I am a child who was born in the mid-70’s and grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. I also am a child who grew up in a musical household. My father and brother are both musicians. So, it should come as little to surprise to those who know me, that I am a fan of Wayne’s World—a comedy sketch that first appeared on Saturday Night Live and was later made into a movie.
The premise revolves around the characters of Wayne, played by Mike Myers, and Garth, played by Dana Carvey. What I really remember the most is that they would encounter rock stars, and upon meeting them, would grovel and proclaim, “We’re not worthy. We’re not worthy.”
Well, the reason I am sharing this with you today is because that is how I have been feeling lately-- “not worthy.”
Do you ever feel this way?
This past week it was my birthday. My amazing husband took me to a TobyMac concert at Six Flags in New Jersey as a surprise! (If you have never seen TobyMac live, you MUST go. He is amazing!) And, we spent the next day in Philadelphia checking out the cool historical places in the city. (Think Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.) We then topped off our trip with a top-notch dinner at a little French bistro called Bistrot La Minette. It was probably one of the best meals I have ever had in my life. Honestly! (Check out some of our pictures of the trip below.)
Of this love and special treatment, I don’t feel worthy.
I had more than 100 family and friends call, text, or message me “Happy Birthday!”
To be remembered like this, I don’t feel worthy.
I decided to create a special campaign to raise money for The Rutledge Center for my birthday via Facebook. My goal was to raise $200 for this nonprofit that is doing uplifting work in our community by serving and promoting the general welfare of individuals with developmental disabilities. Well, I had family and friends step up and give $215!
Of this generosity, I don’t feel worthy.
Because of my birthday and all that has been happening because of it, I have been reflecting on all the love and blessings in my life. I have so very much love and so very many blessings. I can’t even begin to digest it all or fathom it. And, I don’t feel worthy.
Then, I started thinking about just how much I loved by God. And, of that, I most certainly do NOT feel worthy.
Here I am, this horrible, selfish, wretched person, stained with sin. But, God loves me so much that He sent His only Son to die on a cross for me. Jesus died in MY place. For me. For MY sins. FOR. ME. For me.
And, Jesus died on that cross for you, too.
He carried the sin of every single person on the earth to that cross. He carried the sins of everyone who is, was, or will be. Isn’t that mind-blowing?
And, as I sit and think about how much He suffered, how much pain and anguish He felt, how much torment He went through, I am shaken. I am at a loss. I am bereft. I definitely don’t feel worthy of that. I don’t feel worthy of any of that.
But, God says we are worthy. You are worthy. I am worthy. Why? Because He created us. That is why we are worthy. We are each special and have a unique purpose on this earth. That speaks volumes, doesn't it?
Before I leave you this week, I thought I would share something else with you. A friend of mine shared this on her Facebook page. It helps to reflect just a little of the depth of love that God has for us.
“Outrageous grace is God’s goodness that comes looking for you when you have nothing but a middle finger flipped in the face of God to offer in return. It’s a farmer paying a full day’s wages to a crew of deadbeat day laborers with only a single hour punched on their time cards (Matthew 20:1 – 16). It’s a man marrying an abandoned woman and then refusing to forsake his covenant with her when she turns out to be a whore (Ezekiel 16:8 – 63; Hosea 1:1 — 3:5). It’s the insanity of a shepherd who puts ninety-nine sheep at risk to rescue the single lamb that’s too stupid to stay with the flock (Luke 15:1 – 7). It’s the love of a father who hands over his finest rings and robes to a young man who has squandered his inheritance on drunken binges with his fair-weather friends (Luke 15:11 – 32). It’s God’s choice to save a slave trader knowing full well that it would take a decade for this man to recognize the wretchedness of his ways. It’s one-way love that calls you into the kingdom not because you’ve been good but because God has chosen you and made you his own. And now he is chasing you to the ends of the earth to keep you as his child, and nothing in heaven or hell can ever stop him.”
― Daniel Montgomery, Proof: Finding Freedom Through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace
Have you ever come across someone who was really accomplished and wished you could be like that person? I do this a lot! I find myself especially envious of people who have been given an artistic talent of some sort. (You know, people who can draw, paint, sing, dance, write, play an instrument, act—that sort of thing.) I can draw and paint a little, but I am not especially good at either. (And, I cannot sing, dance, act, or play an instrument-- much to my dismay.) And, while I realize that these things can be learned, I also feel like it takes something special inside to really be good at them.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman named Edward who has a gift of another sort that I would love to have. I had lunch with Edward, another new acquaintance, and a friend. And, within just a few minutes, I could tell that Edward looks at people through the eyes of Jesus. He led with prayer before we ate lunch and shared some Bible verses with us as we ate. At one point, he pulled out a pocket version of the New Testament, handed it over to me and asked me to read Acts 26:18. I did. It says, “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” Edward said that that verse summed up the work of God for him. And, then he told me to mark that page and keep the book. And, I did. It was a touching gift.
Edward’s love for the Lord and people was so powerful that I got teary-eyed. My friend Jenni just smiled and said something along the lines of, “This is just Edward, this is just who he is.” I then looked at Edward and said, “You see others the way Jesus sees them. I want to be like that.” And, I meant it. I want to be like that.
As you read the New Testament of the Bible and learn about Jesus and who He is, you realize that He is the most loving and kind person there is. He has this special gift of seeing past our sins and ugliness. When He looks at us He sees our beauty, our potential. Jesus actually sees us. He. Sees. Us. And, I so desperately want to see people the same way, with those same eyes. With love and kindness. I want to see the true person and their heart---not just the outside cover.
I don’t know about you, but I, for one, think this is probably one of the most worthy goals I, or anyone, can achieve in this life. And, I believe that it is a goal that you or I can strive for and one day, reach. Will it be easy? No. Will it happen quickly? I doubt it. Even if we do achieve it at some point, will it be something that we can sustain for the rest of our lives? Who knows? We may finally get it one day, but the next day, it will slip our minds. I mean, we are only human, after all.
So, where do we start? How do we reach this worthy goal? I think the best first step we can take is to pray and ask God to open our eyes so that we can truly see. We can pray that He gives us His eyes. We can pray and ask God for His help in this endeavor.
And, if we take it one day at a time and remind ourselves to look at others with the eyes of Jesus, our focus can start to shift. Our vision can change. And, that in turn, can change lives. Both ours and others. Meeting Edward the other day, well, he is my proof of this.
We have a huge flower bed on the side of our yard. (We live on a corner lot and this flower bed runs alongside one of the streets we sit on.) My hubby and I planted lots of nice flowers and plants so that we, and our neighbors, can enjoy them. The problem with having a flower bed as big as ours, is that it requires a lot of upkeep. We created it initially thinking that it would be less grass for us to cut, and thus less work. Boy, were we wrong! We should have just put sod there. Oh well, live and learn.
This flower bed is so big that we must have a truckload of mulch brought in to cover it all. (Otherwise, it would take us 50 trips to Home Depot and back to get enough bags to fill it in.) And, buying mulch by the truckload is not cheap. And, next we spend most of the day spreading said mulch.
Then, there is the chore of keeping out the grass and weeds. We have Bermuda grass, which I really like because it is nice and soft and green most of the year. But, man, does it spread! If you don’t stay on top of it, it can quickly take over and get into places where you do not want it.
Well, I have been remiss in keeping out that Bermuda grass this year. I have been watching it spread through our flower bed for a while now. I kept telling myself that I would get up early, when it was nice and cool out, and then I would pull up the grass and weeds. But, weekend after weekend passed and I didn’t do it.
Finally, this past weekend, I decided to get out there and do some work before I really regretted it. So, I got up and got out there while it was still cool and I got to work. I worked for a good while. I got a lot done and felt good about what I did, but I still have a good bit left to do. (Le sigh…)
So, while I was in my flower bed cleaning out the encroaching grass, I got some quality time in with the Lord as well. The Holy Spirit shared some good insight with me.
As I was pulling up that grass, I couldn’t help but think about how our lives are a lot like gardens. Having a fruitful garden and a fruitful life is a lot of hard work. Pulling up grass and weeds can be tough. If we want to have a garden full of beautiful flowers and plants, we must be diligent about keeping the grass and weeds at bay. Likewise, to have a happy and healthy life, we must keep all the bad thoughts and negativity at bay. It is something that I often find myself struggling with, as I am sure you do too at times.
With each clump of Bermuda I plucked from our flower bed, I kept thinking about how I also needed to be plucking out every negative thought as soon as it popped into my head. Wouldn’t it be so much better for us to rid ourselves of anything ugly immediately, rather than letting it linger and take root in our hearts and minds? Wouldn’t it be so much easier to do this as they pop up, rather than just waiting and trying to get rid of a ton of them later? I think so! Because, just like that Bermuda grass, negative thoughts spread quickly and before you know it, they have taken over.
Cleaning out of the bad and negative thoughts in our minds will allow us to focus on the good and positive thoughts. And, those will grow and thrive. This will bring us peace and contentment. Keeping the unwanted grass and weeds from our flower beds allows the flowers and plants to grow and thrive. This will bring about the beautiful flowers and good fruit that we seek.
In life, I think it is nice to have things to look forward to. Don’t you? As I am sitting here thinking about it, I would go so far as to say that having something to look forward to is an important part of life. Of course, what we look forward to will change as we grow and change. But, I think it is just a normal, healthy part of life.
When I was a kid I looked forward to summer break, Christmas, and my birthday. How about you? I bet you were the same. Summer break was my favorite because I could play all day and watch cartoons. The things that made me happy were simple things. Oh, how I wish I could go back to being that carefree.
How about as an adult? What do you look forward to now? As someone who works full time, I look forward to weekends, vacations, and any opportunity I can get to spend time with my family and friends. I look forward to retirement and not having to work anymore. I look forward to being outside in nature. One of my greatest pleasures in life is to just sit outside and read a good book. (I also enjoy lazy afternoons where I can take naps!)
How about as a Christian? Is there anything you look forward to as a Christian? One of things I look forward to most is being reunited with family members that have gone on before me. As Iris Dement penned in her wonderful hymn, That Glad Reunion Day, “There will be a happy meeting in Heaven, I know. When we see the many loved ones we’ve known here below. Gathered on that blessed hilltop with hearts all aglow. That will be a glad reunion day.”
It is such a comfort and blessing to know that we will be with our loved ones again one day. How do I know that this will indeed happen? The Bible tells me so. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 2 Samuel 12:23, and Luke 9:28-36.)
But, as a Christian, what I am really, truly looking forward to is seeing Jesus face to face and getting to spend all of eternity in His presence. I just can’t wait to run into His loving arms and get a hug for Him. Oh, what a hug that will be! I can’t even begin to imagine how glorious that will be. My gut reaction, just as I am thinking about this and typing it out, is to start crying. Crying because I am not worthy. Crying because it will be so amazing and wonderful. Crying because of the pure joy and contentment. It is funny, as I try to picture myself in heaven, this is how I see myself—all crying and emotional for a huge variety of reasons. I guess because that is how I am here on earth—crying easily and emotional for a huge variety of reasons.
Death can be such a scary thing. And, while I don’t want to die any time soon, just knowing that I will be in heaven one day with Jesus, well, that makes death a lot less scary. Actually, knowing and trusting in God makes death not scary at all. Yes, going to heaven, being with my loved-ones again, and spending eternity with Jesus, now that is something to look forward to!
A topic has been popping up in various places in my life the last few months and it is one that I have been contemplating writing about for a while now. And, I am feeling a strong pull to make it this week’s blog post. So, today I want to talk about, and explore, being a part of “God’s Family.”
Once we accept God into our hearts, truly believing in Him, trusting in Him, and repenting of our sins, we become saved--we become a Child of God. God is often referred to in the Bible as Father. Ephesians 3:14-15 states, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Through the creation of this world, God, who is our creator, is also our Father. God is responsible for everything that exists. It just makes sense that we would refer to Him as our Father. After all, He is the one who gave us life.
As I have been growing spiritually, I have noticed that many believers refer to each other as brother and sister. At first I was a little taken-aback by this. But, now, seeing as God is our Father, I understand this reference a lot better. If God is our Father, and all of us are His children, then it is an obvious leap that we would call each other brothers and sisters in Christ. And, the more I think about it, the more I really like that thought. This means that we have all kinds of brothers and sisters all over the world! Our brothers and sisters in Christ are of all different backgrounds, races, and nationalities. Wow, even think of this—they are from different time periods as well! While we will never to get meet to most of our brothers and sisters in person, one day we will get to meet them all in heaven. I think that is pretty cool!
All of us who love God are a part of one big, giant family. We have a common Father who binds us together as family. We are God’s family. We have a loving Father who walks with us, talks to us, guides us, and corrects us when we need it. He wants us to seek Him and have a good relationship with Him. Once we do these things, i.e. seek Him and enter a real relationship with Him, our world will start to change for the better. That is what a good Father does, He changes you and your life for the better. And, if you will let Him be a part of your everyday life, you will see what a truly good Father He is!
If you are not yet a part of our family--God’s family--I would love for you to join us. This is your open invitation. Come on in. There is plenty of room at our dining table. Pull up a chair, we have a seat saved especially for you. If you don’t yet understand how to became a child of God, please allow me to help you. Click this link to go to Joyce Meyer Ministries. There you will find a guide that is simple and easy to follow that teaches you “How to Know Jesus.” I pray that I can soon add you to the list of my brothers and sisters. Allow me to be the first to say, “Welcome to the family!”
Do you ever feel like a small fish in a big pond? Swimming around unnoticed? Maybe you feel almost invisible; like what you are doing in life is not important? (The theatre nerd in me is now singing “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago. Lol)
I know I have often felt this way in my life. And, I have a feeling you have too. Why? Because, I have come to realize that that is just a part of being human. I feel especially paltry when I am outside at night, looking up at all the stars. There are a gazillion stars out there. And, they are beautiful and wondrous to behold. But, looking up at all those stars can really make you feel very, well, insignificant. And, I also automatically start singing “It’s A Great Big Universe” from Animaniacs. (I told you, I am definitely a nerd. Also, if you have never watched Animaniacs, do yourself a favor and check it out. You will be so glad you did! But, I digress…)
So, my point is that sometimes we all feel small. Or undervalued. Or unimportant. And, I am here to tell you that you are NOT small, or undervalued, or unimportant! Why? Because while we may feel miniscule in the grand scheme of things, in God’s eyes we each play a critical role in this world. And, that is a big deal! WE are a BIG deal to God. So, you see, small is BIG!
After all, God created each of us to be uniquely us, and we are His children. You are uniquely you and I am uniquely me. And, He loves each and every one of us. And, we each have a significant role to play while we are here on earth. How do I know these things, you ask? Because the Bible tells us so! (See 1 Peter 5:7, Zephaniah 3:17, Psalm 139:13-16, 1 Corinthians 12:25-28, and 1 Peter 4:10-11.)
Being the music lover that I am, I like to think that this world is like one, great, big, giant symphony. We each play a different instrument in the orchestra of life and God is our conductor. Some people play the flutes, some play the violins, some play the trumpets, some play the piano. There are even some of us who do things like make the instruments, clean the theatre, or design and print the programs. It takes a lot of work to put a symphony together.
Then, when our symphony plays, and we each perform our part, it is a magnanimously glorious thing. All of us do our parts, we each execute our role, and the result is stunning. It is truly stunning. And, we could not pull this off without each other. Could you imagine how lackluster a symphony would be it there were only a few people playing the drums and the oboe? That would be horrible.
The magic happens when we all come together and do our parts.
So, while you may feel small, unseen, or imperceptible in your life, you are NOT small. The part you play in this life is NOT small. You are a vital part of this symphony of life. To God you play a very big, very important role. What may seem like a mundane job to you, means a lot to God. Maybe you wash dishes, maybe you teach, maybe you are a mom raising kids, maybe you are truck driver, maybe you are a dentist, maybe you are a structural engineer. Whatever “title” you have, it doesn’t matter.
What does matter, is that you embrace the role God gave you to play. If you embrace it, you are embracing God’s work for you. If you do your work as if you are doing it for God, you will gain much more satisfaction from it. Colossians 3:23 tells us, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." That is a huge and dazzling thing!
(Also, I feel like I would be remiss if I did not mention that your role can and will change during your life. We will each go through different seasons in life. That is just how it works. One season you may playing the harp and a few years from now you may be playing the triangle!)
So, I urge you to grasp hold of your “small” part and perform it with gusto! As Stanislavski, the famous Russian theatre practitioner once remarked, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” And, again, being a theatre nerd, I heard this quote a thousand times. And, while I never really believed it when I worked in theatre, I can tell you that I honestly do believe it now. If we do our work for the Lord, there are no small parts. That is what spiritual growth is all about!
I tend to lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to, well, basically anything that is popular at any given time. This is especially true of TV shows and movies. But, thanks to Netflix, we can now binge-watch all kinds of shows that we missed out on when they originally aired.
The hubby and I just finished watching all seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy, or SOA as many refer to it. It originally ran from 2008 – 2014. If you haven’t watched it, I won’t give away anything specific. But, I will tell you, it is a show that my hubby and I both got sucked into and ultimately really enjoyed. I think I was drawn to it because it is basically the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but with a motorcycle gang set in modern day California. (And, well, I am a theatre nerd after all—so how could I resist?)
I will also tell you it gets really bloody, and really messed up. I mean really messed up. There are quite a few scenes that are very disturbing. Plus, the basic content of the show can be considered, well, bad. To give you an idea, it is about a motorcycle club that runs guns, porn, and gets into drugs. There is lots of gruesome stuff; killing and death. There is also a lot of bad language. Basically, it is a violent show. These reasons alone are solid reasons to NOT watch it—especially if you can’t handle those sorts of things.
On the other hand, if you enjoy lots of action, a ton of twists and turns, and highly complex characters that take you on a journey and can somehow make you either relate to them or have empathy for them or both, and can handle lots of blood and gore, then look no further. Sons of Anarchy is FX’s highest rated series of all time, so that should tell you something. I think it is also important to note that Hamlet is a tragedy, and so is SOA.
So, considering it can and probably is viewed by Christians as an unsavory show (to say the least), why on earth would I be writing about it on Focus on God + Good? Well, I must be honest with you: 1) because these characters reverberate the many ways in which we are all human and hence, flawed and 2) because I think there are some valuable lessons to be gleaned from watching this show.
Without going into specifics of the show and thus spoiling it too much for you, I thought I would share with you some of the bright spots that I took away from watching it.
First, people change. This is something that we all know. What I enjoyed so much about some, but sadly not all, of the characters on SOA is we see them go from having compulsive disorders or being addicted to drugs, to being rehabilitated, vibrant people who become valuable members of the SAMCRO family. (SAMCRO stands for Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original.)
It is a beautiful thing to see people go from bad to good, lost to found, unloved to loved. It is also a great reminder that in real life, people can and do change for the better. Seeing the characters that did change for the better gives you hope that, if they can do it, so can anyone.
Second, we get to witness the major internal struggles of the main characters. While many shows on TV gloss over the internal struggles of their characters, SOA hits them head on. The conflicts that arise on SOA are many, varied, and deep. And, the variety of ways that they are written into the show lends an honesty and credibility to the show.
As you watch the characters change and grow over the course of seven seasons, you come to identify with them and their trials. The actors on SOA do an amazing job of living out their unbelievable, complicated lives. They connect their characters to real life. They make you care about them. You understand them because maybe you or someone you know has been in a similar situation. Or, you think about how you would act or react if you were in their shoes. Or, as is the case for me, you just come to the realization that life can be a very complicated and messy thing. (If we let it.)
Next, and this is my biggest take-away from SOA, is that during the course of this show, a truth that I have known for a quite a while now was substantiated time and time again. And, that truth is this: forgiveness is a powerful and blessed thing.
I think the reason this was so poignant for me was because there seemed to be very little, if any, forgiveness in SOA. There was however, loads of revenge, tit for tat. During almost every season of this show, I kept thinking to myself how much better off these characters would be if they just learned how to forgive each other and themselves. All the retribution, all the death, it clearly ate away at the core of the characters, ate away at their souls. And, the really sad part to me, was that most of it did not need to happen. (Yes, I realize that this is a TV show where, had the characters learned how to forgive, there would not have been much of a show left. But, I digress…)
I kept thinking of how much trouble they would have saved themselves, if they had just learned how to forgive. I kept thinking of how many lives that could have been saved, if they had just learned how to forgive. I kept thinking of how much sorrow they could have avoided, if they had just learned how to forgive.
Learning how to forgive and extend grace and mercy are vital to our growth as Christians. I think the sooner that we grasp this, the better. Watching this show gave me an eye-opening perspective on just how beneficial forgiveness can truly be. And, why it is so worthwhile.
We learn from reading the Bible the importance of forgiveness. Lack of forgiveness blocks access to our wonderful God. Forgiving allows you to cleanse yourself of any resentment or bitterness you have. It frees you! It is the lack of forgiveness that weighs us down and comes between us and God. Matthew 5:23-24 tells us, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the alter and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the alter. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” We can also read about forgiveness in Matthew 6:14-15, Matthew 18:21-25, Mark 11:25, and Psalm 103:12, among other places.
Oddly enough, while there was very little forgiveness or mercy in SOA, there was quite a bit of religious symbolism that reared its head throughout all seven seasons. Just for fun, I thought I would end this post by sharing some of the ones I came across with you.
· There are many scenes located in the chapel of the local hospital, where one main
· The grandfather of the main character, Jax Teller, was a Reverend for fourteen years.
His name is Nate Madock. My favorite line from Nate is, “God forgives everyone
sweetheart.” (Yes! He certainly does.)
· The title of season 6, episode 11 is "John 8:32" (Then you will know the truth, and the
truth will set you free.)
· In season 5, episode 10, entitled “Crucifixed” a crucifix is used as a murder weapon.
· Season 6 premiered with a young boy shooting up his Catholic school.
· In the series finale, a homeless woman, whom we have seen before in other episodes,
is found eating a loaf of bread and drinking a bottle of wine.
· And, my favorite of all—in season 7, episode 6, called “Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em”, has
the character of Juice in a convenience store looking for a specific brand of cigarettes.
The brand is called St. Dismas. Dismas was the penitent thief who was crucified at
Jesus’ right hand at Calvary.
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light and any good thing that I come across.