Thursday, January 30, 2014

Creativity, Marriage, and How to Keep the Flame Alive. Pt. 2.

So, you've seen my opinion on creativity, marriage, and how I believe they are connected (and why it's important), but now we're going to take a deeper look into what the Bible says. The Old Testament is filled with marriage (particularly since polygamy was practiced in the cultural context of OT times), God blesses it (via Genesis), the Proverbs lift up marriage as good, and Deuteronomy even gives rules as to how newly married Jews were to go about wartime (24:5). Jesus affirms marriage (in both Matthew and Mark) and Paul talks both positively and negatively about it on different occasions (and for different situations). Many have their differing opinions within the church, even making marriage an idol at times, but none of these answers our initial topic on being a bride. More specifically, being the bride of Christ, or the Church (notice the capital 'C'). Isaiah 54:5 says, "your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called,"and nowhere is this described more beautifully then Revelation 19-21.

So, where does this put us?  We have polygamy among many of the Biblical big names, marriage as an analogy for the Church's role in God's Kingdom, and outright discouragement from one of the early church leaders. As a campus minister, I teach our students the Biblical narrative in four parts: creation, fall, redemption, and reconciliation (or consummation, since we're sticking to the marriage analogy). In many circles, the whole story isn't communicated as well as it could be, leaving both creation and consummation on the sidelines, essentially turning our faith into a proverbial ticket to heaven and not a regained completion of relationships with God, self, others', and the earth (yeah, I said that right, the earth...). Without getting too much into that (since this blog is about being the bride of Christ), we need to look at both how we were created to be and what it is that we are going to be to understand our collective role as the bride of Christ. In Genesis, humans were created as image bearers of God. We are literally icons of the one that created us; we were made to care for the earth, create culture, and worship God. That's where it starts... you know how we failed at listening to God, wanting to put ourselves in his place, God spends many years trying to bring people back into relationship with him, sends Jesus to come and fix it, etc. (I am not downplaying the importance of these parts of the story at all, because I believe that everything points to Jesus, just trying to stay on task).

It was cheating, when I was in school, to skip to the end of the book missing all the other important details, but in order to grasp the whole story we're going to do just that. Revelation 19 begins the marriage supper of the lamb. Before you get lost in all of the obscure details of the book of Revelation, let me try to sum up the picture being painted. A bunch of people are waiting to celebrate the most glorious wedding; in fact, they're barely waiting, praising the "groomsman" before he even presents himself to the people. Jesus shows up on a white horse (cue wedding music), Satan is defeated, and the new heaven and new earth are presented (this is the consummation, for those still following this analogy). "...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.'" Heaven and earth meet (on earth) where the groom (Jesus) makes everything new for his wife (the Church). This celebration is the celebration of all celebrations. Heaven and earth become one, God is finally with the people he's been fighting for since day one, and we feast as we bask in the glory of once again being whole, connected to the one we were made for.

This is why marriage is such a good analogy for God's plan of reconciliation. We hear this kind of language many times when talking about the one we love: "you complete me," "I couldn't make it without you," "I swear to be yours forever." This is the dedication that Jesus is asking of us. And not because it's what he deserves (though he absolutely does), but because it's exactly what he gives to us: complete and utter dedication, day in and day out. And this is where we are always brought back to the cross. The life God is calling us to brings us, time and time again, to the foot of the cross. We must understand what has been given up, who has taken our punishment, and live out of that love. I know I haven't hit on everything, but I hope this shows a more biblical approach of what being a bride looks like for each of us.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Earth, Wind, and Fire

If I want to be new I must go through the fire.
Not thrown away like garbage, but refined with desire.
The burn, though it scalds, it is making me strong
And the grace of that pain makes me sing a new song.

We’re stronger in all of our broken down places,
And it’s true that at times I’ve brought on my disgraces,
But I cannot rely on just my own power;
Because I won’t stand alone on the last hour.

The weak will be strong, no more 99%,
All sad things are swept away 
Like your past relationships, broken hearts,
The fear to lose, a death too soon.

Porn, confusion, murder, and hate gone with the breeze,
But I don’t mean to make it sound at all easy.
It hurts to be burned, as it does to face change,
But I’m so damn tired of just being the same.

Take no offense at my language or meter
For we’re all at the edge and ready to teeter.
‘Cause we’re not made to live in a self caused damnation
Where we wait to be taken to some celestial location.

Same old sin, in all the right places;
Consume the consumed and hate others’ offenses,
Tear down all you can without offering a hand,
Afraid to built up, or of taking a stand.

Passion, light, warmth of the soul,
Fire does more then just smolder your core
For it’s not just removing what seems to be bad,
But everything good that’s been warped in our heads.

The “here, but not yet” you’ve heard it been said
While most of us act like the walking dead
Wandering around with our tedious plans,
Not making a difference, just waving our hands.

We clang like a cymbal, resound like a gong,
And tell other people, “It’s not here I belong!”
Then what are we doing? Just biding our time?
Jesus conquered death! Is that why we’re bored all the time?

We’re made for today, and new life to come;
I just can’t believe that our work here is done.
It’s never complete till he filters our sin
Yet we can’t wait for that for our life to begin.

He’s alive! He is here! In us all he abounds,
If we’re fueled with a passion or just making the rounds.
He calls out your name in the softest of words
And waits for his people to stop acting blurred.

Now with one parting question, I’ll stop moving my lips:
Will you go through the fire, in the hopes that it strips
All the death that is clinging to burro inside,
Or avoid any pain and let life pass you by?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Creativity, Marriage, and How to Keep the Flame Alive. Pt. 1.

Being a bit late in my blog-a-week-a-thon, or when writing a song, or in any kind of creative act, sometimes I feel like I need the inspiration or initial idea. Now this goes against everything I've ever been taught about creative writing and life in general. Apologies to my mentors, all around.

Don't we all fall into this same apathetic rut though? "I'll get to that later," but you never do. "I'm not feeling very creative today," or any other day for that matter... It's the same thing when we criticize an idea without bringing anything helpful to the table. Apathetic, critical idealism isn't a breeding ground for creativity; nor is it a place to foster love. 

One of my (many) sisters asked me to write about my thoughts on marriage. Not the general "what do you think about marriage," because obviously I'm all for it, as is she, being married and all. Marriage in the sense of "how you aren't just a bride [or groom] for one day and how you are [the] bride of Christ every day." Now I see the blogs that make their rounds on social media outlets, "Why marriage isn't for you," "I'm dating someone AND I'm married," if only by giving secondhand glances, so this seems to be a topic on people's minds. 

My wonderful wife is a woman of simple taste, so our wedding, while being beautiful and a day to remember, was inexpensive and easy. Okay, it may have been a little more planning on her part, but I know she would agree with me. This isn't to downplay the ceremony of marriage, because it's a wonderful day for the bride and groom, and hopefully their family, but it's just that--a day. Jenn and I planned for that day, but more importantly, we were ready for the many days following the "I dos." We spent the months and weeks beforehand preparing for the inevitable conflicts, discussing our pet peeves and deficiencies, kids, family, insecurities, sex, and where we see God in all of it. And let me tell you, I am so glad we did that, because it saved us many a heartache. If you're considering getting married, be sure you go through some kind of marriage counseling, or at the very least go through those questions together and put the work into your marriage.

Which brings me back to creativity. Some days you don't feel like it, and sometimes we can be critical, but I go back to my previous statement: apathetic, critical idealism isn't a breeding ground for creativity; nor is it a place to foster love. We all could use a little creative love in our lives. It takes work and many pages of junk (just like in writing), but the end result is that much better for it.

See a Biblical perspective at part 2.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

"I went to the woods, because I wished to live deliberately..."
Henry David Thoreau

I rarely do resolutions finding them both negatively ritualistic and unrealistic. In the past I've quit something, stopping something unhealthy or unhelpful in my life. This year, as I examined my past year as a husband, parent, son, and friend, I've decided to actually pursue things in my life to make me, and those around me, better. I'm tired of wishing that I would have done something differently, or at all; as my father once told me, "If you don't have goals to reach, that's exactly what you'll get." (At least I think it was, Dad... I probably wasn't really listening.)

So, here are my goals, as I endeavor to better myself in the year 2014: 
  • Read 1 book a week (52 book challenge). 
    • I attempted this last year, only reaching 20, but it's a goal I would like to reach.
  • Read 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb everyday.
    • As suggested by N.T. Wright (in The Case For The Psalms, if you haven't read this excellent work I highly suggest it). I rarely read the Psalms, let alone allow them to shape my worldview, so here goes nothing.
  • Blog every week.
    • I like to think of myself as a decent writer (in the past I've even dreamed of writing professionally), but I'm not a dedicated scribe... One of my creative writing classes in college suggested writing everyday to keep your art in check, so I'm taking baby steps into this whole resolution.
  • Confront critical attitudes (of myself and others), attempting to make a positive difference.
    • I am a cynic, sometimes proudly so; but, I've found, more often then not, this doesn't add anything to the conversation. So, as a rule, I'm attempting to stifle that reflex and bring helpful ideas and suggestions to whatever I'm mentally critiquing.
  • Start making everyday memories.
    • Some days are more boring than others. Most of those days are my own fault, as I sit and watch movies for the twenty-third time or play Marvel's Avengers Assemble while trolling on Facebook, and I want to change the way I view my downtime. So, rather then trying to stop these mindless activities (of which we're all guilty of at one time or another), I'm going to attempt to proactively make one memory everyday and write it down. Whether it's as simple as going out to play in the snow with my wife and son, or as time consuming as traveling to visit with long lost friends, at least I'm getting myself into the mindset of making each day count (even for a moment). Next year, I'm hoping to look over all these memories and see how I lived.
So, bring on 2014. I hope, assuming I get to 2015, that this will impact not only my life, but others as well. 

May we all seek to "live deliberately" and "suck out all the marrow of life."