Monday, August 17, 2015

Paved Paradise

 As we sang the lyrics at church, I just kept thinking about the fact that truly there is nothing my soul wants more than to be close to God.  And as I survey all other relationships and experiences, nothing can compare to the feeling I get when I'm in His presence, when I feel that connection with God.  Nothing compares.... and truly there is no place that I'd rather be.

I've had "best friends" and I have a very loving family.  Yet, as much as I love them and love spending time with them, none of it compares to that feeling I get when it's just God and me.  In that space and time, I feel loved in unconditional abundance.  And I'm safer there than anywhere else.  I'm always welcomed. Always accepted.  Never rejected, in any way.  I'm at peace in His presence.  I experience joy that is like no other.  I experience courage because I can trust His promises for me. There's no other place I rather be.

But still I get distracted and busy with other things.  And I sort of drift away from that connection with Him.  In fact, I might even begin to replace the relationship.  I mean I don't set out to do so; at least not intentionally.  But nevertheless, I do.  I look for joys and peace elsewhere.  I strive for love and acceptance from the people around me.  I begin to seek thrills and contentment in things like entertainment or my career endeavors.  I'm seeking, searching... and all the while, my soul is yearning for that connection with God.  All the while, my soul just longs to be in His presence.  And He's waiting to meet me there.  

There is a song that holds some very interesting lyrics... "They paved paradise to put up a parking lot".  And I can't help but think that that is precisely what we do with God and His loving kindness toward us.  We have it all in Him.  We have it good!  We are blessed in Him.  We can rest assure in Him.  And yet, we wander and look for those things in other places.  In places where the love and kindness only last but a short time.  We look to find joy and assurance in people and things, but all of it will fall short.  In essence, "we pave the paradise God offers to put up a parking lot". As if He's not enough.  As if we knew better.  As if His promises are not sufficient.  How foolish are we!!

Don't misunderstand.  I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with wanting good and intimate relationships with others.  Or that there's something wrong with seeking to enjoy life and its endeavors.  But when the God of all creation longs to be in connection with us, and deep inside, our souls continually yearn to be close to Him, why do we wander?  Why do we turn from what is truly the best place to be?  

Nothing, I mean nothing can take the place of His love for us.  Nothing can complete us like His grace can.  Nothing can ever be better than being with Him.  Nothing.

I encourage you, if you're skeptical, to allow your soul to rest in His presence.  To allow your soul to be at peace because of who He is.  And when you experience that, you too will say, "there's no place I rather be".

Sunday, August 2, 2015

What Are You Afraid Of?

Try, if you will, to picture this illustration.  You're one of over 7 billion stick figure people in our planet.  And, as a result you feel very small and burdened by the congestion of living in a crowded world.  And as if feeling crowded wasn't enough, you sense that, just like you, every other person in this planet carries their own issues and concerns that weigh them down.  And when you set your mind to comprehend it, you feel like you're in the middle of a whirlwind, where the world is spinning out of control.  So much so, that it spits you up into the air, and now you're the one spinning with no safe place to land.  

I hope that you were able to get some of that.  And if you managed to capture a glimpse of it, that you could see it like I see it: in black and white.  It's sort of crazy, I know.  But that's how I've felt lately.  I'd like to blame it on the aging process and possibly anxiety.  I can also blame it on the the old, "that's the culture we live in" theory.  And when you stop to think about it, there may be some truth to my conclusions.  

You see the older I get, the more seriously I look at things.  I remember how eager and excited I was to be turning 16 because that meant that I could go test for my driving permit, which in turn meant that I'd be able to practice driving, which would lead to being able to drive myself to and from school.  I was so determined and motivated.  And I did exactly what I set my mind to accomplish.  No sooner did I turned 16, I was taking the permit test, which I passed on my first try.  I recruited my step-father to give me the driving lessons, and within a couple of months, I was a driver.  What a confident feeling!  And I'd drive myself and friends to school.  I'd teach others to drive.  I'd hand over the wheel to unlicensed drivers.  I thought this was the coolest thing in the world.

Well, I've now lived long enough to know that driving is really not all that fun.  In fact, driving causes me a lot of unwanted stress and tension.  And at times, I hate to admit it, but I experience great anxiety behind the wheel.  Bridges, tunnels, narrow roads, construction sites, big trucks, etc... all make me wanna pull over and walk. Most of the times, I pray or sing myself through it.  That tends to help.

But what to do about the culture we live in?  Lately, I noticed that I've been feeling more and more bombarded with information about things that I have no real control over.  Thanks to our latest forms of social media, I can learn an array of things in a matter of seconds.  I realize I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.  We are informed about the conditions of people living in other countries, the cruelty brought onto animals around the world, the need for cure for ongoing diseases, the crimes being committed against humans, missing children, police abuse..... it goes on to finding out what everyone is doing at all times and everywhere, reading other people's opinions about everything there is under the sun, selling the latest weight loss products, skin products, vacation spots, restaurants, movies, books, and on and on it goes.  24/7.  

This is when the illustration I described above begins to emerge in my mind.  Everything is spinning out of control.  Or at least, that's how it feels.  And I can't grasp it.  I can't get my mind around it all.  So it slips out of my hand, and I feel helpless.   Like this life is out of my control.  This then leads to feelings of anxiety because I want to have some control over my life.  And it all feels so insecure.  And I don't feel feel safe.  And I'm afraid.

And so I'm scrambling to find my Bible.  The old fashioned book bound kind; not the YouVersion, so that I can sit a while and just read God's word without distractions.  I'm scrambling through my phone book, the one that sits somewhere in the back of the junk drawer because texting is so much more convenient, but I want to make a phone call like I used to do.  I'm driving out to visit friends because I want to value the time spent with others more than their pictures on Facebook.  Hence,  I'm scrambling to stay grounded because I don't want to spin out of control without a safe place to land on.  

And you know what I find?  Do you know what I come to  in my scrambling and trying to go back to the basics, I begin to find my place in this world.  I begin to settle down.  It all slows down.  And I'm not anxious nor afraid. I'm reminded of God's love.  A love that is greater than all else.  A love that is stronger than the chaos.  A love that will always be enough.  A love that never runs out.  Being reminded of this brings such peace.  

If your world is spinning out of control today, try scrambling for the basics.  Or like my son would say, "bring it down a notch".  Shut off the media influence.  Turn down the outside voices.  Try some alone time.  Quiet time.  Just you and God.  Now there's an innovation!  Try it... What are you afraid of?  There's nothing to lose, when it comes to alone time with God.  There's only gain.  No loss.  So I encourage you to try slowing it all down.  And experience peace.

Romans 8:38,39
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.