live and how to love and He would ultimately go to the grave for our sake, in our place.

He would bear the wounds meant for us.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

And as only the Son of God could, He arose, to save us from our sins and fill us with the Holy Spirit that directs us, guides us, comforts us…Only God.

One Father, One Son, One Holy Spirit – Three in One…Only God.

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

God didn’t allow sin for sin to destroy us. I believe God allowed sin to show us our great need for Him, to draw us closer to Him, so we could understand the beauty in mercy, grace, hope, peace, faith, and love. By knowing suffering, we also know beauty. By knowing pain, we can know healing. By knowing Him, we can be healed.

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

God didn’t give us life to turn us over to death. He gave us death to give us life.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

Read the rest of my thoughts on this amazing love story in Day 3.

 

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No Greater Love | Day 1

Today is the first of a three day series of what I believe to be the greatest love story ever told…Let’s begin with purpose.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Purpose? Yes, purpose.

Take a breath. Grab a cup of coffee. Snuggle under your favorite blanket and ponder my thoughts. Know, my friend, that as I write this, I’m wishing we could be sitting in a coffee shop sharing a conversation face to face or in the comfort of my living room, enjoying the presence of wisdom and wonder together. But since this computer is what we have, let’s embrace it. Hello friend…there is purpose!

From the moment our hearts pump their first drop of blood, there is purpose.

In an instant, that purpose is life.

Some never take their first breath, but rest assured, they lived. For however short a time their heart beat inside their mothers womb, they were known. They were loved. They lived.

“When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16

Known. Loved. Life.

Each and every heart that beats has been known, loved, and lived.

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How can that be?

We live in a horribly broken world with devastation surrounding us daily. A quick glimpse of the news is enough to make any stomach churn. How can every single heartbeat be known, loved and live? Babies die every day. Children are abandoned. Mother’s and Father’s forsake, abuse, murder. Lives are tossed aside as if they have no meaning, no point, no purpose…like garbage or waste.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:4-7

But…each and every single heart that beats has been known, loved, and lived…by The One who created him, who knit him together in his mother’s womb. Not one went unloved.

“This is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall not lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:39-40

Not one. Not one life that chooses to believe. Not one heartbeat, whether is beats a thousand times for a thousand years or only once. Not one life that chooses Him will be lost. Can you believe that, my friend?

There is purpose.
In every beat of the heart. In yours, in mine, in the tiniest, most fragile heart.
There is purpose.

In the beginning, God created. None of us can claim that. We can’t take any credit for the trees, the stars, the clouds, the mountains, the ocean, and so on. We can’t even claim the own children who grow in our womb. Sure, we can do things to grow life, to sustain things but there is only One who can claim each and every creation.

He created the earth and from the dust of the earth, He breathed life into man…into us. And to the dust, our bodies will return. Each and every one of us. No one thats heart has beat escapes life and no one whose heart has stopped escapes death…in the physical sense. But every single heart that beats, lives…and every single life that lives has purpose.

That purpose can’t be explained by evolution, science, or even by our faith. We can’t prove our purpose beyond sharing our feelings and thoughts about the subject.

But there is purpose.

Otherwise, we simply wouldn’t exist. Without a reason, there isn’t a need.

Like…in the beginning, God created everything. He spoke the world into existence. And man, and woman; He breathed life into them. We can’t truly understand any of that because it’s simply beyond our ability to understand.

But purpose…Adam and Eve get blamed for all the worlds problems but Christians agree that God makes no mistakes. So, when we blame Adam and Eve for their bad choices, poor judgment, or lack of obedience, aren’t we essentially saying God made a mistake? That He created everything perfect and yet somehow, everything ended up imperfect? That sin was an accident, an afterthought, a big oops?

My point is this…even in sin, there is purpose. God allowed sin for a reason. I don’t have all the answers, and thankfully, I never will…because honestly, I don’t think I could handle that. And that’s probably exactly why we don’t have all the answers…because God knows, we’re confused enough as it is!

God does not make mistakes. He can’t. He is perfect and we are His perfect creations…sin and all.

Sin? Sin is bad…right? So why would God allow sin in a perfect world?

Without sin, we would have no true need for Him. Without sin, we would have no glory to reveal, no savior for saving. The point, the purpose, is to reveal God’s glory, to shine the light of Christ, to know Him, and to make Him known. Without sin, there would be no need for Him…and the purpose is to know Him, to need Him, to love Him, and to be loved by Him. Without sin, the world in which we live would already be perfect and we would miss out on all the glory and goodness He provides. We would know no different.

With sin, the ability to discern a difference between light and darkness, was born. With sin, came an understanding that we are not God but we are God’s, we need Him. With sin, came a desperate need for something more, something beyond our own explanations and comprehension. With sin, came pain and suffering, but with pain and suffering comes healing.

“God has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:9-10

Does that mean sin is good or okay? No. It just means there is purpose in it, even when we can’t understand.

“And we know that in all things God works for for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

What then, would be the purpose in sin? Sin separates us from God. Sin destroys life. Because of sin, physical death exists and because of sin, grace exists. Because of sin, we are weak. Because of sin, we are broken. Because of sin, we need. Because of sin, we need a savior. Because of sin, we need healing. Without sin, there would be no suffering and without suffering, we would need no savior. Because God allowed sin, we get to see the goodness of His glory in the presence of our Savior, His Son, Jesus Christ. Because of sin we need Him, and because He loves us, He gave us His Son…to give us life.

“He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds, we are healed.” Isaiah 53:8

“After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied.” Isaiah 53:11

You see, it is through our suffering that we have the ability to really see Him, how greatly we need Him, and to fully recognize the emptiness we have without Him. It is through that sin which gave us over to death, that He has overcome to give us life. There is purpose…to see His might and glory…to create in us a need for Him and to provide healing.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

And on that note, ponder a while on healing. I’ll be back tomorrow to pick up where I left off here. I hope you’ll join me again as we explore together this great love story. Click here for Day 2.

“Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

 

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Grace: Mom Grace…

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That kid…she’s pretty cool…most days (we all have our moments, right?!)

She calls me mom.
We call her Olivia, Livi, Liv, Livi Grace, and “The Giggler.”

She’s almost always smiling.
Everyone comments about her giggle (hence the nickname “The Giggler”)

She loves school.
She loves to read.
She loves that she can tie her shoes.
She loves her teacher.
She loves getting on purple (the best behavior color).
She LOVES art.

She loves to color, draw, paint, craft, use scissors, make messes, and not clean up!

She loves her brothers (aka “Stinky” and “Smelly”) sometimes.
She loves her friends.
She loves soccer.

She has her own “style.”
She loves bags, paper, pens, stickers (she gets that from me!).

That kid is full of energy, joy, and fun. She makes me laugh daily. And best of all, she calls me mom.

But some days, I let myself go there…you know the place…that ugly place where I feel sorry for her that she *has* to call me mom. That place where I think she got “the short end of the stick,” “the raw end of the deal,” etc.

Why do I do that?
Why do we, as moms, do that?
Why do we beat ourselves up when we don’t feel we are up to par?

That picture up there…that was from last week. The kids had silly hat day and together, Olivia and I came up with a crown, covered in shiny owls, shamrocks, gold washi tape, and more. She loved it! She called herself the “Cloverleaf Queen.” And of course, we captured the moment with a photo. I was the best mom ever!

For weeks now, all I have heard her talk about is Letterland day. She had this grand plan to be “Golden Girl.” She was excited, I was excited…but being me, human that is, I completely forgot about Letterland day. I even had a reminder from a friend just a few days ago, and still, this morning my little sunshine, my “Golden Girl,” headed off to school in her normal “style” without a pretty “G” or anything fancy and “golden” going on.

It was a mom fail.
Fail #2,345,678 or something like that.
The two boys ahead of her racked in most of those mom fails.

Being blessing #3 has it’s ups and downs. The fact that she is THE GIRL, gets her bonus points…especially after two boys. I never cared much for pink and purple until I was sooooooo tired of blue and red. That girl…yep, her room is PINK AND PURPLE (and I love it)!

And being THE GIRL who also loves art and crafty stuff gets her more bonus points with me because I love those things too! We work on our planners together. We color together. She crafts while I draw or read. It’s a wonderful life. Ahh, bliss!

Then there’s the part where I’m so over the whole mom thing, like PTO/PTA, classroom helper, snack provider, etc. See the boys got the best of it. Actually blessing #1 got the most because way back then, I was even on the PTA with a title and all (don’t remember my title now…I’ve blocked those memories…or they were just that long ago, LOL!). Blessing #2 got a few classroom party visits from mom, a couple of birthday lunches here and there, and the occasional cool points for dress up days. Blessing #3…well, I thought that because she’s THE GIRL and the fact there’s no babies on her heels, I’d be the coolest mom with her…you know, the one that’s always around, always helping, always seen, always available, always perfect?!

Well, guess what…that perfect mom DOES NOT EXIST!

You can argue with me on that, but I am 99.9% sure that mom is nowhere to be found. If you are her, then come give me lessons! Otherwise, stand back, smile, and give me grace! I’ll do the same for you!

Grace is a hot topic in this house lately. See I’m teaching a Bible study on Grace…but you know what? I think it’s really the other way around. It’s teaching me…God’s teaching me. God knows I’m stubborn…so stubborn. And He has to drill things home for me to get them. He knows I’m much more likely to teach others than to teach myself but by teaching others, He teaches me way more than I ever imagined I needed to know. So, He’s teaching me grace.

And today, I’m giving myself “Mom Grace.”

My girl was not “Golden Girl.”
I slept in (and enjoyed it).
It didn’t even cross my mind.
She will survive.
I’ll tell her, “You’ll always be my golden girl.”

And I’ll tell her, “I’m sorry.”
I’ll tell her, “I love you!”
I’ll ask her to extend grace.

And when I see other mom fails, I’ll remember this day…and I’ll extend “Mom Grace” to them!

Take it easy on you…this whole being a mom thing is tough. Don’t compare because there’s not a single other mother out there doing a better job than you! Just ask your kiddos! (but catch them on a good day and preferably not during puberty or the teenage years…because their brains don’t function properly at that point and you most likely will not get the right answer. Catch them before they’re a tween or after they’ve got their own kids!).

Grace, people. Grace! Today, extend mom grace!

 

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Update and book suggestions…

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Hey y’all! Today’s post is a nice laid back update :)  Here’s answers to a few questions…

What have you been up to?

Well, I’m in school full-time. I’m hoping to graduate in May with my Associates in Arts degree and then transfer and pursue a Bachelors in English. As if that isn’t enough, I’m heading into week three of teaching a new study on Grace at church. I’m also involved in a Tuesday morning Bible study with some amazing and dear women. I couldn’t do life without them and am so grateful God brought them into my life…just when I needed them! And of course I have the normal every day stuff…husband, kids, dog, and life. But ya know what…that last one, life…it’s good to be able to say I have life! Praise God. Last year this time, I couldn’t say that.

What’s up with the new things coming?

Well, I’m glad you asked! I posted back at the new year that big things were coming…they still are. I’m a little slow on that mostly because I’m focusing on school to make sure I graduate! I haven’t forgotten and ideas are being born and tweaked! Things are coming! For now, I can tell you there are plans for more regular posts on here. I have a very looooonnnnnngggg list of topics and hope to get those written and scheduled so they go out regularly. I’m looking at probably 2 to 3 posts a week for my goal. Also, other social media outlets are coming. If you don’t know about Periscope, check it out. I plan to start a 5-minute morning soon. Periscope is similar to YouTube, only it’s live. Basically, you would see me and be able to comment as I talk. I can’t plan anything with too much pressure right now so these 5-minute mornings seem like the best way to go. Topics will range from everyday life, parenting, Bible study, planner and journaling related things, and more. Basically a hodge podge of topics but the point is, I’ll be there. What I’ve realized from watching others on Periscope is that they become family. They become part of your life. You see them and you get to know them. It’s hard when you don’t see them for days and you wonder about them. Because I want to shine His light, I hope my 5-minute mornings will bring joy to your day! So, that’s in the works. I’m also on Twitter and YouTube. My YouTube videos are mostly planner related for now. (Did you know there’s a whole world of women obsessed with planners, paper, pens, stickers, and all that fun stuff?)

What are your book suggestions?

Right now, I’m reading a pile of books…and most of them have a shared theme. Grace & Identity. I’ve been reading these for the Bible study I’m teaching. The study is called, “Finding Your Place by Knowing His Grace.” Right now, it’s only available to the class I’m currently involved with but at some point I may take all my research and notes and write it up to share. It’s so worth digging into and one of the most crucial parts of this life to understand.

Books:

I Know His Name by Wendy Blight
Because He Loves me by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth
Lord, I Need Grace to Make It Today by Kay Arthur
Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson
In My Father’s House by Mary A. Kassian

If you’re looking for a good book, any of these would be a great one to grab. Grace is the foundation of God’s love for us. It’s His unwavering, unending love and acceptance…of You and me! It’s His precious gift to us. Understanding His grace opens the door to a life meant for living. If you aren’t sure about grace, have questions about it, or just want to know more, pick up any one of these books and start there. And I’d love to hear from you. If you have questions or thoughts you want to chat about, email me!

So, that’s it for now! Don’t worry…I’ll be back soon.

Want to help me? A couple things I’d really appreciate…your prayers. Prayers for what’s to come here and through other social media…that God would keep me humble and grounded, obedient and consistent, fully relying on Him. And also, share this out…my blog, Periscope, Twitter, Facebook page and so on. It’s not about the numbers but every life that has a chance to hear is the possibility of another life changed. Help me extend that grace. Let’s shine His light!

Love & Blessings,

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