“Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
What does this mean to you? I love this quote, yet without a light how does it work?
By thirteen, my parents war-zone marriage and divorce left my Mom’s emotions shattered. I was her primary support. Burnt out at fifteen, I journaled, “I feel like a candle that has not been lit.”
After I left my religious upbringing, I bumped into a believing neighbor and inhaled the gospels with young people who loved Jesus. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
I read Jesus’ words and they drew me to His light, Biblical truth and insight into behavior from human feelings. “The flesh wars against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh…” Galatians 5:17.
Who doesn’t struggle with the effects of their own and others vices and destructive choices? We have all succumbed to anger or withdrawal and control instead of humility, courage and love. The battle inside wages war—daily actions, rational choices, guided by our limited selfish and torn human nature or by the divine Spirit of a loving, just, and merciful God clarified in the book of Romans.
Drawn to Jesus’ truth, His wisdom and kindness as evidenced in the gospels, as His warnings and insight to deceit and fear, I asked Him into my heart. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in…” (Revelations 3:20 NIV)
Peace settled in my mind and spirit, sleep ensued, and I experienced harmony with others closest to me. I woke daily and read my Bible like a first cup of coffee in the morning. I couldn’t start the day without it.
“For you Lord will light my candle. The Lord my God will lighten my darkness,” a young King David sang in Psalm 18:28 (NKJV)
The music in my soul stirred. With unexpected wonder. I read these words, aware of the new song rising inside me. I met the same Wonderful and wise God to follow into forever, who loved me and everyone in my world with forgiveness, healing and hope. He pierced my darkness and continued to do so. Through the darkest nights, I have always known His light.
Candles bring comfort even in death, as we note at vigils surrounding grief.
As you curse the darkness know there is a Light. He made the stars, including one that shone over His birthplace 2000 years ago—wise men followed that star to find Him.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5
Often we don’t hear the words. “Your voice counts. Your presence makes a difference.” So many times those beside someone digging through a dark wall, can wonder if they are any help.
Sometimes we underestimate the power of our presence.
Holding a light of hope while they chip away at a tunnel toward freedom feels paltry compared to their groans. Even bolstering words can sound limp. “Hang in there.” “God will see you through.”
Just being there shows empathy and value. They often feel lost and alone, too weary to respond. To say thank you one more time, in their seeming never-ending marathon.
Recently, I was surprised by a comment after a meeting, “Your voice was needed today.” It had brought change and relief to someone holed in bureaucracy.
Loyalty. Faithfulness. Love in action. Maybe you feel it is not much. After all, you cannot chip at the tunnel for another. It is their course.
They must lift their own feeble arms and use their own strength to advance through the quarry facing them daily. They must bear the weight of dirt laden boots shuffling through the quagmire of bleak circumstances day after day. It is their cross, and the Lord is with them. He has given them enough grace to fight. We are given the insight to pray.
They may face a terrific trial of the soul, oppressed by a demanding boss, unfair teachers or backbiting peers. They may fight insidious inner voices sabotaging their reason and sanity, dominating siblings or spouses, jeering bullies. Medical maladies. Another round of radiation therapy. Complications from the last surgery. A drug-addicted child…or spouse.
Grievous to them…and to us. We wonder too, when will this ever change, God?
Your presence helps them know…you believe this too will pass. It is a struggle for you not to take a boulder in your own hands. Make calls, torpedo words and create your own explosive actions—absent God’s will and plan and timing.
But you have learned about timing. You know, “our times are in God’s hands.” (Psalm 31:15 NIV) Theirs as yours. You have learned your lessons, navigated your own tunnels. If you slam the walls too hard from impatience, around and above, the ceiling can cave in. Tunnel passages require a slow chipping, a slow suffering, not a hasty block of dynamite.
Is your voice needed to intervene for a child, a teen, an elderly person, a single parent, those who are sick?
Prayers can take a long time to be answered. Persevere. Pray for tenacity for those moving toward their future goals, derailed easily by dark doubts and haunting yesterdays. Or those weakened from invisible battle wounds of the heart. Ask for fresh words and ways to encourage those with chronic illness or sudden physical setbacks, remembering people cope differently with loss or transition.
We watch and wait in hope. We know when the wall begins to crumble and the light angles through the cracks, they will feel a gust of fresh air shift—that first deep inhalation. We know the tunnel is ending when we glimpse tears pooling in once dull eyes, and shoulders straightening.
Then we will know, as we believe now—we are where we needed to be, doing what God has called us to do. Nothing big, nothing grand. Just to stand. Stand with them hidden from the public eye. Watch and pray trusting God until their breakthrough to hope and peace.
For, if you have been comforted by the Lord and His presence through others, if you have known His patience and faithfulness in your own life, you will be able to encourage others the same way you were encouraged. (2 Corinthians 1:4)
The Jedi knights in the Star Wars films are brave guardians of the Universe destined by blood lines, they train from youth at the Jedi Academy through the power of the Force to defeat the tyranny of the Dark Side.
Recently while my husband and I watched the series, spiritual parallels surfaced.
In the New Testament Jesus states, “I Am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness…” (John 8:12)
Who is the Prince of Darkness? Satan. Deft at mental warfare, he throws fiery darts of doubt, fear and unbelief to keep us from completing God’s purposes. He intends to stamp out the Light of God’s presence, diminish God’s goodness and benevolence to man and steal the peace and health God gives His people.
Targets of the Dark Side
The Emperor taunts Luke Skywalker to react emotionally when he attempts to do what is right. If Luke reacts in rage, fear or pride, victory is aborted. In the same way Christians daily gird our minds to overcome the Accuser who lurks at every turn. Not until the End of the Age will we be free from Satan’s strategies to sideline us from accomplishing God’s goals.
We are Satan’s targets. He is like a “roaring lion who prowls” (I Peter 5:8) seeking to devour us. We call upon God to warn us internally, by the Spirit’s nudge, to avoid traps and temptations the enemy uses to weaken us.
Paul, out martyred leader of the faith, aware of his own tendency toward pride taught young believers, “Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10) “In your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord.” (I Peter 3:15)
When we decide to follow Jesus, we experience the force of His love and power of His words. Only then, will we obey what He says instead of what we feel. We trust Him more than ourselves.
When we walk in the Spirit, God may lead us in ways we can’t understand. The Jedi closed their eyes, shook off fear and doubt and let the Force lead them. We must shut off our barrage of thoughts. Stop the anticipation and internal conversation and ask God to lead us, and help us to hear the voice of His Spirit. Often His principles and ways may not sync with our human reason or the timing of those around us.
Those closest to us, even our leaders, can crumble with fear under duress. All can drift from the truth found in the pages of the Book, from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17) We all face dark principalities that seek to undermine humanity and destroy God’s Kingdom. But each of us are equipped with divine spiritual armor.
Jedi’s pursued the discipline, focus, and skillset to handle their saber lights—amazing laser-like swords which deftly destroy creatures of any composition. The Believer’s sword is the Word of God. To grow strong in their faith and deft with their sword, they must desire to know the Word as a baby craves milk. (1 Peter 2:2)
Unity, teamwork and trust within the Jedi Council is imperative in decision making and a successful mission. Suspicion causes hesitation and can undermine a timely strategy. Guided by the will of God to serve Him and His purposes, we will care for one another and refuse unhealthy competition and pride.
Maturity helps us to share our victories and exalt our Commander. Our motives are transparent, our actions reveal integrity.
Obedience to God’s command to wait or stay, rather than move out of His will provides peace and safety when pricked by darts of restlessness. The discipline of restraint produces composure in anger, reason in conflict, and effort over ease. It creates the character necessary to persevere through crisis and challenge.
Shield and Helmet
Wear the shield of faith. When we accept His wisdom, and act and speak accordingly, we retain dignity. If others are given assignments we desire, fiery darts of jealousy or self-pity stop when we raise our shield of faith. When we deflect those poisonous darts—the enemy is disabled, unable to sabotage our trust in God and loyalty towards each other with lies, the way the Emperor poisoned Vader toward the Jedi Council.
“Now faith is being certain of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) Similar to Jedi, each of us are open to attack through our mind. The helmet of salvation safeguards our identity when we are assaulted by thoughts of inadequacy. We belong to the One who has the power. “In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.” (Psalm 89:7 NLT)
We must keep a strong mind when any voice assails our faith. When we are surrounded by unfamiliar people in new territories, we center our spirit by acknowledging the presence of our Master and positioning ourselves to listen.
Time is short—our eyes must rest on the Light of the World, His voice and instruction. Sharpen our sword of truth to forge our destiny as it once did for His disciples in centuries past.
“Go then, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold I am with you ‘all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion) to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be).” Matthew 28:19,20 Everyday Life Bible
Yesterday my husband told me about a middle aged man who started a Christian motorcycle club for his friends. He planned trips and it started to grow. It was going really good for awhile. But then one man had a heart attack. Another took a spill on his bike and broke a leg. Someone’s aunt had cancer and asked him to pray for her. Pretty soon, he had so many prayer requests he felt burdened. Too many people having issues. It wasn’t fun—so he stopped. Why?
This morning I was thinking. The worst place for my mind to wander is into that Land of Entitlement. Have you been there?
It doesn’t matter how old we are, when that thinking starts discontent begins.
The thinking I don’t want a life of any problems or to hear about any more problems.
Well, we all know the truth is there is a circle of life we live in and so do those in our circle! It goes like this: “WE are either going into a trial (problem or testing) and amping up courage and wisdom to face it. We are in a trial and taking life daily, leaning on God to get us through. Or we are coming out of a trial hopefully having developed insights and character and a closeness with God—being the better for it. It is the circle of life.
“I have worked hard and put up with alot. I need to be able to rest without responsibilities.”
“I don’t want any drama. Just quiet and control—not controlling chaos. ( or listening to it.)”
“I have had financial difficulties before. Do I have to deal with them again God?” or someone else’s?
“Okay, I know my back is an issue, but not my knee…Really? “My spouse, child, nephew, neice , grandchild, co-worker, friend, dog, cat, just got well. What is going on now?”
“I brush my teeth every day! How can I have a cavity?”
The list goes on. And the older we get…every decade has a new set. I thought it would lessen when I reached a certain age, had a certain job, lived in a certain place, changed people around me, etc. etc. We cannot escape the unescapable. We will never be entitled to any benefits on this side of heaven other than the blessing of belonging to God, experiencing His love and the people He has given us to love.
Love means not only do we cast our cares on God because he cares for us, but we share care with our friends and family, because we care for them. We care about our parents, we care about the kids. We care about our friends and their kids. One prayer is sent out and five boomerang back. There is no motorcycle ride away from reality.
Instead more than ever, God is calling us to stay engaged. To trust. To keep sending up prayers to Him. Shooting star prayers, a friend once called them. Not prayers to load in our pockets and carry around all day. Release them to God in the morning in the evening, in our car on our breaks. Just shoot them up to God… and Let go. Honor Him with trust.
Only He is Able. Only He can help. It is a blessing to text my prayer requests to friends and feel physically eased and mentally relieved as the burdens lift. It is a blessing to give as I have been given and reciprocate for others. All of us depend on Him to answer sooner…or later. How we hope or surrender to even the worse case scenario, He can bring good in ways we cannot envision, determines our peace. A rainbow after a storm is a slice of beauty, even standing in wreckage.
“I will rescue my flock” Ezekiel 34:10
He is our Shepherd. He is our Rock, an anchor when the waves roll into tropical storms. We need to let the One who can walk on water lead us on and keep our eyes fixed on Him. Even if we see another storm rising in the horizon. Roll our eyes off the dark skies and rising winds and look at our Help. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Let the other sounds mute. Reach for the helping Hand of our Almighty God, not the almighty dollar or Uncle Sam. Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things you have not seen. Jeremiah 33:3. Look for the unexplainable and the miracle which can’t be reckoned.
I recently read how a tourist in Jerusalem watched a little Jewish boy panic, separated across the street from his dad. “Abba , abba” he cried. A man crossed the street and swept the little boy up in his arms. The boy quieted, safe in his daddy’s arms.
WE are safe, our friends and family are safe, when we yell “Help” to our Abba Father. He has the whole world in His hands. His eyes are on the faithful in the land. He knows what to do. He has the wisdom and guidance to light our way through the darkness of difficulty and crisis of challenges in our lives. He has the counsel, He knows the connection to a multitude of counselors who can lead us safely with perspective and wisdom to make those decisions precisely at the Y in the road we need to navigate with jurisprudence. He will not let us stumble. His Word is a lamp to our feet and light to our path when we need to make good choices regarding health, finances, work and relationships.
We will never find refuge from care by dropping out or planning escape—watching reality shows about Pleasure Islands. Rather relief and comfort come when we call on Him for help like that little boy. Let God be to you the Father Jesus came to tell us about. “I am always working and my Father is always working,” he explained then as now (John 5:17) . Behind the scenes, upstream and out of sight. Just around the bend…He is working His will in all things as we ask and pray and believe.
“I made it through that difficult time by praying and putting on praise music,” a friend recently shared when asked how she walked through a time of depression and angst.
I myself have found the Word of God and music to move beyond reason and my limited understanding to provide water to a dry soul.
How many times when our hearts are weary or low do we put on music that soothes our hearts?
In the book of Job, 9:27, the man afflicted with the loss of his children, home, health and business said, “I will leave off my heaviness and comfort myself.”In Isaiah 61:3 the great prophet wrote, “God consoles those who mourn by giving them a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness.” When we reach for the earpiece or headphone or cd…it is a step toward serenity.
King David, warrior, King,writer, shepherd, worshipper of God wrote over 3000 Psalms—many reflecting troubled times. From the age of twenty-something, he cried out to God sharing his souls anguish and embittered mind, only to consistently end his songs with comforting thoughts. A will to hope and express faith in a Mighty God beyond what his feelings dictated. A trust God would contend with enemies that assailed him relentlessly. The upward gaze was modeled byMoses too, the oldest author of the psalms who wrote Psalm 90 !
The Psalms, also called the Psalterium “ A Collection of Songs” to be used with Musical instruments, are located in the middle of the Bible. They were written by various men of God, but we can experience our own peace in the twenty-first century by reading them, singing them to musical instruments or by stringing them together –pulling out the verses that mean most to our particular situation and writing them out.
Recently I found a medley of Psalms I puzzled together in my late twenties after returning from overseas as a traveling missionary–completely on empty. The job market had changed, I needed to adjust to new surroundings, friends, church ill with some bug that lasted a couple months. Unsure what my new direction was … the psalms helped express what I needed to say. Here is what I came up with and as timeless as music is…still comforts today.
“When I am afraid I will trust in you. In God whose Word I praise. In God I trust. I will not be afraid for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until this disaster has passed. I said, “oh that I had the wings of a dove, I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert. I would hurry to my place of shelter far from the tempest and storm. But I call to God and the Lord hears me. He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged before me. I give vows to you O God, for you have delivered my soul from death and my feet from stumbling that I may walk before you in the light of life. Cast your cares upon the Lord and He will sustain you. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved.
Your love O Lord reaches to the heavens.
Your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains.
Your justice a great deep.
O Lord you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love?
Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. You will cover us with your feathers and
Under your wings we will find refuge. Your faithfulness will be my shield and rampart. He who dwells in the secret place of the most High will rest in the Shadow of the Almighty. The Lord our God in the midst of us is mighty. He will save
He will rejoice over us with joy. He will rest in His love, He will joy over us with singing” (Zeph 3:17 last verse)
If you are weary and wondering and praying…try going through the psalms and finding relief through prayer. God hears you and loves you.
One morning a few years ago I visited a unit at Juvenile Hall. My spirit was low that morning, but it quickly edged upward again.It started with a door and a breeze…
My footsteps echoed endlessly down the long corrider, then silence. I stopped to grip the handle of the steel door. A sign peeled at the edges grabbed my attention: “Please make sure this door closes behind you. The wind keeps it from closing. Thank you.”
The sign turned strangely to a spiritual message as I walked through the door. A strong gust of wind met me. I glimpsed my brother through the anteroom window at a desk facing a group of t-shirted teens.
For a moment the door symbolized our human attempts to restrain evil without the wind of God to bring the change and force from the mysterious invisible but ever present Holy Spirit. Jesus described God’s presence through the third person of the Godhead as being like the wind. Now that wind, just like this strange breeze—must be reckoned with. I leaned my body against the heavy door until it clicked. God will be reckoned with beyond the efforts of man to shut Him out of our human institutions housing the oppressed, the unhealthy the outcasts of society…I thought.
Soon I listened to the troubled teen before me.
“Pray for my court date. They said I could get 40 years to life.” I cringed inside, That’s a pretty rough statement to digest for an eighteen year old youth.
“But I’m hoping they see it was self-defense. My Grandma said,’God could move mountains.'”
“Yes, He can,” I agreed. “I worked as a nurse for many years. What you have been told and how it feels is no different than cancer patient’s when doctor’s drop news to them, ‘You have 6 weeks left.’ Some told me this had been said twenty years before. My eyes caught a curious glint from the sad brown eyes facing me.
“Men’s words can leave us feeling hopeless. That’s why we have to look to God. He rules. Men may tell us bad news, hopeless words. A man, whether a judge or a doctor, may not know God has something else ahead, something no one knows.” Jesus said ‘What is impossible with men is possible to God.” Luke 18:27
Two months ago a man I know of, married with 2 children, was told he would never use his arms again or be able to work. Can you imagine being told you can never use your arms or hands again? The teenager shook his head, eyes wide. We all prayed for him. He flew out of state to a different medical team. This week, that man is back working at his job using his arms.
None of us knows what can happen to change our life course. God has a perspective, because He is God, no one on this earth can see. It was easy to speak confidently of God’s ways and words. Life experiences provide a reservoir to draw from for older believers as myself.
“Whatever you hear, even if they say forty years for your sentence, don’t take it to heart. In five years God can put another judge to see things in a new light. New evidence, new mercy. Don’t let man’s words steal your hope. Keep your eyes on God like the young man David did in the deserts of Judea with an army after him threatening he would cease to exist.”
The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1
Today reminded me to trust God for my little friend and trust His words and ways could blast open the doors of hope again and lighten the cross this young man must carry. “Although this is your cross, it is not forever.” We reflected on Hebrews 12:,2 Jesus for the joy set before Him endured the cross. He gained the heavenly perspective in the garden and then for the joy set before him, endured the cross the next day. He knew it wouldn’t be forever. Our bad times are not forever either. All trials will end on this earth. The path may be steep, and may be long but it is also limited.
Forever is where we will be together with all the overcomers of this life starting today.
What a comfort God gives. What relief His mercy brings. No matter what human court sentences or scientific mind predicts hurling hope into a dark void, the sun will come out tomorrow. Hope’s glimmer begins with but a simple acknowledgement God is with us. We are never alone. He can tip the scales anytime and weigh in heavily for us…on life.
Our trials will transition… one day on into forever. Let us encourage one another daily with God’s language– hope.
After all the gusts of wind, the hope of the Holy Spirit can resist any human sign threatening to shut the door to release, relief. God’s Spirit can whip in from any direction at any time, a heavenly current flowing from a power source no human arm can cut-off. Hope cannot be corralled in human halls of doom.
Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.John Wooden
The legendary UCLA coach, John Wooden, knew first-hand the potential traps of temptation, pride and competition. He kodaked countless eager-eyed youth riding on basketball scholarships and harboring dreams of playing professionally. He knew the lure of riches and being baited by strangers hoping to profit from their talents in the competitive world of sports.
Prior to the second game of last week’s NBA finals, Bill Walton of the Celtics and Kareem Abdul Jabar of the Lakers who are each in the Hall of Fame, tearfully paid tribute to the strong Christian man who had shaped their lives. The young players destined to learn from him said he was more than a basketball coach—he was a life coach.
Before passing away at 99 years old, Wooden was still bearing fruit in old age. (Psalm 92:14)The fruit of a life planted firmly in the soil of his faith, he spent a lifetime sharing phrases much like Proverbs and popularly referenced as “Woodenisms” as: “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.
Does this sound familiar? Jesus told the Parable of the Talents instructing his disciples to use their God-given gifts wisely. He wraps the premise if we have been faithful in little we will be faithful in much, with a reward. “You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” (Matt 25:21)
Jesus taught if we are faithful in little, we will be faithful in much. So we practice living conscientious of others, keeping our commitments to visit a sick friend, pay a bill on time, exhibiting basic love and responsibility. We learn to be a team-player, adept at enhancing those around us, not a selfish shooter on a ball court or in the work place.
Wooden relayed the importance of values to his impressionable athletes. “Be more concerned about your character than your reputation because your character is what you really are and your reputation is merely what others think you are.” He followed Christ’s example mentoring young men, not only on the court but in all aspects of life, just as Christ mentored his disciples who eventually turned the world upside down. (Acts 17:6)
True champions live excellence beyond the boundaries of a wood court just as true worshippers honor Godin their daily lives—at home, at work, in the grocery store—beyond their church pews.
Athletic champions rise to the occasion when the chips are down, when the pressure is on, when those positioned around them to perform their part crumble. They may hear the cheers or jeers of the crowd, but their focus is on doing their part and doing it right. They think “basics”—solid shots, controlled dribbling, safe passes when tensions are high, the hype is on, and others are looking for quick points by doing crazy things. They trust the wisdom and perspective of their coach.
Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls and Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics were known to master the fundamentals and excel at their gift. They honed their craft arriving before their teammates for practice and known to leave last. They challenged themselves and prepared for the rigors of the season.
True worshippers respond to crises in life by grounding themselves in the Word of God, and acting with faith. They exhibit perseverance in the face of obstacles, instead of giving up. As Nehemiah sought God in the worst of times and endured the taunts of enemies to rebuild Jerusalem’s’ walls (Neh 4:9), so true worshippers block the ridicule of rivals and keep working to complete their goals. They consider their labor as service for the Lord, and so work with excellence whether others are watching or not. (Col 3:23)
Like Jehoshaphat when surrounded by enemies, they know to position themselves in prayer and move with God. (2 Chronicles 20:12) They practice the basics—trusting in God’s love for them, “Trust in God and His unfailing love (Ps 52:8); trusting Him in all situations, “Trust in the Lord at all times” (Psalm 62:8). After years living as seasoned disciples they agree with Peter, “…the one who trusts in Him, will never be put to shame.” (I Peter 2:6)
If we listen and let His voice lead us, one day when the crowd is gone and our body says it’s time to stop playing the game, we will stand at the Throne of Grace in the courts of the Kingdom of God. And just as John Wooden stands looking into the eyes of his Life Coach today, among an audience of angels, we too will hear those sweet words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
“His master replied, ‘Welldone, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:21