You Name It

I have a word I call my own.

You have a word from birth ‘till grown.

Some are rather fond of their word.

Others merely think it absurd.

Whatever the view you hold is,

If your word’s Liz then it is Liz.

Without a process you remain

Known by the word you maintain.

And even then you are attached

To that word with which you were matched.

But our words are simply labels

Sometimes from stories and fables

That denote what we should be called.

They are merely letters that, sprawled

Across a white page bring to mind

A face and friend, one of a kind.

We are rarely what our word is,

But rather tied to it by this:

The choice of our parents to give

It to us when we start to live.

But there is one who is His word.

He’s the word—the head of the herd.

His word is His name as ours are,

But His name is what caused his scar.

His word is what we can stand on.

His name is a phenomenon.

His word is His very essence,

And to His name let praise commence.

My sister is in the last few weeks of her third pregnancy. All is well at this point, and we hope and pray it remains that way. Aside from the physical difficulty of carrying a child and preparing to deliver one, a mother and father are faced with another difficulty–choosing a name for the child they will soon bring into the world.

My sister and brother-in-law have had nearly eight months to think of the perfect name for their third kid, but they only recently solidified the first name. They are still debating what the middle name will be.

Choosing the word that people will call your child for the rest of its life is no small task. And, although I have never experienced the process of picking a name, I can imagine the pressure that would come with the task.

Through the years, popular names change. People start to choose new, “trendy” names, and what were once considered super original names are considered outdated.

However, at least in Christian circles, one name has remained extremely popular: Jesus. At least in America, it is not that common to hear of a child or even an adult named Jesus. However, the name Jesus is mentioned constantly.

Consequently, with many years of interacting with Christians under my belt, I began to view the name of Jesus as a cliche piece of Christian jargon. I heard it constantly. At times, I almost cringed (for lack of a better word) when I heard someone utter those five letters. Whether in a prayer or anything else, I failed to see what the name of Jesus truly was.

In the last year or so God has completely transformed my view of Jesus’ name. The name Jesus is not just some mindless combination of letters without any meaning though.

The name Jesus essentially means “Savior.” In the days when Jesus walked the earth, the name and its equivalents (like Joshua) were common names in Israel.

While all those other people named Jesus were still associated with the definition and hope of a “Savior,” all of those were just foreshadows of what was to come. Jesus the Christ embodies His name. His name was not only a reminder of God’s faithfulness and eventual plan, Jesus was the hope. He was the very savior that the rest of the Jesus’s hinted at.

The word Jesus was not just a name for the Son of God. It was His very character. Because of this, His name is not just a dead combination of letters. Instead it is an active representation of the God of the Universe, and at its utterance, lives can be changed, chains can be broken, the sick can be healed, and the dead can be raised. God responds to the name of His beloved son.

There are truly no sufficient words to describe the name of Jesus and its power. All I know is that even just singing it over and over encourages me and fills me with joy! I cannot fully explain to you what the name means to me. I can only hope that you will open yourself up to experiencing it too.

The name of Jesus is not a cliche! It is the hope of nations, the name above all names. Truly no other name can do the things Jesus’ can.

“Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

(Philippians 2:9-11 NLT)

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Faith Throws A Shadow

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When my shadow’s on the wall,

I know there must be light.

The brightness puts in sight

This thing and that thing and all.

The figures are not the same

Projected on the ground.

They lose color and sound,

But they stay within a frame.

The frame is from the object

The light is shed upon.

Although its dark at dawn,

It fades when light’s not direct.

But in the midst of darkness,

A thing knows his shadow

Will come when lights do glow

And paint the ground with likeness.

Even though they leave sometimes,

All shadows still exist;

And when the lights insist,

They return as darkened mimes.

Nearly everyone in the world has a set of beliefs, a set of things on which their faith is based. Even the most secular, atheistic scientist has faith. He has faith in the work of his predecessors; he has faith that gravity will work the next time he sets a Bunsen burner on a counter; he has faith that the world can be understood.

But, everyone that has faith, has doubt.

As a Christian, there are times when I doubt certain parts of my faith. There are times when something makes me question an aspect of my belief. However, merely having doubt does not mean you are any weaker in your faith. It is how you respond to those doubts that determines how strong your faith is.

The literary giant C. S. Lewis says it eloquently in his work Mere Christianity. He says:

Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes (p. 69 Mere Christianity).

Lewis himself was once an atheist and says that now, as a Christians he occasionally doubts the possibility of Christian ideas being true. He also says that when he was an atheist, there were times when he doubted his unbelief in God and looked favorably on Christianity.

Faith is not a state in which you know everything and can believe it without hesitation. It is a state of knowing what you have decided to believe and sticking to that belief even when you doubt it. It is remembering what made you believe the thing in the first place and returning to that because you are choosing to be faithful to that idea.

Lewis continues to say that, “one must train the habit of Faith” (p. 70 Mere Christianity).

Faith is a habit. It is a mindset that you return to.

I mentioned shadows in the poem for this post. In a sense, you could say that people have faith that shadows will come back when the light is shining. Even in the dark, when there are no shadows, we must choose to believe that shadows will return when the light does. We cannot see the shadows, but we do not give up on the idea of shadows existing just because they seem nonexistent at the moment. We have experienced them before and have faith that we will again. We go back to the reason we believed in the first place.

I definitely doubt my faith at times. So, when I read these words of Lewis, they gave me comfort. Just because we have doubts does not mean our faith is weak. If we cling to our beliefs in our doubt, we are truly faithful.

The version of Mere Christianity I used in this post can be found online here.

Say What?

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No thing in all the world can replace words.

They are the very handiwork of God!

I can only think how fishes and birds

Long to, on grounds of conversation, trod.

Words can move a mountain with enough seed.

They can mend bonds if one talks sincerely.

No concept unknowable can’t be freed

From ignorant bondage if one’s crafty.

Without words this world would be very dark.

There would be no way to tell a wisecrack,

Nor any speeches to which one could hark,

Nor any way to tell of love’s attack.

How our souls would long for the sounds of speech;

Drowned in utterly forlorn silence, they

Would thirst for a monosyllabic screech.

Only this would keep their yearnings at bay.

I know that words are so very vital,

For God uses them when showing his thoughts.

He used them to teach about the idol 

And to compose the small tittles and jots.

Should something God himself does utilize 

Be taken lightly, or just forgotten?

No!  We should with each of our words be wise!

With words we should point to His begotten.

So I say I want to take this challenge—

To choose my words with prudent carefulness.

With my mouth, God’s laws I’ll try not infringe;

To be a word nerd I’ll make my business.

_____________________________________________

With seven words, He crafted humans after himself.

“Let us make man in our image.”

With six words, He commands his followers.

“Freely you have received; freely give.”

With five words, He shows his care and goodness.

“I am the good shepherd.”

With four words, He fashioned one of science’s great mysteries.

“Let there be light.”

With three words, He saw creation’s goodness.

“It was good.”

With two words, He announced his sovereignty over time.

“I AM.”

With one word, heavenly beings praise Him.

“Holy”

Perhaps next to the love of God which saved humanity from the grave and defeated sin and death, words are the most powerful thing in the universe. God has been using them to speak to people from the beginning of time. He used them to create the world and He used them to create us.

Then, he gifted us with the very breath He used to form those powerful words when He breathed into us the breath of life. Now, we have power in our words too, especially in the most powerful word of all, the name of Jesus!

“Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction.”

Proverbs 18:20 (NLT)

Fresh, not Frozen

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In the United States of America, nearly centered on the continent, lies the relatively quiet state of Oklahoma. Within the saucepan-shaped state sets a small University of only a few thousand students. This University is called Oral Roberts University, and it is the school I have called my own for the past several months.

I just finished my final final yesterday afternoon. My freshman year is over. That being said, I cannot help but think of the amazing journey college has already been.

I never really thought much about where I wanted to attend college. ORU always just seemed like the right pick. That was partly because my older brother had attended there and because I have lived no more than 20 minutes away from the campus my entire life. However, I did not go merely out of convenience or comfort. Going to ORU was far from comfortable for me.

Homeschooled for my entire education prior to University, I did not really know what to expect actually going to school. I was excited, but nervous. As soon as school started last fall though, I knew my time at ORU was going to be some of the best years of my life.

Never again will I be able to meet so many people, have so much fun, or have to do so much reading!

Going into school, I had a few goals:

  1. Obviously, I wanted to do well academically.
  2. I wanted to savor the experiences.
  3. I wanted to develop a few great friends with which I could talk about anything.

I have definitely succeeded in getting good grades. I do my best to savor the amazing season I am in. And, I have begun to develop my group of intimate friends.

Last Saturday, after attending a Vance Joy concert and being privileged enough to meet him in person after the show, I was walking downtown with a friend. We generally knew each other, but had never really gotten a chance to talk like we did last weekend.

We started by discussing what we wanted to do in the future with our education, but we quickly began to talk about how amazing our school is and how amazing our God is. We both agreed enthusiastically that we knew we were at the right University.

I told her that one of the things that had surprised me the most about college was how much I have learned outside of the classroom. Socially, spiritually, and emotionally I have been forced to mature through my time at ORU. She agreed.

We continued to talk, and before we knew it, our voices were amplified. We had begun to speak about God. Both of us took turns bragging about our Jesus and how even just singing his name is so powerful! Finally, she said something like,

“With the power of Jesus’ name, we are unstoppable!”

I agreed. By this time, we were nearing the car and our conversation was coming to a close. Before we got into the car though, I realized what we had done. I said something like,

“Think about what we were just doing. We were walking downtown. Who knows who we passed, and we were declaring the amazing name of Jesus and how powerful it is!”

She excitedly returned,

“We are unstoppable!”

We had been given boldness in that moment to proclaim His name without hesitation. Never before have I ever so boldly spoken about Him in public. There was a physical sense of power that surrounded me as we spoke, and I have reminisced on the moment ever since.

I cannot help but wonder who we passed and what they thought. At the same time though, I do not really care what they thought or heard. My friend and I were openly praising our God on the streets of Tulsa, and I have never been less ashamed of the gospel in my entire life!

Coming out of my freshman year, I have never felt so fresh spiritually. Suddenly the nickname “freshie” does not seem so derogatory. I am proud to have been a freshman and I hope I can remain one forever!

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ…”

Romans 1:16 (NLT)

For Better or For Worsh

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You lift your hand

When you need an answer.

You lift your hand

When you have the answer.

You lift your hands

When you’re on a thrill ride.

You lift your hands

When you’re on a joy ride.

You lift your hands

When you’re needing to yawn.

You lift your hands

When you need to stretch on.

Some raise their hands

When they are singing praise;

Some raise their hands

When their moving mouth prays.

Have you ever wondered why people raise their hands during worship?

I used to do it simply because other people around me were doing it. It seemed like the right thing to do. However, I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons.

Raising your hands in worship should not be a thoughtless action. It should be a beautiful display of praise and wonder. 

When you raise your hands you are admitting that you need God, that he is much greater than yourself.

I once heard raising your hands compared to the actions of a small child. When a child is hungry, tired, sad, angry, or many other things, it crawls or walks to the feet of its parent and raises its hands. It is as if the child is saying “Mommy, Daddy, I need you right now. Nothing else will give me comfort like being wrapped in your arms will. Please pick me up and fix my problem.”

It is not much different when we raise our hands in worship. We are essentially going to the feet of our heavenly father and calling out to Him. We are saying, “Please pick me up. I can’t do this on my own. Fix my problems; fix me.”

We are lifting our hands to be carried by the Father.

Lifting hands in worship can be a thoughtless action. So many times, I have caught myself in worship, hands lifted high, not thinking of God at all. Instead I was thinking of all the things I needed to do later, what I was going to eat at my next meal, or even how awkward the band’s transitions were. At these moments I am humbled.

I do raise my hands in worship. But if I do it without a heart turned toward God, what am I surrendering to? What am I reaching for? What am I praising?

At a concert, hundreds sometimes thousands of people raise their hands and sway to their favorite song. What are they raising their hands to? What are they reaching for? What are they praising?

Praising the singer or the band is futile. They will not comfort you and hold you in times of trouble like the Heavenly Father will.

Such an act of worship should not be used on a human.

Even in worship, countless people raise their hands. But if we don’t have a heart toward God, what are we praising? Are we praising the band or the singer? Even in a time meant to exalt God?

Obviously there are people who truly worship God with their raised hands, but I am simply advocating that we watch what we worship. As I said, I have caught myself without worshipful intentions even acting as if I had worshipful intentions. But let’s be intentional with our worship. Let’s think about why we are raising our hands and who we are raising them to. Let’s reach for the Father, let’s reach for his goodness.

“In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.”

(1 Timothy 2:8 NLT)

I Hope You Find Your Dad

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Family is an amazing thing to be a part of. In its best form, it is a community, a safe place, a source of joy and encouragement. 

Today, in one of the final lectures of the semester, my New Testament professor spoke about family. He said that when Adam, the first man, was made, he was made in the image of God. Then Eve was made from Adam’s own flesh and bone. Together, when they were joined as one in marriage, they were the ultimate reflection of God’s image.

Today’s family is no different. A family with happily married parents raising up their children as one is a beautiful reflection of the Creator. 

But, as I write this, as much as I love the image of such a family, I am forced to think of the families that do not fit this mold. 

My uncle passed away last weekend, leaving a pregnant wife and several children behind. The tragedy they are facing is unlike anything I have experienced personally. I cannot imagine what his family must be feeling, and I cannot imagine what their unborn son will face in a childhood without a father. 

Their beautiful image and reflection of God was taken away by death. It seems so unfair.

This past Tuesday, in a communication class, my professor asked me if I had any prayer requests. While I usually say no to such questions, I had one this time. I briefly told my classmates and professor the situation of my aunt and her family, and one of my friends prayed. 

She said one line that has stuck with me ever since then. It was something along the lines of this:

“God, let this child see that you’re the dad.”

I remember audibly making a noise of agreement. 

The whole time, I had been thinking of how sad that child will be knowing his father died before he was born. I thought he had no father. But, when my friend was praying, I was reminded of a beautiful thing. That child  still has a father, a father that also died before the child was born. This father though, overcame death.

The beautiful reflection of God that was seemingly broken by death, was also made whole in death. The church, made of humans, is the bride of Christ. Jesus is the father and husband that finishes the reflection of God. With him, the perfect family unit and reflection of the Creator still remains.

I am by no means claiming to understand how the child will feel or how his mom and sisters are feeling now. However, I can hope and pray that they will all see this truth. I pray that the child sees that he is not fatherless. He has a dad, a perfect dad. 

This poem is for my little cousin or for anyone else without an earthly father:

You are who He says you are.

He is the father that’s not too far.

You are when He says you’re His.

He is who He says He is.

You’re no orphan to be sad.

Just look up! He is your dad!

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

(Psalms 34:18 NASB)

I’m Back!

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Yes, I was gone, but now I’m not!

I was silent, but now I speak.

Of late, my words were not a lot,

But my life’s been far from bleak.

So, if you have found me here,

I hope you will peruse my work.

I hope it will urge you to peer

Into this life’s marvels that lurk.

Hello, anyone that is possibly reading this. I am sorry for my extended absence. I am in the final weeks of my freshman year of college which has been a rollercoaster full of laughs, tears, victories, failures, embarrassing moments, and exponential growth. Anyway, I have found little time to write anything here. However, I plan to revive this blog. I will be posting consistently again, and I hope that any of you that read my posts before will pick up reading them again and those of you that did not will enjoy what you find here. You will be hearing from me shortly. So, be warned…

(I am posting tomorrow!)

Beloved Roadkill

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On a blazing summer day

In the sunny month of June,

A lone traveler just may

Find on the road something strewn

All about–something cooking

On the blistering pavement.

It may be known with looking

Something found what “behave” meant.

It lays so still and flattened,

A heap of marred flesh and fur;

Yesterday it’d been fattened

So it’s worth men could infer.

This carcass had meant so much

While still breathing and living.

It had been a friend and such

To the man who’d been giving

His provisions to the thing.

He gave it food; protection.

And he paid the price to bring

It away from infection.

He told it to stay with him,

Within the gates of his yard–

To just chew on the long limb

Of this tree. But that’s so hard!

It did not heed the kind man,

But it left the fence to find

Another branch which one can

Use it’s sharpened teeth to grind.

This is when it met a truck;

From noble to ignoble

In an instant of bad luck,

It became still–immobile.

The man did not hasten this.

He did not want it to be.

When he found, all his bliss

Was something he could not see.

If only it had listened

To his simple, earnest words,

The way wouldn’t have glistened

With blood and flesh pecked by birds.

 

Passing a dead dog on the side of the road arouses at least a little bit of emotion in everyone. Even those who do not love dogs are pained to see the body of such a creature laying by the highway.

Rarely though, in passing roadkill, do I think of the owner of the pet who met its unfortunate end.

I pass the animal, thinking about it only for a moment before I move on to another thought.

But, think about a dog owner that is searching for its pet. He looks everywhere, hoping that if and when he finds his long lost friend, their relationship can continue harmoniously. Instead of this, he finds the remains of his beloved pet on the side of the road.

Think of how he must feel.

Think of how much sadness and pain he must feel, knowing that if the dog would have just remained where he had commanded it to stay, this would not have happened.

I believe God feels the same way about us. He kindly shows us where to go and how to act. But, when someone strays from that, they become beloved roadkill.

He never wanted that to happen, and he is grieved at the sight. But, to him, letting his dogs roam freely in his fenced yard that they could escape from if they wanted to, was better than chaining them up to ensure their safety. He loves to see us running around and playing in his yard. He does not want to see us attached to the ground by an oppressive chain.

He is a chain-breaker, not a chain-maker.

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

-2 Corinthians 3:17