Sparkle in the Darkness

Today’s Coffee of Choice: Gevalia Chocolate Mocha

Space backgroundToday’s Scripture: Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. – Philippians 2:14-16a

“Don’t worry, be shiny!”

It’s the newest phrase you’ll hear me saying to my kids. It stems directly from Philippians 2:15, which was one of the first verses I memorized thanks to required camp reading at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes sports camp I attended over a decade ago. Though the phrase has morphed through a couple of different stages in my household, it has become my personal default mantra when stress levels rise. It’s how I want to approach each day, and the principle behind it is how I want my three sons to learn to live their lives as well. We live in a world where so much goes wrong on a regular basis, and I believe it’s the role of committed Christians to present a hope in the joy and life of Christ so others will be motivated to explore his source of strength.

This past week we were at the beach. Sitting by an ocean is one of my favorite places to be in all the world, especially when I can share it with those I care about. I always make it a point to spend some quiet time alone, letting the first rays of the morning sunrise hit my face. It’s one of the most powerful demonstrations I can find in nature of the hope of Christ I’ve discovered in my own life. As I planted myself in the sand early in the morning on July 4th, the day we celebrate independence in the States, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of God’s presence. I’ve learned to pay attention during these times, and the message He brought forth to me on a personal level that morning was incredible. Afterward, I went for a walk in the light of the rising sun, the tide hitting my toes and teaching me (again) of the cleansing power of Christ.BreakingDawn

On my way back, I happened to see a familiar face parked in almost the same spot I had just been. I smiled because I knew God was up to something big. I went over, we hugged and laughed at the “coincidence,” and then we jumped into an amazing conversation about God’s faithfulness. At that moment in time, this particular individual was in a place where she didn’t know what her future held. She had gone through a tremendous upheaval in recent months and, though being blown away by the little ways God was reaching out to her in her time of need, was concerned. Her story reminded me so much of a painful period I went through in 2007, so, even though I knew I didn’t have the comfort she needed, I knew how to pray for her throughout our conversation. In fact, these days it’s rare for me to talk to another person without quietly praying for them in the midst.

I referenced a book to her I read a few years back called The North Face of God, which compares trials in life with mountain climbing. Though maybe not the easiest metaphor to swallow, the perspective on the Psalms and targeted prayers it offers are amazing for any difficult period. I also shared with her something God has been teaching me  about the miracle of the process. The process often gets a bad rap within Christianity, although I tend to believe victory over the difficult, drawn-out periods in our lives produces more strength than an instantaneous miracle moment. Both are great demonstrations of the power of God, but many who watched Christ perform miracles turned on him to cry “Crucify him!” Whatever novelty they wanted– and gained– from the healing power Christ demonstrated in his ministry was gone. The disciples, on the other hand, were a part of the process of Christ’s journey on earth and, except for the one who betrayed Jesus to the mob, went on to extraordinary feats.

We often have such a limited perspective on the circumstances in our lives. Who knows how God wants to use some of our most painful moments? As I reflected on that point while watching fireworks on the beach later on that evening, I chuckled at the book I had adopted as my beach read, Illusion by Frank Peretti. 2013-06-30 11.35.59So many times we are shocked at the reality of our circumstances. Sometimes our reality seems more like fiction. Sometimes the explosive quality of it is so loud we stumble around hoping we’ll head the right direction only to fall flat on our face.  There is a bigger picture, however, that points to a sovereign God who wants to reach out and direct us to the rays of the sun in the morning and the sparkle of his light in the dead of night.  There is a bigger love story to be told than any of the ones we could ever dream up or experience on our own.

Later on that night, I met a few friends down at the beach to gaze up at the night sky, including the same woman I mentioned earlier. Not only were we blown away by the vast measure of the visible Milky Way, but we also witnessed a rare phenomenon in the water: bioluminescent microorganisms coming in on the nighttime tide. It was so fun to watch the sparkle of these living things colliding at the end of our fingertips and the soles of our feet as we laughed and danced our way to a little bit more freedom. The joy experienced in those moments is something I won’t forget.

It is my prayer for all of you reading this that you experience this same joy and freedom on a personal level today. It is also my desire that you are blessed by the written words of the Scripture passages and books referenced in this blog. May the light of Christ shine into whatever darkness you may encounter. If you already know the reality of his light, may you allow it to sparkle in the night and break forth like the dawn as he leads the dance of your life!

Coffee and a Reading Wrap: What I’m Reading and Why

Today’s Coffee of Choice: Seattle’s Best Café Moulu, Level 2, Black

Today’s Scripture: And in view of this, we always pray for you that our God will consider you worthy of His calling, and will, by His power, fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (I do pray for you!)

As promised a few weeks ago, I’m going to be focusing more on updating you on what I’m reading. There are so many amazing resources and stories out there, and it is my hope you will be encouraged to check out some that I share. If so, let me know! I also love to give books away, so keep an eye on my Monday posts for that to happen in the future. Here are some thoughts on what I’m reading for you to chew on:

2 Thessalonians
I’m studying through Paul’s letters in Scripture right now. The reason for this is twofold: 1. I love Paul’s example as a leader; 2. I love how he used the written word to encourage and equip those he visited. This week I’m working through 2 Thessalonians while digging into the history behind Paul’s visits to Thessalonica, the people he traveled with, and the reasons behind his visits. Scripture is the number one source of encouragement and instruction for me, and, if you can’t say the same, I encourage you to try it out and discover its appeal.

A Confident Heart by Renee Swope
I have been studying through A Confident Heart for awhile now and am also leading a small group through it. Look for it to be a part of what I’m reading for a couple months in the future because of this. Renee Swope offers relevant truths and engaging anecdotes for today’s woman within its pages, and the book is especially helpful for anyone who has struggled with self-confidence or is looking for more confidence as a leader.

112 Christian Authors and Publishing Professionals Share Their Best Advice for Novelists by C.J. Darlington
I will always be reading some kind of book on writing. This year I’m striving to become a better writer, and books on writing and the writing industry are an important part of my learning process. This particular book is a wonderful compilation of many recognizable names from the Christian industry. I am so encouraged by the advice it offers and will be quoting from it on my Facebook page this week!

Beyond the Reflection’s Edge by Bryan Davis
There will always be a fiction book in the mix of what I’m reading. This particular book jumped out at me in Ollie’s one day. (Ollie’s is a dangerous place for this book lover!) What grabbed me initially was the cover, which had music notes all over it. Any book with a music theme will draw me in. When I picked it up and read a random excerpt, I immediately saw it’s a novel like the kind I aspire to write: fiction with Christian and speculative elements. So far, I’m enjoying the creative ideas behind the plot. To read more about this book, click the title above to jump to Goodreads.

Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo
I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read this book until now. I’ve had it on my bookshelf for awhile, but I didn’t buy into the initial craze of it because I had so many other books to read and I wanted the opinions around me to die down before I dove in. Recently, my husband and I have been reading powerful testimonies (whether in book or blog/vlog form) of the reality of Heaven. We are doing so to help encourage our faith. I love when he initiates plans like this because we can come together and talk about what we’ve read or seen. This effort to strengthen our faith with these types of powerful testimonies led me to finally pick up this book. I’m looking forward to finishing it soon.

Blogroll Highlights

As always, I’m reading through the blogs I highlight on my blogroll. Here are some good ones from this past week to check out:
1. Following Jesus: Our Light Through the Storm, Laurie Coombs
2. How To Develop More Discipline, Michael Hyatt
3. Don’t Feed Your Discontent, Rachelle Gardner
4. Compel Women’s Conference, Renee Swope
5. Four Pink Shiny Boots for 20 Beautiful Little Girl Toes, Stephanie Clayton