Reaching Out

“So…you did that yourself?!”

This was a question asked of me by a fellow mom after she learned that my kids and I had traveled to Sicily just the three of us. We had tackled this long trip to go visit my husband who has now been there for almost four months. In the moment I answered, “Yes…I guess so, but it was worth it.” As I thought about the question later that afternoon however, I realized no, I did not do that all by myself. My source of help, encouragement and strength, was by my side every step of the way. And it’s a good thing that He was, because the trip had its rough points.

It was worth it for sure, but it was not always easy. The day that we spent traveling there was by far the worst, full of traffic, delayed flights, standing in (the wrong) long line, and a suitcase that was suck in Milan for a few days. We had run really, really fast across the Milan airport in order to make our connecting flight to Sicily. I had also forgotten Howard (our GPS) so we had to navigate the old fashioned way using road signs and a paper map. We got sunburned pretty bad, our rental broke down one evening-thankfully it was right after we got back on base-and the twisty, hilly roads of one town turned our stomachs upside down and caused our standard transmission rental car to stall out twice, and maybe start to roll down hill…backwards.

The Bible says in Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.” Standing on God’s promise can help one to see the “fingerprints” of His goodness even when things are not going very well. Yes there some things that went wrong, but there was so much more that went really well. We made our flight, we were on base when the car battery died, my husband was able to get the car started and back up the hill really quickly, and although we got sunburned, we had a fun day at a water park. It’s important to not let rough waters cause you to sink, or give up, or be “shut down” by anger or frustration. And its more important to reach out for help, from God and from those around us.

While thinking about reaching out for help, and how I really did not do this trip on my own, I was reminded of a line from Episode III. In the scene Anakin and Padame are noticeably a little nervous about their current situation and how having a baby will make it harder to continue to keep their secret marriage well, a secret. Padame suggests reaching out to Obi-Wan for help and Anakin responds with out hesitation and with full confidence, “We don’t need his help.” Anakin-aside from that one scene with Yoda- did for the most part keep his struggles to himself. When he did confide in someone it was, as you know, the wrong person. And this person put Anakin on the path to Darth Vader. While we really can’t be certain what would have happened if he did reach out to Obi-Wan, I think we can all agree that it would have been better than confiding in Palpatine.

God puts family members and friends, in our lives to help us and to lift us up. Anakin had a friend in Obi-Wan and a strength in the Force, two things that he turned his back on thinking he could do it himself. Humans are social creatures, and we are not meant to go about this life alone. So I would encourage you to put your trust in God first and foremost, but also in those that He surrounds you with, they are there to help. I will also encourage you to stand on His promise even when things are not perfect, because things will never be perfect. You can trust that no matter what He is everything He says He is, and you don’t have to go it alone.

“I wanna walk on water, take the leap, and step out knowing you won’t let me sink, I wanna trust you deeper, live life believing, that You are, everything You say You are.” – “Walk on Water” by Family Force 5

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Who Controls Your Box of Crayons?

There is a song called “Write Your Story” by Francesca Battistelli. The song is about allowing God to be the author of your story. At one point in the song Francesca sings, “My life, I know its never really been mine. So do with it whatever You like.” It is powerful lyric, but one that rings true. If one is really going to fulfill their place in the Kingdom, they need to give control to God. Which I know that that can be difficult because we humans like to have control, we like to know what will come next, we like to plan. But if one is going to follow God’s plan, control is one of the first things that needs to be let go of. And I can say that, for me, letting go of control has been nothing but awesome.

By now you may be wondering, just what is up with the title. I got the idea after watching the series finale of How I Met Your Mother, which I had some problems with. I was presented with a completely colored in picture, and I didn’t like some of the colors that they used. God brought to my attention the idea of one’s life being a picture that gets colored in bit by bit, and whoever is control of the box of crayons has control of how the picture looks. Who is it that could be eligible for control, or who at any point holds all or some of the crayons? Possibilities could be, the individual, God, other people, the ways of the world or even the enemy himself. All these possibilities can influence how a season or series of seasons in our lives can turn out, the choices/mistakes that we make, the joys and the heartaches. The Bible says in Psalm 143:10, “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” This verse speaks about trusting God, and allowing Him to color your picture. And I would encourage you to trust Him, because He can produce some pretty awesome artwork.

What can happen when someone other than God colors pieces of your picture? Well lets consider Anakin, someone who quit trusting in the light side of the force and started trusting in something and someone else. This was not something that happened “over night” but rather something that took a period of years. It was 13 years to be exact, before the Palpatine influenced picture was completed when Anakin became Darth Vader. The process was gradual, Palpatine was building a foundation (coloring in Anakin’s picture). Sometimes Palpatine had complete control, other times he would encourage Anakin to put down one crayon and pick up another. Like when he convinced Anakin to kill Count Dooku or told Anakin that his killing of the Sand People in Episode II was justified.

While there were times when Anakin noticed that something was not right, like when he told Padame in Episode III, “Something is happening. I’m not the Jedi I should be. I want more. But I know shouldn’t.” Palpatine was continuing to gain control because of the foundation he had spent years building, Anakin was becoming less like himself more like the future Darth Vader. Try as Obi-Wan and Padame did to show Anakin that this was not okay, he still put down his blue crayon and picked up a red one. Coloring all over his life’s picture with Palpatine ready to supply Anakin with another red crayon, whenever one would run out. And his life became something that, especially after he met Luke, he started to like less and less, probably wishing there was more blue than red.

This thing called life is not our fight to win. We are here to bring God glory, which He richly rewards. But that can’t happen if we allow anyone, other than God, to write our stories. So take that box of crayons out of the hands of human desires and ways of the world, and give it to God. And I promise you something beautiful will be created. It will be legen….wait for it (because God encourages patience)…dary. It will be legendary.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” -Proverbs 3:5-6

The Wisdom of Being Humble

Pride: a sense of one’s own proper dignity or value, self respect; arrogant or disdainful conduct, haughtiness, an excessively high opinion of ones self. Hmm..sounds a little bit like someone we know doesn’t it? Anakin was very prideful, he felt that his abilities should give him special privileges or help him rise to the top faster than other Jedi. It is easy forget that Anakin was in his early twenties when he turned to the dark side and became Darth Vader. People in their twenties are usually very sure of themselves, yet they still have much to learn and, they need guidance. Anakin received way too much guidance from the wrong source, which of course led to his undoing.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Pride can make one believe that they can handle any problem themselves, with out God’s help or guidance, or the help of those wiser than them. Pride can make one think that their timing or way is better. Anakin was led to believe that the Jedi did not value his skills and that they were not giving him enough respect. The Jedi (well mainly Obi-Wan) begged him to be patient, in fact in his final conversation with Obi-Wan before turning into Darth Vader, Obi-Wan ensured Anakin that it would not be long before the council made him a Jedi Master he just needed to be…patient. But his pride ate away at that patience, he was lured into a power that was easier and faster, yet came at a heavy cost.

As believers it is important for us to trust in God’s timing, He knows each person better than they know themselves. Trouble sometimes comes when He asks that we lay aside our own understanding and follow His. In James 4:10 it says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.” God, out of love, makes sure that one is ready for the path He has laid out for them before they begin to walk on it. If they act too soon, based on their own timing, the enemy could take it away.

Anakin was not ready for the responsibility and the burden of being on council or being a Jedi Master, but he was too prideful to wait and it was taken from him. Pride but a twenty year hold on Anakin fulfilling his calling and one can be certain that it would not taken him that long, had he stayed with the light side of the Force. Trust in Him, His ways are always better, His timing is always better.

Walk in the spirit of humility, for it is not weakness but a great strength.

Trusting God and Guarding Your Heart

Has anyone ever asked you what your favorite bible verse is? For the longest time my favorite bible verse was Proverbs 3:5-6, because it was the first verse I ever highlighted in a Bible.

When I was growing up in the Lutheran Church I never saw anyone write ANYTHING in a Bible. Maybe it was because everyone was using pew Bibles? When I was in the 8th grade we started going to a Baptist church, where everyone seemed to bring their own Bibles and most of them were not in perfect condition. I saw underlining, circling and highlighting in them; Bibles full of different bookmarks and little tabs on the sides. Of course this was a big shock to me, I was under the impression that writing in Bibles was wrong. One day I decided to try highlighting a verse because it didn’t seem to hurt these people or their Bibles, so it can’t be too bad. So I got my light blue Precious Moments bible, a highlighter and shut my bedroom door. That way just in case it was bad, no one would see. So with a heavy heart gripped with fear, I grabbed my Bible, closed my eyes opened to a random page and pointed. I opened my eyes to see which verse it was that was about to be highlighted and it was Proverbs 3:5-6, a verse all about trusting God. I smiled, with the fear gone and a now lightened heart, I highlighted that verse with confidence. Trust God, trust Him with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding but His. Finding that straight path became the lesson for my teens and early twenties, and I do trust Him.

Twelve years later at the age of 25, God introduced a new lesson and new verse to be highlighted. This lesson was revealed to me not at church or while reading the Bible. It wasn’t while watching a movie based on the life of Christ but through the fateful watching a science fiction movie that has become very dear to me.

One day I decided to watch Star Wars Episode III-Revenge of the Sith with my husband and it changed my life for the better in so many ways. God took the story of Anakin Skywalker and used it to teach me about Himself and life. Proverbs 4:23 states, “Guard your heart above all else for it is the wellspring of life.” This verse is about being careful of what you allow to be absorbed into your heart. The condition of your heart determines your mood, attitude, outlook, perception, everything. It can effect who you trust, the decisions you make and the things that you say. For me Anakin Skywalker is the perfect example of why it is so important to guard your heart, to be mindful, control anger and to not bow down to fear. It starts with guarding your heart, its important, its special, its the door way to you.

Think about Anakin, he allowed the words of Palpatine, the influence of evil to enter in. It changed him, effected his perception, twisted his reality and as Obi Wan said, he turned into the very thing he had been fighting against. He went from being the guy who wanted to save everyone, to the guy who tried to force choke his wife. He became the very thing that Palpatine wanted and needed him to be. A defeated, broken, embittered shell of his true self who obeyed the orders of someone who considered Anakin Skywalker to be his greatest enemy.

This is what the enemy would love to do to all of us, pick us off one by one. The emperor was only interested in how he could use Anakin’s power for his own interests. He exploited Anakin’s weaknesses, destroyed who he really was, and took him to a place he never could have gone on his own. The enemy works in very much the same way, he doesn’t care about your needs or what his ideas could do to you or the people around you. Palpatine knew exactly who Anakin was called to be and knew the threat that he would be to the dark side. In the same way, the enemy knows when you are doing a mighty work through God. He will do anything he can to discourage you or stop you in your tracks; but it can be the calling of every Christian to be a force to be reckoned with. You can be that breath of fresh air, make the enemy nervous every time you talk to someone. You can make a difference. God’s plan for you is amazing and uniquely yours, designed specifically for you by the creator of the universe. Don’t let the enemy stand in your way. He is real and it is his mission every single day to steal, kill and destroy.

So guard your heart above else for it truly is the wellspring of life.