Picture to Burn

If you browse through your local radio stations, you’ll probably hear a lot of songs about breaking up. It would seem that a lot of artists enjoy singing about sweet revenge. To be perfectly honest, I’ve caught myself laughing at some of the lyrics… but only because I’ve never even considered doing such things. “I pray your brakes go out going down a hill”? Really? Or how about Carrie Underwood’s song about completely trashing her ex’s car?

I’m convinced that love – true love – cannot turn to hatred so quickly. I’m not sure what sort of relationships these artists had with the people they sing about, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t based on God’s definition of love. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 13 and I’m certain you’ll agree with me. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never understood the concept of burning pictures… Except maybe this kind:

The other night, I watched A Snoodle’s Tale. If you’ve never seen that episode of Veggietales, I would encourage you to look it up. It’s a must see – even if you don’t like Veggietales. It’s the story of a little Snoodle who is told time and time again, “You’re puny, you’re silly, you’re not all that smart, you can’t use your wings and you’re no good at art!” With every lie he is told, a picture is stuffed into the pack he carries on his back. Eventually, the small, dejected Snoodle leaves town, escaping to the top of Mount Ginches where he thinks he will be alone with his thoughts and the finches. He comes to find that he is, in fact, not alone. A Man lives there on top of Mount Ginches. The exchange that happens between the Man and the Snoodle is something that I find to be infinitely freeing, but here’s what jumped out at me the other night:

Then picture by picture, He unpacked the bag that bent the poor Snoodle and made his wings sag. “Dear boy,” said the Man, “these look nothing like you.” Then into the fire, the pictures He threw. He rose from His chair saying, “Wait there, you’ll see that what you need most is a picture from me.”

So many people have clung to the lies that have been spoken over them. With every bitter word, the venom of the enemy seeps deep into our souls. I think all of us have certain lies ringing in our ears. Today, God wants you to be set free from the lies that bind you. Today, I want to help you burn your pictures and let God paint a new one.

Today you need to know that you are a beautiful masterpiece created by God Most High. You are a unique individual, handcrafted by the Master Carpenter; there has never been (and never will be) anyone exactly like you. You are loved by the Inventor of love itself. You are the chosen of Jehovah, a child of the King. You are uniquely gifted for a special purpose that only you can fulfill. The world would be lacking something without you. The Creator of the universe has sought you out and called you His beloved. He finds you worthy of His love, deserving of His devotion. He would willingly die for you. He did willingly die for you. You have value. You have purpose. You have a God who loves you more than life – a God who has a great and glorious plan for your life. You have oh so much to look forward to. The Most High God finds joy in you. You are His delight – the apple of His eye. You are so much more than you believe yourself to be. So dream big and aim high, and know that you know that you know, you are the beloved of God. And today He wants to burn your pictures and paint something beautiful on the fresh canvas of your mind. He has given you wings not just to fly, but to soar with the eagles and flit about with the finches. So leave the lies you’ve believed in the ashes, and fly away on new wings.

The Best Year of Your Life

I had an interesting conversation with a coworker the other day. It was one of those conversations that left me thinking, then praying, then writing, and now blogging. He asked me this question: “If you could relive one year of your life – not to change anything, but simply to relive it – what year would it be?” Now, my initial thought was, “What’s the point? I’ve already lived that year once, so why would I want to return to something so familiar? What would be the fun of that?”

What left me pondering this thought long after I had gone home from work was the fact that I didn’t have an answer. Every year of my life has been filled with ups and down, joys and pains. How could I choose one that stood above the rest? The only answer I could offer my coworker was, “Well, I know which year I wouldn’t choose.” But now I’m not so sure. As I laid awake in bed thinking of that year I have long considered to be the worst year of my life, I began to think that maybe it wouldn’t be so terrible to return to it. In fact, if I could go back with renewed vision – if I were able to take with me the perspective I have now – that would probably be the year I would choose.

I learned so much in that year. I learned how to stand in the midst of a storm while the wind and waves pressed against me and the sands shifted beneath my feet. I discovered how to love through the course of that nightmare – unconditionally, that is – because up until that year, no one had presented any conditions that I was required to love around. I learned how to fully trust the God who creates the light at the end of the tunnel, because throughout that year, I knew nothing but darkness. And if I could go back with the perspective I have now, I might be able to see the things that I missed. Perhaps my worst year would become my best year, but I guess we will never know.

The only thing I am left absolutely certain of is this: I don’t want to live my life stuck in the past, savoring the moment. I don’t want to get so caught up in a memory that I miss what is happening here and now. It’s like the old proverb says,

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery; but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.

So here’s my answer to my coworker’s silly question: This year, 2010, is the year I want to relive. And next year it will be 2011. And the year after that, 2012. My lesson learned (and encouragement to you) is this: Don’t walk around yearning to relive the best year of your life, but strive to make every year a year worth reliving.

A God Who Loves

Christianity is the only religion that is centered around a God who loves. Maybe the thought that a God who created the heavens and the earth and everything in it is too much for people to handle. I’ll admit that it can be pretty mind-boggling at times, but I’ve learned to accept it. I figure that if God loves me as much as the Bible says He does,  He probably wants me to accept His love. How would you feel if someone never accepted the love you extended to them?

Before I ever learned to dance with Jesus, I witnessed another person’s dance with Him. Some friends of my family (a married couple portraying Jesus and His bride) were going to dance for their church, and I was able to watch them practice. I guess my heart has always secretly longed for this dancing relationship with God because I was enraptured by the beauty and romance of this dance. In the end, they were asked to re-choreograph their dance because it was “too intimate” to be performed in church. Too intimate? Jesus is very intimate. Ephesians 5 talks about how marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. Could God explain Himself as being any more intimate? Traces of His romantic love are scattered throughout the Scripture. It could take me all day to pull out every reference regarding God’s immensely intimate love for us, but I’ll leave you with this one thought from Hosea 2:19-20:

I will betroth you to Me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.

Those are God’s words – His promise to us. Maybe that promise doesn’t capture your heart like it does mine.  Maybe you aren’t moved by verse 15 where God says we will call Him “my husband.” And maybe your heart won’t leap when you browse down to verse 23 where God says He will show love to the one He called “Not my loved one.” Maybe your heart isn’t stirred by the fact that God has called you “His people,” but I know that mine sure is. And sometimes it makes me feel like dancing.

Part of that World

Maybe it’s because I’ve been at the ocean for the past week, but lately, I’ve been having these Little Mermaid flashbacks. There’s something super mysterious about the sea. When I try to imagine what lies beneath the cresting waves, I get a headache. It’s that mind-boggling. That must be how the Little Mermaid felt about dry land. There was so much world waiting to be explored – so many things that needed to be discovered… And she discovered it, all right. According to Disney, she left everything, sacrificed her voice, and landed the prince. Life is good for the Little Mermaid, right? Not the way Hans Christian Andersen tells it. But since you can’t tell a little kid that the fairytale heroine sacrificed greatly, felt tremendous pain, and eventually died without ever achieving her intended goal, Disney decided to give “Ariel” a happy ending. And while I have a few things to say about Hans Christian Andersen’s version, I’ll save that for a later date. Today, we are talking about Ariel and the way she took the wrong approach to love.

Ariel pops up to the surface, takes a look around, and sees something she likes: Prince Eric. That, in itself, is not bad. The bad stuff happens when she starts obsessing over it. As Sebastian would say, “Ariel thinks the seaweed is greener in somebody else’s lake.” Her entire mind becomes wrapped around the fantasy of what it would be like to become a “part of that world.” Then she does the unthinkable. She contacts the sea witch, sacrifices her voice and risks everything for one chance at becoming “part of that world.” Luckily for her, it worked out in the end. Not only did she land the prince (pardon the pun), but she frees the merpeople from the influence of the evil sea witch by vanquishing her forever. But what if she hadn’t fared so well? What if her story had kept the ending of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid? What would she have gained for all her sacrifice? Would the sacrifice have been worth it?

I can hear you now: “Heck no!” Why? Because the Little Mermaid had an entire ocean to explore. Surely she hadn’t ventured to every single corner of it, just as you and I have never covered every single square inch of the earth (and the ocean is twice as large as the land, just saying). The chances of her making a prince fall in love with her when she couldn’t even communicate the depths of her heart with him are slim to none. Had she failed, she probably would have spent the rest of her life thinking about how wrong she had been.

I feel like we are doing the same thing the Little Mermaid did. Here we are, swimming in the sea of singleness and not seeing how vast and beautiful it is. We are prematurely thrusting ourselves onto the shore of marriage and relationships. And we are more closely resembling the Hans Christian Andersen story than the Disney version we all long for. We deeply desire to become a “part of that world” when we were meant for the world we are swimming in here and now. Whether you were meant for the ocean or the shore is not for me to decide, but I want to leave you with this final question:

Is your final destination worth the sacrifice you are making? And would the pain be worth it if you didn’t get what you are seeking in the end?

Dance With the Joyful

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.” -Jeremiah 31:3-4

I love the last four words of that verse. Dance with the joyful. God’s love is so deep, so true, so wonderful that I cannot help but dance. Sometimes I get so excited about something God is stirring in me that I literally have to twirl in a circle. The joy of the Lord can be overwhelming at times. I feel like this verse is God’s permission for me to allow the emotions He stirs in my heart to flow out in the form of dancing. If King David (who was considered a man after God’s own heart) worshiped God by dancing around the streets in his underwear… Well, I’ll keep my clothes on, but I may get a little wild at times.

I mean, just look at that verse again. “I have loved you with an everlasting love…” Am I the only one who gets excited about that? Just think of the excitement and romance of dance. It’s intimate, enticing and beautiful. Something that evokes that much passion is surely meant for the glory of God. The promise this scripture contains should evoke enough emotion to make anyone dance – even those who may not be naturally graceful, namely me. Though I’ve developed a little grace over the passing years, I’m not meant for the spotlight. All I know is that God has placed a song in my heart to which my feet cannot help but move.  Don’t suppress the song that is playing deep within the recesses of your soul. Don’t be afraid to let it loose and get a little wild. Even if it is only behind closed doors, don’t be afraid to release a little shout. Dance with the joyful for the glory of your King.