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Fear is a Liar

I was blessed to have the time to have a husband who was willing to stay home with our dogs and enjoy the whole week of Creation Northeast. If you have never heard of creation before, it is a christian music festival that begins Wednesday night and goes worshipping, praising, and teaching through to Saturday night. It was their 40th year anniversary, which brought many speakers to note the importance of that number in the Bible, and how they viewed it as a turning point for even bigger and better years to come. It was neat to be there for that special occasion, but 40th year or not, it was refreshing to be there for all of the speakers and singers I got to hear. I have wanted to go for the entirety of the festival for a long time, and finally got to.

So many wonderful things were unexpectedly revealed to me or convictions were just lovingly reinforced. From tables selling shirts that read “Worthy” to speakers getting to the nitty gritty of what I claim to believe, to singers pouring out their heart, it is hard to walk away from such an event saying, “I got nothing.” Instead, I feel fueled up and ready to take on what ever life throws at me after spending time fellowshipping with like-minded people. As if to reinforce that, a few times speakers or singers briefly mentioned the importance of fellowship, highlighting the ultimate example of fellowship as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and it was so good to hear and be reminded that I am not alone in this walk, even though I spent time there alone after my friend left, and even though the mounting antagonism against people who believe strongly in something through the media.

One stand there had beautiful wooden signs with scripture on them, engraved in, dotted with color. They were beautiful. Sitting in front of the signs were a few boxes of little Jenga sized blocks that, on each side, had a little truth from God’s word. I snapped a picture of them with the adolescent treatment center my childhood church goes to in mind, what a great trinket we could give the girls if they would be allowed to have them. I sent the picture off to the woman who goes every week and she thought unfortunately with everything that has been going on their lately, they may not allow them to be given to the girls. Despite that news, I offered perhaps a lesson plan could be done around them instead, to which she responded, “Great!” and a thumbs up emoji.

So I created a coloring sheet with the four truths that were coupled with scripture from the blocks and created a lesson plan to tie them together.

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I began with the Matthew 21 story of Jesus and the fig tree and how when Jesus and his disciples approached the fig tree, all leafy and green, yet it had no fruit that Jesus said, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And right then, the tree withered up and was dead. I asked if any one of them ever had a house plant, because I have, and no matter how hard I try, I tend to always kill them! But it is a slow, sad process of yellow leafs appearing, then a few leafs falling off, and it takes a while, but eventually the plant dies, but not the fig tree, this whole tree died right away. As some continued to color, one read the verses from Matthew:

Matthew 21:21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Faith will bring victory, and we could see that very plainly when Jesus commanded the fig tree to no longer bear fruit. This became possible because Jesus’ father is God, the creator of all things, the king of all things. Then I had someone else read the next verse, and someone eagerly read the Psalms:

Pslam 103:19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

He isn’t like a king, a mayor, a president who is human. A man running for office might make a promise before he gets into that seat of power, and he might not always follow through, because he is human, he is flawed. But God is perfect, and God is king over everything, so his promises will come true. Promises like we find in Deuteronomy where he says he will never leave you nor forsake you, or like ones in Isaiah where those who hope in him will rise up on wings like eagles because God’s promises are still true.

With that truth from the little wooden block and their coloring sheet being said, I then read a version of the Corinthians verse I found in the New Living Translation, because some versions weren’t easy to understand.

2 Corinthians 1:20 For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!”

With these amazing promises you would think it would be easy to follow what the Bible says, but the ways of the world are painted as so much easier or more fun. Take for example, staying up late Saturday night at a party, doing things you shouldn’t verses waking up early Sunday to go to church. Or maybe it seems easier to make fun of the new or different girl, or it is at least easier to say nothing.

Someone who knows this all to well is someone named Zach Williams. I asked the girls to raise their hands if they knew who Zach Williams was. Those who weren’t zeroed in on their coloring sheet looked at me like they wanted to say they knew, but as they thought of names, they really didn’t. I revealed to them, one of their favorite songs to sing, Chainbreaker, is by Zach Williams; the eyes I could see lit up.

I gave a brief rundown of Zach’s personal testimony that I had gotten to hear last summer at one of his concerts. Zach’s story begins with despite growing up in a christian household, one where he knew the truths on the girl’s coloring sheets, Zach still fell in with the wrong crowd. Once in college, he began his music career, which landed him a spot as a singer in a rock band. From the outside, he looked successful, touring in Europe with his band, but everything you would think that comes with being in a rock band like drugs and alcohol followed.  He was unhappy and his marriage was falling apart when one day he heard a song by Big Daddy Weave, a christian group, on the radio and right then and there as he puts it, “God showed me a glimpse of what my life could be like, if I would turn from my sin and follow him.” So he did, he quit that band and made things better with his wife, and since things were going so well, he thought the music chapter in his life was over, but he was wrong! As soon as he started to follow God’s calling and write christian lyrics, God opened door after door for him!

One of his songs is titled “Fear is a Liar” and I told the girls we were going to listen to it as soon as someone read the John verse.

John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The devil wants us to think his way is easier, more fun, or what other people are doing, but he knows no truth. Jesus, the son of the King of Kings, the king who created everything is the one who said that truth. I emphasized, every time Zach Williams says fear, he is referring to the devil, because the devil creates fear, while God provides a perfect love that casts out all fear.

I didn’t even see Zach Williams this year at Creation, but the little blocks I found there were just the perfect thing to bring back and share with those girls who need to know love. You never know what you will find at Creation, but there is always something encouraging, something enlightening, and something dare I say beautiful.

By the way, if you want to print the coloring sheet, please do! If you fold it in half, then in half again, you can create a rectangle log that you can tape together and let it set up so you can be reminded of a promise from God’s word. You can turn it to one that speaks to you, or maybe turn it day by day, what ever works for you!

 

Gone Fishing

When spring was trying sneak past winter, and I was still trapped inside due to the chill in the air, I sat down and thought, “I will make a list about fishing, all of the places Shane and I fished together in our first year of marriage.” I can say with certainty, we did not fish enough. Now, this was a list of us together. Shane  went with out me many, many times on the ice and a few times last spring. In the end, this is our list of places we fished as a couple, either alone or with friends and family, in our first year of marriage:

1. Moraine State Park

Okay, this one makes total sense. We could walk to this place if we wanted to. Lake Arthur is a body of water I have worn my hip boot into to practice fly fishing, a place I have walked on when it was cold enough, and of course, we have been out with the boat so many times I have lost track.

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2. Parker Dam State Park

This was the place that was always my go-to growing up. It was natural to share the excitement of opening day together with my dad and Leah this past year on the bank of Parker Lake, although we also hit Laurel Run in this park on the first day. Shane may not be into the “shoulder to shoulder” mayhem with those who have never fished except for on opening day, but we had fun none the less. I think that first day, with a crowded shoreline, can be humbling as you try to catch trout that aren’t that hungry and novices can out-catch you with in minutes.

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3. Frances Slocum State Park

Frances Slocum Lake was a little, but rewarding lake. We were on vacation, so why not just relax by a shoreline after hiking at Ricketts Glen? We set up bobbers and played cards and reeled in fish. This was when Shane commented that maybe once a year he would go bobber fishing usually, but that in that moment, the Sunday before Memorial Day, already gone twice, and he said he can see why people like it.

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4. The Grove City Ponds

This was a place Shane got me out onto the ice again! We had a lot of fun here once we got all set up in the rain in a little pop-up shelter he brought to keep me dry. We caught bluegills here and with his fish finder, we could see them coming in and how they were reacting to our bait. This was one of the most recent places he and I fished considering we are just coming out of ice-fishing season and why it made it over the next location.

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5. Spring Creek

This quick afternoon trip was made with Leah after she and I had been at the Creation Festival. It was a Sunday afternoon, and Leah wanted to experience fly fishing on a creek, Shane had come to the Saturday night concert and so I had told him to bring up fishing stuff so Sunday we could go out on our way home. Unfortunately, this fishing trip didn’t supply us with any catches at all. I just wanted to lay in the cool water, having been in the hot sun all weekend at the festival, so needless to say, with Leah having to head back to Connecticut, we stopped our attempts sooner than Shane probably would’ve liked.

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Sadly, those were the only places that we enjoyed fishing together. After figuring that out, I promptly told Shane, we had to go to more places, even if I had to drag him along kicking and screaming. (Of course, this would never be the case.) Now with the summer sun smiling down on us, looking out to a blue sky, another list has started up on my computer, a list of places where we could get to for a nice day trip and take the boat and Grizz could learn some boating manners.

It’s funny though, because this list reminds me that no matter what we plan, no matter what we have in store, we cannot plan for tomorrow. As it stands right now, Shane and I are with out a truck to haul the boat, and though we have canoes and hip waders and other ways to fish, the truck breaking down has dampened our spirits.

Proverbs 27:1 says not to boast about tomorrow, because we never know what tomorrow may bring, and with my longboard fall and the truck breaking down, we know that to be true. Another couple may be stressing out at the lack of a truck and the dilemmas that may bring as we need one to gather the materials for the new dog fence, haul a boat, or even just to move things with more ease on our property, but as Shane and I discussed what to do about a truck, we decided to just keep praying and waiting. As Shane put it, he has never not had anything he needed provided just at the right time. I love hearing that from him, knowing he is able and capable to wait on the Lord with me.

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendorwas dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 

 

 

 

My Dog’s Beard

Between puppy naps I am trying to get some “to-do’s” done. Grizz is such a busy little puppy and it isn’t always the easiest keeping up with him with this bum knee. I am cautiously bending it now, but that doesn’t mean I am running. He had “bring” down by day five of being with us, bring meaning fetch, and he has sit mastered, because he has connected that when he does sit, he generally gets what he wants. I feel as though these pop up storms today are going to mess up our pattern of hanging out outside until I am absolutely certain he won’t make a mess on the carpet.

I have gotten some art projects done while I sit, babying my knee. With my dogs as inspiration, I created these fun images of a cartoon Drahthaar and German Wirehaired Pointer for merchandise. I know I am a dog person and love things having to do with my pets, so I figured others would probably enjoy my doodles of my pets as well. If you click on the image below, it will link you to my shop where you can purchase them in mug or t-shirt form and personalize it if you so choose. I know the cartoon image can also resemble a Griffon or Pudelpointer, so I made the breed text at the bottom changeable or removable.

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It has been fun learning how to work with this puppy. After frustrating moments, I try to not only refocus him, but myself and remind myself that this is a really smart breed, he just needs a job. So “sit” followed by “down” has been my next mission.

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A Deutsch Drahthaar is a very vermittle hunting dog whose native land is Germany and didn’t make an appearance in the United States until the 1920’s. They have wired hair and webbed feet because they do well in all terrains, including water. One thing Shane keeps reminding me of is that with this breed, when other dogs are getting tired, these tanks are just getting started.

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He will look a lot like Jagger, but they aren’t quite the same. Remember those sentences in English that made you think like “Every rose is a flower, but not every flower is a rose”? Well, Deutsch Drahthaars are considered German Wirehaired Pointers, but not all German Wirehaired Pointers are Deutsch Drahthaars. Jagger is just a German Wirehaired Pointer, Grizz’s breed is much more strict about breeding. When we got Grizz, the breeder explained how his color could only breed with a certain other color; forgetting what he had said, I looked it up when we got home with him and what I found about breeding them was a huge file with articles one through thirty-six with do’s and don’ts, exceptions and rules.

So that is a little background to our new furry member of the Elser household. To follow suit with Shane and Jagger, he is already working on a beard.

Meet Grizz

We did it. We got a puppy. He has been in our care for six days now and is a joyful, wiggling, floppy handful. His name is Grizzly Adams, but we call him Grizz.

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When we picked him out, we played with his other brothers first. You see, when we got pictures of the litter, Shane had immediately pointed to the all brown one and said, “That one!” At the same time, my finger pointed to the all white, with a brown head fella and I declared, “That one!” We eventually thought the all white one would be easy to see when hunting, so just from a picture said that was choice one and the all brown one was choice number two, even though, initially, he was choice number one.

When we got to the breeder, the all white one was gone, our number three pick, the one with the interestingly symmetrical spots on his back was still there and quite the hefty fella. The all brown one only stood out because he was just that, an all brown one compared to the spotted siblings. We got out the number three pick with another smaller, friendly one to play with as suggested by the breeder. Although the big guy followed the breeder around, he didn’t seem all too interested in us, and he was loud and pushy. We got out another spotted one with the big guy, and it could’ve cared less about us or anything else. Finally we got out the all brown one.

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Not only did he seem interested in us, he was somewhat submissive, not loud, and seemed calmer than all of them. So our number one pick, moved to number two, then ignored for a quick moment at the sight of all the other spotted, mostly bigger brothers, became our Grizz. Even the breeder seemed happy with our choice, as though he knew that was the one for us and was holding his breath until we said, “This one!”

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We stayed and chatted with the breeder for a bit before we headed off, back to my folks place to show him off, and to meet Jagger. From there we went to see our friends at a camp on the Allegheny where Grizz met more dogs, more people, and water! It was a busy first day, followed by a Sunday and Memorial Day of more playing at Shane’s dad’s home. It couldn’t have been a busier weekend for our new little addition.

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Rest

I flew into the rest of my weekend after I wrote my last post. I literally flew off of my longboard, onto the hard pavement, hitting first my knee, followed by a slide on my right side. The flying on the longboard stands out less against the memory of falling and sliding. I stood up quickly, annoyed I skinned my left tricep very much, and then I looked at my knee. I shudder at the picture that comes up in my mind. 

Shane was still at work, that was why I decided, after accomplishing my list of things to do, that I would ride my longboard. It was the first time I had gotten it out since last summer, and some pride in me said that I could indeed ride it to Rin’s house and back before Shane got home before our date. I had not considered the hill before her home, and there I met the pavement with a leap and a tumble. It was fortunately on this hill where a neighbors house is situated and this neighbor happened to be sitting on her porch with a biker who had been peddling by and took a break. So two angels, one a nurse, and the other ready and willing to take orders and help out, happened to be right on the scene and knew what to do till Shane’s dad arrived to drive me to the hospital.

So now, here I am, my right leg wrapped and velcroed into a brace propped up on a camp stool while I sit in a camp chair on our back porch. 

I can tell you exactly what got me into this situation, but it is still aggravating to think of how hurt my knee is. I shouldn’t bend it for two weeks due to the huge gash full of seven stitches and twenty-seven staples. Do you know how hard it is for me to sit still? Alas, I can count it a blessing it wasn’t worse. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any easier to sit still. As Rin put it, there must be some reason God wanted you to rest. 

Her comment made me look into verses about rest, because I have been doing a lot of that. I enjoy doing it on my back porch the most because I see our Orchard Oriole families, we have two, the yellow warblers, hummingbirds, cat birds, mocking birds, bluejays, countless red wing black birds and robins, and of course my little phoebe whose nest is just over my shoulder. It really has been a joy to just observe God’s nature, and on a morning like this morning where I was calling in a gobbler, interact with it despite my limitations. 

This certain, classic Psalm stood out to me though, because of the non-passive word, make.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. Why would God make me lie down when I have so much to do and I have this break before teaching summer workshops? Though I believe in signs, I am not sure a very obvious one is about to literally be written in the sky answering my question as to why right now must I rest. I just have to sit, be patient, and keep my eyes open and alert like I do when looking for all my different birds. 

Psalm 23:2-3 “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”

Ironic I would’ve just ordered the book, and got about the day before my accident, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense” by Dr James Dobson. Again, I am not unaware of what got me into this situation, and I am thankful it isn’t worse, but the why right now at the beginning of my summer has echoed in my head. This book draws stories and examples from far worse accidents that have happened in christians lives, and dares to ask why. It doesn’t skim over the question of, “Why, God?” with verses like Romans 8:28 where it says all things work together for good. Dr James Dobson really pulls out good examples of people in the Bible with big why’s, and verses besides Romans 8:28. 

One verse the book brought up felt appropriate to my injury, as our nurse neighbor, gingerly, yet assertively held my knee together with a motherly touch. Then again, when my mom drove down on Monday and kept me company and helped around the house while I was confined mainly to the couch. 

Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you: and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” 

As I continue to watch the birds and finish some lyric videos for mu mom’s vacation Bible school, I actually want to leave some pictures of a bird that I can’t seem to identify. So for all you bird watchers out there, help me out, this grey bird has no other markings besides a light belly and red skin around its eye and a curved bill. I am in western Pennsylvania, so a curved bill thrasher doesn’t make sense, but that is what it reminds me of.

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As A Bird Flaps It’s Wings

Today is a fragile one, one where the right word, the right song brings trembling hands and a tear. Alas, I am one for routine, after bird watching and trying out my new camera taking shots of fluttering wings early in the morning, I went into my Friday routine. This includes a Tai Chi class, then stopping at the grocery store for lunch meat for the fresh bagels I get at my final stop at our local bakery where they had birthday cake biscotti’s today. 

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On the way to the gym for the Tai Chi class, I got some sweet texts from loving aunts, and coupled with the new album I was singing out loud, the tears came. I pulled it together for the Tai Chi class, but during the morning energy flow, the moves we did that reflected bird movements again made my eyes glassy. It just made my morning go full circle, the peaceful bird watching, the reading about Abraham and Isaac and the faithful in Hebrews, and with the praise songs from the new Rend Collective album I have been enjoying, I just felt I was being reminded there are blessings, always blessings, all around. 

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Blessings in our lives are sometimes like birds. We can hear their song, but we can’t always see them. It can be frustrating, straining your eyes, looking at a tree, knowing there is a bird chirping a melodic song in there somewhere, but we just can’t see, so we stop looking. Other times, birds come flitting into view, bright and beautiful, we see it, but it flies off before we are done looking. In both cases, we almost resent the fact that we didn’t see the bird more or closer; we over look the little bit of blessing we did receive. 

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The ever so hard to get clearly Orchard Oriole

Sometimes we forget, if we really want to see that rare bird, sometimes we have to sit still, be patient and wait. Even then, if we don’t have the right tools, like a lens that can zoom or binoculars, we still aren’t going to see it clearly. A bird isn’t going to just land in your lap because you want it to.

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I have been especially enjoying capturing shots of dozens of types of birds this spring because I got a 75-300 mm lens this spring. Finally yesterday, I attached it to my new body I also got, but only charged for the first time yesterday. So, with my Canon EOS 80D and new zoom lens, I was capturing some really good pictures of birds. In this post, I will just be including photos I got today and last night, but with that same lens and older body, I got some okay photos of even more types of birds. 

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As I mentioned before, I have really been enjoying the new Rend Collective album, so I couldn’t end this post with out including a song that really applies to today. There are so many little blessings flying and flitting around me, I can’t deny that life is beautiful and up from the ash, up fro the dust, God can recreate us and I will rejoice in the sunshine and the sorrow, and oh, my soul can rejoice. 

 

Light

Looking back through verses that I have posted in more recent entries caused me to pause and re-read them in the style of my last post. I replaced law from this Psalm and inserted Jesus, and it made me smile.

Psalm 119:97 Oh how I love Jesus!
    He is my meditation all the day.
98 Jesus makes me wiser than my enemies,
    for he is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
    for Jesus is my meditation.

He reached out to everyone, he loved everyone. He was a great teacher. Wouldn’t it make sense that if we are living with Jesus on our minds all the time, we would act differently to everyone around us? After all, those who look to him are radiant, because he is a light, and their faces shall never be ashamed according to Psalms 34. This leaves me beaming.

Looking to him, meditating on him and being left radiant also left me curious as to how many times the word light appears in the Bible. According to the Christian Bible Reference website, it varies a little based on version, but in the King James Version, light is mentioned 177 times in the Old Testament and 93 in the New Testament. Meanwhile, the Knowing Jesus website has 440 instances in the thesaurus where the word light shows up in the Bible. Either one of the websites counts are impressive and is proof that the idea of light is important.

So many verses express how, once knowing Jesus, you have light. Once believing in Jesus, Christians are described as the salt and light. The description of a man being foolish to hide a lit lamp under a bushel is a popular parable of Jesus. This idea of light makes me think of a child playing with a flashlight, even when their hand is squeezed over the lens, and orange glow creeps out from between fingers. To really hide the light, you have to turn it off or completely turn it inwards, utterly blocking the light.

John 12:46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

And yet, despite what that verse says, we do stay in darkness much of the time, don’t we? We hide our light, we keep it pressed close and inward so we can go out and no one will notice, for fear of actually having to discuss what we believe. We take out our flashlights and wave them like lighters at a concert in praise on Sundays, we feed the flame during the pastors message, but then we tuck it away again as soon as we leave the church parking lot. How many people know what light we have, does it creep out from between our fingers as we others politely enough? Or is it all together absent when the waitress gets our order wrong, the car mechanic lists off ten more things that are wrong with your car that you didn’t expect, or a friend comes to us crying asking why?

It can feel safer or easier to just ignore the light, to just hide it. Especially if you have gotten close to the brink or given up all together on the supposed “how-to” manual. After all, if you don’t even see results and you feel the pain that the world brings, what is the point of having the light? You might as well tuck it away until the occasional Sunday or holiday and live like the rest of the struggling world.

But, if you have the light, we are not like the rest of the world. We should know what true love is and want to share it. Think about a couple that just started dating, they can’t stop talking about the other person, they blush when they come up, and they make changes to their calendar just to see more of that person. A newly engaged couple is always happy to show off the ring and talk about plans for the big day. That other person is their life, and they would do anything for them. I can’t sum up any better how that sort of relationship should exist between us and the Light and how it should radiate out of us to affect others beyond this verse from John:

1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

If you are feeling like giving up, if you feel like it is easier to hide your light, if you feel like this “how-to” manual left out a few pages and isn’t fixing your problems, please don’t forget, you know what real love is and it comes from the Light. Life can get exhausting, confusing, and it can down right hurt, but Jesus’ arms are outstretched and he says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

I have to include this song from Tauren Wells because it is a beautiful reminder not to give up.

Standing in your ruins feels a lot like the end
So used to losing, you’re afraid to try again
Right now all you see are ashes
Where there was a flame
The truth is that you’re not forgotten
‘Cause Grace knows your name