Posted in Music

My Own Pocketful Of Sunshine

I don’t think Natasha Bedingfield meant her song “Pocketful of Sunshine” to be a song of praise to God, but I’m going to take it that way anyway.

The song begins by saying “I’ve got a pocket, a pocketful of sunshine”, and the overall message of the song is that one can escape her sorrows and stress by going to a hidden place. Well, I’ve got a pocketful of sunshine in my soul as well because I have a relationship with God. That hiding place she talks about? Well several Psalms talk about God being our hiding place.

You are my hiding place; you preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7

She says “I’ve got a love and I know that it’s all mine”. Oh yes! I do have a love from God and I know that nothing can take that love away from me. It’s a love that I still haven’t fully comprehended, but just to give you glimpse, it involved a completely innocent man dying because God knew I wouldn’t be able to have a relationship with him otherwise. This love surpasses anything I can do wrong or right, and it is completely free to me. It causes me to sing, dance, and smile. It urges me to love others just a bit more because I am so so thankful for the love God has given me.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8: 35-39)

Bedingfield’s claim is that “you’re never gonna break me, sticks and stones are never gonna shake me”. As a Christian, I know that to be true because God has armed with a full armor of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the sword of the spirit (Ephesians 6). With that kind of armor, mere sticks and stones don’t stand a chance. With God, I am stronger than any army.

I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

To her enemies, she proclaims “wish that you could but you ain’t gonna own me, do anything you can to control me”. That’s what I yell at the Devil. When the devil tempts me and tries to control my mind or actions, I can rebuke him with scripture just like Jesus did in the garden. Because of God’s reign in my life, the Devil has no place in my life. God is bigger than the Devil.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

The bridge to the song says “There’s a place that I go that nobody knows, Where the rivers flow and I call it home, and there’s no more lies and the darkness is light and nobody cries; There’s only butterflies”. My place that I go? Into the arms of God. I can hide in his words and his comfort. In that place there are rivers of life (John 7:38), no lies (Numbers 23:19), and the darkness is made into light (John 8:12). There may not be butterflies, but the fact that Jesus is there is greater than anything. The presence of God is truly somewhere I can call home.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

As I walked home this afternoon listening to this song, the line “the sun is on my side, I smile up to the sky, I know I’ll be alright” caught my ear (and led to this post). I’ll take a little liberty here and replace the word “sun” with “Son” referring to Jesus. That Son is on my side, so on rough days or good days I can look up toward heaven and know it will be alright because God has a great plan that ultimately ends in my eternity with him in heaven. Praise God!

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

So if you see me walking with my earbuds in bobbing along with a smile on my face, I just might be thinking about how I have a pocketful of sunshine. For me, this will be a song of worship.

Posted in Life

Church

In the past month, I’ve been in four different churches because of various circumstances such as flooding and travelling. All of them are teaching the Bible, and there are people in each one who are genuinely seeking God. None of them, though, leave me feeling completely content with how I imagine the perfect church to be. The music is too slow or too loud; the lights are too bright or the building too cold; the people are too old or the crowd is too large; the drive is too far or I don’t want to go alone. These are just a few of the complaints that run through my head as I leave a service.

I know being plugged in to one church is what I desire, but the grass looks greener on the other side. Lately it seems as if there’s always something better somewhere else. That’s not normal for me, so I started praying. After some heart-searching, these are the answers that God gave to me. Maybe these thoughts will help someone else in a similar circumstance.

What I need to remember is two-fold. First church is not about all of the frills, which I’m honest is where most of my complaints lie. The most important part of church is God. God can speak with old hymns, new rock, bright lights, a yelling preacher, a long sermon, or a quick devotion. God is not bound by any circumstances. The only thing that binds me from hearing his words is myself.

Secondly, all of these churches are run by people. Granted, I think all of the churches I’ve been at lately are led by people seeking God. Still though, I find myself wanting certain circumstances to worship. Rather than looking for perfection in the man-made aspects of church, I should look for perfection in the God-driven aspects of church. My focus should be on praising God and leaning toward him rather than examining the layout of service.

Lastly, even with all of the imperfections I can find in churches, I still find church to be very important to my faith in God. Yes, all of the answers I need for my relationship with God are found in the Bible and through time with Him, but God made us for fellowship. When Jesus left the Earth, he left a group of believers and told them to stick together. God didn’t design me to navigate this world alone. He intends for me, and others, to meet together regularly to worship Him and study his Word. While I can, and should, worship and study all week long, there’s just something special about gathering with other believers no matter which building I do it in. I have no answers about what the perfect church service or atmosphere looks like, probably because it doesn’t exist, but I do know that no matter where I end up on Sunday, my one focus should be to worship God and learn more about Him.

Posted in Devotion

Chocolate Box

Forrest Gump said “life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get”. That’s true to some extent in that we can’t predict our own life. Most of the time we also don’t know what’s going to happen in life either. Life is often like eating bites of chocolate: sometimes we get the really good pieces with the whipped chocolate truffle, but other times we get the nutty chocolate or the piece with the half dried cherry.

Sometimes though, we get a box of chocolates that has the label on the inside of the box. To me, in the metaphor of life, that’s the guidebook God has given us, aka The Bible. If we read the Bible and have conversation with God, our next steps will be clear. What happens though is that we get so excited about the chocolate that God has to offer that we forget to consult the guidebook for our next steps. Then we end up eating that rotten piece of chocolate with all of the nuts.

Other times maybe our chocolate pieces are out of order, and we end up with a piece that isn’t what we expected. That doesn’t mean the guidebook misled us; it simply means that we have to trust God even more for grace to deal with unknown situations.

My encouragement to you and to myself is to take time daily to spend time reading the guidebook for life and talking to the author of the guidebook.

Posted in Monologues from the Manger

Monologues from the Manger: Mary

I am Mary, and many years back my life changed dramatically. You’ve probably heard my name and seen my picture in the manger scenes, but I want to take a moment to share something that even I still don’t understand.

When I was young, I was engaged to Joseph. One night an angel came to me and called me favored. This confused and frightened me because I’ve always been one to blend into my surroundings. The angel told me I had found favor with God, and that I had been chosen to give birth to his son. My initial reaction was, “woah, show down there angel! I’m engaged, but I haven’t broken any rules with Joseph. God surely knows this, so how am I about to have a baby?” 

The angel had an answer for that: the Holy Spirit would provide that. He also informed me that my cousin Elizabeth would have a baby soon as well. The only was I could think to respond was to submit to the plan God was enacting. 

Later, I visited my cousin Elizabeth and sure enough, she was pregnant. All I could think was “my soul magnifies the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). God was doing something magnificent, and I just felt humbled to be part of it.
My baby’s birth was even dramatic and God-led. We had to go to Bethlehem for the census. Traveling that distance while pregnant wasn’t easy, but Joseph was so good to me. There also wasn’t room in any inns, but we found a warm barn. That night I gave birth to my son, God’s son, Jesus. 

At first I thought our lives would be quiet after such a humble birth place, but it wasn’t long before we had visitors. Shepherds visited and they sang. Supposedly they’d been visited by an angel as well. Later my son would be called a lamb as well as a shepherd, so I guess it’s fitting that shepherds were his first visitors.

Later we had some wisemen visit. They had followed a star all the way to our house. God was spreading the word far and wide. These wisemen worshipped Jesus as they would a king because they recognized his power even while he was a child. If only others would worship him like these first visitors. 

I still can’t fathom why God chose me, but I’m glad he did. As you ponder my story with me, remember how eloquently God orchestrated his son’s arrival on Earth and for the purpose of allowing us all to know God more closely. Please take time to get to know my son, Jesus. 

Posted in Devotion

Humility

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2

When this verse popped into my head, my first thought was to get all preacher-mode on a person in my life whom I’ve perceived as especially boastful lately. Then God said, “uh no, Cathy. This one is for you.” 

When I feel insecure and insignificant, my initial reaction is to one up the other person in the conversation by stating what I’m doing better. That doesn’t accomplish anything though but make me look foolish and possibly hurt her self esteem. 

God popped this verse into my head as a reminder to be humble. I don’t think this verse is saying to crave the praises of others but simply to refrain from praising myself. Really all the focus should be on God anyway. 

My goal and prayer for the coming weeks will be to remember this verse, strive to praise God with how I live, and criticize others less quickly.

Posted in Bible Study, Devotion

A metaphor too cool to keep in

This is too good of a metaphor not to share even though I should be going to bed.

“and he made from one man every nation of all mankind to live on all the the face of the Earth, having determined allotted periods and boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yes he is actually not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:24-27
I’ve heard the first part of this verse quoted by my Alma mater many times since it’s their motto, but maybe I’ve never read it in context. Some cool truths popped out at me tonight. God made the Earth with the intention of separating us into time periods and nations. The tower of Babel wasn’t God trying to discipline; it was part of the plan. That’s not even the metaphor I’m most excited to share. 

God separated the people so that we could seek him and feel our way to him. Feel for him? Seeking is usually done with the eyes. I seek for a friend in a crowd by looking, not feeling with my hands, but someone who can’t see with their eyes needs to feel. Therefore, God is saying here that we are blind. How are we blind? Both Paul and John refer to us being blinded by sin in 2 Corinthians 4:4 and John 12:39-40. Before knowing Christ, we can’t see. Only through Christ are the blinders removed.

It just gets cooler though. Here we are, before believing, grasping at anything around us hoping it’s what we desire, even if we don’t know what we desire. We’re blind and can’t see past our own sin, but God is still right there! Verse 27 says he’s not far. He’s there waiting for just the right moment to reveal himself and remove the blinders, but in the meantime he’s still close by. He was there letting us feel his presence and protecting us before we even knew who he was. 

That’s some pretty cool stuff. Do you interpret this passage the same way, or do you see something different?

Posted in Book Review

The Hiding Place

“Today I know that such memories are the key not to the past, but to the future. I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.” 

Corrie ten Boom lived a life devoted to God in spite of her rough and often life-threatening situations. In her book, The Hiding Place, she tells the story of opening her home to Jews needing a place to hide. After being caught and arrested, she describes the horrors of jail then prison then prison camp. At times the prison camp closely resembled the concentration camps. Through all of the insecurity, pain, and misery, her faith in God rings loud and clear. Just as she said, she allowed God to work in her life, and he prepared her for every step, even at times protecting her supernaturally.

“There are no ifs in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety.”

Her story left me speechless in ways. She continually trusted that God would provide despite all around her signs of failure. She did his work until she died. I’m not currently in a place where I am in pain or in need of anything, but I still want to be in God’s will. It’s only there that I can work and rest in peace.

“But even kalte kost (bread ration alone) would be a small price to pay… for the precious books I clutched between my hands.”

Finally, Ms. ten Boom’s devotion to God is the most admirable thing about her. In this instance, she’s risking losing food in order to keep her copy of the Bible. Later she risks losing her life to smuggle a Bible into the prison camp. It makes me ponder how I would react if I was told I couldn’t own a Bible anymore. 

I’d highly recommend everyone to read this story.

story.