“I don’t dwell on it.”
I often find myself thinking about my grandmother’s signature phrase. Grandma went through a lot in life – the Great Depression, WWII, and all the armed conflicts in between. She outlived seven of her fifteen children. When we asked how she coped, she simply said:
“I don’t dwell on it.”
Her words became my primary coping mechanism. When pain whispered, I refused to dwell on it, ignoring my tears and the feelings that went with them. I thought I knew her secret to strength: shove things aside and keep moving. Race ahead and pretend it didn’t happen. Refuse to dwell on it.
But then life caught up with me. Traumatic memories played on an endless loop in my mind, storming my mind and heart like a mighty army.
I realized that I had not only started to dwell on them, but to dwell in them.
I finally had to deal with my pain. Healing made its way through my carefully curated collection of secret wounds, and strength surged through me.
I realized Grandma had refused to dwell on things;
I had refused to deal with them.
I am learning to allow myself to feel the hurt when it hits because I know strength does not come from arbitrary barricades but from enforcing guardianship of my heart and mind. I now see that, while pain has been trying to invade, my God, my loved ones and my own strength have stood outside too, ready to help me fight if I would only let them in.
I am now striving to be the kind of person who deals with pain but who abides under the shadow of the Almighty, and who dwells among those who are amazing enough to love me through it.
And just like that we’re twenty years into the second millennium!
A milestone like this one tempts us to look back and marvel at how things have changed. (Can you believe that we are closer to the year 2040 than to 1990?)
But a new year presents us a new challenge: looking forward. We have a relatively clear view of the past. We see where we’ve been. But the future? Sometimes it seems like we actually have 20/00 vision when we try to look forward.
But this is a special year: it’s 2020, the year of perfect vision.
So why not take this year to make those changes you’ve been wanting for so long? Instead of dwelling on a list of resolutions you’re secretly afraid you won’t be able to keep, why not cast a vision for the changes you want to make in life?
Make 2020 the year of perfecting that vision. Take that big goal and break it into manageable pieces. Work through it as you can, keeping the big picture in mind as you move forward.
If one approach doesn’t work out, realize that you’re still being faithful to your goal: you are merely perfecting your vision. This is the year to break free. Resist the urge to stay chained to yesterday’s mistakes and realize that they have simply been tools to help you calibrate where you really want to be.
It’s 2020! May this be a year of wonderful change and the clearest vision you have ever had for your life. You’ve got this!
There is something truly amazing that happens when cultures come together. Perhaps it reminds us that we are not alone in the world. Perhaps it helps us to escape our own problems for the moment. Perhaps it even does something more –
it reminds us that we are a part of something greater and grander than the boundaries of our own region.
Last Sunday, Gateway UPC was honored to host All Nations Sunday, an international event right here in our hometown. The sanctuary decorated with flags from every country around the world; translation into English, Spanish, and Portuguese; an inspiring message about our place in the global church; and a song sung in eighteen languages – a glimpse of the kind of worship we will lend our voices to in heaven –
set us up for an atmosphere of international understanding and, most of all, international worship.
After the service, we enjoyed a global tour: Around the World in 90 Minutes. In an hour and a half, we explored tables decorated with items from every region in the world, complete with a smorgasbord of international foods. It was such a treat to see Mexican tamales, Chinese chow mein, Spanish paella, Nigerian jollof rice, Tahitian po’e pudding, Jamaican jerk chicken with coconut rice, Israeli falafel, Malawian mbatatacookies, to name a small fraction of everything that was available, frolicking together on the same plates.
Thank you to everyone who made an effort to be involved in our All Nations Sunday celebration, whether you helped decorate, cook, or you simply showed up. It was our honor to host you and we hope you will make us a part of your future celebrations in October. We hope to see everyone again next year! Please keep our missionaries, churches, and people around the world in your prayers.
God can still work miracles and is not limited by race, culture, language, or borders.
It wasn’t meant to last.
When Gustave Eiffel’s team won the heated bid to construct the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was meant to be temporary. Still, for two years they employed their bridge-building skills to fashion the wrought-iron lattice tower, hoping their precision would combat any destructive winds. The temporary exhibit was designed with permanence in mind and soared 81 stories high.
Critics were quick hurl insults, labeling it ugly, daring, impossible, and rebellious, even to the point of circulating an “Artists against the Eiffel Tower” petition. They must have found some solace in the fact that it was at least scheduled for demolition in 1909. No one expected it to change the Paris skyline forever.
After all, it wasn’t meant to last.
And yet it did.
In World War I, it intercepted enemy radio transmissions and dispatched troops. The next world war saw Hitler’s unsuccessful attempt to demolish it. Today, it continues to inspire us, creating moments of international solidarity when its colorful lights reflect triumphs and tragedies around the world.
It wasn’t meant to last – and yet Eiffel’s team built it as if it would stand forever.
Your season may be temporary, intended to last but a moment here, but how are you building it? How will your legacy outlive you when your critics and naysayers are long gone?
Temporary seasons in lives lived with a legendary outlook cannot help but change skylines, worlds, hearts, and lives.
A story is not a story without a plot and a plot is not a plot without conflict. Because of a central conflict, we cheer for the hero and boo the villain. A story’s conflict gives the plot its structure.
The conflict that governs so many of our stories predates us by many, many years – one that played out on a balcony of heaven where Satan rebelled against God. This same conflict, in different manifestations, continues to play out in the lives of humanity.
Our own personal plots play out as we encounter conflicts with nature and mortality. When illness strikes, this conflict often takes center stage. The difficulties we encounter in relationships with others elaborate on our personal conflict plots.
Still, perhaps the darkest battles we fight are the ones located deep within us – as we find ourselves at war within ourselves. These are the conflicts that are hard to explain because they are so intensely personal.
Our conflicts are what make up our stories.
The basic structure of beginning, middle, and end are set up around the conflict that we hope will be resolved. The beauty of our stories is that God always has a plan for resolution and restoration.
No matter how conflicts have defined us or continue to govern our stories, there is always hope when we stop trying to solve and explain every conflict on our own and invite Him into the process of writing our stories.
There was once a man who loved earthly treasures. As his life drew to an end, he decided to sell everything and purchase a single bar of gold – a bar he was determined to sneak into heaven. He loved his family but he just could not let go of his desire for wealth. When his eyes opened on the other side of death, he took in the splendors of New Jerusalem, relieved to find his golden bar had made the journey intact. Noticing how the man’s hands trembled with the weight of the gold, Peter asked,
“Sir, why are you carrying pavement?”
The man looked down in shock. Sure enough, he had sacrificed relationships with those he loved for something that was merely used to pave the streets of heaven.
We tend to carry the oddest things through life. We hold onto old grudges as if we will fall apart if we were to let them go. We remember every person who has ever wronged us and can tell our stories with remarkable accuracy. All the while, life goes on around us. We carry our bitterness like a treasure, rarely realizing just how much it has cost us in terms of relationships and joy.
We all have Peters in our lives who can help us to understand the fallacy of carrying unimportant things; we just have to be brave enough to let the blinders fall. Only then can we recognize how these burdens we carry are really nothing more than rubble.
When we turn our hurts over to God, He can place them under our feet where they become the very substance we stand on.
Rather than breaking our backs with the weight of our pain, it can be the level ground that we look upon from higher places. We may remember our injuries, but they are no longer hurting us – they are simply giving us a vantage point and are providing the ground that lifts us up.
What are you carrying through life right now? Are there things God has been urging you to release? Are your hands and back weakened by the load? When we offer Him the burdens that have left us bruised and broken, God can bring healing and forgiveness into our lives. It’s truly amazing the wonderful things we can accomplish when let the pavement slip from our grasp.
RGV residents have known it all along but it bears repeating: there is something unique about a valley. For geographers, valleys are depressions – low areas that are longer than they are wide. For anthropologists, valleys are the birthplace of human civilization. It was in the valley of Mesopotamia where God sculpted man from the rich soil among the river deposits.
In popular culture a valley is a difficult place; life’s trials are often called valley moments. One dictionary describes a valley as “a low point or interval in any process, representation, or situation.” Perhaps valley moments are difficult because they remind us of how far we have to climb. Perhaps it is because mountains obscure our view and we cannot see the sky and path beyond.
Still, there are certain views that can only be seen in a valley. G. K. Chesterton once remarked,
“One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”
When we take in the vast vista from the mountaintop we can see far ahead but our vision is small and unclear because we can only see it at a distance. The valley is where we can finally take in the details: the impressions on a flower petal, the intricate carvings on a rock, the faint impressions of footprints that have walked the path ahead of us. The things we saw from the distance on the mountaintop become our intimate companions as we walk among them in the valley.
There is a reason the view from the mountains is so beautiful: mountains overlook the valleys that are lush and rich with foliage. Sediment that falls from the mountains collects in the valleys, so it is in the low places of life where the soil is the richest and where flowers and plants can bloom freely. We may sacrifice a panoramic view, but we walk among abundance as new life blossoms around us.
There is something truly special about a valley! For the next few weeks, our articles will be exploring the topic “Ten Things You’ll Find in a Valley.” We hope it will encourage you, whether you are looking on from a mountaintop or are walking through a valley yourself.