I met *Sarah in a retail store. She helped me shop for a ring. She informed me that people are calling costume jewelry by another name now, “progressive jewelry.” We both laughed a little. Sarah was in her 60’s and had retired several years earlier so that she could travel. She was back at work, but in a job that she liked, and she spoke of no regrets having used some of her savings to explore the world. Sarah told me that her family was made up of diverse backgrounds. She and her siblings were raised Muslim (although she did not identify herself as Muslim any longer), and she had relatives by marriage who were Jewish, as well as Catholic. She said that family ties meant a lot to her. She said that she celebrates Christmas. Sarah’s life and family background were atypical, and she seemed to appreciate that. I liked thinking of her family sitting together at holiday gatherings, differing beliefs and all. I do believe that there is one true way for people to find close relationship and eternal life with God, through Jesus’ sacrifice, but it’s because of this that I can appreciate when people show love toward one another even and especially when their views differ. It’s one way of truly loving our neighbors, which Jesus equated with loving God with our whole heart. Before leaving, Sarah and I shared a hug. I said goodbye and she responded by saying that she wasn’t going to say goodbye…that she had a feeling we would see each other again. Not hearing goodbye from my new friend touched my heart.
Sometimes my view of this world is a little bleak. I look at what is happening around me and it can be difficult to make sense of it all. And I don’t like seeing God’s creation suffer. So my thoughts turn to what heaven will be like, and it chokes me up a bit. Because I know that not only will it mean time in God’s presence, but “there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). There are many near-death accounts where people speak of having visited heaven. I don’t know that I have experienced exactly that, but many years ago something happened to me that made me wonder if I had been given a glimpse of heaven. I fainted in a college class. When I woke up, my professor told me that I had hit my head and that my heart had stopped beating. While unconscious I remember opening my eyes and seeing a man in a sash reaching his hand down toward me. I grabbed it and we began to walk up a winding path. I do not remember any words being spoken, but I do remember a feeling of being “filled up.” I felt joyful and complete, as if I was lacking nothing. I also remember thinking about the people I knew who were back here, and although I loved them, I knew things would be ok. I did not feel a longing to go back. The next thing I remember is opening my eyes and seeing the worried look on my professor’s face. At the time, I was disappointed that I was back. I cannot say for sure what I experienced that day, but I wonder sometimes if I was given a preview into what heaven might be like. I am so grateful for the life that I have and that God has given me the opportunity to learn more about Him as time has passed. At the time of the incident, I believed that God existed, but I didn’t give much more thought to it than that. Whether or not that experience was a peek into what heaven is like, there is something in my heart now that can’t help but think that the “filled up” feeling I felt during those moments was an indication of what it will be like to be in God’s presence; there will be a sense of lacking nothing.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” – Psalm 23:1
Jesus stressed the importance of humility. When He and His disciples feasted with Matthew and Matthew’s friends, the Pharisees and teachers of religious law questioned the disciples, asking why they would eat with “scum.” Jesus responded, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent” (Luke 5:29-32). Jesus made it clear that God was searching for those who were willing to admit that they had problems, their fundamental problem being that their sin separated them from God. It can be tough to view ourselves as sinners who need to be reconciled with God, but the way I see it, none of us can really say that we’ve never fallen short of even our own standards of what “good” is, and because God is perfect and Holy, it would be tough to claim that our “goodness” lines up with His righteousness. Also, when we give it thought we realize that sometimes the things we think, say, and do, surprise even us, which can serve as more confirmation that we are in need of new hearts that are God-facing. Like the Pharisees, we can view Jesus as a radical troublemaker, or like Matthew and his friends, realize that we are in need of a savior, find a spot at the banquet table, and feast.
I remember that soon after I became a Christian I was impressed by the fact that the Jesus I was coming to know was consistent with the Jesus I was reading about in the Bible. It was as if the love, gentleness, kindness, compassion, and understanding that He demonstrated, and the truth that He brought had been gently set down inside of me; to teach me, guide me, and comfort me. The Bible says that when we trust in Jesus to be our Redeemer, God’s Holy Spirit makes His home in our hearts. This was when the words on the page also became the Voice in my soul.
“And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” – Galatians 4:6
Some of you know that I enjoy singing and songwriting and from time to time I share my songs via my blog posts, along with brief explanations as to what they are about. Today I am sharing my thoughts on a song I wrote called, “Don’t Expect Much.” It’s about that drive we all have as human beings to collect earthly goods, and how, at the end of our lives, all of the things we have collected will not matter. When we realize this, we start thinking about what lies beyond this life. Not sure about you, but I spent many years going my own way, and although I always believed that God existed, I did not spend time seeking Him out. Then I met someone who began to share her faith with me, and by the way she treated me, made me want to know Him better. She even gave me a Bible to boot. It was the best gift she could have given me because it inspired me to learn more about Him. (*If you are interested in receiving a free copy of the Bible let me know by filling out the contact form at the bottom of this post. I will send them out while my supplies last.) For an audio clip of and lyrics to “Don’t Expect Much,” see below.
Don’t Expect Much, Audio (click play):
hey God, i’m sittin’ here lookin’ at all my stuff
and i’m thinkin’ i won’t need it where i’m goin’
but another thing that occurs to me
i got no good place for my soul to be
and i remember someone tellin’ me
bout livin’ with You in eternity
well, i don’t know You
so, i don’t expect much
cause i have gone my own, my own way
but i’m beggin’ You today, save me
didn’t think i’d be needin’ You
or this hole inside would come bleedin’ through
but every step i took, know now You knew
the good of a God who won’t leave when we do
can i be with You in paradise
you will be with Me in paradise
hey God, i’m sittin’ here lookin’ at all my stuff
and i’m thinkin’ i won’t need it where i’m goin’
I can begin my morning by reading the Bible, and I feel very close to God. An hour later, I step out the front door, start thinking about the day ahead, and the nearness I felt to God disappears. I am often surprised at how easily my attention is diverted away from Him. Then the thought occurred to me that there will be both. There will be both moments of feeling near to Him, and times when I will be distracted and preoccupied. There will be both.
“I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!” – Psalm 139:7
To me, the ocean is beautiful and another example of the power and goodness of God. He made it pleasing to the eyes and filled it with interesting creatures. It showcases His glory every night as the sun sinks below the horizon. It serves as a playground for those who ride its waves, and as an education for others who study its currents (my grandpa did both!). It’s where seagulls gather and where tiny crabs burrow into the sand. But more than that, it is a reminder that although things appear to stop, like where water meets the sky, that is only an illusion.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11
“…the Lord was with him and gave him success in everything he did.” (Genesis 39:3)
Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers. It must have been traumatic to be given against his will to a strange people, traveling to an unfamiliar land. Through the many trials he faced, Joseph remained steadfast in his loyalty to God. At the same time, the Bible says that God was with Joseph. Joseph went on to become the second-in-command next to Pharaoh, King of Egypt. When he saw his brothers again it was during a time of severe famine, Joseph had risen to a prominent position in Egypt and was in charge of distributing the food that his brothers had journeyed to buy. Joseph didn’t disclose his identity right away and his brothers did not recognize him. When he finally did reveal who he was, he wept so loudly that those in another room heard him. The Bible says that when Joseph’s brothers found out, they were terrified. Joseph told them not to be angry with themselves for what they had done, and that although they intended to harm him, God intended it for good; the saving of many lives. Joseph’s tears get me. Through the years he kept his integrity, had been a loyal servant, and was determined to fulfill any tasks he was given. At the same time, he had been forsaken by his own family, enslaved, and imprisoned. I am glad that God included Joseph’s weeping in the account of his life. Sometimes there just aren’t words.
Sometimes, when I have felt anger, I have believed it was creating a divide between God and me. But, when I think about it, if every time I experience negative emotions, God turns away, it doesn’t give us a chance to build a real relationship. How many people in your life do you consider true friends with whom you only share the more pleasant aspects of your personality; only your best and cheeriest self? The people I consider my closest friends have seen me at my worst, and loved me anyway. I think the key to dealing with anger and other unpleasant emotions is to take them to God and to be completely honest with Him about what we’re feeling. It means talking to Him about even the things we feel almost too ashamed to say out loud. It means spilling our guts so that He can begin to fill us with something new.
“For he loves us with unfailing love; the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever. Praise the Lord!” – Psalm 117:2
“There Abram called on the name of the Lord.” – Genesis 13:4
Abram (also known as Abraham) is known as one of THE men of faith in the Bible. He is known as the man whom God credited with righteousness because he believed what God told him. He took God at His word. So it’s helpful for me to look at Abram’s life for other examples of ways to honor God. Recently, I found another. When reading about Abram, it struck me that at different times along the journey from his homeland to Canaan (the land God was calling him to), he made a point to stop and as the Bible puts it, he “called on the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 12:8, 13:4) It seems like a simple thing, and perhaps a statement I might have brushed over when reading the same passages in times past, but they spoke loudly to me this time. That’s all He asks of us, isn’t it? That we call on the name of the Lord throughout our journey.