I have talked before, and by before I mean a really long time ago, about how I think Heaven is not some ethereal place in the clouds. But rather, I think we are destined for a perfected form of creation. I take comfort in the words from Revelation, “Behold, I make all things new!” And every now and then I believe we get little glimpses into what that world will look like.
This weekend for instance, I had a great time with friends and family. Between games nights, a Fall Festival, lunch with my sis, and Breaking Bad finale parties, and everything else, I realized that this was a little glimpse. It is amazing to be surrounded by people who love me, and I love them. It is incredible to think that despite all the other crap that occurs in life, that I can count on them.
Sometimes it is easy to get down on things. Especially for me. A friend in high school nicknamed me Mr. Melancholy. But, when you see the little glimpses of a perfect world, where there is no worry, just joy, you need to hold onto them. You need to be thankful for them. They don’t come around all the time, and can be hard to perceive at other times. But ask yourself today, what glimpse of Heaven have I seen lately?
When the glass isn’t half full, is it because it’s half empty, or is it because the glass is broken?
Often times I find myself wanting to be the upbeat one, the one with the appropriate response to a dire situation. I know I can’t let my worry surface, I need to remain calm and cool under pressure. It’s my trademark personality trait. Yet, if I am a glass trying to remain on the sunny side of life, I am doing a bad job, because I leak.
I believe it to be true of everyone from time to time, we want to do our best and be the happy one – but our shell begins to crack, we begin to let out the sadness and worry. It’s only… human.
Sometimes, we need to stop and repair the glass before we can even debate whether it is half full.
I’ve always been a little confused by politicians who refuse to say they changed their mind. For example, Bill Clinton recently praised the defeat of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) in the Supreme Court of the United States of America. This is all well and good as a politician to do, especially as a Democrat. Except, that he was the very president who signed this bill into existence. Many of his critics came out the wood work to say he was a hypocrite and a wishy-washy politician. Instead of simply saying, “I thought this way then, and now I have changed my mind.” he got all defensive and said he signed it because it was the majority of public opinion and that it was a pragmatic decision. You can read all sorts of opinions on this matter – do a simple Google search of “Bill Clinton DOMA” and you’ll get hundreds of articles that range in opinion on the matter. I just want to tell him it’s ok to say, you changed your mind, that you grew, you progressed, whatever political word you want to say.
This is not a blog about the merits of striking down DOMA or Bill Clinton or American Politics, instead it’s a blog about changing my mind. I do it, you do it, we all do it. We think one way, one day, and then a week later we might think another way. From the mundane – I used to hate school work, but through becoming more passionate about the topics I have changed my mind and now love class and doing my readings (for the most part). To the far more complex – like a theological issue such as women in ministry.
We live and learn and change our minds.
This is beautiful, this is to be celebrated not feared, I blame Ancient Greek philosophy for this fear of changing our minds. There is a theory out there that stems back to my main homeboy philosopher Plato. He had this theory that perfection requires a stasis, an unchanging-ness. Christians have adopted this theory in a lot of ways. God is the rock, unchanging one, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. While there might be some merit to that, there also needs to be some wiggle room. Perfection is not stasis.
To become the best versions of ourselves – to achieve steps toward perfection, we will all take different paths, pursue different passions and fight for different causes. We will think differently, and be fundamentally different people. And that’s beautiful. And as part of that process we need to grow, progress, fall back, take steps forward, regress and change our minds. We need to be fluid, we need to doubt, we need to ask hard questions, and we should expect that from time to time it will require a monumental shift in our theology, worldview, tastes, and life decisions.
Like a hot summer day with no wind, an unquestioning spirit beats us down and exhausts us. But a windy day reminds us something is happening – at times it is far more powerful than we can comprehend, and at other times it is a gentle reminder that life doesn’t stand still.
I have thought a lot lately about life, and its transitory nature. My grandfather recently suffered some medical set backs, tangentially related to a knee replacement surgery he had a few weeks back. It has been a time of prayer, deep thought, worry, celebration, long distance phone calls, and doubt. I hate to make a situation like this about me, and it isn’t really, but I can’t but think about big questions, little questions, and questions like “how does God fit into things like this?”
I recently moved down to Toronto, to Tyndale University College and Seminary to be more specific. Yes, I live where I work. It is actually amazing, it is everything I wanted. I want to be involved in community in all aspects of my life. I want to know the community I am trying to serve, and what better way than to live here? But that’s another larger thought for another day. The point is, I transitioned this fall into something new. A page turned in my life, and pages will continue to turn as I journey through this chapter of my life. And so, when my grandfather was all of the sudden taken in for emergency surgery, I got selfish. I wondered, how does this fit into my story, my transition, my turning pages? I had a thousand thoughts, and less of them were selfless than I care to admit.
I am relaunching my blog with this post, and I can’t think of a better way to do it. Life is messy. We all have crap we deal with on a regular basis, and we are all on a journey. I recently told a friend that I feel like I am in a car eagerly waiting to round the next corner because I know I am so close to something, that if I look out the window I might see it. I am in heavy anticipation mode right now. He fired back, what if you get around the corner and find out you still have a long ways to go? He’s right. We never do truly know when we will reach the destination and we never know what is around the next corner. Like the old cliche says, it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey that counts. I can’t help but that think there is such a deep truth to that. As someone who follows the way of Christ I was always told that Heaven was my goal, but the older I get the more I think Earth is the goal. That it’s what we do here that matters most. As Jesus said, “Let your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
So as I relaunch my blog, I want it to be about the journey. As I round every corner in my life and explore the gleam of new things, mourn the passing of old things, struggle with the the fragility of life, and everything in between I want to share my story. I can’t promise consistency, because frankly life isn’t. I will change my mind on things, and that’s OK. I
might will say offensive things. I hope to provoke thought, not anger it. I can promise to use big words like tangentially, and abbreviate words unnecessarily like cause for because. I’ll try not to swear.
Join me as I turn yet another page in my life, as I round yet another curve.
I hate to admit that I think I do some of my best writing when I am in a less than happy state. I think it might be my way of venting, or releasing a frustration that has built up in me. I am not a good puncher, and I don’t like to scream, so I write. I find myself in one of those states right now, and I all I can think about is Green Beans and French Toast. This is the title I have given to my memoir that I haven’t written. A memoir with the subtitle, “Life lessons told through a mostly true story.” If you have ever read Blue Like Jazz, then you’ll know the kind of book I want to write. I think it’s fair to say that no other writer has a had a bigger impact on my personal style than Donald Miller. Personally, I would love to have a hit book like Blue Like Jazz, but I am also a semi-realist slash cynic, so I know the odds of that are tough. But, I will write it nonetheless!
Green Beans and French Toast you might say is a weird title. But, in point of fact, I think it is a great title. I am biased.
Let me start at the end, with French Toast. I love French Toast, but let’s admit that it isn’t the most nutritional meal. Sure every once in a while it is good, but not every day. It may not kill you to eat it every now and then (unless you’re lactose intolerant and/or allergic to eggs), but you need other things to fill your diet. French toast is the meal you love, but not the meal you need. Which brings me to Green Beans. I hate green beans, or hated. To me, they suck, they suck a lot. I will eat them… now. When I was 16 I wouldn’t go near them with a ten-foot pole. In my semi-true memoir I tell the story of how a friends mom made me eat green beans. She pulled a classic mom move and wouldn’t let me leave the table until I did. It was good for me, though I’m not entirely sure why I put up with it, it’s probably cause she made pretty good French toast.
In case you missed the metaphor, green beans are the things in life that you might hate but are good for you. And French toast are those things in life that you love to do, but probably don’t need to do that often, or need in your life that much. Not that French toast is altogether bad, it’s not an everyday thing. I would say this is my life lesson, learning what is and isn’t green beans and French toast.
I could write a thousand stories about all this, and maybe I will in my book, look for it on shelves in 2015. But first, what makes a good story?
In the movie Blue Like Jazz the main character talks about narrative structure. Setting, Conflict, Climax, Resolution, or SCCR. Life is about story, the moving through settings and conflicts and climaxes and resolutions and then doing it all over again. You have to go through conflict to get to resolution. Those two parts of story are the ones I identify with the most, and the other two parts are very important, but without a conflict and resolution you don’t have much. Conflict is what gives life it’s zest I think, and conflict isn’t always bad, trying to decide between a Maple Cinnamon bagel and a Cinnamon Raisin bagel is a conflict. Resolution is what makes that zest come to life.
The problem is that green beans are the not fun conflicts, and it’s only when your still healthy and regular that you realize that they were actually good for you. French toast doesn’t seem to be a problem, until you’re fat and lazy.
I think I have learned a ridiculous amounts of stuff about myself through relationships of all kinds. Friends have taught me more about myself then anything. Friends come in all shapes and sizes, some are good and some are bad. When I was in my early high school years I had a good friend, nay a best friend. We did a lot together, probably in a strange way. We had sleep overs where we would stay up super late or early depending on your disposition. We were pretty silly, we talked about the girls we liked, and how we saw our lives going, it was actually pretty sweet. It was French toast. Eventually, down the road, this friend decided I wasn’t good enough to be his friend anymore. I was left at the curb, friendless and broken. I have distinct memories of walking to lunch and eating it alone.
It was devastating.
I found a new old friend. We have been BFF’s ever since. He was green beans, I didn’t realize how much I needed that friendship at the time. Years later I still deal with the loss of that initial friendship and just how much it hurt me. In some ways I will probably deal with it for the rest of my life. And that’s life, learning to deal with the pain of loss, and the power of gain.
Green beans and French toast.
I’m sorry but I am using this blog and the audience it possesses as a test audience of what is to come in my life.
I now find myself in a new job and position at Tyndale in which I am called to run local and global outreach/missions opportunities for our student body. There is a strange thing about this though, Tyndale has been well know for it’s attempts to have a global impact through many well run short term missions. However, our presence locally is almost nil. We have never really reached out into the local community in a powerful and meaningful way. We have done things from time to time that have had an impact, but for the most part, people in the Bayview and Steeles community would have little knowledge of the Christian University that exists in their very own community.
The issue with Missions in our present church culture is one of language. We speak of two kinds, local and global, as if they are two distinct things. I think this is an issue. I want to go back to the beginning of mission with what is commonly referred to as The Great Commission. Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (emphasis mine) The key words here that I added emphasis to are, of all nations. All nations includes our very own. In Acts Jesus goes on further to say “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” He actually names places here, Judea, Samaria, all the world. His point was it starts in Jerusalem and moves out, but the point we overlook is, it should never stop in Jerusalem after it moves out. It wasn’t meant to be a progression so much as a general charge to move out and reach all nations.
In Canada, and America, we have celebrated a certain kind of Christendom. We thought we were okay, that we had it under control and the rest of the world needed our help. There is a certain amount of truth to this historically. Call it white guilt, or even first world guilt, we have forgotten our very own here in on our own streets. We see the streets of Kolkata as an exotic locale that needs Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, they do need Jesus, but so do the streets of Toronto. Why should one be more exotic than the other? My own personal time spent in India was formative, moving, and all around life-changing, but my mission didn’t begin there, nor should it end there.
I want to be an agent of change. I want to help change our language. I want missions to mean all missions. I want to remove local and global from the equation. I want to applaud the camp worker, alongside the person who ministered to those caught up in the sex trade. I want to encourage the tutor who gives up nights a week in Toronto with the English teacher in Haiti. Each needs to be held up by the church, but more importantly the people in the church need to be these people! I cannot emphasize that enough. We in the richest nations in the world have been more than satisfied with throwing money at missions of every kind, but how much are we truly getting involved. This goes for myself just as much as anyone else. Let’s not stop ministering with our wallets but let’s also add to our ministry our hands and feet.
It is a big task in front of me. I am coming into a job with extremely large shoes to fill. I need to maintain that legacy while also helping to push Tyndale forward. It is a tough task. This is a primer on my missions goal.
A little while ago a wrote an article for a Tyndale student magazine. It will be published I think later this week. Here is that article.
Let me start by saying, I am very excited for spending eternity with God. But that being said, I have a big problem with Heaven.
When I was a kid I was always told we will go to Heaven and be with God and Jesus and everything will be perfect. I was told that Heaven was out there somewhere, beyond what we know, and that it was where God resides with all his angels. As well, like Jesus ascended on the clouds, so to would we be in Heaven. I think that is why we have this notion of Heaven being very cloudy. (Personally I like cloudless days better.) Also I was told we spend all our time in Heaven worshipping God. As a young kid I imagined us sitting in heavenly pews singing songs I hated. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to go there.
My problem with Heaven is that I was always told we should all want to go there.
Imagine when your parents told you for the first time you were going to Disney World. You couldn’t wait to get there. Food didn’t taste the same, school sucked, and every night was sleepless until you finally entered in the gates and saw Mickey. We do the same thing with Heaven. We imagine this perfect world outside of our own and can’t wait to get there and leave this all behind. We want to escape. This has led to a theological fallacy called escapism. You may have heard the saying, “He’s so heavenly minded he’s no Earthly good.” Well it’s true. If all we do is long to escape this world and jump into another then we are of no good here. Yet God has put us here for a reason.
As I matured and grew in my faith I began to realize Heaven isn’t what I was always told it was.
What I have come to learn of Heaven is that it is a return to the Garden, a re-creation. It seems the story of the Bible is all about redemption. Redeeming mankind and redeeming the rest of creation. After reading about Jesus and how he came down to Earth to redeem us, I imagine when he returns it will be to redeem the rest of creation. For me, Heaven must be a return to perfection here on Earth, the way God intended it from the beginning. When the lion and the lamb lay next to one another in perfect harmony, where there is no sickness or disease. It sounds far more appealing.
I often think of the Lord’s prayer when I think about heaven, and Jesus says, “May your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” And I think of Revelation when it says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”” This to me speaks of God coming back to Earth to restore it to its former glory. So why are we trying to escape it so badly?
I believe that God has placed us here, and that we are called to live everyday as if Heaven is descending on Earth. We, who are called to live out the will of God, are also called to bring that will from Heaven to Earth. This life is a blessing. It is a time for us to delight in the ability to be a part of the Kingdom of God. I like to think that if we all tried and believed enough we could bring about the restoration of creation. I know that isn’t really the case, and I know we live in the longing expectation of the return of Christ. But while we are here, and while God has a plan for us, let’s live everyday as if we can bring Heaven here.