Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Handlebars of Life

I got it in my head one day that I was going to try and ride my bike without using my hands. Much to my surprise, this challenge was easier than I anticipated. In my first attempt, I went ‘hands free’ for several hundred yards on one of the back roads near my house…and so a challenge was born. How far can I ride my bike without using my hands? 

The next tyme I set out on the same road, I tried again and got farther than I had the tyme before. After a few weeks, I found myself going up and down the road’s small hills with more ease and zooming along its expanses with little effort, all while sitting up straight and relying on my legs to pull me along. 

Then one day I decided that it would be a significant accomplishment to ride hands free from the beginning of the road to the first intersection, a two mile stretch. I did it.  I was excited and amazed.  That evening when a friend asked me about my day, I relayed the story and details of my accomplishment.

“How in the world can you ride two miles without using your hands to balance? Weren’t you terrified that you’d fall?”, my friend asked in earnest.  I smiled and replied with a simple “Nope”. After some discussion, I finally said, “I wasn’t afraid I would fall because my handlebars were right there. All I had to do if I felt uneasy or started to lose my balance was reach out and take hold of them. Knowing that made it easy to relax and enjoy the ride.”

The next tyme I set out on my hands free route, I thought about the conversation I had with my friend and I realized that what I said to her related just as much to life as it did to my bike riding accomplishment, but lately I’d been failing to apply it. 

I’d been dealing with a lot of fears in my day to day life. I’d been focusing on the “what ifs” and the “if onlys”. I’d been worrying about what to do and where to go and from where the money I needed was going to come. I was losing my balance and terrified that I was going to fall. I was afraid to take chances, afraid to follow the path that God was leading me down, afraid to simply try.

How was it that I could ride two miles on my bike relying on my own balance, but I couldn’t trust Mighty Creator and Controller of the Universe to balance me in my walk of life? As I sat straight backed atop my bicycle seat I realized that just like my handlebars, God is there for me to take hold of when I feel like I’m about to fall, all I have to do is reach out to Him and take hold. Knowing that, I have no reason to fear the things in my day to day life. Whatever He asks me to do or whatever I set out to do looking to honor Him, I have assurance that simply cannot fall.

Proverbs 3: 5 & 6 says:
Trust in the
Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

To date, I’ve ridden my bike more than three miles at a tyme without taking hold of the handlebars. Just knowing I can reach down and to find my balance is enough to give me the confidence I need to accomplish my goal. And now, especially when I ride, I remember that God is my handlebars in life. He’s always there for me to take hold of, but unlike my bike which might, He never lets go of me.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Never Tire of Doing Good

Becoming a Christian is the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Living as a Christian? Well, sometymes I think that’s the hardest thing I have to do, especially when faced with the injustices that people do to one another.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve been severely hurt in the past or maybe it’s because when I was taught the Golden Rule, I took it to heart. 

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

While this phrase sounds like it’s right out of the Bible, it isn’t.  However it is a synopsis of a commandment that Jesus gave when some of the uppity religious leaders were trying to test Him.  In Matthew 22 we read that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees with His direct and unwavering answers to their questions, something that didn’t sit well with leaders of the synagogue. So, in trying to trick Him they got a lawyer to, in a sense, cross-examine Jesus.

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus was basically saying to treat other people the way you would want to be treated.  I don’t know about you, but I appreciate it when people show me things like love, kindness, understanding and patience. If that’s the case, that’s what I should be offering to those around me and, with the exception of a less than stellar moment here and there, I find these actions rather easy…that is until I see someone treat another person with utter disregard and complete unfairness, then, well you might say I want to drop hold of the Golden Rule in order to exercise the spirit of slap that swells up in my hand.   

I recently learned that some members of my church family were going through a difficult patch in their marriage. Of course my first instinct was to pray for healing. So for about a week I prayed to that end, but God said no.  The man moved out, leaving his wife and three, young children.  Devastated by the news I shifted the focus of my prayer and began praying God’s comfort for the mother and children. 

One evening when going to dinner with my mom we drove by this family’s house and I voiced a quick prayer for the mother and the children.  When I was finished my mom pointed out that I didn’t include the dad in my prayer.  In that moment I confessed that I was filled with the spirit of slap for the man and I found it hard to pray for him after what he did to his family.  Why should he get the benefits of the Golden Rule when he chose not to apply it to his wife and children?  My mom was quick to point out that if he could do what he did then he needed more prayer than anyone.

It was then that I unleashed my spirit of slap…on myself.  I didn’t mean judge the man for his actions, though I guess I did and for that I’m sorry. I’ve just never done well with things I can’t comprehend and his actions exits in that category.  The bottom line is that I absolutely hate what the man did, but I love the friend that did it and he truly does need my prayer. 

There’s a passage in 2 Thessalonians that talks about people who are idle and how to handle them. I related it to this situation I’m trying to understand because in my mind idleness in relationships can bring them to an end.  But instead of focusing on what the passage said about idle people, I focused on what was said to me as an onlooker. At one point the apostle Paul writes: 

13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.  Later he ends his letter by saying: 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

These two verses are significant to me. The first verse reminds me that no matter how hard it may be I need to continue to do good or more specifically to keep implementing that Golden Rule, whether I think it’s deserved or not. The second verse reminds me that God loves us all, even when we mess up, even when He has no reason to love us, He does while He patiently waits for us to repent. His grace is always there for us and it is sufficient.

So, while this situation is far from being resolved and I am certain that I will have an ongoing battle with the spirit of slap, through it all I learned, yet again, that living life as a Christian isn’t always easy, but it’s always the answer. 

L.D. Kirklin


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Priceless Tag

It took me a long tyme to figure out that looking to other people in regard to my self-worth is both futile and foolish.  I mean the idea that anyone on this Earth can calculate my value is simply ridiculous.  That would be like taking the Mona Lisa into a kindergarten class and asking the kids how much money they would give for it.  Chances are their responses would sound like something out of a Charlie Brown cartoon where everything – including Lucy’s psychiatric advice – costs five cents.  They wouldn’t have any idea as to the value of da Vinci’s painting.

Isn’t that an interesting thought?  That which is priceless to a bunch of adults is worthless to a bunch of kids.  To adults the Mona Lisa is an incredible piece of history that deserves to revered and preserved, but to kids it’s just some lady in a picture.  Something is only of value if someone is willing to pay for it.

A baseball signed by Babe Ruth is simply a baseball with some ink on it until someone offers to pay a sum of money for it. The fact that a talented, one tyme famous man happened hold or hit the ball does not change the fact that it’s just a ball.  The change occurs when feelings are applied.  Perhaps the baseball reminds a man of a day he spent with his dad at Yankee Stadium so he buys it as a way to hold on to a fond memory.  Or maybe a lady buys the ball because Babe Ruth was her grandfather’s favorite player and it reminds her of the bed tyme stories he used to tell her.  Whatever the reason for the purchase, the only value it really holds is in the emotion of it. I mean let’s be honest, even after someone pays a crazy amount of money for it; it’s still just a baseball with ink on it.

The truth of the matter is everything is worthless until someone adds value to it.  This is true for people as well. The difference is, while everybody puts value on something, there’s One that put a value on every person. Jesus.  Jesus was willing to pay a price for each of us. And it wasn’t just any price. No, He paid an unfathomable price for us – a price so great that no one else could begin to afford or would even be willing to pay if they could! 

It’s impossible for any of us to understand the amount of love that it took to pay such a price, perhaps that’s why we tend to look to the people around us to appraise our value.  I mean really, when someone puts a clearance sticker on us it hurts, but it’s a lot easier to believe than “Priceless”.  But just because we tend to believe the bad stuff does not make it true.  What is true?

Jesus loves me this I know
The price He paid, it tells me so
And no one else can ever see
The way that Jesus values me

So, now that I figured it out does that mean I’m cured?  Does it mean that I no longer attempt to find my self worth in the opinions of others?  Well…do you remember how your math teachers made you attempt problem after problem once they gave you the formula for the equation?  It takes practice!  Just because you know how to solve the problem doesn’t mean you always get it right!  

No, because of some unfortunate programming in my brain there’s a chance that this struggle will always be with me, but the more I apply the “Jesus Love Me” formula to my equation of life, the more I get the answers right.

So, the next tyme you need to be reminded of your value, just remember that hard as some may try, no one can take away the gift that Jesus bought for you. Just enjoy your ‘priceless tag’ and help others realize that they wear one too!

-L.D. Kirklin-

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Don't Be The One

I recently contacted a very talented acquaintance of mine in reference to a piece of her work; work that I truly enjoyed.  She responded graciously, but in that response I found myself taken back by something my new friend revealed to me.   She thanked me for my kind words and told me that they were a welcomed change to some of the notes and e-mails that she receives on a regular basis.

“I needed a smile tonight…you can’t imagine how nice it is to see your name in my inbox.”

I’ll be honest; when I read her remark I was confused.  I mean her work is impeccable.  The thought that anyone could think otherwise was simply – or perhaps complexly – foreign to me. How could I marvel at the talent that God gave this person and the way she uses that talent to honor God, while someone else criticized and demeaned her innate skill? 

As a singer, songwriter, and even as a radio host, I know first hand what it’s like to put your work out there for the world to see and hear. It isn’t easy, especially if discouragement has been a familiar theme in your life.  There have been tymes when I worried myself sick over what people would think. Will they like it? And by “it” I mean me. After all, my work is a part of me, right?

Suffice it to write that after reading my new friend’s message, I felt her words deeply; perhaps more deeply than she intended me to.  My instinct was to write back and tell this person that those other people were crazy and she need not concern herself with their inferior opinions.  As I considered my words though I realized that nothing I would write could take away the hurt of someone’s negative comments.

Have you ever noticed that a thousand compliments cannot soothe the pain of one insult?  Why is that?  Why are the unkind words easier to believe than the caring ones?  It’s true that not everyone reacts to an insult in the same way.  Some will refute it and use it to fuel their fire to prove the insulter wrong, while some believe it and let it prevent them from achieving their goals. Others will try to push it aside and continue forward, but with tentative steps, always expecting the next insulting shoe to fall.  The commonality? No matter how it influences a person, an insult is remembered.

Even though kind words cannot combat the mean ones, they do help to soften the blow when others choose to hurl insults.  If we enjoy the talent that God’s given someone, we should tell the person.  If someone is using his or her talent to honor God, we should applaud the person.  If we don’t like something, we should apply the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

The truth of the matter is we are not going to like everything that a person says or does. We’re not going to like every opinion a person has, everything a person creates or every choice a person makes. We, however, each have a choice of our own every tyme we open our mouths, set our fingers to the keys, or put a pen to paper; we can build up or we can tear down. We can offer encouragement to someone or we can be a stumbling block in someone’s life.  

So, do I plan to write back to my acquaintance and offer her some encouraging words? Absolutely.  Why? Well, because they are true and she deserves to read them – and also because I want her to continue on with her work so I can enjoy the next installment.  :)  And while I know that my kind words won’t heal the damage done by somebody's callous ones, I hope she will draw on them when she needs an uplifting reminder of the good she’s doing for God and for others.

Don’t be the one insult - be one of the thousand compliments. 

-L.D. Kirklin-

Monday, March 24, 2014

Paging Through Life

When I joined Facebook a few years back it was at my sister’s prompting so she could use it as a means of universal communication and picture sharing.  Now, a few years later, I have several hundred friends on my account, some of whom I see regularly, some I don’t get to see often, but keep in touch with, some I haven’t seen or talked with since High School graduation and some I have never met or even spoken with.  I have to admit, it’s quite the eclectic posse of comrades.

A few years ago I went to a local book fair and while little captured my interest, there was one book that I bought based solely on its description.  I’d never read anything by this particular author, so I wasn’t sure what to expect; I can be very picky when it comes to what I read – okay, okay, I can be very picky about a lot of things, but that is on a mountain of things that is beside the point.

It turns out the book was good, so good in fact that after finishing the story I wanted to contact the author and tell her how much I enjoyed her work.  So, in this seemingly instant world in which we live, I logged on to Facebook and sure enough, the author had an account.  I ended up sending her a message expressing my enjoyment of the book to which she responded graciously.  Shortly thereafter we became the ‘we-haven’t-met-but-share-common-interests’ kind of friends.  You know, “Facebook friends”.

It wasn’t long before I started to see my author friend’s posts that related, not to her writing, but to her personally. Through them, in a way, I was getting to know this person I’d never met.  One day I saw that she posted a journal entry about her grandmother’s house!  This person and I became ‘friends’ because of her writing, so naturally I was excited to read the article.  

As it happened, the entry was about her grandmother’s house burning down.  Though the event was sad, the article was good, heartfelt and optimistic, but I found myself feeling angry over it more than anything.  You see, in the article she wrote of her wonderful childhood and her loving family.  She painted this wonderful picture of happy tymes with her family in her grandmother’s house.  The picture was bright and colorful and very unlike my own childhood experience and that made me angry.

WHY?  I said to God.  Why did she get this great childhood when I had to go through what I did?  Why did she get happiness when I got fear?”  Oh, I asked all kinds of questions comparing this friend’s situation to my own until I was about to shake with disgust over the unfairness of it.  But then, just before my shaking point, God answered.  “To help others”, He said.

Even though I knew it, God reaffirmed to me that He had not put me through the hardships of my childhood, but that He had been there with me, helping me through them.  Then He brought some people to mind and made me realize that had I not gone through my trials I wouldn’t be able to understand theirs.  I wouldn’t be able to listen their problems and offer sound and helpful advice.  I wouldn’t be able to honestly tell them that I’ve been there or convey the love and power of God that saw me through.

You see I know from experience that some tymes you just need to hear from someone who’s been there and who’s come through ‘it’.  While every experience is unique to itself, I know that some tymes you just need to see someone’s scars and hear their stories in order to believe that everything is going to be okay.  

In the end I was glad I read my friend’s article because it made me realize – yet again – we all have the same job that God has called us to do: tell others about Him.  Some can use happy memories to illustrate God’s love, while others can use triumph over trials to prove God’s power.  Some can use their daily walk to show God’s faithfulness while others can use their talents to showcase God’s blessings.  

The bottom line is, no one can compare his or her story to that of anyone else.  All each of us can do is take what we’ve been through, what we’re going through or what we’re facing and use it to help others see God.  Because if God knows the name of every star in every galaxy (Psalm 147:4), surely He knows you and me and His plan for each us is long-term-perfect even if the short-term seems far from it.  So as you page your way through each new day, just remember that with God as the Author, you can face any book He asks you to read or write!