Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Drowning on the Ocean

 by Capt

Have you ever felt lost, overwhelmed? Moments when the waves of life come crashing over you, tugging you under and throwing you around. Disoriented you are not sure which way is up, holding onto the last whispers of breath. It is hard to imagine a safe harbour when the waves are upon you, and shore seems unreachable.

We like having our feet on solid ground. There is something comforting about knowing that you can move with impunity and freedom as you will. You are the master of your own destiny, commanding your feet to walk, picking your own journey.

We like control.

Why do we grow so much more in the storms of life? Security seems to be the antagonist to our personal growth, harrying our progress and hunting our trust. Having our feet on solid ground of our own making only serves to build trust in ourselves as it seductively whispers that we are our own destiny makers.

Jesus was out on a boat with some of his disciples one evening, crossing the sea of Galilee and Jesus was naturally resting as they glided across the water. Peter and the other fishermen were right at home, checking the rigging and sharing old stories as the water rushed underneath. Until the water began to grow choppy, at first nothing for concern but growing to huge swells.

The wind whipped against their faces and the rain began to pour down upon them. A seasoned fisherman understood that this was not a time you wanted to be in the middle of the sea. Pulling the sails in, buckets out bailing water that was now crashing over the sides of the boat the panic was palpable on the boat. All hands were on deck to try to keep the boat above the water.

Except Jesus. He was sleeping.

Finally noticing this, the disciples yelled at him, one of them shaking Jesus awake. As he yawned and rubbed his eyes, they were worked into a near frenzy -- yelling at Jesus to grab a bucket and HELP. If he was only going to sleep, they were all going to die.

Jesus, in what can only be a moment appreciated rose, barely steadying himself on the mast and looked at them all with a look of fatherly disgust. "Why are you such cowards? Have you learned nothing about trust?" Jesus crawled over the disciples as they continued to bail out the boat in panic, standing at the bow of the boat and looking out at the storm, sizing it up.

You can imagine the disciples confused looks between bucket tosses as they watched Jesus not help them, but staring at a storm. He steadied himself in the boat, rising up his arms and looking to the sky Jesus said, "Silence!" The thunderstorm subdued. Jesus looked at the waves and said, "Quiet!" and the immediately pacified.

The disciples, bailing with less and less water in their buckets started to slow and look at Jesus with a mix of horror and awe as they realized what has just happened. The man they followed, their Rabbi had calmed the elements, and the boat was left on a piece of glass in the Sea. They were safe, and it was a perfect night for sailing.

I cannot speak for you, but I often feel like these disciples. I set out on a journey that God has asked me to undertake, and I find myself in a storm. My first reaction is to panic, to do what I have been trained to do and start to bail. "God, where are you when I need you?" I ask. He is in the boat with me, because this is the voyage He sent me on.

My faith is so small. I am worried about drowning on the ocean when I am safe the entire time. I need only ask.

What waves are crashing over your boat today? God is watching over you.

You can find this story in the Bible at Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41 or Luke 8:22-25

Monday, June 23, 2014

Making a Community Shine

Cape Hatteras lighthouse by haglundc, on Flickr

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  haglundc 

Have you ever wondered what makes a community worth it? Worth participating in, worth following, worth pouring our hearts and souls into? I know I have and do.

Moving forward comes with some natural consequences, such as leaving behind a community that you have been deeply invested in. For my wife and I, that has meant leaving a community she grew up in and I cared deeply about for the past five years. It is a bitter sweet thing, knowing that it is the right thing to do yet stepping into the great unknown. Much like taking a dose of unpalatable medicine that will cure your infection, it can be a tough pill to swallow.

Out of every crashing thunderstorm comes beautiful rain that brings new life. There is turmoil in the throes of the storm, but an awakening in the following calm.

One of the privileges we have revelled in over the past two months is the option to attend different churches and observe and partake in their styles of worship. It may sound strange, but the ability to simply participate in worship as a congregant is a privilege too often denied to those in church leadership. Instead, we as members of the community expect our leaders to be there week after week preparing the worship for us to consume, without often a thought of their own personal renewal.

A dirty little secret that most pastor's will not tell you is that they themselves will not attend church in the few weeks they have 'off' each year. Their calling and vocation has made communal worship a job, and the weeks spent away are a great chance for individual renewal or time spent with family. What this leaves us with are communities that are completely unaware of their surroundings or how the larger story is developing around them. It can leave them stagnant.

Passionate people never stop pursuing their passions. The Church has always been one of mine, and so observing and participating in a different set of churches has been refreshing and a great opportunity of growth. There are things about communities that reflect who I am, and are naturally attractive. There are others that are entirely foreign -- some for good, and others that push me away. As I have reflected on the communities we have briefly visited, there are a few things that I believe every community should have in their own flavours.

Hospitality -- beyond the doors

 Nearly every church has greeters and ushers, which means by definition that they are not what makes a community hospitable. An important part for sure, but the standard handshake, hand off of the bulletin and 'How are you?' does not a hospitable place make.

It is those communities where people are paying attention that stand out. Those who notice those who are new, engage in meaningful conversation and follow up that make a place hospitable.

Does this community care about me?

Joy in worship

We worship a living, loving, risen Lord... amen? Then why do our services feel like it was a chore to get out of bed?

I understand fully that we all have those weeks. The ones where nothing is going right, the kids were a wreck, the car would not start, and I am here out of obedience more than passion. We all get our Mulligans, do overs and free passes when it comes to weeks like that.

However, is it too much for the worship leader to convey some passion in the songs they sing? For some meaning to be conveyed behind the melodies and harmonies? Having played music and done a smattering of choral singing, there is always an intangible in muisc -- those who play. Some are able to translate beautiful ballads that convey otherworldly meanings through an instrument, others are lucky to be in tune.

In the same way, does this community reflect the joy of the Lord, or are they going through the motions?

Purpose in Learning

This one is for the preachers. Can we do everyone a favour and put an extra 5-10 hours of work into our sermons? I understand that Mrs. Jones was sick this week, and that people were calling, and there was a leak in the roof at the church. We are a busy people. Please, PLEASE learn to say no to the things that are not your duty, especially on the weeks when your duty IS to bring the Word of the Lord.

The duty of a preacher is to make the text come alive, relevant to where this community is and understandable for all aged. It also is not as easy as it sounds. It takes a huge amount of work, prayer and effort to jump onto that bareback horse and break it until it is tame. I have huge respect for those that have the gifting and passion to pour into their people's lives week after week.

I learn a lot about a community when the preacher opens (sometimes) the Word and begins to unpack the passage or story for that week. Some do it with a great amount of sensitivity and brevity, while others serve rancid meat to a vegetarian. I am there to learn, to soak in the wisdom that God has given you through hours of study. Please give me something worth taking notes on, along with something that I can put into action that day. Too many sermons are a third to double in length what their content defines, filled with inconsequential filler that only detracts from the true meaning.

Do these people love God's Word? Is there meat in the teaching, or milk?

Challenge in Living

Is this a community that is going to draw me closer to God, or lull me into a safe sense of security? The latter is the easier road, but the former is what I really need. This is more of a holistic look at community, and one that I do not draw from a singular morning or visit. There are, however some good litmus tests that tell us more about the deeper community such as if they are actually involved in their local community or in missions.

This is one of the hardest things to judge, because it involves so much of the other three. A hospitable community tells us about their priorities in including outsiders and attitudes on love. Their joy in worship can be a window into their passion and understand for God. The hunger for good teaching speaks to their priorities.

Every community is different, and every community has its purpose. There are many communities in part because of the need for that diversity. The question is not what will I get out of a community, but which community can I contribute most to? Where will God challenge and use me? How is God using these people as a light in a dark and foreign land?

Be a part of the community God has you in. Shine with it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Beautiful Things

"Beautiful Things"
All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

As you walk into this weekend, remember that you are beautiful. God is making each of us beautiful, bringing order to chaos, showing us that even the dried and parched land will see spring again.

Soak that in.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

You Can Do This

That’s Enough by Lee Winder, on Flickr

We have all been there.

Plans carefully laid, hopes set and our futures decided. Then the water rushes out from the bay, and your eyes rise from your preparations to see a massive tsunami on the horizon rushing towards you. Before you can even take a breath, you have been plunged under an ocean of water, totally disoriented as to which was is up.

You can do this.

Our decimated plans are an opportunity to learn to trust. When our body begins to panic, our mind reminds us that calm is the best course of action, and that we have promises to rely upon. Look for the light and swim towards it, it will bring you safety.

You can do this.

You are not the first person to be laid out, swept away, feel washed up. Many have gone before you -- some that you would never have suspected.

Noah was called to build a boat when no one had ever seen a body of water worth floating on. His faithfulness preserved the human race, and all life on earth.

Abraham left his family to go to a foreign land, where God promised him descendants like the sand on a seashore. They waited eighty years for their child, who Abraham then was asked to put on an altar and give up to prove his faith. Isaac was spared by God, and Abraham's faith began a family from which Jesus was born.

Moses was abandoned by his own people when he wrongly killed an Egyptian trying to protect them. Wandering the desert decades later, God called him back to Egypt to lead God's people out. His faith, even in its weakness lead the people of Israel back to the Promised Land.

Daniel was ripped away from his family, put into impossible situations including telling someone else their dream and being lowered into a lion's den for a night. God saw Daniel and watched over him in every circumstance.

Elisha ran for his life after a huge victory against the priests of Baal. A sentence out on his head, he asked God for death... what he got instead was rest and a renewed purpose.

David was run out by King Saul, and hunted for years. He lived in caves, pretended to be insane and much more to survive -- this after Samuel had anointed him the king of Israel. Saul eventually died in battle, not of David's hand and David ushered in one of the greatest times of prosperity in Jewish history.

Hosea was an Old Testament prophet who married a prostitute by the command of God. He spent his life preaching to a nation who ran away and prostituted themselves to other gods, all while collecting and loving his wife while she slept with other men. God was using Hosea to show His own love towards His people.

Jonah was called to preach to a nation that had completely abandoned God. Instead of following what God had asked him to do, he ran in the opposite direction... only to wind up on the shores of Nineveh anyway. His preaching turned them from judgement and he pouted on a hillside while God made a point about sovereignty and grace.

Peter was a devout follower of Jesus, passionate literally to a fault. When Jesus needed him most, Peter abandoned and denied him three times. Jesus later restored Peter and out of his preaching, the Church was born.

Saul was a passionate Sadducee, hunting down Christians and killing them for their heresy. Until one day he was struck blind and Jesus Himself appeared to Paul and gave him a new vision. Paul planted many churches, and gave us much of our New Testament.

No matter where you find yourself today -- downtrodden, frustrated, depressed, alone -- you are in good company. God never asked us to be whole, or to have everything figured out... only to trust in Him and allow Him to work in our lives.

You can do this... with the help of God.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hills Worth Dying On

No hay búfalos - Arte Rural by -Dj Lu-, on Flickr

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  -Dj Lu- 

If you will not stand for anything, you stand for nothing.

How can I know that what I stand for is worth anything? The oceans of culture are constantly washing up against your banks, threatening to erode away your shoreline and eventually everything that mattered to you. There has been much discussion lately about how very few people are willing to take risks. We have grown into a culture that expects everyone to always be polite and correct, but we neglect that progress comes from those who are willing to stand apart.

When you look back on your life, will it be the routine days that you remember or the times when routine was broken for something extraordinary? Routine is our soft blanket, our warm fire on a winters night. It keeps us comfortable when the icy tendrils of winter's chill scratch against the outer walls. Yet very few words are written about those who stayed comfortable. It was those who went charging out into the night, aware of the dangers of the adventure ahead, yet heedless of what it may cost them. These are the people we write stories about.

The question that remains, then, is what will you stand for? What are the lines that you refuse to cross, the hills that you will defend until your dying breath?

The answer to those questions are deeply personal, and shaped by your own past experiences. They should also be intimately informed by your relationship with God... because we need perspective. Picking the wrong hill on which to die can bring about a lot of pain not only in your own life, but in the lives of many others around you. Inevitably there will always be those who disagree with your choice, but it would not be a hill to die on if people were not throwing stones, now would it?

So we hold them firmly with conviction, but constantly ask the worth of these hills.

In my journey, here are a few that I have discovered hold true for me.

Family First

Priorities are a tricky thing, but they bring an immense amount of clarity. The fog lifts and the path is illuminated when priorities are in the right order, because they immediately show you which questions to ask where. If God is my first priority, then my wife is my second, family third, and then everything else. 
What does that mean in practice? My first job on this earth is to love and honour my wife. With my time, my efforts, my love. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing gets my ear when she needs it. It also means that I have her back in whatever battles she might find herself in, whether that be internally or externally. 
The same is extended to my family. I am thankful for the family God has blessed me with, because I know that they reciprocate the priority -- and aren't afraid to tell me when I am wrong privately, either.

The Right to Ask Questions

Too often I have seen in churches and broader leadership contexts a herd of people, blindly following a leader because they have bought into some measure of secret knowledge or foresight. It is my firm belief that in our walk with God, anyone has the right to ask questions of leadership. We are a priesthood of believers, not believers following the priesthood. 
This is a scary hill to plant a flag on, because it means defending those who are searching and those who challenge the status quo. Sometimes it even means defending those who are clearly in the wrong, but on an important journey nonetheless. 
God is bigger than your questions. Nothing in His character is afraid of the questions we can ask here on earth. Instead of fear and retribution, I believe God listens to our questions with a loving heart and open arms. That does not mean we will hear an answer, or the answer we were looking for -- as God showed in the book of Job.

Local Community

A community has no right to speak into their local context until they are involved in it. There is no throwing of stones from the pews, and no criticizing from the sidelines. Has someone come to you with a complaint about someone or something? 
The answer is simple... go talk to that person, go get involved in that thing you are complaining about. Enact change from within, instead of attempting to mould someone from the outside. The church is not meant to be a manipulator, but a salve on the open wounds of this world. Is there a homeless problem in your city? Do not merely complain to the politicians about it, but participate in the change that needs to happen, whether that be a local food bank, soup kitchen, low income housing, etc. 
We cannot lead from our hills, behind gates and expect to empathize and relate to those in the valley.

Above Reproach

No one is above accountability. Those with the most 'power' should be the ones under the most accountability. Those who lead should be first to follow and submit to the authority of others. Those who have the opportunity to speak should be the first to listen and learn. 
As Christians, we have seen in the past decade the damaging results of leaders standing above the structure and accountability. It is something that we should rally against fiercely, and hold any leader to account for decisions and actions taken. In the same, yet counter-intuitive way, we should ensure that our leaders are adequately supported and loved. 
Do not drive your leader into the ground. Give them times away to refresh and renew themselves. Give them the benefit of the doubt when assumptions are being made, and put down any rumours with the truth -- which you no doubt have gone to the source to procure. 
As Christians, we should always be above reproach, and when we have stumbled, be the first to own up to it. Not waiting for the scandal to break, but with integrity humbling ourselves before those wronged and the community to seek restoration.
Following these guidelines has cost me much: friends, community, jobs. Yet reflecting back on those times, I can never say that I regret the moments I took a stand -- because I knew where my lines were drawn.

What stands true for you in what God has called you to? Are there any hills that are worth dying for, or is needless grandstanding? Maybe God is asking you to stand up for something you have let slide... do not let it slide any longer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dust to Dust

Dust by Kaptain Kobold, on Flickr

Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.
Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
The body is put back in the same ground it came from.
The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.
-Ecclesiastes 12:6-7 (MSG)
There is a time in everyone's life when we hit a wall. All of our actions, our relationships, our work are suddenly up for question as we turn the scales we usually reserve for others upon ourselves. Putting each building block of our life upon the scales we are faced with our own imminent mortality and the seeming triviality of our pursuit.

We will amount to nothing, leaving nothing behind that was not present before.

The weight of the world comes crashing down on us like a skyscraper collapsing, where can we find relief? Where is there hope in the rubble? We are left coughing and blind from the debris invading our lungs and scratching our eyes. Left here for too long, we will succumb to the inevitable and be forgotten by the broader world, a phrase erased from a chalkboard.

In those moments when our legs buckle and our vision dims as we find ourselves clawing at the pavement to find relief that God extends us a hand. "Come, I will show you a different way." From the very beginning, we were nothing but dust, shaped and formed by the hands of God. As our form took shape, it was He who breathed our first breath into us and gave us a significance.

It is in Him that we find our significance.

In Matthew 9, Jesus rebukes the 'religious' of his day when they question his choice of company. Jesus was not associating with the rich, the powerful and the religious as one might expect of the King. Instead he chose to go to the homes of the traitors and the reviled. He sat with them, laughed with them and broke bread with them.

You can imagine the conversation that would take shape over supper as they got to know one another -- a sinner and the Son of God. One unsure of whether Jesus would be handing out judgement for their many sins, the other pouring love out on people who had lost their way. Jesus was eating with them not because they had lost their way, but because they knew it. Their hearts were not clouded with self-righteousness or hardened with years of religious teaching, but soft with a longing for deeper significance.

“Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” - Jesus
You and I are nothing but dust. There will come a day when each of us will return to the state from which we were formed. Our actions will be left as an obelisk to stand against the winds of time, slowly being chipped away until they are unrecognisable.

But our actions were never the reason we should be remembered.

Our significance is not drawn from our works, our attendance or our generosity. It is drawn solely in relationship with the one who created us. He invites us until a new family, a new way of living life so that when our spirit returns to Him who gave it, He can say to us, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Monday, June 9, 2014

Even if He Doesn't

Everybody loves the underdog. There is something about a good story that appeals to each of us, struggling through our daily lives. It is attractive to believe against all odds that someone or something is going to come through. We've taught an entire generation that God wants nothing better than to answer their prayers and give them everything they could ever want.

Anyone else see a problem with that?

For all that it appeals to our wounded selves, there is nothing Biblical about what many people believe. It would be incredibly nice to have our own personal lottery where we win each time we enter, God has revealed Himself as a far wiser, complex and long-sighted God... and we are better off because of it.

What would happen if two people wanted separate things? Who would God choose to answer and who to deny? Would our entire faith life be turned into a game of piety where the most 'holy' person wins?

Clearly there is a different way.

My faith is present, but hardly tested in the good times. It is in those moments when my patience is worn thin, my faith stretched and I start to ask the uncomfortable questions that God teaches me the most. It is in these moments that I have learned to pray, "Lord, no matter what happens, I believe." He teaches me to mean that prayer as well.

Perhaps no story in Scripture lays this out for us better than the Fiery Furnace. Three young men, separated from their family and friends and enslaved in a foreign culture find themselves in a deadly situation. It is a moral conundrum that you could pour out millions of words upon and it would still have nuances undiscovered.

In his hubris, the king had built a massive gold plated statue in his likeness -- and then called together everyone in his kingdom to come worship it. -- Sounds like the kind of guy you would like to go to dinner with, eh? -- All these three young men had to do was bow down along with everyone else when the music started to play and the morning would have carried on with no further problems.

But they were unwilling to do the easy thing.

Their (and my) God had commanded a higher standard, You will have no other gods before me. These words must have played through their heads hundreds of times as they shuffled uncomfortably whispering to one another if they were going to let it slide this one time. Then the music started to play, and people began to bow around them until they were the sole stacks standing amidst a sea of worshippers.

It did not go unnoticed.

The king called them in front of him directly, threatened their lives and gave them one more chance to turn from their ways and worship his gods. This is where things get sticky. These obstinate, inflexible and bullheaded youths looked right at the king and said something that you simply do not say to the world's most powerful man -- no.
“Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king."
This would be commendable all on its own if the story had stopped there. God would send down the angels to protect these three and everyone would bow down before Yahweh because of His greatness and faithfulness to His servants. But that is not the whole story.
"But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
Even if he doesn't.

Their faith standing before the king was not dependant on whether God would deliver them. They had made their stand and went all in no matter the outcome. They were not asking God to do anything for them, but willing to give everything for Him.

As the story plays out, they refuse to bow down even standing before the king, the icy tension palpable in the midst of the desert heat. His anger stoked by their unwavering stubbornness, they stoke the furnace to its' hottest temperature and order them thrown in. So hot, in fact that the guards throwing them into the furnace die from the heat wave.

Even if he doesn't.

Would that be your attitude when faced with certain death? What breaks down when we're put under pressure? What gets polished away to reveal your true character?

Faith is not dependant on the outcome, and God is not a slave to our desires. Can you say in times of stress that you trust God, but even if He doesn't nothing changes?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

... But There is Light

See the light! by VinothChandar, on Flickr

Hope. The one thing that stands resolutely against all odds. When the fight grows long, and our muscles begin to quiver from overuse, there is hope. When the armies lay siege to our final city, completely encompassing us leaving us with no escape route and few rations, there is hope. When the ground shakes as they charge towards our crumbling walls, and we make a final stand to protect those who we hold dear, there is hope.

There is hope.

Many times through my life I have surveyed the battlefield in front of me, observing the ebb and flow of my own personal struggles laid out in carnage before me. In those moments I often am overwhelmed with the grief of it all, an utter despondence washing over me as it becomes immediately apparent that the fight may have been in vain, that there is no way to move forward. I stand a broken man, solitary before an endless army that constantly assaults my faculties.

But we are never alone.

When my mother was called home, I remember facing that old foe wondering how I could ever move forward. When I packed my car after college to leave the comfort of my friends and community to follow God's calling with no place to stay and no job, the enemy besieged my fortifications. When I moved to Abbotsford into a new community unsure of what would come before me, they scaled the walls and we skirmished on the battlement. When I handed in my resignation unsure of what was to come next, it felt as though the front gates were blown inward and fighting was amidst the courtyard.

We each fight our own battles. Some of them are all our own, fully internal: self-image, self-doubt, an existential crisis, family conflict, job struggles. Some play out where everyone can see: a debilitating sickness, miscarriage, divorce, bankruptcy.

Life is full of conflicts that threaten to overwhelm us, so who do you have fighting for you?
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
     whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
     of whom shall I be afraid?
-Psalm 27
 We do not fight these battles, the outcomes have already been won. Often when I find myself weary amidst the army, I discover that I am fighting with my own strength. I am attempting to win victory for myself, claim the glory for myself. In my strength, I have found myself weak.

God has already won my victory.

Our focus changes then, from fighting our own battles to allowing God to work His purpose in our lives. His heavenly army is in control of the situation, and like Daniel our duty is only to wait and listen upon Him.

If you find yourself today struggling in the darkness, come towards the Light. Your eyes will strain and your mind cringe at the overexposure, but it is the only way to freedom. If you find yourself weary from the battle, run to He who watches over you and let Him protect you. The battle is already won. It can get dark... but there is light.

In our weakness, He makes us strong.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It Can Get Dark...

If there is one thing in life we can count on, an impending sense of doom fits the bill. There is never enough money, never enough time, never enough... whatever to satisfy our desires. Your job is expendable, you can be easily replaced, no one is truly special. The sun has set, and morning can seem so far away.

Fear can be a strong motivator.

As a child, I can remember a very real fear when it was time for bed. Climbing under the covers meant that it was time for the lights to be turned off and for me to be left alone to the machinations of my imagination. Those machinations never failed to impress, from creepy crawly things in my closet to hulking beasts beneath my bed. The only respite was found through light.

Children are funny that way. They have so much to learn, yet are really true reflections of us in so many ways. When individuals share their hearts with me, there is often a real trend of fear guiding decisions and a lack of hope to accompany it.

It can get really dark in our lives.
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
 While we struggle through our own fears, wondering where God is in our plight, He invites us out of the cellars we have built. You may not even be aware of it, but many of us construct our own solitary confinement cells. We hunker down inside of them, shutting out the light and any who might want to help us all while wondering why no one will help us. We live in our own prisons.

Each time someone approaches Jesus, his invitation is simple -- unlock the door, give me the key and follow. It is the only decision we need to make, because He has everything else. A sense of doom is an opportunity to trust. We no longer have to worry about having enough, because God is our provider. Running dry is not a worry, because we have a living spring.

It has taken many years for me to begin to understand this, because it is a journey, but the only decision I have to make is whether I trust Jesus. If I do, then following him is my only pursuit and that changes my entire world.

He breaks down my walls, crumbling the concrete that I have poured around myself. The light begins to pour in as he gently tickles light into my darkness. He massages my atrophied limbs as I relearn how to walk.

It can get dark in the world, but we never belonged here anyway.