The Artist’s Collapse

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is a gift from God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

This is no obscure verse. There are cards and mugs and T-shirts and bumper stickers that probably have this verse on it. It’s great for encouraging one another, especially in those times (cough cough teen angst) when we question our worth, our existence, and our future.

I remember seeing it and reading it and coming back to it time and time again but as always, the Word of God always has something to say to the soul no matter how many times you’ve heard it. The ramifications of this verse are stunning; literally and figuratively. It’s huge! It’s almost unbelievable. It’s a compliment as big as God’s heart, and it’s so hard to take in. I have a hard time dealing with mortal compliments, that is, my response to them. How am I supposed to handle these words breathed from the God of all creation to me?

“Who am I that you are mindful of me?” asks the psalmist.

Here’s the usual breakdown of what this verse is actually saying:

1) If you are a human, we are told that each of us are masterpieces worth dying for.

2) We are chosen, and chosen well. We have purpose. We have a destiny. No one who has ever lived or will ever live, is an accident. No one is useless. Not only that, this purpose was carefully chosen long before you arrived.

3) Our salvation is a gift. This is the Bible turning backwards thinking right side up again. To us of course, the backwards part seems forward, and God’s forward seems backwards.

You do something to earn the reward, right? Not with God.

He gives first, now go do good work. We didn’t earn God’s gift, we can’t boast in our efforts toward it. But in truly receiving the gift of grace, our works and effort become a natural response of joy and gratitude. Natural. As if it were supposed to be that way all along. Right side up, right way forward.

Ours is a culture where chosen ones and heroes and destiny resonate so deeply with us. Most, if not every child has at least dreamed or pictured themselves as their favourite hero character. Maybe I’m an alien with powers that will develop in the near future. Maybe this body mark means I’m destined for greatness. Maybe my crazy old uncle has a double or triple life and will find me worthy enough to invite me into it. Maybe my family has a secret they will take to the grave and I’m about to join their ranks.

Maybe someday a mysterious stranger or mysterious circumstance will come knock at my door, tell me I’m chosen, present me with a purpose and turn my life upside down, but also make it so much more interesting.

I’ll be honest, with that last one I was initially thinking of Harry Potter or something like that, but reading it again… in many ways, isn’t it what we’ve been exploring in Ephesians 2:10 just now?

Sure, but that’s fiction, people have told me. Well how about an analogy, penned no less by CS Lewis in his book, The Problem of Pain, in which he answers the anxiety-inducing question, “if God is so good and loving, if God loves us, if God finds us precious and worthwhile, why does He allow pain and suffering into our lives?”

Not to belittle any painful experiences, but… well I guess I should just let him explain:

We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the ‘intolerable compliment.’

Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life — the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child — he will take endless trouble — and would, doubtless thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and recommenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumbnail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.

He goes on to show this love in a man’s despotic love for a beast or a pet, a father’s provident and venerable love for a child, and the inexorable love between husband and wife.

For the artist’s love for his work, it is persistent, according to Lewis. God’s love is persistent. It’s taken me a while to really believe the truth in Ephesian 2:10, and even now I haven’t plundered all its truth yet. But God is faithfully persistent in revealing it.

When all the other voices tell me what’s wrong with my body, my fitness, my intellect, my personality, my social image, my beliefs, my behaviour, whatever it might be… The cross tells me who I am.

Not that my identity is in religion, necessarily. Far from it. I am labelled under “Christian,” but its implications are far more interesting. The cross, and my faith in what was done on it, tells me that while I still deserved His wrath over my sin, God in all His glory and power died in my place because He loves me and thinks I am worth that cost.

Let me note that my revealing these voices is not to garner pity or validation… it’s not a secret cry for compliments. I rarely know what to do with compliments, it’s not my love language, if you will.

But the cross, the act committed upon it. That is love at its truest.

I love Lewis’ illustration of a sentient work of art. If we were to take the analogy a bit further, Christ’s incarnation would be like the artist being collapsed into his own creation, only to be scorned by it.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional painter is collapsed into a few two dimensional strokes of colour, and then blotted out.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional author is collapsed into a few lines of fiction, and then scribbled and scratched out beyond recognition.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional dancer is collapsed into pattern of movement, then practiced poorly, abandoned and forgotten.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional musician is collapsed into a simple melodious pressure wave, lost in a cacophonous symphony.

But the story isn’t over…

The painter, the author, the dancer, the musician, the creator… is so much more than their creation. Immeasurably more, as our friends at Rend Collective sing. What is a blot of paint to the painter, a scribble to the writer, poor repetition to a dancer, noise to a musician? A nuisance sure, but certainly not enough to wipe them from existence.

What is death to the creator of life?

But the story still isn’t over…

What if the art maker, like Gepetto, desired so much more, not of but for the artwork? For a wooden toy to become a son? For the creation to be like the creator?

[See] that you put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.

Colossians 3:9-11

What if the artist could lift the world on the canvas and bring it to life? What if the writer could lift a character from the page and hang out? What if a dancer could meet their dance personified in all its richness and complexity and beauty? What if a musician could duet with their opus?

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Christ’s invitation to draw near to Him, to enter a covenant relationship with Him, is not for misery in righteousness, not an ideological cage or a prison. It’s an invitation to a life outside the confines of this reality.

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Oceans

Re-post. Still learning to apply this one.


Long post today.

I read this article today on the shape of the industry I’m thinking of entering, and all the social dynamics, etc. Of course they’re things that I already knew, and that people have been telling me, and what I’ve been studying in class… But hearing it yet again made it that much more real, especially from a scholarly article (not to dismiss all the other people who told me the same thing.)

To diverge a little, you know when every once in a while, this one song resonates so strongly with you that you listen to it over and over and over again? It may not necessarily be your favourite song, it just speaks to you and puts into words what you’ve been feeling, or what you need to feel. Right now, for me, that song is Oceans by Hillsong.

You call me out upon the water
The great unknown,
Where feet may fail.

Those are the first few lines of the song and they grabbed me instantly. The rest of the lyrics are just as resonant for me, but I won’t type it all out here. However, the bridge is what I really want to talk about:

Spirit lead me where by trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my saviour.

The more I listen to it, the more I think about it, and the more I sing it. And as always, be careful what you sing, and be careful what you sing as a prayer… Because it’s when you don’t fully realize what you’re asking God that he shows you what those words mean. In other words, He answers that prayer. Which is good… it also means that you’re in for some exciting turbulence, good and “bad.”

So let’s see. Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders? Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander? Well I definitely feel like I’m in the deep end.

I was revisiting the Doctor Who series 5 two part finale as a little treat for myself after finishing the day’s studying, and the Doctor said something interesting. (Well, I know… When does he not?)

Doctor: I need you to trust me.
Amy: But you don’t always tell the truth.
Doctor: If I always told you the truth, I wouldn’t have to ask you to trust me.

Makes sense. Most characters believe everything the Doctor says because he’s clever and will gladly tell you “I told you so” in some way if you don’t. But as has been repeated on several occasions, Rule number 1: The Doctor lies.

So if the Doctor told the truth all the time, and he said everything is going to be all right, no one would have to ask, “is that a lie?” And he wouldn’t have to answer, “quite possibly.” They’d trust him. All that being said, most of the time, the characters trust him anyway. Wouldn’t make for a satisfying story if they didn’t.

If I always told you the truth, I wouldn’t have to ask you to trust me.

If that statement makes sense… Then why does this happen:

1. I believe that God always tells the truth.
2. He asks us to trust him.
3. It should be a quick yes because of #1 (in theory).
4. But we don’t.

Or at least I don’t, not in this situation. I wish I did, and I tell myself I do, but I know I don’t because deep down I’m still worrying.

What if this isn’t the right way?
What if you’re not calling me to this industry?
What if all these sacrifices are made and it turns out that they were for nothing and based on hollow dreams?
What if I don’t have the patience and persistence I think I have and I lose my resolve and quit?
What if I do end up regretting this path and the warnings people are giving me will haunt me til I see you?
What if I don’t make enough to survive in a world where the cost of living is going up every year?

Hmm. The cost of living. I wonder how Jesus would define that. But that’s for another post.

Even as I type those questions, they seem so silly and materialistic, and I know that asking them is asking the wrong questions. And yet there they are.

Well, first thing. How do I know that this is where I think I’m being called. Honestly, I’m not sure that I do. I do know, that nothing makes me feel more alive… Like I’m a machine that’s figured out what it can do. A few other times, I felt the same way and I thought I was being led in one direction, but then it passed. This could be a phase… But whether it is or not, all the other other times taught me something, and deepened my understanding of something in some way, and opened the door to the next “phase.”

I could just be justifying all this to make myself feel better, but through all the “phases,” they still had the same goal, but a different form. (Hehe, not unlike the last of the Timelords himself… Different shapes, different personalities, same person.) Each phase was born out of the last. So is this a phase? Maybe, but in other ways, not really.

Second thing. I’ve said it before, but… Does it matter? Does what I do or end up doing and how I do it matter? Well… Yes and no.

No not really, because God has a goal in mind, and can use anything to achieve it. If we were all tools in a shed, He could MacGyver paperclips into a bicycle. The question is, why?

If a screwdriver says I want to hammer nails… It’s possible to do it if you’re creative enough, but it wouldn’t be as good as the hammer’s job and… Why on earth would you let the screwdriver hammer nails? So it does matter what you do in terms of what you were made to do, but it’s God thats doing the work through you.

Also, it’s a humbling and relieving reminder that whatever God is building… He could do it with his bare hands. He doesn’t need us. But how are the tools in the shed going to know what they can do and what they were made to do if they aren’t used?

To sum up all that… This is today’s verse if the day:

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

Isaiah 40:28

I don’t know what you’re doing God, I don’t know how this is all going to get figured out, but I know that you’ll pull through and that you mean it when you say that you will provide and you will deliver because you love me.

Well… I know with my head, but do I believe with my heart?

The first verse of Oceans alludes a little to this passage, when Jesus walks on the water and calls Peter to do the same:

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.

Matthew 14:22-33 ESV

“Immediately.” Interesting word choice. The instant the crowds started to form, Jesus sent the disciples ahead of him. He sent them out, separating them from the crowds. And while they did that, He did his own work. We’re the disciples aware of what he was doing? Maybe, maybe not. But when God sends us out, He sets us apart and protects us from the swarms of people. I think it’s because we’re delicate and easily influenced. As sensitive to noise as a soufflé. (I’m on a roll with these DW references…)

Anyway, when we are sent ahead, we’re also kind of distanced from Him. But we know He’s never far, and we know He’s busy doing something that will help is out later. We may not know what, but we know He is.

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.

I wonder if the disciples were praying. Jesus prayed after dismissing the crowds… Did people exhaust him spiritually, or did he just enjoy the presence of the Father that much? Both? When and why do we pray then?

When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.

Evening?! Whoa, he prayed for hours. I feel guilt tripped.

Anyway, the boat was a long way from land. Here we go, take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. They are in the deep end. Not only are they in the deep end, the waves were beating the boat, the wind was blowing against them. We’ve got to remember, that these are fishermen. Did they see signs of the storm? Probably. Surely, their instincts and red flags were going nuts. This is terrible weather! They shouldn’t be out here, it’s not safe, and who would blame them for regretting coming out here in the first place.

But then again… Did they have much choice in the matter? Jesus sent them ahead. Plus, at the time, between boat and noisy crowds… Boat won.

And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.

Fourth watch?! How late and how long were they on the rough seas? I guess like them, we don’t know when Jesus will come back from whatever He does without us, we just know that He will. It could be short, could be a while. But when He does, it’ll look awesome. Come on, “he came to them, walking on the sea.” Think about that.

1) Sea
2) Walking

The sea is raging and the storm is howling, and He’s on it, fully exposed. More than that, He’s WALKING. Not running, not trying to protect himself, not sinking for that matter, He’s completely calm when everything is not… when the disciples have no idea what’s going on.

But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.

I don’t know if the disciples were terrified because they saw him walking on the sea, or if amidst all the chaos and danger, seeing someone walking on water just freaked them out. Not unreasonably I guess… it’s not like they’ve seen someone do that before.

Ghost! Fear! Again… Did they really believe in ghosts, given what they believed about where souls go, or did they just have death on their minds as they got tossed around in the storm like salad?

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

There’s that word again, immediately. The disciples were far enough away to mistake Jesus for a ghost, and a raging storm isn’t quiet. So Jesus has super hearing. Or telepathy. Or knew what they were going to say and when, in order to reply immediately. But if you believe He’s God then… Of course he does. He knows our thoughts. What I wanna know, is how did the disciples hear Him?

Also, “take heart (have courage), it is I. Do not be afraid.” As much as I don’t blame the disciples for freaking out… Jesus is right (duh).

The disciples just saw Jesus do miracles and speak with authority with the crowds. You’ve heard his voice before, so don’t you recognize it? Not a ghost. Jesus is there, and is WALKING. ON. WATER. If He can do that, is it really that much of a leap to believe that He’ll calm the storm, or at least keep you safe from it?

Oh man. Anyone else drawing parallels from that last paragraph? We’ve seen God in action before. We’ve heard his voice before, so why don’t we listen to Him, or believe it when he says, “Have courage, do not be afraid.” We don’t know exactly what He’s doing, or how He’s doing it, but it’s strange and mysterious and magnificent. If we can see Him do that and hear Him say that… Is it that much of a leap to trust Him with the storms that are shaking up our lives?

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

Okay. So Peter heard and recognized Jesus. But he’s still unsure ’cause he asked for proof. Or is it?

“Command me to come to you on the water.” Is that Peter’s pride or faith talking, thinking that he can reach Jesus? Or does he just really want to walk on water? I would.

Often times when we’re unsure about a decision, or at least for me, I find myself praying for signs, or for open doors, to know that, yes, this is where I’m supposed to go and what I’m supposed to do. But shouldn’t his word be enough?

And then He humours us anyway, well with Peter in this case. He commands with one word: come. He doesn’t say go, or do, He says come. Come towards him, and He will make a way for you to do it, to get closer to him. It’s not us that’s allows us to walk on water, it’s all Him. Drawing us near. Peter obeyed, and Peter walked on water, just like Jesus. When we obey… What will He allow us to do despite the winds and the rain and the waves trying to knock us down? He cant be knocked down, and He won’t let us either. Not permanently.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

Um. Okay. I thought wind was invisible. And they’re on water, it’s not like there were flapping trees and bending trunks. Was it snow? Was it big waves being snatched up into the air by the wind? That’s a strong wind. A fearsome wind. So yeah, that would be scary.

But Jesus is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU PETER.

Yes. Isn’t he just. He’s always right in front of us, telling us to come, to have courage, to not have a spirit of fear.

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Immediately. As soon as Peter began to sink, Jesus was on him, reaching out to him, and holding him, keeping him from drowning or being harmed or touched by the storm.

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Excellent question.

We know it’s Jesus because we’ve seen him do extraordinary things before. We know its Him because we recognize His “voice.” We even ask for “signs” or “proof,” and a lot of times we get it. We get a little closer to Him, close enough to hear him properly, which is close enough to see his face… and yet we STILL DOUBT.

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Jesus gets into our boat. He knows what it’s like to be in the storm, to feel the waves beating the boat. He also brings back friends changed or grown.

But still, we only worship when the winds cease.

So I will call upon your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace.
For I am yours
And You are mine.

Spirit lead me. Take me deeper. Strengthen my faith. Deepen my trust in You.

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To Thine Own Self Be True

Re-post. Shakespeare and the Bible. Related?


This above all: to thine own self be true.

Polonius to Laertes in Hamlet 1.3.78

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8

A friend was telling me earlier today about prospective career plans. A popular topic of discussion among my peers, because contrary to popular belief, students don’t know what to do with their lives at the end of secondary school**(see N.B.) But I’ll refrain, that’s a different subject.

When thinking of advice to give her, I thought of the first quote, but then… something didn’t feel right about it, and I was reminded of the second.

Two of my favourite inspirational quotations, by two of my favourite sources of literature. But it’s only recently that I’ve put them side by side… and how interesting they are indeed.

First, they both start with the superlative “above all.” (*cue song* #songforeverything) Basically, WHAT FOLLOWS IS REALLY REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT. IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT.

Second, the emphasis on one is very different from that of the other. Well, both can’t be true, can they? They can’t both be above all, one has to be higher, more important than the other. But which one? They both seem equally inspiring, it feels as though they should both be the best advice one could give, but at the same time (or at least to me), one ought to cancel the other too.

Okay I’ll get to the point now. “To thine own self be true.” Obviously, the emphasis is on the self. Me. But how do you be “true” to yourself? How do you do that? What does that mean? What does that look like?
See, ever since I read that, it seemed like something so deep, the kind of thing where you go “ooh, yeah, that’s good.” It’s also a great pick me up, but until I asked myself the above questions, I didn’t really know what it meant. This goes for a lot of things, by the way. Product of being challenged by your mentors… *ahem ahem… you know who you are.*

So how do you be true to yourself? Well who is yourself? That’s a huge question in itself, isn’t it? One that I will let you, dear reader, reflect on.

What does being true to yourself mean and look like? Does it mean amplifying who or what you already are? Is it avoiding everything you’re not? Is it trying to make yourself better, whatever that means?

SO MANY QUESTIONS.

And they’re all about me. You? The self. This is the world’s view. The self. We are so focused on it that there are compelling arguments that altruism doesn’t exist, that every act is egotistic, self-serving. Volunteering, well, some might say that oh it’s just something to put on their CV, or at the very least, to feel like a better person. Giving gifts, it’s to get gifts in return, in some shape or form, etc. (**these are all OPINIONS voiced in a philosophy class**)

So many times, you hear it’s all about success in school, in the workforce. It’s all about how much you have, in money, in the material, in the people you know, in how many people you know. You hear in the media, in counselling, wherever, be bigger, better, faster, happier.

And those aren’t bad things, striving for excellence is… an excellent thing to strive for. Things start getting tricky when your mind is consumed with itself. What can I do to be x, y, or z? Am I too a, b, or c? What if d, e, or f happens to me?

Again, those questions aren’t bad questions to ask, but when you get so caught up in the world with respect to you, without knowing it, your mind is in a rather self-centred mode. And you end up with more questions and less answers than what you started with.

Now. Let’s put that aside for a moment, shall we?

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8

Emphasis, is on one another. That is the most important thing: other people, and loving them. I also find it interesting that a reason follows the advice, to say why it’s the most important thing: love covers a multitude of sins.

Aside: In Hamlet, Polonius does say two lines later, “Thou canst not then be false to any man,” which could count as a reason I suppose, but I feel it was more to contrast the part about being true, showing that it’s important, as opposed to being an explicit argument that backs up the advice like it does in 1 Peter.

Well, why does Peter say all that? Why should love cover a multitude of sins? It’s not our love that covers a multitude of sins, it’s God’s. His love was, is, and always will be, the purest and most self-less. Christ died on the cross for our sins, out of love for us, and it is that sacrificial and unconditional love that covers our sins.

I used to find it really difficult to comprehend how self-less God’s love is. Surely, surely, He had something in it for Him. (After all, humanly speaking, there’s always a little something that’s in it for us, even if it’s just to feel good.) Glory, victory, something. But God is the most high. He already had glory, he was already praised and worshiped by the hosts of heaven, he doesn’t need our affection. God is the most high, he doesn’t need the triumph over death to declare victory, He is eternal and alive. He could have easily defeated the darkness without coming back for us.

But he chose not to.

He chose to GIVE UP the greatness He had in heaven to come down as an infant that depended on a young woman for everything. Up there, he had the power to FORGE STARS. But he chose to come here, where he would be rejected by an innkeeper, where an entire village cried for his crucifixion, where the very creatures he brought into existence would think Him as their inferior.

For what?

Nothing. He gave everything He had, His glory, His life, His soul, and gained nothing. The glory He gets, he already had, he didn’t gain it. The victory he has over death, he already had, he didn’t gain it. There is NOTHING He could have gained that he didn’t already have. He gained nothing. But He gained us. So what does that say about you?

But let’s take a look at Shakespeare again.

“Above all: to thine own self be true.” But… Who are you? Where is your identity?

If you are in Christ, you are His, and He is yours. You belong to Him because He bought you with a price, and He belongs to you because He gave Himself to and for You. He loved, loves and always will love you, which is why He says to love one another. He loves you so much that He wants his love to spill over through you because He is in you. There is joy in being loved, but there is greater joy in loving others I think (parents, you know what I mean.) Our love is imperfect, impure, and can be slightly self-serving, but can you even imagine God’s perfect, self-less love? That perfect love is fixed on us. On the receiving end, it feels pretty awesome… I say pass it on mates, there’s plenty to go around 🙂

In brief, brothers and sisters, to thine own self be true: love one another.

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N.B. The part of the brain that regulates emotion, discipline and is responsible for permanently settling into what we would outwardly call maturity, is most active between 18-23… which is when we’re being bombarded with really important, potentially life-changing decisions. So bombarders: bear with us, we’re doing the best we can. From a neuroscientific perspective, we’re only just working out the kinks.

Jobs

Re-post. This was such a great encouragement. I think “what do you want to do in the future,” is among every young adult’s most annoying opening questions.


I think I’ve had a million answers to the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” which is not the best place to be at my age. And then I came across this:

Don’t listen to lies grown-ups tell. Here’s one: ‘You can do anything you set your mind to.’ Sorry. You can’t. Have you watched American Idol? But you can do anything God wants you to. His script for your life is better than anything you will ever write. So talk to Him about it. Trust Him. And find that one thing you love to do. (emphasis added)

Phil Callaway

“But you can do anything God wants you to.” Just adding my little disclaimer that our sin always mucks this up, but I think what he means is that if you know God has prepared, called and placed you here for whatever vocation, go.

As a writer and aspiring screenwriter, those bolded letters remind me that in the cut throat world of entertainment, I must rely on Him and Him alone, and give thanks and glory to Him alone. Every good story and every great opportunity has been and will be from the author of life and the perfecter of our faith. I need to keep reminding myself that I don’t need to go on a quest to “live the dream” in order to live a more exciting life… I’m already in the middle of an adventure and a battle that He has laid out for me.

Spoiler alert: God wins.

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Hell is Other People

Re-post.


“Hell is other people.”

I first heard this quotation in philosophy class as an introduction to writer, philosopher and atheist Jean-Paul Sartre.

At first I thought it was amusing, and if you’re an introvert like me, I thought there was truth in it. Some might even go parading these four words as their mantra, proud of preferring solitude over gathering, staying aloof and aloft over getting involved in a social environment.

But this statement is one of life’s many great lies.

We were built for community, made for fellowship with one another. God Himself is a community, a trinity.

How do I know this?

When you were a kid, why were timeouts so bad? Being away from all the fun with the other kids, you were forced to stay inside, to watch, to be alone and away from your friends.

When you were a teenager playing sports, why were penalty boxes, red cards, benches, the worst place to be? You didn’t contribute to the team, they played on without you while you sat by yourself, waiting. Waiting to get back in, staring at the clock.

When you are an adult, why is jail a punishment? Being away from society, confined in solitude, with minimal human contact. Why is exile and deportation a severe consequence?

Rejection from a group (rejection in general actually), fear of it, and fear of it happening again, is why. We may not admit it, or we may ignore it, or harden ourselves against it, but these are soul shattering experiences that we love to bury. It could be under wit, or drugs, alcohol, lust, unhealthy relationships, anything to keep our minds off it.

We long to belong, to be with other people, to share the life we’ve been given. We always have.

Genesis 1:27 ESV
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Male and female he created THEM.

1 John 1:3 says “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

The Bible, though written across hundreds of years, by dozens of authors, in different media of litterature, featuring thousands of people including prophets, kings, servants, the wicked, the righteous, shepherds, warriors, peacekeepers, and radicals… All tell and point to one person and one story. Jesus Christ, and His burning desire to reconcile and fellowship with His wayward and unfaithful people.

HOWEVER, this is not to say that solitude in itself is a bad thing. I’m an introvert, I like my alone time (how else would I have blog material???). Having time away from the craziness of life and resting is in fact essential for growth, especially spiritual growth. Private meditation, prayer, whatever it is you do, fills your cup again to be poured out. Even Jesus did it.

Matthew 26:36 ESV
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.”

He also commands us to do the same.

Matthew 6:6 ESV
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

But even in those instances, you are not alone, because God, who is ever present is WITH YOU. Which I believe is really encouraging.

Solitude, true solitude, is when and where even God is not. Hell, eternal separation from that which is holy.

Someone, I believe it was C.S. Lewis in his book The Great Divorce, depicted one version (not necessarily biblical) of Hell as a huge expanse of darkness, where every individual was millions of miles away from the closest person in any direction.

Another way to put that, is if two people managed to walk directly toward each other, and maintain a straight line, they could walk for eternity and never meet.

Could you imagine that? You can’t see, it’s cold, it’s mostly silent except for the distant calls and cries of your neighbours. You have no one to talk to, your thoughts louder than anything else. You wait, you walk, with only your hopes and fears exaggerated by your imagination for company.

I imagine Gollum went through something similar.

But if everyone is so far, it must be a pretty big place right? And yet Lewis also describes it as so infinitely small compared to reality and heaven. I think at one point, the residents of his allegory to Hell felt shrunken and minuscule next to those of the “heavenly” counterpart. They were so close, and yet so far.

So close and yet so far. That’s the tie breaker a split second after the buzzer, the split second on the clock between gold and silver, the half mark away from 100%, the single percentile from top in class, from the really big scholarship, the last minute decision that took your big break away.

People, are complicated, and frankly sometimes a pain to be around. But without them, what would we do? What would we become? How would we function? We are in each other’s lives for a reason, maybe even multiple ones.

So.

Hell is other people? The exact opposite is true.

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RSVP

Re-post. Another excerpt and story that really taught me something.


I just read one of Insight For Living Ministries Canada’s monthly mini magazine things, and there were quite a few things to think about… It was all about Christ’s return, and, some of you might have heard of it, know it, be an expert on it, or reject it, but nevertheless, it does get you thinking, and reevaluating your life…

A guest speaker at my church, Pastor Fred Tam came one day to give us a sermon on Heaven. That we should always have our eyes on that, but not getting drastic at the same time. Anyway, he shared with us this story found in Randy Alcorn’s book entitled Heaven:

Several years ago, Ruthanna Metzgar, a professional singer, was asked to sing at the wedding of a very wealthy man. According to the invitation, the reception would be held on the top two floors of Seattle’s Columbia Tower, the Northwest’s tallest skyscraper. She and her husband, Roy, were excited about attending.

At the reception, waiters in tuxedos offered luscious hors d’oeuvres and exotic beverages. The bride and groom approached a beautiful glass and grass staircase that led to the top floor followed by their guests.
At the top of the stairs, a maitre d’ with a bound book greeted the guests outside the doors. “May I have your name, please?”

“I am Ruthanna Metzgar and this is my husband, Roy.”

He searched the M’s. “I’m not finding it. Would you spell it please?”

Ruthanna spelled her name slowly. After searching the book, the maitre d’ looked up and said, “I’m sorry, but your name isn’t here.”

“There must be some mistake,” Ruthanna replied. “I’m the singer. I sang for this wedding!”

The gentleman answered, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you did. Without your name in the book you cannot attend the banquet.”

He motioned to a waiter and said, “Show these people to the service elevator, please.”

The Metzgars followed the waiter past beautifully decorated tables laden with shrimp, whole smoked salmon, and magnificent carved ice sculptures. Adjacent to the banquet area, an orchestra was preparing to perform, the musicians all dressed in dazzling white tuxedos.

The waiter led Ruthanna and Roy to the service elevator, ushered them in, and pushed G for the parking garage.
After locating their car and driving several miles in silence, Roy reached over and put his hand on Ruthanna’s arm.

“Sweetheart, what happened?”

“When the invitation arrived, I was busy,” Ruthanna replied. “I never bothered to RSVP. Besides, I was the singer. Surely I could go to the reception without returning the RSVP!”

That time, it got me thinking, have I RSVPed God’s invitation to Heaven? Have I answered the call? Am I too proud to think that I can show up without returning the RSVP?

After a while, I forgot about the story until I read this article in IFLC’s minizine referring to Christ’s return. Here are the last few sentences that haven’t been able to escape my thoughts lately:

“Okay, swell. But what do I do in the meantime?” I can hear a lot of pragmatists asking that question. First, it’s best for you to understand what you don’t do. You don’t sit around, listening for some trumpet blast. You don’t spend each day staring up into the sky, looking for a break in the clouds. You don’t whip out a white robe and tie yourself to a huge helium-filled ballon with angles painted all over it. And for goodness sake, you don’t announce a hard and fast date because of “the signs of the times”! Please.

You do get your act together. You do live every day (as if it’s your last) for His glory. You do work diligently at your job and in your home (as if He isn’t coming for another 10 years) for His Name’s sake. You do shake salt our every opportunity you get… and you do shine the light… and for sure, you remain balanced, cheerful, winsome, and stable, anticipating His return each day. Other than that, I don’t know what to tell you.

Except, maybe, if you’re not absolutely sure you’re ready to fly, you get your ticket fast. As long as they are available, they’re free. But don’t wait. About the time you finally make up your mind, the whole thing could have happened, leaving you looking back instead of up. What good is a ticket if the event is over?

Do you have your invitation? Did you RSVP? Did you plan for the event? Are YOU ready?

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Trust and Fear Not

Re-post. Good reminder.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Today at church there was this guest pastor speaking and his words were so wise I thought I’d share it. He was telling us this story of courage and perseverance and how we should trust God and “fear not” (which is incidentally found 366 times in the bible, so that’s one very good reason to fear not everyday including February 29). Anyway the thing that he said that stood out most to me was this sentence:

Don’t minimize your problems. Maximize your faith. 

What does that mean? It means that while it’s still okay to try and find the silver lining in the cloud, or making lemonade with lemons, or whatever else you do to make the problem less significant or less painful, that’s not the FIRST thing you should be doing as a Christian. Trust God to take care of your problems, trust God to show you the reason why you have this problem in the first place. Fear not because He got you this far… Why would he leave you alone now?

Sometimes it may seem like he’s gone, but God doesn’t hold your hand and do everything for you. He’s not there to keep your life problem free. He’s there to teach you and give you experiences of a lifetime.

God doesn’t hold your hand throughout your troubles… He stands by to catch you if you fall.

So fear not and trust God in times of troubles, trials, or testing.

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Prayer

Re-post. I guess this is around the time when I started taking sermon notes. Watch for the “so what” or “punchline” quote at the end!


The other Sunday, we were looking at Matthew 7:7-11, but what caught my attention most, were verses 7 and 8.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (NLT)

Ask, seek, and knock. Or take it a step further, keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. Ask, seek and knock, continuously.

Bear in mind, it’s very very very easy to take this out of context. This isn’t a get whatever you ask for. God’s not a vending machine, he’s not some infinitely filled bank vault for you to just take whatever you want upon request. We have to remember, that this is Jesus’ sermon on the mount. He’s not talking about asking for worldly possessions, he’s not talking about the materialistic. What does he care about materialistic things, things of the world? He can’t take it to heaven, and it will eventually disappear on Earth. No he’s talking about non-materialistic things. The things that you can’t buy or touch or steal, like growing more in him, like learning to be more like him, like learning to be wise, etc.

Also, it’s asking, not demanding. When you ask for something, it has a certain humility. You know, you ask a friend, or ask a teacher, ask a colleague. Ok, sure. We ask God for love, for happiness, for wisdom, for trials and tests even, and God delivers. Great. 

But we must go further: seek. Seeking requires effort. We have to go looking for the answers. Just like in any school setting… you can ask the question, and the teacher will give you what you need, no problem. But then, you have to seek the answer with what you’ve been given. In the same way, God will open doors for you, give you plenty of opportunities for you to do what you asked him for, but you have to put in that effort and actually do it, and walk through that door. Seek, and you will find. 

But we must go deeper still! Knock. Persistence and perseverance is key here. So we ask God for something, then we put in the effort to go after it, but now we need to persist, to keep it around because the world will do anything in its power to take it, snatch it away from you. So, knocking on God’s door. What good will that do? Well, the more you knock, the more it shows that you really really want this. Besides, when someone is knocking on your door, over and over and over again, even though you really don’t feel like getting the door, you get up and open it to stop that knocking. Now, that’s not saying that God will open the door only because he wants us to stop, no. It says right up there, that if we knock, the door will be opened to us. Why? Because God wants to see us, and he wants to see us succeed. 

So, not just when you’re in trouble, but continuously ask, and it will be given to you, continuously seek and put that effort and you will find, and continuously knock and persist, and the door will be opened to you.

Rev. Joe shared with us this last quote that kinda sums up this whole thing up; the bottom line:

The value of persistence in prayer is not so that God will hear us, but that we would hear Him. -William McGill

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Dream

This is my first re-post… throwback from 2010! It’s amazing to see how I’ve grown, how my writing has grown, and how my voice (of writing) has changed.

I don’t remember finding this excerpt. Reading that post, it really feels like it was a different person’s, and in some ways it was. Either way, I really enjoy this excerpt, especially because it feels like I’m reading it for the first time.


I can count as many scars as successes on the journey to my Dream. The way of the Dreamer is difficult– but anything less is hardly living at all! In fact, I’ve discovered that it’s the only way you and I can find true fulfillment and become all that God created us to be.

The Dream Giver p. 70-1

I call dreams gateways to different worlds. It seems impossible to travel across worlds right? Instead of going there, bring it here. Make your dreams come true…

For the dreamers out there, never give up. The road will be bumpy but it makes the smooth parts a whole lot smoother. Pursue your dream and if the going gets tough, just remember that God has a plan for you, a plan and purpose and he’ll always be by your side, ready to catch you if you fall and providing for you when you ask… And sometimes when you don’t.

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