Friday, May 21, 2010
It was a beautiful day for a hike. Tom and his wife, Anisa, were content to just soak up some sun after an extensive winter. It was a lazy day to recuperate from a long week and the “hustle and bustle” that is oftentimes Life.
For the most part they just walked along the path, well worn by other visitors. Crocuses, daffodils, narcissus, and other brightly coloured beauties were sprouting triumphantly from their damp, earthen beds. Twittering birds sang, flirted, and played around the tree branches above, skipping from one air current to another with glee.
Such joy! It was easy to relax and breathe with such beauty and tranquillity.
Squirrels, wary of these strangers to their home, scampered nervously from their position in a nearby maple tree. They were, seemingly, on a mission to find more nuts. A frenzied mouse sprinted across the path to find shelter in a group of ferns, and in the distant sky, a hawk was gliding and soaring, possibly on its way to find its next prey.
As Tom walked along he was thinking about how content he was. He and his wife both had great jobs. They had raised two beautiful and successful children, who now had families of their own. They were good people who volunteered when they could, donated to various organizations, and leant a helping hand to whoever had need. They were known by all to be kind, generous, and full of integrity. They went to church., and they enjoyed fellowship with others. All in all, they were set.
There was something that plagued his mind, though, even as he sauntered down the muddy trail. Something seemed to nag at his heart, but he was not sure exactly what it was. He thought to share his concern with Anisa, but decided against it, as he really did just want to relax and not let any concerns dampen the serenity.
Anisa was ahead of him by about three meters. Oh, what a woman! She was so beautiful, a true godsend, and as close to a Proverbs 31 woman as any could get. She obviously loved God and sought to always draw closer to Him. Her greatest desires were to seek after, to live for, and to learn more about Him and His ways; and, she had a passion for encouraging others to do the same. She prayed often for her family, friends, and others, and he had never seen anyone who entered into relationships with such passion. Honestly, he did not always understand it. Sometimes he thought it more of a weakness, as it left her vulnerable to so many who might take advantage of her kindness and care. She was too trusting, too loyal, and too interested. But then, he knew that their differences complimented each other.
Tom loved God. He prayed, whenever he thought of it. Perhaps he could do more to encourage growth in his own heart, but he just did not have that urgency. He did what was right, and felt that he was doing a good job at being the best person he could be. He read the Bible occasionally and really did like Pastor John’s ways of sharing God’s Word. He heard people talking about living for God fully surrendered, and, well, he just shrugged his shoulders. “Moderation. Everything in moderation.” That was best. Surely being an extremist and labelled a fanatic was not what Jesus would want them to do. “What Would Jesus Do?”, as far as he was concerned, meant this: living a life of loving and caring and respecting others; not judging; being a good citizen and standing for what was right and moral. Peter, Paul, and the disciples? Extremists, but that was for then, not for now.
A rock tripped him and jolted him out of his deep thoughts… Oh!
He had not realized how deep in thought he was! And now they were approaching the summit of this mountain. They had come here many times before, and he looked forward to soaking up the view that would be before them. It was one of his favourite places to come to and just… be.
Anisa arrived first and stood at the wooden railing intended to keep people from falling over the edge of the cliff. As Tom approached he could see her smiling, and he knew that she was mentally thanking God for His creativity and wonderful imagination. It truly was a sight to behold: the trees blossoming and budding, the earth coming alive in color after spending so many months clothed in deep browns and other blander shades.
A deep sigh escaped from within his heaving chest, and Anisa glanced at him, eyes full of appreciation and joy.
For several minutes they just stayed there, then Anisa decided to sit on a rock off to the side, closer to the trees, leaving Tom in a clearing closer to the railing. As they both meditated in silence, Tom was startled by a movement under his feet. What? In the moment that he was ready to step back, he saw the railing sink down away from view and the earth began to crumble before him. Astonished, he looked towards Anisa who glanced up just as Tom began to scramble to keep from sliding down the growing precipice. Panic seemed to stretch across the distance between them, as Anisa could only cry out, hands outstretched, and watch her beloved tumble over the edge.
A few years ago my pastor here in Italy asked something that has penetrated deeply into my heart.
He asked, “Where is the most dangerous place to be? (regarding relationship with God)…And he gave us a few minutes to consider the answer.
I thought to myself, “Hm… Well, let’s see. I think that the most obvious dangerous place to be is distant from God, not knowing Him, and unsaved. Right?
He said something that startled ME, and I knew it was true.
“The most dangerous place to be is this: When you think you are okay with God, and you are not. (!!!!)
I knew it was true. I have learned many things the hard way. For example: just knowing and living the “right things to say and the right things to do”, won’t save you. Neither will going to church every day of your life, being a good person, giving all you have to the poor, volunteering for all worthy and important causes, giving largely to charitable organizations, or being the nicest, most generous, most loyal, most loving person. (Each is important but will not bring you salvation from sins or get you to heaven.)
The Bible is clear: (my comments in parenthesis)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— (being good is not enough, knowing how to say and do the “right” things is not enough… we can do nothing to save ourselves, but we are saved out of HIS love and mercy)
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' ( that does not sound like “in moderation” to me…)
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” (do not become lax and complacent, don’t let yourself become too comfortable or fall asleep…Keep seeking and drawing near to God, and He will be found by you and draw near to you. He will strengthen you, keep you, and help you.)
So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (pick a side, and live urgently!!! Walking the fence is not safe. There are only two ways to go. The fence does not count and actually is considered as leaning to the wrong side.)
I will tell you honestly. It hurts to see family and friends suffering because they have chosen to walk away from Jesus. I see them struggling through trials and daily life, and I wish I could give them the “will” to love Jesus and live for Him; but, I can’t. I will not say that I have arrived and am just fine now… No, I have to “work out my salvation daily” just like everyone else, but… I know that I find my strength, joy, hope, love, peace, encouragement, and help in serving Jesus, in looking to Him, in seeking after Him, and drawing near to Him.
That is what I know, from personal experience. I know what it feels like to feel far from God. I know what it feels like to lose someone; or to feel overwhelmed in grief, depression or challenges threatening to destroy me. I know failure, but I also know what it feels like to see growth and feel triumph.
This journey is not meant to be walked alone. He wants to walk with you, sometimes carry you, and definitely take you by the hand and guide you, minister to you, provide for you, and just love you.
If you should have any questions or comments, please consider leaving me a comment on this post and signing in as anonymous (or leaving your name). Or you can send me an email by “viewing my profile”.
Blessings and many thoughts… Celita
Monday, May 17, 2010
My son, Luca, just turned 6. I am amazed at how fast time flies. Here is the card I made him. The theme of his party was "Dogs", but I also added the sub-theme of "Bolt". Also, my 10 year old niece made this bottom card,of Bolt's face, for him, with just a little help from her older sister, but it is great, isn't it?
Luca, we are celebrating God's faithfulness to you. We are rejoicing because of this life with which He has blessed you. Let your light shine for Jesus, my son. Let God live and work in you and through you. May God bless you, keep you, make His face shine upon you, be gracious to you, nad give you peace. Amen."