Prosper

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven.” Prov 17:9

Lately I have been spending a good deal of my time thinking about relationships. The highs and the lows of relationships and the various forms they take. I have even been thinking about broken relationships. Here is what I have found to be true.

Relationships are messy.

Relationships can leave you bruised and beaten.

Sometimes it feels like you are in the trenches and never gaining any ground.

However, despite all of the heartache and pain, relationships can be the singular most beautiful aspect of life that we experience. Relating to other people in ways that cause us to sacrifice our wants and needs, to give of ourselves unselfishly and freely, is a picture of the kind of love Jesus tried to show us when he walked the deserts of the Middle East.

But sometimes we don’t love this way. We feel slighted by the other person and treat them with malice and ill intent as punishment for what they have done to us. We were created to love. We can aspire to love, but we can just as easily aspire to hate. Why?

Because we have been jaded by someone.

We have been hurt.

We have been treated with hostility and anger, spoken to in degrading tones, and those words have entered into our thoughts and minds like venom from a snake bite.

We have not been treated like we wish to be treated, so why would we treat others with love and kindness? Why should I sacrifice for you when you will not sacrifice for me? As I grow older I realize the old adage, “you reap what you sow”, holds a wealth of truth.

Imagine two gardens planted by different men. One garden is haphazardly planted. The rows are crooked, the ground hasn’t been turned and the weeds are so thick you can’t even tell where the tomato plants begin. The air is thick with the stench of rotting vegetables and the plants are wilted from lack of water.

However, the other garden is pristine. It looks like it belongs on the front page of a magazine. The rows are exactly two feet apart. The ground is so soft your feet sink into the soil. The plants are fertilized and watered on a schedule that could rival a production line. There are no weeds, just lush vegetation. The air smells of tomatoes, green beans and cucumbers. The whole neighborhood enjoys the spoils of this garden.

Which garden would you want to have? Would you want the garden with vegetables rotting on the vine or the garden of your dreams?

Naturally we want the garden that is beautiful and produces good fruit, but to achieve this we have to work at it. Nobody sees the hours our fictional old man spends weeding, watering, pruning and picking his garden. We don’t see the labor of love he puts into it. We don’t see the value he has placed upon this garden.

We want the good garden, but our actions say we are content with the rotting one.

We desire a fantastic marriage, yet we treat our spouse with indifference. We no longer see the love of our life standing in front of us. Instead, we see a person with faults and problems who only cares about themselves. We no longer see the value in the person we couldn’t live without.

We want our kids to be the best they can be, but we degrade them and never speak encouragement into their lives. We constantly yell at them, fight with them and bully them into submission. We, the parents, have the perfect path planned for them, yet we forget they are unique individuals with their own path to walk. Our job as parents is to help them find that path, not force them on one they were never meant to walk.

Negativity breeds negativity.

Jealousy breeds jealousy.

Hate breeds hate.

Nobody wants hate in their life, yet they let it in by the way they treat people. I understand being hurt and wanting justification. I understand treating people the same way we have been treated, but doing that only continues the cycle of hate and anger.

Love calls me to pour good things into those around me.

Love calls me to show hope to the hopeless.

Love calls me to encourage the destitute and to heal the broken.

Love calls me to go deeper, to go higher and to go farther into the heartaches and pains of people around me.

I am willing to sow into people exponentially and to see the fruits spring forth. I am willing to get my hands dirty and fight in the trenches for my relationships. I am no longer satisfied with the rotting, stinking gardens that we have become so accustomed to.

I want the good garden.

I want to prosper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

Mirage

One of life’s greatest gifts is the joy of relationships. Intimate bonding between two people does the soul good and friends make the heart happy. Friends lift us up when we fall and bring us down to reality when we get to high. They keep us in check and even though they may annoy us, we secretly are grateful for them and their concern.

I say all this because this post was inspired by a very close friend of mine who shared with me pearls of wisdom and love that I couldn’t just keep to myself.

It helped me and I pray it helps you as well.

The other day was a terrible day for me. One of those days where you wake up late and then the snowball gets bigger. Nothing was going right and I was ready to pull my hair out. It seemed life had played a cruel joke on me and was pointing its finger and laughing. My day had turned to darkness and I was afraid I would lose my way.

Now, if you have ever felt like this just nod your head at your computer screen so I will know we are on the same page.

Basically, I was losing it. And not the good kind where everyone starts dancing Ferris Bueller style in downtown Chicago, but the bad kind. The put me in a straight jacket and send me to Arkham Asylum kind… Yeah, it was scary.

But I have this wonderful person in my life who patiently listened to my rant and then said this…

“Cody, there are mirages all along the way to the ocean.”

Powerful.

Earth-shattering.

The air rushed out of my lungs, the proverbial light bulb clicked on, and angels started to sing. This was the drop of water to my scorched, dry tongue that I so desperately needed. I have been stuck in the desert for quite some time. Trying to figure out my purpose in this life and chasing my dream of being a musician and writer.

But dreaming comes with a price. You cannot count the cost, for if you did, you wouldn’t start the dream. Life takes its sweet time and things do not just happen all at once. It comes with sacrifice and tears. Through pain and heartache our deepest desires are realized. It is in those moments we understand exactly what we are made of.

In the desert, mirages crop up along the way. They offer us the illusion of rest and shelter. Playing cruel tricks on our minds that we have finally found paradise, but there is nothing to be found. No substance. It is fake. The vision may look promising and you might think this is where you belong, but it isn’t. You soon find it was no more than sand in disguise. So you keep wandering in the desert praying for rain that never comes.

Keep going.

Keep dreaming.

I know it’s hot and you’re thirsty and you just want to quit, but don’t give up. Don’t settle for the mirage when you can have the ocean. I know you can’t see it, but it is just up ahead and once you reach it, you can submerge yourself in the Father’s love and grace. You can rest in His arms at your final destination.

Life is waiting.

Go for it.

 

 

Deathly Life

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

-Mark  Twain

Death comes to us all. We cannot escape it, nor can we run from it. Death will find us whether we welcome it like an old friend or reject it like the cancer it is, clinging to the last breath that leaves our malfunctioning lungs and hoping it will pass over to the next room. We are not invincible, though our minds tell us so. We are light and shadow and dust; nothing more. We are held by invisible strings. The Creator is holding us above the deep chasm of death and the only thing keeping us erect is His unfailing love for His creation. But soon, time will run her course and our bodies will wear thin and decay back to the ground from whence they came. It is inevitable.

The fear and stigma surrounding death only comes from the fear and stigma surrounding life. We are creatures of habit, afraid of change and always wanting some kind of consistency to the chaos we see around us. So we settle in life. We become that which we said we would never be. We do not take risks, for that would complicate the safe castles we have built for ourselves. Instead, we follow the rules. We follow the predetermined paths laid out before us, never forging our own way to see what might be beyond the safety of our own backyard, and all the while death is creeping along with us.

We fear that which we do not understand. We fear change because we do not understand why there must be a constant state of change. Why can we not stay the same? Because God has not called us into normality, of blacks and grays and whites, but into a world of color and grandeur. A world where we are constantly growing, stretching and molding ourselves into His likeness.

We fear rejection because we do not understand why people are so cruel. Why am I not accepted? Is it not the harshest teachers that teach us the most valuable lessons? Our validation of who we are does not depend upon people’s opinions or assumptions about us. Your validation and my validation comes from within. From what you know of yourself to be true and what God himself has whispered to the far corners of your heart.

This is why we fear death. Fear is all we know. How can we expect to meet the final chapter of our lives with some form of closure if we are afraid to even turn the page?

Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.

– Helen Keller

This is why we should not be afraid. Death is no more than a walk through the house. Passing into different rooms to make sure the lights are off and everything is where it should be. We cannot begin the journey unless everything is taken care of before hand. We know what will happen in the final stages of our lives, but we do not have to be afraid, because in that other room we pass into we shall be able to see. How glorious, how beautiful that statement is!

A woman blind and deaf from birth was not afraid of death because she knew once she passed into the other room, crossed the threshold, made the voyage across the sea, her blinded eyes would see and her deaf ears would hear for the first time. Oh, to have been there that day and witness the beauty that is God and the love that encompasses Him.

Just imagine the wonder of knowing the final redemption is awaiting you once you step foot into that world. You will be at one with the Creator. You will be at peace. You will be at home.

To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.

– J.K. Rowling

Is not our lives one adventure after another? We are born and our adventure starts. The pages of our life are waiting to be written. From our first steps, to our first kiss, to mistakes made and words said, to places visited and dreams shattered and made new, to love and marriage and parenthood, the story of our lives is being written by everything we do. Every choice, every action, and every word tells our story.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

What do you want your story to say? Do you want to live a life of fear? Or do you want to live a purpose driven life? The choice is up to you. Do not let fear control your life and what you do with it. Realize your potential and rise up to it. Do not be afraid, for what is there to fear? Be who you were meant to be and live your life fully.

Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.
-Marianne Williamson