No More Dying

“and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

- Revelation 21:4

I’ve read about heaven many times, but until today, that verse was just a verse to me.

My life has been pretty amazing since I was born. The only real tragedy I remember was finding out my Dad had lymphoma, and I thank God that he’s still alive.

Aside from that, for as long as I can remember, nobody really, really close to me has died unexpectedly, or suffered a terrible accident. I’ve lost grandparents, but not friends. Friends have lost parents, but I have not.

When everyone really close to you seems more or less healthy, it’s easy to slip into a false sense of security – a security based on the fact that everything is OK, and will always be OK.

But everything won’t always be OK.

It doesn’t matter how much faith you have, it doesn’t matter how much or how little you’ve sinned.

One day you might find out that your kid has leukemia.

Someone linked to that site today and I began to read the back story. As I read about his kid complaining about pain, I could hear my son complaining. As I read about how they went to the hospital for tests, I could see myself in the hospital with my son.

When I read the part about trying to hide his grief, I could feel myself burning with rage over the injustice of having to explain life-threatening disease to a child.

And it was at that moment that I understood the significance of Revelation 21:4.

This world is a beautiful and awful place if you allow yourself to love people, and it can change from one extreme to the other with a single visit to the doctor.

Thinking of this reminds me of something Andy Stanley said (not a direct quote):

“The god that doesn’t let anything bad happen to us, that god never existed. That’s the god we carry around in our pocket, and we take him out whenever we need him, but he’s not real”.

That was a wakeup call for me because I used to believe that God would stop my plane from crashing if I prayed in tongues. I clung to this idea that God would protect me from tragedy if I just had enough faith.

This world is wonderful, but still broken and imperfect.
People we love will get sick, and suffer.
For as long as we are here, people we love will die.
Parents will bury kids.
Children will see only pictures of their mothers.
Soldiers will leave behind kids they never met.
People will die in shopping malls.
People will die in earthquakes.
People will just die.
And nobody will be ready for it.

And at some point in our lives, it will be awful. For everyone.

I do believe that people can get through great tragedy and I do believe that joy can be restored. It seems impossibly difficult to recover from losing a child or spouse. But people do it. Life goes on. They remarry, have new kids, and somehow, someway, they find joy again.

But I do believe in a place where there will be no more dying. No more parents burying kids, and no more losing the people we love.

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Daddy

You can lay your head on my chest,
You can feel the warmth of my embrace,
You will know my love,
You will find rest,
In Me Alone, In Me Alone

24676 10150139484185054 786690053 11564117 5772207 n Having a son has been an emotionally disruptive experience. Prior to becoming a father, I shed a lot of religious baggage, and preconceived ideas about God. I accepted the futility of trying to be a good Christian, and actually began to experience this thing we call unconditional love.

And it changed me.

But then I had a son. And holding that son as a newborn, a young baby, and now as a toddler, has challenged my perspective of God once again.

I don’t think I truly lived until I held my baby boy in my arms and watched him go to sleep. Such peace and security on his face.

Now he’s a toddler, and when I help him to pray before bedtime, he mimics my tone. If I whisper “Dear Jesus”, he whispers “Dear Jesus”, trying to be just like his daddy. He’s not just dependent on me, he’s excited to be with his daddy.

You can’t not be changed by that.

When I consider what it must feel like to be Austin in that moment, I realize that I have never felt this way with my Heavenly Father. And I suspect that many others have not either.

Many of us become Christians with the image of a Heavenly Father tainted by our experience with our earthly father. And we are quickly told that we must mature, and become ready for meat, not milk.

In doing this, our heavenly childhood is cut short and we skip right to becoming adopted adult children of a God that we’ve never grown up experiencing as Daddy.

Austin will someday see me as Dad instead of Daddy. But his image of me as Dad, will be shaped by years of being held in my arms, looking at me as Daddy.

That experience, being held in daddy’s arms will be a foundational part of his emotional makeup. It will shape how he sees the world, and eventually, how he sees God. Part of my job as as his daddy is to make sure that he experiences God in that same way.

Have you ever felt as if you were being held in this way by your Heavenly Father, can you call Him ‘Daddy’, without feeling strange? Do you feel too old for that? Or maybe it feels like calling a stranger by a very intimate name.

I believe that this is an experience He never intended us to grow out of. Surely we mature, we experience more complex emotions, and face more difficult experiences with our faith.

But there’s power in that experience of feeling loved as a thoroughly dependent child, with our head on Daddy’s chest, listening to His heart beat, with no expectation other than that we just sit there and be with Him.

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Why Are You Running?

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When is the last time you sprinted for the simple joy of going fast? Don’t count exercise, don’t count the time you almost missed your plane, and don’t count the time you were chased by a bear.

When is the last time you ran as fast as you could, just because you could?

Ask the same question to a young child and you will hear “today”. Ask me, and the answer is “I can’t remember, it was so long ago”.

Can you rush without feeling rushed?
Can you work hard without feeling stressed?
Can you work your hardest at something just because it feels good?

    In my life I have sprinted for a variety of reasons. The three that I remember the best are:

    1. I loved the feeling of running fast.
    2. It was a necessary part of what I was doing.
    3. I was running to or from something in fear.

    The act was the same, the motivation, state of mind, and emotional impact was very different. Sprinting can be done under enjoyable, neutral, or awful circumstances. Regardless, you’re running as fast as you can. The only difference is how you feel when you get done.

    From Fear To Necessity

    There will be times when you need to work hard. This is unavoidable. If your heart is consumed with fear, these times of hard work will be stressful. You will feel as if you are running from something you can’t see.

    Because we are not cavemen, these fears are usually unfounded. Most of us will not be eaten by bears if we fail at our next project. We react as if situations are life threatening, when in fact, the only thing in danger is our self-worth, and need for validation.

    This simple truth allows you to look at those times of hard work differently. They become nothing more than the sprinting done by an athlete in training. It is simply necessary, not scary. Regardless of whether you succeed or fail, you need to do it.

    Panic does nothing to improve the odds of success, it just makes it harder to do good work, and we are usually in no real danger. So we can reach a point where we are no longer operating out of fear, instead, tackling our next project like a weight lifter gripping the bar. It is necessary.

    But is this the best we can hope for? Do children sprint across the playground just because it’s necessary? Do they chase each other across the soccer field because it’s just a part of the game?

    No. They do it because it’s exhilarating.

    From Necessity to Exhilaration

    There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
    – 1 John 4:18

    Perfect love casts out fear. All fear. Not just the fear that grips our hearts in times of panic, but also the subtle fear telling us that pure exhilaration is childish. The fear telling us to act our age, not to stand out, not to draw attention to ourselves.

    Moving from fear to necessity is only half the journey. Children don’t just run, they run and laugh. Because they were created to do so.

    God’s never intended us to simply work hard because it was necessary. He definitely did not intend for us to work hard out of fear. He created us to co-labor with him in everything.

    When we are disciplined in our awareness of his constant presence, we can reach a place in our hard work, where it is not just necessary, but exhilarating. This experience releases something deep inside that has long been shut down.

    The joy of work, the joy of sprinting. Not alone, but side-by-side with our Heavenly Father.

    Broken

    Many of us are broken in too many ways to ever reach this place without lots and lots of healing. Some of us have been living out of fear for so long that we can’t hear the word deadline without feeling anxious.

    Nonetheless, we were created for better. We were created to run fast, work hard, and to feel the exhilaration of the presence of God while we do it.

    It’s in you, but only He can let it out. And only you can let Him in.

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    The End Of Me

    It’s so easy to confuse natural, God-given talent, with faith. When faced with a challenge, there’s a critical decision that must be made inside each one of us. “Can I Do This?”

    For most of my life, I have been a perfectionist, only participating in activities I knew I could succeed at. To others, it appeared as if I was good at everything I tried. Because of my careful selection of activities, I usually was.

    The thoughts that went through my mind, as I evaluated the probability of success went something like this:

    • Can I be good at this?
    • Can I appear good for someone who’s not invested any time?
    • Can I seem funny at it if I’m not good?
    • Will I look stupid?

    I was terrified of actually trying my best, and not winning. Or, if I didn’t win, at least getting people to laugh. Losing, and looking weak, or stupid was not an option.

    So now, as I’m walking through my 4th decade of life, I like the idea of having faith in God’s ability to do more through me than I’m capable of on my own.

    But the measure of this does not lie in the success of things I’m familiar with, but in my willingness to step out of my comfort zone, beyond the end of myself.

    There are ideas for things I’ve wanted to try that have been on my mind for over a year. Or two years. And yet, here I sit, doing the same things that I feel good at. Things I’m comfortable with. Things I know how to do.

    I’ve reached the end of myself.  I’ve done all I know how to do. The next things seem unfamiliar, and I’m stuck here because I’m scared of the unknown.

    This is where the substance of my faith and familiarity with God begins to show. When will I boldly step into the unfamiliar, not because I feel ready, but because I trust that He is capable of guiding me through?

    My resolution for 2011 is to boldly fail at something I’m scared to try.

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    Please Don't Leave Me

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    Please don’t leave me
    Please don’t leave me
    I always say how I don’t need you
    But it’s always gonna to come right back to this
    Please don’t leave me

    These words are from the song “Please Don’t Leave Me” by the artist Pink. I heard it on the radio today, and it hit me in a way that I’m sure was accidental on her part.

    Forget for a moment that this song is about a dysfunctional relationship (hence the punching bag reference in the lyrics). Just focus on the hook:

    Please don’t leave me.

    Who says this?

    More importantly, who feels this? And deeper still, who feels it but doesn’t realize it?

    Maybe it’s a child watching his parents fight.
    Or a lonely high school kid losing his first girlfriend.
    A wife who sees her husband coming home later and later each night.
    A husband who fears his wife is unhappy with him.
    An adult watching their parent slowly die.

    Please, please don’t leave me.

    We can surround ourselves with as much respect as money can buy. We can insure our cars, houses, and even our limbs. We can build so much independence that we rely on nobody for anything.

    But, when we’re alone, when the voices of affirmation stop, and when we come face to face with our own emptiness, I believe the cry of our hearts is the same.

    Please don’t leave me.

    We fear being alone, being abandoned, of being orphaned in a world that accepts only those who belong to somebody.

    The fear of being abandoned, forgotten, disregarded, and alone is rooted so deep in our subconscious that most of us are unaware of how much it affects our actions and thoughts every day.

    This is by design. We were not created to be alone. We were created to live life in communion with our creator. Not simply to sit in his house once a week and pray, but to walk together as Adam did, through both work, play, worship, and rest.

    Psalm 139:7 – Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

    The presence of God is not an abstract thing. It is real, and it is the most healing, fulfilling experience that any of us can ever have on this earth.

    When you give up on trying to be good enough to please Him, holy enough to please others, having the right words to say, or any of the other stuff we use as excuses to avoid Him……when you let go of all of it and just let Him hold you, the way a father holds his baby, in that moment His perfect, unrelenting, unwavering love hits you like a tidal wave.

    The reality of that experience, and our avoidance of it is why we have those words in our heart, the words that cry out when we least expect:

    Please don’t leave me.

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    That. Is. Awesome.

    I saw someone this week who I had not seen since leaving my job last August. He asked how the guitar lesson business was going. I told him it was great.

    And then I felt the need to explain why it was going so great. But I had no answer.

    So I said, “I don’t fully understand it, but I guess I don’t have to understand something to enjoy it.” Continue reading

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