Emerging: Out of the Shadows of Voluntary Darkness (Introduction through Chapter 1)

Earlier this summer, I announced that I was undertaking the task of writing a book. Although this has been a crazy busy Fall, I have some of it written. And because I write a blog, I have decided to "blog my book." It is a new way to get print out there and create an interest. Why not, I say, because social media allows for things to reach people quicker and wider than ever before.

So here goes. My prayer is that this book speaks to people who need to be spoken to. It is not always the unreached, non-Christian people groups that are the ones we need to only be focusing on. Often, it is the person next to you, a family member, a friend...and sometimes even yourself. For a very long time, I didn't realize I was lost because I never understood what it meant to be found. Mine was a voluntary darkness because I had access yet I chose to do life my own way. They say the hardest group of people to reach are those who go to church yet aren't saved. I totally can see why that happens. We grow up with what the world says "church" is yet we forget that God doesn't dwell in the church anymore. He dwells inside His people. We aren't people who go to church on Sundays. We are people who are the Church everyday.  

The most important question to ask yourself is this, "If you were to stand before God today and He asked you why you should be let into His Heaven" what would your response be? There is only one one right answer and I pray that as you read this book, you will discover what that right answer is and whether or not you find yourself living in darkness or in the Light.
You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light. - 2 Samuel 22:29
As I embark on this journey it is somewhat ironic that today is the fourth of July – a day that represents independence and freedom. We often do not fully comprehend the meaning of freedom because most of us have never thought of ourselves as being oppressed. This is exactly where the devil wants you. He wants to lull you into a fall sense of independence. He wants you to have an “it’s all about me – I can do it myself” attitude.
It’s a lie!
The more independent we think we are, the less independence we actually have. And, not only are we enslaved, we are serving the wrong master.
We live in a dark and twisted world. The news alone can cause even the strongest of men to have nightmares. But we need to know that the world has already been overcome by good.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  – John 16:33
As I write these words, I am humming the music to Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” Perhaps you know the song. It’s about a girl who has an abusive, alcoholic daddy who has just beaten up her mom again…on the fourth of July. She grabs some fireworks and lights up the sky (and I am not sure what else) and ends up at a county home. As I read the lyrics today, however, there’s a line that jumped out at me. It says, “But mama was proud and she stood her ground. She knew she was on the losin’ end.”
Not exactly mama.
We are able to have victory when we are standing with the Victor…the One who went before us and ahead of us.
I do not know where you stand in your faith, but as you read on, I hope that something within you stirs. There will be some tough questions and even some tough answers.
Ultimately, the independence you think you have ends up at the same crossroads...whom shall I follow? There are only two paths. One path leads to Light and the other path leads to darkness. We have the choice. And we have to choose.
Sadly, we often voluntarily choose the path that leads to darkness because we have done our best to block out the Light.
This is where I found myself.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6
Raised with a Chance
I do not want this book to be all about me, but I do feel it is necessary to give a little background of where I came from and how it got me to where I am today.
I was raised in a home that went to church most Sundays for some part of my younger years. I remember always being one of the last families to leave because my parents were responsible for counting the weekly offering. As a young child, I do not remember complaining much about going to church. I even spent every Saturday for two years in middle school going to confirmation classes so I could receive my First Communion.
However, even though I went to church and we said a blessing before dinner, I do not remember us ever having a Bible in my home. We never read from a Bible at home. When I was confirmed as an eighth grader, my parents gave me one as a gift. It was the King James Version so I had a hard time understanding the language in it. I might as well have been trying to read it in its original Hebrew. I arranged all my cute bookmarks and cards I received for my confirmation neatly in my Bible and then I placed it back in the box it came in. And there it sat...for years. That thing never came out of the box.
People in my church did not bring Bibles to church with them. They were supplied in the pews and everything we needed for the service was neatly printed on a church bulletin. We recited creeds and the Lord’s Prayer. We sang songs from the Hymnals. The pastor preached, but I never saw anyone taking notes. Ever.
I did see lots of people trying to stay awake. I even saw the occasional head drop down or back and even heard the occasional snore. But, I never saw anyone taking notes. Ever.
As a girl, I loved the church. I loved being at the church. There was a peace that surrounded me when I was at church. I am so thankful that I was exposed to church at a young age because that was one less obstacle I had to overcome when I finally made the choice to run home to Jesus.
One hour Christians
We were what I like to call “one hour a week Christians.” We went to church on Sundays and service did not last more than one hour. Ever. It was like clock work. There were not open prayers. We were not in a denomination that held an invitation. So other than the random infant baptism and the once a year confirmation class graduation, we never saw anyone moved by the Holy Spirit to stand up and expressly affirm Jesus as Lord and Savior. I never witnessed people giving their lives to Jesus. I never witnessed changed lives. Ever.
I was never taught what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I knew of God, but I never knew or understood the enormity of what Jesus had done for me on the Cross. I thought only the pastor was the one who spoke to God in such an intimate way.
I remember as a teen being very envious of my Catholic friends. I always thought they were “more religious” than me because of their commitment to their faith. They lived in what appeared to me in more of a community than my fellow church-goers. As I grew, I remember thinking the same thing about the Jewish people that I came across. Their whole lives seemed to revolve around their faith and they were not afraid to discuss it and in fact, boasted about it in their everyday lives. I desired that, but did not know how or what it looked like for me.
I was holding the key to community, to a lifestyle of oneness and I did not even recognize it. And I lost that key…for many years.
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. – Matthew 5:15
The Light Faded
We do not lose our electricity often, but when we do, I go into full-on incapacitated mode. We cannot do anything. And of course, I can never find a working flashlight! Everything we use works on electricity…our telephone, the chargers that run our electronic devices, our air conditioning/heating units, lights, refrigerator, garage door…everything. If the power is off more than an hour, you can bet that the Olsons are on their way to stay at a hotel until power is restored. We just cannot figure out how to make it.
Every time our power is restored and life is back to normal, I always reflect on how difficult it must have been for people before electricity or even how difficult it is for people today who do not have access to electricity. Although I think I would enjoy more hours of sleep (because how much can you really get done by candlelight anyway), it seems like a hassle.
Far too often we lose sight of the power of light (no pun intended). It has become such a convenience for us that we take it for granted until it is not there.
The verse Matthew 5:15 has been turned into the cute little children’s song, “This Little Light of Mine.” It’s a favorite and the hand movements make me smile and giggle. Even young children get the fact that we don’t “hide it (the light) under a bushel?” “No! I’m gonna let it shine.”
As a child, our house failed to let our Light shine. We not only hid it under a bushel, we let it flicker out. We extinguished the Light Jesus was trying to offer us.
Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19
Honestly, I do not know if I quenched the Spirit because I do not think I possessed the Spirit, but I do know that I grieved the Holy Spirit.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30
I had been given access to the holy place where God himself dwells among His people and I failed to acknowledge Him. Regardless of the choices my parents, friends and other people were making, I slowly allowed His Light to vanish from my existence…even as He tried to turn the power back on many times.
What about you? What is your story? How were you introduced to your Light source? Are you staying put with your Provider or are you shopping around for better deals that work for you?
Father, forgive me when I have totally missed the mark. Forgive me for trying to say it was someone else’s fault for my life choices. Father, forgive me when I have failed to acknowledge you as the source of Light. Thank you for your grace and mercy that has allowed me back into your fold. May my Light never be hidden or extinguished again. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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