A Regal Reminder

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The regal or royal walnut moth is one of the largest moths around my area. They are a gorgeous vibrant orange with a muted brown almost grey with cream highlights. These striking colors are just one part of what makes them so interesting. After all, these moths begin as a giant caterpillar, green and almost frightening. They have large horns that look menacing and if you find one, if you handle it, it may thrash it’s bulging body in attempts to scare you. In all reality, the regal moth’s caterpillar form, the hickory horned devil, is a docile, chubby green caterpillar that means no harm. 

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These caterpillars can be as big as an average hotdog and you may find it on the ground rather than on a branch because of its peculiar life cycle. The hickory horned devil does something a little different compared to most caterpillars seeing that it doesn’t spin a cocoon that we naturally relate to most moths. Instead, the little devil makes his way down from shade trees and burrows in the ground, choosing the earth to make his transformation into the beautiful regal moth. 

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Maybe it is strange that I would be writing about an insect in the dead of winter, but right now is when the transformation is taking place. The sun is shining less and snow blankets the earth in its sheet of white, but underneath all of that, down in the dormant earth, a small creature is being transformed into something beautiful. The change is happening now, even through all this wind and ice. 

Maybe you are in your winter in life. You just don’t see a change happening, all you see is cold, unforgiving harsh weather patterns. But, change can happen in the wait. Maybe you are watching someone else weather the cold storms and you can’t understand why they are not changing the way you think they should, maybe the change is happening underneath, deep down, where you just can’t see it yet. 

I pray that this moth is a reminder for you this weekend, whether you are waiting out your own winter storm or watching someone you love weather their own, God made it possible for a green, horned slow moving caterpillar find it in themselves to dig deep and wait it out just to reemerge a beautiful moth. So if God has a plan for a caterpillar, He certainly has a plan for you. 

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

 

Re-reading the Manual

Sunday, our normal preacher didn’t take the stand, but the pastor of operations did. Shane and I have heard the younger speaker before, and agree, he is just as inspiring as our senior pastor. This week, he did not disappoint, bringing forth the word, and presenting it not as a “how-to” manual for life, but instead a story of who. If we constantly and only approach the word as a manual, then we are bound to be disappointed. Ways we can be disappointed could be in ourselves for not measuring up or being disappointed because even though we were following the “directions”, things did not turn out how they were supposed to. We can be disappointed as we feel we are following the “directions” yet others around us, who don’t seem to be following them get promoted, get a bonus, get that relationship we’ve been wanting, that job, that home, what ever.

If your heart is heavy and mind is tired from trying to follow the “how-to” manual, these lyrics from the song “Particles” seem to sum up how it feels in that moment of things not working:

Here I am
Floating in emerald sea
Keep me dancing
Keep me as still as can be
And I try to keep the balance right
And I try but it feels like wasted time

But these heavy hands
They’re pulling me down on my chest
Latching on, coloring all of my flesh
Quietly, you hover over me
And I fight but it feels like wasted time

I’ve been there. Who hasn’t been there? I think what really hurts sometimes is seeing someone you love right there; there in that moment of “but what did I do so wrong, wasn’t I basically following the manual? I have seen others follow it far less, and yet I’m the one suffering.” Any time spent following the manual, feels like wasted time. Disappointments pull you down and seem to latch on. I so want to tell everyone who is standing in that place, there is a door, there is a pathway, there is more to the story. Thank goodness, there is more to the story, there is redemption.

Our regular pastor has been speaking on Revelation, and he is in chapters two and three at this point, and Jesus is revealing things he knows about specific churches, a testament to a central theme in Revelation that God knows what you are going though, it is evident by what he already knows about the churches. At the end of every church statement is written, “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says…” Meaning, if we put it in context of ourselves, we have to be willing to listen. We have to be willing to look for signs of all sizes. This is where our senior pastor said, “Do not miss the subtle ways God reveals himself because you are only looking for the powerful.” Maybe it is a song, maybe it is a blogpost, maybe it is a friend reaching out, but that is God acknowledging that he knows what you are going through and he is trying to reach out to you about it.

The bridge for me between his message from Revelation on April 29 to this past Sunday’s sermon on the Bible as a “how to” guide, was this idea of not giving up. If you have followed the Bible like a “how-to” manual instead of a story about who, then trying something else might seem to make more sense, ignoring it until Sunday may seem easier, or tossing out the manual altogether may seem like an answer, but there is more to the story than a list of do’s and don’ts and more to your story. It may feel like God hasn’t noticed how you have followed directions or at least that other people have followed them less and yet they are receiving blessings and it just feel like time wasted, but there is more.

Pointing out synonyms, we looked at Psalm 19:7-10 where it speaks of the law of the Lord, or synonyms for law like commands or decrees.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.

 

Here it is, verses making promises, following all these rules should work, right? So why doesn’t it always work out? Where is the beauty in illness, in a car crash, in debt, in a broken family? Let’s pause and consider, what if we re-read those verses and replace the “how-to” with a who.

7  Jesus is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
Jesus is trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
Jesus is right,
    giving joy to the heart.
Jesus is radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
Jesus is pure,
    enduring forever.
Jesus is firm,
    and all of them are righteous.

10 Jesus is more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
He is sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.

 

And what if we look at the truth Jesus shared about himself in Matthew 11 where his arms are stretched out, reaching for us? It adds so much to these Psalms full of promises and helps fulfill a beautiful image of a caring savior.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus is the answer. He is perfect, he is pure, he is forever. He is all of those things that the Psalms describes. While those descriptions may be applied to many unreachable gods, Jesus is reachable. In fact, he is reaching out for us with the promise of rest.

Jesus is the answer. Every time he speaks to a church in Revelation, our pastor pointed out, Jesus identifies himself to them, and to the suffering church of Smyrna, he presents himself as the one who died and came to life again. For that particular church, they needed to know that, they were under real persecution, and some wouldn’t survive. But, we need to be reminded of eternity too. This isn’t it, there is more, so much more to all of our stories thanks to Jesus, and when it seems like the rules, the decrees, the manual isn’t working, Jesus is perfect, refreshing to the soul and waiting to give us rest.

I have to finish with this quote from our senior pastor because as I heard it the first time, I found it so encouraging. The connection I made with this particular quote from his message and resting in Jesus rather than a “how-to” manual just culminated into a beautiful reminder I want to carry into the remainder of this spring. It is a reminder that I can’t keep to myself as I see hurting people all around me feeling like they are wasting time on laws and decrees with hollow promises. And to contrast the song “Particles”, I also want to share “Your Promises” and hope it is a song you can carry with you this hour, this day , this week to remind you to not give up.

“Don’t give up even though you don’t always understand what God is doing, you may not like it, you may not understand it. Things might happen to you that God didn’t orchestrate because somebody else turned wrong, made a wrong decision and now you are paying the price and he would’ve not wanted you to go through that, but he promised he’d be with you, even in the middle of it. But even if there are things God orchestrates, and you don’t get what he’s doing and the end result, don’t give up.” -Denny Krajacic, Senior Pastor at Butler Community Alliance Church