“…You have a great view up here…”

Lately, in trying to wrap my mind around the power of God, I’ve dwelled deep on eternity and existence, trying to imagine a clock or a universe with no walls and no ends. It’s really been a head trip, and brought me at least a little perspective on just how massive God really is. It’s like trying to shove the earth into a teacup, and even that doesn’t come close. 

The idea of forever is something that’s really hard to grasp. I never thought that, what would be even harder to understand than eternity, was the end. 

I decided last minute today to go see my grandmother. I made my way up a long winding hill, and parked at the very top. Off in the distance, there was a field of cows running and romping around. I saw the play set my brother and cousin and I used to play on while everyone visited my grandfather. They’d recently torn down the wooden gates in favor of a chain link fence. I crept through the gate, and walked up to the grave.

I’d planned all these things I was going to say to her. That I was sorry, that she was right about me, that I regretted the things I’d done just like she said I would. I wanted to tell her how sorry I was that I made her last few years of life hell. I guess her last decade, at least. All I could say was, “You have a great view up here.” It didn’t feel right to say. 

I started my speech, or tried to. I couldn’t get most of it out. I’m really not a crier. I rarely cry. But maybe I never really grieved, because all at once, I was overwhelmed with this sense of, I guess, finality. She’s not coming back. She’s dead. Gone. 

I guess I’d just never stopped to realize she would never laugh again. Never thought about her not waking up. I get it, heaven is for real, but what about now? And how do I know she made it there? God called me to mission work, but I never felt like I could save her. It was strange, knowing she was six feet beneath me, but she wasn’t really. All that was in the grave was evidence that she had been here at some point, that a life did exist, and she was one of us. But Mamaw was gone. 

  

I kept telling her how sorry I was, and I told her all my secrets. The Holy Spirit tried to reach me. Over and over, I heard, “She’s dead, Jessie. She can’t hear you.” And I started to get angry. If we were going to see greater things that Jesus did, and if we had the same power in us that raised people from the dead, then raise her up! I started arguing with God. “You rolled a stone away, right? I think You can handle a little dirt. Raise her up, and I’ll take her home.” Grief does funny things to your thoughts. It all seemed reasonable the time. 

Holy Spirit just said again, “She’s gone.”

I kept asking and asking, God, just raise her up. Please. I know You can. But by the time it was over, I’d started asking God to raise me up. 

My grandmother is dead. My dog, my best friend, is dead. Any loss I’ve suffered was never with death. It was in lost friendships and life changes. Death is entirely different. When you die, your body stops. That’s it. And we’re left wanting with all our hearts for just one more moment, one more chance to speak. But the ears don’t work, the mouth can’t speak, and neither would have a brain to understand, anyway. 

The heart of existence is in Jesus. He’s the reason we’re here. We’re all trying to find him, even if we aren’t looking. Until we do find him… I guess if death is just the absence of life, then we were all stillborn. 

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Dare to Eat a Kiwi

Sunday at the park, I was unloading my stuff from the car and getting ready to head to my usual spot. That’s when I overhear this conversation between two friends who looked like they were having a typical Sunday picnic.

Woman 1:  “Oh! Oh my gosh…”

Woman 2:  “What?”

Woman 1:  “This kiwi is freakin’ nasty!!”

Woman 2:  “Mine tastes fine. What does yours taste like?”

Woman 1:  “Just rotten! Here, try it.”

Woman 2 digs her spoon into the other woman’s kiwi and takes a bite. “It tastes fine. Maybe when you ate that macaroni salad a minute ago, the two are clashing.

Woman 1:  “Yeah, maybe…”

Silence. Then Woman 1 takes another bite.

I hear Woman 2 again:  “What are you doing?”

Woman 1:  “What?”

Woman 2:  “You’re still going to eat it?”

Woman 1:  “Yeah.”

Woman 2:  “You said it tasted bad.”

Woman 1:  “Yeah, but I’ve already peeled it and cut it open. I’m too deep in.” And she takes another bite. 

Fairly entertaining conversation. But let me take a moment to applaud Woman 1, who fearlessly said yes to the kiwi, who carefully took the time to strip away the fuzzy coat so as to not interfere with the fruit more than necessary. Kudos to her for daring to take another bite knowing it was disgusting, and bless her heart for eating the kiwi when her friend thought she was crazy. 

Our hats are off to you, Woman 1. May we all be more like you. 

Cigarettes and Avocados

Jesus went to the cross with nothing. He’d been loved by his disciples, loved by the sinners, loved by a Father… He could’ve commanded stones to turn into bread if he’d wanted to. Jesus had everything going for him. And within 24 hours, he’d been stripped of everything. His disciples and friends turned away. Peter even denied knowing him. Even the God of the heavens, Jesus’ God and Father, turned away from him. Jesus was left with nothing. 

You know how this story ends. You know he comes back, you know his life is restored. I want to take it a step further. Apply this to your own life:  When God turned His face away from His only son, and Jesus asked Him, “My God, why have You forsaken me?” what if God had answered in that moment? 

You know what God could’ve said? This is Jessie talking, not some crazy theology we’re adding in. But just bear with me. What if God had answered Jesus’ question? He could’ve said, “My Son, because in return, you will forever hold the keys to death and hell. If you do this, you will take the keys from the enemy’s hand, and declare no more.”

So I ask you, and ask myself. In the middle of the suffering, when the pain is overwhelming, when we can’t understand, when friends betray us, when families hurt us… We tend to ask God why. We beg Him to have mercy on us. We plead with Him to make the trials go away. What if God answered our whys when we asked them? Would it make the pain any less? What would it change? We’re going to get to the other side and see what was up all along, anyway.

When we look to the heavens and beg the question, “Why have You forsaken me?” “Why?” I challenge you to stop. Just stop. God’s not going to let anything go to waste. So whether you’re in a situation right now because of decisions you’ve made, or because of ones that were made for you, asking why just doesn’t seem to be enough. We humans, we always want answers. Why does x plus y equal z? If you’re like me, 2 plus 2 is equaling 5, and you can’t figure out what the hell is going on. Just stop. Stop, and instead of asking why, just go with it. And if you ask God anything, ask Him to use this, whatever “this” is, for His glory. Because at the end of the day, and I know this is going to offend some sensibilities… At the end of the day, you aren’t the star of this show. On our best of days, we’re fortunate enough to just be props in the biggest, baddest theatrical production the world has ever known. 

Rest easy. Oh, I know it hurts. And I’m not going to sit here at my computer and tell you it’s all going to get better one day. Situations change, and the places we’re at in our lives change, and we mature, but the harsh truth is that life itself never gets any easier. You’re always around the corner from the next beautiful disaster. So get that idea out of your head. What will make a huge, significant difference in your life will be how you choose to respond when things come against you. Me personally, I could run to any number of old vices tonight. It’s been a rough evening… But these days, the only vices I have are cigarettes and avocados, and a God who is so very madly in love with me. He doesn’t even mind my obsession with avocados. The cigarettes, we’re working on…

Take a big spoonful of avocado, say a prayer, and let the Holy Spirit do what he does best. If you have to, say to hell with the world for a while, and just pull into God. I mean it. Take a few days off from work. Go retreat to a cabin somewhere. If you can’t gather that luxury, then just go to Starbucks and get the biggest turtle creamice they’ll sell you, and just go hide out somewhere. It’s okay. Take a break. And don’t ask why you’re here. Just ask God to show you how to walk it out. Then allow Him to use it for His glory. 

Remember, it’s all temporary anyway. This is nothing compared to eternity. We got this. 

This Fruit is Bananas

I can be honest with my family. If you’re new in Christ, that makes you family. So let’s do this…

…Do you ever find yourself in a rat race to prove yourself to people? You older folks can testify to younger days when you did that, but us twenty-somethings aren’t quite there yet. And me personally, I’ve been in a battle I was never supposed to fight, trying to show who I am to people I thought counted. There’s a difference between hypocritically trying to show off a God you don’t love in private, and trying to redeem yourself from a past in which you didn’t do that. My problem, someone back me up here, has been trying to prove to people who I am now verses who I’ve been in the past. 

And here’s where the brutal honesty comes in. There were plenty of times I wore my Jesus like a coat. I put him on at church, kept him on when it was cold, but as soon as the weather was nice or no one was looking, he was hung up in the closet. When it was cold again, or people were looking, trust and believe I was back in my holy coat. It felt warm and fuzzy. I liked it. Who doesn’t like warm and fuzzy?

It’s been a long time since I’ve had this mentality. But lately through a series of events, I’ve found myself sliding into those old ways. Not intentionally. I’ve sought God out more and more, but I caught myself trying to show to people I loved and cared for that the old me they were accustomed to was dead. No more bad habits, no more gloom, no more depression, no more whatever. And I justified it by saying I owed it to them. They want to see fruit? I’ll give ’em fruit! Holy Spirit convicted me big time of that. 

I felt the gentle voice of Papa come over me. He took me to Scripture.  “And when you fast, wash your face and keep your appearance…” “…Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing…” “…Your Father who sees all things in secret will reward you openly.” And then, I felt His voice, and it got more personal. He said, “Follow Me in secret.”

I could tell you about the projects and missions I’ve done lately. But what’s the point? To glorify myself? God forbid!! For that matter, I probably shouldn’t even mention that I’ve done anything at all. But I do, in strict hope that I can pass along the message and what I’ve learned. I say this in love, even if it comes out harshly… If you want man’s approval and praise, that’s all you’ll ever get. Have fun with that reward. It’s short lived and will leave you more empty and broken than when you started. I’m tired of it. And I hope you are too, if any of this is hitting home with you. 

I grew up in a very broken home. And outward appearances were very important to my family. I watched as everyone would pull themselves together when company came over and act like things were wonderful, like nobody had been screaming just moments before. Or threats to run off the road and kill everyone in the car would subdue as soon as we would get to the parking lot of wherever we were going. Me, when nights before were just too horrible to cope with, I still had to go to school and act like nothing was wrong. (Please don’t offer me sympathy.) Anybody can act. We can even mimic the Holy Spirit when we want to. Think about it. Have you ever seen someone slain in the spirit and wondered if it was legit? Anyone can look you up on Facebook and gather up enough to “prophecy” over you. It doesn’t take the Holy Spirit. You can mimic it through your actions and energy and words. If you really want to break it down, even caffeine or drugs can give someone a God face. Yes, who you are to other people and the Jesus you represent matters. Don’t misunderstand. We’re called to be witnesses. But if who you are in public is not a reflection of who you are in secret, it’s just a pretty face. Pretty faces are worthless in the middle of the dark rooms we’re called to be lights in. 

I do ask that, with everything I’ve been up to lately, that you would pray in agreement with me that those things will plant seeds and make a difference. I’ll leave it at that. And I’ll also pray for the things you do, that people will be blessed for the God you have come to love in secret. And then, when we get to the other side, I’ll look forward to hearing all about it. 🙂

Thunder

“Haunting” isn’t necessarily a word to mean ghosts invading a house. The word “haunting” translates literally to mean, “…an intense sensation, often associated with an emotional attachment.” So, in a sense, the presence of God can be a haunting thing; a deep, personal touch to the heart, to which nothing else in the world can ever prepare. Think of a song that really reaches you, that makes you feel. The Christmas carol, Carol of the Bells, has been called haunting. Imagine being in this enormous, dimly lot concert hall, feeling the vibrations of the drums, hearing the pitches of the sopranos, and the undertone of the harmonious baritone. The song becomes more than a song. It becomes a sensation. 

Being in the presence of God, surrounded by the Holy Spirit, can be like being engulfed in an ocean of love, where wave after wave after wave crashes against your entire being. It washes your heart and spirit. Once you enter that place, there’s not a minion in hell that will ever convince you that you have been alone, or that you have ever been unloved. The presence of God is so strong, it almost feels like your heartbeat enters into a perfectly synchronized rhythm with His. 

There are times when, at least for me personally, confusion can create distance between you and the Father. And confusion will always be detrimental to your Christian walk. Our God, our perfect and loving King, is not the author of confusion. He’s the author of life! And YOU are His. It’s not His desire that you would ever be lost or confused in this life. By the death of Jesus, we are forgiven. By his resurrection, we are victorious. It wasn’t God’s intention to save us and then let us walk alone. He wants to be there. But He also wants our permission. Don’t misunderstand. God can do whatever He wants. But He will not be Lord of our lives until we ask Him to be. And then, get ready. 

We are not called to be quiet. We are not called to be fearful. We are not called to be careful. We are called to be thunderous; loud, and bold, and at times, offensive. How bold are you when you’re caught in the tides of confusion? When you’re wrestling with this logic and that logic, what are you doing? Go into the hiding place of thunder, away from the clamor and the noises and voices around you, and let the Holy Spirit speak truth to you. Stop asking your friends. Stop asking your pastor. Stop asking your parents. Thank God we have those people in our lives to guide us, but sometimes God wants to deal with us without a middle man to create confusion by telling you something different than what the Holy Spirt is speaking. Can you do that? Can you pray and seek God with all your heart, fast and meditate, and beg Him to engulf you in His love, and start the revival of a nation right there in your heart? Can you meet Him face-down on the floor, meet the gravity of your transgressions with tears and trembling, and let Him twist and contort your heart into the image of His? Can you become the child of thunder – of haunting, raging thunder – that you were made to be? 

So may you become like a haunting song. May you refuse to be silenced, refuse to be timid, and refuse confusion. May you choose to be fearless and bold. May you choose to be like thunder.