I sat close to the back that night. I was with the few friends my age that came with their parents. We were not supposed to be there, really. Afterall, it was a youth camp… we had no choice but to come with our parents who led the camp events. It was a beautiful night in the mountains of Toro Negro in Puerto Rico. The warmth of the late sun kept the chill away. As always, I was playing and whispering to my friends. The music was over and now it was time for the boring message. It didn’t matter to me, I was 7, and I had other things on my mind… or so I thought until… something caught my attention, “Who is your best friend? Do you know how much they love you?” Rev. Guzman asked. I perked up. Something about that questions started pulling me in. As he spoke and compared the love of Jesus to the love between friends, family and more, I realized two things: 1. I wanted a best friend to love me like Jesus, forgiving me when I did wrong things, holding me when I’m afraid. I didn’t think my BFF loved me that way and 2. I want to love others like Jesus, being able to love my friends and family. I needed to know more. I needed MORE. As I listened, I realized that I wanted this LOVE of Jesus. I wanted Him to fill me with His LOVE. I felt, at that very moment, the love of Christ pulling me towards Him. I suddenly yearned to be loved, not like Mami and Papi loved me, but more. I WANTED MORE LOVE. and so it happened, I found myself among the youth at the altar that night…I found myself surrounded by this amazing, deep, profound LOVE. It was so strong that it overwhelmed me…and as the tears fell, I heard Jesus telling me, “I LOVE YOU. I will show you how much I love you.” My heart was filled with love that day, and has been spilling out with love ever since.
I suppose you can say that I began to learn to love my husband that night, when the LOVE of Christ came into my heart. Without me realizing it, as time went by, the closer my walk with Christ was and my relationship grew with the author of love, my love for those around me grew too. I learned to LOVE through Jesus. I learned what unconditional LOVE was. I learned how to give it to others. I learned to… well… just love and within that I wanted everyone to come to Christ to feel the same LOVE (grace, forgiveness, transformation). It is true what they say, you cannot give what you don’t have. To give love to others, real authentic unconditional love, you have to have it yourself. That love only comes from the author of LOVE, God.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”–John 13:34-35
It would be easy to say that Todd compelled me to love him when he showered me with compliments, or when he would say beautiful words, or give me of what little he had… but that wouldn’t be true. What compelled me to love Todd was Christ. I saw from afar the LOVE of Christ in Todd. I listened, observed and yes, questioned. I talked to others about Todd, others that knew him. I heard his struggles and his resolve. I heard the stories and watched as new stories developed. Yet, none of that was enough until I felt God pushing me, yes PUSHING me, towards Todd. And the more I fought and tried to pull back, the more God “pushed” me towards him. God compelled me. He knew what He was doing, because I certainly didn’t. And when on Feb. 14, 1991 came for Todd to fly back to Michigan, I was thrilled, because he had been relentless and was driving me crazy. “Well, good” I thought, “That is the end of that.”
God had other plans!
In the next several weeks God kept “compelling me,” not just to HIMSELF but to my amazement, towards Todd. Then the letters started, and continued. I found myself reading all about him, his thoughts, difficulties, goals, and more, so much MORE. In return I found myself writing to him all about me, my life, my goals and MORE. As the letters grew in number my heart began to grow with it. In many ways I tried to fight it, but God’s LOVE is so compelling that I could see it in Todd.
Time passed and we finally were able to spend time with each other. I watched and observed more, how he related to my friends and my family in Oklahoma. The most difficult time in my life was about to happen. I knew God was there, and of all people for him so send me, it had to be Todd. Weeks later Todd was gone and I was back in Puerto Rico.
Here I was again, back in the land where God’s compelling LOVE got ahold of my heart and began to fill me, change me and grow me. I realized within a few days that I had a new LOVE. And as I was overwhelmed by Christ’s love that night in the mountains, many years prior, I found myself overwhelmed back in Puerto Rico, but this time by Todd’s love. I thought to myself: God wins! Todd Wins! However, soon after, my heart went numb, as my mother lost her battle to cancer. My heart froze, and I couldn’t feel either LOVE.
Several weeks passed. I wound up flying back to the USA, and eventually my Dad paid to fly me out to see Todd. The moment I saw him, my heart cried out. And that unending pain that I felt in my heart came out like a dam breaking. He held me for 2 hours and within his arms I found the loving comfort that I could find with God. That is when I knew, God’s LOVE for me was like Todd’s love for me, and I knew that just as I could rely on the LOVE of God in my daily walk and relationship with Him, I can rely on Todd.
God’s LOVE Compelled me to Himself and later to my now husband. This February, first find that unconditional LOVE that GOD can GIVE YOU and second, find the one who LOVES you the same. That unique LOVE of GOD can be found in the person who LOVES God just as uniquely as you. You will then find that as you LOVE GOD, you will also LOVE your spouse. In return, as your spouse LOVES GOD, they LOVE YOU. That is God’s unique, awesome and compelling LOVE.
On the flip side of my last blog, I have to bring to the forefront the one-sided ideology that has been bubbling up in today’s society. It makes me realize how often our actions come from our hearts (or lack thereof). The two extremes of love and hate are familiar to each and every one of us. Our humanity always leans toward one or the other, but usually our human nature leans into the side of hate. Why is this? It is because our first natural impulse is selfish, and selfishness eventually consumes us. The worst thing is this same selfishness refuses to admit fault, and then blames others for our own anger and hate.
” They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” –Romans 1:29-32 (NIV)
So what causes hate? Hate is a response to the anger that comes from fear and pain. This response is usually directed towards an unwanted action (Going all the way back to childhood it progresses just like this: he took my ball, I’m afraid he won’t give it back, I am so mad, I hate it when he does that, I hate him!) This action leads to unwanted results which causes pain and hurt. The fear of falling back into that result or revisiting it, causes anger, regrets and sometimes doubts. For many, hating the action turns into the hate towards a person or persons. It can begin as something as acceptable as saying “I hate that you were raped.” but may lead to, “I hate who did this to you.” In a society where the anger and hate toward certain people is actually encouraged, it grows far too easily. It may jump even further to a hatred of a group of people, “I hate people that look like the rapist.” Sometimes our minds increase the targets of our anger, and hate grows: “I hate all men because they are all rapists,” Then we start a vendetta of hate towards others without reason or logic, all based on fears… We are then so CONSUMED by hate that there is no stopping it.
Yet, our society takes that “hate” even further, it begins to include all those with which we disagree. From where I am, I see a lot of people who do not see everything the way I see it. And that is fine, because we all agreed about everything there would be no sense in communication, sharing beliefs, sharing experiences and more. I would allow my bad experiences to redefine who I was and allow the anger to expand. I would have been consumed by hate and therefore become…well, a “Grinch,” unhappy, miserable, lonely and even suicidal. Hate that consumes us does not allow us to see past ourselves and our selfishness. We see everything through the lens of darkness. It takes us to a life of darkness full of hate and somewhere in the back of the mind, shame. Since it is the opposite of “love,” it is the opposite of “God” because God is LOVE. So if we are consumed by hate, we do not have God. (1 John 4:20)
“We love because he first loved us.Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” — 1 John 4:19-20
Now there is a fine line between actions based on “hate” and “caution.”
If we have been involved in a painful experience, our human response is to be “cautious” when encountering similar situations, places and people. It does not mean that we “hate,” but that we do not “trust” the situation, place or person. We are not responding out of anger, but out of learned experiences. This prevents us from putting ourselves back in danger.
So what do I do to keep anger, that may lead to hate, out of my mind and hence out of my heart? I PRAY… a lot. I am reminded of the scriptures that say, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be children of your Father in heaven… (Matthew 5: 44b-45a). I pray for God’s guidance, strength and wisdom. I pray for Him to help me get through it. I pray that I may not hate but love. I pray to restrain my anger ( a lot) and keep my heart focused on Christ. I pray for forgiveness for my anger and ask God to help me forgive the one who has hurt me. Prayer leads us to humbleness…like Jesus was towards those who crucified him. So the next time someone cuts you off in traffic and fills you with the fear of death, before anger and hate can grow, pray for that other driver, then forgive them and finally pray for their salvation.
Second, take time to heal. Find people to help you heal. Read the scriptures. Listen to the Christian songs and their lyrics. Many of the writers have gone through similar situations. Find support with friends and family. Don’t try to heal alone, as it may lead to depression, loneliness, guilt and even suicidal thoughts. Instead, seek out others whom you feel safe to talk to. A counselor can be a great help here. Healing takes time, sometimes months and at times years. Remember that you are LOVED by God and you in turn need to learn to love yourself as well. However, true healing takes place through GOD. Allow Him to work in you daily. Even when all you want to do is cry. In this process there is a need to forgive yourself, not because you are to blame (because you are not) but because you need to move forward with a clean conscience.
“‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people. “‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord. “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. ” Leviticus 19:16-18
Third, I believe it is hard to love, especially when you have been wronged. But I have learned that the best way to love is to forgive. This opens the door for love to come in and hate to go out. As mentioned above, we need to pray and ask God to help us. Forgiving the person that has wronged or hurt you is hard to do. I’m not saying that you have to go and hug them… Pain is still fresh, but do what God has asked you to do. I suppose it is complicated because if they have done something unlawful, turning them in to face justice may be necessary. This way they may not hurt others as they have hurt you. But this act alone should be out of love, with hopes for life change in them, not hate. You are giving them the opportunity to make things right. and you are saving and protecting others. A lot of self-examination needs to happen before you are ready to forgive. A lot of healing will need to happen before you are ready (or a lot of conviction by God).
Last, reconcile what happened by sharing your experience with others. In other words, testify. Details are not important, do not romanticize the experience, but share the pain and the healing with others. Hopefully you will be able to share the forgiving of yourself and the person/persons involved. There are a lot of people who have similar experiences. They are full of pain, fear, anger and hate. Help them get rid of their hate and find peace in Christ. Help them heal, help them not to be consumed by hate.
I encourage you to see past the pain, the fear and anger that lead you to hate. Do not be consumed by it, but be realeased. Let the LOVE OF GOD fill your hearts with Love. For His unique LOVE will break the walls of hate and find peace. Live cautiously but without hate. Live peacefully without endangering yourself. Live joyfully healed and sharing what God did for you. Be unique in the your life of prayer, healing, forgiveness and love. Remember, God LOVES your uniquely you. 😉
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
As soon as my first child, Celeste, was lifted from my womb due to a c-section done because her heartbeat showed duress, the nurses rushed her to check her. I couldn’t wait. I called her by the name Todd and I had chosen if we had a girl, “Celeste.” At that moment I saw her beautiful face turn towards me as she blinked, to what seems to focus on me, with all that junk on her face. It was the most captivating moment and a treasured memory. The nurse allowed me to touch her before she was cleaned up. With my second and third it was just as captivating as I held both Aliza, and later Erica, in my arms for the first time.
Watching the girls be mesmerized by the Christmas lights as we drove through the Kansas City Zoo years ago made my heart leap with joy. They especially loved the real live nativity scene later that night when we visited our church. We pointed out the “Star of Bethlehem” and the “3 kings” in the night sky often, remembering how mesmerized and captivated I was by them, growing up. I loved watching stars move across the night sky wondering how amazing it would have been at the birth of Jesus. It was, of course, Sirius, (the brightest star in the sky) and the 3 stars of Orion’s belt. (which, if you drew a line through them, point directly to Sirius.) But it didn’t matter, it was the reminder and the “wonder” of what took place over 2000 years ago that kept my girls and us in awe at Christmas.
I treasured the memories of my girls growing up: When they first encountered Santa, and, yeah they cried, except for Erica who, as a baby, instead tugged at his beard. I’m sure they wondered, trying to figure out how he fit into the story. When they participated in the Christmas programs, and sang even when, as toddlers, did not cooperate fully with the directions. (we had a runaway angel once). Later, when they were older, they helped other children choose the gifts for their parents, wrapped their presents, did crafts with them and dressed up as elves for photos, all for the sake of less fortunate children. One year, they wrote their own play and presented it to the family. They learned to bake and decorate cookies. All those memories and more, I cherish. Those memories captivated my heart as I’m sure it captivated theirs. Those little moments, so significant to even the youngest, bring an amazing wonder to the awesomeness that is Christmas.
The songs playing around us, the smell of cookies and pies being baked, or in our case, flans and tembleque, watching our children open gifts, smiling with joy, baking cookies or drinking hot chocolate by the fireplace (here in the US), gathering with friends and family for meals, visits and church services, all to celebrate this amazing time of year. The gift exchanges, the joy and laughter that come with it, participating in the parrandas and trullas in Puerto Rico, visiting family, and yes, eating everywhere you go, listening to the people celebrating, seeing the lighted homes, the Christmas trees, it is all captivating indeed. But not as captivating as that morning long ago.
I am reminded often of how captivating were the events that surrounded the birth of Christ. Those stories that Mary “pondered” in her heart. She memorized every detail, the angels as they passed on the message, her fears, her visit to her cousin Elizabeth and how she reinforced the message of the angel. She remembered having to deal with Joseph and his fears. (And I’m sure somewhere in her life she had to deal with telling her family and friends). Then there was the trip to Bethlehem, the arrival, and searching for a place to stay. This was followed by the birth of the Messiah, Emmanuel, Jesus. Then she heard how the angels showed up, and told the shepherds who the child was. Then came the move to Egypt, and the arrival of the wise men… and so much more. I am certain that as Mary held her new born and was captivated by Him, his lillte hands, fingers and toes and wondering eyes, she could not imagine what this child would bring to the world. Oh, to be capture by His first first smile, steps, words and more. In awe Mary held her baby close. All these memories were captivating… even more so than anything we have encountered during Christmas.
It is the story of long ago, the wonders that led to the birth of Jesus, then the actual birth followed by Jesus himself. This is what ultimately captivates me the most. The promise of salvation, the way to salvation that was made for me through this child. Salvation that came through an infant as fragile and innocent as any other child, yet the Son of God, better yet, “God with us.” He began as a baby who was vulnerable, trusting His mother Mary and his earthly father, Joseph to take care of Him. He found his attention captivated by his surroundings. I’m sure, as he saw through human eyes and felt with His human heart, he was amazed by the world he found himself in.
I wonder, I am captivated by that baby that I never met face to face. Yet, I carry Him in my heart. I am in awe of what He went through to come to us, of what He, Jesus, did for us. For it was this unique and amazing child that brought the Love of His father so that I can live captivated by his forgiveness. He brought the presents of HOPE, JOY, LOVE, PEACE and GRACE that only He can give. I pray that, this Christmas, you too are uniquely captivated by HIM!
“Guilt can either hold you back from growing or it can show you what you need to shift in your life”
As I turn towards my dining room table I hear Serenity’s four paws hit the floor. I instantly know exactly where she has been, on my dining room table. “Serenity!” I yell with a mommy’s mean voice. “Were you on the table again?” As alwasy she responds by guiltily tucking in her tail and walking slowly to her crate.
Now some would argue that she thinks you are getting after her for jumping from the chair and not the table. Well, she is certain now! I kept an eye out until sometime in late September I caught her on the table slurping some food my middle daughter had left on the table. Serenity was only 4-5 ft away when I ran into action as I yelled “Serenity! NO! NO!” She jumped from the table.
Serenity, not wanting to look at Todd
I caught her mid-air and told her what a bad girl she had been! Well, that freaked her out. If she had any doubts about what she had been getting in trouble for. You better believe she has no doubt now! Yep! This doggie not only knew she was caught, but knows she is guilty, and on top of that she knows her punishment.
She hasn’t been near the table since. She had run, again with her tail tucked, to her crate feeling guilty and ashamed. She, in fact, stayed there quite some time. Funny, when I explained to Todd what she had done and he had looked over at her, Serenity would not even look at him… Yes, guilt is a powerful tool, even for dogs.
People are like Serenity. Yet people are different. We take guilt to a new level. Not only do we feel guilty when we are caught, and we are guilty, but become defiant at times for feeling guilt. (God forbid we are actually guilty). We hence have 2 different reactions in 3 three different forms:
1. We feel so bad that we take the road to change whatever caused that guilt by doing better and allowing it to change us for the better, or get better at hiding the feeling because if we ignore it, we can pretend it is just not there.
2. We respond to the person who caught us by apologizing and sometimes promise to do better (humbling ourselves) or being angry that they caught us and respond with hate as if it is their fault.
3. We admit to ourselves what we did wrong, and do not repeat it at all, or we simply refuse to allow it to change us, letting pride take over by telling ourselves we did nothing wrong… or worse, they deserve it…
So, either we feel bad, apologize and admit we did wrong, or we become defiant, blame others and justify the wrong.
These two opposite responses have a big impact in our lives and the lives of those around us. We create a void within ourselves or between “me” and “him”/”her”/ “them”. We wind up justifying what we did by blaming others or just by blaming the event itself. We forget the reason why “guilt” is a feeling altogether and we somehow blame the person for making us feel guilty. We somehow jump over the “being” guilty and right into “feeling” guilty. Somehow, it is someone’s else fault. Another words, we refuse to accept that we may be guilty after all and we wouldn’t feel guilty if that person wouldn’t point it out. Because feeling guilty is wrong. We refuse to realize it, but guilt has it’s chain around us and there is no escape.
When we feel guilty..
Surely, not all feelings of guilt are due to something we have done wrong. It may be that we are innocent, but somehow got caught up in the web of someone else’s wrong. Yet, we can use the feeling as a way to learn how to be more careful. We may have made a decision that led to it, like running with the wrong people knowing that they like to cause trouble. (Some events occur around us with bad results without us having anything to do with it. Then it becomes a “victim’s guilt.”) Sometimes we just need to talk to someone who we trust and they can help us clarify the feeling of guilt. It is important to understand the difference here.
In reality, the feeling of guilt is our conscious bringing up the feeling we have done wrong, and therefore we may be guilty. That guilt is the process that we must go through in order to learn how to better make decisions that are RIGHT. Overall, we need to have that feeling of “guilt.” Just like “Fear” causes us to be careful, to pay attention and warns us when something may not be right, “Guilt” is the aftermath when our choices have been wrong. To ignore it, or blame it on others, (through anger and hate) is like a dog who continues to jump on the table regardless of the punishments, or one who actually snaps and bites it’s owner for getting after it.
“Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘“What? Are we blind too?”’ Jesus said, ‘“If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”‘ —John 9:40-41 NIV
Re-evaluating instead of ignoring (which, by the ways, leads to the feeling of anger), our guilt may be very difficult and painful at times, but in the long run, we become better for it. We need to be truthful with ourselves and see, “did I really do something wrong here” or is “so and so” making me feel guilty for something they have done. Either way, facing it strengthens us, helps us make better decisions and ultimately helps us have a more peaceful life.
Jesus himself teaches us the need to see the wrongs we have done, and admit them to God and ourselves. We must find the truth in forgiveness so that we wont be “guilty of sin.” He does not want us to be chained to it, but find freedom from guilt. This is where Jesus’ forgiveness is important. There is an extraordinary feeling when we have put that guilt to rest by evaluating it, accepting it when it is our fault and dealing with it. Resolving our feelings may take time, but is very well worth it in the end.
“..let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” –Hebrews 10:22 & 23
I’m pretty sure Serenity has learned her lesson and now she will be happier because she wont get in trouble since she has changed her ways. Hopefully I can be even better than her and remember my mistakes so that I won’t repeat them. I find peace knowing that I have gone through the evaluating process and no longer feel guilt. If anything, I do hate feeling guilty, even more than dogs hate it when we tell them they have been “bad.” So, as I go through my weird and unique life I will continue to be humbled enough to re-evaluate any guilt that may come my way. For me, the Holy Spirit places that unnerving sense of guilt when I go against God’s will. It is necessary in my life as it is in all of our lives. Without it we cannot change and be transformed for the better. Without knowing when we have gone astray we cannot grow or feel free of our guilt. My unique life needs to continue to go forward guilt free. Thank you Lord for your forgiveness that sets me free, and that unique peace that only You can give.
I have struggled with my thoughts about what to write for almost 2 weeks now. It seemed the more I tried, the more frustrated I became. As I observed, heard and read about the events around me, the more extreme the opinions around me got. The more confusion arose within me. People were becoming more angry and emotional with each story, assumption and lie spoken. An angry, hateful beast grew throughout. It soon became painful to watch. And although I truly believe in the freedom of speech, all I could see reminded me of the bullies, the accusers and even the attackers of long ago. Emotions rang higher than the information, and reason was swallowed by assumptions and accusations without evidence.
I have been on both sides of the stories in the headlines these weeks.
I was a victim of sexual assault as a pre-teen. I remember it still in every detail: who it was, when he came in, where I was, how old I was, the day, the soundings, what he said, how he looked at me, those eyes, what he did, how I fought, what I did, who I told, what happened afterwards, how it changed me. I have ALWAYS remembered, but I didn’t let it cripple me. As a teen, it happened again, an older man, exposing himself…. It was enough for me… and I made it a mission not to let any man make me feel small, weak, manipulated… I learned to avoid the situations where these types of things might occur. I was fearful, distrustful and always self-conscious. I stayed away from situations, and guys that I felt uncomfortable with. I learned to read the eyes… the dark, lustful and hungry eyes…
Then I remembered how GOD healed me, protected me, helped me overcome the pain, the fears and issues. But I never forgot how untrusting I became of men bigger than me. (Which is pretty much all of them). They made me feel intimidated. I learned to see anger, greed, lust and hate in their yes. That was my biggest impact. They became the lessons that shaped me throughout my life. Yet God had to reshape the events in my life in a healthy way so that I wouldn’t get lost in the grip of victimhood. I was shaped into a wiser and more gracious person yet guarded.
As a woman, over the years I have been followed, hooted, whistled, “invited,” you name it… it has been said to me… by men of all ages. backgrounds, cultures and languages. Just as it happens to almost all women. But it no longer bothered me, I learned to block it out and ignore it. At least, I told myself, they know I am a woman. (And as my husband pointed out, appreciate God’s creation :D)
On the other side: I have been the victim of false accusations… several times actually… too many times… From childhood to adulthood….
I feel I must be an easy target, just as I was an easy mark for the older teen many years ago, who tried desperately to molest me. After all, I am small in stature, petite, always wanting to help, I have a great imagination, “naive” to some degree, and too compassionate, trusting and forgiving many times. All these led me to be an easy target when I was younger. I seem to draw the anger of people, their fears, insecurities and more.
Those experiences led me to be more feisty, making me stand up for myself, protect myself and become self-sufficient. This led to other types of false accusations… from the way I spoke, to my culture, to what I said (or did not), to my strong attitude… well… (I can tell you many stories from the last 30 years of my life but that would require writing a book). I had become, in their opinions, the one to blame for their mistakes, their feelings of guilt, their embarrassments, inefficiencies or just the easiest target. I have more bruises than I can count.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..” –Matthew 5:43,44
I was assumed a “flirt” because I was nice and hugged everyone. I was assumed a fake because I was smiling and happy most of the time. I have been assumed to be disrespectful because I was outspoken. I was assumed arrogant because I spoke with passion. I have been assumed too be many things, and falsely accused of anything (from being fake, to being arrogant, to not letting my husband minister, to being an uncaring mother, to not being christian enough and too Puerto Rican, and so on)…Thinking that if I somehow am forced to accept the blame (their responsibility), they will feel better and their life might become easier. Sometimes it was just to get me out of the way and replace me for one of their own. Sometimes it was just because things didn’t go their way…and so on. Yet the issues never did went away but their hate for me grew…
I realized one thing: I can overcome the sexual assaults, but the ones that followed me the most, the ones that gloom over me are the words of false accusations… that still hurts the most to this day. They came from people I trusted, I considered friends, people I thought loved God and colleagues. Their words always came with fear and anger….hateful anger… that cuts the soul…coming out of nowhere. Words that don’t make sense, exaggerations, lies and more. They just sneak up behind you when you least expected… and fire up in multiple ways.
The assault was the act of one person, he made me feel used, worthless and fearful. The unjustified accusations are the voices of many…. and they echo in my head. They destroy self-esteem, confidence, worth… they make you question who you are as a whole… it is the bullies from childhood multiplied by 10. They try redefine you, shaking your identity and your belief…. and suddenly you realize you are a victim all over again…and you feel you can’t fight back…
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” __ Matthew 5: 10-12
I have learned over the years that those heavy, fierce and accusatory assumptions have been based on many things: jealousy, fear, anger, dislike, hate, discontent, disinformation, lies and exaggerations.
Another realization came to me, how dangerous our assumptions of others can become. I understand that I too have assumed opinions of others. I have learned to give them the “benefit of the doubt” as often as possible. Ironically sometimes, I put myself at a disadvantage to the point of being manipulated by doing so. However, it is still a better option. I would rather observe, listen, read and ask as many questions as possible so that I may avoid the false assumptions of others that many have rendered on me. I’m not always right. and sometimes I fail to do a complete job. Sometimes I do rely on my gut feelings verified through prayer, and information from trusted people. I try so hard to love and forgive the ones who do not love me. I give them the benefit of the doubt in hopes that things will turn around. But I have also learned to guard myself.
As Christians we will always be in danger of being “scapegoats,” the target of presumed guilt and more. As a pastor, minister, or leader, we have giant targets painted on us, that at any time may be fired upon. The Enemy, Satan ( the accuser), will take advantage of using our own people, even “friends” to put us down. We become the target of unforseen attacks. We need to remember to stay strong, in prayer, laying our burdens at the feet of Christ. We need Jesus to get through those difficult days. It is important not to allow the attacks of others to overtake me and control my future or who I am.
So what do I do when I feel attacked by someone who is reflecting their fears, anger, jealousy, hate, insecurities or more, at me:
After crying…a lot, (Being honest here), I PRAY and CRY TO GOD
I Talk to someone who I can trust spiritually and emotionally, someone who can remind me that God loves me and does not see me the way the attackers do. (For me is my husband and dad, both who are also ministers).
I read the Bible and find solace and peace in the words of Christ.
I surround myself with those who do love me, my family and friends .
I write my journey in a diary or journal, it seems to help me…. (I have heard that others use music, art or go to the gym to help them…. anything that will help you release the pain in a healthy way.)
I REMIND MYSELF THAT I HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, GOD LOVES ME, and GOD IS STILL WORKING IN ME.
I stay connect to God’s family by being at church and events where the faithful can be found. (Let them also pray for you)
Eventually I see my painful, yet unique experiences, reshaping me. The trick is to let it reshape me into the person God wants me to be, stronger, wiser, loving and yes, graceful. And because I have been on the other side, more often than I like. I do my best not to let my opinions of others hinder them or me. I do my best to extend them love and grace as often as possible. I understand that the more they hurt you the harder it is… and this is where TIME is on our side. Because TIME does HEAL and GOD’s TIME is different from ours so… HEALING is VERY POSSIBLE.
I encourage you to search your hearts before you form any opinion or assumption of others. Remember, Christ came to forgive, not accuse, and if we call ourselves Christian we should be forgiving. I Also encourage you to search your hearts when you have fallen into the trap of victimization, whether it be physically, sexually, mentally or spiritually, as you heal. Let God be your HEALER. Let God be your VOICE. Let GOD be that unique part of you that gives forgiveness, grace, and understanding of others. Be UNIQUELY JESUS as He reshapes you to be UNIQUELY HIS.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.” –Isaiah 55:8 (NIV)
Our biggest fear is “failure.” It seems such an ugly word, and many use it to bring us down. Or we simply bring ourselves down. We begin to spiral into the abyss of failure with no way to get out.
I once was asked, many years ago, if I could ever fail… I thought about the question carefully, realizing that there was a hint of entrapment there. Unless she wanted to know how I failed to be on time most of the time, or “failed” to do the dishes that morning, nothing really came to mind. Surely that is not what she meant. Maybe she was wondering if I have been a failure?? The best I could think of was to see this as a spiritual teaching moment, and what I understood the word to mean within the realms of my Christian life. I responded, “As long as I do what God asks of me, and I follow His commandments I will not fail.” Well, that answer didn’t sit well with the person asking. Apparently her definition for “fail” was different. To me, it was what would cause me to be a failure within my calling and as a Christian. Frankly, I refuse to allow the fear of being one (a failure), to keep me from doing what I believe to be God’s will…. or else I would fail.
We are raised to avoid failure at all costs. In fact, if you are not encouraged to “NOT FAIL,” it is because you are told that you already have. Sadly, I have heard this from many teens, and even some adults. The expectations of parents give the person a nerve wracking stress, crippling them, sometimes for life… if they do not meet them.
Yet, we see failure as our own personal evil, something to avoid and fear. After all… it is the one thing that can stop us from moving forward in our education, jobs, relationships and even in marriage. And if we fail, we may bring down others with us.
I have come to the conclusion that “fail” is seen and defined differently by many. When asked “how do you define failure?” I get different answers. Everyone defines it differently, and most likely it’s based on their experiences.
Based on these all of us have not only failed but will always fail at one thing or another. We would, by definition, be failures and so why even bother. With so many “failures” in our resume…. how are we going to survive this life? How are we going to come out ahead?
Jesus gives us a way out. He gives us the ability to overcome those failures and pulls us out of the human sense of “failure,” as defined by ourselves and society. He changes this to focus on His expectations.
For Christians, being forgiven by Christ and living the Christian life, cannot fail, unless we fall short of God’s expectations for us. We no longer need to “conform to this world,” but “be transformed.”(Romans 12:2). God sees failure differently. Simply put, as a Christian, what “failure” is changes from the human perspective into the spiritual perspective. It then gives us HOPE that our LIFE is worth living, that we are not “failures.” We are simply humans that make mistakes and grow, learn, and become better.
“For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.” —2 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)
Yes, I am aware that my definition, though very biblical, may be controversial in a society where everyone must consider themselves to have failed, or, according to some Christians, or they are not sufficiently humble. Truly, do you actually need to fail to learn? Can’t we learn from observation, and avoiding mistakes others have made? Do you have to go through the emotional whirlpool of embarrassment, depression and more, in order to learn? I truly believe that the person that is constantly learning to do better should not need to feel a failure, or have to have failed, to learn. It seems so negative in all senses of the word, and leaves behind the faith and hope of Christianity. This is human failure… before Christ.
According to the Bible we fail when we: (I have included some Bible verses, but there are many more.)
Do not follow God’s commandments (Lev. 26:14-16, Numbers 32: 22-24, Deut. 8:11)
Do not have faith (Luke 22:31-32, Mark 8:17-19,
Do not see our own spiritual shortcomings before helping others. (Luke 6:41-43)
Do not do it for God (Acts 5:38-39, Mark 10:29-31, Romans 15:1-3)
Do not pray (1 Samuel 12:22-24)
It seems to me that “failure” is not about success, marriage, passing courses, or our health. Failure, biblically, is a spiritual matter. In fact, it leads to sin. In other words, when we do not live a life according to God’s will, we have failed. Yet, when we fail to abide by that, God’s grace provides us an out. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23)–in other words we have “failed” because we fall short. He reaches out and raises us up, giving us hope once again, forgiving and reestablishing us so that we are not “failures” but growing, getting better. The Bible, therefore, sees failure or “to fail” differently from the secular view. The concept changes when Christ becomes our Savior.
As Christians, we must be held accountable to our faith, to the biblical standards of failure. Does this mean that we cannot fail in the secular sense of the word? Of course not, we make many human mistakes, but we are not failures according to God. We just simply make mistakes. However, as Christians, the question is, “is it beneficial to us to see human failures as a thermometer of our heart?” NO, we should see the spiritual ones as a way to measure our heart and relationship with God. This will make us not only stronger but it will constantly change us to do better, be hopeful, and seek God more. Otherwise desperation, depression and the loss of self-worth will overcome us.
As unique as each of us are, our mistakes are all different. But they do not make us failures, especially if we strive to see it from God’s point of view. As I have challenged myself to see it from a different perspective, to define “fail” as God does, so I also challenge you. You will notice that you will continue to grow more, better, and stronger if you focus on following God’s will and Word in your life. And next time someone wants to point out your failures simply say, “I have made mistakes, but God isn’t finished with me yet. I will not fail if I learn to do better.” Because after all, you are uniquely you 🙂
“I know the plans I have for you,” announces the Lord. “I want you to enjoy success. I do not plan to harm you. I will give you hope for the years to come.” –Jeremiah 29:11 (NIRV)
Over 20 plus years ago I stepped onto the grounds of Southern Nazarene University. Little did I know that during my years of study there my life would change, my experiences would shape me, events would break me and God would rebuild me.
I went in with the illusion and dream, as many high school grads have… that I knew what I wanted to be. I thought I knew what would become of me after my studies. I had my life planned out. I pretty much had my priorities all down. I had a car, and a job, and now I had a pathway to my future. I was in a great university, and so far, people liked me. Everything would be great. I would get a B.A. in Religion with a Psychology Minor, maybe add on theater… I would find the most amazing, handsome and God-loving 6 foot tall “Superman” I could during that time. We would get married right after I graduate. W’d move to the mission field in some other country, have our children there, 4 of them, and live happily ever after.
Yeah…NOPE! That did not happen…
I did get my B.A. in Religion though, and did marry a shorter, but not so perfect version of “Superman.” But that is all that went along with my plan. Within the grounds of the university I found passion in Mission Studies that replaced the minor in Psychology, and I even saw the opportunity to get a second minor in Spanish. I responded to those changes with glee… but then…
I got derailed…
My life got derailed…
It wasn’t all for the bad… for God had other plans for me within the events of my life and maybe even as a response to the “tragic times” of them. Little did I know that God would create a pathway that would carry me in different directions.
Between my junior year and senior year I lost my Mother to cancer. I was more than heart broken. I was lost and walked through a tunnel for months. My studies had already suffered as she had been in the hospital during my sophomore year, and this was worse than that. I thought to myself, as my 4th year began, why should I continue them now? I can’t even focus! I had amazing professors and a fiancee who believed in me and helped me get through that year. I got married during the final year, right after Christmas. And we began a life completely off my plans. We entered the pastoral ministry in the USA. “Surely this is temporary…” I thought to myself…
Yeah… NOPE…. it wasn’t
So my plan, that I had envisioned, that I had laid out, didn’t go well. I was now more derailed than ever…
I was wrong. I was so wrong. God had taken aspects of me and re-molded me to do far more than I thought I could. He taught me to find a new “plan” regardless of the different pathways our life took us through. God worked within our derailment and placed us in different rails that would still work within His Plan. And the more control of our lives we gave God, the more interesting, exciting and new pathways He would provide. It became God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” for us.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” —Romans 12:2 (NIV)
In the process of it all I wound up working in my mission field here in the USA. Not what I planned or dreamed of, but it was God’s plan and dream ultimately. He opened the doors when others closed some, and kept us moving us forward through life. Through experiences that where great, to the painful ones, God kept rebuilding, strengthening us and placing new rails towards new destinations that we never thought of.
We have ministered in the middle of nowhere, to small towns, small cities, large cities. inner-city areas, multi-cultural areas and more. I have learned the differences within the American/White culture as much as I have learned the differences within the minority cultures. I have experience a life that was not even, remotely, close to my dreams.
As I look back at that excited, perfectly planned, determined and dreamy girl… I can only smile and see still all those characteristics even today.
New things still excite me, I still plan, this time knowing that it will change. I am still determined, and I still dream. The difference is that I rely on God more than ever to create my pathway, to set my rails down according to His will. Then I get on His path and pray that there is no derailing. And even if there is, God will place us back on track.
Life goes on… as God creates unique pathways in our lives that may not be what we expect but we ride with willingly. For we have accepted that our lives may not be “happy ever after” but it will be unique and full of JOY, LOVE, GRACE and more. For we ride on the rail of Life that God has placed before us, regardless how odd, difficult or painful some of these stopping grounds will be. In exchange you never know how often an amazing and unique that journey will be as you ride on the rails of God’s will.
So, sit back an enjoy the ride. Let God lay your rails down for they will be unique just for you. Let go of your plans and let God be in control. You will be amazed at the unique journey you take when you are in His will.
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“We were also chosen to belong to him. God decided to choose us long ago in keeping with his plan. He works out everything to fit his plan and purpose. We were the first to put our hope in Christ. We were chosen to bring praise to his glory.” –Ephesians 1:11-12 (NIRV)
“‘Cause a little bit of summer is what the whole year is all about.” — John Mayer
As a mother of three, the ending of the summer months has been a cause for celebration. Yes, we parents celebrate! We celebrate the ending of cleaning constantly after children. Reminding them to wipe their dirty feet before coming in. Making daily lunches or making arrangements for their care while we work. We may even miss the homework nights… “who said that?”… I did. It kept them busy, plus we had a chance to see what they were learning. Yes, the summer sometimes threw a wrench in our plans, and required us to rearrange them. It would sometimes cause chaos at home if the kids were not kept busy. Truly, summer gave us more work to do than we cared to do.
Yet, we loved the summer months! We got a chance to enjoy being with the kids more. We used summer as an excuse to get more time off, with the illusions of VACATIONS! We would travel, enjoy the USA, it’s history, geology and people. This is the time when we formed many memories that we like to look back at and laugh. It is when the kids were creative….very creative… very, very creative which brought laughter or frustration. It is the time to be yourself without the influences of those at school. It is a time to go and investigate, play in the sun, or in the water, or dirt… Summer gave us time to enjoy a bit of freedom.
2010 Estrella in Old San Juan
Celeste by the beach of Barceloneta PR 2012
2009 Aliza in West Virginia
Our last camp out? 2017
So summers can be a bitter-sweet time of the year.
And now is over…
Well, now my summer was not the same as it has been in the past. The kids are all grown up…. seperated by their own responsibilities. It was quiet at home this summer. It lacked the cheerful stories of “Guess what Mom…” and the yelling of “She started it…” and the creativeness of “look what I made…” No groups of kids gathering in my livingroom to play the Xbox causing loud cheers to rumble through my walls. No, this year, each of the girls had there own thing. I didn’t even get to see my youngest more than for 2 1/2 weeks. My oldest never got a chance to visit us with her husband, and my middle child…. well she was here physically (LOL) but was constantly taken away by the internet, her online job and relationships. Yes, this summer was unlike any other… it was just odd…and severely quiet..
Yes, the problem with summers is that they are too long, too short, and not enough of them.
“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.”
I thank God that we enjoyed everyone of them with their quirks and all. The memories that were created, and the ones we may never want to revisit…ha ha ha…Those loud crazy moments are the ones I cherish the most. From the first touch of ocean my girls felt, to their first camping out, to their first trip on the plane to even the first bug (or boy) they brought home… to their first video game audience… every moment was a wonder… no matter the hard work and headaches.
Todd and I at a Pastoral event this summer
Camp Arrowhead…enjoying the river (1st time coming w/out kids)
So I enjoyed life… as unique as it was. Looking forward to the years and the differences they bring… learning to enjoy the past life more, as the future life shrinks. Enjoying the unique memories that this change of summer’s seasons began. To expect the laughter once again someday with future grandkids (who knows when that will be)… Meanwhile I will enjoy the silence and maybe even take advantage to read more, play games myself and vist places with my husband. Hanging around with my sister, dad or brother… I think… (Hopefully not often). I look forward to new unique summers to come, creating new and unique memories. Being thankful that I’m not hosting a gang of kids… because now I have the Xbox to myself! (At least until the girls show up again or my nephew is old enough).
“God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.” –unknown
“Did you you know that I just turned the age my mother was in her last year of life? And Erica is the age that I was when she passed away?” I asked my husband thoughtfully as we drove back to our Texan home on my birthday through the highways of Oklahoma.
“It just makes me think…” I half said and thought to myself.
What I didn’t tell him is that for the past 5 days I was living in a quiet fear of the “what if’s”: “Did she know it would be her last year?” “What if this is my last year?” “What if my daughters go through what I went through?” “What if my mother woud have lived longer?”….and so it went. I had to tell myself over and over again, “I have to get through this year.” And when that wasn’t helping because the fear of death kept creeping in with it’s ugly head… I prayed… and prayed and begged… (To get rid off those negative thoughts)
It had been an emotional 5 days… I kept avoiding thinking about these things, a birthday that I regret even having. Yes, fears got the best of me often, no matter how often I pushed back. Until I realized… I was going about it the wrong way. I was letting fears conquer me. I was letting the “what if’s” depress me. I was letting the event of losing my mother overwhelm my possible future. And I was letting the lack of joyful celebration ruin my special day. I was not looking at it from God’s perspective nor through His loving purpose for me.
It is then that I realized the amazing Godly life of loving service my mother displayed and lived during her last year of life. It is then I was reminded of my favorite Bible verse that she lived out so well: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phillipians 1:21
My Mother lived the life that the apostle Paul talked about in Phillipians chapter 1. More specificcally in verses 19-26: “for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.” (NIV)
As I went through my memories I realized Mother was celebrating her life, even after knowing it wouldn’t be long. She spent her last 11 months sharing the love of God, challenging her lost friends and families to find peace, joy and true forgiveness (and love) in Chrsit Jesus. She spent her time singing, enjoying life, even a trip to Tikal with her family, (even though it was to be her last, but I think she knew it). She lived her life for Chirst and for the sake of others. She lived a life worthy of her call, to the fullest of God.
I realized then, this is the life I want to continue to live and live it to the fullest, even if I too only had one year to live. Though I have a strong feeling God is granting me many more.
As we drove closer to home…it hit me. I shouldn’t be afraid. It was unfounded fears that kept me from trully enjoying this day. It is a gift from God. It is meant to be lived as He lived for me.
So, as I accept my birthday and my age, I decide to commit my life more deeply to living it for Christ. Sharing the Gospel. Loving others as God loves me. Helping those who need Christ find Him. Striving more and more to be Christlike and last but not least enjoying life, my family, friends and more. Because my life is a gift regardless for how long it has been gifted. This is the legacy I want to leave, as my mother did. I pray and hope that through my being on this earth, with my family, friends and church, I live a life of joy, faith and godly love, in all the while helping others do the same. For there is so much to do, to give, to share, to love in this world and until the time comes, I will remain here living for Christ.
Therefore, I thank God for another year of life. I thank him for creating me so unique. I thank Him for calling me to serve. “May my life, Lord, be your reflection…may it be worthy of my call and the gift of life you have given me.” So I will celebrate! I will celebrate this unique life and I will live it uniquely for Christ.
“So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, ” – Colossians 1:10
“But God chose you to be his people. You are royal priests. You are a holy nation. You are God’s special treasure. You are all these things so that you can give him praise. God brought you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” – 1 Peter 2:9
I have worked with young people for over 25 years.
I have worked with young people in 3 different countries and they all have several things in common:
They are struggling with their future
They are struggling with relationships
They are struggling within themselves
They are struggling with sin and that leads to struggling with God
Sometimes they just ignore it, hoping that ignoring it will make it go away. Otherwise it leads to more pain. Sometimes they just accept it, as part of life and they give in to their emotions allowing the feelings to lead them, hence covering up the pain. Sometimes they face it, head on by fighting it. Often this leads to causing pain in others around them, whether voluntarily or not. A good example of these struggles can easily be seen in these lyrics Out of the Darkness By Little Steven, and in Matt Hegardy’s song as well.
However, the best solution, the one I constantly pray for and work for (as well as many pastors , family and friends), is that they surrender it to Christ. Hence, stepping into the Light of Christ and out of their darkness. Maybe Erin Willett is figering this out in her song Out of the Darkness.
It seems to me that this is the hardest thing for many young people to do, to surrender it, because they really cannot imagine the outcome. At times they feel that the outcome is so overwhelmingly good that they cannot believe it. Often they just think that “no way that will never happen to me” and that they cannot overcome it….ever. The worst yet, they are so comfortable in their own discomfort that often the pain and hardships become so entwined with their emotions and who they are that they in fact enjoy it. After all, they have been taught that there is nothing wrong and that their darkness is a good thing, it makes you “cool.” (Maybe not in those words, but you get my drift).
Such a simple solution, yet too hard for many to take. As if they were stuck inside a dark cave.
This summer I watched how many young people saw the LIGHT, they finally understood not only the LOVE of GOD for them, but His purpose, His intentions and His PROMISES. They saw where humanity had gone wrong, they saw how the darkness came and had lied to them and swallowed them whole. They saw the lies and sin for what it is and saw JESUS for who HE IS and how HE gave his life for them so that He can pull them out of the darkness. As I watched the youth come to the altar, as I heard the prayers and heard their plea, I knelt by a young girl to pray. My question, “What do you want God to do for you today?” Her response was , “I don’t know. There is so much and I’m confused…”
“What are you most confused about?” As she searched for answers I could not stop from feeling her pain. “My life, my relationship… is just…” and she burst into tears before she could finish. I asked again, “What do you want Jesus to do with it?” “To make it right…” She finally voiced. As we prayed she admitted her need to be forgiven and healed. The more we prayed, the more peaceful she became. At the end she looked at me and said, “I feel peaceful, I feel free and I know God loves me.” Yes, this young lady, along with dozens had prayed out of their darkness that night. She now had left the darkness behind. The pain, she, along with many, had come to the realization that she could not hide it, ignore, live with it, live above it, but all she had to do was to surrender it. In that process Jesus took her hand and led her out…
I left that night with tears of joy. Taking it all in. For that night many young people encountered the Savior, His forgiveness, His grace, His love, His light and His healing power. They found freedom for the first time. They lined up to share with others what God had done, sharing how they have been healed.
As I thought about it and dwelled on the service the day after. I had been seeing them around the campgrounds. I talked with a few, noticing their smiles and seeing the joy and peace in their eyes. Their words supported what I saw in their eyes and smiles. It showed the difference, no pain, no darkness. I walked into the sanctuary to find this projected on the wall:
As we left at the end of the week I was reminded how amazing is God’s grace that not only steps in to pull us out of the darkness, but was willing to go into it himself (when He died on the cross for us) just to get us out. Jesus himself suffered. Jesus himself was in pain. Jesus himself carried our sins, our darkness and left it behind. He understands us, He has lived it and if He can bring us out… into the light. Matthew West portrays it best in His song “Into the Light.” Jesus didn’t just pulled us out and into the His light… He continues to give us light and walk by our side. He took our hand and walks with us. Yes, Jesus walks with us no matter how uniquely weird and crazy our lives gets. All we have to do is take His hand, let Him lead, and hold on for our dear life. Because believe me, living with Christ is such a uniquely lit adventure!