I’m done with waiting for my next encounter.

I’m going to give thanks for everything I consume and everything I partake of and everything I engage with as though they were each different expressions of God saying directly to me: “I love you.”

I refuse to live like a love-starved beggar. I am not love-poor. I do not live in a poverty of love. No one lives in poverty—they waste away, they decay, they die.

I will subvert every experience of the ordinary, subduing them to serve the needs of love. The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.

Do I feel safe right now? I will receive this as a moment of “I love you.” Thank you, Jesus. Am I enjoying this meal? “I love you.” Thank you. Do I appreciate the way this table allows me to write comfortably? “I love you.” Thank you. Does a particular song pull on my heartstrings in all the best ways? “I love you.” Thank you!

I have a vast host of raw materials around me to frame within the context of love. I refuse to fail to take advantage of them. I refuse to allow a narrow-minded poverty paradigm tell me that only a few select and choice encounters, experiences, and interactions equal true love. I refuse to be a picky love-eater.

My next big love encounter could very well be found in the way the sunlight falls on the floor as easily as it could be found in a person literally saying the words “I love you,” or spending quality time with me or giving me gifts or a hug. God transcends space and time. Every moment could be a moment of quality time with Him. Every item I receive could be a gift from God. Every appropriate touch from someone could be a loving touch from God—we are all His ambassadors. Every thought of love, wonder, thrill, and satisfaction could be God’s own voice within my mind—His spirit dwells in me and interacts with me all the time.

Any mindset that allows for the idea that I am unloved is a mindset of rebellion against God because He gives us all things to enjoy.

I will do violence to apathy and self-pity. I will do violence to the ho-hum, mundane ordinary. I will do violence to the spirit (attitude) of poverty and desolation. I will find and experience the heavenly kingdom of love in the here and now. I will become the encounter I desire and go from one love encounter to even greater love encounters. My mind can re-wire my brain. My healthy loving thoughts can cause my DNA to reproduce correctly in healthy ways. I will restructure my experience by framing all things as coming to me out of love.

I’m done with waiting and pleading. I’m going to live like I’ve been answered, even before I’ve asked. I’m not waiting, I am enjoying and I even have enough to share.

This is the second time it’s happened—hitting a wall, that is. You know, the emotional kind. You know you’ve hit the metaphorical wall when you can’t think, you can’t process conversation, you can’t make a sound. The air gets stuck in your throat and the universe seems to pause. In moments like these, I’m not sure if it’s easier to know why you’ve hit the wall or easier to not know. All I know is I knew. I knew why I hit it and I know now.

It seems to be really easy for me to think God is the source of my trouble. I’ve grown partial to the understanding that it’s possible to run headlong into God’s work and suffer pain, not because He’s trying to hurt you, but because you ran into Him by running against Him. At this point, I don’t know if it’s a general rule of life, but it generally feels true for me.

We were talking. I was currently speaking when she interupted me, “Don’t be so literal.” I didn’t think I was. Without warning, my mind began churning out arguments in defense of accusations—she hadn’t even accused me of half of the things flooding my thoughts. The first and only sign necessary to signal that this is about something else. It’s about the first time I felt whacked upside the head by a passing remark. Both times I’d been talking with people I had met through church. Neither one meant their comments in a hurtful way, yet I was crushed by both of them. This brings me back to God.

The stunning simplicity of these interactions was like being suddenly blind-sided by a huge wave, knocking me back and leaving me strangely bitter. I attributed this to God since He was the topic of our discussions. Now I’m wondering if that’s really the case. I suspected a dutiful “thank you” would bring me through it, but I carried mounting guilt and shame out of my interactions with these people. Something didn’t add up. Maybe, despite their best intentions, my friends’ words had been appropriated by a demonic agenda. Maybe God had nothing to do with it. After all, aren’t the righteous supposed to be able to run into Him and be safe?

Maybe it’s been part of an assignment to derail my pursuits, to steal my joy, to convince me that advancement will only lead me in circles of futility. Yet here I find myself, in the words of Misty Edwards, “walking on a tightrope stretched across the universe, way too high to go back from where I came, overwhelmed at the miles I’ve yet to tame. I’m too far in to turn around now and I’ve got too far to go to sit down now…” I wonder how this will all play out.

When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food… she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them opened…

To be honest, now Adam was hurt. It was personal now. He had told her that God put this tree off-limits, yet she violated his boundary right in front of his face! If God wouldn’t allow him to eat of the tree, how could Adam allow her to eat from it? It was as though she had no respect for Adam’s words.

His heart pounding, Adam didn’t know what to think. All of a sudden, he was very unsure of himself. Eve had taken a bite of the fruit and lovingly extended the remainder to him. For the first time, he doubted God. This tree was the only boundary God had set and Eve just crossed it… or had she? God had never set this boundary with her directly. Adam had told her what God had told only to him—he never withheld anything from Eve.

Now with “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh” still apparently alive on the other side of God’s boundary, was it possible that God had lied? Surely, God would not have given her the ability to do something he couldn’t! Perhaps God changed his mind when he created her? He accepted her offer.

He and she were one flesh. She came out of his side. Why should her fate be any different from his? She had tested the waters and found them to be sweet in her own eyes. Eve had acted outside of what Adam had empowered her to do. If she could eat and still live, then it must be all right for him to grant authority to her decision and follow her lead. Besides, if she did somehow die later, could he bear to not have her by his side? Perhaps he actually loved her more than he loved God. With stoic consent, he took and ate of the fruit from her hand and for the first time tasted regret.

It often feels to me like there really are no safe or reasonable assumptions in life. I think my feeling is based on the experience that hurt happens and people die and flowers grow and the supreme court makes people angry.

I don’t want to change my assumptions based upon my experiences. I want to choose my assumptions based upon the values they cause me to embody.

I assume (based upon the suggestion of scripture) that God is a comforter. This causes me to become a comforting influence to others that I’m in relationship with.

According to life experience alone, some people may say that an all-powerful and loving God is nothing more than an assumption. Whether or not this is true, God really isn’t all that bad of an assumption in my opinion.

Pride is the uncritical (and often emotional) choice to indulge in our pet assumptions under the guise of “common sense.” The blind spots in your critical thinking are the areas where pride is most likely to reside.

Pride is the true enemy of community. Beware of the seed of pride.

It’s important to remember also that when it comes to relationships, the non-verbal questions you pose to one person may be answered by another. Sometimes the person that you receive back from is God Himself.

Perhaps the real problem with gratification is not that we’re unable to delay it for good things, but that we’re unbalanced in the things we gratify. The only way to truly gain mastery over an emotion is to delay indulging in it.

To delay indulging in an emotion, you must speak kindly to yourself. You then become able to “try on” a different emotion or attitude that might help you better than the one you’re tempted by.

One of the biggest things that comes to mind in closing is that God often shows up in the places we least expect. I find that fear and sadness don’t really seem like great options after all.IMG_0087

“Wow, this is deep,” I mused.

I find myself enraptured by the words I read on the screen, when the inevitable moment arrives: I disagree with the author.

“No, that’s a horrible way to look at it. This is exactly the mindset that irritates me about people today.”

Then I remember a crucial detail: I’m reading my own posts from 3 years ago. At some level, I wonder if this points to growth. It surely shows change of some kind… I’ll just call it “growth” for now.

This is the quote in question: “Yet, before we can see the wholeness of God, we must first be confronted with the utter brokenness of the world and feel the painful despair of knowing that we are powerless to fix it.” (If you’re curious, it comes from this post.)

You may have heard this same idea phrased in terms of light and dark: “You don’t know the value of light until you’ve experienced darkness.” The problem is that since dark doesn’t technically exist, but is only a term to describe an absence of light, the root issue of not valuing light is a one of perspective and insinuates that if you don’t value light, it’s because your perspective actually values darkness. While it is possible to learn to value light by experiencing its lack, it’s also possible to learn to value light by experiencing a greater measure or intensity of it. Say for instance that you were sitting in a room lit by 800 lumens and then turned on another light which brought the level up to 1,200 lumens, you could say that the increase of light revealed that you had only known darkness before the increase (pessimism) or you could say that the increase of light revealed to you a more marvelous reality of the power of light (optimism). Thus “darkness” becomes relative to your experience of light. There is no such thing as darkness, only a perspective that values diminishing light (that is, centered around measuring visibility in terms of how much light is missing from the environment and evaluating what you can’t do because of this lack, which is the nature of pessimism).

Bringing it back full circle, there is no such thing as brokenness (which I believe is nothing more than a perceived lack of the desired level of wholeness), but only a perspective that is centered around the concepts of brokenness and despair. In any situation, I believe you can see brokenness getting in the way of healthy and functional systems, or you can see wholeness promoting the growth and betterment of the same institutions. You can pinpoint areas of lack and problems, or you can pour effort into increasing the efficiency and health of the good things that are working. The two perspectives are not getting at different issues, but are approaching the same thing from different angles.

The thing about the pessimistic perspective I’ve described that irritates me is that it encourages you to actively look for problems and exerts an emotional gravity that sucks you into cycles of hopelessness, despair, and frustration. The pursuit of problems can eventually lead you to ones that seem so big and so powerful that you feel utterly insignificant and powerless. It leads you to experience a reality that often defies the facts because you are emotionally compromised. Without the realization of a powerful and loving God who is committed to your deliverance, this realization of insignificance is an emotional dead end.

However, if you are somehow convinced of the reality of a God like I mentioned, something must fundamentally change in your perspective. To continue looking for bad things in life is an activity that is incongruent with the assumption of an all-powerful, loving God. If you live from a pessimistic perspective, your actions reveal a belief (perhaps even a subconscious belief) that God is not good, uninvolved in your life, not willing to help you, or other similar ideas.

Optimism can also cause you to become emotionally compromised, but in a way that enhances your ability to act, connect with others, and flourish. It can lead you to experience a reality that defies facts by convincing you of your power to change things through a commitment to your internal values and practicing boundaries that keep unhealthy thoughts out of your heart and mind. It leads you to celebrate life through engaging in it, rather than withdrawing from your circumstances through criticism.

Coming back to the quote (from my own mouth!) that set me off in the first place, I believe that what I’ve said is correct as long as it’s interpreted as a descriptive statement rather than a prescriptive statement. I don’t want to tell anyone that they have to be aware of darkness before they can value light. As long as you’re aware of what’s changing, that’s what matters. It can be viewed as brokenness causing pain or as wholeness advancing peace, but don’t make your perspective into a prescriptive stance on life. Use it to celebrate the possibility of change. Use it to enjoy the present. Use it to subvert reality and make circumstances your playground rather than your prison.

If you also happen to confess (as I do) that God is loving, all-powerful, and engaged in your personal life, then I want to encourage you with the thought that you are a Divine detox agent. Your positive confession of who God is creates an environment where negative thoughts and brokenness become consumed by righteousness, peace, and joy. The intensity of your detoxifying effect is determined by the singularity of your focus on God’s power to raise the dead to life, as shown by the life of Jesus who is the firstborn of the dead, and your choice to remain fully convinced that God wants to make you like Jesus.

Basically, life with God in view is wildly optimistic because the nature of His being is goodness. I don’t have any more time for negatives.

IMG_1733

Something about a ray of light speaks to me of hope being fulfilled.

I struggled greatly trying to title this post. I came across this shot completely accidentally. I was attempting to take a picture of the wire mesh at an askew angle for fun when I noticed the gleam of light from the sun’s last rays. It’s like a light that strikes your peripheral vision. Have you ever had that happen to you and had it catch you unawares? Something about the idea of a sudden, unexpected ray of light speaks to me of the way God works, the way He fulfills hope that is placed in Him. Situations may seem to be against hope ever being fulfilled, but we serve YHWH, the God who created out of nothing. He takes even what is seemingly set up against His purposes and re-structures it to proclaim His glory. Like an unexpected ray of light, He transforms the ordinary into something eternally extraordinary. He satisfies all desire, He fulfills all longing, and He gladdens the heart with His presence. He is a God Who meets hope. Place your hope in God—it will be fully met because of Who He is.