Saturday, October 31, 2015

Let There be Light

The first words we "hear" God speak are, "Let there be light." 

Now, I  fully believe in the literal interpretation of Genesis, but I think there may be some deeper meaning here as well. Think about it. God called for light before He went any further with Creation. The constant battle we face in this fallen world is light versus darkness, good versus evil. We often associate light with goodness. 

In saying, "Let there be light" it's almost like God was saying, "Let there be goodness." "Let My people shine." "Let My love light the world." 

1 John 1:5 says, "God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all." 

After God said, "Let there be light," the verse goes on to say, "and there was light." (Psalm 33:9 also says, "For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.") When God speaks, it actually happens. And there really is light in this dark world. 

You are the light. 

So shine! 

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." 

~Matthew 5:14-16


Sometimes God uses things in our lives, it usually seems to be things that annoy us at first, or that we view as a hindrance, to slow us down so we can stop, rest, and reflect. So here I am, stuck on the couch with a cold, reflecting and resting. But you know, it has been very good, and I am thankful.

It's the end of October now. That's crazy! Thanksgiving and Christmas really are just around the corner. Soon fall and its crisp wonders will be a memory, and white flakes of snow will take the place of the remaining autumn colors.

One thing that I've never quite been able to understand, or at least not relate to, is when people ask if you're staying busy, or when you say you have been really busy, they say, "Well, that's good!" I mean, I get that being busy can help one stay out of trouble, but I also feel like it can cause one to miss a lot of life. Contrary to my schedule, I really do not like to be "busy." I like quiet days like today where I can stop and reflect.

I think part of why people like busyness is because then they can just stay more in "survival" mode. They don't have to stop and think about the bigger, deeper questions of life. (However, "If Satan can't get you to stumble, he'll keep you busy.") But I don't like constant busyness, and I live for the deep questions, for finding the answers to these questions, and for engaging in conversation about these questions with others.

Maybe people like to stay busy because then they don't have to look at the whole world around them--all the problems, the pain. They can just stay in their own little world and live out their day-to-day lives, often turning a blind eye to this fallen world.

But I can't.

I can't turn my back on the unborn--not when I can be their voice.

I can't leave the broken stuck in their pain--not when I have something that can help them, not when I have something to share.

And I do.

I have Jesus.

Don't get to busy to where you neglect to do what God is calling you to do.

Be attentive and responsive to His voice. Sometimes He may be calling us to rest; other times, to action. 

Our job is to listen.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Real Stench

"Face your fear and it will disappear." I feel like it's more like, "Face your fear and it will multiply!" At least this is how it was for me just last night. I guess I better start off by telling you I HATE stink bugs. I hate them! I can stand spiders, I can handle wasps and bees, but I abhor stink bugs. They are horrid! Numerous times now, I have woken up to one crawling on my face or arm or leg, or I've heard one buzzing in my hair as I am falling asleep. But what makes them the most detestable creatures on this planet, is you cannot simply kill them! You can swat a fly and you can squish a spider, but dare you even threaten a stink bug and you will be sentenced to its lovely stench.

Last night, I walked into my room and saw a stink bug on my green curtains that drape over rods above my window with two swoops. It was perched up there with a proud look steaming out of its antennas--like a king watching over his kingdom, my bedroom. His countenance changed as I, the intruder, approached. I hopped up onto by bed, grabbed a piece of paper lying on my nightstand, and set about the disposal of my enemy. I was just going to get it on to the paper and take it to the bathroom where I could flush it down the toilet to its eternal damnation. However, as I tried to get it to crawl onto the paper, the stink bug began to escape to the backside of the curtain. Persistent to proceed, I simply pulled on the curtain, hoping to give myself a better angle at getting the stink bug. But, to my utmost horror, in doing so, I revealed four stink bugs, happily snuggled together in the fold of my curtain. Mortified, I let out a squealish moan and fled the room.

I ran out to where my mom was and attempted to explain what I found. "I, I... ah!! There's... I, I, I found...ah!! Just come!" She followed me back to my room where I showed her my disgusting discovery. Then she got the little vacuum and sucked away the monsters. Nonetheless, as Mom was vacuuming, she pulled back more folds on the curtain and uncovered the real multitude. There were about ten stink bugs in the fold. I screamed and did this little jitter-dance, shaking the body of the vacuum that I had been holding. My mom kept finding more and more in each fold and I screamed at every revelation. A stink bug fell off the curtain and landed on the floor, right next to me. That sent my feet stamping and me screaming even more.

After hearing all the noise, my dad came into my room and exclaimed, "What is going on in here?" Then he helped us get both curtains down and he took them outside and shook them out. In the end, we had found at least 30 stink bugs in my room. I kid you not!

Reflecting back on all of this, I was trying to figure out how to apply this to real life. Then it hit me very clearly. It is important to understand the stink bugs did not magically, all of a sudden appear in my room in such large quantities. It was a gradual process for them to accumulate like that. In fact, I had even been realizing how many stink bugs were in my room. However, as much as I hate stink bugs, I also hate getting rid of them because that means I have to deal with them! As long as they are not actually bothering me, I typically leave them alone. A few weeks ago, my very observant niece was in my room and said, "Laura, there are a lot of stink bugs in here."

"Yeah, I know," I replied, but I didn't do anything. Then she proceeded to count them and tell me exactly how many stink bugs were in my room, "You really need to get rid of them!" (Maybe I should listen to her better!!) Obviously, we need to deal with problems before they accumulate to such an extreme.

The same is true with this problem we face called sin. Too often, we let sin build up in our lives. Either we think no one sees it, so it doesn't matter, or we don't even realize our actions are sinful. But then we do recognize a small problem. We work toward getting rid of it, but in doing so, we uncover the multitude we have been hiding. When pressure is finally applied, it stinks!

We try to get rid of this sin on our own, but we can't. We need our Dad, our Heavenly Father, to take it for us--to shake us out and wash us. And you know what? He says that if we confess our sin, He will forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). Even more amazingly, He will remember it no more (Isaiah 43:24).

So what's hiding in the folds of your life? Why don't you let your Father take it for you and make you clean?

Don't keep it hidden because sin is the real stench!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Conquering Evil With Words

Edmund Burk said, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” The truth of this quote is evident in history. Those who have broken the silence through free speech have conquered the evils they faced and made a change.  It is essential for Americans to exercise their right to free speech and not give in to passivity. Freedom of speech is a treasured right and was used by Martin Luther King Jr. and William Wilberforce to make great changes in history.
Free speech is among the most valued of American freedoms and in the world as well. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…” America’s founding fathers realized free speech is a God-given right, and it is essential to a democracy. These rights had been present in the English Bill of Rights, but the founding fathers gave more rights and freedoms to the citizens. They knew people are the voice and foundation of America (“First Amendment”). Freedom of speech is a strong point in human rights documents. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, along with the European Convention on Human Rights, show the importance of freedom of expression and speech. A freedom with such value needs to be exercised (“What is the Role of Speech” 1). Even so, freedoms come with limits. People need to respect their own rights and the rights of others. It is their duty to exercise their rights but also to be aware of the rights of others. Martin Luther King Jr. used his right to free speech to accomplish the task before him (“First Amendment”). Such an important freedom needs to be exercised and respected.
Martin Luther King Jr. and William Wilberforce used freedom of speech to fight for their beliefs. Martin Luther King Jr. impacted the nation politically and socially through his voice. His words made great changes that would not have occurred had he sat back and been passive and silent. The 14th Amendment, defining citizenship and guaranteeing all basic liberties, was ratified in 1868. However, segregation did not become illegal until 1954. Even then, it was a hard fought battle to change the nation’s ways. Eighty-six years passed from the ratification of the 14th Amendment to segregation becoming illegal. King helped accomplish this with his voice as his only weapon (LaMace). Furthermore, William Wilberforce was a 19th century member of British Parliament and an advocate for ending slave trade and abolishing slavery. He was considered a part of “One of the turning events in the history of the world.” Even slave traders saw his influence and spirit and viewed him as a threat. Wilberforce’s accomplishments were extraordinary, and he used his free speech to attain them. Slavery was finally abolished in England, and this influenced American’s abolition as well (Hancock 12-19). Wilberforce was persistent in seeing abolition through. England’s Abolition Bill passed right before his death (Carrol). These two great figures made huge, game-changing influences by speaking out.
William Wilberforce was tenacious and not passive. Wilberforce restrained himself from all worldly things, such as drinking and even social events, to dedicate all of his time to his cause. He said he would “Never rest until [he] had effected its abolition.” Not only was Wilberforce determined, but he overcame the walls that blocked his way. He was an extremely sick man, yet he still pressed on. Passivity did not threaten Wilberforce. It would have been easy to give up once it became hard, especially when not only the British nation, but his own body, was fighting against him. However, he did not sit back or even wait for another to rise up and be a voice. As Wilberforce stated, “…It shall never be said that William Wilberforce is silent while the slaves require his help.” His bills continued to be defeated in Parliament, but it did not stop him. When slave trade was finally abolished, he did not see his victory as the end of the battle. Instead, he pressed on until slavery was completely abolished—26 years after the ending of slave trade. Though Wilberforce was not able to remain in Parliament through all this time because of his failing heath, he still played an active part through one of his books and by campaigning. Wilberforce died a few days after his lifelong work was finally accomplished when the Abolition Bill was passed. Thomas Foxwell Buxton said, “The day which was the termination of his labors was the termination of his life.” William Wilberforce’s persistent attitude allowed him to make changes whereas passivity would have only encouraged evil to thrive (Hancock 15-19).
King and Wilberforce fought for their causes, but also to bring back morals—both were driven by more than just their own opinions. King truly saw the importance of speaking out. He said, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” Nevertheless, King did not just believe in speaking out, but he felt called to be a voice for the weak. He saw a loss of morals in the American society and their need to be brought back. He contributed this to the “Silence of Congress, and the apathy of citizens” (Berger 38-43). Wilberforce also felt called to change and reestablish the morals of the English society of his time. In regards to this he said, “…Some reformer of the nation’s morals, who should raise his voice in the high places of the land…” He too, saw the importance of speaking out. Wilberforce was influential in reestablishing England’s morals along with his accomplishments of Abolition. People like John Newton and Wilberforce himself felt that God was using Wilberforce to benefit the nation. Because of this, Wilberforce was truly able to be relentless and not be conformed to the world (Hancock 15-19). Nevertheless, even though the influence of Wilberforce and King are clear, some believe the nonviolent movement is not as strong today. Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Gandhi, influencer of King, said their movement was “Fading into oblivion through silence.” Nevertheless, Geoffrey Canada said, “…Their movements are alive” (Scheinin 1A+). Whether or not their movements are alive depends on Americans rising up, using their voices instead of fists, and keeping them alive. If the nation lets itself slip into passivity, the movements will die. As leaders of history-changing movements, King and Wilberforce saw the importance of speaking out and felt called by God to do so.
The course of history would have been exceedingly different had the voices of two men not risen above passive silence. Looking to King and Wilberforce as examples, Americans should use freedom of speech and speak out. It is obvious freedom of speech is a valued freedom. Had King and Wilberforce not spoken out, they would have not accomplished sustaining civil rights and abolishing slavery in England. Without them, it is not known when the barriers of such issues would have broken through. However, the call to speak out is clear. Let Americans raise their voices and conquer evil with words.

Works Cited
Berger, Rose Marie. “Dreaming America.” Sojoumes 26(4). 4 April 2007:38-43.
Carrol, Nicole. “William Wilberforce and William Cobbett: Reformers in Conflict in Early 19th
Century Britain.” Voces Novae 2.2 2010: n.pag. Web. 9 Jan. 2015.
“Edmund Burk.” Xplore Inc, 2015. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.
“First Amendment: Freedom of Speech (1791).” Bill of Rights Institute. Bill of Rights Institute,
2010. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.
Hancock, Christopher D. “The ‘Shrimp’ who Stopped Slavery.” Christian History 1997: 12-19.
LaMance, Ken. “Understanding the 14th Amendment.” LegalMatch. LegalMatch, 1999-2015.
Web. 20 Jan. 2015.
Scheinin, Richard. “Like a Candle in the Wind.” San Jose Mercury News 1 Fed 1998: 1A+. SIRS
Issue Researcher. Web. 7 Jan. 2015.
U.S. Constitution. Amend. I.
“What is the Role of Speech in a Democratic Society and Where are Its Limits?” YouthMedia,
n.d. Web. 9 Jan. 2015.

Protected by the Constitution--No Matter How Small

Dr. Seuss said, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” Only three weeks after conception, a baby’s heart starts beating. At the end of four weeks, the digestive system and backbone are forming. Between 11-12 weeks all of the baby’s body systems are working and he/she has a recognizable human form. If that is not a person, what is it; a fetus? As defined in The Oxford English Dictionary, a fetus is “… in particular, an unborn human baby…” Seeing that a fetus is a human, abortion should be illegal. Abortion violates the United States Constitution Preamble, Eighth Amendment, and 14th Amendment.
Initially, abortion violates the Preamble. It is stated in the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution  to, “ the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity…” The blessings of liberty include life. To add to that, “our prosperity” refers to future generations – the unborn. It is not only to citizens whom the blessings of liberty are secured, it is to the unborn! Regardless, America’s prosperity is being killed at the hands of their ancestors. Abortion should be illegal because the preamble secures the unborn’s right to life.
Furthermore, because of what is written in the Eighth Amendment, abortion should not be practiced in America. The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America states that, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” In an article published by Bangor Daily News on August 28, 1993, saline abortion survivor Gianna Jessen’s story is described. “Jessen was delivered alive, weighing two pounds, her brain starved for oxygen during the hours spent in a saline solution.” Other abortion methods, such as Dilation and Evacuation, dismember the baby’s body. In contrast to this appalling scene, Psalm 139:13 expresses the beauty of life. “For it was You, O Lord, who created my inward parts, You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”  The God of the universe carefully knit every precious child that has ever been unraveled and torn apart though abortion. If cutting a baby’s body into pieces or letting him/her suffocate in salt is not cruel and unusual, what is? Abortion is cruel and unusual, and it is afflicted on the innocent.
In addition, abortion should be abolished because the 14th Amendment secures life to any person. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” the 14th Amendment, Section 1. This amendment prohibits laws depriving anyone of life. Yes, it addresses citizens of the United States; those naturalized or born in America. However, the only reason babies killed by abortion are not U.S. citizens is because they were brutally murdered before they had the chance. Even so, the amendment goes on to include anyone. “…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; or deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Any person; regardless of race, regardless of gender, regardless of religion, regardless of disabilities, regardless of size, regardless of age, regardless of stage of development, any person is protected by the Constitution. So why then, have states allowed laws depriving babies of life?

If the Constitution of the United States is of any value to its people, they must listen and secure life to the unborn. For if a country allows their most vulnerable to be killed with cruelty, what else will that country allow? The legalization of abortion in America has shown America’s true color, and that color is flowing blood red! Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.” “We the people of the United States” need to take a stand and speak for those who have no voice, no matter how small.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Home Sweet Home

A few days ago, after I finished a run, I turned around and took in the scene of the wonderful place I call home. I was captured by the moment. I looked down the road I have traveled so many times. It's so perfectly beautiful the way it bends out of sight and is set off by the golden-yellow October leaves of the cottonwoods.

The evening sun was dimly glowing

on the hill to the east, bringing out the path of red dirt and  the deep green of the pines. The only sounds were the gobbling of the turkeys and my own breathing. I took in a deep breath. 

"You're not going to have this forever," a voice inside me said.

I'm not going to have this forever, but honestly, this is all I want. This is everything. This is my home. I wouldn't trade London, Paris, or Rome for what I have right here. Not the  mountains of Colorado nor waterfalls of Ireland--though my heart ever longs to explore them--will never take the place of my sweet hills. Lately I have been constantly yearning to get out and travel--taste and explore the world! I've been wanting to go somewhere completely new and exciting. While I still want to do this, I've been reminded of just how beautiful this place is. How special the land right under my feet is to me. 

I have watered this land with my sweat and tears. This is where my thoughts were captured before they ever took form on paper. This is where my soul first came alive, where adventure first called me, and where my heart first fell in love--with this very land. 

This is me--every part of me, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. 

Not even all the wonders of the world. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Turn Your Set-Back into a Come-Back

“On your marks. Get set—bang!” These words and the sound of the gun ignited an energetic spark inside of me every time. Every time—except when it seemed to count most. Though state track my sophomore year was beyond unpleasant, looking back, I see an important lesson learned. We must move on from our failures.

It is every competitor’s dream to be on top; at regional track my sophomore year, I finally had my chance. However, the regional meet was completely exhausting! With rain and tornado warnings that led to several delays, my recovering time between my four events was greatly diminished. As the finals for my best race, the 300 meter hurdles, was approaching, I had placed fifth in all of my other events. I was discouraged that I had not done better but was still excited I was going to state in those events, and I knew the 300 hurdles were my real time to shine. Every cell within me desired to win that race; as I stepped into my starting blocks, I knew it was mine. Lord, please help me run for you. Let me win this one for you, I prayed. Crossing the finish line first, my thoughts were, I won! Thank you, Jesus! Finally, I was on top of the podium. Two days, eight races, and a mere five hours of sleep later, I came out a champion.

From there, it was on to state! My dad and I studied the times of everyone in the state. I actually had a chance at the state title. It was anyone’s race, but I was in the running. I knew it was going to take extreme hard work on my part, I would have to run the best race of my life, and I would need to focus like never before in order to actually win. I believed I could do it, but I was getting nervous. As the state meet quickly approached, I just prayed I would be true to my abilities.

What was supposed to be a three day event ending with medals and glory only gave me tears. The first events I ran at state were the 100 meter hurdles and the 100 meter dash. I was not expecting great things, but I still was not prepared to face my worst times of the season. Before I knew it, the 300 hurdles were coming up; the moment I was waiting for was about to arrive. It rained as I warmed up for hurdles. I was not ready to race, but, honestly, it did not seem like anyone was. Soon my heat was up. I set my blocks, and not long after, the race began. I never got into sprint mode. My form was absolutely terrible, and I kept getting all twisted up when landing. I ran so slowly! It was like that feeling in a dream where you try to run but you cannot move. Crossing the finish line, I knew my time was going to be bad, but I was not expecting the numbers on the stopwatch screen to be as horrific as they were. It was over. I was supposed to be a state champion, but instead, I was nothing. My glorious moment never came, but perhaps, the lesson learned is far more valuable than any gold medal.

I was supposed to accomplish great things. I was supposed to be on top. I was supposed to be a champion. I failed. “Turn your set-back into a come-back,” these words spoken by my dear friend are what allowed me to see beyond what I thought was helpless misery. Failures do not define us unless we let them. Instead, we must move on, let go, and come back stronger than ever before. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

I Am Romanced

As I take in the truth of God's word, my heartbeat quickens with excitement. I am eagerly awaiting adventure, ready to uncover great discovery. 

I am romanced. Eager to hear the voice of my Lover. 

It is a great romance! 

Christ loves you. He loves you with the sacrifices made by a father, the companionship of a friend, but also with the passion of a lover. You are His bride. 

He went to the cross in pursuit of you. He fights for your heart. He wants to win you over

He delights in you, His beautiful bride. He longs to hear your voice and to spend time with you. 

God made us to be relational to interact with each other, yes, but really, so we can interact with Him! 

"Yet I am freely available to all who call upon My name, who open their hearts to receive Me as Savior. This simple act of faith is the beginning of a lifelong love story. I, the Lover of your soul, understand you perfectly and love you eternally." (Jesus Calling, Sarah Young) 

If you haven't read the Devotional, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, I highly encourage you to do so! Also read Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge, and The Circle Series, by Ted Dekker (my favorite!) But most of all, spend some time in the Bible, God's love letter to you.