Friday, June 6, 2014

Truth and Experience

70 years ago it was D-Day. June 6th, 1944.

Picture by Colossal taken in 2013 to remember the 9,000
fallen soldiers on Normandy's Beach
Today, I was listening to a gentleman on the radio talk through the events surrounding the soldiers as they stormed Normandy Beach. As Europe had been all but overtaken by the Axis powers, these brave men knew that evil needed to be pushed back. Their sacrifice and courage was immeasurable! Just imagine how different history would have played out if there wouldn't have been a D-Day. It's important to remember. There are fewer and fewer of these heroes left to remind us of their sacrifice. I wonder, when they are gone, will this part of history just fade away and turn into a watered-down, three paragraph summary only for school textbooks and chapter tests? It's these men's experience, their witness of the atrocities that keep it from becoming mere historical fact. Their stories are some of the most heart-wrenching I've ever heard. I'm moved.

Lately, I've heard more and more discussion about whether or not experiences in life, especially in regards to our relationship to God, matter or if truth is the only thing that we are to look at. Truth is...truth is paramount! But I'm going to go on record saying that experience is not unimportant though. 

Experience matters, but it's not the determiner of what's true. 
Experience without truth is unreliable and dangerous.
Experience is not truth. 
BUT...Experience can express truth like nothing else! 

I've read a fair amount about D-Day over the years, yet no historical summary of the storming of Normandy ever compelled me like the personal stories of the men who actually lived it. The truth stands. There was a definite change in history on June 6th, 1944. That's a proven fact!

So WHY is the experiential account important?

Experience makes it personal. Experience is what tells of a deeply individual account of the facts. 

So, here comes my rant. People in the Christian community are getting things all mixed up! There are those who say that their experience is what determines whether or not they've got a relationship with God. Some go as far as to say if you haven't "experienced" a checklist of things (e.i. speaking in tongues, visions, dreams, hearing an audible voice) you must not be saved. We can discern that this isn't true because it's not scriptural. Therefore, if we believe in experience alone, then we'll be filled with doubt every time we "feel" like we are missing that special "feeling".  But then there's the other camp that says you will not experience anything that matters, so keep your faith to truth alone (e.i. read your bible, read your bible, read your bible, and yeah, you got it, read your bible.)  Jesus said he is the Truth. So obviously truth matters!!! But if truth is the only thing that matters, why do we as Christians say that what makes us different from religion is "a personal relationship with Jesus?" Let's remember, the pharisees had truckloads of truth and totally missed the personal connection with Jesus!

After giving our life to Christ, we will experience many things with Him because it's personal.

 Personal = Intimate 

Before giving my life to Christ in junior high, I heard many people share their "testimonies." Those stories were chalked full of truths and personal experiences. Without a doubt, God used the truth I read in the Bible to draw me to himself. But it was people's personal stories that moved me. Isn't that why we "share our testimonies" is because of it's power to impact others?

Think about the word testify. It's a legal term. But in order for it to be valid, it must be based on truth and it must be that person's own experience. If someone tries to testify without the genuine form of both truth and personal experience it'll be thrown out of court. If it's not truth it's a lie. If it's not your own experience it's hearsay and unverifiable.  

The beauty of this all is that God's truth will never just disappear into a book somewhere and merely become a watered-down account of insignificant facts, but truth will continue to be paired with people's personal experiences of the Heavenly Potter who transforms and molds each willing lump of clay. What a thing to hear...the personal story of someone's journey to the cross.  That is an experience like no other!

"Taste and see that the Lord is good..." Psalm 34:8
"Your word, Lord, is eternal..." Psalm 119:89






Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What I'm Learning from Dirt

Watering dirt is boring. I decided this a while back when I first planted seeds in my greenhouse.
Daryl so kindly ventured into building a greenhouse for this gardener-want-to-be.  We spent months gathering repurposed wood and materials from the family farm. Now completely built, I affectionately call it "my oasis in the backyard." Though I am still learning how to NOT kill plants, I'm thrilled to have started my garden!

Once my seeds were sown, my eagerness became impatience as I really, REALLY wanted to see signs of life. Instead, I found myself daily watering...dirt. Honestly, it was kind of boring at first.  But eventually, I began to see tiny specks of vivid green emerge from under the soil.  Yay!

My very own greenhouse, thanks to a super
awesome husband.
Planting a garden has become a spiritual experience for me. The miracle that unfolds when a dry, dead seed comes to life is nothing less than amazing. As life springs forth in my back yard soil, it also springs up new life in my soul as I think about the way God has taken such an empty shell as myself and filled me up with the miracle of His life.

How patient the True Life Gardener is! As I spent the first weeks watering my dirt with no evidence of life, I began to appreciate how often my God-Gardener must do this with me. He's faithfully given me all that I need in order to grow, but probably spends a substantial amount of time watering my "dirt", waiting for the perfect moment for growth to spring up. He already knows that the miraculous changes that will take place are all His doing. He hasn't rushed me nor has He neglected. He's always known that miraculous growth takes time. I'm so thankful for His patience!

The bible has a lot to say about seeds, soil and farming. There's the Parable of the Sower and the verses about faith the size of a mustard seed and many others. As I watch my garden grow into full (hopefully productive) plants, I'm seeing with my very eyes what God was trying to tell me through His Word. My pretty little plants are revealing truths that have been just, well... stories. But I'm learning that the seed, and the DIRT, have a lot to teach me about my Savior. Lord, thank you for the beauty in dirt, seeds and gardens! And thank you for the life you've miraculously grown in me. Who knew one could learn so much while watering dirt?!

"So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."  I Cor. 3:7

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Song of Hope

This will not be a typical blog today.  Instead, mainly words to a song that has consumed my thoughts today- A song which has moved me to tears more times than any other song in my life.  I think it's because the words sum up everything that makes my heart beat...especially in the dark days. The lyrics to this old tune offers Hope. I decided to post them because, well... I don't know.  I needed them. Maybe you need them today, too?   

     Because He Lives
God sent His Son, they called him Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon.
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Because He lives 
I can face tomorrow;
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives!

How sweet to hold our newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance,
This child can face uncertain days because He lives.

And then one day I'll cross that river
I'll fight life's final war with pain;
And then as death gives way to victory,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He reigns.

Because He lives 
I can face tomorrow;
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives!

I was reminded today of how much hurt and heartache this life brings. As I often do when I need to think and pray, I sat at my piano bench and began to play, this time from an "old favorite". Eventually, I came across this song and was reminded of how much more hope there is than heartache, all because of Jesus. 

It's not the first time this song has stopped me in my tracks and brought me to tears.  Not tears of sadness, but of joy and hope. I still miss my dad and Daryl's dad. Death and disease are so hard.  As I was praying for friends whose son has been moved to a hospice home, I couldn't think of better words to meditate on than these. I especially love the words "But greater still the calm assurance, this child can face uncertain days because He lives."  I have no idea what my future holds for me or my kids or friends, and that can be unsettling when I take my eyes off of Jesus. But when I fix my eyes on Him, I remember that He really does hold the future, for all eternity.  I love that!

Sometimes I wonder what it must be like for those who've already gone on before us, who are in the presence of God, as they sing songs, maybe like this one.  How much more whole-heartedly they must sing at the top of their lungs since their eyes get to behold Him.  Oh, what a day that will be!!!  


Monday, February 3, 2014

"FREEEEEEDOOOOM!!!!"

"THEN... you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32, words spoken by Jesus himself)  I'm sure you've heard these words spoken before. We long to be free! This isn't talking about freedom as a nation, but instead as an individual...in a spiritual sense. Did you catch that tiny, enormous word though?
             
          Then...

So small, yet its job is to conjoin two thoughts. If, then, that.
   
     "Finish your homework, then you can go out with friends."
          "First, I'll pay my bills, then I'll buy those shoes."
                "Plant a garden, care for it, have patience then harvest the food."

What comes before the "then" matters. It builds the stage, the principle, upon which we base the condition of the reward. Oh, how often I want to put the cart before the horse! Don't you?

But, what did Jesus say BEFORE "...then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free"? This: "If you hold to my teaching, you are truly my disciples. THEN you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

All through John 8, Jesus is trying to tell the Pharisees, when I say I am God, believe me! I am He! This was the teaching he wanted them to grasp hold of. They were totally missing the point. He in essence was telling them, "Follow me, believe me, obey me, make me Lord of your life over all you do, and then you will be truly free!"

And in response they sneered, "Who do you think you are?!?"

Lately, I've been pondering how I could have more of Jesus in my life. Bottom line, I've decided I need to learn more about the words Master and Lord. I still battle wanting to have my way all the while expecting the blessings and freedom Jesus speaks of. Some days I sound like a Pharisee and silently grumble, "Who do you think you are? I'm my own boss! Nobody is going to tell me what to do!"

I'm realizing though, God's kingdom is full of oxymorons:

"Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it."
"So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
"For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Whatever, right? Sounds like a broken accounting, doesn't it? But I'm understanding more and more that that's exactly what God's grace in my life looks like. Trust him, and blessing pours out. So when he says, "You want freedom? Make me Master," it sounds totally backward. But it's true! I'm continually learning to live more for Him and will wholeheartedly attest to the abundant freedom in my own life thanks to my Heavenly Father's mastery over it!!! Strange but true!

I debated whether or not to "share" this blog, because it may sound a little "preachy" but I got to thinking how universal the longing for true freedom is. Everyone wants it. But it is only found in Jesus. If you are looking for this kind of freedom, might I encourage you to start by reading the book of John in the bible? It's beautiful. It's true. It tells of true life!


If you are heavy burdened, bound up by the sin in your life, in slavery to things you think will rule you forever, like addictions, dark secrets, an ugly past, not measuring up to perfection, anything, come to Jesus! Give your life to Him, make him Master, and ironically, you will not receive slavery, but freedom! This is the beginning of knowing God's grace.  If you say to yourself, "Yeah, I've done that before and it's just a bunch of heavy do's and don'ts, it's not freedom," you're absolutely right!!! Someone probably gave you the Law. The Law does not offer Life. Truly, Jesus' yoke is light, not a heavy burden. I'd beg you to read Galatians to see what He has to say about it. I have seen and experienced the difference between grace and law.  One leads to life, the other to death. He is a good God and loves you and wants to give you Life! That is he came and gave His life, so that you may have Life and have it more abundantly. Another broken, but beautiful accounting from God's kingdom!

     "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." Galatians 5:1
          "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36


*If you want to look up the places I found these bits of truth, here they are:
     Matthew 11:30
     John 10:10
     Romans 8:1-3
     Romans 6:14
     Galatians 3:21-26

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The REST of the Story...Candi Style

I've heard it said that people feel more lonely, less content and a general sense of dissatisfaction after looking at Facebook. Evidently, because people post mainly the "high points" of life on their pages, we conclude that our life seems dull and boring compared to everyone else's. I've started giving some thought to this lately.  Hmm... Do I only put on edited versions of a glorified life? Have I put up pictures of misbehaving, unkept kids? Would I ever post a picture of my home so messy it looked like a bomb just exploded? How about a picture of myself fuming, mad with nostrils flaring?

Granted, I don't think anyone gets on Facebook to see my piles of laundry, cheerios on my unswept kitchen floor or a family pic of us in the midst of a fight. But I do think this argument against presenting "edited, perfect lives" reveals a longing we all have.
We long to know the genuine. Part of that is finding out we aren't the only one with imperfections. It's easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that every other mother must be doing everything right or that all your friends keep a clean house all the time. Or that everyone else's marriage is conflict-free and all smiles.

So, just like Paul Harvey's radio program, The Rest of the Story, I'm going to tell you a couple of recent "rest-of-the-stories" from my life. Yes, I recently posted that I painted the entry of our home. I am not gonna lie...I love how it turned out! I've wanted to do this for years. But as my family can attest, every time I get into a project that fills my creative need, my house goes to pot! Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll show you.

While this happened, just feet away...
...this is what the kitchen turned into!

Our Christmas vacation really WAS fun this year, but this was all you saw...









We enjoyed wonderful weather along the beach where we did take walks and drink coffee and enjoy the retreat from the regular everyday grind. But what you didn't see was that we had one of THESE on the way home...


We had a doozy of a fight in the van on the way home. I didn't
actually take a picture of THAT moment so this picture captures the
essence of its nature as good as anything!

So, yes, there is a woman who enjoys painting for days on end. But she has a knack for letting the dailies turn into mounds. Paint dries on walls while food dries on plates. She is blessed to have a husband who takes her on vacation and works hard to make it possible. She is equally blessed that he also works to fight through the tough things, too.  Life is messy! Sometimes it's REALLY hard! Some days I just want to hug my kids so hard because I love them so much. Other days, I want to hug them a little "extra" tight and ring their necks!!!

Anyway, we all have unkept, hard areas of life. I'm not saying we need to post pictures of it all online, mind you, but when I heard this conversation about contentment in light of pristine Facebook profiles, I just thought it was a good reminder to keep it REAL and remember we all have the "unpostable" moments. It doesn't make us bad. It's just life. And let's not compare because we'd be comparing against an edited perfect version that's unattainable.

And that's the rest of the story... my story. Dishes, laundry, fights and all.