Come into the Light!

Next month the live action version of Beauty and the Beast will be coming out in theaters. When my daughters were old enough, the original animated version, which came out in 1991,  became one of my favorite movies to watch with them. What could be more intriguing for a writer like me, than a heroine who liked books. It also helped that she was brave, selfless and caring, all qualities I wished I were (and still do). If you are not familiar with the story, it is a tale of love and sacrifice.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Belle is a young woman, living in a small French town. She aspires for more than "this provincial life." Her father is a small time inventor and on one of his trips to sell a new contraption, he becomes lost in the dark woods. When he is chased by wolves and it begins to rain, he finds his way to a hidden castle and goes inside. 

When her father does not come home for a few days, Belle becomes worried and goes to look for him. She happens upon the castle with the help of Philippe the horse and bravely enters to search for her father. She finds him in a dungeon cold and shivering. She wants to free him, but is unable to open the door to his cell. 

The Beast, who has heard of a new intruder in his castle, confronts Belle. She pleads for her father's life. The Beast is not interested in letting his prisoner go, at least not until Belle says that she will take her father's place.

The Beast asks with amazement, "You would take his place?"

"If I did, would you let him go?"

"Yes! But you must promise to stay here forever."

"Come into the light."

Obviously, what Belle saw was not promising to her future. She had no idea when the Beast yanked her father out of that cell if he was going to cook her up for dinner or have her stuffed and put on display in one of the many cavernous castle halls. What follows is a beautiful love story that transcends skin color and massive differences. 

The point I want to expand, is the idea of coming into the light. Wasn't it the light that enabled Belle to see the Beast as he truly was? Over time, however, we realize the light didn't just give her the ability to see his physical form, the light eventually revealed his true nature. He was a young prince who had been turned into a beast due to his selfishness and pride.  As the two became friends, they were able to see past the ugly differences that kept them apart. 

He reveals mysteries from the darkness And brings the deep darkness into light.
— Job 12:22 (NASB)

God is light. If we are to understand life and how to live it, we need to step into the light. We need to be pursuing God and who He is, so that we might understand what the darkness is not. Darkness is not warm, inviting or satisfying. Darkness is not pleasurable or life giving. Yes, God created the darkness for rest, but it seems those who love the darkness are doing anything, but resting.

The Beast was living in darkness. When Belle arrived he made a choice to step into the light. This choice led him down a path of love and eventually redemption. We are faced with the same choice. Are we going to step into the light or are we going to remain in the darkness? Remaining in darkness is a choice that will result in confusion, fumbling and eventually death. 

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?
— Psalm 27:1 (NASB)

God's word, the Bible, tells us, the Lord is our light and our salvation. It doesn't say that our own knowledge is our light, or that man's wisdom is the light. Jesus Himself also declared He is the light. 

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
— John 8:12 (NASB)

The key here is that we have to follow Him and pursue Him. Let's face it, life can be overwhelming. In the last five days two dear women I know lost their husbands to heart failure. Both of these women walk in the light. They know to whom to turn during this terrible time of loss and grief. It is the light, His light that will give them the strength to go on when life is so dark.

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.
— Psalm 9:10 (NASB)

Where are you at today? Are you struggling in the darkness? Do you feel that you have been thrown into the dungeon of some beast with fangs? Step into His light. He will guide you out. He will bring life and love out of the darkness.

The song below was written as a Christmas song, but it is worth the listen at any time. Come into the light!

Giving up Grumbling

How often do you realize you are complaining? How many times a day do you find yourself grumbling? If you are like most people grumbling and complaining come without thinking. They are similar to breathing, the brain just does what it does and we don't have to think about it. I don't have to tell myself to take a breath or let it out. Breathing comes naturally. Unfortunately so does complaining. Think about your drive to work this morning, or your fellowship with believer's at church yesterday. Did you cuss at the driver who cut you off and then gave you the finger when you beeped at them? Did you grumble to your spouse after you left church that you were asked to be on another committee or teach another Sunday School class? How about the last time you went out to eat? Did you complain about the service, or like my Dad during his last years of life, grumble that you no longer got a spoon with your meal? Complaining and grumbling come all too easy!

Do all things without grumbling or disputing;
— Philippians 2:14

There are many things in life that we do or don't do that we don't give a whole lot of thought to. However, when your life begins to look toxic because you spend more time ornery and cantankerous it might be time to evaluate what is going on and what needs to be changed. I can just hear you now, "It's not me that needs to change! It's all those idiots out there." Funny, they may be thinking the same thing about you.

Pixabay

Pixabay

The Bible says, no, commands that we do all things without grumbling or disputing. Disputing is also translated as arguing. I know what it is to argue. We as wives do this without a thought. I am speaking to wives here, just because I can identify. Your spouse makes a suggestion and you question. He makes another suggestion and you balk. I know, I've been there. We can explain it away, "Well, I wasn't arguing, I was just trying to say my piece." "I was just trying to get the facts", or "I just wanted to be heard." All of those things are true, but the essence of grumbling and arguing is not in what is said, rather in the way it is said.

Let's look back to what is said, previously in this 2nd chapter of Philippians.

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
— Philippians 2:1-5

Doesn't complaining and arguing stem from selfishness? I know I wrote on this topic a few weeks ago (see that post here), but our selfish tendencies don't usually just disappear. In fact if we feed them they grow. When we don't get our own way, we grumble. When we are inconvenienced we complain. The world is not making me happy and I'm going to let everyone know. But to what end? Grumbling and complaining,usually,  does not get us what we want and rarely does it increase our joy factor.

If you look carefully at the above passage, it says that it is by having the same attitude as Christ, that Paul's joy was going to be made complete. He wanted the early church to follow Jesus. To follow His example, which surely wasn't one of grumbling and complaining. He also knew that being of the same mind as Christ would involve doing nothing from selfishness, but by being humble.

The passage continues with the very purpose for not complaining and arguing:

so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,
— Philippians 2:15
Pixabay

Pixabay

We are to be examples of Christ-likeness. We are to be above reproach. In other words we are to be acting, talking and being people of whom others cannot disapprove. Wow! That's a pretty big order. We might as well board up the windows in our houses, go inside, lock the doors and never come out! Ha, ha. But really, we are to appear as lights in the world, so I guess that means we can't board up the windows! 

This may seem like an impossibility, but the whole point of Christ giving us His Spirit is so that He can do it. He can shine through us, even when we feel dark and gloomy. He can love through us, even when we don't feel like loving. He can spread joy through us, even when we feel like grumbling and complaining. The key to all of this is to let Him! Once again, that idea of control. We want to have control. But even on our best days we might love and give and spread joy for a while, but we will at some point crash and burn. At least I will. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

I have learned that in these littlest details of life, the words we speak, the steps we take, I must let Christ work in and through me. So, I will continue to try to give up the grumbling and complaining and work out my salvation....for His glory!

It's All About Me - Not!

I took my mother back to Buffalo this weekend and today when I was making my way home several things happened that inspired the idea for this post. One of the first rest areas I stopped at in Ohio was filled with summer travelers. Some of these were families trying to get their vacations in before school starts again. Others were moms and dads taking their students off to their first semester at college. Still others were families in flux, moving themselves and their belongings from one location to another. I haven't seen so many trucks and trailers filled with furniture and mattresses as I did today.

As I was walking back to my car I noticed a young lady walking into the building with a sunny yellow tank top on. Emblazoned on the front in white and silver letters her shirt read, "It's all about ME!" The first thought that ran through my head was the typical mom thought, "You might think it is honey, but good luck with that." Ha, ha. After scolding myself, I thought, there is a sad reality to the statement that graphic tee was making.

Our world, our society, our town, our family and yes even myself are all about ME! We want, we need and when we get, we want and we need more. We take pride in temporary fixes. I did this, I did that...We thrive on being at the center of life; my car, my clothes, my house, my job, my kids, my husband. We even own God....my God...whether said in vain, or said as a form of worship. Where exactly does it say in God's word that we are the center of the universe? God created us, we did not create Him.

When I got back into my car to continue my journey I mused over this idea. When I was in college at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, I joined a drama team. One of the dramas we performed was titled King Me. This short little skit showed a variety of characters all absorbed in themselves. Each individual would point to themselves looking quite pleased and say, "Me!" A couple was fighting, each pointing to themselves angrily, shouting, "Me!" A little girl with pig tails and a large lolly pop twirled her hair, licked her pop and said, "Me!" After the group had reached a sufficient decibel level, all self consumed in their me-isms, a light flashed and they all froze in place, stunned to silence. In walked God. He touches one of the frozen individuals and they awake seeing Him for the first time. "You!" Suddenly, the one begins running to all of the others shaking them out of their self induced comas and pointing to Him, "You! You!" 

Pixabay

Pixabay

When I got on the Ohio Turnpike just past Cleveland, traffic became a clogged, slow moving mess. After about an hour of barely moving I passed a multi car accident. Tears came to eyes as I saw the extensive damage; a semi truck, a small car, a mini van were just a few of the vehicles damaged, crushed and even on the cement partition that divided the highway. The idea that it really is not all about me hit home. There were people in those cars. Maybe even families on vacation. Someone may have died. Someone, who was waiting for their loved ones to arrive would be getting a phone call. I felt sick.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
— Philippians 2:3-4 (NASB)

In a world that is saturated with self we need to look at what we are all about. Are you all about you? Are you impatient, demanding, and consumed with getting your own way? It doesn't matter who you are, what you do or where you are from. We all struggle with selfishness. Even as a parent, when our children do something wrong, are we upset because we want what is best for them, or are we upset because we look bad? 

Paul said to do nothing from selfishness. Nothing! Wow. I don't know about you, but I need to look at my life, my thoughts, my actions and so on and ask God to show me where I need to stop being selfish. This quote from George Bernard Shaw sums it up. 

This is the true joy of life: the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clot of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
— George Bernard Shaw

(An update that I saw later in the evening said that 10 cars were involved in that accident and a young girl was announced dead at the scene, while others were injured and taken to hospitals. Some were life-flighted. If you think of it, pray for those involved: the family of the girl who died, the truck driver that started the chain reaction and those others who were injured. It really isn't about us, is it?)