The Cat

The cat’s long, black tail swings down from the branch, swaying in the breeze. As a kitten, she was taught to never give away her position when hidden in a tree, but things are better now. She can relax around these humans as long as she is out of their reach. She’s learned from experience that staying away from the humans is, in general, a good idea, but they won’t hurt her if they see her. Not the way they once did. The cat hasn’t been around for long enough to remember a time when the humans, especially the male variants, took a liking to making cats’ lives miserable, and she’s glad that they have learned their lesson.

From her perch, she watches silently as the sun rises and the humans come back to life. Slowly, one by one, they begin to emerge from their homes, yawning and bleary-eyed. Most are laden with cloth bags filled with bricks (or so she thinks, based on the way some of the humans are bent under their weights). As the sun gets higher, more and more humans appear, progressively looking and sounding more awake. Some of them are practically bouncing as they walk; others shout at their friends as they somehow use their inferior vision to spot a member of their species across the street. Groups of them pass by the cat’s tree, all talking loudly. Some are laughing, even shoving each other around playfully, like little kittens playing in the street. The cat simply doesn’t understand such immaturity, but she reminds herself that they are humans, after all, and they can’t be expected to carry the same dignity as cats.

Some of the groups are more solemn, but the cat doesn’t like those groups, either. Three females walk past, one with water running down her face (the cat has never understood the point of this human ability); “She lied to me!” the wet one warbles, only for the humans to awkwardly assure her that “everything will be okay.”

Humph, the cat scoffs to herself. Weak humans. If I mewled like a kitten every time a cat lied to me, I’d never eat.

The cat moves to an adjoining branch to get a different viewing angle on the next group, another set of females. Their faces are all red; the cat wishes in their stead that they could grow fur to cover that up. “Who does he think he is?!” one of them screeches, piercing the cat’s sensitive ears. “Sometimes I just want to smack him. What a jerk!”

Once again, the cat rolls her yellow eyes in annoyance. Who cares what one human thinks of another? Focus on making yourself less annoying, and maybe you won’t have to complain so loudly.

Shortly after, a group of males walks by, shoving each other and laughing so that the cat’s ears pin themselves to her head. Nevertheless, her impeccable hearing still deciphers their speech; “Bro, you need a break. Let’s play Smash this weekend, you can catch up later.”

Skipping work to play games? How immature. How do these humans expect to survive by playing games like kittens all day? The cat flicks her tail in annoyance. As soon as the humans are all gone, she plans to descend the tree and find a quieter spot to brood.

The next face that comes along is one the cat immediately recognizes. This female leaves food out almost every day next to her home just for the stray cats in the area, and she never yells, but merely whispers on the off chance that the cat lets her guard down near her. Unlike the other humans, she is alone, and she holds her phone up to her ear, speaking into it; “I don’t know what to tell you, girl. God’s in control, so just don’t freak out. He’s in control and he loves you, just don’t forget that, okay…?”

The cat relaxes as the human strolls away. At least one of them is bearable.

The stream of humans has ended at last, and the cat gracefully leaps from her perch and slinks away, head and tail high.

Written by Catherine

Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cat_on_the_tree_3.jpg

Stronger than Superheroes

My favorite superhero from the world of DC Comics is Green Lantern. Now, if you are a fan of superheroes, the previous statement may puzzle you. After all, what sort of crazy person would pick Green Lantern to be his/her favorite DC Superhero when he resides in the same universe as other incredible beings like Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman and (insert your favorite DC superhero here)? When you look at Green Lantern next to these amazing heroes, he really doesn’t seem very special at all. So why on Earth is he my favorite superhero? The answer to that question is simple: Green Lantern is my favorite DC superhero because I can relate to him very well.

Yes, I know that sounds insane. How can an average college student who struggles just to pay rent relate to a green superhero? That’s another great question, but before I can answer it I need to explain who Green Lantern is for those who are unfamiliar with him. Green Lantern was once a normal human being with no special powers, but one day he was given a green alien ring that allowed him to harness the power of his will. As long as he was wearing this ring, he could create temporary constructs of anything he wanted. For instance, if he focused on using his ring to construct a hammer, a green hammer would appear out of thin air and stay there until he stopped focusing on it. He could then make that hammer do whatever he wanted it to do. When he stopped focusing on it, the hammer would disappear and no trace of it would be left behind. Thus, using his ring, Green Lantern could create and use anything he wanted. The only limit to what he could create was his willpower. If he was strong enough to will a construct into being, then it came into being.

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, I can explain just what it is about Green Lantern that I find to be so relatable. In order to understand my thinking here, you must understand something about me: I like to work alone. Now, that doesn’t mean that I like to sit in a confined cubicle and have no human interaction while I work for hours on end. In fact, I love being around other people at any time, including when I’m working. What that statement does mean is that a lot of times, I don’t want any help from others while I work. As I work on a project, I sometimes find myself thinking “I can do this, I don’t need help.” If I come across a difficulty, I think; “I will do this all out of my own strength and power; I just have to work hard enough to push through my difficulties and then I can achieve anything.” This tendency to reject help is so bad that, every once in a while, it leaks into my walk with God. When this happens, I start trying to overcome all of my sin and be a good person on my own.  I fight and fight and push through using my own power, and, occasionally, I manage to fight my way past a little sin. However, no matter how hard I try, I always end up facing a temptation that is far too strong for me and I fail.

That evil habit of trying to do everything through my own willpower is exactly how I relate to Green Lantern. See, a lot of times he believes that he can use the green power of his will to overcome any obstacle without help. This belief leads him to try to fight off all of the bad guys on his own. Sometimes, he does manage to take down some of the smaller, weaker villains without help, but eventually he gets tired and worn out as he fights on his own. And just when he is getting more and more tired, a powerful villain begins to attack and he finds that he can no longer fight alone.

So, what happens when Green Lantern is getting beat up and can no longer fight on his own? He calls in the Justice League, of course! That way, the group that is more powerful than he is can come alongside him and help defeat the evil he is fighting against. In the same way, the only way that I can fight against my sin is to call on a power greater than myself: God! Learning to call on God and trust his mighty power and grace is a crucial lesson for Christians. We cannot fight temptation all on our own, but we do not have to! God has offered His grace and power and, like the Justice League swoops in to save Green Lantern, He wants to swoop in and save His children. Paul shows how wrong it is for us to try to overcome our evils on our own in Ephesians 2: 8-9 when he says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” We must stop trying to do everything on our own. God has offered his grace, and all we have to do is accept it.

Our willpower will never be enough to overcome sin, but that is okay because we have help! We are forgiven and no longer have to try to fight against our sin alone. All we have to do is accept what God has offered to us. He is so much more powerful than the Justice League, and he loves those whom He has created even more than the Justice League loves Green Lantern. It is only by His awesome power that anyone will ever be able to take on one of the most devious and evil villains of all time: sin itself.

Written by Nathan

Image credit: http://screenrant.com/new-green-lantern-actor-batman-superman-amboyer/

Door Number Three

For the longest time, my favorite part of the movie National Treasure[1] was the beautiful moment when Riley hugs the bluish green man with the strange goatee. I’ve always found that gesture to be pretty relatable because I’d like to think that if I were in that situation, I’d react the exact same way. A few months ago, though, a different scene became my favorite because, of all things, it drastically rocked my prayer life. It’s not a big moment, so if you weren’t paying attention, you might have missed it. In this scene, Ben Gates has just been arrested for stealing the Declaration of Independence (among other treasonous crimes) but the document, and the real bad guy, Ian, are still at large. He and FBI agent, Sadusky, are having a little chat.

Agent Sadusky: So, here are your options: Door number one—you go to prison for a very long time. Door number two—we’re going to get back the Declaration of Independence; you help us find it, and you still go to prison for a very long time. But you’ll feel better inside.

Ben Gates: Is there a door that doesn’t lead to prison?

Agent Sadusky: [Laughing.] Someone’s got to go to prison, Ben.

This is a perfect illustration of my former prayer life. Thankfully, none of my doors have ever led to prison, but with the kind of attitude I had towards prayer, I might as well have put myself in a spiritual penitentiary.  When I brought things before the Lord, I presented Him with choices, my choices. For example, if I was faced with a difficult decision I would assess the situation, develop different strategies, and then ask God to help me chose the right one. If I or someone else in my life was facing a trial, I would ask the Lord for a resolution to the situation or strength to survive until the end. I never asked Him to show me His direction for my decisions; I just acted surprised and amazed when things ultimately worked out better than I had anticipated. I never considered that trials might need to carry on or that there might be blessings within the storm; I just asked God to take me to the other side. Like Agent Sadusky, I saw minimal choices with even fewer end results.

Don’t misinterpret my point—God wants us to ask Him for things, it’s a biblical concept (Matt. 7:7, Jn. 16:24, Phil 4:6). But chances are, if you’re like me and you have a tendency to pray only for the things you can see, the dreams you can envision, or the plans you can create, you’re limiting your understanding of who God is. His thoughts are not our thoughts, which means His ways are not our ways; He promises to go above and beyond anything that we could ever imagine (Is. 55:8-9, Eph. 3:20). He invites—no, commands us—to pray like we believe these things to be true about His character.

God is not a God of two doors. He is not a God of three doors either, but even then, National Treasure still has a thing or two to remind us about prayer. “Sadusky,” Ben says later in the movie, looking out from the deck of the U.S.S. Intrepid, preparing to jump, “I found door number three, and I’m taking it.” Spoiler alert (I told you to go watch it): Ben’s door didn’t lead to prison. It led to fame, new discoveries about American history, money, and a cute wife. If you take that metaphor too seriously, it becomes the prosperity Gospel, but if you look at the big picture, it should encourage you to pray with faith. God doesn’t need our suggestions or solutions; He already has eternity under control, and it’s going to be a lot more awesome than if you and I planned it out. What He wants is for us to honestly pour out our hearts in prayer and surrender them completely to His will. So even if you can’t see it, the next time you pray, no matter what’s on your heart, pray for door number three.

“Behold, I am about to do something new; even now it has begun. Can you not see it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the wasteland” (Is. 43:19).

[1] If you haven’t seen the movie National Treasure I’m going to have to politely ask you to stop reading my blog and go take care of that real quick. It’s on Netflix, so you have no excuse. I’ll be here when you get done in two hours and eleven minutes.

Written by Savanna

Image credit: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/95/d6/92/95d69258e8edd909a53b11db3ba7a8de.jpg

Quote credit: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0368891/quotes

Remember

It was years in the making. For nearly a decade, the British Parliament and King George III had passed tax act after tax act on paper goods, legal documents, sugar, currency, and tea. The pleas from the oppressed American colonies fell on deaf ears, and everything was made worse by the Boston Massacre in 1770. Tensions ran high. The first Continental Congress met in 1774 to try and make peace with the king, issuing statements and letters to Parliament begging for an end of the relentless taxation. The correspondence was ignored. The king instead passed “The Intolerable Acts.” Soon, American colonists began calling themselves patriots. There were calls for armistice and calls for independence. The colonies were divided. Then the British troops marched on the towns of Lexington and Concord to capture the American militia’s rifle and powder supply. The Revolution had begun.

In the ensuing war, the American patriots displayed their very best qualities of tenacity, patriotism, and heroism. General Washington led his troops bravely into battle. John Adams fought for independence in a stubborn second Continental Congress. Thomas Jefferson labored over his writing table to produce a declaration to Britain. Militia couriers ran back and forth across enemy lines to deliver messages. Citizens tended to battle wounds and gathered supplies for the Continental Army.

Then came July 2, 1776. In a little room in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress declared their breaking off from Britain. Two days later, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

Since then, every year on July 4, the United States of America celebrates Independence Day. Flags wave. Firecrackers go off. Parades rumble through the streets of American cities. Everywhere, there is a sense of pride and patriotism. It is a time to remember our nation’s history and the struggle that produced it. The Fourth of July is a time of immense pride, but it doesn’t have to be celebrated only on that day. We can remember the sacrifice of our American Founders every day. We have been born in the greatest country in history with the greatest freedoms on earth. We are allowed to choose our own destinies and paths in life, and, most importantly, we are allowed the freedom to worship the one true God without persecution or condemnation. This is the greatest freedom.

We are blessed here in the United States. We are free. God’s hand is on our nation, and we should be thankful. As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, remember the history of America. Remember the men and women who fought for freedom to create a nation based on God’s principles. Whenever you see an American flag, remember.

Written by Jenna

Image credit: http://hhill.wonecks.net/files/2016/01/americanflag-1qe9980.jpg