My New Job as a PHM: On pulling all-nighters, chicken salad, and hashtags (Part 2)

PHM.

Don’t you love acronyms? True story: I have to go look them up on google or urban dictionary most of the time. This was particularly true when I worked in CPS (don’t worry, you can figure that one out by the hyperlink). A job which, by the way, I recently quit. Ah yes, you see, last week I wrote about that huge change in my life. This post is a sequel to that one, but it can stand alone as well.

So anyway, back to acronyms.

In that last post I referred to my new job as a “PHM”, and so I’m ready to share the meaning of this acronym with you…. are you ready? Okay…

Professional Help Meet.

I first got introduced to this term “Help Meet” from the book Created to be a Help Meet by Debi Pearl. I will warn you that this book is not for everyone. It’s quite traditional when it comes to the role of wives in the household, and I anticipate that many women will fine and have already found it limiting and old fashioned. This does not happen to be my opinion.

True, I was skeptical at first, but in “testing” out being a true Help Meet, I have found it to be absolutely Biblical and amazingly successful in the context of my own marriage.

Anyway, the term “Help Meet” is interpreted is to mean that God gave Adam Eve: a helper who was fitted to meet his needs. But when looking at it’s Hebrew translation–Ezer– it actually means something much more profound and powerful.

Ezer is commonly translated as “help”, but has a much deeper meaning. In her book Eve and the Choice Made in Eden, Beverly Campbell explains,

“This word is a combination of two roots, one meaning “to rescue”, “to save,” and the other meaning “to be strong.”

Diana Webb in her book Forgotten Women of God also clarifies this word by explaining,

“The noun ezer occurs 21 times in the Hebrew Bible. In eight of these instances the word means “savior”. These examples are easy to identify because they are associated with other expressions of deliverance or saving. Elsewhere in the Bible, the root ezer means “strength…. the word is most frequently used to describe how God is an ezer to man. “

dim fog mirrorThe other term, “Meet”, has a little trickier Hebrew translation, but with some research, I have discovered that it not only means “suitable” or “fit”, but “mirror opposite”.

When you really think about this in regards to males and females biologically, this is true. I mean, I don’t want to be graphic, but just the sexual organs alone are mirror opposites, and because of this, they fit perfectly together in order to create life.

Another thing to note: opposites are always equal, aren’t they? They are totally different in qualities and oftentimes function, but they are always equally themselves.

Many have interpreted the role as “Help Meet” as a diminished position of servitude unequal to that of the husband or man.

But I have come to understand Genesis 2:18 as something like the following, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a companion of strength and power who has a saving power and is equal with him.” (Beverly Campbell)

This is the job I have right now:

A Companion of Strength and Power who had Saving Power and is Equal to my Amazing and God-Fearing Husband.

Awesome job title? I know, right?

See, I have begun to help my husband, Dennis Florine, with his career. My job has no real title, as it encompasses so many different jobs– filming, editing, promoting, posting on social media, choosing outfits, booking photo shoots, setting up shows, editing posts, blogging, writing emails, offering advice, preparing meals while the man rehearses, making posters, updating the website, organizing papers and mail, making phone calls, communicating with designers and venues and merch options, creating album covers and artwork, taking photos, and a ton of other things that we’re still figuring out–it’s only been one month as a PHM!

What I am finding, is that my skills, talents, and general likes are exactly mirror opposites to Dennis’, which makes us a very powerful team when we’re working together.

I am also finding that Dennis’ primary love language, Acts of Service, is actually more specific than just doing laundry for him or cleaning up after dinner (which we both do, BTW).

He feels most loved when the Acts of Service for him are helping with his career-his work-his life calling. It makes him feel supported, understood, and believed in.

So, in addition to using my saving powers of strength as a wife and women of God to help his career, my hubby is also feeling super-hard-core-crazy-loved, which, as you can imagine, is pretty awesome for our marriage!

And you know what?–God is so good!–I’m finding so much satisfaction out of this! 

Whether it’s gaining new followers on D’Flo Productions’ twitter page by using specific hashtags, making healthy chicken salad from scratch that Dennis now wants to have on hand at all times, choosing his clothes for his next headshot photo shoot (pics to come soon!), or pulling and all-nighter editing the newest Flo’s Friday Flick, I am feeling so much more appreciated, loved, helpful, fulfilled, and joyful than I ever have!

If you know me personally, you probably know how hard this past season has been, and if you don’t know me, you can read about it in this post.

If you know me personally, you probably also know how hard marriage has been, and if you don’t know me, you can read about that in this post and this post.

Needless to say, this season is very welcomed in the Florine household. All-nighters, chicken salad, hashtags, and everything in between!

You can see our journey on the D’Flo Productions website, facebook, and instagram. Keep up with the story God is creating through our marriage and my new job as a PHM!

Do you have a non-traditional job? How would you describe it? How has your view of wifehood changed since you got married? If you’re not married, what questions do you have about the role of a wife?

My New Job as a PHM: On quitting teaching, walking labyrinths, and foolishness (part 1)

A lot has changed in a matter of about a month.

I quit my job. That was probably the biggest thing.

No longer am I a CPS teacher on the Southside of Chicago. In fact, no longer am I a teacher at all, unless you count fitness classes, but I don’t. No longer am I getting a large paycheck every 2 weeks either… which is also quite an adjustment.

Can I be honest? Oh, you know I will be no matter what you say– I’ve been wanting to quit my job at CPS since about the second week of school this past year. Going there everyday for the rest of the school year was very hard for me. There were days when I could barely keep it together before the kids left, and sometimes when I had to physically leave my classroom to keep from breaking down in front of them all. The end of the weekend was hard, and so was the close of a long break. Getting out of bed was hard. Walking through those doors was hard.

But do you know what as harder?

Actually making up my mind to leave. 

That was way harder.

“I am not a quitter.”

— This is what I kept telling myself day after day. But inside my soul was crying out. Inside I knew that I could be so much more alive and so much more fulfilled in a different environment, doing a different kind of work– a different calling.

After wrestling with God about this for month after month, I finally felt it deep down in my bones: the only reason I would be staying is for the financial security; I was afraid to leave only because of the pay cut it would mean for me. Was that a reason to hang on to a draining job that was quickly squeezing the life out of my passion? Would staying be truly acting out of my identity in Christ?

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out “Abba! Father!” The spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” -Romans 8:15-16

My heart burned with the conviction that God would be with me, wherever I went and whatever I was doing. Being a CPS teacher was a calling— for a time— and leaving my job as a CPS teacher was also a calling–for this time. I couldn’t live as a true Child of God if I was acting out of fear– being a slave to it, and in doing so, a slave to my identity as a teacher.

I mentioned before about how God took my identity away from some things, and so doing, healed me of a 7-year-long battle with bulimia, and so I knew that if God wanted to take away my identity from the role as “Teacher”, then some serious healing or blessing would probably follow. See, whenever He takes our identity from something, he places it in Himself. This way, we are never defined by this world, but by He who overcame the world. This, in and of itself, is a blessing.

What could I do? God did not give me a spirit of fear! I informed my principal that I would resign from teaching at the end of the year. 

As more and more people “found out” about my departure from CPS, there were mixed opinions.

Some were proud of me, wishing they could do the same with their disliked job.  Some were confused– why would I quit a high-paying job that I was having such success in? Some were supportive, encouraging me to do what what was best for me and my family. Others were discouraging, implying that I was quitting and giving up too soon.

I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t let any of their opinions effect me. But after some Spiritual Direction and time of solitude at the Portiuncula Center for Prayer, I found myself ready to truly say “Goodbye” to my former job, be utterly grateful for every part of it– the good and the bad– and to fully embrace this new and refreshing season in my life.

At the Center, there is this blabyrintheautiful labyrinth that the hermits can walk while meditating or praying. There is only one way into the middle of it, but you must walk the entire interior of the maze. There are no dead ends and no ways to skip or even look ahead in anticipation. You simply have to follow the path, trusting that it will lead you to your destination.

This is how it is when you follow God. You cannot look ahead but a few steps. You cannot fear getting lost, because He is guiding you, and although you may stumble, you will not fall off the path (Psalm 37:24). This takes a lot of trust, and many people on the outside will probably just think you are taking the long way, going around in what appears to be meaningless circles and odd turns that make no sense. But…

“..the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” -1 Corinthians 1:25

What appears foolish to the world is often the wisdom of God. What appears like weakness to humans, often is taking the mighty strength of God. These facts have comforted me as I think about how my career change may be perceived by others.

All this to say that I now have a new profession.

I call it a “PHM”.

I’ll be explaining what that is in a later post, but rest assured that is it far more energizing, fulfilling, and live-giving than my previous job, and I am so grateful to God that this job is part of my journey on this labyrinth of life. Even if the rest of the world scoffs, I have the reward of my Savior shouting “Well done faithful servant!” in the far corners of my heart.

Stay tuned for more… I’ve got  to get back to work.

It Was Personal: Ferguson, ALS, Christian Genocide, and Tay-Tay

shutterstock_123429226

On August 12th at 11:30pm, a 17-year-old African American boy was riding his bike on 92nd and Dobson when a silver car pulled up and fired shots at his chest. He was rushed to the ER, and was pronounced dead just after midnight. The police report stated that this boy was a documented gang member, whatever that means.

On August 13th, my husband’s and my 3rd year anniversary, I checked the news and discovered that my former student, Tay-Tay, was that documented gang member, that 17-year old bike-rider, that boy who was shot in the chest and who was now dead. I discovered this, and all the color drained from my face.

I knew there were shootings in Chicago all the time, and I had even known of kids at my school that have died, and Mike Brown was just fatally shot by a police officer only a few days earlier. All of these facts made me upset, made me outraged, made me sad.

But I don’t know. Maybe it was because I knew Tay well. Maybe it was because I recommended him for my AP Lang class and I was looking forward to teaching him next year. Maybe it was because he came late everyday to my first period class his Freshman year but still aced all of the exams. Maybe it was because of the contrast between celebrating a marriage and celebrating a life that was taken too early.

But this, this rocked me.

I won’t go into too many details about Tay-Tay, one, because he was in fact a gang member, and pretty high up on the totem pole too, and I want to respect his family’s privacy. And two, because I have other things to discuss.

But I will say a few words to explain, and a few words to commemorate.

So, many of the kids out here, they are sort of forced into the gang-banging lifestyle. Yes, it’s true that they ultimately make their own choices, but joining a gang is a survival tactic in some cases. It’s part of life here, and honestly, you don’t have to do much to be affiliated with a gang. You just have to stay on a certain block. Where you live determines what gang you’re with. It’s really that simple sometimes. And because you’re automatically affiliated with a gang, it’s easy for you to get caught up in the activity of the gang and the hierarchy of it. It’s like a snowball effect. Or at least it can be.

I have reason to believe that Tay-Tay was a higher-up in the gang. He didn’t advertise it at school, but he didn’t need to. The kids that talk the most about it are usually affiliated, but not too involved. The ones who don’t talk, don’t talk because they are involved, and sometimes, heavily so. Tay didn’t talk about it. He was so intelligent and so talented, and he could play one hell of a game of basketball. He was cute, funny, and he had the best smile out there. He was one hundred percent a natural-born leader. I loved him like I love all of my kiddos. Yes, he made some silly choices, he had a little ‘tude some days, and his ability to show up late to class and out-test the ones who came on time drove me absolutely insane!– but I loved that kid. I really did. And now he’s dead.


I can’t help but connect Tay’s death to the world around me right now. People everywhere are getting up in arms about so many issues, from Christian genocide in Iraq, to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and whether or not to dump the ice or donate, to Michael Brown’s brutal shooting by a Caucasian police officer in Ferguson, to the journalist James Foley’s ugly and filmed beheading, and I can’t help but wonder if they are all somehow related.

And the funny thing is, as many times as I’ve seen people speak out to voice an opinion or simply to raise awareness, I’ve seen just as many twitter feeds and Facebook posts and even news quotes that bash the ALS Challenge, or that question the facts of Mike Brown’s case, or that deny the global relevance of any of the issues mentioned previously. We insist that one outrage is more outrageous than the other, and that the cause of another’s choice isn’t worth caring for as much as our cause is.

But even though we are quick the point the finger, and quick to reference another tragedy, the truth of the matter is, we are really just scared of our own selfishness. Scared that we actually might care about our own lives more than we care about the lives of those people who have suffered greater than we ever have.

When I found out Tay was killed, I was celebrating my anniversary. I wanted to have fun, to laugh, and to be romantic with my husband. But when I thought about him bleeding on the ground, scraped up from his fall off the bike, a bullet buried in his chest, in the same spot where he had buried into my heart, I felt utterly guilty for being alive. And somehow, I think that maybe we all feel that way when we look at a tragedy.

When someone with ALS’s body slowly shuts down while their brain remains the same, when a black man can’t walk on the street without fear that the law enforcement might take his life, when a pregnant Muslim encounters Jesus and is executed by her own government, and when a 17-year-old boy is gunned down while riding his bicycle home from a friend’s house, we are stunned with the guilt of still being alive.

So we rage, and point fingers at those who aren’t raging enough, or raging in the wrong way. We take personally what doesn’t usually effect us personally, and we feel better about ourselves…. for a little while.

Maybe this is a first world problem. Or maybe it’s just the byproduct of being raised in a middle-class, white, suburban family and being launched into a violence-riddled, urban neighborhood where my lack of color now is the minority.

Yes, maybe it’s my white-guilt… or my privileged-guilt.

But whatever it is, it’s the same reason I broke down last night after shots were fired a block away from us and we heard the shooter– the murderer of human life– running through the empty lot next to our house. All I could think about was Tay-Tay and the hand of God that protected me in this neighborhood. I sobbed into the humid air and demanded to know why God hadn’t protected him, and whoever else might have died tonight. 

We can’t help what race we are. I know. We can’t help what hereditary disease we contract or don’t contract. We can’t help where we were born, or how we were raised, or how much money our parents had, or whether or not our government is tyrannical or just. I know this. But I still think it’s unfair that we haven’t found a cure for ALS, that we haven’t found a cure for the plagues of racism, a cure for religious discrimination, a cure for white-guilt. I think it’s unfair that Tay-Tay, the boy with the bright smile and the big potential, had his life cut short while I’m still here breathing and teaching the class that he’s still on the roster for. 

And I think I’m more upset about Tay than I am about Ferguson, or about Christian beheadings, or about ice buckets. I think my outrage at his death has caused more genuine and heart-felt tears than anything in the news ever could cause. And maybe that’s cold of me to admit, but it’s true. I felt the loss of his life on a personal level.

I knew Tay. He taught me to value my students, even if they drive me crazy. He taught me to value my life, because it can be cut short. He taught me that sometimes the greatest injustices are the ones that aren’t publicized or argued or even remembered. He taught me all of this, not during his life, but he taught me this through his death.

So I guess what I’m saying is, we need to find out what all of this death and disease and destruction can teach us–what ALS, Mike Brown, and James Foley can teach us. And when we find out, we need to learn that lesson well and never forget it. We need to let it change us. Don’t get into a contest about who can be the most upset or who can donate the most money, and don’t let the privilege of being alive make you feel guilty when you witness those that aren’t.

Instead, value life–all life, especially your own. Because it is a gift.


Photo Credit: Tay's Memorial Obituary

Photo Credit: Tay’s Memorial Obituary

This past Saturday, I looked over the body of my former student. 

I didn’t have Tay-Tay in my class his Sophomore year, although he should have been in Honors English. But he would always pass by my classroom and give me a big ol’ smile, playfully asking, “you miss me Ms. Flo?” 

Yes, I miss you Tay. I will always miss you because you taught me lessons I needed to learn. You taught me that I am selfish, and that I will always care about the things that directly effect me more than I will care about the things that don’t. 

I miss you. And I think that’s the reason why your death hurts the most. Because your death meant a loss for me.  

It was personal. 

A Week of Fasting and Prayer: Day 7- Prayer for Respecting the Marriage Vows

This is the last day of my week-long fasting and prayer for marriages. The Lord has put these specific requests and prayers on my heart, and I have learned a great deal from being obedient to His calling to me. … Continue reading

The pieces of this messy walk

scattered pieces of a messy walk way... that's what my life appears to be sometimes...

scattered pieces of a messy walk way… that’s what my life appears to be sometimes…

Today I feel drawn to write again.

It’s been a while since I’ve been here putting pen to paper (so-to-speak), and it’s been due to a number of reasons, most of which I won’t get into today simply because of the monotony of them. But it seems like blogging and writing in general follow the usual pendulum that is my life: desperately seeking and craving consistency, but following a God who continually leads me by The Spirit, who doesn’t usually allow mundane routines to take hold of my life, even when I think I’d like them to.

I think it’s due to a craving for control. Women? Can you relate? I say women, but really it is a very human thing to want control: of people, of timing, of situations: of money… it’s a natural desire.

I look at some people in my life, who I am sad to say are not saved, and their life seems to be so consistent. They get up at the same time each morning, they work out (everyday without fail!), they go to work, they get work done, they come home, make dinner (everyday without fail!), and they watch their usual tv shows, and then they go to bed at the same time every night. They have their schedule to count on. It will always be the same.

I want that for myself sometimes, at least, I convince myself that I want it. I want to wake up each morning at exactly the same time, have an hour of quiet time without fail, get to work with everything prepared, use each of my prep periods wisely, have a lunch and bible study without interruption, work out for a hour at the gym at exactly 3:30-4:30, come home and prepare dinner for Dennis and myself, eat it, go to bible study, or spend time doing whatever it is I’d like to do, then go to bed at exactly 9:30pm and do it all over again the next day. Consistent work out, consistent bible study and prayer time, consistent work, consistent meals, consistent bed times, consistent wake ups. Consistency. I convince myself I want this so badly.

First of all, I know I cannot compare my life following Jesus to those that aren’t. The Bible is clear about comparing ourselves to others and longing for lives that do not leave room for His presence.

Second of all, I know that if I had that consistent routine that I think I want, I would become bored with it and feel that my life is meaningless (which it would be).

My life following Christ is messy, and I want to learn to be proud to say it. I have periods of time when my job and the kids I teach are so needy and important, that I don’t have time to make incredible dinners. Sometimes I go through a canned soup and crock pot chicken season. I have periods of time when my night owl husband needs me up late too, and I wake up later than planned so I have to listen to my “pray-as-you-go” podcast in replacement of my worship time. Sometimes I go through a season where my prayers are jotted down on post-it notes and not elegantly arranged in my beautiful journal that sits on my desk. Sometimes I’m all ready to go to the gym, but a little child knocks on my door and needs an apple and some Bible time, so I sacrifice the toned muscles I think I need for some quality time with God and His little children. Sometimes I feel I’m so emotional and messed up that I can’t even think about writing in this blog, and so I get out of the habit and months go by and comments go unread and suddenly I forget how to do this…

And I sometimes think to myself, God is consistent! He never changes! So why does my life seem so messy and unpredictable?! Why is everything up in the air and pieced together into weeks that don’t align and schedules that never stay the same? Am I just uncommitted? Do I have a lack of discipline? What’s wrong with me?

Then I realize that while the people, emotions, levels of energy, jobs, conversations, and all other earthly things in my life are completely inconsistent, it makes it so that all I have to lean on is The Lord. He is the one constant thing I can cling to in this life. My craving for consistency is really my deep desire to know Him. According to Malachi 3:6, “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed…”. What a beautiful picture. God’s consistency does prevent me from being consumed by my own business and “productivity” turned monotony.

Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. My life as a Christian and my walk with Christ is messy, yet He is not. My life as a Christian is not on a plateau; it’s an upward climb with tests and trials and bumps along the way. It’s not stagnant or stuck in a rut, but always moving and always flowing forward as Christ is.

My life as a Christian and my walk with Christ means that I can sacrifice my need to control my schedule and my time in order to live by the seemingly random promptings of the Holy Spirit. Because, although they may seem random, I know that God knows what He is doing, and this life I’m living according to Christ, is exactly the path which He wants me on.

So today…. The Spirit has called me to write. I’m not sure why or for what purpose, as I’m sure people have realized that I am far from consistent with this blog, but nevertheless, God has called me back.

It’s good to be where God calls. Even if it seems random and unplanned. The consistency and stability I crave is found in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning”.

“If God had given me her legs, I would be in deep trouble…”

We wear short shortsI glance over at the girl right ahead of me in line. She’s probably 16, wearing light blue-jean cut-off short shorts and a white tank top. Her hair is blonde, highlighted and thick, hanging perfectly straight down to her shoulder blades. Her skin is perfectly tan and her long legs are shapely and smooth. She is a classic high school hottie, and even at the ripe old age of 24, I am surprised to find that I am not in the least bit jealous when looking at her.

The past 15 years of my life have been, like most women, riddled with disordered eating and exercise habits, dissatisfaction with images found in mirrors, jealous comparisons to other women, and a general body-image funk which motivated many of my actions, feelings, and insecurities. In short, I’ve had a negative body image since the age of 11, when I asked my brother (the only member of the opposite sex who I felt comfortable even asking this kind of question to) whether or not I looked “hott” in my Spring Sing dress. An awkward question to ask a brother, to be sure, but all relations aside, I was desperate to know that my image was considered desirable. That would confirm that I was loveable.

Even at age 19, I would check the mirror in my peripheral, notice my “pooching” stomach or my “undefined” arms, and I would immediately check the latest new workout or diet program when I got to the nearest computer. And at age 23, I started the P90X program, hoping to finally attain the body that I had wanted and worshiped for nearly all my life.

Well, God put a stop to that. As soon as I started the program, I got sick. Then I recovered, started the program again, and I got injured. Then I started it again, this time being very careful about what kind of shoes I wore (my injury was foot-related), and God got to me in a way much more powerful than any physical ailment. He convicted my soul.

He reminded me of my long battle with bulimia, and how hard I tried to attain the “perfect body” and how this ideal image was not only stealing my health, but also stealing my worship and love away from Him. He warned me that if I were to succeed in obtaining the body I thought I wanted so badly, I would be successful in creating an idol of myself. I would worship my own body. I would be turning away from Christ.

God did not give me perfectly shaped, smooth, tanned legs. He gave me odd-shaped hips and stretch marks on my runner’s thunder-thighs, rock-hard calves, farmer’s tan, kitten-scratches, backstage-stumble scars, and accidental shaving nicks. But I realize now, looking at the girl ahead of me in line, ordering her drink from the cashier, that if God had given me the “perfect body” (at least the one that I had dreamed up in my head), He would never get my entire heart, nor the glory that He wanted from me. He would never get my testimony of a recovered bulimic/anorexic who’s burden was lifted by finding Christ. He would have never gotten my faith, love, life, and identity.

Also, if God had given me my idea of the “perfect body”, my pride would shoot through the roof. I would be like the stupid and adulterous woman in Proverbs, I would be conceited and altogether dependent upon my physical attraction rather than my character in Christ. I would worship my own body and want everyone else to worship my body as well, and when my body became old and wrinkled, I would be lost and alone, feeling worthless without my youthful beauty. I would be a totally and completely foolish and Godless woman.

How scary is that?

It’s good to be reminded of how close to complete and utter depravity I am. It’s good to be reminded that I am never too far away from the sin of idolatry ruling my life.

So as I watch the beautiful young girl walk away with her drink, I step up next in line to order, “If God had given me her legs, I would be in deep trouble!”, I say to myself. And regardless of what the “perfect body” looks like in today’s culture, or what it looked like to me during these past 15 years, I trust that God gave me a body perfectly fit to be His temple and His possession. Because after all, I wasn’t created in the image of magazine pictures, Spring Sing hotties, or Barbie. I was created in the image of my Lord and Savior.

And that, my friends, is a far better body than I could create by starving myself and doing expensive workout programs.

Jesus might have been less redundant if he spoke Greek…

Something that I find very obnoxious is redundancy. Often times I am convinced that it wastes time and makes me feel like incompatantcy is either suggested or found in one or the other party. So you can imagine my annoyance with this little story in John 21:15-18.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

Why the heck is Jesus so repetitive and redundant?!

He asks Peter (Simon) whether or not he loves him three times. And he tells him to feed or take care of his sheep the same amount of times.

Why?

“Well today I was gifted with a little insight into this mystery and I would love to humbly share it with you, if you don’t mind”, she said, sipping her Starbucks iced coffee daintily. (See what I did there? For Thirsty Thursday?)!

First of all, in the Greek translation, “love” has different words and meanings. I will give you a brief run down, but I would probably check out C.S. Lewis and his book The Four Loves if you’re interested.

  • Agápe means love in a “spiritual” sense. It often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of “true unconditional love” which is selfless; it gives and expects nothing in return. (The love of God).
  • Éros is “physical” passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. Romantic, pure emotion without the balance of logic. “Love at first sight”. Eros does not have to be sexual in nature, but describing love you have for someone more than just a friend.
  • Philia  “mental” love. It means affectionate regard or friendship in both ancient and modern Greek. This type of love has give and take. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity.
  • Storge means “affection” in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring. In fact, it is almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in “loving” the tyrant.

In the Greek translation, here’s how this conversation with Jesus would go down:

JC: Peter, do you AGAPE me more than these?

Pete: Lord, you know that I PHILIA you.

JC: Peter, do you AGAPE me?”

Pete: Yes, Lord, you know that I PHILIA you.

JC: Peter, do you PHILIA me?

Pete: (a little annoyed and grieved at being asked a third time) Lord, you know all things; you know that I PHILIA you!

JC: Then feed my sheep.

Now, Peter and Jesus didn’t speak Greek, so they wouldn’t have had this quibble over words, but what we have to ask ourselves is why did the writer, John, use the distinction between the two loves?

I believe all scripture is God-breathed and profitable, and I sure hope you do too. So, there is some reason as to why these two words are used in the Greek translation, and I believe is is to get us to understand a little more about who Jesus Christ is.

Jesus, after using one word for love, changed his words in order to meet Peter where he was at that time. Peter was clearly not at the level of Agape love (perhaps because he had just denied Jesus earlier), and so Jesus made the adjustment, came down to Peter’s level with Philia love while at the same time still making it clear that Agape love was the goal for his disciples.

Now, isn’t that beautiful? And isn’t that the way God always works?

love youHe points out the facts of what we should do. He will do that forever, and I sure am glad because I would really be lost with our clear direction! He shows us the kind of love He has for us and wants us to experience the deepest level of for His glory and for our own precious experience of Him.

…and yet… if for some reason we’re not there yet, if for some reason we just can’t get to that deep level in our spiritual walk, God does not just brush us aside and roll his eyes at how immature and stupid we are (even if we truly are immature and stupid). No! God comes down to our level and gives us a hand, gives us direction to get further, and loves us with all of Himself so that we might get to that deeper level.

Sometimes we are like Peter. We love God, we really do, but there is sin in our lives that is keeping us from really truly experiencing God as fully as He wants us to. But instead of sin creating an unbridgeable gap between us and God, Jesus bridges the gap for us. 

I mean, isn’t that why Jesus was sent down in the first place? To not only come down to our human level of experience, but to rectify our sin?

Peter sinned against God three huge times by denying Him in His final hour. This sin put a block up around Peter so he was not able to love God in the Agape sense. If Jesus, who truly deserves the full, selfless, godly Agape love, did not come down and adjust to accept his Philia love, I don’t think Peter would have gone on to do all of God’s incredible work as shown in the book of Acts. He would have no hope of even understanding how to get to Agape love unless Jesus gave him instructions on how to do so (“feed my sheep”).

Now, if God will do this for us, come down and meet us where we’re at, how much more should we do this for others?

Are you struggling with another believer who “just isn’t getting it”? Are you frustrated with your loved one who is stuck in sin or guilt or confusion?

Do what Jesus did. Get on their level. Accept where they are in their walk. Help them in their journey, not by pointing out direction from above, but by coming alongside them and showing them the way.

Perhaps you are the one who needs to be met at your level. Know and trust that Jesus is with you. His Holy Spirit is on you and will guide you to the next step further in your faith. You do not have to work your way up to God. In fact, you will fail miserably if you try! God will meet you where you are and take you higher, just as He did for Peter, Paul, the woman at the well, and countless others!

Today, for Thirsty Thursday, get thirsty for God’s love. His Agape love!

 

What happens when our dreams fade…

Sunday Scripture

What happens when our dreams fade… into different dreams?

I have always found comfort in verse 4 of Psalm 37: “Seek first the Lord your God and He will give you the desires of your heart”.

It sounds incredible, doesn’t it? Seek God, and he’ll make our dreams come true. That’s what my translation was.

And it’s true. God does give us so much, and many times He blesses us so that we can actually make our dreams a reality. However, I have found that this scripture has come to mean something very different to me in real-life application.

Before I committed my life to Christ, I wanted to be an actor.

God had blessed me with incredible opportunity and talent in this area, and so I figured that I had the “go ahead” from Him on this “desire of my heart”. So I devoted my first four years of college to refining my acting skills, learning how to act professionally and still make a paycheck, practice auditioning as an art form in itself as well as a way to land gigs, and building my resume.

Then I met the Lord Jesus Christ.

And slowly, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, my dream of becoming an actor just up and died.

I found that by the end of that same year I became a Christian, I had lost a tremendous amount of my desire to act. I didn’t even really care for it anymore and when I looked into what the future might hold for me, acting was not on my top priorities any longer.

But… I had always wanted to be an actor. Even as a little kid, God had blessed me with a flair for the dramatics; I would recreate and act out Disney movies with my friends and family constantly. Dress up and performance was my thing. It always was.

All of the sudden I didn’t really know what to do with myself. All of my friends who where my “acting friends” suddenly seemed like strangers; we no longer had anything to talk about or connect on. My professors and directors didn’t know what to do with me either and I was acutely aware of the disappointment I was causing those who previously knew me.

My dream was fading. It was dying. But why?

The answer is oddly simple. My dream of becoming an actor was indeed the desire of my heart, but the reason why I was not granted this desire (nor did I wanted to be granted it) was because I had never really gone after the first part of that verse….

“Seek first the Lord your God…”

Nope. Hadn’t done that until I really truly gave my life to Christ.

As soon as I became a Christian, God began to change and mold my heart, and in doing so, he altered the desires of my heart.

I no longer wanted to be an actor because it wasn’t what I was seeking first anymore; my priorities had changed, and so my dreams changed to include and become God’s dreams.

This is what truly happens when we seek God: His desires for us become our own desires because we are growing to become more and more like the men and women He intended we be.

If you are walking with Christ and seeking Him in all you do, you invite Him to change you. And He will.

Perhaps my new interpretation will be this: “If you follow Jesus, you’re dreams might fade, but rest assured that they will be replaced with a plan that is beyond your wildest dreams.”

How is God changing your heart’s desires? How have your dreams changed since you have come to know and mature in Christ?

What happens when we die, and does it even matter?

musingsRegardless of who you are, how old you are, or how you lived your life, you eventually will die.

Encouraged? I thought you would be.

Many people have contemplated about what happens to us after we die. Many are Christian, many are not. It seems all humans have an idea about how things should or should not be after we leave this world.

This, of course, brings about many questions: Will we be married in heaven? Is there a Purgatory? Who controls where we go? Do we have the same body when we leave this earth? Do we stay dead until the Savior comes back? Will we work in heaven? Is there really a hell?

The Bible says a bit about what will happen to us when we die, and what heaven looks like, but truly, it is very convoluted to the point that many have vastly different interpretations on what goes on in the afterlife.

And for once, I’m not here to discuss what the Bible says about this matter.

Today I want to ask you all an important question:

Does what heaven looks like really matter?

Jesus commands us to bring his Kingdom here on Earth. So why are we all obsessed with what heaven looks like or what will happen to us when we die?

To me, if one is concerned about the afterlife, it means one of a few things:

  • One: that person is clearly unsure of their salvation.
  • Two: that person does not trust that God is good enough to have fulfilled His promise to prepare a place for them.
  • Three: that person does not see a purpose in this life on Earth.

Now let me address all of these:

  • One: if you truly believe that Jesus is the Christ, the divine Son of God who is part of the trinity that is the whole God, then you are saved. You don’t need to worry about your salvation.
  • Two: if you believe that God is good, then you don’t need to worry about what heaven looks like. Simply trust that God will make a place for you that is better than you could ever hope to imagine, then move on.
  • Three: you were created to bring Christ to the world. This is why Jesus died for you: to bring His divine Kingdom to this world and make it a reality by living righteously and with great faith. This is an important mission that you need to not wish away into non existence or unimportance.

So, to sum it up, I’ll use Jesus Christ’s own precious words to us in Matthew 6: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear… Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

And in my own precious words: Stop focusing on the afterlife when Jesus has given you the gift of life to live NOW. Talking of and arguing over what happens after death is pointless and insights controversy that is unnecessary, and rather distracts from bringing the Kingdom here in this life.

We need to trust God. If He wanted us to know exactly what was going to happen to us when we die, He would have provided more details. My guess is that he probably wants us to have faith in His promises:

 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3)

You’ll be where Jesus is. ‘Nuff said?

Yeah, I think so.

From Crying in the Weeds to Planting Seeds

Something evil was lurking in my body yesterday morning… I was unsettled and unhappy, but the reason for such a sour state of being was not apparent. This feeling soon grew to need a reason for it’s existence, so I began to pick a fight with my husband. Having a very bright morning, he was not altogether pleased with my needless anger and frustration, so of course, we had a giant argument….. right before church. How many young couples have been in this exact same situation before?

When we first joined our church, we experienced this kind of spiritual attack every Sunday morning. It seemed as though the Devil was working very hard to make us too ashamed and angry at ourselves and each other to be committed to our place of worship. So, when this came up again, I knew deep down that Satan was trying to prevent something from happening… but I had no idea how hard he would be working to break me that morning…

Upon arriving at church, I sat and sulked in the car, not wanting to see my husband lead worship, then I got fed up with sulking (because let’s face it, sulking is no fun) and so I started praying. It was very hard to hear God. I finally made my way into the church, trying hard to blend in and not be noticed (although, being the only white red-faced girl with a runny nose and teary eyes, this proved difficult).

For the rest of the service, I kept getting hit over and over with reasons to want to run. Far away.

It wasn’t that people were being especially cruel or rude (except for one unfortunate occasion), but it was clear that Satan was working to discourage my efforts in contributing to my church. Being still green to church membership and still coping with the fact that not all Christians in the church are perfect followers of Christ (see my previous blog post), I felt heartbroken at being so discouraged by my own church. Somehow I felt that this wasn’t the way it should be…

I came home sobbing, telling Dennis I never want to go back and that if no one appreciates my work or my creativity, then I’ll just go, or then we’ll just go and start our own church!

I literally would not stop crying.

Dennis was very sweet considering I had been a jerk to him earlier that same morning. He told me that what I was feeling made perfect sense….. But God still has called us to this church….so in other words, cry it out, then buck up and get on with it.

I cried for another hour, then decided to be less pitiful and start making some lunch (by this time it was 3pm and our stomachs were growling rather ferociously).

Over lunch I felt the Holy Spirit stirring in my heart. “I told you to plant that garden for a reason Claire. You blogged about it, but have you gotten your hands dirty in that soil yet?”

“I need to plant some seeds today.” I told Dennis.

“I was just thinking the same thing…” He replied. Although he was speaking a lot less literally than I was.

I went outside and got the pots ready with dirt and took out the weeds around our yard. While I was getting dirty and sweaty, Dennis went to get some beer. I know. Not exactly what you were expecting. But we took the beer over to our neighbors across the street and asked if the kids could come over for Bible Study and dinner later in the evening, then hung out on the porch with them, watching the kids play with the water hose and eat icy pops.

Allyiah, Stewie, JR, and Brianna came over to help me make pizza dough. The whole while I spoke to them about treating one another with respect and how to ask for things politely. (JR and Brianna were not as fond of each other and the kids kept grabbing things around our house and from each others’ pockets). Nevertheless, we mixed the flour and milk and butter together and we rolled out the the dough into little roundish disks and I let the kids splatter tomato sauce over it, throw cheese onto every corner of the pan, and sprinkle seasoning onto the little homemade pizzas. We stuck them into the oven and set the timer, and then met Dennis in the living room for Bible Study.

He had chosen Matthew 13: the parable of the sower. We read together, talked about what the seed represented, and what each part of the ground was. Then we read John 3:16 and talked about Jesus. The kids asked a lot of questions, and after showing them a movie clip of “Godspell”, Dennis asked them if they wanted to pray “the prayer” with him.

Let me start off by saying that I am not an avid evangelist by any means. I myself am a new Christian and so I feel somewhat hypocritical asking someone to start believing and living for someone I took so long to find myself. I also have not been trained in any evangelical methods, and so the prayer called “the prayer” was also fairly new to me.

I watched as these four children sat in my living room repeating after me and my husband. Their eyes were closed, they were really talking to God, perhaps for the first time, and they were speaking words to invite Jesus into their lives.

At first I thought, “Well, they don’t really know what they are saying… these are just words”. But then the power of this prayer began to sink in. These kids were admitting that sin was in their lives, that sin controlled the world they lived in, and especially in Roseland, where they are witnesses to violence, drugs, and sex everyday. They were confessing that they believe in Jesus Christ, that He died for them and that they loved Him. They were even vocalizing a choice to follow God and to live for Christ.

I felt the frustration with my church melt away little by little and I felt a quite voice inside of me say “You have planted the seeds, and their fruit is better than any you could reap from your literal garden outside. But I have called you to be a harvester for these children.”

A week or so ago I wrote about God’s unquestionable assignment to plant a garden. Now, we did go out and plant some seeds after dinner with the kids, but what I think God was really alluding to was planting the seed of God’s Word in the hearts of these young children.

The Gospel of Matthew explains that children are as the Kingdom of Heaven, and that if we as adults, humble ourselves as children, then we will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. The more I study Matthew, the more I am convinced that the Kingdom of God is already here; John the Baptist spoke of it’s coming, and Jesus brought it with Him when he gave us the Holy Spirit and taught us how to pray and live. Many are still waiting, and many are not contributing to it, but regardless, it is here and I know that I want to be sold out for it. Like the man who gave up everything to purchase a pearl of great price, I want to leave all to bring the Kingdom to Roseland.

Little children are Kings and Queens in this Kingdom. The poor, downtrodden, and weak are Kings and Queens in this Kingdom. This Kingdom does not look like any other idea of a kingdom that you could dream of or see in books and movies. This Kingdom is for the least of these. The nothings, the lowlifes, the scum, the dirty, the struggling, the lame, the blind, the sinners desperate for change. Children, wide-eyed, innocent, trusting, and believing, are the perfect candidates for Royal Subjects in God’s Kingdom, and last night, with all six of us praying to Jesus, we brought it a little closer to our part of the city.

Proverbs 22:6 states “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is older he shall not depart from it”. Even if this world takes over this block, even if Satan tests these children, just as he tested me that same morning, and even if they stray into sin, God promises that they will not depart from it when they are older. I pray that Dennis and I can continue to train up these children with Christ as the center, so that they will become good soil for the Word of God.

I truly am amazed how God turns what Satan meant for evil into His goodness. I don’t think I would be truly as surrendered to Christ last night if I had not been broken down earlier that morning. I know that I can always trust that God will encourage me in the areas I lack stamina; He will provide refreshment in the areas where I am dry and rocky; He will churn and tend to my heart so that it is ripe and ready for harvest, and all will see the Glory of God through the fruit of not our gardens or our grocery baskets, but by the fruit of our lives.

And so, when God says “plant a garden”, perhaps He means literally, but perhaps He is speaking in another parable.