Surrender

There are so many things in your life that demand your surrender to them. Yes, I do mean “demand.” When surrender is called for, it is not a request. The call for surrender is a command.

To surrender is to yield or to give up something that you have to someone else. It means to give a thing to someone because they told you to do so. It means to give up a right or privilege for someone else to control. It means to give up yourself to someone or something else.

Surrender isn’t a word or action that we like most of the time. I am not about to give something that is mine for someone else to have and control. People mess things up! Sometimes they’re downright oppressive! I’m not about to give something that is mine to someone who is not worthy!

But what if someone was worthy? What if someone actually cared about you and your well-being? What if someone could take your surrender without messing anything up? What if someone had the ability and the capacity to take your complete surrender without you being oppressed?

God can do that. God is worthy. God can’t mess up. God will not oppress you.

But what does surrender to God look like?

I saw an adorable partial picture of this in the Toy Story Christmas special this last year, “Toy Story That Time Forgot”.

The setting is right after Christmas. The toys go with their little girl, Bonnie, to another child’s house. There they find toy dinosaurs that don’t know they are toys – they think they are actual dinosaurs meant to do battle. They live to fight. They will never surrender to anyone.

Trixie the triceratops, one of Bonnie’s toys, befriends one of the other dinosaurs called Reptillus Maximus. Trixie tells Reptillus about what it is like to be played with, what it is like to give yourself over to a kid. Reptillus states that giving is surrender, and that he will never surrender.

But he soon finds out what he really is. He is a toy, meant to be played with. Playtime is his purpose. He refuses to believe it, even when the reality of it stares him right in the face. He refuses to surrender to the control of someone else.

Trixie tells Reptillus that he can be so much more than what he is now. He can be anything his boy wants him to be. He can be something he never even thought of. But that can only happen if he surrenders.

So in a moving scene, Reptillus drops his weapon, and lets himself fall into the child’s hand. He quickly finds that being played with is not a bad thing. He finds that playtime is wonderful – or in his words, “Glorious.”

While this depiction is not entirely what it is like to surrender to God, the flavor of it is there. When you surrender to God, He doesn’t just pretend that you are something else. You become something else, you are something else, and it is exactly what you were meant to be.

God knows best what you were meant for because He created you specifically for it. God created you with the talents and abilities to do exactly what He has in mind. But God also lets you decide if you are going to use them for His glory or not. While surrender is a command, it is also a voluntary act.

So who or what has your surrender? Is it complete and unconditional surrender?

Surrendering to anyone or anything less than God will only bring you bondage. But surrender to God is wondrous, and despite having surrendered, you will never be more free! You can be more than what you are. You can be anything that God wants you to be. All you need to do is surrender, fall into His loving hand and let Him hold you.

Surrender is a beautiful thing.

From a Child’s Mind – You’re Going to Live Forever

Just last week one of the kiddos that I’ve had the privilege to teach said something adorable and thought-provoking.

Every Wednesday, I play piano for the 2-4 year old classes while they sing songs for Jesus. Sometimes we have to remind the kids that Jesus is the reason they are singing. We often ask our little information-sponges what the songs mean, and explain if they don’t know. On one such occasion, we had a deep discussion.

One of the teachers was explaining to the kids that it is important for them to learn about Jesus. One day they will be the adults and will teach their own children. “One day, the adults you know now won’t be here.” She named the individual teachers in the room, saying that we would each die some day. Out of all the names mentioned, mine must have been fairly important for one of the little boys. He spoke up. As if he thought my mortality was an unbelievable idea, he asked, “Miss Skyla’s gonna die?”

The teachers all exchanged glances as we tried not to ruin the teaching moment. I smiled behind the piano and tried not to chuckle. But I also had a thought.

We think this way about some people in our own lives, don’t we? There are some people that you just can’t imagine ever dying. Surely they’ll live forever. After all, they’ve made it this far.

But we all die. But also, that is okay.

Death is okay when you know Jesus. Death is okay when you know it isn’t permanent. Death is okay when you know it is a defeated foe. God has conquered and defeated death! When you are in Christ Jesus, death is only sleep. When you are in Christ Jesus, those who are “dead” have only gone home before you have. You’ll be along later, God’s just got some work for you to finish up!

Are You Even Listening?

Ah, the joys of teaching small children! I have found them numerous in my time with the 2 and 3 year old Sunday School class. Isn’t it just a beautiful thing when a child sits and listens attentively to the important lesson you are teaching? Isn’t it wondrous when your group of little ones leans forward with anticipation and engages with you?

Don’t laugh! That actually happens sometimes!

It doesn’t happen often, but it does sometimes.

Yes, a lot of the time it feels like these wonderful children aren’t listening at all. Sometimes they aren’t. But sometimes they are. It is difficult to tell at times, but you might be surprised at how much they actually do listen, even (and especially) when you aren’t actively or consciously teaching them.

Children are like sponges – they soak up everything. It may take a few times for them to get all of it, but sometimes children have the ability to absorb more than adults do. They see what you’re doing when you think they’re busy playing. They pick up on things you didn’t tell them directly. They hear you talking to the other teachers and to their parents. Believe it or not, they do hear you when you teach a lesson. They don’t always listen to everything, but when they do, they don’t forget it – and they will repeat it!

But sometimes you are just sure that there is absolutely NO listening going on. The wonderful children whom God has given you to teach are wiggling and giggling and pestering each other. One of them is picking his nose. Another is picking at a loose thread on her dress. Two of them are best buddies (or partners in crime), and probably should not have been allowed to sit next to each other.

So you snap your fingers, clap your hands, or vocally get everyone’s attention. You tell them this is important and that God wants them to know about what is in His Bible. So the children quiet themselves, and sit as still as possible for their little energy-filled bodies.

But they start wiggling again as soon as you start teaching once more.

You manage to keep the wiggling to a “minimum,” and eventually finish your lesson. Then the delightful kiddos are allowed to jump up and do whatever comes next. You think that maybe one of them got something – maybe. You might even look to the heavens and give an exasperated prayer to God for these children (and yourself).

But then the next Sunday, someone’s mommy or daddy tells you what their child told them about the lesson you so painstakingly tried to teach. Sometimes they tell you about something else their child did that pertains to the lesson.

“He just lined up all his stuffed animals and taught them a Bible lesson!”

“She was telling her little brother all about Jesus!”

In that moment, you feel so much better! There was some listening going on!

If you are teaching children of any age, you will notice the difficulties of keeping the collective attention span. But rest assured that God has not called you to a fruitless endeavor! One of these days, these children will need to know the things you are teaching. While your lessons may be one of the repeated stepping stones along their way, one day a child will understand something very important. One day a child will follow Jesus.

Growth Spurts

Growth spurts were quite an issue for me when I was younger. I’ve heard some people have relatively easy physical development through childhood, with minimal growing pain and small growth spurts, giving you plenty of time to get used to your new size. But I was not one of those people.

In my experience, growing pains came first. Then I would have a sudden growth spurt. Which means I would then be clumsy for a while until I got used to my new proportions. I would run into walls when walking around corners, stub all my toes on random furniture, trip over my own feet, close my fingers (or my whole hand) in doors, smack my shoulder (and sometimes my head) on doorways when walking into rooms, and hit my ribs, hips, or elbows on the edges of tables and counter-tops. Hitting my elbows usually resulted in half of my arm going numb. It was humerus, but not funny.

Then I finally got used to everything, and I became slightly more graceful once more. Which meant another growth spurt was not far ahead, and I got to do it all over again. But I like to think that is part of the reason I’m (mostly) graceful now.

Sometimes going through life is like having growth spurts. You go through stages of change. Sometimes the change is sudden. Sometimes it is gradual. Either way, you have to get used to a new normal. By the time you get the hang of it, it is almost time for another growth spurt. But you have some experience under your belt now. The next change still takes some getting used to, but you will get the hang of it eventually. It takes time, so don’t get too frustrated when you stub your figurative toes on the metaphorical furniture of life. It gets better, I promise.

I’m Going to Tell You a Story

Once there was a man…

This man built a spaceship, and travelled the galaxy. He even figured out how to travel outside his galaxy to see other ones. This man was looking for something, but he wasn’t sure what it was. No one else really knew what it was, either.

Some people thought the man was crazy. Some people thought he was perfectly sane. Some people weren’t sure what they thought. Many people thought he was looking for life on another planet. Others thought he had an extreme case of wanderlust.

But the man had an idea of what he sought. He was looking for purpose. He wanted to know where everything came from, and he thought sometimes that he might even be looking for God.

The man had been taught that everything was the cause of a big bang, a cosmic accident with no apparent cause. Matter simply exploded into existence in a bright burst that set the universe into motion. But this man also had a friend who told him that this was not the case, but that there is a God who created everything. There is a God who set the stars in motion. There is a God who set the atoms in motion. There is a God who created time, space, matter and energy. There is a God, and only one.

The man didn’t understand. Everything he knew about the laws of the universe stated that there must be a cause for everything. Things don’t just happen by themselves; something or someone has to act for something to happen. It would make sense for God to be a cause, for God to create everything. But why?

His friend had told him that God created everything because He wanted to. God wants to love people, and wants them to love Him in return. God wants us to exist.

But the man couldn’t stop asking why. Why would God want us to exist? I’ve seen us. We are not very nice people. For all the good things we seem to have done, we’re not very good people, and we certainly aren’t important. Look at the scale of the universe! We don’t even know how big it is, but we do know that it is enormous. Judging by that, why would we be important? Why would we be special to God?

We live in a box, people say. But that implies that there is something outside of it. There can’t ever be Nothing on the outside of a box. You can’t have a box unless there is something outside of it, otherwise what holds the box together? It can’t hold itself together, because if there is truly nothing outside of it, the void would pull it apart. The box would deteriorate; it would explode into shreds of chaos, leaving Nothing to put it back together.

So the man would ask himself, “What is outside of the box?”

Can I find the edges of the box? Can I see the outside of the box? Is any of that possible? If it isn’t, what does that mean?

The man travelled as far as he could, but always felt the need to return home once in a while. He found that his home on Earth was the best place to observe certain things, as if it was placed in just the right spot on purpose. But no matter where he was in his travels, the man noticed that the laws of physics were still the same. Galaxies spun, celestial bodies orbited, everything obeyed the same natural laws. Someone had to have done that on purpose… That can’t just be an accident, can it?

The man’s friend continued to tell him about God, and that he didn’t have to go looking for Him. God is everywhere all at the same time, so you don’t have to find the edge of the box to find Him.

The man felt desperate, but he listened to his friend. He hadn’t found anything new in his travels. He hadn’t found anything he didn’t already know. But he had found so many things that made him feel a wide range of emotions and feelings.

The man saw the bigness of his part of the universe and knew that there was more. This left him in silent awe.

The man saw the same natural laws applied everywhere he went. This made perfect sense yet confused him at the same time.

The man saw spiral galaxies that reminded him of fingerprints – and they were all over the place. This disturbed him.

Every star, every atom, everything this man saw seemed to have a signature on it. There was a common designer – there had to be. Why else would everything have such order? Why else would there be so many common things? Why?

The man’s friend told him often that all he had to do was talk to God. It is possible to talk with God, Himself, all you have to do is as Him to speak with you. But the man felt held back. He knew he wasn’t good enough. He knew he was less that a speck of dust in the vastness of the universe.

But his friend told him that it didn’t matter how small he was. “God loves you no matter what. God made you on purpose, and He pays attention to you.”

Finally the man let it sink into his mind that his friends was telling him the truth. But now he was afraid. “The God of the universe, the very God who created everything and has the power to do anything He wants with it, pays attention to me.”

“But He loves you at the same time,” his friend reminded him. “You can’t be good enough on your own, but God loves you so much that He made a way for you to be good enough in His sight. Yes, God has enormous power and can snuff out the entire universe at whim, but He doesn’t. He doesn’t do it because He loves you. So because you know His strength and His love, you can trust Him.”

“But how do I know that?”

“Because God sent His own Son to die. Jesus died willingly. He sacrificed Himself, He paid your debt, so that you could be clean and good enough in the sight of God.”

The man thought long and hard about what his friend had said, and wondered why he couldn’t just let that into his own thick skull.

But then he finally did.

He was alone on his spaceship, orbiting the Earth and staring at the stars. He spoke to God for the first time.

“You… You’re the One who made all this. You made even me… I’ve been told why but… I still don’t understand. Am I supposed to understand? Is that something I must understand to know you?”

No. No, it is not.

“Then what do I need to do?”

The man paused. He remembered what his friend had told him. He knew exactly what he needed to do. He suddenly felt very, very small. He got on his knees.

“So… many… years, I’ve wondered why. But all this time all I needed to know was Who. I know who You are, and I know who I am. You are ultimate good. I am corrupt and evil. I’ve tried to do good, but that’s not enough. It’s not enough because You are so good and holy that I can’t possibly be good enough. But you made a way – a path for me to walk so that I can be good enough in Your sight.”

The man stared out at the stars. “I want it. I want to be clean, to be good enough. I want to return this love You’re giving me. I am so… wrong… so filthy. Please take that away from me. Take that away and put something else in its place. Please give me a purpose! I know I have one, I must have one! Why else would I be here? Why else would You create me? I want a purpose.”

Then you have it.

For the first time in his life, the man knew exactly what he needed to do. He was new, he was alive, and he felt like he could see for the first time. He had to tell someone, and then tell someone else, and then another person, and another after that. He had to show others Who gives life a purpose. He had to do it for the rest of his life, and he wanted to! He knew that this is what he wanted. He knew there is a purpose, and he knew others needed to know it, too.

So for the rest of his life, the man showed others what God is like. He told everyone he met about the meaning and purpose of life.

There is a God.

So there is a reason, there is a purpose.

So you have a purpose.

So go. Go fulfill it.

When God Is Silent

Church is a good place to learn things. When the Word of God is preached clearly and correctly, you can hear God speak.

Daily Bible reading is a good way to learn things. When you read the Bible with the intention to listen to whatever God tells you, you can hear God speak.

But what about when God is silent? Am I not listening, or is He really not speaking?

If you are not listening, you’ll know that. Much like a child who is trying to ignore his or her parents, you will know if you are purposefully not listening. It’s not a nice feeling.

But what if you are listening and you just can’t hear anything? Is God no longer on speaking terms?

Let me tell you about some things I learned in church and from the people in it.

Do not take God’s silence for apathy or inactivity.

God speaks at the appropriate time – when it is the perfect time to speak. He’s not ignoring you, He’s just waiting for things to be just right. Sometimes silence is used to emphasize what is said next. Silence lets you know that the words are important.

God speaks in unlikely and sometimes even mysterious ways. He may tell you something Himself, He may have someone else tell you. He may just show you something. He may do none of these and surprise you. Don’t limit God. He’s very creative.

God speaks in answer to our prayers. He doesn’t always do it when we think He should, or even how we think He should, but He does answer. Remember, God is very creative.

God speaks to bring us joy! When God tells you something good, doesn’t it just fill you up with jubilant joy? Your joy bucket just sloshes joy all over everything!

God speaks to challenge our faith and silence our doubts. Trust Him. He knows what He’s doing. When you trust God, you will be stronger for it. You will know from personal experience that God actually can do what He says He can do, and it will be easier to trust Him another time.

God speaks to accomplish His eternal purpose! When God speaks and does something, it is always in line with His plan for eternity. Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” God has “before ordained.” That means He already knows what is going to happen and why, and He is working it all for good.

When God is silent, listen up! He’s about to say something life-changing!

Here We Go

It is time. It is time for me to get this started. It is time for this to get going!
So welcome to the journey, friend!
It is a new year, and I am going to start and continue this blog. It should not have taken me this long, but here it goes – and it had better go, because this is important! It will probably take me a while to figure out some of the finer details, and I will probably be a bit clumsy at first, but I am going to do this.
I have plans and ideas for this little space I’ve got here. I’ll probably tell you stories about things that happen to me. There will be some serious things, maybe even some deep things for you to learn from. There will be some humorous things and witty thoughts, and probably some stupid things. Maybe it will be the good kind of stupidity that makes you laugh. If it isn’t… well, I should be able to fix that.
Also, I want you to participate! Feel free to give comments and discuss things with me and others. But be advised that this is to be a place of civil discussion. Be polite. Tell the truth, of course, but tell it in love and care for your fellow human. I’d like this to be a place where anyone can come and discuss anything without feeling like everyone hates them.
I want people to see God here.