Saturday, December 31, 2011

Newly Seasoned Life

   Here we are, once again, standing on the edge of the calendar, peering into the future, with child like anticipation. Most will celebrate in some way, whether with loved ones at home or with multitudes at parties and street celebrations. Either location may still spontaneously ring out with the old acquaintances being forgotten line of a new year's song, strange, but fitting. As usual, something completely unique comes to my mind. The one image that continues to impact me most is salt, a giant pillar of salt to be exact.
   We fool ourselves into thinking that moving forward into the new year somehow allows us to magically lose the chains that hold us to what ever may be behind. I keep remembering the unique story found in Genesis of Lot's wife. After God had patiently and graciously given many opportunities for repentance and promised Abraham to spare the city if He could find just 10 righteous people in Sodom, angels were sent to rescue Lot's family (Genesis 19). Abraham's love for his cousin spared their lives, but on the way out, Lot's wife couldn't bare to think of leaving the life she had built for herself, so against orders, she looked back. Salt.
   It's always easy to judge someone's actions when you truly haven't walked in their shoes, but don't we all have those things that “so easily beset us”? What was she looking at? Was it the prestige? Her husband Lot had become a statesman in the city. Was it the house? With the blessing of position in the community and Abraham's gifts of wealth, the Lot family home was probably a featured landmark in the city. Maybe it was the friends that were just as self indulgent as she may have been. We like to wrap ourselves in the comfort of like mindedness...It was all the “stuff” that had so entangled her, she had forgotten or choose to ignore the warning of instant death, just to get one more glimpse of her earthly glory.
   Surely, most of us haven't been instructed to leave certain destruction, but maybe there are things that keep you weighed down. Just as God was delivering Lot's wife from a kingdom of darkness, so too has he delivered us from spiritual darkness into the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:13-14 states: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His dear Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
   Just as we read the account of Lot's wife and say, “don't look back”. Jesus stands with nail pierced hands and shows us why we need not to look back. Why even peer over and look at the darkness that may seem enticing? What relationship does darkness have with light? This is the scale I give my children, who are now teenagers. Is what you want to do, read, see, really associated with darkness or light? With the price Jesus paid to delivery me, why would I ever want to look back?
   Maybe what you look back on is a hurt, a guilt, a person, a loss, an addiction, a downfall, a life that was full of earthly rewards: money, prestige, power. Each of us has our “poison”. Many times they are seen, but I believe the majority are unseen. The invisible things that hold us down from moving forward. What ever it is that God has called you to or out of, don't look back at the destruction of your life, move forward to His grace, forgiveness, strength and peace. This new year will truly be a new beginning.

-Melissa Pyle
inspired by grace

Thursday, August 4, 2011

At The Cross-Roads

   Returning home from a recent trip we were traveling a stretch of highway that is very familiar to me, but I still look out my window wondering what new things may have been added as side show entertainment.  A few hours into the trip we came upon a spot I always remember, the place of the giant cross.  This is just one of two enormous crosses, but this one is the most memorable because of where it stands or maybe because of what stands next to it.  Right under the shadow of this cross is an adult entertainment store, decorated with a large XXX sign.  It always makes me wonder, which one came first-the cross or the triple X store?. 
  What an ironic question.  Not only in physical location, but in theory. Many religious legalist will drive by and think, "how disgusting, they should have to move the store".  Others offended by the cross might think, "how ridiculous, the cross should not be allowed to put guilt on the patrons of the store, it should be moved".  As I drove once more past what probably stands out to most as an overgrown oxymoron, a refreshing thought filled my soul.  What a perfect spot for both of these polarizing figures!
   Beneath that cross stands a physical depiction of our human depravity.  If you see the store's location as an outrage because of the cross being a sacred symbol you miss the entire point of the Gospel!  All of us have sinned and fallen short.  Not only are the smallest sins just as loathsome as the large excesses, but our righteousness is said to be as filthy rags.  We could never be good enough to attain salvation, but thankfully that isn't the end of the story.  Just as those crosses each sit along a busy highway, Jesus hung as a bloody sacrifice along a bustling crossroads of that day.  In John 19:20 it states that many read the inscription because "the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city".
  As the cross and the store were in my rear view mirror the thankfulness of my heart was overwhelming.  Still today, Jesus reaches out for a relationship with us and knowing we could never attain it ourselves he died in a publicly cruel way to give us a way to Him and abundant life.  No matter what the sin, they all weigh the same, we can place them at the foot of His cross because as Romans 5:8 says "But God demonstrated his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  He saw our sins, like a large XXX sign out in the open, so he showed us His love and sacrifice in the only way appropriate, in view of the entire world.
   So as you travel through your day and find yourself crossing paths with other people or places you might think are below you because they display the lowest of societal sins, stop yourself, realize in that one thought you have brought yourself in need of forgiveness of your self righteousness and thank God for his unspeakable free gift of salvation.  Romans 5:20b stats,  "But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more".  Thank you God for Grace and the Cross.
-Melissa Robbins-Pyle
"Inspired by grace..."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

PB & J

From the time I began school, my mother packed my lunch, made with love, and the finest of culinary dishes: The peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  The internationally known, "child" sandwich.  This was my sandwich of choice probably until I was a Jr. or Sr. in high school.  Then and only then did I decide this was below my level of sophisticaition and went to the upper crust of the lunch menu and began carrying the lunch meat sandwich.  Wow, what a way to go out into the wild unknown, right?
Years passed before I decided to taste the pb&j again.  I could just think of that sandwich and know what each bite would taste like, so why go back to it?  Of course, the late night munchies came calling and nothing else would satisfy, but the pb&j with a glass of cold milk.  I would like to think my current sandwich was an improvement from the old one, by laying on the peanut butter nice and thick and then using the homemade strawberry jelly I had made...I was right.  It was fabulous!  It hit the spot.  This old forgotten and unsophisticated favorite had enlightened my taste buds once again, amazing! 
While my illustration might be simple, yet true, I think it serves a purpose in explaining my most recent "rediscovery"...A sometimes overlooked, often looked at first, but then shelved with the memories of childhood: John 3:16.    On my journey to read the Bible through I came to the book of John on Suday morning.  The first chapter is so beautifully written, almost sounding as if it were the first book of Genesis when it states: "In the beginning was the word..."  Then reading on to verse 9 it speaks of the true Light that comes to every one so they no longer have to live in darkness.  There is that light and darkness theme, again...I tucked it into the back of my mind.
Later Sunday morning we were in a small group and read from 1st John 1:7, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sins".  Lights started connecting in my soul, back to the first book of John's gospel, I had just read earlier in the morning.  Later, as our pastor told a story about when the first printing press was working on printing the Bible and the printers daughter (who had never read the scriptures for herself, but was at the mercy of the Latin given to her from the state church) was sent to clean up the scrap paper from the floor, she found a piece that read, "For God so loved that he gave".  These were words she had never heard of or seen.  I began to imagine what that must have been like, to read words that had the power of life in them for the very first time. 
So just like pulling the old pb&j off the shelf of childhood and retasting it for the first time, I opened the book of John and re-read chapter 2.  I wanted to have a running start to read in context the events beginning in chapter 3- this time with a new perspective.  I tried to imagine this was the very first time I had ever laid eyes on these words.  Jesus has just been performing miracles early in his ministry, then by night (in the darkness)  Nicodemous comes to Jesus.  This is a risk.  Nicodemous is a respected man in his community and is a man of the Pharisees.  This was a dangerous task, but he was searching.
Jesus speaks to him,  from the lips of God come the words, "For God so loved".  This struck me, as many times as I have read it before, I had taken for granted the fact that these were not words from someone who heard it, not from a modern day teacher, but from the lips of God.  He stated with confidence to settle the timeless debates on works, that it was his gift of eternal life and believing that would bring mankind out of darkness.   Many people don't continue to read the truths past verse 16, in the verses to follow Jesus continues to explain the gift of his light so that men do no have to live in darkness.
I re-read chapter three a couple of times, each time seeing something new that refreshed my soul and left me wanting to search out all the other verses that shed new insight on all the ones that have become too familiar. 
When the Bible says, "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good"  take this as an invitation to reignite your spiritual taste buds.  Those things that seemed so childish to you once, just might transform you today.
-Melissa Pyle

Monday, March 14, 2011

Down Here in the Dark

  Early morning, I mean really early, when the darkness has set in so thick you can almost feel it, Molly, my 4 year old Border Collie whined enough to wake me up to let her out.  This particular morning the moon wasn't very bright and it was that "darkest hour before dawn".  Even with the porch light shining,  I couldn't make out her figure up against the thick cloak of night.    Normally, I stand inside the storm dorm and watch for her, but this morning was different.  I wanted to stand outside and breathe the cool fall air.
  We had just returned from a long drive to Kentucky where I went to honor the life of a life long best friend. 
A few hours into our trip, still numb from the news that she was gone, I received a frantic phone call from my daughter telling me that our son had fallen in my mom's bathroom and had just had another grandmal seizure.  Driving, hours from home, I was helpless.  Knowing that my turning around would be of no help and that he would sleep off the effects of the seizure, we ventured on.  Breathless. 
  These were the emotions and memories engulfing me that early morning.  I had been going through the motions of life, almost speechless for about a week since we had been home, but somehow in the coolness of this dark morning everything was bubbling to the surface. 
  Living in the country it's normally dark and peaceful in the night, but this darkness didn't even allow me to see the tree line, or make out the drive way.  I began to quietly pray and all I could get out were a few pitiful words: "God, I feel like this is my life right now, do you even know...I know you know, but it doesn't feel like anything but the dark..."
  Suddenly, as if someone reached down and tipped my chin with their hand, I looked up. 
There blazing in the sky like fireworks were the most brilliant stars I had seen in a very long time.  Light, it was a sky full of light.  Verses I had put to memory began to wash over my mind, "He has delivered us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light", "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet", "I am the light of the world".  Light...I just meditated on light.  When David wrote the Psalms and the "lamp unto my feet and light unto my path" was inspired, David would have experienced many dark nights on the hills watching sheep.  The lights he would have carried would have only lit the path right in front of his feet.  This was all he needed for one step at a time.  This is all we need, faith in the shepherd for one step at a time.
  Standing there in the dark, I felt the distance between myself and the stars, millions of miles away, I remembered how the book of Genesis says, "and He made the stars also", almost as if they were just the sprinkles he threw out with his fingertips.  Those same finger tips are guiding us daily, I couldn't help but to begin a new song in my heart. Realizing that the brightness of the light can be seen best in such darkness, I stood looking up, just one among countless others on the earth.  I was reminded by that still small voice that even in the darkest of moments, as the Psalmist said, "I cried unto the Lord and he heard me."  Thank you God for hearing even me.

Sit Still and Be Quiet!

Two things children are known for being unable to do: wait patiently and be silent.   Those two things are nearly impossible for childr...