Finding Something In Nothing

This is the second part of a blog series on the promised new Earth to come.  Read the intro to the series here.

To begin my adventure on discovering what is worthy of the label ‘eternal’, in this promised new Earth Jesus speaks of, I think the best place to start is to hallow out some space.  In order to know what fits, and what doesn’t belong, we must give ourselves the time to decide such things.

As long as I can remember I have desired to honor a Sabbath day.  If there are working parents out there who are able to do this, I applaud you, but for me taking a continuous 24 hour period to do nothing other than “be” simply doesn’t work.  So each time I would dream about the possibility I would end it with a defeated feeling, a shrug of my shoulders, and the thought ‘Someday, maybe’.  When I started to dig into what aspects of our Earth fit into this coming ‘Earth 2.0’ I came to the realization that, in regards to setting reflection time aside, something is better than nothing.  So my plan is to dedicate just one full hour each day to free my soul.

For each person this hour, or Sabbath, will look different, but I believe some of the substance can be universal.  I envision Sabbath as a time where we allow God to pour into us the validity of who we are in Him, by completely ridding ourselves of the notion that we are capable of anything apart from Him.  It is a time to spend with your family, with yourself, and with God.  It is a time you don’t clean, don’t fold laundry, don’t cook, and don’t look (or even think) about your to-do list.  It is a time to reflect on His grace and take time to enjoy His love.  An hour a day with your phone off, without emails, or texts.  An hour that you don’t write, create, or produce anything.  An hour that you don’t waste with convenient fillers, but rather with the TV off, the radio down, and your book closed.  An hour that is truly just about you being alive in this moment.

This time we give over to our Creator, as fully immersed in life and still completely emptied of ourselves, could be the key to seeing what we need to on our journey.  This will not be easy for me, I imagine it won’t be easy for you either.  To spend a full hour without any of my day-to-day, minute-to-minute picking up, getting done, and ‘wishing to do more’ will be a challenge.  I hope it will be worth it.

I would love to hear if you already spend time in self-reflection each day, or for a longer period on a weekly basis.  If creating this space/time was difficult, and if it continues to push you outside your comfort zone?  Does it gives you direction, a renewed sense of being, or peace?  What has worked, and what hasn’t?

So you’ve made it to heaven, now what?

I’ve heard it asked before, “What will heaven be like?”.  I’ve actually experienced this question first hand when my 5 year old asked me this week what daddy was doing in heaven all day.  Within the context of tradition, we might imagine angels singing, clouds passing by, loved ones we’ve lost back in our presence, and constant worship to God.  All of these things sound … well heavenly, but then what? If these fluffy imaginations are the sum total of eternity one could reason this could get slightly boring given enough time (or lack of time).  If the ‘age to come’ is truly at hand, as Christ told us it was, are our lines being crossed on the envisioned after-life and our role here on Earth now?

Although, I am fully grounded in the reality that living life for the mere suggestion of ‘what is to come’ is no way to enjoy the gift of life God has given us, I do believe that ‘what is to come’ has great implications for our life now.  That these implications, should and do, have weight in our lives, and they are worthy of our time and discussion.  I have recently found myself driving down a highway erasing those things surrounding me that won’t be present in the new Earth Jesus has promised to us.  The feeling that comes along with that is exciting and extremely startling.  What, if anything, in our lives is worthy of this renewed Earth … this Earth 2.0?

This question has been following me for weeks now, settling itself in my heart as a formation of words.  I hope I can form these words in some sensible nature in order to share with all of you.

It starts with a simple deduction in reasoning – Christ made it clear to us that God’s vision for His coming Kingdom was not entirely future.  Jesus, more often than not, delivered his message in a tense that suggested He was speaking of things in the present.  He told us that the Kingdom of God was at hand, that it was here among us, and that we could take part in that kingdom right now.  Given this truth, we must then be able to see some of what the new heaven and new earth will encompass.  We must have some things in our lives worthy of that thing we hope to be part of ‘some day’.

What is exciting about Jesus’ declaration is that for those of you not walking with Christ I hope you will still see this as applicable to your life – I believe this message is true for everyone.  The future kingdom of God is described as a place with no more sickness, no more tears, and no more pain.  When described in this way I venture to say it is a place that each Earthly inhabitant has a desire to be in the midst of, to discover, to even help create.  Each of us can ask ourselves how it is that we can become the type of people that contribute to bringing about a world that looks more like this one Jesus describes, instead of a person who is inflicting the opposite (sometimes unknowingly or possibly ignorantly).

My mind wanders to the useless things we fill up our time with, the shades we draw over oppression we impose on others, and the good things we create in this daily life that will be needed in the age to come.  This will be a series of posts – an Earth 2.0 Exposed.  My hope is to stir in you what has been stirred in me … new eyes.  Eyes to look at the world around us and evaluate what we take part in as a means to discover what He is preparing us for.  And that preparation is part of the process.

I don’t imagine that, upon my death, I will awake in heaven a completely different Stephanie.  No, rather I imagine (and hope …) I will still be me.  But how could I enter into heaven when my inclination to stumble is so great?  I believe we are here to prepare ourselves, and we cannot do this when we are stagnant.  Life must not become mundane or routine.  Our perspective must continuously be re-evaluated.  We have to let our hearts be stirred when love is seen.  Our emotions to overcome us when pain is felt.  It can be easy to lose our spirit in the propaganda that is our every waking second.  But to become the person you desire to be we all must work at it.

Which brings me back to my beloved readers who aren’t Christ followers.  Followers of Christ or not, we all long to be better.  We all long to make our lives something worthy.  This application of evaluation, elimination, and preparation is universal.  Be courageous – dare to identify those things we allow in our lives that might be causing pain, might be to blame for suffering, and has the capacity to bring a person to tears.  And beyond that, there is joy in this self discovery – identify the things He will need us to carry on, the things that we are doing that bring hope, new life, and joy to those around us.  I have no doubt heaven is not a boring place, but I do greatly doubt that we will all be sitting on a cloud singing How Great Is Our God for all eternity.  No, we were created by the Creator for a purpose. Each person slightly different, but we are here to fill the Earth, to cultivate, to create, and to enjoy what He has given us.  I do not believe this will change in the kingdom to come.

So for now, I would ask – and only because I am too – for you to look around the next time you are outside … scan the skyline the next time you drive over a bridge.  Take an inventory of what you see that glorifies God, of the things that have the power to eliminate pain and suffering, and those things that may be causing it.  What do we have among us right now that is worthy of the title ‘Eternal’.  And then, do the same within your own life.

I’m going on a journey, my destination is Earth renewed, and I’m inclined to think Christ needs me to armor up to get there.  I’m hoping you’ll join me on my path.

Grace and Peace.

Saying Goodbye To The Cube Farm

So I was laid off from my corporate job today- no apologies are necessary.

These last twelve months have been a roller coaster of changes and adjustments.  The people I work(ed) with, in my immediate department, poured out compassion and grace to me every chance they got.  And still, I knew deep within me, very soon after Matt’s death, that sitting in that cubicle was not where I was suppose to be anymore.  With the mourning, the moving, and the months of ongoing adjustments I made the decision to hold to that job.  I knew that the financial stability was smart.  I knew my ability to discern whether or not another ‘life changing event’ should be placed on our home simply wasn’t there.  Even with all that though, it was a day by day effort.  Waking up and getting to a job that had lost all meaning … working for corporate America … and at what cost?  The nagging feeling that I was leaving my children behind in order to do so.

It was about a month ago, maybe two, that my heart started truly aching.  The desire to step out in faith, to follow God’s calling on my life, and do the thing that most people would view as ‘irresponsible’ or financially risky had reached a point that I felt I was about to crawl right out of my skin.  Depression, of a different source this time, was sinking deep down within me.  I felt I was letting down my children by needing to hold a 9-5.  I felt I was letting down my co-workers, both by the change in my work habits, and my loss of passion.  I felt trapped.

Before Christmas the company I work(ed) for had executive level issues, and it was rumored there may be layoffs.  With much angst over how it could possibly sound to a manager, I requested that if layoffs were to take place that I would be the one to go.  It had been weeks since then and there had been no sign or word that it was ever going to happen.  More recently, in the last two weeks, I began to give up hope on that being the tool in which God would use to release me from my old career path.  I became frustrated with God … what was worse was I tried to take control – to handle it without surrender.  I doubted His ability, or possibly more accurately speaking, His willingness to answer my prayers.

Last night was the ugliest night I’ve experienced in a while.  I paced for hours, I wrote feverishly (in private journals never to be seen by the pages of a blog), I prayed, I begged, and I cried.  I asked God to show me, tell me, make it known what was the correct path.  I confessed to Him.  I was honest about my pride, my need to control, my doubt.  I went to sleep.  I woke up.  I went to work.  But when I left?  I went home with confidence and freedom, the kind only Christ can give.

He is so good.  We say that, don’t we … God is good.  It’s almost as if no word ever could even come close to encapsulating Him, so we just nod in knowing and say, ‘He is good.”  But it’s truth to the core … He has been good to me, so good to me.  Even in my doubt, anger, and unfaithfulness He loves me.

I got home and the song How He Loves came on.  Those first words almost knocked me to the ground …

He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

Where I had felt alone and angry just hours before I could almost now see his love surrounding me in all my weakness.  Jealous to have my faithfulness back – holy and good He bent me like a branch in the wind of his mercy, goodness, and love.