I love it when the trees start their initial bud of flowers, especially the Japanese Magnolias, or as my daughters and I like to call them, the “tulip trees.”
These beautiful trees are the first to bud with their tulip like flowers, ranging from white-pink to deep purple petals. They are a reminder that spring is on the way, despite the volatile weather.
And if the weather does cooperate, then usually they will bloom and last for up to four weeks, adding splashes of color that brightly stand out against the brown dormant grass and shrubs. However, if a late frost blows through our area, then the petals can be damaged and they won’t reach their full potential.
Each year these trees remind me of the frailty and brevity of life, but they also show me the beauty of it.
We never know when an unexpected frost is going to blow through and shorten a bud’s life, robbing it of its full life span, as was the case with my brother’s unexpected death at the young age of 17.
But on the flip side, we also may live to our full life expectancy, yet never meet our maximum potential.
Psalm 39 reminds us to make each day count:
“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.”
The point is that we must be intentional with the days that God has given us. Each day that the Holy Spirit wakes us up to begin another day, we have an opportunity to share our faith with others.
Yes, life on this earth is short, but those that are always reaching toward the LIGHT are the ones that produce the most gorgeous and enduring flowers.
Have you had a chance to see The Greatest Showman yet? If not, drop what you’re doing and get thyself to the nearest theatre, thus sayeth the Lord. For time’s sake I won’t summarize the whole movie (that would be a full post in itself), but rather I’d like to pull out some of the themes of the movie that I believe can apply to our everyday lives.
Presenting the Top 5 Reasons to Love The Greatest Showman:
Don’t be afraid to dream impossible dreams. T. Barnum has a dream in his heart to start a magical show like none other, but he gets sidetracked by life. When he loses his corporate job, he takes a chance on his dream. At first no one comes to the circus, but with ingenuity and hard work, Barnum finally makes his dream a reality and the circus becomes a huge success. God has put a dream in your heart too! It may seem impossible and you don’t have a clue how it will ever be realized; you may have been sidetracked by life and feeling like that dream was just that…a pipe dream. But Jesus says, “All things are possible for one who believes,” (Mark 9:23). Put your faith in the One who can make your dreams come true and be willing to work hard to achieve them. For with great risk comes great reward!
Come alive to experience all that life has in store for you. Barnum first fills his museum with wax statues and stuffed animals until his little girls suggest that he needs things that are alive, not dead, to attract the people. So, Barnum searches for “unusual persons,” enticing them to come alive and start dreamin’ with their eyes wide open. At first they are reticent because for years they have hidden themselves from the public, but Barnum’s joy is contagious and they truly do come alive. The same can be true of you and me. If we feel as if we’re sleepwalking through this life, we start to feel spiritually dead. But God’s plan is that we live a FULL life, filled with abundant joy. Jesus also said, “I came so they can have real and eternal life, a better life than they ever dreamed of,” (John 10:10). Come one, come all. You hear the call; for anyone who is searching for a way to break free. Come Alive!
Even if the world rejects you, know that you are glorious. As the acts of the show do come alive they start to speak out against how they have always been treated. They’ve been told to hide away;run away; no one’ll love you as you are. But they have had enough! And they declare that they are brave, they are bruised, this is who they are meant to be. In this lifetime we will be cut by the sharpest of words of others. They will threaten to break us down to dust, but we must listen to the voice of the One who speaks life into us. God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love and have continued my faithfulness to you,” (Jeremiah 31:3). Believe that and sing with passion like the bearded woman: I know that I deserve your love. There’s nothing I’m not worthy of. This is me!
It is possible to rewrite the stars, but the change starts with us. Within the story a handsome, white aristocrat named Phillip begins to fall for a beautiful, black trapeze artist. Of course, their love is forbidden due to their racial differences and Phillip is met with severe opposition from his parents. Phillip protests, “Father, the world is changing.” Fast forward to 2018 and we need to ask ourselves: has the world really changed that much in the last 180 years? If so, why are we still harboring prejudices against people who have a different skin color than we do? This is not how Jesus wants us to live. “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth,” (Acts 17:26). It’s time to rewrite the stars and love others with different skin color than us as we love ourselves. What if we rewrite the stars?Is it impossible? Say that it’s possible!
When you lose your way, remember your first love and come back home. When all the fortune and fame of P.T. Barnum’s success sets in, he begins to lose his way. He doesn’t do anything immoral per se, but he neglects his family to spend time with a very talented and beautiful woman and he also treats the acts of his circus with disrespect. Through a series of unfortunate events he loses everything and he eventually realizes what truly matters is his family and friends, and he resolves to not be blinded by the lights of fame any longer. Sometimes this happens to us in our everyday lives as well. We aren’t necessarily doing anything harmful to others, but before we know it our selfish desires have crept in and we are no longer walking in the light. But then, we remember our first love and we resolve to return to Him and He welcomes us with open arms. “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin,” (1 John 1:7). From now on…Stop and remember your first love. Come back home.
In the end, The Greatest Showman is a beautiful story of inclusion and acceptance of all people, something that Jesus Christ Himself taught. And if it’s crazy, then live a little crazy, because as P.T. Barnum said, “No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.”
Sometimes you’re walking through life and it all makes total sense. A fall breeze is blowing and you’ve got your windows down and your favorite song is blasting on max volume.
And then there are times when absolutely nothing makes sense. You were minding your own business, but suddenly your legs were kicked out from under you, landing you flat on your behind wondering what in the world just happened.
How could your circumstances have changed so drastically within a 24-hour period? It’s a valid question and it’s one that I wish I had the answer to.
I’m sure Martha and Mary felt somewhat similar when they were just trucking through life in the quiet town of Bethany, enjoying being a part of this new movement called “the Way” that heralded Jesus of Nazareth as the long-awaited Messiah. When all of a sudden their beloved brother falls ill. And it’s not a “he’ll sleep it off and be better by tomorrow” sort of sick, but it’s evident that he has a life-threatening illness that requires immediate attention. They do some quick thinking and send word to their friend Jesus and ask Him to come on the double!
Jesus receives the message and this is His response: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” (John 11:5-6)
One of His very best friends is sick, SO He stays put? What kind of sacrificial love is that? That seems a little counterproductive, wouldn’t you say?
By the time Jesus gets there Lazarus is dead. Not just any kind of dead either, but dead-dead. Like four-day-old-stinking-in-the-grave dead. It’s bad. And Martha let’s Him know it.
Where have You been? If you would have been here, He would not be dead!
Adding to His mysterious behavior, Jesus replies in the most cryptic way.“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Umm, yes…I think I do. But my brother’s still dead and I’m beyond devastated.
To say that we believe when life is good doesn’t take much faith. But we have to be willing to ask ourselves this question when life throws us that inevitable curve ball.
Do I believe this?
Because believing Jesus is the truth is easy enough UNTIL…
your brother dies;
you miscarry that baby that you waited and prayed for;
your spouse confesses the unthinkable to you;
…THEN it’s personal.
But faith is believing EVEN IF…
your brother stays in the grave;
your arms remain empty;
your spouse refuses to come home;
…Trusting in His sovereign plan.
Jesus never said that life would be fair. In fact, He was perfectly straightforward when He told us that in this world we WILL have trouble, but we are to take heart because He has overcome the world! (John 16:33)
He is still the Resurrection and Life, EVEN IF life does not work out the way we thought it would.
Jesus eventually kept His promise to raise Lazarus from the dead with the purpose that God would be glorified through the act (take time to read this incredible story in John 11 if you aren’t familiar with the details). Both Martha and Mary received their miracle that day when their brother was resurrected and reunited with them. However, this was not the case for my sister and me. Why did God allow Lazarus to live and Jeremy to die? This is a question that I have often pondered and I still do not know the answer to. Nevertheless, I had a choice to make, just as you do.
When He says that He is the Resurrection and the Life and He then asks me, “April, do you believe this?” I answer Him wholeheartedly:
Yes, Lord. I believe You are the One who holds the resurrection power.
Now that I have made it through three years of seminary and have graduated with my Masters in Theological Studies, many of you have been asking me what my next step will be. It’s a valid question and one that my husband would like the answer to as well!
The spiritual answer is: I’ll do whatever the Lord tells me to do. But the more accurate answer is: I don’t exactly know yet.
When I began this journey several years ago, I felt a calling on my life to be a Bible teacher to women. That call was confirmed by the Lord through people who I respect in the faith. I had already been leading a Women’s Bible Study at my church, but I felt the Lord calling me to go deeper. I felt that I needed to be better equipped if I was going to be a professional Bible teacher, which led to seminary training.
And now that I am trained and equipped, I am ready to hit the ground running and produce a little ROI (that’s a financial term meaning Return On Investment) for all those tuition expenses I incurred for our family. Yet, there is no job waiting for me.
Instead, my future is a wide open space with several different paths that could be taken. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. There are endless possibilities and opportunities, but knowing when and how to start is a little daunting.
It’s going to require (dare I say it?!) FAITH.
But isn’t that what walking with the Lord is all about? Taking that next step in faith, and then another, and then another. Sometimes we’ll stumble a bit, and other times we may fall flat on our face, but we’ll let our Savior pick us back up, dust us off, and set us back on the right path. And other times we will see so clearly the victories He has supplied us with and we will rejoice and celebrate. Step by step we’ll just keep exercising our faith until we’ve done all we can in this lifetime and then we’ll walk straight into His loving arms.
So for now, I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other by writing that next blog post for Reflecting Light, sending devotionals to Lifeway Women and other venues for publication consideration, speaking at Women’s Conferences (contact me!), asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate the path I’m supposed to take. Knowing that with each step taken I can stand on His promise with confidence that He who began this good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
What next step is the Lord asking you to take in faith? I’d love for us to walk together. We can encourage each other to press on in this walk of faith knowing that there is strength in numbers and that our faith is grown when we step out of our comfort zone.
Will you join me? Yes?! Then let’s go!
Do it, Lord. Illuminate the path You would have us take today. Keep us moving ahead, taking those next steps in FAITH knowing that You are faithful to complete that good work in us that You began all those years ago. Let us reflect Your light to the world and may You always be glorified with each step we take. Amen.
There once was a couple who took a cruise along the Caribbean where they were looking forward to a few carefree days of rest and relaxation. When they boarded the ship they met their room steward whom they instantly liked and they thought it was clever how many creations he could produce from bathroom towels. One night a storm started brewing, causing the woman to be a little nervous. Her husband, ever the optimist (and a heavy sleeper), assured her that there was nothing to be scared of and rolled over to catch some zzz’s. A few hours later he woke up to the boat rocking and he noticed that his wife was not beside him in their small bed. A tad alarmed he sat up but to his relief she came through the door. “Where have you been?” he asked? She calmly replied, “I was out looking for Jesus.” Well, by this time the man was wide awake. “Jesus?! Is the second coming happening?” She answered seriously, “No, Honey. Remember our steward’s name is Jesus? I was just checking to see if we needed to do anything in case the storm got worse.” This made the man chuckle, “Oh, you mean you were looking for ‘Hey-sus.’” And it was then that they realized that they were speaking of two totally different Jesus’. One had the ability to show them where the lifeboats were located, but the other had the ability to BE the lifeboat!
I was laughing hard when my friends told me their “lost in translation” story, but it got me thinking of the time that the real Jesus calmed the storms for the disciples when they were afraid. The gospel of Matthew tells the story like this:
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Matthew 8:23-27 (NIV)
I wonder if any of you have been in this same situation: you are cruising through life at optimal sailing speed when suddenly a FURIOUS storm appears and threatens to drown you in an instant. I know that I certainly have.
It’s one thing when there’s a chance of rain and you are prepared with your rain boots and umbrella, but it’s a totally different experience when a dangerous storm comes out of nowhere, leaving you not only drenched, but also scrambling to keep your head above the water. As you’re gasping for air you decide to do the only thing you know to do. You go to Jesus and wake Him up. “Lord, please save me! I’m about to drown!”
Then you notice that He’s already awake. He says to you, “Do you really have such little faith in Me? Why are you so afraid?” You list out your reasons for being afraid, but as you speak them out you start to realize that He is bigger than all of your fears. Every single one.
And with a simple rebuke to the wind and the waves, the storm subsides and everything is completely calm. You begin to trust Him again to hold your today and your tomorrow. You bow down in reverence as you ask yourself, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”
He whispers to you, “Of course they do. My name is Jesus. The One and Only.”