Let’s Play Pretend

Pin_LetsPlayPretend

                                                                                                                                                   Image Source

In my previous post I encouraged my readers to take part in a meditation practice. The practice allowed us to create a vivid image of a perfected world. To imagine and visualize as concretely as possible a newly painted canvas of the world. To recall this image and continuously reform, reshape, and renew it.To begin to hope that the existence of such a world is truly possible. However for this practice to begin to take form beyond our imaginations and out into the world, unity is required. For humanities hope to slowly begin to transform all that we see around us there must be agreement about the object and aim of our future. Our hope must be directed towards and centered around a universal objective to become realized on earth today.

I want to suggest that our vehicle and object of hope is love. Love is the thing we must be directed towards and centered upon. The kind of love we see perfectly displayed in Christ. In Christ we find a concrete, vivid image of true love. Jesus is the exact representation and image of God. And God is love. The person, teachings, actions, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the thing that displays for us a love capable of transforming our world. The cross becomes the center of all our hope. It was on the cross that an entire new reality was inaugurated upon the earth. Through the cross humanity was given the potential to become the hope of the better world we envisioned. The resurrection made way for the Kingdom of God to be made manifest today–on the very soil in which you are standing. On the cross, all those things we removed in our imaginations from the dark and broken world have already been overcome. Our job is to see such a world. Our job is to live it out as if it was real right now.

Problems arise because this new and perfected Kingdom isn’t always obvious. In fact, more often than not it is completely hidden. (This topic is discussed in a sermon by Greg Boyd that I would recommend). Our image of a world centered around perfect love must be the hope we hold on with all our might. Without hope–without possessing a faith aimed towards perfect love–transformation will be impossible. If we lose hope, if we give up on the possibility of perfect love, and rather become convinced that the ugliness we see in the world today is the best we can do this side of death, we are screwed. In the book Courage to Be, Paul Tillich talks about such hopelessness; “Despair is an ultimate or “boundary-line” situation. One cannot go beyond it. Its nature is indicated in the etymology of the word despair: without hope. No way out into the future appears.” If we do not imagine ourselves becoming something better, by uniting in a common hope, we are essentially condemning humanity to an end defined by fear. Lucky for us, our hope, our direction, our objective is perfect love–the only thing capable of eradicating fear.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18

Advertisements

A Possible Peace

It is common for contestants in a beauty pageant to be asked what one thing they would change about the world if given the chance. A popular (and often publicly mocked) answer is world peace. To be honest, I don’t know why these young women are coached into given this answer, but strangely I feel a little defensive of them lately. What is so offensive about this topic? Why is it when I think of world peace, the only memory I have of a widely publicized use of the phrase is attached to a beauty contest?

I had to do a Google search for “beauty pageant and world peace” to determine what question they were asked to prompt the answer. The search returned zillions of results regarding the subject; mostly message board comments and blog posts ridiculing the audacity of such an answer. One person stated simply that world peace is unattainable and anyone who believes otherwise is naive. Another person said the answer made them cringe. And apparently, an actress made a public plea requesting for such peace pledges to stop.

My concern here is not necessarily for the contestants–it is a concern about the prejudice towards peace. Too often peace is taught in churches as a feeling individuals can posses as a result of being in Christ, but it is far more. It is a hope we get to display to the world as Jesus did. We display the peace of Jesus in both our hearts and actions, so that the world can have hope that such a peace like His is possible. Inward peace is given to us by Jesus and we get to carry that to the world around us. Peace is given, so that peace can overflow.

To set a hope on world peace is fantastically irrational and annoyingly optimistic, but I guess I don’t really care. The best I can do is try bringing that kind of peace to those around me and do so by living peacefully myself. This is the sermon Greg Boyd gave on December 22 at Woodland Hills Church. The topic was peace–the message was inspiring.  Listen here, then visit here.

There You Were

We had the honor of Dr. Greg Boyd and Dr. Paul Eddy leading  a seminar on God, Evil, and Spiritual Warfare at school this week. The following is an edited version of the paper I was assigned to write prior to the class. Greg Boyd has had a massive influence on my life, not just my spiritual walk, but rather on my entire worldview (I encourage checking out his website ReKnew.org). I have often wrote about the work of people who have had influence on me, but I tend to shy away from writing about Greg’s work for fear of undermining the weight of it’s beautiful integrity and intelligence. With that being said, I’m sure this reflection is far from encapsulating the message of living within a Warfare Worldview–not to mention my clumsy attempt to weave it together with his more recent work on how to view God in the face of things such as OT violence. Regardless, what it does contain is a vital lesson on how we view our Father when we face suffering and pain. I pray you’ll see what I have learned to see once more, the loving gaze of our Heavenly Father.

There You Were

I was driving down Hwy 169, on my way home after a visit to my parent’s house. The snow was melting, and apart from the massive amounts of sand and dirt peeking out along the roads, it was a beautiful scene. The air, not yet warm, carried on it’s breath a reminder of a new beginning. A feeling of anger welled inside me at the scent of rebirth revealed in the wind of that spring. I could hear my father’s gentle words still echoing in my mind from our visit, “Stephanie, God didn’t take Matt.” I knew that, but it isn’t what I felt. If God hadn’t physically ripped my husband from Earth—from his children, from me—He certainly hadn’t stopped someone else from doing the tearing. Regardless of who was to blame, my flesh that was once fused to my husband was now no more than a gushing, bloody wound I was forced to live with.

I have dealt with spiritual warfare in very tangible ways throughout my life, both before and after becoming a widow. The night I was attacked by a demon who was determined to keep me addicted to cocaine more then I was determined to get sober comes to mind. I think about the day I realized the person I had been listening to in the mirror for years—the one telling me I wasn’t worthy of love— wasn’t actually me. The day when my five year old daughter fearfully told me about her nightmare that contained evil beyond her knowing is my most hated of all. In light of this, it is easy to understand why the average American would rather plead ignorance than try to face the reality of the evil that lies just beyond our five senses. For me however, it was the night I lost my husband that I had to finally face my own ignorance about serving an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God in light of a world filled with pain, evil and suffering.

My husband died of pneumonia at the age of 33. He was a healthy man. The night of his death, he went to bed early due to a bad cold he had come down with that day. Before sunrise the next morning he would be dead. During therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I rewrote the story of my husband’s death in a way my brain was able to handle. For me, this process meant I had to re-walk through that horrific evening, but this time with Jesus by my side. When I now flashback to that evening, Jesus is present throughout the memory. Jesus was there and warns me of my husband’s waking and subsequent asphyxiation. Jesus cries out to our Father while I call 911. Jesus kneels beside me, snot and tears pouring into the carpet, as I hear the paddles being charged and recharged and recharged again. Jesus has become a physical part—as I believe He was—of the night my husband died, but where was God?

I knew God was there, I was certain. Why was it I couldn’t recognize Him? It wasn’t until over a year after my husband’s death that I learned I couldn’t see God because I was looking in the wrong places. I couldn’t see Him because I hadn’t fully realized the price we pay for the spiritual war raging all around us. I believe, in part, I couldn’t find God because I was only able to see a shadow of His imprint on that night. I had mistaken God’s shadow for His true self and that can be a costly mistake.

These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.                                                       Colossians 2:17

If I hadn’t been sitting in a chair at Woodland Hills on July 15, 2012, I believe I wouldn’t be quite as capable to answer the question of where God was the night my husband died. Dr. Boyd’s book God at War allowed Spirit revelation into my life regarding God’s intervention, or lack thereof, in Matt’s death. But, it was through Greg’s message “God’s Shadow Activity” that things really began to click. I don’t think I would have the peace I now have regarding my internal dilemma of God “taking” my husband from me if it wasn’t for that sermon. I was at Woodland Hills that night though, and the peace that surpassed understanding for me in those first months of grief has more recently taken on an applicable peace that not only surpasses, but lies within understanding.

So as I sat there that evening, in my church seat, I began to peel away the lies I had been telling myself about God’s role in Matt’s death. I decided to think on that night one more time. This time I understood. This time I finally saw what I hadn’t seen before. I imagined that hellish night. I remember how I fell to my knees in our old hallway. I envision my face planting into the floor. I see myself crying out to my Heavenly Father with the most unearthly noise that had ever left my body. And then I remembered, Christ was there with me. So, I look up from the floor and meet eyes with my Savior as I had so many times during this re-enactment, but this time it was different.

My mouth, just barely able to move, utters in a hushed tone …. “Abba.”

God was there—right there—the whole time. It was only when I looked to the love, found on the cross, that I was able to see the true nature of God … regardless of the light (or darkness) in which I was looking through.