What’s Your Story?

What’s your story?

Who has hurt you in your past? Thrown arrows of words that are still lodged in your heart?

What’s your story?

Did your father say one thing in anger that haunts you even now? Did your mother speak from desire to help but with the result of a lasting wound?

What’s your story?

Did a friend decide to end a friendship or just drift away without a word?

What’s your story?

Did a teacher, mentor, boss say you weren’t worth their time? Did date after date decide you weren’t worth a second look?

What’s your story?

What hurts suddenly burn your heart when you thought you had forgiven? What wounds cause you to speak that way to your own child, spouse, friend?

What’s your story?

What arrow can you not get rid of on your own? Pride, gossip, anger, scorn? Sarcasm, predjudice, envy, control?

What’s your story?

Which wounds have drawn you into God’s arms? Which arrows have pushed you closer to His heart?

What’s your story?

What story has God begun to write on your heart? What truth is He using to heal and cleanse?

What’s your story?

Was there a sunset streaked with gold that burst through the pain and pointed your heart toward a God of beauty?

What’s your story?

Was there a tiny flowering bud that whispered that there is One who cares?

What’s your story?

Was there a fairy tale read as a child that spoke of a truth that there is more to this world than what you see?

What’s your story?

Did you have a friend who gave good gifts just like the Giver loves to give?

What’s your story?

Did a brother, sister, mother, father show the love from God that asks for nothing in return?

What’s your story?

What story is God writing on your heart?

You Are What You Do

“I don’t feel like obeying today.”

My eldest believes that she should only obey when she feels like doing so.

I am quick to disabuse her of this idea.

The incident does, however, cause me to begin mulling over the connection between actions and emotions, between behavior and the heart.

Is there a reason why we are supposed to obey, to do what is right, even when we don’t feel like it? Isn’t that hypocritical?

“I shouldn’t read the Bible if I’m only doing it because I have to.”

“I shouldn’t go visit Maria at the nursing home because my heart isn’t in the right place.”

Which comes first? The physical act or the heart change?

A.J. Jacobs is a humorist who writes books about the human experiments he conducts. In several of his books, he mentions the connection between his actions and his emotions. 

In The Year of Living Biblically, he is focusing on Ephesians 4.29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.” when he writes this: 

The weird thing is, I think my G-rated language is making me a less angry person. Because here’s the way it works: I’ll get to the subway platform just as the downtown train is pulling away, and I’ll start to say the F-word. I’ll remember to censor myself. So I’ll turn it into “fudge” at the last second. When I hear myself say “fudge” out loud, it sounds so folksy, so Jimmy Stewart-ish and amusingly dorky, that I can’t help but smile. My anger recedes. Once again, behavior shapes emotions.

In My Life as an Experiment, he says this: 

Historically, the handshake was seen as a democratic gesture…But nowadays, I think the bow has more benefits. Though it may seem pretentious, it’s actually deeply humbling. Just lowering yourself before someone – the universal symbol of modesty – makes you feel more respectful. Behavior shapes your thoughts. 

Is it odd that I’m finding wisdom in a comedian?

Yet God did create us with physical bodies, and our physical condition, whether health or posture, does seem to affect our emotions. 

If a comedian isn’t authoritative enough, how about Aristotle?

Aristotle also believed that your actions shape your heart: 

Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way…you become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions. 

He also said: 

We are what we repeatedly do. 

 So perhaps, after all, it is not hypocritical to do right things when our hearts are rebelling. 

Perhaps, instead, this is how we train our hearts to desire right things.

Perhaps, too, paying attention to our physical bodies, such as our posture while praying, can help us to keep our hearts focused.

And since finding wisdom in a comedian and in an ancient philosopher should never be enough for us, God also gives us instructions for our physical bodies in order to help our hearts become truly His: 

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. ~ Deuteronomy 6.6-9 

Which commandments had God just given them? 

Ah. The most important of all.

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. ~ Deuteronomy 6.5

Image credits: A.J. Jacobs from The Year of Living Biblically; cropped from The School of Athens by Raffaello Sanzio

I Hate Death

I hate death.

Is that too raw, too vulnerable?

Perhaps, but it’s true.

I have spent a lot of my adult life trying to claim that death is not bad, that death allows us to be with God.

That’s what many Christians would say, wouldn’t they?

But that’s not what they really believe.

Why do we think that we have to defend death?

C.S. Lewis, in A Grief Observed, says 

It is hard to have patience with people who say, “There is no death” or “Death doesn’t matter.” There is death. And whatever is matters…I look up at the night sky. Is anything more certain than that in all those vast times and spaces, if I were allowed to search them, I should nowhere find her face, her voice, her touch? She died. She is dead. Is the word so difficult to learn?

Maybe because that is what we were taught in our churches.  Maybe because of pieces of Scripture that we read such as “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” ~ Philippians 1.21

We long to be with God, long to see Him face-to-face, long for the day when there will be no more hurting, suffering or tears…

And we long for the day when there will be no more death.

Isn’t death what gets us to that glorious day?

Yes, but that isn’t how it was supposed to be.

We weren’t supposed to have to die to get to God, we were supposed to simply live with God.

And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” ~ Genesis 3.22

We brought death into this world through our sin and death is our enemy.

Our enemy!

My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. ~ Psalm 55.4

Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death. ~ Psalm 68.20

For you, LORD, have delivered my soul from death… ~ Psalm 116.8

On this mountain he (the Lord) will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. ~ Isaiah 25.7-8

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O death, is your destruction? ~ Hosea 13.14

We have opened the door and allowed death to enter our world.

Jesus came and defeated our enemy.  Did you hear?  Death is defeated!!!!!

…through the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. ~ II Timothy 1.10

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. ~ I Corinthians 15.26

For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. ~ Romans 6.9

Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. ~ Revelation 21.4

This is how it is supposed to be.

So go ahead. You have permission.

Hate death. Give praise and thanks and glory to God.

(If you are viewing this via email, may I suggest that you visit the website in order to also view the video I have included?)

In Christ All Things Hold Together

I think about God’s creation quite frequently this time of year.

The trees are aflame, the air is crisp and cool, and we are watching our farmer neighbors harvesting the fields.

I’ve also been thinking about Colossians 1

For by him (Christ) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

I’ve especially been thinking about that last phrase: in Him all things hold together.

I look up the verb for “hold together” in my Strong’s and find that it is “sunistao” or ” sunistemi” which has connotations of “strengthened…to set together…to stand with”. 

It is a present tense verb: Christ is currently and actively holding all things together.

I am intrigued and try to consider this idea more thoroughly.

I tend to view creation as neutral, as separate from heaven. I often see creation as something that points to God but not as something that participates with God. 

I think that many people see creation as having been made or set into motion by God but now is on its own. 

In Him all things hold together.

I often hear people talk about having a Christian perspective on creation, especially when conversing about the need to care for the earth. Even that sort of language implies that creation is neutral and needs for Christ-followers to imbue it with godly meaning.

Yet if Christ is right now holding all things together, then perhaps that means that there is something deeper, something sacred behind all created things.

According to Hans Boersma in a recent Mars Hill Audio Journal interview, that is certainly what Christians believed for more than a millennium after Christ:  Just as you wouldn’t simply read the text of the Bible without seeking something deeper, something sacred behind the words, you shouldn’t simply look at creation without seeking something sacred behind the created thing. 

Just as Christ is the logos, the Word of God, that is behind the Holy Words of Scripture, so, according to Colossians 1, Christ is also behind the created world, holding all things together.

I am only a stay-at-home mommy. I don’t pretend to know a whole lot. 

I do know that modernity has enlightened us to many realities about the world around us. 

Perhaps, just perhaps, it has blinded us to some of the deeper realities as well.

Would you continue the conversation in the comments below? What do you think? Is there something deeper and sacred behind created things or is creation now neutral, only pointing to God rather than right now participating with God in its renewal?