Written by Kate Krumreig
Are you a person who remembers dates? Like, specific calendar dates when important and/or memorable things happened in your life? I weirdly remember specific dates for A LOT of things that have happened to me, some of them incredibly joyful and happy to recall and some of them just the opposite.
I have struggled emotionally this week as today approached. I was an absolute whirlwind of weepy, cranky, tired, angry, quiet, contemplative, back to weepy...you get the picture. October 31st holds two very memorable events for me.
On October 31, 2010, I moved into my first apartment after having lived with my best friend and her son for four months. My now ex-husband and I had made the decision to divorce, I was alone, and she didn't even blink and I when she graciously allowed me to live with her as I figured out what to do next. In time, I found this great upstairs of a duplex house in town and, now that I would be living solely on my part-time teaching salary, the price was right (still is, for that matter)! Moving day came and the closest members of my church family at the time moved me in. It was an exciting, scary, overwhelming day yet full of so much love and support. I remember two of my friends thinking that we needed a few "first week" supplies - dish soap, sponges, TP, etc... - and they made a quick Target run. They came back with all of that and then WAY TOO MUCH more, including a baker's rack for kitchen storage. I remember sitting on my kitchen floor once they all left and just crying, beyond grateful for the love they showed me that day and the support I knew I'd always have from them. Today marks 10 years that I have been in this apartment of mine and, despite the quirky habits of some of my downstairs neighbors over the years, I love this place. I am incredibly grateful to call this tiny spot my home and, sometimes, cannot believe that I have spend an entire decade here.
On October 31, 2013, I got in my car on dark and stormy night to go on my first date since my divorce. I met up with this guy I had known for years for a cup of Starbucks decaf tea and began the most beautiful relationship of my life. I will never forgot thinking that I had completely biffed this date because, after an hour of what I thought was an amazing conversation, he said he was tired and needed to get home to bed. Umm...what? It wasn't until he walked me to my car under his umbrella, gave me a hug and a very intentional kiss on the cheek, that I knew I had to see this man again. I later learned that he was tired from his earlier chemotherapy treatment and I was honored that he chose to spend that hour with me. I was beyond blessed to spend the next eight months of life with him. Our relationship did a number on my heart, healing and strengthening it from my failed marriage, bringing me laughter and joy that I didn't think I could experience again, and giving me hope that he and I would grow old and live the rest of our lives together. That, unfortunately, was not meant to be. Glioblastoma (a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer) took him quickly. I was alone again. 7 years have gone by since that first date and I find myself wondering, "How? When? Why?"
Approaching today, my brain has made me incredibly aware of my loneliness. I miss my people. I miss him. I miss hugs, and kisses, and having someone to come home to, and Saturday morning coffee together, and making meals with and for my friends and family, and lazy weekends, and impromptu road trips, and...the list can go on and on.
I have been reminded though, from that small, quiet, Holy Spirit voice in my heart, that I am never alone. No one is alone who is in Christ Jesus. He is always with me and I cannot be more grateful for that. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
If you are one who loves a musical connection (I am!), the Stephen Sondheim musical, Into the Woods, provides a beautiful one. The song below, No One is Alone, takes place just before the finale of the show, as the four remaining lead characters try to understand the consequences of their personal wishes, and begin to support others' wishes over their own. The song serves a dual purpose, showing that even when life brings you its greatest challenges, you do not have to face them alone, and also that life never guarantees us a "happily ever after".
No One is Alone from Into the Woods: https://youtu.be/5xaxP_kErTU
Father, thank you for the many, many blessings you have given me and continue to bring me every single day. I ask that you make yourself known to me today, reminding me that I am never alone, even if I may be feeling lonely. Encourage me to reach out to my family and friends when I am feeling this way and help me to find my strength and courage in You. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Written by Fr. Dale Minor - The Reclaim Ministry
I assume that most of us have had an experience like looking for our glasses only to discover them resting on our forehead. Recently I read of a lady who was talking to a friend on her cell phone and was telling her that she was at wits end trying to find her cell phone.
We may be guilty of a similar thing as we struggle with the concept of a living, loving Lord. We can read the scriptures, involve ourselves in Bible studies, search writings from noted authors, etc. and still feel that we are far from God. We may find ourselves asking, “Where are you?” or even, “Who are you, Lord?” And the reason may be that we are looking in all the wrong places. We may be looking far away, while He is very near.
There is a quotation attributed to several authors, from Voltaire to Mark Twain, which says something like, “God made man in His image, and we have been trying to return the favor ever since.” In other words, rather than to embrace the greatness of God, we try to reduce Him to our image. For we can’t envision a God who is larger than ourselves.
Anselm, early 18th century Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote; “God is that, beyond which nothing greater can be conceived.” This basically testifies that if we took the accumulated knowledge of the greatest minds on the earth, and if we could extract their absolute best perception of God, it would still be far short of who He truly is. For God is immensely greater than anything we can conjure up.
We take this even further when we begin to think we know better than God; when we turn away from Him and rely on other authority. St. Paul spoke to this issue in Romans 9:21 as he chastised Israel for their rejection of God’s truth. “Does the potter not have power over the clay?” he asked. This rather echos Isaiah 64:8 “But now O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay and You our potter; and all are the work of Your hand.”
The question of just who God is has been asked from the beginning. In Exodus 3:14 as Moses encountered God in the form of the Burning Bush and was instructed to rescue the enslaved Hebrews in Egypt, Moses asked, “Who shall I say has sent me?” And God responded. “I Am who I Am. Tell the people, I Am has sent me to you.” This is a mysterious statement in itself but is understood to be a revelation of God’s nature; that He is the very unique, eternal, and uncreated God. He is the ultimate truth and is beyond anything we can conceive.
Later, as recorded in John 8:58, Jesus would echo these same words when faced by questions and accusations by those who opposed Him and was asked, “who are you?” He responded, “I Am; before Abraham was, I Am.” This was immediately recognized as a statement in which Jesus identified himself as the Son of God. This, of course raised the ire of his accusers, causing them to plot His end.
Even as the question of “Who God is” persists since ancient times, it need not remain a mystery for us. In the Gospel of John, there are seven statements of Jesus which begin with “I am.” These can be found in chapters 6 through 15 and include familiar words such as, “I am the bread of life.” (Jn, 6:35) “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” (Jn. 14:6) and “I am the true vine.” (Jn. 15:1,5) This last being a statement of the necessity that we stay connected to Jesus if we are to be sustained in life, as a branch will thrive only when connected to the vine.
A search of all these “I Am” statements is encouraged as, if you are feeling a bit estranged from the Lord, or if the circumstances of your life is causing a strain in your faith, we encourage you to listen to the Lord as He speaks to you through His word, through prayer and meditation, and through God’s revelation of Himself in the power of the Holy Spirit. The answer is very near you, even as close as the glasses on your forehead.
Written by The Rev. Dr. Carolyn Allen - Heartland Church of Fort Wayne
“How am I going to get down this mountain? I’ll never make it!” My heart was gripped with terror, and tears started to come to the surface as I stood at the top of a Black Diamond Run on the ski slopes of Colorado. My cheeks were rosy from the cold. I could feel the dampness and smell the freshness of the mountain air. A beautiful moment. Except for the fact It was the first time I had ever been skiing, and all but one friend had already left on their journey down the slope.
In preparation for this trip with our friends, who invited us, we checked out books, did special exercises to strengthen our muscles, and went with anticipation of enjoyment and (to be honest) some anxiety on my part. We even took some lessons on the bunny slope.
But in no way was I prepared to ski on a Black Diamond Run – the most difficult graded run at the resort. Our group had taken the ski lift to the top of the mountain to have lunch and hot cocoa at a special lodge. Delightful, right? Well, I didn’t think about the reality of what goes up must come down. And I didn’t know it was a Black Diamond Run. I was doing well to stay upright on the bunny slope!
My friend, Jimmy, was an excellent skier and tenderhearted with me about my dilemma. He encouraged, “You can do this! I will help you get down this mountain.” And he proceeded to ski backwards all the way down, holding onto my hands, leading and coaching me.
At one point, I clearly remember him saying the following words to me because I was focusing on my feet to see how they were positioned and where they were going. I was desperately trying to remember what I had learned in the morning class on the bunny slope. Jimmy instructed, “Stop looking down. Instead look up. Keep your eyes on me and where you are going. You will make it!”
We made it to the bottom. I can’t say I was always in an upright position, but with triumph I was proud to be able to declare, “On my first ski trip, I went down a Black Diamond Run!”
I will never forget the lesson learned about the importance of where I put and kept my focus, which was crucial for success in my mission to get down that mountain in one piece.
My friends and I have had some good laughs over the years about that ski trip, but I have used that lesson many times in my personal life and in helping others grasp a principle of the Kingdom of God. That experience has helped Hebrews 12:1-5 come alive and active in my life. The application of this truth is real to me. I can still see that daunting slope right in front of me, hear the whipping wind, and feel the terror of the situation. But I also hear the encouraging words and feel the presence of a friend to take the journey with me. Once again, everything within me is on alert and ready for action, as I fix my eyes on Jesus and take His hand to face whatever overwhelming situation is before me.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV). (The Greek word for “looking” or “fixing” means “to look away from one thing in order to see another, to concentrate the gaze upon.”)
Are you currently facing a situation or relationship that is causing anxiety, frustration, or discouragement? What is filling your vision? What Black Diamond Run are you facing? Your focus will determine your perspective and will become your reality. What outcome does God have waiting for you? What focus will allow that to happen?
As you sort out these questions, pray this prayer:
Lord Jesus, in this moment I desire to allow my thoughts to be fixed on You. What thought do you want me to embrace so I can walk in the Spirit while exercising faith? I turn from the fearful, anxious thoughts about what could happen and instead ask, “What thought, scripture, song, or picture do You want me to see, hear, or sense?” I am asking and listening for Your truth.
Listen to the story of how the classic hymn,“Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus,” was written.
Written by Fr. Dale Minor - The Reclaim Ministry
“Then the Lord called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that You were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate.’” (Gen 3:9-12)
So started the blame game. Adam was caught in his sin, he had violated the direct command of God and when confronted he not only blamed his partner for plucking the fruit from the tree, but implied that it was God’s fault for giving him this woman to start with. We know the story: Eve then blamed the serpent, who certainly was guilty on many counts, but it wasn’t the serpent who had been told not to eat of the tree; it wasn’t even Eve. God had expressly told Adam not to eat this forbidden fruit, this fact is recorded in Genesis 2:17 which, in accordance with the chronology of Genesis 2, was before Eve was even created. Adam’s blame game did not hold up.
So, who paid the consequence? We all do. Certainly Adam and Eve as well as the serpent did. But “the seeds,” the offsprings of this first couple were affected, even infected; (Gen.3:15) and the earth itself became cursed. “Cursed is the ground for your sake; (or because of you.) in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.” (Gen 3:17b) The Lord goes on to cite details of the effects of this curse with the final one being that death became a fact of life; “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen 3:19)
Okay, we have heard the bad news; let’s hear the good. It comes in the form of Jesus Christ. I trust we all have heard the Gospel and believe that Jesus died as atonement for our sin; that we are saved by his death and resurrection. Yes, even after hundreds of generations, we, the seed of Adam and Eve, still have sin within us, and face the same condemnation: -- “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...” But the Good News comes in the continuation of this statement; “…being justified freely by His grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus,…” (Rom 3:23-24)
But even as grace comes freely, God makes a demand of us. While Jesus was clear in his call and mission as in Luke 19:10 when He was being challenged for sitting with Zaccheus the tax collector, He declared, “..the Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost;” He also preached from the very start of his ministry; “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt. 4:17)
Even in a secular dictionary, the word repent means to “turn from sin and resolve to reform one’s life.” Synonyms for repent include: bemoan, deplore, lament, regret, and rue. In no place in these do we find room for actions such as denial, excuses, rationalization, and certainly not blaming others.
The blame game is used heavily in our society; -- no one wants to accept their own fault. “It was my parents, my environment, it is the way I was taught, etc.” We blame authorities, and lack of authority; we can find reasons to blame anything and anybody when the truth of the matter is that sin is a choice we alone make.
Another common excuse for certain sins is, “It involves no one but myself, so it doesn’t matter.” This is a huge lie. Your sin does hurt you, and what hurts you affects those who love you. Plus, no sin is committed in a vacuum. Its effects will impact others whether you admit it or not. And some consequences are generational, their effects may not be seen until after we are gone.
The bottom line is, there is no value gained in blaming others, God didn’t ask Adam, “Who caused you to sin?” He asked, “What did you do?” He hasn’t changed; He still requires that we confess our sin, and repent of it.