A Good Name

Have you ever heard the phrase “his name is mud” used to describe someone whose name and reputation have been smeared?

The story goes that a 19th century physician, Dr. Samuel Mudd, was widely reviled for his part in the Lincoln assassination because he unwisely took pity on the injured John Wilkes Booth as Booth was fleeing from Ford’s Theater.  Dr. Mudd was named as one of the co-conspirators of the Lincoln assassination and sentenced to life in a Federal Prison.  Many historians believe that Mudd was innocent and just taking his oath as a medical professional seriously, but it didn’t matter at the time.  His name was tarnished, and the phrase “his name is mud” (which originated in the 1820’s) became a popular means to describe the muck and mire of an innocent person’s name being ruined.

Was Dr. Samuel Mudd at the wrong place at the wrong time?  Perhaps.  But, it didn’t matter.

The same thing goes for one of my ancestors, who was among those hung during the Salem Witch Trials in the 1600’s.  The mass town hysteria caused by a group of foolish young girls and greedy town leaders out for property and revenge caused death and destruction in Puritan America.  My ancestor was pardoned of her crimes in the mid-20th century, but of course, by then it was too late for her.

Three hundred years too late, to be specific.

Integrity is one of the most important character attributes a person can have.  Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen over great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold.”  As a Christian, as a business owner, as a ministry leader, as a writer, I believe in living a life that is one of integrity.  I strive for it in my daily private walk and public business life.  I don’t talk about the various things that I do behind the scenes to serve people or to meet needs because I feel those things are just between me, those people, and the Lord.  I don’t complain about the sacrifices that I make because, when you’re doing what God is calling you to do, they are not sacrifices–they are a means to serve the Lord.  I know that as long as I continue to do what the Lord is calling me to do first–even if it doesn’t make sense to the rest of the world–that He will always provide for me.  And He always has…even when others have tried to take me down.

Here’s the rub about integrity…what takes years and years to build can be destroyed in an instant (by you or other people).  But, we can take heart because good character always wins in the end (even if it’s the way, way end as in the example of my ancestor).  Ask God to rebuild what has been destroyed and He always will.

The word integrity comes from the Latin word integer, which implies wholeness (like a whole number).  It implies that something cannot exist in two separate parts (clearly this word was originated before they come up with imaginary numbers–those beasts that plagued me in Algebra 2).

Are you living a life that is whole?  Do you actions match up with your words?  Are you the same in front of other people in your family, at your church, at your job that you are by yourself at home?

King David wrote in 1 Chronicles 29:17, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent.”  Let us all strive to have our hearts be found out to be righteous.

The integrity of the upright guides them,
    but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

-Proverbs 11:3 (NIV)

 

In Sync (not N’Sync)

I like to jog several miles a day, three or four days a week.  It’s a great part of my exercise routine that counterbalances all the lengthening work I do in dance.  It helps relieve stress and gets my heart rate a-pumpin’.  As the new kid on the block, it’s a great opportunity to explore the backstreets (wow, the boy band references just keep coming) of my town, and I love how it clears my mind and gets me focused on the day ahead.  Throughout this past year, I’ve noticed a huge increase in my stamina, which helps in every aspect of my life.  It’s been a 98 degree turn around.  Okay, I’m done with the boy band references.

running

I woke up on an intended running day this week with a sort of twinge pull in my  left hamstring.  If you are an athlete, you know that hamstring injuries are no joke.  They are absolutely nothing to mess around in.  At the studio, my staff and I always make sure that the dancers are properly stretched and warmed up for the rigors of dance, and hamstring stretches and strengthening activities are a huge part of that.  A hamstring injury can put you out of commission for weeks.  We are most susceptible to injuries when we’re tired, and this week I have been pushing myself additionally hard with preparations for the start of the school year and all the extra activities and meetings that have come up.  And so, upon waking up and finding that the pull was there, I had a choice to make.  I could either push through the pain and go out for my regular running routine, or I could take a day and rest.  If you know me, you know that I will push through the pain 90% of the time and go to the point of exhaustion, so it really was a difficult decision in which I asked the Lord for wisdom.  In the end I felt that it was too risky to go for the run.  I didn’t want to injure myself even further and risk not being able to do something that I have grown to love and look forward to (run) for weeks on end.  I didn’t want to injure myself prior to the start of the new dance season (which is what I love and my livelihood).  So I listened to my body and didn’t run, which ended up being the better long-term decision.

It’s important that we are in sync with our bodies.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  It’s the very tabernacle of God now that we are in New Testament times, and Scripture is very clear that we’re not supposed to misuse God’s temple.

But, it’s even more important that we are in sync with our spiritual heart and soul.  When we have the Holy Spirit within us, He will check our spirit–not in the Jiminy Cricket sort of way, but in a way that the Word and Truth of God can pierce through the marrow of our lives and into what is most important.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

-Hebrews 4:12-13 (NIV)

Being convicted by the Holy Spirit can be a painful thing at times.  I mean, there is a reason why the word of God is likened to a double-edged sword.  God is NOT joking around.

Being prompted by the Holy Spirit is an uncomfortable thing at times.  My friend Amy (hi, Amy!) is a wonderful example of this.  She and I actually met because I had locked my keys in the car at a bookstore on the first day of dance classes four years ago.  I was sitting on a chair, waiting for the police to come and help me and crying because I was frustrated at myself and slightly sick to my stomach at being late for dance classes when the Lord prompted her to come and sit and talk with me.  If she hadn’t listened, we wouldn’t have formed the wonderful sisterhood that we have today.

Being reminded by the Holy Spirit of who you are in Christ makes you look funny to the world.  I don’t mean that you’re clucking like a chicken in the Spirit or anything weird like that.  What I do mean is that when you listen to God and not the world, you make decisions that are opposite of what others make.  And they look at you like you have ten heads.  But it’s okay.  :)

The point is, the closer we become to God, the more we should desire to become like God.  The believers of the early church didn’t name themselves Christians (little Christ’s), they were called that by the people who saw that they were acting like Christ.  What a compliment!  Our words, our thoughts, and our deeds should be an outward sign of the holiness and sensitivity that we have to the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  When we have faith without deeds and deeds without faith, we are not so different from the world.  It starts in our heart.

But, this is a two-way street.  We have to want to be convicted.  We have to want to be prompted.  We have to want to be different.  And when we truly want to be changed by God, then we can keep running the race of our faith.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. -Romans 8:14 (NIV)

Great Joy in Abandonment (A Brief Thought)

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God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it,

He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out.

This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.

-2 Corinthians 9:8-11 (MSG)

Each day He extends the invitation to love Him, to have a deep and meaningful relationship with Him, and to join in with His greater work for humanity with passion and purpose.  I’m continually learning in new ways what it means to love Him through the times of great joy and through the times of great pain–to love Him wholeheartedly and with reckless abandon.

Friends, He is worthy.

Can God Still Do Miraculous Things?

So, what do you think of the new website look?  We needed a major update, and now you can actually see when people leave comments!  Hooray for Seth.  I would be lost without his technical expertise…

For Yahweh is good, and His love is eternal; His faithfulness endures through all generations.
-Psalm 105:5 (HCSB)

As children we learned about God parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14), Daniel being delivered from the lions’ den (Daniel 6), and Jesus walking on water (John 6).  We marveled at such a powerful God Who chose to use a young man to slay a giant (1 Samuel 17), a young woman to save her people from annihilation (Esther 4), and that the Son of God was crucified for our sins and victoriously resurrected on the third day (Luke 24:6).  But somewhere along the line we stopped believing that He can still do miraculous things in our lives today.  Or that He wants to.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  -Henry David Thoreau

In our quest to simply make it–to survive–our lives have become mundane and desperate.  Maybe we even like it that way–quiet, simple, no waves.  We think that if we stay in our small world we won’t experience pain, disappointment, or disillusionment.   We’re safe in that place.  We become like the people in M. Night Shyamalan’s movie The Village who move create this 19th century utopia to escape the corruption of 21st century America.  We make rules and think that we can somehow keep people from being people.  We package God up in this tidy, neat little box and expect to just leave Him there when we’re done with Him for the week.

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written
across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” -CS Lewis

But the truth is that God is in the business of people, and miracles are just one way that He chooses to make Himself known to us and to the world.  We’ve heard stories of Him doing amazing feats overseas from the missionaries that our churches support.  We’ve heard stories of attackers turning back due to seeing armies of fiery warriors, we’ve heard reports of people who are suddenly able to speak the unknown language of remote tribes in Papua New Guinea, and we’ve heard of the very hearts of kings being stirred to release prisoners who previously had no hope.  If God can send an angel to let Peter and John out of prison, why can’t He do the same today?  He surely does!

How great are His miracles, and how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom,
and His dominion is from generation to generation. -Daniel 4:3 (HCSB)

So, if He can do miracles across the world, is there any reason why He can’t do miracles right here in each of our daily lives?  No!  I’ve seen His hand at work, orchestrating events and aligning hearts and working through the power of prayer.  I’ve seen Him take a dream on my heart and a studio that started out with 45 kids and little me and turn it into a force of nearly 300 students that is changing the world through dance and leadership.  I’ve seen Him provide through the worst economic state our country has been in since the Great Depression, and I’ve seen Him do extraordinary things in our adoption process.  I’ve seen Him change lives of people around me, and use those vessels to become warriors of Light in this dark age.  I have seen it.  I have seen Him at work right here in Central PA, and it is a sight to behold!

As Christians we do have to be cautious though, and test everything to see if it is truly from the Lord and lined up with Scripture.  Christ warns in Scripture that “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven.  On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23 HCSB).  We can’t assume that just because good things are happening mean that God is blessing us.  We have to pray and seek Him first.

The moral of this post is not so much that God can still do miraculous things,  but rather that He can and does choose to make Himself known to people like you and I on this lonely and desolate terra.  And that, I believe, is the most miraculous thing of all.

See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel,
which is translated “God is with us.” -Matthew 1:23 (HCSB)

At the End of my Rope

On Thursday I found myself at the end of my rope…physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  It was the meltdown kind of “end of my rope.”  It was the “I’ll be in the corner, rocking back and forth, eating Halloween candy” kind of “end of my rope.”  It wasn’t any particular person, event, or crisis that brought me to this point, but rather a culmination of many things.  Small things.  Big things.

But I have learned that the end of my rope is the beginning of His.  He delights in new beginnings.  Sometimes He just waits for us to struggle through life in our own strength and finally realize that we can’t do it on our own.  (more…)