The Discipline of an Early Riser

EXPLORED: Morning light, writing materials, coffee

There are those in the writing and blogging business that make it their mission to teach those of us with limited time how to get more writing into their schedule. After one year of listening to their podcasts, reading theirs blogs, and going to their seminars I have found that it all boils down to one thing, getting up early.

There is the 4AM Writer, the 5AM Writers Club, and The Early To Rise Experience by Andy Traub to name a few. All of them extol the virtues and benefits of getting up before dawn. They romanticize the padding down the hall, grabbing a cup of coffee and finally sitting down to write the next great American novel.

And frankly I hate them all.

Why?

Because they’re right and it puts me in a quandary since I hate mornings and I’m pretty sure the feeling is mutual. There is nothing quite as painful as pulling myself out of a warm bed at what feels like the middle of the night and thrusting myself into a cold house. I barely function well enough to make a cup of coffee so how am I supposed to hold a pen or worse even open my laptop and type? My brain doesn’t even wake up until 9 AM. But, after looking at my schedule from every conceivable angle, I have found I have only one choice if I want to really hone this craft and write everyday. I must make peace with mornings.

Now when I say morning, I still mean 6AM. I’m not quite to the 5AM stage yet and I’m sure hell not going to try the 4AM.*Baby steps*  So this week, with the help of Jeff Goins’ MY 500 Words Challenge, an app called Lift and oodles of caffeine, I have started the journey to make this a discipline.

The Pain (and Reward) of Discipline

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11 NIV

I know this verse is talking more about God disciplining those He loves, but I think as we discipline ourselves the same can be said, “It’s not pleasant at the time, but it will produce a harvest”.

I remember training for a ten mile race. I hated it. I hated getting my running clothes on, I hated knowing how tired I was going to be when I was done, I hated how my body would ache and I really hated how I would probably get a migraine when it was over. There were days it would take me a full hour just to prep for a run. I would find so many other things to do out of sheer procrastination. Then I would run and yes, everything I feared would happen did happen, but along with the pain, aches and migraines came an overwhelming confidence. There was a pride in knowing I was in control and my body would have to obey me. There was a high as each week I ran a bit farther and I could feel myself get stronger. Those things were addicting and that’s the harvest of those who are disciplined. It’s that “high” I need to remember as I pull myself out of my warm bed every flippin’ chilly morning to write. I’m doing this to be a more consistent blogger. I’m doing this in order to finish the writing the novels I have started so many years ago. I’m doing this to become a better writer. It’s a joy and sense of hope when I force myself to do something I don’t want to do. I feel empowered. I feel stronger. I feel as though I can do anything, and with that comes the knowledge that the dreams I am striving for are a little bit closer today.

What about you? Do you want to become a more disciplined writer? Are you trying to save money for trip and need to be more disciplined in saving? Or maybe you’ve always wanted to run a marathon but haven’t started training. How can you become more disciplined in your life in order to get closer to a dream?

Why I Hate Text Blessings

I’ve been prickly lately.

Some would say b*%chy.

I noticed it when I got a text last week. I can only assume it was meant to “bless” me but instead it pissed me off.

The text message in question read like this…

Sisters

Fwd: Fwd: FWD:

Fwd:  Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for YOU, declares the LORD. Dear Woman of God, Be still for a while and praise God for His favor, His grace and His awesomeness. God is able to do the impossible and is always near. He loves us unconditionally. Together, let’s get 1000 ladies to praise Him with one voice in this next hour. Please forward this to every woman you want God to bless. Let’s all say this prayer during this hour: “Dear God, This is my friend whom I love and this is my prayer for her. Help her live her life to the fullest. Please promote her and cause her to excel above her expectations. Help her to shine in the darkest places where it is hard to love. Protect her at all times, lift her up when she needs You the most, and let her know when she walks with You, she will always be safe. Amen!” Now you’re on the clock… Tell nine sisters you love them, including me

  Get  going girl!!   Love you. Happy 2014!

God’s Child

 Here were my initial thoughts…

  • “Sisters” – I now know this is not for me personally but to a group, which means whatever blessing is to follow, I am being blessed en masse.
  • “Fwd: Fwd: FWD; Fwd” – this is not an original email, instead of taking to the time to come up with something from their heart or personal the sender of this text decided to use someone else’s words or were just too lazy to remove the “FWD” to at least give the appearance that this was genuine.
  • “Dear Woman of God, be still for a while and praise God for His favor.” – I like this part; someone was writing to remind me to be still. This is something always needed for a 40 something mother of two, wife, writer/blogger, house manager, and part-time cookware salesperson.

But wait, there’s more…

  • “Together, let’s get 1000 ladies to praise HIM with one voice in this next hour.” But… I was just about to sit down and be still.
  • “Please forward this to every woman you want God to bless.” – the implication here is the woman can and will only be blessed IF they receive this text and the power of this blessing is in my hands, literally because I have to FWD this text from my phone. What if I don’t have everyone’s phone number that needs this blessing!?
  • “Let’s all say this prayer during this hour…” It is a very nice prayer and one I really hope is being prayed for stressed out women everywhere. Not just forwarded.
  • “Now you’re on the clock…Tell nine sisters you love them including me, Get Going Girl!” – And I’m back to being frenzied! Quickly I have to go through my phone contacts, find 9 “sisters in Christ,” FWD them this text and tell them I love them. Whew! It’s a good thing I wasn’t at work or on a date with my husband or at one of my kid’s school plays. That could have been awkward!
  • “Love you, Happy 2014” – It’s September. We are nine months into 2014 and three months away from 2015. That’s an odd thing to say at the end of a text unless it’s sent in January 2014. And there it is, more evidence of this being a very recycled blessing.

Here’s how the rest of the conversation went…

text

Seriously folks, if you are one of the many who forward these types of texts, emails or FB posts, why do you do this? Do you see yourself as more spiritual when you do this? Do you feel closer to God? Do you feel this is His work? What about talking to someone individually about an honest Holy Spirit moment you had while ACTUALLY praying for them? Truthfully, do you really sit down and recite this prayer or any other blessing sent through social media for all the people you sent it to? Because if you didn’t, you’re lying. Finally, why do you choose to bless someone AND then make them work? Can’t we just bless someone without having any strings attached?

Let’s not give people in other religions any more reasons to mock us. Let’s take our blessings and our prayer lives seriously. Can we please stop posting things that end with, “post if you love Jesus”? If you love Jesus, show Him. Send care packages to struggling students, pack an extra lunch and give it to a homeless person, write a note to someone that has a special blessing JUST FOR THEM. Take your time; love quietly, excessively, and honestly.

Too prickly?

My Life Is A Messy Garden

Can I just start by saying, Thank God Summer is OVER!

The kids are back in school, I have my house back, my sanity is slowly returning, and I feel the wheels of creativity slowly beginning to rotate. I’m taking time to smell the flowers and really look at gardens. I know I’m a little late since our local weatherman warns everything may be covered in snow soon.

As I look at these gardens I see two schools of thought.

“Keep everything orderly and grow similar flowers grouped together” 

Orderly Garden

A precise and perfect display outside our local flower shop.

OR

“Let it all hang loose. Mix it up a bit and grow everything together. You can even add big rocks!”

A beautiful little patch of green found in Crested Butte, CO.

A beautiful little patch of green found in Crested Butte, CO.

Both are pretty and both could be pictures of the church.

Take the orderly one, how many times have you walked into a church and found all of the same people. They all talk the same, look the same, and think the same? I’ve been there, heck, I’ve probably led that church. It never feels right; it’s comfortable but there’s something unsettling. Just like the flowers in this picture everyone is sectioned off, grouped into cliques and no one switches around. In my experience, these are stagnant churches with not much happening but the occasional carpet change. People flock together because everyone is like them and they think as one. Few think for themselves in this type of church. It’s also the type of church where people tend to be encouraged to invite people they know. The problem is, they only know more people like themselves since there entire social life revolves around church services and any special outreaches. The new people in their lives are the new employees at the grocery store or Starbucks.

Then there’s the messy garden. No two plants look alike and you never know who is going to grow too big for the planter. Who will overtake whom? It’s scary and very unpredictable. In this church, people come and go. People offend others often. People don’t think alike and grace is practiced on a regular basis. If there is a healthy dialogue and communication this church can succeed and my money is on people feeling more alive in this type of environment. They may not be comfortable, but it feels right.

I wanted the second church or the “messy” garden. In order to see this happen, I made a change years ago. I started preaching a different message and that was to stop allowing the church to be their only social group. When that happens we don’t meet anyone else on a real level. I told the church we would not be having Wednesday or Sunday evening services and that we would be finding ways we could connect with others within our community ourselves. I joined a book club, starting running races with people I had met at Starbucks, got a job outside of the church, encouraged my kids to join clubs or teams. In all of this, I met WAY more people than I would have had I stayed busy doing church things and occasionally inviting people I met at the grocery store or at Sam’s Club.

For years we have lived like this and I will be honest, it has NOT changed the attendance of our church for the positive. In fact, we lost people. We were told we didn’t have enough for them to do. Sometimes I wondered if I had really heard the Lord in this, and then this summer happened.

The Birth of Friday Nights

At the start of this past summer, my husband and I decided we would open up our house on the first and third Friday nights of each month inviting everyone we knew. This meant friends, family, co-workers, church members, neighbors, seriously everyone we knew. We weren’t going apologize to anyone for someone else bringing beer, we weren’t going to warn anyone if someone was a bit more evangelical than others, we weren’t going to enlighten anyone on someone else’s sexual orientation, political leanings, or religion of choice. It was meant to be a selfish act on our part, we simply wanted to see the people that have meant so much to us over the past few years, and if they made friends with any of our other friends, lovely.

What we found was that each Friday Night was beautiful and unique. Each one was filled with surprises. Even though we invited people we knew, there were parties sometimes filled with people we had never met. People would bring other people counting on the fact they would be warmly welcomed. In the middle of one party, my husband took the dog for a walk and came back with four neighbors we had never met. Those wonderful people stayed until the bitter end of the party and helped me clean up. I never imagined when the Lord asked us to open up our house to our friends; He would be sending new ones.

On the penultimate party, (don’t you love the word penultimate?) we had friends from out of town stop by. These are people we have known for over twenty years and they brought with them the associate pastors from their church in Iowa. The pastors fit right in and didn’t even bat an eye as they grabbed non-alcoholic refreshments after wading through the alcoholic choices. We made dinner plans for the next night and I admit I was curious to hear what they thought of our little soirée.

The usual questions were asked of us: Why are we doing this? Did God tell us to do this? How did we invite all the people? Fliers? How did we get such a diverse crowd? It was when we were asked if there was a name for what we do that my mind flew to the hundreds of church staff meetings and outreach planning sessions of our past. I realized at that moment that because we are pastors it was assumed this was some sort of planned event so we could invite “friends” to church. I’ll be honest I haven’t thought that way in years. Our church is so small; we don’t even have a staff to rally for staff meetings or to plan events. Our planning consists of me standing in front of them on a random Sunday morning and asking, “Hey, what do we want to do for Easter this year?” Just like a family.

And then it hit me, what happens at our house on Friday nights with our friends and church family resembles the messy garden. It’s everything I have ever wanted, lots of different people, some loud and in charge, some quiet and reserved, but all welcome.  My life IS a messy garden and for this very orderly, routine driven girl, I couldn’t be happier.

What about you, what type of garden do you prefer in your life and why?

What I Learned From a Box of Parts

Parts

Two weeks ago, on July 10, my young friend Ryan decided to end his life.

It has been a painful, confusing and often guilt-ridden ride since then and I’m just now taking the time to sit and and write down how this tragedy has affected me. While Ryan showed none of the warning signs someone usually shows when contemplating suicide, I still can’t help thinking, Where were you Chistine? How could you not see this coming? You’re a pastor and didn’t see someone hurting right in front of you! 

It’s natural. Guilt is one of the stages of grief and naturally, I am neck deep, bobbing up and down in it’s waters.

But guilt is not from God and I need to remember that fact.

Guilt is from the enemy. Guilt and shame are the shadows over us in times like these and they keep us from moving on with our lives. It’s not that I want to just gloss over this tragedy and move on flippantly, I want to remember Ryan and I want to learn from his life and yes, even his death.

I want to remember this…

We had come by his house one Sunday afternoon for dinner with him and his parents, Ryan greeted us and was so excited to show my husband his new motorcycle. He was talking so fast and just kept beckoning someone, ANYONE to follow him and see. When my husband followed Ryan out back and around the house. There, propped up against the house was a motorcycle frame next to a box parts. “What do you think?” he asked my husband. In reply, my husband could only smile and sigh. That was Ryan. He always saw the finished product. In his mind, he could see himself riding this bike and all the fun and that’s what he bought. He didn’t buy a box of parts he bought a dream for the future. Ryan’s optimism was so strong it extended not just to motorcycles but to troubling situations and even people.

This is the part of Ryan I want to have in my own life and in this, I hope to keep a piece of him with me and keep his wonderful, optimistic spirit alive. I can choose to not see people as broken as so many of us do. We have a tendency to see the used and broken parts on people and then cast them off as rejects and no good. But I want to see them as whole, fixed, new, clean and shiny (ooh Shiny!) That’s how Jesus see us. He looks past the broken parts and sees the finished product. Lord, help me to do that too.

Unfortunately, when it came to his own life, Ryan could only see the box of parts. The guilt and shame of past mistakes were too much for him to move past. He took a shortcut and chose to go right to the end. I want to learn from this too. With every box of parts there is work to be done. There are parts to clean, fix, and maybe throw out and buy new. It’s a process and a journey, but there will be a whole product at the end. This must extend to myself as well, I can’t let the my own broken parts keep me from moving on. I need to do the work of moving past the guilt I feel over Ryan’s death and I have to be patient in the grief. Remembering that GUILT IS NOT FROM GOD on a daily basis will help me to stay out of  it’s oppressive shadow and keep me enthusiastically moving to the end, eager to see the final product.

For more on Ryan, here’s a great piece written the day he died by his first friend. I thought it was beautiful and was honored to read it at his funeral.

How I Made It Into A National Commercial

photo 1

Me and the Fam filming a commercial at Cave of the Winds.

This week I did something I have never done before; I was in a commercial*. No I don’t have an agent, I haven’t taken acting classes, and NO it was not for a cheesy TV add for my church. It was for the Colorado Springs Tourism and Visitors center and yes, it will air nationally.

How did this happen? I said yes.

A few weeks ago I posted about how hard it is to write during the summer and my son’s failed crusade against an avocado pit. What I did not tell you is that one week after the boy got his stitches, I was in urgent care with the other male member of our family, Hubby is fine now, but did give us a scare. By this point I was so tired and frustrated I was ready to give up, but in the wrong way. I wanted to give up out of anger because I felt the world was against me and not allowing me to get done the things I wanted to get done. I was having a tantrum and telling life, ” I’m taking my ball and going home and you can suck it!”

Thank God for good, stable friends. My friend, Betty told me that during the summers it was probably best to stop planning. In essence, she told me give up – but the right way. “Summer is time for adventure” she said, “and without an adventure, what will you have to write about?”

With her good advice in mind, I packed my goals, plans and routines into a box and set them on the shelf until school starts. Then I waited for the magic to begin… and nothing happened. Do you know why? Because I was still saying no. In my mind, I still had too much to do. I have been so used to saying no to things due to lack of time, lack of interest, or being too tired that I was still saying no. My favorite reason to say no was to say I’m not ready. Do you do that? Do you say no to some things because all the pieces don’t fit together well enough in your mind for you to feel confident doing something? We tell ourselves:

  • I don’t know enough.
  • I’m not smart enough.
  • What if I look like an idiot?
  • I need more money.
  • I need to lose weight.
  • I’m just not ready.

In the pile of excuses I was giving out to not do things, God hit me back with this:

Ecclesiastes 11:4

Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.

If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.

Fine! It was clear God wanted me to say yes more often and to stop waiting for my perfect circumstances.

Here’s how this changed me. Before God spoke to me this happened…

Rushing through the grocery store parkling lot trying to finish my weekly errands by a certain time, I was approached by a local TV reported asking me if I would like to be interviewed regarding our city’s pothole problem. To be fair, its more than a problem it’s a nightmare, but my immediate thoughts were, I am on a schedule and don’t have time. I don’t have any make up on. What if my friends see me? Doesn’t the camera add 20 lbs? Could people see that my roots need to be colored? It was clear to me that I was not ready to be on TV and the pothole nightmare would not be a cause I would champion today. ** If you now have the song “You’re so vain” in your head, that would be appropriate.**

And Here’s how I’ve changed…

I get a call from Colorado tourism at 8:12 PM on Monday night asking if I can bring my family to shoot a commercial at Cave of the Winds 6:30 on Tuesday. Again my thoughts, The camera still adds 20 lbs. My roots still need to be colored. Will there be a stylist available to me? What if there isn’t and I have to do my own make-up? Am I ready to be on TV? It’s still clearly a no, I’m not ready, BUT WHAT THE HECK, WHY NOT? I called the family together, we did some laundry, thank God there was time for that, and planned to meet with the production team in less than 24 hours,

Here’s the best part, it was so much fun. In saying yes to this adventure, we were able to meet some great people, see a Colorado land mark we had yet to cross off our list, spend quality time together and were given season passes to Cave of the Winds by the very generous general manager. We wouldn’t have had any of this if I said no.

I’m now looking forward to rest my summer wondering what other adventures are on the horizon as I continue to practice saying yes. So far, I’ve tried new things, retried old things to see if I like them any better, opened up my house to lots and lots of people even when it’s not perfectly clean, gone to things I never would have thought to go to, and changed up routines I thought were set in stone and honestly, it’s been liberating.

Living a life of yes may not leave a lot of time to write, but I gives so much to write about.

And now, some photos from our shoot…

The boys doing their own scene.

The boys doing their own scene.

An unsuspecting selfie and just to prove I'm not really that vain, I posted it.

An unsuspecting selfie and just to prove I’m not really that vain, I posted it.

My son's idea of cool, the painted electrical boxes.

My son’s idea of cool, the painted electrical boxes.

A light given to the Caves by none other than Thomas Edison and yes, it still works!

A light given to the Caves by none other than Thomas Edison and yes, it still works!

Again, son thought this trash can was so funny.

Again, son thought this trash can was so funny.

The cast of the commercial!

The cast of the commercial!

Seriously, if you ever get to Colorado Springs, Cave of the Winds is a fascinating trip!

* The commercial will be airing during the Colorado Springs Stage of the USA Cycling Pro Challenge airing on NBCSN

I See You

“My eyes would say ‘Thank you… I see you.’ And their eyes would say, ‘No one ever sees me… thank you'” – Amanda Palmer

Are you a Ted Talks fan?

I am.

My favorite is the one entitled “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. While I can’t relate to her experience as an eight foot bride, couch surfing across the world, or stripping so fans can write on me (hubby won’t let me, I asked), I can relate to the desire to have a direct connection. As I finished Confessions of a Modern Pastor, the next logical step from those guiding me was to upload it and sell it on Kindle. I chose this route with GREAT RESERVATION.

I signed up for the KDP Select and was able to market my book to the masses, which for my piece was two people. I never got over the feeling that this was a poor decision on my part and I was left with a nasty taste in my mouth. Please hear me, I don’t think authors who put their book up for sale on Kindle are bad, it’s just I never felt it was right for my piece. For one, it’s not a book, it’s a booklet. But more specifically, it’s an apology. Why should anyone pay for someone to apologize?  Confessions was never meant to be sold, it was meant to be given away. I want a direct connection. I wanted to say to those hurt, I see you.

For those of you late to the party or may have not heard, I’m not looking to get famous by being a Christian blogger. I’m not looking to make a name for myself by preaching on the internet. I really just want to connect with people who need to know God loves them, soooo much.

On July 15, my contract with Kindle ends and you will be able to download Confessions of a Modern Pastor free on this site. Until then, the book will remain on Kindle for the cheapest price allowable, which is $0 .99.

I see you,

Modern Pastor

The Great Avocado Crusader

The boy waiting to be stitched up.

The boy waiting to be stitched up.

It’s summer vacation here and yesterdays plate was full of things I wanted to do for myself. I finished my weekly errands early and was looking forward to an afternoon of writing and relaxing. Instead of hours in front of my long neglected computer, I spent the afternoon in Urgent Care with my 12 year old son who chose to attack an avocado pit with a knife, missed the pit and caused a wound on his hand which 4 stitches needed to close.

The wound

The wound

Welcome to summer.

Every year, I assume the summer months will give more time to write and work on projects and surprisingly I have less. The plans I make for myself fall through my hands like sand and I can’t get a grip on anything. I have visions of myself locked in my room crafting the next great novel, only to have reality set in that I will barely be able to get a weekly blog post out… sorry about missing last week by the way. Even now as I sit and write I have a cat sitting on my lap trying with every ounce of his little body to communicate it is not the computer that is neglected but it’s him. Only him.

As people, we are pulled in so many directions we often fall short of our own expectations, like writing one blog post a week. Things get in the way of the things we are doing to improve and stretch ourselves. What’s a person to do?

I don’t know.

All I can tell you is what I did when a simple lunch turned into a trip to urgent care, or a quick ATM trip turned into an ordeal because the money got stuck and now we have to go in and again, time is slipping away. (yes, that happened too.)

I get angry. I have a tantrum.

Wait, did you think I would say something sweet like, “I stop, breathe and pray”? HA!

Nope, it’s tantrum time, then I pray… for forgiveness.

I’m a control freak and when I feel my time slipping away I do not do well. In all seriousness I have to stop and reprioritize. I go over in my head what I had hoped to do instead of waiting for the teller at the bank to get my money, and I say a little prayer to God asking him to help me to learn something and enjoy what time I do have with whomever I am with, whether it be the bank teller, urgent care nurse or one of my children. I wonder how can I make this the best situation possible? How can I laugh at this?

It doesn’t always work, but I try.

Cat

He’s VERY neglected.

Now that I’m back in my chair, with kitty in lap, trying to make up for lost writing time, all I can hear is my son, the Great Avocado Pit Crusader’s words as he left my writing room, “You should write about our Urgent Care trip.” At first I thought, Yeah right, how can I make that about God? But I can. Because everything can be a blessing if we let it. I can say that I may not have had the time to do what I wanted to do, but my son and I had a great time together, despite the pain and the fear of what he was facing. I got to be there for him, I got to watch him overcome the fear, I made him laugh as I lifted a few urgent care “souvenirs” for his sister (she always wants cotton balls or ear scope covers – even at sixteen.) Then I took him to get candy. Every second of every day and every event and can be a blessing if we choose to live this way.

So in conclusion, it’s summer. I may or may not make my goal of posting every week because life is busy and I have kids and cats and a husband, all of whom are not distractions but wonderful blessings.

How do you handle distractions? Can you turn them into blessings?

Be Still in the Darkness

By Zouavman Le Zouave (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 I have bad days.

My really bad days come with an added irrational feeling that I’m not doing enough. I feel I should pray more, read the Bible more, meditate more… anything “more” related that could lift the clouds and allow me to be joyful again.

But it doesn’t work that way does it?

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there and we’ve tried everything we know to stop the hemorrhage of emotions overtaking our lives when in actuality, only time works. We have to wait.

While we wait, we long for the good days when we were hopeful, steadfast, and happy and then we usually chastise ourselves because we fail stay in this place of peace and joy. Sometimes I wonder if it is even possible to stay joyful. Why can’t we find a way to stay on the top of our game, feeling blessed, motivated and excited?

Deep down we know the answer; we need the bad days in order to grow. We need the ambivalent days and even the clouds these dark days bring. They provide change. They provide times of quiet, times of reflective thinking. When we are always up, we don’t see the things within ourselves that need to change. We have a tendency to hide during the dark days. We want them to go away and do all we can to make them go away thus failing to learn anything about ourselves. We can’t even be honest about going through them because there are those in the church who will tell us to do more. They tell us to press into God and ask Him to take away all of the bad feelings and give us joy. They encourage us to find victory over the darkness, when instead, I contend, it is IN the darkness we can find victory.  God says, “be still and know that I am God.” The moment we start to try to fix ourselves, whether by self-help techniques, positive thinking, chanting, or frivolous activities that make us momentarily happy like shopping, drinking, eating, we find it only solves things temporarily and we are back to the dark thoughts.

It’s a test. Can we stay faithful even in the dark days? Can we see that this will pass, just like every time before and once again we will be happy, excited and hopeful? Can we take the time to be still and wait for God to teach us something in the midst of the darkness? Can we find goodness and hope even in the darkness?

As I have read the Bible, I find that no one was happy all the time. They all experienced ups and downs. Solomon, the wisest of us all, tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:4 that there is, “A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.” We should listen to the wisest man in the world and accept the varied seasons in order to learn from them.

Be still, be still, be still.

Take the good with the bad. Take the bad with the good. There is a season for everything, Fear God, don’t do more for Him. Let’s not be scared of the dark; instead let’s be still in it. When there is no light to see by, the best thing for someone to do is to stay put. If you can’t see anything, you can’t see where you are going, so be still.

Be still, be still, be still.

How do you manage when life is dark?

What is Real in Heaven?

dreamstime_1292375I’ve been thinking about Heaven a lot lately.

Not just because of the movie Heaven is for Real, which I was forced to see, under duress, all because my son chose this movie/book combo to do as his language arts compare/contrast project. In the end the movie wasn’t as bad as I feared, and I really only squirmed for the first 45 minutes. I personally don’t do well in “Christian” movies. I have a hard time with the clichés, horrendous acting and generally predictable “perfect” endings. It gets even harder when the main character is a pastor dealing with his or her own crisis of faith and NO ONE is patient enough to let the pastor walk his or her own journey. Instead, we see the congregation planning to oust said pastor due to lack of leadership. But that’s a post for another day.

The movie brought up some great ideas of what Heaven could be like, which I will not reveal here (yeah, you have to see the movie) but as I said, it has got me thinking.

As I read Genesis, I have to believe God’s initial garden creation was something similar to Heaven. If you remember, Adam and Eve lived in an idyllically beautiful place and were free from shame, pain, and doubt. They frolicked in God’s playground, and spent oodles of quality time with their Creator. There was only one thing God asked of them not to do, “don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

As you may have heard by now, they ate.

The moment this happens they are aware of right and wrong and the Accuser of the Brethren, AKA Satan, is now in control. Adam and Eve now know they are naked and that’s just WRONG so they cover themselves with leaves. They now know that God is wonderful and humans can’t even compare to His big toe, assuming of course God has toes, so they hide from Him. They are now aware of the failings of their partner; the one they adored just a few minutes before, and even sell each other out to God when confronted. Because they did not have enough discipline to heed God’s warnings, they now have to deal with the voice of Satan whispering in their ears accusing them and everyone around them of wrongdoing.

In my version of Heaven, and let’s be fair, in ALL of our versions of Heaven, Satan will not be there. For me, this means there will be no one to point out when I’m selfish, arrogant, unfaithful, or unlovable. Just like the garden, there will be no shame, guilt and/or fear. I will be able to spend oodles of time with my Creator and frolic, just as He intended. i just hope we’re not naked.

How should this change us today?

If we know what God had intended for us (the garden), and we know where we are headed (Heaven), is it possible for us to live a life free from accusations here and now? Is this what Jesus did so well? Is this what He meant when He said “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you” in John 17? When He died for us, He took us back to pre-fruit status. We are completely clean and without sin. In theory, we should be able to live without accusations. But it’s so hard, isn’t it? We live in a world with constant attacks on our character and questioning of our motives. People can be cruel and accusatory themselves. Jesus knew this too and we see how He responded. He remained calm as Mary & Martha chided him for being so late when coming to the aid of Lazarus. He was resolute when followers left in droves because his teaching was too hard. And he was stoic in the face of insults hurled at him by the Roman guards and religious leaders. He never believed the lies. They hurt him, but He would not allow them to shape or change him.

I want to be like that.

I understand that while here on earth, we are not living in a place anywhere close to Heaven, but I feel I can do my part in disarming Satan by remembering where I am from and where I am headed. I want to respond in ways that prove I know exactly who I am and how much I am loved.

How do you deal with accusations from the Satan?