An Eternity– (With God)

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18″ So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

2 Corinthians 4:18, (NLT)

This dear ones, is an awesome verse with profound implications. The more I marinade in it, the better it gets.

But more importantly, it refuses to give in to the temporary. The earthly reality that swirls around us is brief. Its provisional purpose is an exclusive one; it exists to prepare us for an eternity with God. That hope ‘rewires’ us. We must be prepared for this encounter, we must be changed.

The spiritual realities are the ones that are truly real,

(and the ‘Bible truths’ are the ones that are really authentic.)

 

Issues must be settled in the temporary ‘here-and-now.’ You might say, without being too audacious, that we’re being groomed to be royals. And maybe we truly are. Perhaps this is the fuller implication of having eternal life? We seem to be destined for a throne. And God is eager enough to make it happen.

C.S. Lewis writes: “We are so little reconciled to time that we are even astonished at it. ‘How he’s grown!’ we exclaim, ‘How time flies!’ It’s as strange as if a fish were repeatedly surprised at the wetness of water. And that would be strange indeed; unless of course, the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal.”

Eternity is the real world. It is quite unlike anything else. Our present situation is one of preparation: a new ‘language,’ new attitudes, new relationships– in short, a new life. Someday we will shine like a newly minted penny! And some, are starting to shine already.

C.S. Lewis also wrote, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water.  If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”

bry-signat

 

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So You Want to Become Vulnerable?

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“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

 — C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Public speaking has never been a problem for me. All through high school, Bible college, as a street evangelist– nothing I’ve ever done really has ever been a concern.  But,  I have friends who rather submit themselves to hideous torture then to put themselves in that public position.  They are afraid of the spotlight, feel exposed and just a little too accessible in the lime light.

Becoming vulnerable in love is ‘above and beyond’ the fear of public speaking.  It is almost irrational in the way it takes charge.  We refuse to put out, with the fear of being that accessible.  We will not allow ourselves to become a victim.  But public speaking has nothing on loving someone deeply, because of the risk involved.

Men are the greatest perpetrators of this attitude.  We close ourselves off and keep our hearts protected and safe.  We cannot truly give our hearts away, because we cannot share that which is most intimate (we hate that word!).  I will refuse to become vulnerable to anyone, because of the risk I put myself in. To really “trust,” in deep way, is way too much exposure for us.

Our families cannot understand our emotional coldness.  They think that the problem is their fault.  They struggle to understand.  And we respond to their attempts to accommodate us with skepticism and fear.  We hold back and pathetically attempt to adjust to their efforts.  Selfishness ultimately wins the day.

Lewis reveals that our natural inclination is towards selfishness.  We try to hide and avoid the “nakedness” that love requires.  I am convinced that we will spare no effort to stay safe, becoming invulnerable to another’s inspection.  We wall up ourselves to the risks of love.  But learning to trust is one of life’s most difficult tasks.

Jesus Christ has come, to teach us how to love openly and freely.  He became vulnerable, laying aside his prerogative of being God.  He is teaching us to love like him. We will only truly heal when we risk it all, with our Father, and our brothers and sisters.

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Ministry & the Mentally Ill, Once More

“Turning Your Back,” Russian Folk Art

Religious people love to hide behind religion. They love the rules of religion more than they love Jesus. With practice, the Condemners let rules become more important than the spiritual life. “

— Michael Yaconelli

“We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. … That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed.”

                                                                           –C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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Mentally ill people are rarely seen in our Churches.  We are pushed into hiding our true identity;  we can come out into the open, but only if we agree to play according to the rules–their rules.  We are expected to censor ourselves, and say proper things at the right time.  Pharisees [who are alive and well] insist on a level of purity that all must maintain. [Hey, I am not picking on anyone, it's just a generality.]

If I say that I am depressed, paranoid, manic or desperate, I will upset the apple cart and muddle up everything.  “Truth?  You can’t handle the truth?”, [from the movie, "A Few Good Men".] 

But– if we use our shortcomings as credentials– we have the ability to speak about grace, love and of self-acceptance, with real authority.

Christians with mental illnesses, have been given a gift that we are to share with the Church.  The Holy Spirit has sprinkled us into each fellowship of believers.  He places us who are presently afflicted and suffering into strategic places. We are “sprinkled” throughout the Body. Our “gifts” are to speak to the Body, spiritually about a lot of things, but especially grace.

If our fellowships become religious, it is usually because we in our weaknesses, have allowed ourselves to be silenced into submission by the “interpreters” of scripture.  If we don’t like the rules, we are told to go elsewhere.  We are not welcome, they say with a smile.

But don’t you see, that is our moment to shine!  Our “unsightly” presence shouts out to the “wonderful” people, proclaiming grace in weakness.  Those who receive us, in a way, receive Him.  Those who turn from us, muffling us, are doing that to Jesus. Frightening, isn’t it?

I would strongly suggest that we take our illnesses into the open.  That we become transparent before others.  As we do this, we can ‘oh-so-gently’ guide our fellowships into true grace and love.  They look at me and they see Jesus.  And that is our ministry as mentally ill people to the Church.  Our weaknesses are really our strengths.

9″ But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power  is perfected in weakness.”  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” 

10 “So because of Christ,  I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

                               2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NLT

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[This is a re-blog of one of our core teachings, originally posted 11/20/2009. I felt it was time to bring out of our musty old closet and set it before you again. I hope that it resounds deep within, and that it encourages those who must mix their discipleship with disability.]

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This Special Place, Where it is Always Christmas

“This Gospel anticipates a world far different from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia,where it is “always winter, and never Christmas.” But the promise of the Gospel is that it is always Christmas. To be “in Christ” is to enjoy each morning as a Christmas morning with the family of God, celebrating the gift of God around the tree of life.”

–Kevin Van Hoozer

Christmas can be a torment and tribulation for so many. I have no doubt it brings grief. Family, friends, finances– mixed liberally with heavy doses of materialism and manipulation will always bring us issues.  The music and decorations are mostly mere Novocaine (which doesn’t always work). Stress builds up. And we want none of that.

“Christmas is for children. But it is for grown-ups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and a nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chilled hidebound hearts.”  

–Lenora Mattingly Weber

As I think about Christmas, it is helpful for me to see it as a “mirror.” It is my reflection back to me. What we see, is who we are. If we have issues in our own life, the Season will just magnify them.  But this doesn’t mean its bad, far from it. There is always conflict, but this spiritual combat can bring us success. Some things must be fought for.

I’m convinced that in all of this, there is opportunity.  The chance to connect to “Christmas”. The very idea is quite strange.  But Christmas is an exquisite treat.  It is made by mixing love and truth in generous portions. As we look hard for it, there is something that moves us to a place far beyond us. Grace makes us to stand and look, perhaps for the first time.

Grace sometimes seems almost electrical. It connects us to everything holy and true.  Its very presence in our lives can really move us through the ugliness of Christmas. It propels us, and shoots us face forward into a deep sense that He is close to us. Christmas brings us right into a place where everything makes sense, is sweet, and incredibly kind.

When we truly process this, we’ll find “Christmas”. And honestly, it is more than a holiday. For the Christian, it is special time. And yes, there will be times when it is trying, but in my own thinking, Christmas has become a time of great joy and anticipation.

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ybic, Bryan