Reclaiming “Our Song”

our songIt’s a Monday evening, and I’m sitting at a coffee shop with my feet up on the seat across from me like I’m at my own home. I’m all cozied up with a good book, ready to tear off a piece of my butter croissant and wash it down with a sip of my soy Café au lait when I am startled by a song that begins playing through the speaker directly above me.

It’s my family’s song– yes– family.

See my mom, my dad, my brother, and I have our own song.

No, we didn’t write it or perform it, but it has always, as far as I am concerned, been about us… at least the chorus is. I can’t make much sense out of the verses.  

We are 1 person

We are 2 in love* 

We are 3 together

We are 4 each other

*the real lyrics are “2 alone”, but I have always thought that the singer said “in love”, and that’s part of why it makes it our song, so I will keep it the way I hear it instead of the way it is.

I remember when I first recognized this as our song. It was when my mom was acting all weird one day, trying to keep it from me that she was a few days late and thought she might be pregnant. She told me though, and my dad and I waited patiently outside of the bathroom while my brother played with action figures on the basement floor.

She came out and handed a little pink stick to my dad. He smiled with something that wasn’t quite disappointment, but wasn’t quite relief either. He looked at me and at my mom, and he drew us all in for a hug.

“We’re still ‘4 each other'”, he sang, emphasizing the “four” with his fingers. 

And that’s when I knew it was, indeed, our song.

I lost track of this tune and it’s meaning for my family when I was a teenager, yearning to be independent, giving anything to break free from the “4” that I had been a part of for my entire life. I wanted my own song, to march to the beat of my own drum, proverbial though it may be.

And thus began my seemingly endless obsession with music– the quest for “My Song”…I cycled through many:

Walk Over Me- Dirtie Blonde

Summer Skin- Deathcab for Cutie

I Need You To Know- Superchick

Redlight Pledge- Silverstein

Tool Sheds and Hot Tubs- The Straylight Run

And any Bright Eyes song ever written by Connor Oberst. 

(Just to name a few.)

But of course these changed as rapidly as my taste in music did, or my relationship status, mood, location, ect.

It’s not until now– now that I am part of my own new family, that I recognize this song again– the “4 each other” song that my immediate family claimed as their own for so long.

And I wonder if my parents, who originally dubbed the song as ours, still think of it as ours. Or if they stop at “we are 2 in love” now…

Because their daughter’s married off. Their son is about to move out (right Tom?). And we aren’t really “3 together or 4 each other” anymore. Because it’s not just us anymore. It’s more or less, but it’s not just us.

This brings about so many other questions having to do with growing older and changing family dynamics.

Like, when does my “immediate” family of mom, dad, and siblings, get renamed my extended family?

Like, when do my parents become the matriarch and patriarch of my family? What do Christmases start being held with them as the grandparents?

Like, what is my family song and what will happen when my daughter hears it at a coffee shot some random weeknight after she’s tried desperately in her past to break away from it? Will she be brought back by the same floating lyrics and simple melody? Or will she even remember “our song”?

I realize that many of the answers to these questions involve marriages occurring, children being born, and perhaps even some people dying. I realize that I am still very much a part of my family of origin, and always will be. But I also realize I have my own new family.

It began when I “broke free” and was… 

“1 person”

and it continued when I met and married my husband…

“we are 2 in love”

It no doubt will continue when we decide to have a child, and then we’ll be…

“3 together”

and perhaps another, and then we’ll be…

“4 each other”

I’m not sure what lyrics we’ll have to add in, as Dennis keeps insisting that we will have 17 kids (better get started soon, I say!), but you get the idea.

It’s funny that I fought to break free from this song, and now I’m headed back to it… Maybe it’s the type of song that gets passed down, you know? Like a husband’s last name. 

Or maybe it just needs to stay as a song of the past, reminding my brother and I of where we came from, and my parents of what they created.

I think we all need something we can both look back on to remember and take forward with us to our future, making it our own. Maybe this song is like that for me. Maybe it will always remind me of where I came from and what I want to create.

Maybe it will always be a part of my legacy. Or maybe I’ll forget it and only be reminded when I hear it playing on the radio– something I imagine will happen less and less as the song grows older.

But the idea of a family, whatever the size, being for each other, will not fade from my mind, even if these lyrics do. I’m finding that as I grow older (or grow up), this fact has become truer and truer.

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young had no idea they wrote my song, “Helplessly Hoping”, but I’ve cycled back to it nonetheless. Sorry, Bright Eyes– you didn’t make the cut this time.

“I Feel You Girl”: Sexual Assault, and Diana the Hunter of Bus Drivers

Last week a pregnant 24-year-old college student was walking to her car on a lunch break when she was approached by a man with a knife. He forced her into her car, made her drive a short distance to an ally, where he raped her, then locked her in the trunk of her own car before he fled the scene. This happened near Chicago State University, on 98th and Indiana, which is roughly 5 blocks from the school I work at. Continue reading

A Week of Fasting and Prayer: Day 1 – A Prayer for the Newly Married

20140602-183113-66673526.jpgMy heart is pounding as I grab the groomsman’s arm and walk down the walkway, between pews of wide-eyed guests. Somehow we make it down the aisle in one piece, and both assume our positions on opposite ends of the alter. I watch as seven bridesmaids follow me, all carrying bouquets and on the arm of a gray-suited groomsman. Then, the music changes and all of the guests stand and look towards the back of the chapel. From where I am, I cannot see my best friend walking down with her grandpa. But honestly, I don’t want to. Besides the fact that I’ve helped her get ready for the past six hours (so I know what she’s going to look like), I’m more interested in something in plain sight from where I’m standing. So, I’m staring at the groom’s face, to see his reaction when he catches the first glimpse of his bride in all her beauty and then again when they lock eyes, knowing that this is the moment when their whole lives change.

It’s this moment when you can see all anticipation, all love, all excitement, all fears, anxieties, and “am I enough?s” in the groom’s eyes, and you know that his bride has equivalent emotions running through hers, sometimes even in the form of tears. It’s then when I start tearing up as well, because I know what a huge commitment this is. I know what an amazing decision this is. I know these feelings, and I am so excited when others make the plunge into the incredible life-long commitment that is marriage.

In my week-long fast and focused prayer for marriage, it made sense to start with a prayer for the newly married–the newlyweds— mostly because I just was in a dear friend’s wedding this past weekend, and my eldest cousin was also married the same day.

I don’t have to imagine the excitement, joy, weight, and anxiety that this new commitment entails– I felt it on my wedding day and I feel it every time I’m at a wedding. It’s something that you don’t easily forget, especially when you take marriage as seriously as it is meant to be taken. Yet I don’t pretend to know these couples’ stories or how they came to this decision, or how it will effect them and shape them as a unit in the time to come. What I do know is that these newlyweds will need prayer. A lot of prayer.

And so, without further ado, here is my prayer for all of you newly married couples out there:

Lord,

I pray for the newly married couples that have entered into a covenant with You and with one another. I praise you and thank you that they have chosen monogamy in a world that says you can have it all and never have to be satisfied with one person. Lord, we know that You have made marriage a beautiful image and reflection of Christ and the church, and that as husbands are to love their wives sacrificially as Christ does the church, wives are to submit to their husbands respectfully, as they do to God, never sacrificing dignity or the quiet strength and beauty that you created so many women to have.
Lord, I pray that you encourage these young men and women in their decision and their commitment to love each other. Allow them to keep their vows in their hearts and minds so that they work hard to keep those promises. Give them grace when they don’t keep them, and teach them how to forgive one another. Show them your character so that they may become more like you in their marriage, as they learn more about one another, and as they learn more about themselves.

I pray specifically for the husbands. Lord, there may be times, especially in that first year, where the man feels that he didn’t ask for the kind of responsibility it takes to be a husband, and the head of a family. There may be times when he is tempted to be unfaithful, or to be harsh with his wife, or to just give up. He may feel like he’s disrespected and unappreciated, and can never win. Show him that these are lies from the enemy, and give him strength to push harder and stronger towards the love that you have called him to. Let him rejoice forever in the wife of his youth, and allow her to become his standard of beauty, so that he is not comparing her to anyone or anything else. Allow him to leave his mother and father completely, whether that be physically, emotionally, or financially, and cling to his wife. Give him the ability to be a servant leader and protector for his family, and give him fulfillment from this role.

I pray specifically for the wives. Lord, there may be times, especially in that first year, where the women feels that she didn’t know what she was getting into when she signed up to be her husband’s helper and to submit to him. She may feel that this makes her the “lesser” in the relationship, but Lord, don’t allow her to believe this lie that the enemy tells her! Encourage her in her role as a help meet, fit for her husband, and show her the beauty and strength that you created her to have. Lord, there may be times when she is temped to be unfaithful, or to disrespect her husband, or to just give up. She may feel that she’s unloved and unappreciated, and can never win. Show her that these are also lies from the enemy, and give her strength to push harder and stronger towards the love that you have called her to. Let her be satisfied by her husband, and let her be content with the man that God gave her. Giver her the ability to be her family’s irreplaceable manager, the beating heart of her home, and giver her fulfillment from this role.

Lord, I know that it can be easy, in the euphoric feeling of love for the other, to place the other spouse on a pedestal, and place them above you in their priorities. I pray that both the husband and wife do not fail to make you first priority. I pray that they don’t expect the other to be perfect, because I know that this only sets them up for disappointment, and the other for failure. I pray they instead recognize that they each are only human, and I pray you help them bestow grace upon the other, in understanding that, while the spouse is the top priority among human beings, they can never take the place that only You, O’ God, can fill.

Let those who are just married rejoice and be glad! For the husband has found a good thing in his wife, and the wife has found a good thing in her husband! Your word tells us this O’ Lord. Allow them to examine themselves more closely as a result of this relationship, and in doing so, recognize their faults, as well as their strengths and beauty. Please encourage them to hold onto this joy found within one another and within You, God, so that they will work through the hard times, knowing and trusting that the marriage covenant was the right choice and that they will be blessed. Lord, we know that your word tells us that a cord of three strands is not easily broken, and so I pray that these couples be encouraged to keep you at the center of their relationship. Show them how to love each other in their specific love language, teach them how to spend time together and how to encourage one another. Instruct them about how to speak with love to one another and how to express their deepest desires and fears to each other. Let them be one another’s best friend, and provide them with the deepest level of intimacy to share with each other.

Thank you for the newlyweds in our life Lord! I pray you prompt us to pray for them and prompt them to pray for one another, and to turn to you for guidance and strength.

In your Son Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.

What specific prayer has God laid on your heart for newlyweds? Share it here, so we can pray as well!

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Joy and Tears

I have to say, when I first saw that this book was written by a man, I was a little skeptical. Perhaps because I, being a pretty emotional woman, have been told by most men in my life, that emotions are not as necessary as I believe them to be, I did not want to be told the same thing again over 200 pages. I thought too, it might not demonize passionate or intense emotions, but it might consists of superficial trivialities that could be found in the “for dummies” or self-help section. I am so glad I was wrong!

“Joy and Tears: The Emotional Life of the Christian,” by Dr. Gerald Peterman, professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute, succeeds in carefully examining emotions from a Biblical standpoint, something I have not seen many authors do. Peterman explains emotions, which are often described as obstacles in the way of knowing God, as actual gifts from God! The emotional lives of Christians are just as important as our cognitive or even actual lives.

In this well-written book, Dr. Peterman works to dismantle the popular Christian myth that feeling has no part in our pursuit of Christ. He does so by explaining that emotions are found in scriptures themselves. How can Jesus weep with sorrow in the Garden, shout with anger in the temple, and rebuke his own apostles in frustration if He is without sin? The answer, to my utter joy, is simple: emotions themselves are not sin! But not to worry, Peterman is is quick to explain that while the emotion of anger may not be sinful, humans are highly capable of reacting to their feelings in a sinful way. He urges the reader to learn more about their emotions instead of pushing them aside, and to become aware of our internal convictions, because, in fact, this is what Jesus did himself. He even goes so far as to say that doing so will help us understand scripture. By becoming more emotionally engaged with the characters of the bible, we will be able to appreciate the Word of God on more than just a cognitive level. And, let’s face it, we can’t just rely on our own understanding to engage us with God.

With arguments and explorations of real life examples, Peterman comes to the conclusion that emotions are the natural responses to our convictions, and also can aid us in becoming more Christ-like. He explains how we can grow to view our emotions as logical, yet at times unconscious, reactions stemming from our internalized beliefs.

With practical advice about how to see our emotions in this way, “Joy and Tears” is geared towards helping Christians take productive, reachable steps towards becoming emotionally healthy. Any Christian, whether feeling void of emotion, or consumed with emotion, will be greatly impacted after this excellent read.

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“All In” by Mike Guzzardo book review

96918038This week I finished reading a book by Mike Guzzardo called “All In” from Moody Publishers. I received the book at no cost from the publishing company with permission to read and review it.

To be honest, I thought this was another book that was just going to tell me that if I want to get all of God’s blessings, then I need to totally surrender to him. However, the first chapter paints a picture of our walk with Jesus as a journey up a steep mountain (not unlike Lewis’s Great Divorce), and I very quickly realized how low I truly was on that mountain, and I began to read more fervently. James 1:22 tells us, “do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” And in many ways, this book encouraged me to do the exact same thing– it is a call to action! Our life as a Christian is not about making Christ one priority among many, but about making Him THE priority.

Mike writes of his testimony in depth when describing his teenage years and his choice between Jesus or the acceptance of others. At one of the darkest times in his life, he called upon Christ and fully surrendered to Him and hasn’t looked back since. If you are currently a teen, or have had difficult teenage years, you will identify with this part of the book. After we get to know Mike a little more and are prompted to truly decide if we want real surrender, Mike shows us that Satan is always looking for ways to distort our perception of God. We need to be able to catch Satan in his lies, and know the true and unfailing character of our Father. The more we meditate on God’s word, the more we grow to know Him, and the more we are changed from the inside out to reflect His character.

The book ends with asking if you are “all in” for Christ, and offers scripture and suggestions for completely surrendering to God. I highly recommend this book as a guide for for new Christians and a refresher for seasoned Saints. It’s a quick read with beautiful metaphors and meaningful illustrations which are easy to understand and relate to. This book is great for adults, but would serve as a source book for student ministries or a young adult small group.

What my cat has taught me about connection and people

As many of you may know, I have a cat. She is the cutest kitten in the world (in my high opinion) and I love her very much, even when she gets vicious in her playful-kitty mode late at night (she thinks that biting our faces as we try to fall asleep is a very fun game…)

IMG_1169Now when I really stop to think about the purpose of a pet, the purpose of Evee–that’s my cat’s name in case you were wondering, I can’t really express what that purpose is. Is it to have a little companion all to yourself? Is it to own something? It is for protection? Is it for friendship? To stay busy? To teach kids how to be responsible? To practice love?

What is the purpose of a pet?

In Genesis Chapter 1, God creates the Earth, then, along with a bunch of other stuff, he creates animals….

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so.God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God makes a specification between wild animals, livestock, and creatures that move along the ground. Wild animals are untamed, they are not the kind of things you would probably be able to train very well… they aren’t domesticated. Livestock is usually used for food or clothing (cows, pigs, sheet, and so on). But now what about these creatures that move along the ground? Are they tamable? Are they domestic? What category would say a Golden Retriever or a Calico fall under?

One thing is for sure though, God created them so that humans, men and women, would rule all other living things. So is the purpose of owning a pet simply to have dominion over them?

To be honest, I like having Evee because she fulfills a part of me that is designed for nurturing, a part of me that desires connection and to take care of another living being.

That being said, I have come to recognize how dangerous this can be.

1.) My innate design as a woman is to nurture, but the primary purpose of that is to nurture children, not pets. Granted, I don’t have children of my own, but I do have 90 some students that come in and out of my classroom that need a heck of a lot of nurturing on a daily basis.

2.) If I am fulfilled by connection with a cat, it can take away my desire to connect with other people. In other words: I can start to turn to playing with and loving on my cat instead of playing with and loving on the neighbor kids across the street who really need some love and attention.

3.) There are many people, in not just the world, but in my own neighborhood that need a lot of taking care of. There are a lot of poor, sick, homeless, needy, uneducated, undernourished, hungry, and impoverished people living all around me. They truly need taking care of, and if I’m already feeling good about myself because I fed my cat and cleaned her litter box this morning, then will I be as apt to feed and clean the homeless man outside of the post office on my way to work?

Now I’m not saying that I want to get rid of little miss Evee. You all already know I love that cat to death! What I am saying is this: we need to be careful about where we place our caring, loving, and nurturing attention.

Yes, kittens and puppies are cute; it’s pretty easy to love them to pieces and give them treats, and pet them, and show them a ton of affection and attention. But as Jesus said in Matthew 10: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Many times we walk by a homeless person on the side of the road and avoid making eye contact. Many times we see dirty, sloppily-dressed kids and turn our nose up. Often we see people starving for attention and categorize them as annoying; we walk away and say we won’t pay them any mind. But when a stray kitten winds up on your porch, we bring her inside, dry her off, cuddle her, and give her some food and drink. When our puppy makes a mess in the mud, we wash him off and get him nice and even spend big bucks on a nice grooming. And when our pet wants our attention, meows, barks, or squawks, we pet them, give them treats, and play with them.

Why is it so easy for us to connect with our pets, but it’s so hard to connect with people who really need it the most?

Isaiah 58 gives us clear instructions about how we are to connect with one another as people:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injusticeand untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed freeand break every yoke?Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them,and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?Then your light will break forth like the dawn,and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you,and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

Now these are “if-then” statements people. It’s a cause and effect that God is explaining. IF we end injustice, free the oppressed, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, and welcome other people into our own homes, THEN we will be healed, be righteous, see God’s glory, and the Lord will answer us when we cry out for help or guidance.

Now I know this seems kind of silly, analyzing why we have pets and if they detract from our love of people, but it’s only because I take the scriptures very seriously, and it doesn’t seem to have much in there about loving little cute fuzzy animals, who are, frankly, pretty easy to love. Rather, the scriptures have a lot in there about loving people who are hard to love.

I see a lot of people, including myself, who care very much for their pets, and I don’t think that’s bad at all. But there are a disproportionate amount of people who are also inviting the homeless into their house, feeding people who need some nourishment, giving away clothing off their own backs to kids who need it, or helping others get out of the cruel cycle of prejudice, poverty, or oppression.

Jesus says that people are worth more than sparrows, implying that people are worth more than cats, dogs, and guinea pigs as well (I don’t think he was strictly talking about only birds). So if that’s true, then I need to be caring for and loving people more than I care for and love Evee. If that’s true, I need to be getting my need for connection fulfilled through other people, not my kitten.

When I see a kitten meowing out in the rain, I think “awwwwe poor little kitty-cat!” and I immediately want to adopt the creature and dry it off and feed it.

When I see a homeless man out on the street corner with a cardboard sign getting drenched in the rain, why don’t I have a similar reaction? Why don’t I immediately want to take care of this poor human being, dry him off, give him some warm clothes, and feed him?

Which does your heart go out to? The man or the dog?

For this week’s Monday Musings, I really want your feedback.

What do you think? Do you have a similar experience with your pet or am I just a weird animal lover who needs to get priorities straight? Have you ever had these kinds of contemplations before?

“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.

My spiritual walk: from flipflops to tennishoes

broken_flip_flops

These are the shoes of a girl who is afraid to have the wrong opinions.

These are the shoes of a girl who lives a double life.

These are the shoes of a girl who is secretly terrified of success.

These are the shoes of a girl who cries out for reassurance and validation.

These are the shoes of a girl who looks in the mirror, becomes discouraged, and looses her lunch.

These shoes were made for an aimless walk. They were made to break at the slightest pressure.

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These are the shoes of a woman who can finally share her story.

These are the shoes of a woman who is now taking ownership.

These are the shoes of a woman who can enjoy food in the company of strangers.

These are the shoes of a woman who is learning what it is to love herself.

These are the shoes of a woman who is running after Jesus and will keep running until the ends of the earth.

The shoes where made for chasing after an amazing God who will lead me to Himself.

What shoes are you wearing on your walk with Christ? Will they hold out? Will they break? How will they help you on your journey?

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.

Monday Musings… and Satisfaction Guarenteed Part III

As I contemplate my previous posts on the Holy Spirit (check out my “series” category over on the side –>), I being to think about breathing more and more.musings

Breath.

It is the title of my blog. The art of breath.

And there is indeed an art to the way we live our lives and breathe, if you will, through them. Because breath is the sign of life. If we cease to breathe, we die.

In the same way, when we cease being filled with His Holy Spirit, we die spiritually.

Last time we met, I wrote about Spiritual Breathing as being a powerful picture that helps us experience moment-by-moment dependence upon God’s Holy Spirit.

Exhale: Confessing sins in the moment you become aware of it, agreeing with God concerning it, and thanking Him for His forgiveness. John 1:9 and Hebrews 10:1-25 explain that confession requires repentance, or a change in attitude and action, so this is a very real and yet symbolic way that we can acknowledge our own need for grace.

Inhale: Surrender control of your life to Christ, and rely upon the Holy Spirit to fill you with His presence and power. Allow God to put His plan for you above your own plan for yourself. Let your faith be bigger than any earthly desire you might have.

To be filled with the Holy Spirit is not like filling a glass with water. When we’re dry, our need is not to just “get more” of the Holy Spirit. It is not like a physical substance where we can just gather larger amounts of it if we want to.

No. To be filled with the Spirit is more like a sail boat’s sail being filled with wind. There is either wind, or no wind, and the goal is not to get more wind, it is to catch the wind. And likewise, when our own sails are filled with the Spirit, we also are able to move. Without the Spirit we are like that same sail boat floating in the ocean without any wind to propel it forward. sail boat

The Holy Spirit moves us to action. Not to our own plans and to-do lists, but to God’s plans for us. We must not attempt to fill up our lives with “things” to make us more “holy”. Instead, we must catch the Holy Spirit, breath Him in and allow Him to move within the depths of our “sailboat hearts”.

Exhale. Inhale. Breathe. Move.

… and that, ladies and gentlemen, is my Monday Musing of the week.