Illusion

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Last week, I was listening to a woman speak to a large audience. She had been dealing with cancer and had gone through chemotherapy. I knew she had lost her hair and was amazed at how good she looked. Her hair was beautiful and her skin was glowing. I thought, “Wow, she looks so healthy!” The next day I was able to look at her up close and realized she had on a wig and pretty heavy makeup. It was all an illusion. Who knows what she really looked like without the wig and the makeup? She certainly was well enough to speak to a large audience but had not progressed to the point that she looked like she had previously.

Have you ever looked at a model and thought, “She is just beautiful.” Later when you see her without her makeup, false eyelashes and wig, she looks pretty much like everyone else. You realize you were looking at an illusion, an image that was being projected. The thing about illusions is that we are looking at them all of the time. When we watch a television show or a movie, we are watching an illusion. The people are not really in a war, hospital or home. They are on a set creating an illusion. The industry has become so good at it that we don’t need our imaginations anymore to help us believe what we are seeing. The illusion looks like reality.

When I was growing up, my father used to say, “Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.” I understood the hearing part but I struggled with the seeing part. Now, I am beginning to understand. Much of what I see is an illusion that is being projected as reality. In the case of television programs and movies, that is a given. However, when I look at people, that is not always a given. I need to look closer at them and attempt to see below the surface. Only then will I have a better understanding of what I am seeing. What about you? How’s your vision? Are you able to see a bit of reality beyond the illusion?

This 24

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I have a friend who went through a pretty rough decade. She lost a son by suicide, her husband after twenty-five years and her godly father passed. I remember calling her when her father was failing and I asked her how she was doing. She said she was hanging on. Then she said two words that have stuck with me…this 24. She explained to me that she only had to live this 24 hours. She held on to her faith through everything she was going through one day at a time. When she was deep in the valleys, she held on to God’s hand moment by moment, hour by hour and day by day.

I took her advice to heart. When I walked through valleys, I reminded myself of her words…this 24. I then tried to push back the angst about tomorrow and the regrets of the past and focus on the one day I had been given. Jesus said it best when he said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

My friend continued to trust God, went back to school and became a Christian Counselor. She was able to help hundreds of people, either directly or indirectly, by sharing what she had learned in college and in her walk with The Father. Someone who has gone through the fire and come out the other side is a living testimony to the power and grace of God. Her experience has proved invaluable not only to me but to all the other people she has shared her wisdom with.

You may never get to know her or talk to her. That is why I am sharing one of the nuggets of wisdom she gave me about twenty years ago. If you’re going through a valley, I hope it speaks to you. Remember, hang on to the Father’s hand…you only have to live this 24!

Gloria

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I first saw Gloria when I was in the second grade. She was a small fragile child with light blonde hair. Her skin was so translucent, you could see the blue veins in her face.  She was partially deaf and had a large hearing aid attached to her head behind her ear. When she spoke, she was hard to understand as she did not enunciate her words like the other children. Because she was so delicate, she did not participate in games during recess. 

I felt bad for Gloria but didn’t know how to express my feelings. One day when I walked into the girls restroom, she was at the sink washing her hands. She shyly smiled at me and I returned the smile. I watched her reach for the paper towels with difficulty. Her plight touched my heart. At six years old, I didn’t know what to say to her. When she left the restroom, I went into the stall and started crying. Here was a delicate child, a special child with lots of problems, that struggled with even the most basic tasks. Gloria was only in my class for a few more weeks. I don’t know if she moved or was placed in a different class because I never saw her again.  I do know that I will never forget her and that I owe her a debt of gratitude for opening a well of compassion inside of me.

When I think about her, I think about her name. Gloria’s name is from the Latin meaning glory or glorious. Some see the glory of God in a star athlete who can run fast or climb a high mountain. When I look at an athlete with those kinds of accomplishments, I see the glory of man. Conversely, when I look at a child with a disability, I see the glory of God. He is the One that gives that special child the strength to struggle through each day and night. He gives the child joy and thankfulness for the simple accomplishments we all take for granted.

Gloria, wherever you are, you changed my life and I will always be grateful to you.

“And the King will answer and say to them, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40.

Sonlight Sensitivity

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As a child, I suffered from a condition called “Sunlight Sensitivity.” When I spent too much time in the sun, I would break out in hives. From the time I was about five, I had to take Benedryl every night before bed, even in the winter time. In the summer, I would have to wear a hat and put a special cream on the area where I would break out. When I was a teenager, my allergy doctor read that possibly certain shots would help my condition. He wanted to know if I was willing to try them. I was and so I took the series of shots, and voila! I was able to spend time in the sun without adverse effects.  

As a young adult, I suffered from a different kind of  “Sunlight Sensitivity.” I was raised in a town that got about three hundred days of sunlight a year. Dark cloudy days were at a minimum and there were only about two weeks in the winter that were really dark. I was used to living in an environment where it was really bright outside. When I moved to cities that had a different climate, i.e. were rainy and grey most of the time, I did not do well. I felt “off” and not really myself. When I would return home I felt normal again when I was in the sunlight. Even today, when it is a really dark day outside, I turn on lots of lights in the house to get a certain level of light in my environment.

Now, I suffer from “Sonlight Sensitivity,” a spiritual form of the condition. If I do not spend enough time with the Son in the Light of his Word, I can suffer from symptoms of impatience, intolerance, a lack of vision, and a real absence of joy. In other words, I am not the person I want to be and I am sure I am not that pleasant to be around. I need the Light of the Son to brighten my days and the Wisdom of His Word to guide me so that I don’t make bad decisions and end up on the wrong path. 

What about you? Do you suffer from Sunlight or Sonlight Sensitivity?

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

What’s Right or What’s Left?

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In life, we make many moral decisions. Moral decisions come in lots of sizes, from small to life-altering. No matter the size of the decision, each one is important because every decision we make creates a building block in our character. Usually with a moral decision, there is a right decision that can be made. If we don’t make the right decision, we settle for one of the decisions that are left. 

For example, you are at work and someone keeps hitting on you. You’re married and you know you should not hook-up with another person. Do you make the right decision and tell the person “No,” or do you make one of the other decisions that are left? The first decision that is left is to hook-up and be unfaithful to your partner. That decision leads to other decisions…tell your spouse the truth or lie to him or her.  Most of the decisions that are left will have negative consequences when we don’t choose the right decision in the first place. 

Most of us do not have to make life-altering moral decisions every day but we will be making moral decisions as we walk through our day. Do we steal something small from our employer? Do we cheat on our taxes? Do we use someone else’s work and claim it as our own? Each of these questions will have a right decision that can be made. If we don’t make the right decision we again are stuck with the decisions that are left. One of the by products of the decisions that are left is among other things, living with a guilty conscience. Is living with a guilty conscience worth stealing a stapler from work? Is it worth saving a few dollars in taxes? Is it worth pretending to have created something that was not entirely ours? 

The answer is obviously “No” to those questions. So as we go through our day, let’s consider our decisions. Do we want to choose what’s right or settle for what’s left?

M.I.A. from the Uncivil War

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For the past three years in America, there has been an Uncivil War going on. It has been a war of words that people on both sides of the political spectrum have been engaged in. Politicians, Media personnel and Actors have participated in this war. They have thrown volleys back and forth, many of which have been downright dirty and untruthful. I have been ashamed of these so called “leaders” as I have watched the political theater play out.

Many of the populace have followed their leaders into battle and have participated in this War. They have called people names and some have even physically harmed others for the crime of not aligning with their side in the war. I heard last week that there are those who will only buy a house in neighborhoods that seem to hold their particular political beliefs. This is indeed a form of insanity and those of us who want to hold a sane view in our society might want to take a few moments and reflect on what is happening.

I think it is time for many of us to become M.I.A. from this Uncivil War. There seems to be no gain in following people who hold no moral authority and perpetuate such bad behavior. I, for one, do not want to judge my neighbor by his political beliefs, the color of his skin or his religious preferences.

I’m leaving this War. Yes, going M.I.A., what about you?

Oblivious

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Have you ever watched someone walking through a crosswalk while texting? The person is totally oblivious to what is going on around him. A speeding car could be coming in his direction and because he is not paying attention, he could be hit and killed. When I see people doing that, I want to shake them and tell them to “Wake Up!” A whole world is going on around them and they are distracted to the point of oblivion. Because of this, they put themselves in danger because of their inattention. 

Not only is this true in the material world, it is true in the spiritual world. If a person is totally unaware of the supernatural forces that may be affecting and directing him, he can end up in a very dangerous place. There are spiritual beings that are bent on the destruction of man and they are more than happy to take advantage of someone who is unaware of their existence. The materialist is in a war he cannot win because he doesn’t even know he is in one. He is at the mercy of the spiritual forces around him. 

Even if you are a spiritual person and believe in the supernatural, it is easy to become distracted and not realize the forces that are vying for our attention. Turn on the average television show or movie. Most of them have gratuitous sex, swearing and violence intentionally programed in so that our minds will be filled with negative images. Many of the thoughts and temptations we deal with are in our minds because a worker of darkness has placed them there. 

If we don’t want to become a victim of the warfare that is going on around us, we must not be oblivious to what is happening in the supernatural arena. We must arm ourselves daily with the spiritual armor the Lord has provided for us: truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, prayer, the gospel of peace and the word of God. Only then can we hope to not be a casualty of the spiritual war we are in. 

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Ephesians 6: 10-13

Soul Scars

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A week ago, I was changing a bandage on a wound. It was about three weeks old and the scar tissue had begun to form. I thought, “Well, I need to put some alcohol on this to make sure there are no germs there.” I got my bottle of alcohol out of the cupboard, put it on a cotton ball and got ready to feel some real pain as I knew the alcohol would sting. To my surprise, there was no pain. You see, scar tissue does not have any nerve endings when it begins to form. The nerve endings have been cut in the surrounding tissue, and initially, a person feels nothing.

I began to wonder about our soul scars. If someone could see our souls, what would they look like? Would there be wounds that had healed completely and others that were in the process of healing? Would there be wounds that were festering and causing us pain? I think if people could see our souls, they would see all three kinds of wounds.

The most obvious would be the wounds that were still open, still in the healing process. Sometimes life wounds us deeply with the loss of a loved one or some other deeply personal loss. These wounds may take years to heal, and only as our grief is felt or expressed can we truly heal. Tears are a valuable form of therapy with these kinds of wounds as they wash them and keep them clean while they are healing.

The least obvious would be the wounds that have healed and the scars have become part of our soul’s makeup. If you look closely at them, you will see that the area around them is healthy and whole and sometimes the scars have healed so well they are difficult to discern. 

A Soul Physician would be very concerned about the wounds that are still festering, where there is infection. We all have those kinds of wounds whether we realize it or not. They are the wounds that have not been taken care of and no healing balm has been applied to them. Usually the infection has been caused by unforgiveness and a person must purposely set out to do their part in the healing process. 

 Festering wounds must be acknowledged and we must be ready to be healed from them. We must be willing to apply the disinfectant of forgiveness to them and let go of all of our unforgiveness and bitterness. Will there be pain when we lance these kinds of wounds? Yes, they may have been festering for years, but as their purulence is released there will be a peace that takes its place.

Oh, the sweet peace of forgiveness, may it blanket our souls and make us healthy and whole!

“Forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone who sins against us.” Luke 11:4

Polluted Wells

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Have you ever been out hiking around in the country and come across an abandoned home? Many times there is a well beside it that hasn’t been used for decades. Would we drink out of that well? Of course, not. The well could be polluted. We don’t know what the water is like and we certainly don’t know if things have fallen into the well that would make the water polluted.

Have you ever been at a large gathering of people? You walk around talking  to various people. Some of them are pleasant to be around and others, not so much. We may start talking to a person and what comes out of their mouth is bitter or caustic. At that point, we can hardly wait to get away from them.

Have you ever thought that people are like wells? Inside each person is a well or a soul. When we talk to people, we experience what is inside of them. Each person shares part of who they are when they communicate with us.  If a person’s soul is healthy and whole, it comes out through with their words. If the person is full of bitterness, envy and jealousy, that also comes across.

What about our own wells? What is inside of us? Do we need to take a look at our wells and perhaps get some of the pollution out? I’m guessing we all have some things inside of our wells that need to be cleaned out. We just have to be honest with ourselves and admit that there are things inside of us that need to be changed.

Can we change ourselves? Can we make ourselves better people by the sheer force of our own will? I doubt it. I know that I would like to be a better person than I am but I am unable to make myself so. I must submit to the Lord, let Him know my problems and ask Him for help. Only then, can I let Him clean my well out make me into the person I desire to be.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9