Happily Ever After

Life

I’m starting to think that everyone needs to define for themselves what “Happily Ever After” looks like. Write it out someplace and refer to it frequently. Update it as you find new things and new contexts. Share it with those you love the most and let their own “Happily Ever After” story and your story influence each other. If you are married, you should have already done something along this line of thought already.

If you are unmarried, perhaps hurting, this is still important, but revealing your deepest longings to another person may need to come incrementally. And sometimes it might just come gushing out, leaving you overly vulnerable. But if you are going to reconnect with others, eventually you will need to share yourself with them. Yes, this requires you to open yourself to the risk of pain. But here’s the deal. You will never know if you can truly trust someone unless you open yourself up to them. To put it another way, you must trust someone to discover if you can trust them.

So how do you come up with your own “Happily Ever After” anyway? Let me take a stab at it.

Start with your non-negotiables. What are the aspects of life that make it worth living to you? These are the things that must be present at all stages of your story. These are also the things that any partner in your story must share with you if they will be joining you in your “Happily Ever After.” If you walk through life with someone who doesn’t share your non-negotiables, or worse if they work against your non-negotiables, you cannot be happy. And if you discover this after you have pledged your life to them, life will be difficult at best.

The non-negotiables of your “Happily Ever After” shouldn’t require another person, by the way. An abiding and growing love for Jesus is my number one description of “Happily Ever After” for myself. I do desire a partner in my walk through life. And this same love for Jesus must be present in anyone who I walk with. I have other non-negotiables, but I don’t need to share them all for you to get the idea.

The obvious follow up to non-negotiables are the things that you can negotiate. Life doesn’t always follow the plans that you make. In fact, it seldom does. Because of this, I currently have concepts in this category, not absolutes. And vague concepts don’t really belong in my definition of “Happily Ever After.”

I have also considered adding information of how I wish to obtain to my “Happily Ever After” but if I have solid instructions, they belong in the non-negotiable category and if they are vague concepts, I don’t want to clutter my “Happily Ever After.”

So that’s my take on how to define your “Happily Ever After.” And what is mine? I’ve only shared that with a few people, and I think one of them doesn’t even realize that I was sharing this with them. In fact, I’m pretty sure of it. I gave a heavily edited version, anyway, so if I share it again, I will need to share my current version.

I’m reading the Pilgrim’s Progress right now. And the allegory of that story goes well with my “Happily Ever After” theme. I could say that I have abandoned the City of Destruction and am on my way to the Celestial City. That journey provides the setting for my happily ever after, even as it includes the trials and heartaches I have been encountering and will continue to find. I want someone to run to that city with me through the difficulties and the joys. Hand in hand. As partners, as teammates. If nobody joins me, I will keep running.

But I’ve given as much of my “Happily Ever After” as I am willing to share in a blog post. There is more to it. And it is beautiful. And I am longing to share it in full with somebody. In God’s time. In God’s way.

Sleep Update

Life

I’m a little nervous writing this now. The last time I told someone that I had a good night’s sleep was the last time I had a good night’s sleep. Two nights ago, I got almost six hours. And that was great! Last night, I think I got closer to seven. But I’m not sure.

My legs aren’t as wobbly today. I don’t feel any nausea from exhaustion. I caught myself smiling this morning. God is good. Please don’t stop praying for me.

Sleep Deprivation

Life

I got some world rocking news about two weeks ago. And just like so many other aspects of my new life, I can’t get into the news here. You’d think I was with the CIA or something. Well, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since then. I’m talking half the sleep I would normally get, compounded by two weeks. Yesterday I had my first successful nap in that time, and I have been exhausted, and trying to put up a brave front.

I think the breakthrough of the nap came when I realized that I need to do some serious forgiving for somebody who is not interested in apologizing or even acknowledging any wrongdoing. It’s hard, but I believe that is what I need to do.

So if you, dear reader, could just remember me in your prayers, I would appreciate it quite a bit. I thought I had forgiven, but I’m finding pockets where I hadn’t. And those pockets need to be flushed out.

Update: July 30

Life

This is NOT a “feel bad for me” post. I’m extremely happy! And I figure a random thought stream will do for now.

Sorry I haven’t been posting like I want to. I’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster lately, dealing with the sort of stuff that I can’t discuss on a public forum. And that also means it’s stuff I can’t discuss openly on Facebook. But I can on Google+. (Nudge, nudge.)

There has been a teaspoon of drought and doubt in my recent weeks that was quenched by a liter of water, both literally and figuratively. I have excluded certain paths that were there for the walking in favor of other paths that are more promising. I have met people who rightfully should be awkward people to meet, but it was very relaxed and inviting. I think I might get asked on a play date sometime down the road. Not sure how to handle that.

And I have found a great non-chain ice cream place. Think for a moment. The best ice cream memories don’t come from Cold Stone or Dairy Queen. They come from the neighborhood places. And a lot of those places look about as clean as a concession stand at the high school football field. Over the Top in the Des Moines area is clean, bright, professional and NOT A CHAIN.

Well, that’s all I have for you at the moment. Sorry, no theological ponderings today. I have some percolating right now, as my remnant of prior readers can attest I always have theological thoughts in my head.

All in good time. For now, I’ll leave you with laughing.

Thought for the day 07/18/12

Life

I just thought I’d share something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
(Matthew 5:17 ESV)

Jesus came to fulfill the law because mankind is marred by sin and unable to fulfill the law on our own. The Law is never declared a bad thing either. It is a good thing that is fulfilled and not abolished. Let’s not forget that.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
(Galatians 6:2 ESV)

The law of Christ is not contrary to the Law or the Prophets. We are commanded to bear one another’s burdens, and fulfill the law of Christ. What is that law? When Jesus was asked to give the most important law, this is what He said:

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
(Luke 10:27 ESV)

One way for you love the Lord and to love your neighbor is by bearing their burdens for them and with them. So ask yourself how you are bearing other people’s burdens. And if you are burdened, share that burden with someone who is eager to walk beside you and help you. And please do not consider yourself to be a nuisance. You are NOT imposing! You are presenting yourself to others that they may joyfully fulfill the law of Christ.

Even if they are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Especially if they are sorrowful yet always rejoicing!

Chicken Sandwiches and the Reason for Man

Life

I sat in the food court at the local mall yesterday, wolfing down a wonderful grilled chicken sandwich from Wendy’s, and contemplating certain theological matters. I was alone, and when left to my own devices I have a tendency to think in that direction. I thought it would be good to share with you the thoughts that I was having, since I usually forget to write them down. So here goes.

Why did God create us? He didn’t do so out of loneliness or any lack of His own. Our existence does not “complete” God in any way. And even as He created us for His glory, He is no more glorious for having created us and would be no less glorious if He hadn’t. This is not only true regarding the creation of mankind, but for all of creation.

God would be content without us. Think about that for just a second. This means that God doesn’t need you for anything. So why are we here?

We were created to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. He created us so that we might joyfully reflect His glory upon all of creation. So while we exist to extol the virtues of God, our praise does not create the attributes of God, but rather it celebrates who He is. Much like the person who visits the Grand Canyon does not make it any more magnificent by their enjoyment. And even then, their own enjoyment would be incomplete if they were prevented from responding to it with praise.

So God created us for His glory that is properly responded to with our enjoyment of Him, and our enjoyment is incomplete until we express it.

There are aspects to God’s glory that never would have been revealed had He not created us. In the garden, God presented Himself to Adam as creator and provider. He empowered Adam to act as His regent among all of creation to subdue it and bring order wherever he would find chaos. And when Adam failed, God was able to reveal other aspects of Himself that would never have come through. His mercy, His justice, His love for the undeserving. All of that made possible because of the sin of mankind.

So God created man in His image, not because of any shortcomings or anything like that. But we were created that the glory of God would be enjoyed and celebrated. And God did this out of His love for us. John 3:16 explains the reason why God sent Jesus. He expressed His love to us by sending His only son to die. Had mankind not been created and had we not fallen, God’s love for us would have never been revealed to this degree.

God is in the business of revealing Himself to us. We need to be in the business of enjoying Him and praising His revelations.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
(Revelation 5:11-12 ESV)

Right about then, my sandwich, fries and Arnold Palmer iced tea were finished, the food court was busy and it was time for me to head to a painting party for a family at church. I may pick up where I left off here, but I’m pretty sure I would need another chicken sandwich to get going again.

Beautiful Scandalous Night

Life

I started my day off right. I played this song on repeat all the way into West Des Moines to meet with my discipleship group. That’s a good half hour plus, for those keeping score at home.This is my favorite song to sing at church right now, and even if we sang it weekly I would still say that we don’t sing it often enough. It’s called “Beautiful Scandalous Night” and it takes ownership of the contradictions that people try to attach to the cross.

The cross is where the love of God is revealed and also where the wrath of God is revealed. Not two events, but one. It is the great exchange, where a holy and righteous God took His own punishment in our place. It was a beautiful, scandalous, miraculous event to be sure. The gospel frees us. The gospel gives life abundant. The gospel sustains us. The greatest event in all of history is the most scandalous.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

Enjoy the song in the YouTube video. And I suggest you follow along in the lyrics I’ve provided. Let it nourish your soul today.

Beautiful Scandalous Night

Go on up to the mountain of mercy,
To the crimson perpetual tide.
Kneel down on the shore,
Be thirsty no more,
Go under and be purified.

Follow Christ to the Holy Mountain,
Sinner, sorry and wrecked by the fall,
Cleanse your heart and your soul.
In the fountain that flows,
For you and for me and for all

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree,
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me,
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white,
On that beautiful scandalous night.

On the hillside you will be delivered,
At the foot of the cross, justified.
And your spirit restored,
By the river that pours,
From our blessed Saviour’s side

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree,
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me,
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white,
On that beautiful scandalous night.

You carry the sin of mankind on your back,
And the sky went black.

Go on up to the mountain of mercy,
Go the crimson perpetual tide.
Kneel down on the shore,
Be thirsty no more,
Go under and be purified.

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree,
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me,
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white,
On that beautiful scandalous night.

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree,
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me,
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white,
On that beautiful scandalous night.

On that beautiful scandalous night,
Beautiful scandalous,
Miraculous night…

My Church

Life

If you were a regular reader of this blog once upon a time, you probably don’t may remember that I was a member of the Polk City Evangelical Free Church. For reasons I won’t get into today, that church no longer remains. The people of PCEFC have scattered. Many joined another church in town that bought the building, some went to other towns and other churches, some just stopped going altogether. This all happened in conjunction with a very traumatic event in my life and I was uprooted from the support of the local body at the worst possible time.

During this period of turmoil, a man who I had met through the blogosphere (do people still say that?) contacted me to tell me that he had moved into the area and had been visiting a great church in a nearby town. He invited me to visit with his family and I am glad I did.

I met him at Waukee Community Church (WCC) and really enjoyed my time there. Sure, the songs were a bit different and the crowd trended a bit younger than what I was used to, but there was a sense of health that was extremely attractive. And many of the factors that proved to be the downfall of my previous church were either not present or were taken care of as they popped up. I don’t know if the elders have ever read “9 Marks of a Healthy Church” before, but I came to see that this church hits all of the marks. WCC is an imperfect church, to be sure, but it is not for a lack of seeking after God’s will in the life of the church.

To my shame, I attended without joining for far too long. To my greater shame, my attendance was sporadic at best. The reason for that is something else I won’t discuss in a public forum such as this. I did accept what correction the leadership of the church gave me as well as I thought I could, but the dynamic of correction for a “regular visitor” can not compare to the level it reaches once you have bought in to the church as a disciple and member.

Since I have humbled myself to be placed under the watch of the elders of WCC, I have been challenged to do some things that really made me angry. It’s not that I was being asked to do anything wrong. Rather, I was being challenged to do things that were right, but they were things that I didn’t want to do. I had to do them, though, because I am under the watchful eye of the church. I don’t know how else to say that. Besides, there are decisions in my past that I look upon now and see that I should have listened to the advice that was offered to me and can see the carnage that happened because I thought I knew better.

The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
than seven men who can answer sensibly.
(Proverbs 26:16 ESV)

So, as a part of my life reboot, I have complied with the instructions given to me. I can’t tell you how conflicted I have been during these times, pursuing things that I didn’t want, and having to pursue them wholeheartedly. But when you follow the instructions given to you by the men God has placed over you for your benefit, there is blessing. My initial instruction was obeyed and my attempts failed. But I am so glad today that I tried so hard to get that which I didn’t want. If I hadn’t complied or if I had done so with a negative tone, I would have doubts for the rest of my life.

So I have been replanted. The roots are delving deeper than they had before. I am in a life group and a discipleship group. Both of these provide encouragement and challenge to me, and I need a healthy dose of both. This combination is helping me BLOSM, which is an acronym of our church’s vision. A disciple is one who Believes, Loves, Obeys, Serves and Multiplies. That “O” in the vision sure is tough, but is so rewarding! I thank God for planting me where I am able to BLOSM the way that I am!

In Tribute to John Piper

Life

Most of the people who read this blog are very familiar with the work of John Piper. John is the pastor for preaching & vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is also the author of many books and other resources, all of which I recommend to you without exception. He is most noted for the book “Desiring God” which asserts that the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

Pastor John is in his final year in his current role at his church, and there is already a successor in place to continue the ministry of Bethlehem Baptist. He isn’t going to disappear, but with his ministry behind the pulpit winding down, I wanted to share just a few thoughts.

I first encountered “Desiring God” when I had been a Christian for less than a year. I was zealous and hungry and wanted to learn all that I could about this God who I had misunderstood for so long. A friend of mine invited me for coffee and began speaking things to me about God that I had no categories for. I understood God is good, for example, but this man was telling me that God is happy, God is sovereign, God is the one thing that we all must crave, and not just His gifts. We are commanded in scripture to delight in God alone and to seek our highest joy in Him. To be engulfed in the joy of the Lord.

For someone new to the faith, that was mind blowing. I had been reading my Bible and blogging through it, but these were things that defied my comprehension. So I went out and bought the book. The introduction alone challenged me so much that I actually made several unsuccessful attempts to read it.

Enter our good friend, Tim Challies. He came along beside me and offered to go through the book with me. He would post his thoughts to his blog and I would post mine. I could send him an email when I got stuck on a concept and he readily responded and helped me understand what was being communicated. As I look at my archives from this blog’s earlier days, there is a definite change in the quality of my writing before this event and after. And as those around me can attest, this change in writing was caused by a change in what kind of a worshiper I was becoming through the refining of my understanding of God. This would not have been possible had Tim not been there to answer my questions and my objections.

I have heard John Piper preach many times since then, mostly at conferences and on his podcast. The time that stands out the most to me, though, is when I visited his church to see him on a typical Sunday. His schedule had him at one of the satellite locations of his church in a high school auditorium. We sat in the room with 100 or so other people, sang with them, prayed with them, Pastor John took prayer requests and prayed for specific people in the congregation, including names that weren’t brought up that morning. After the service, he stayed at the front and anyone could go up to him just as your pastor makes himself available after a service. He was, and is, a pastor first and foremost. He is NOT a celebrity by any stretch of the imagination.

John Piper is authentic. When you look at the core vision and values of his ministry of preaching the supremacy of God in all things, I can bestow no greater compliment. Thank you Pastor John, for presenting a joyful pursuit of God to us in your books, your messages and your life. I trust your retirement is only the beginning of a whole new chapter of ministry. You have had a profound effect on my walk with God and I praise Him for your joyful work. Thank you for teaching me that God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.