Friday, January 27, 2012

Having to Trust

We've all had to trust something or someone. Every time I get on an airplane I think of trust. I trust the pilot that he knows what he is doing. I have no idea who he is, but I get in a metal tube that he is going to take 35,000ft in the air and I trust that he can get us up there, keep us there and then land us safely. I also trust in the plane, that the wings aren't going to fall off because of pressure. That is trust.

I have never been one to enjoy putting trust in things or people very much. I'm the girl who is sceptical going over bridges, over analyzes things and triple tests everything. But I've found that being a Christian is all about trust. We have to completely trust that God is there and that He knows what He is doing. Often, I just want to say, "Lord, I want to know everything! Just show me the future. I don't really like not knowing." That's not the way it works. I have to trust. It's just that simple.
Blessed is the man who makes
the LORD his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie! Psalm 40:4
So. I'll make this short and simple. Trust Jesus. I am so bad to try to figure things out on my own, cause I think I can handle it and then suddenly I'm on my face. Sometimes literally! See, we're in a tech world, but no amount of technology or worldy intelligence will bring the peace, trusting in God brings. You can't buy or sell it. You can't Google it, find it on Facebook or Youtube.

A really good friend of mine reminded me of these verses:

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD.... Jeremiah 29: 12-14a
If you're like me, you may say, "I do trust Him! And I ask Him for help, yet I don't hear anything!" Well, first of all, we have to be clean before God. He can't see through our sin. If you come before Him with a clean heart and truly desire to know His will, He will not be silent. However, He has told me to wait. I have felt that my prayers have bounced off the ceiling, but they haven't and I know that. He was telling me to wait. I say Psalms 40:1 to myself all the time... I mean ALL the time. It says, "I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to be and heard my cry." Sometimes I feel that He wants us to hold on. Then, sometimes He tells us to do something that is crazy! Sometimes it doesn't make sense. Trust Him. Trust Him. Even when there is no answer, trust Him. Just trust Him.
Unlike us, Jesus never messes up

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

For Granted

There is a child. His father has told him that whatever he does, no matter how bad, that he is forgiven because he is his son. However, the father has told the son, that though he is forgiven and will always be loved no matter what, to still strive to be good and to please him. The son loves the father, and is thankful for his loving forgiveness. But he can't help but realize that since he is indeed forgiven and will always be, that perhaps he doesn't have to try so very hard. After all, his father has forgiven everything! The child begins to slowly slip at giving his best. Suddenly, when the father is asking his son not to do something, the son doesn't do most of it, but he still lingers on the edge. He reminds himself that his father will always love him and forgive him. Before long, the son is going completely against his father's wishes. After he does what he knows is wrong, he'll come up to his father and say, "Look, Dad, I'm sorry. Shouldn't have done that. Thanks for your forgiveness. You're so faithful." Within a few days, he's done it again. The father shakes his head as his relationship with his son slips. The son is confident that it's okay, because he is forgiven! Grace and love covers it all. Meanwhile the father can't talk to his son because of the wall of wrong between him and his son. Yes, he still loves him, but he is disappointed that his son is taking advantage of his forgiveness.

This story reminds me of the new Christian philosophy out there. I cringe when I hear people say that Jesus' love covers our sins and then they say or do something that is so very against what God has called us to be. Jesus has indeed washed our sins away, but why should we keep sinning because they're taken care of? If we love Jesus then we should do EVERYTHING we can to not add any more sin to our lives. It has to crush God like it crushed the father in the story to see us often take for granted His love. There is grace and love and mercy.... but beside it must be obedience. Many believers seem to ignore this. Jesus expects us to "be perfect for He is perfect." Now, I know we are never going to get perfect and that is where many Christians stop. We're never going to be perfect so let's just not try, right? I can be "me" and God is fine with that. No, He is not fine with that. Honestly, neither you nor me are at all good on our own. The only thing good in us is Him. We must strive to be perfect even though we will never get there. Jesus wants us to try. We really aren't free to be, say and live how we want. We are free in Christ to be what He wants us to be and that is so much better than what we can do for ourselves.

Sounds harsh, doesn't it? This whole topic has been on my heart lately. I've seen that it's not okay to linger around the edge of sin just because we know He has forgiven us. If you and I love someone we're not going to hurt them by doing exactly what breaks their heart because we know they'll still love us. There are many Christian songs, Christian teachers and Christian books that would disagree with me. They stand firmly on the "love" side only. But we must understand that God is righteous and He wants us to stop sinning. It's not cute or sweet to do things we know are wrong because we can get away with it. That is simply watered down theology. We need to remember where our sin put our Savior. On a cross.

The story would be so good if it could end where the son comes back and says nothing but no longer lives a life that is contrary to what he says. The son shows through his actions that he indeed loves his father and because he is forgiven he won't sin, not because he sins he is forgiven. Before long the father and son are close again and the son is free. He is not free to be himself, but is free to be exactly what is perfect for him, exactly what his father planned.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Shoes in Carnegie Hall

On top of the Empire State Building
I've been in New York City since Wednesday. Yesterday my Mom, Kandace and I flew home after a beyond words, incredible five days. I can honestly say that NYC is almost the complete opposite of what I'm used to. It was fast-paced, loud, bright, and highly tech. My mouth hung open from the moment I stepped off the plane. Wednesday night we walked down Times Square and I was on stimulation overload at all the screens. Thursday morning we had rehearsal and then that night we went to see Wicked. I've always wanted to see a Broadway show and I was beside myself.  Friday we had rehearsal in the morning as well and then went to the Empire State building at night. I have never been so cold in my life. I am not exaggerating. The wind chill was below zero on top of the tallest building. As much as the cold took my breath, the view did more. Saturday was the big day. They said to take it easy, but we went ice skating at Central Park instead. Surrounded by tall city building and the Plaza hotel was crazy. I couldn't skate well, but I gave it all I had! That afternoon after cleaning up I stepped onto the Carnegie Hall stage for the first time. I went dizzy from the thrilling overload. I've seen few things as beautiful as the view from that stage. The rehearsal flew by and suddenly I was getting ready for the concert of a lifetime. The rest was a dream. I sang with all of my heart. The crowd applauded and I basked in the moment and the wonder of the Lord's presence. I stepped to the front of the stage to sing in an ensemble and I tried to let it sink in that I was standing at the front of the grandest stage in the world. All the music was glorious. The orchestra and hundreds of people in the choir vibrated the Hall. The Annie Moses Band played more beautifully than I've ever heard them. I'm not sure if music can sound more beautiful than what was in that Hall Saturday night.
After the concert we kissed it goodbye and loaded onto the cruise. I watched in wonder as NYC passed by, the lights of the buildings shimmering on the water. At about 1 am the Statue of Liberty drew near and I stepped out on the deck to join the others in singing "God Bless America" as we gazed at the magnificent and extremely tall Statue literally directly in front of us. We returned to our hotel at 3 am and I slept. We awoke and flew home leaving NYC for the mountains of NC.

This is where the story really begins. You may ask why I named this blog post "The Shoes in Carnegie Hall." Well, it began while I was sitting on the Carnegie Hall stage during rehearsal. I looked down at my feet while I was waiting for my turn to sing and something hit my like a ton of bricks as I looked at my shoes. They were one of my favorite pair of shoes. They are just plain black shoes with a strap. I love to wear them. I wear them a lot, because they work for comfort and look nice too. But it hit me that I had worn them in Ethiopia. In fact, I wore them to the most rural village we went to... Mt. Geleye. They had walked on the ground of some of the most extreme poverty in the world. I looked up and saw where I was then. Carnegie Hall's golden glow almost became a blur as I looked back down. Those shoes had gone from the two most opposite places. From the depths of Africa to the most famous and beautiful Hall in the world. God spoke to me the simple words, "And so you go. You have shared Me with the Ethiopians and you will share Me with those here tonight. And, you are to share Me with everyone in between." Just as my shoes had seen the two extremes, so had I. God told me that He sees them both and all between. Even my little town of Wilkesboro. He told me to be used wherever I am. Everywhere. Beautiful are the feet of those that bring the good news, says Romans 10:15. I choked up as I remembered the persecuted in Africa and then as I thought of the many confused city people that rush through the bright streets of NYC and then of everyone in between.

It may sound crazy but, my shoes reminded me to go. Go. Go. Go to my church and use my gift there. Go to Mexico and serve there. Go to Africa and serve there. Go to NYC and serve there. Go where Jesus says. For now I'm at home and I'm determined not to get down because the excitement is over. It has only begun. God has stamped my heart with a mission. I am to make Him known through my actions, words I write, music I play and sing and the smile on my face. I won't let Him down. Will you? Will you? He has so much planned and it starts with a, "Yes, Lord. Use me."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Into the Light

Last time I talked about being in the darkness. The darkness is often where our lives are transformed. Muscle isn't built by sitting on the couch and faith isn't strengthed where it is easy.
It came to my mind yesterday of an occurrence that happened in Ethiopia that I'd rather have forgotten. But I was complaining about something when I suddenly remembered the second night in Alaba, Ethiopia and waking up to the terrorized cries of Kandace. I was exhausted so I tried to wake up enough to see if it was anything worth waking up for. She was lying beside of me and was literally vibrating. It was a fog as I heard Dad run up to the bed. That's when I heard the tell-tale sound of vomiting. At that moment I wanted to die. I was more angry about my circumstances than I think I had ever been. Being sick is one thing in America, but when you are in a foreign country, away from home, with no running water and only 13 years old it is different. That was darkness. I'll never forget getting out of the bed and sleeping on the twin bed with Dad. I cried. Kandace was miserable and sick and it was only day two. It couldn't be happening. I prayed with all of my soul. I prayed that we would make it to daylight. I remember glancing at the clock and being shocked when I saw it said 11:30pm. We hadn't been asleep for two hours when Kandace got sick. It was going to be a long night. And it was. Right before she got sick the second time I ran out the door and stood outside. I inhaled the aroma of Africa and listened to my Daddy pray in the room behind me. I selfishly began to think about how Dad and I both were going to be sick too. Satan attacked my mind with horrifying fears that it would be like it was in 2009 when Dad got sick. It was happening again. It's over. 9 more days of this. I went to bed and fell into a fitful sleep. Kandace had a nightmare around 4:30. The Muslim Crier began being played over the loudspeakers. It seemed that all of Alaba could here the eerie sound of a Muslim praying to Allah. It broke my heart. If it wasn't already, it did then. I lay there listening to it and praying for daylight. Just a little light. A few moments later I glanced at the window and I saw the hazy morning light. Kandace woke up weak, but improved. I'll never forget the words she told Daddy. There was a look on her face I'd never seen on her as the sunlight shown through the curtain. She said weakly, "Hey Daddy, last night.... I felt God."

Every tear was worth going to Ethiopia. People may wonder why you would put yourself through that. It is hard, but I feel God there like I never have here. We have it too easy. I wouldn't trade those hard times for anything because that is when God wrapped His arms around me tightest. We had a mission there... to tell hundreds of children about Jesus' love.

So, I told you that story so that you would see an experience I've had in the dark. You've had them too. Whether it was when you were sick or when you were just broken down. Maybe it was when a family member was going through something. Or it could be just not knowing. Not knowing God's plan. That is the dark.

Well, there is morning. The sun has to rise. Since my last post the Lord has been showing me things and encouraging me. I feel like He just wants me to have to trust Him. When I finally let go, He can work. It's like when I was a kid and I always got my necklaces in a knot. I would work on getting them untangled constantly but I just made it worse. Mom would ask if she could help, but I was determined to do it myself! She would just shrug and walk off. Finally, I would give up. I would take it to her but then I'd keep trying to untangle it while she was working on it too. That didn't work either! I had to let go completely. When I did, she always fixed it. It's the same with life. Sometimes you have to let go. I love something my Dad said. I think that we were in Ethiopia when he said it. He said, "If you hold life loosely, it won't hurt so much when it is jerked at."

Put your life in Jesus' hands. But you can't forget one more thing... you must LIVE FOR HIM. Many say they trust Him but where is the fruit to prove it? Live in a way that shows that your life is in His hands. We will go through darkness but Hallelujah we will come into the light! The fact is, Jesus is the Light, so if you're with Him, you're never in utter darkness.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Even in the Darkness

The second day of 2012. I was completely surprised when I saw on my dashboard "100 posts." This is officially my 101 post on Hearts on Things Above! I've loved every moment of blogging thus far. It's almost been a year since I began this blog!

At the start of this new year I'm finding it a little easy to get overwhelmed. To be honest with you, ever since getting home from Ethiopia I've just enjoyed the Christmas bliss, but now everything starts back. I had tried to just enjoy December and not get caught up in January arriving, but it's here and I'm staring at it. And of course, these are the last few months of school for me. What I've known my whole life is going to take a little shift. I'm not going off to college though. I've chosen to stay home and do it online. The Lord hasn't really shown me what I'll be doing yet. So, I guess I'm trying to say that things look a little gray in the future. Sometimes God just says, "trust me." He doesn't want me to know everything.

That is so hard for me. I want to know everything. I want things to be how they've always been. It scares me sometimes that things change. But yet at the same time I'm happy that the Lord is doing and preparing great things. Sometimes I feel a little in the dark though. But in the darkness, the Light is so much brighter. There is one thing I know without a shadow of a doubt, that I will follow Jesus. If nothing else, if I never know again God's will, I will follow Jesus. Now, I know that I'll know God's will at some point. But if I think about it, what if I never got another blessing? What if we were to never get another blessing? It reminds me of Job and how almost everything was taken away from him. I love the lyrics from the song "Broken Praise" from "The Story" I blogged about a couple weeks ago.

But You were the One who filled my cup
And You were the One who let it spill
So blessed be your Holy name if you never fill it up again
If this is where my story ends, just give me one more breathe to say

See, we've been given all we need! Jesus has paid our debt! God owes us nothing, but yet He still gives. Can you and I say "Hallelujah" regardless of what is surrounding us? It is easy to say hallelujah when we are surrounded by Christmas lights, tons of food and many presents, but it gets harder when life starts back, when things are a little more difficult. Let me tell you, we can say hallelujah because we're happy or because we're joyful. Joy isn't dependent on circumstances. It is often a choice. I am choosing to be joyful. I'm choosing to trust God. Will you? He's never let His children down and He's not going to start now.

I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them.
Isaiah 42:16b

It makes me think of that old hymn we used to sing at church, "I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back" and then the next verse,"though none go with me, I still will follow." I'll follow in the dark or light, in the rain or sun, over mountains or valleys. I may stumble and fall, but He promised He'd never leave me and you know what? I trust Him.