Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sky Light

I saw a "Simpson's Sky" this morning as I drove into work. It's the kind of sky that's a brilliant blue beyond the horizon with cumulus clouds, the white, fluffy kind that look like cotton balls, spread out across the atmosphere. It was a clear morning. Crystal and cool, the aftermath of yesterday's storms.

Do you know what makes the sky turn different colors? Why some days are clearer than others and some sunsets and sunrises more fancifully displayed than others? Particles. Particles in the air. Today's sky was so visibly clear because yesterday's storm swept away the gunk in the air.

Last nights sunset, however, last nights sunset was phantasmical. Pomegranate pinks bled into deep, bruising purple-blues. Particles remained in the air still; many dusty water droplets from the calming storms. Sunlight bounced from one particle to another, refracting and reflecting light, breaking and bending the colored waves until the sky lit up in splendor near the horizon, the black curtain of night rolling slowly to a close.

Isn't it amazing how beauty comes in so many different forms? Today, the sky was beautiful because it was so clear. Last night, it was beautiful due to all of the gunk. I feel like too often in life, people think beauty only lies in the clear and uncluttered. Houses are only beautiful if they are dusted, vacuumed and mopped. Clothes are only beautiful if they are dry-cleaned, starched and pressed. Women are only beautiful if they are slender, painted and polite. Men are only beautiful if they are virile, muscular and courteous.

In other words, people are only beautiful if they are neat, tidy and mess-free. And yet, as we see every day when the sun rises and sets, beauty can be greatly altered, magnified or minimized by the clutter in the air. Think about the deserts. Why are the sunsets there so beautiful? Because the wind kicks up all that sand, adding to the sky even more particles onto and through which sunlight might bend and break like a prism in an open window.

I'm learning more and more that, while outward beauty may be admired, it is within the mess that beauty may be fully appreciated. I am learning that clear skies come only after cleansing storms and storms build from the clutter and the mess. Sometimes the only way we can truly appreciate clear skies is to survive the storm and a storm lurks within us all.

After all, as Dinah Shore said, "Trouble is part of your life, and if you don't share it, you don't give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Fine and Dandy

I've been going through a rough time lately, but it's been good. I feel like God is drawing me closer and closer and I cherish that. I've had a lot of questions and just as much turmoil, but God has been with me through them all. He's been more than with me, He's carried me.

I love control. Scratch that, I love being in control. I'm not a huge fan of control if it's out of my hands. Lately, God has coaxed me into relinquishing control to Him. I have kicked and screamed and cried. A lot. And yet, through it all, God extends His arms and allows me to burrow my face in his chest, wipe my tears on His immaculate robes.

I don't think God gets annoyed with our questions; with our frustrations. I think if they bring us closer to Him in the end, He sees them as good things-- as tools, even. For, after all, did He not say that He would not set upon us temptation that we would not be able to overcome? And did He not assure us that, through Him, we are able to do all things? Has He not told us to boldly seek out and own His promises?

To me, trials, tribulations and questions all lead to this. To me, it takes faith to be able to boldly come before and question the God of the Universe, knowing that He has promised to withhold nothing from us. I am learning this more each day and with each and every question. I thank Him for these questions and trials, for I know, even these are happening so that I may better understand Him and so that He may be glorified. Amen.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Come Pick Me Up

D.L. Moody is famously (and oft) quoted as saying, while passing a drunkard on a curb, "There, but by the grace of God, go I." Unfortunately, I think people often interpret his quote as meaning "If not for God's grace, I could be that drunkard." Over the past few years I've begun to think a bit differently.

Am I incorrect, or are not all sins equal? Is not each sin simply an act of going against God, no matter what the exploit (or thought or intention) might be? Don't get me wrong; I understand the sentiment. If it weren't for God, we could all be on that street corner, passed out and filthy. Yet, here's what I'm getting at: isn't there a possibility we are, in some figurative sense, hugging that curb?

I have interviewed many people over the past few years that have fallen on hard and grievous times. What I have found in every story, however, is a piece of my own story. I cannot look at these men and women and haughtily sneer, "There, but by the grace of God, go I." I hear their stories, look at them and whisper, "Yes, I understand, I have been there, too." Our situations may not have been remotely similar, but our hearts prove identical mirrors.

No matter what they have been through; I have seen a bit of myself, a bit of my own rebellious heart in each and every heartache relayed. After all, what is sin, but heartache? The Bible cautions God's people to guard their hearts above all else, for the heart is the wellspring of life. Out of the heart comes life. Why? Because that is where the Holy Spirit resides. When we turn against the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are turning against, and in turn hurting, our own hearts. We are creating heartache.

I may not have lived a life so utterly downtrodden as others I have known, but I have allowed my soul to live there. I have allowed my heart to dry up, to crack like parched soil. And yet, the grace of God allows me to return, to drink again and again from waters that will not run dry, no matter what. So, no, I may not be a drunkard, hugging the ground with all my might, but my heart, my heart has. Therefore, I thank God for His grace. And I thank Him for redemption. I thank Him for continuing to teach me, for not giving up on me, for not passing me by as I lay on the sidewalk-- for offering me a hand, for picking me up.

Maybe, just maybe what Moody meant by, "There, but for the grace of God, go I" wasn't that without God's grace he would be a filthy drunkard. Maybe what he meant, and what I know is true of myself, was that it is only by the grace of God that my drunkard heart would never be left alone on a dirty curb. For He will pick me up and carry me to safety, away from public, prying eyes. He refuses to leave me or forsake me, no matter where or how I stray. That is the grace of God.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


So, lately I've been attending a class of sorts at my church. We're a Presbyterian church-- a reformed church. That means a lot of different things, things of which I am learning in this class. One of the beliefs of the reformed church is that God predestined His people. We, as humans, are utterly depraved and therefore can do no good work on our own. As a matter of fact, even becoming a Christian is an act of God moving our hearts toward Him through the Holy Spirit.

Now, I know there are "free will" believers who read this, as well as "predestination" believers. Free Will verses Predestination is an age-long debate; one that I am not so foolish as to intend to solve here on my blog. Therefore, that is not the question at hand.

I am, however, looking to spark some conversation about a question burning in my mind. It is a question that has been eating at me for some time. It is a question that someone else posed in a manner of sorts-- someone who wasn't a Christian, but had great questions about Christianity. It is a question that may never be answered.

I have, for some time now, believed in the idea of predestination over the idea of free will. That is, I believe that God chose who He would save from the depths of hell, in order to spend eternity with Him-- not because He didn't give us Free Will, but because, as humans, the free will we have is so corrupt, we *could not* bend it to choose God. So, I believe that we have the ability to make our own choices, but we are incapable of making the ultimate decision to follow God.

I can see that, that's easy for me to see. I can see it because, on a daily basis, I choose multiple things over God. I have many idols, myself not the least of these, that I make higher priority than God. So, my question here today isn't whether or not to believe "predestination" or "free will."

My question is as follows: I know that the depraved state of man makes going to hell "fair." Being redeemed is "unfair" because we deserved worse. But God didn't have a "Plan B." He knew from before time that Man would fall and He would send Christ to redeem us. He knew He would send the Holy Spirit to bend the hearts of His chosen people. So, if He knew all of this from before day one, He basically brought Man to earth knowing that he would fail and many would end up in hell. He brought Man to earth knowing that we would never deserve to be with Him and only a select few would be able to escape eternal damnation. I understand God saving me is an act of mercy but, if He knew all of this to begin with-- how is any of His plan "Just"?