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GO FOR THE GOLD

medal-390549_640I watched each Olympic gymnast run down the floor mat and jump onto the spring board. They catapulted onto the vaulting table with calculated precision in preparation for a perfect dismount. They knew every twist, turn and flip of their body could cost them a medal.

Countless hours of training had placed these athletics in a position to compete for the gold. They were disciplined, dedicated and driven to succeed in this competition but even that didn’t guarantee victory.

Slips of the foot on the balance beam, out of bound dismounts, body alignments and falls were critically judged. It required total perfection to win and every mistake or miscalculated move would be deducted from their final score. Pardon or favor by the judges was not an option.

I am not an Olympic gymnast nor do I participate in competitive events. However, I do train, practice and take part in Christian living. It is an affirmation of faith that requires a lifestyle based on Biblical principles.

Like Olympic gymnasts, there are times I make mistakes, lose my footing and fall. In those nebulous moments, I question the futility of my Christian commitment and wonder how many more times I can fail before being eliminated? The answer is NEVER.

In Christian Olympics there is only one judge that determines who receives the gold and His name is God; Elohim, (Creator and Judge of the universe). With divine knowledge God judges the actions, spoken words and hidden secrets of our hearts. All mankind is a participant and the only way to win is an admission of our unrighteousness and an invitation to make Jesus our Savior and Olympic coach.

To accept Jesus into your heart means imperfections are forgiven; they are no longer counted against you. The blood He shed at the cross covers the curse of sin. Like the Apostle Paul, the finish line is the Olympic goal of every Christian.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but to all who crave His appearing. 2 Timothy 4: 7-8

Feeling defeated today? Are you ready to give up because you’ve lost your footing on life’s balance beam? Maybe you’re faced with life changing events that have caused you to lose your grip or have fallen from grace and overcome with brokenness.

Whatever your story and wherever you are in your faith, the Righteous Judge is near. He longs to show loving compassion, forgiveness and pardon from all your ineffectual attempts to participate in life without His help. He stands ready to coach you to the finish line and award you the crown of life.

“He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10

The trials that test our faith are more precious than gold. So, go for the GOLD!

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DUCT TAPE, GLUE AND BOX CUTTER

IMG_3530Three rolls of duct tape later my grandson, Fischer’s, Minecraft costume was complete. The duct tape seams were hidden by Minecraft paper I had Modge Podged onto cardboard boxes. My little buddy was going to be delighted with his homemade Halloween costume. I even lined the costume head and neck area with felt for added comfort.

The outside appearance of the costume would surely bring many oohs and aahs from my grandson’s classmates; the interior of costume was a whole other story. When the costume was removed, the inside was a mishmash of colored duct tape, glue and jagged-edge incisions of a box cutter.

Fischer didn’t care about the inside appearance of his costume; as long as the outside looked impressive to others. What he didn’t realize is that once the costume was removed there was no way to hide the patchwork of ugliness found on the inside.

I wager each of us has worn an impressive costume in life in an effort to hide the hurts, scars and sins we don’t want revealed. I will be the first to step forward and say, “I have.” In fact, my life closet includes several different costumes for various occasions. IMG_3532

There are more duct-tape, glued and box cutter incisions in my life than I care to count or talk about with anyone other than God. His grace and mercy covers the scars, hurts, losses and sins I hide from others. Day by day He renews me from the inside out and strips away the many impressive layers of my multiple costumes.

What costumes do you wear to hide what’s beneath the exterior surface you present to others?

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Perhaps your life is duct-taped because of alcoholism or drug addiction; or held together with glue from the scars and pain of a divorce, or the loss of someone you love. Duct tape comes in my colors to fit every life moment that we try to patch up or hold together on our own.

I encourage you to talk with God. He doesn’t just patch us up; He restores, recreates and renews us into His likeness. And just for the record, God doesn’t wear costumes.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17&18

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WT* IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE

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We are horrified and shocked by the beheading, crucifixions, executions and torture in the Middle East. It’s time we sit at the feet of our crucified Lord and intercede for the future of mankind.

Here is a recent post by Chicks on the Right about the beheading of James Foley to which I would like to reply. It’s a rather long post but I had much to say. You may not agree with my point of view and that’s OK. It’s my point of view and isn’t up for debate. If your point of view is in opposition to mine, write about it on your own blog.

WT* IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE! (Yes, it’s a strong language title, but worthy to this post.)

We have taken God out of everything and in doing so given an open invitation for the Prince of Darkness to become a ruling power on Earth. If there was ever a time to believe in Jesus, the Son of God, the Redeemer of this world, it is now.

“How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Luke 21:23-24
“And you will be objects of universal hatred because you are called by my name; but he who holds out to the End–he will be saved.” Matthew 10:22

I think we can all agree that the United States is faced with universal hatred and people are falling by the sword all around us. Wake up America, the Prince of Darkness is waging a battle for your soul; for our nation. Even if you don’t believe in God’s prophetic Word, Satan does. He knows the return of Jesus is very near and he roams the earth like a wild lion to claim souls for eternal destruction.

Whose side are you on? As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

The beheading of James Foley was a sickening and gruesome display of the pure evil of satanic forces that can inhabit the souls of mankind. In the simplest terms, I liken it to the good guy/bad guy war games played by my grandkids. There are the only two options. You either stand with God or with the enemy; there is no middle ground in spiritual warfare. The dividing line is made clear by scripture; you either believe Jesus died on the cross to redeem you from sin and accept His salvation, or you don’t. But Christians aren’t beheading, mutilating and killing people that do not believe in Jesus, the Son of God.

Muslin extremists don’t care if you are a Christian, atheist, Buddhist, Scientologist or any other known religion of the world. They have only one mission and that is for mankind to worship and submit to the laws of Allah. The words spoken by the executioner in the video of James Foley clearly stated that this execution was done on behalf of ALL Muslims, not just extremists.

The ISIS conversion fear campaign has become more widespread and now includes grotesque killings, mutilations, rape, crucifixions and living burials in the name of Allah. There are peace-loving Muslims living in my community, but as ISIS more aggressively infiltrates the Western World, and they will, that could change how we perceive Muslims within our communities.

If an extremist confronts my muslin neighbor with a sword and is told to kill a Christian or die, I’m fairly certain it would be my head on the chopping block. Think it will never come to that? Think again. Look no further than the mayhem in Ferguson to understand how quick a mob can increase in numbers when they believe they have a justified cause.

The catalytic reaction to exterminate Christians has been set in place; the only thing missing is the base and I believe muslin extremists are the base. Through fear tactics they will begin to fuel the acceptance of a ‘New World Order under Allah’; all in the name of worldwide peace, of course.

So to those who say the GOP should salute Obama’s handling of Iraq, I say this:
Obama is subject to God’s prophetic Word and it is Jehovah who will ultimately determine the outcome of the current situation in Iraq. I rest in the assurance that God is in control and the President and all other government officials are pawns on God’s playing board.

It is time for Christians in the Western world to cry out to in prayer on behalf of our country and also those Christians being persecuted for their faith. No one understands persecution, torture and death more than Jesus. If you are not sure how to prayer for our nation and the world situation, I offer this prayer:


And God said:
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Almighty and Eternal Father, we thank you for the inspiration and courage you gave to the founding fathers of our nation to establish a land where your principles and laws would guide us. You have provided for this nation mightily with every good thing but we have squandered your gifts and turned away from your laws and principles. Forgive us Lord. We acknowledge we have sinned against you and one another in every conceivable way.  We deserve your just punishment but plead for your mercy. (Nehemiah1: 4-11)

Grant us, the people of our nation, the grace to turn from our sins and return to you that we might be healed.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son and our Savior.
Amen

God is faithful to His Word and shall accomplish that which He has spoken.
(Isaiah 55:11)

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LIVING IN DENIAL

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God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. –Reinhold Niebuhr

Long before Facebook, I wrote a monthly newsletter for the cousins on my mother’s side of the family. We have all remained close in heart through the years, but separated by distance. The newsletter was a way to stay connected with each other and share memories from the past. It was a great idea until an aunt sent me a past memory to post in the newsletter.

I included her story in one of the newsletters. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from a family member who was offended by the story. They felt the writer had darkened the real truth. In anger and hurt this person was quick to accuse me of deliberate misrepresentation of the true story.

It seemed both the storyteller and reader had jaded memories of the published story. The real truth will never be known because neither person was willing to change their perception of the story. They chose to live in denial of the truth.

Sigmund Freud defines denial as:

A psychological defense mechanism used when a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.

Living in denial can be dangerous and can interfere with your ability to tackle challenges. When you refuse to acknowledge a stressful situation or problem and find ways to minimize potentially devastating long-term consequences, you are in denial.

It’s OK to say, “I can’t think about all of this right now.” Sometimes, we need time to work through and adapt to something that has happened or life changing circumstances. But, this should only be a temporary measure as we work toward the reality of the situation.

There are times in life when the truth hurts, makes us angry and forces us into denial. We run but can’t hide from the truth. Jesus makes it very clear that it is the truth that sets us free. It opens our eyes, ears and heart to accept those things we cannot change and to work through the challenges before us.

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

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IN DUE TIME

beggingGodThere are times I have looked to God and questioned why me. He responds with silence and even though I continue to stand at the door and knock, He doesn’t answer. My soul becomes anxious for any kind of response so I resort to promises. If you answer me God, I will read my Bible more, donate more time to the church and the list continues. But my promises do not move God; he remains silent.

In desperation, I begin the process of begging for mercy. I know is absurdly ridiculous, but I do it anyway. God ignores my pleas and the door remains closed and I switch to a pissed-off mode. My ‘why me’ questions now turn to ‘how dare you’ accusations toward God. It doesn’t move God one bit. Overcome with defeat, anger and helplessness, I throw up my hands and shout, “I give up!”

As the words escape my lips a floodgate of hope surges within me. I question why such an intense peace fills my soul and an inaudible voice speaks directly to my heart; the unspoken words pierce my soul.

“I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (CEB)

When I finally gave up, God gave in; and when I did, He opened the door to my cries. Our Redeemer patiently waits for us to completely trust His plan for our life. As we do, God opens new doors of opportunity and points us in the direction of His perfect will for our life.

When you ask God for something, He can only answer one of two ways: “Yes” or “I have something even better in mind.” It’s a waste of time and energy to try and beat down the door, beg or make promises in an attempt to get God to answer. I’ve learned through experience that our waiting is more about acknowledging our need for Him than our need.

God answers us in His time, not ours. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10 (NIV)

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PORTRAIT OF AN OUTCAST SOLDIER

soldierLucas walked through the airport dressed in the new army fatigues gifted to him the morning of his discharge. As he exited the gate, there were no crowds to cheer his arrival home; in fact, there was no homecoming at all and loneliness overwhelmed him.

The army issued back pack was lightweight in comparison to the heavy equipment he had carried on the battlefield. There was no ammo, weapons or rations inside the pack now. Instead it held the few possessions he owned; discharge papers, pictures, letters and insignificant personal items. And loneliness overwhelmed him.

There was no one to call for a ride, so Lucas flagged a taxi. As he flung his back pack onto the back seat, the driver asked, “Where would you like to go, son?” He thought for a few moments and said,

“Someplace where I can get a cold beer and buy a pack of cigarettes.”
“You’ve got it, soldier, I know a great watering hole about a mile from here. The people are friendly and beer is just a buck. Heck, they might even give you a free beer if you share a few war stories.”

As the cab driver pulled away from the curb and sped in the direction of the pub, Lucas surveyed the unfamiliar landscape and loneliness overwhelmed him.

During his eighteen months on the front-lines of war, Lucas had lost both parents to cancer; he mourned their death amidst the graveyard of mine fields and the brutally wounded soldiers that surrounded him. The cabbie’s voice jolted Lucas from his thoughts when he asked,

“Where do you call home, soldier; are you home on leave or here for the long haul?”

The question caught Lucas off-guard. The content within his back pack was all he owned. He had returned home with no job; no parents and an only brother who committed suicide at age twenty. It was after his brother’s senseless death Lucas had enlisted in the military in a desperate attempt to make his parents proud. As he considered the cab driver’s question, loneliness overwhelmed him and he wept.

Lucas pulled a few wadded dollars from his pocket and handed them to the driver. He looked up at the neon sign above the pub and walked into the smoke-filled bar.

“Give me a pitcher of beer, shot of Jack Daniels and pack of Marlboro.”

Cigarette smoke swirled overhead as the jukebox pumped out Vietnam protest songs. As darkness descended upon the city, the drunken soldier stumbled out of the bar in search of a safe place to sleep. It was no different than being on the battlefield. He tucked his back pack beneath his head and found refuge inside a garbage dumpster.

That night Lucas died as an outcast of a war he never wanted to fight. He died alone in a dumpster and no one wept but Jesus. Jesus died alone on the cross and no one wept but God. Both Jesus and Lucas are portraits of outcast soldiers.

Let’s never forget our soldiers who have gone to battle to redeem our freedoms. They deserve more than a pitcher of beer, shot of Jack Daniels and pack of cigarettes. They deserve our respect, honor and thanks.

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Joe, The Soldier You Never Met

I share one of my writings with you in honor of this 2014 Memorial Day. Let us never forget the price paid for our freedom and how our government is willfully underwriting those freedoms. Let your voice be heard, America. If you agree, please share my story this weekend with everyone you know.

Dirty man trying to get up

Paralyzed by fear, Joe threw the grenade out of harm’s way and temporarily disarmed the enemy’s thirst for the blood of an American soldier. It wasn’t the first time he had faced death and certainly not his last.

After high school, Joe was hired as an automotive line worker, but America was at war and his age made him a candidate for the imposed lottery draft. Joe’s number came up and life as Joe knew it was about to change in more ways than he could ever imagine.

Basic training at the military base did little to prepare Joe for combat warfare. He was taught how to kill and defend himself, but was never prepared for the psychological effects that followed. All the therapy in the world can’t erase the unspeakable acts committed during combat warfare. Flashbacks of severed heads, mutilated bodies and scattered body parts never go away; the images have a mind of their own and surface at will.

The gruesome scenes witnessed were not things discussed over dinner or shared with family. His wife and children would never know the secrets that war had forever embedded in his heart, mind and soul. The horrors witnessed on the battlefield were personal demons that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Joe hadn’t seen home in over a year, but this tour would be his last; he was scheduled for discharge in four months. At night, Joe assumed a fetal position beneath an army tank and listened to the distant gunfire. In those brief moments of reprieve, he would visualize his homecoming scenario until a nearby explosion jolted him back to the reality of his savage surroundings.

That day’s assigned ground force reconnaissance operation was no different than others. Orders were to survey the terrain and search a deserted village for a possible enemy base camp. The tanker came to a stop at the outskirts of the village. The deafening heartbeat of fear pounded in the eardrums of every soldier as they silently dispersed in every direction to scout the village on foot.

It wasn’t long before relentless rounds of ammo filled the air. Joe instinctively dropped to the ground and crawled to the nearest protected area he could find. Salty sweat beads and dirt rolled off his brow and clouded his vision but not before he saw the grenade next to him. With only seconds to react, Joe gripped the explosive device in his hand and threw it the only way he knew how; fast and furious.

An overwhelming sense of relief flooded Joe’s body as he stood to pick up his weapon; it had been a close call. There were a few brief seconds when he wondered if a homecoming party was in his future. The ongoing war had deprived him of quality time with family and friends; he was anxious to make up for that lost time.

Joe never saw it coming. The impact grenade launched by the enemy exploded without warning; there was no time to react, run or say a prayer. There would be no reception, welcome banner, flag covered casket or military dog tags. The enemy had won in their thirst for American blood. It wasn’t the homecoming Joe had imagined.

The epitaph on his headstone reads,

“I fought to my death without question. In hindsight, I wonder why.”

© 2014 This article is not to be reprinted in any publication 
without the express consent of the author (Denise Marks)