I hate death.
That's such an obvious thought that it's almost absurd, don't you think?
And I don't even feel like I have as much of a right to feel that way as so many others. I've known people who were there one day and gone the next, but never a close friend or family member. The closest I have come were my cats that had to be put to sleep.
That was horrible.
Since I have had such a small taste of it, I can only have the tiniest idea of what loss is like.
Anytime I am given "the small picture," I am reminded of how God has the bigger picture. So, the question becomes, not "Why do we have death?" but rather, "What purpose does God have for death?"
Isn't that the same thing?
No. The former question asks how death fits into our world, while the latter question seeks to know an answer from God's view.
How does God experience human death? Does He?
I believe part of the reason God gave us death was as a way to get a glimpse into His experience with the human race. Here is how I get to that point, step by step:
1. Before man sinned, he walked and LIVED with God (Gen. 2). There was no death, anywhere, in the animal kingdom. I'm sure this was a wonderful time that both God and Adam enjoyed.
They could be together.
2. When he sinned, man could no longer walk with God and be in His physical presence. (Gen. 3:24) God is perfect, and can't commune with imperfection. Their relationship changed.
Sin caused a separation.
3. Even though God knew man would sin, I think He was torn up by it in a way that felt like He was being ripped apart. (Luke 15:7, Psalm 31) When sin entered man's life, it became a part of who he was. He would ALWAYS be a sinner.
Sin caused a PERMANENT separation.
4. Death was the curse placed upon man as a result of man's sin (Gen. 3:19). What is death? A PERMANENT end of life. That may sound obvious, but look at the connection between the offense and the punishment:
The offense: A means of keeping God PERMANENTLY away.
The punishment: Being put PERMANENTLY away from the life man was in.
5. It is important to remember that there are two deaths: the first death, that every almost every human will experience, when he is removed from life on earth, and the second death that not everyone has to experience, when man could be removed from God's eternal presence. The first death is more of a change in status and is not a permanent state, but the second death changes everything. The second death IS permanent. (Is. 13:9, Rev. 20:6)
So in other words, God provided an answer and room for GRACE after the punishment.
6. God knew what the effect of sin was. (Ps. 37:38) I don't think man could ever grasp it. In order to understand it, man would have had to have known a life without God. And God had always been there. He suffered the first loss.
And He knew the PAIN of the SEPARATION.
7. So man was given life and death. When experiencing the death of other people, man would experience a seperation. Someone would be there one day, the next, and so on. Then one day, the person would not be there. Death meant never coming back.
There was PAIN in knowing the PERMANENCE. Of course, the pain was proportional to the depth of the relationship, helping us understand both at the same time God's sorrow at our sin and His love for us.
7b. Can we beat it? Can we choose not to create relationships, and thereby avoid the pain of separation in death? Yes, but in doing so we will never experience love either. What is worse? Experiencing love and having it taken away? Or never experiencing it at all? God chose to love us, and love us deeply. (Rom 5:8)
8. After Jesus died on the cross, He LIVED, proving that death (permanent separation from God) can be supernaturally overcome. (John 11:25) The permanence was undone by God's love. It was the ONLY thing that could.
See how it comes full circle? Even though we have sinned and experience death, we will live and walk with God again, just as Adam did before sin entered the world. And through the experience, we are drawn a little closer to God by seeing what it's like to be separated from a loved one.
Is there hope in this message? Yes! Will we see it when we are mourning? Probably not, but here it is. God knows your pain when you lose a loved one. He loses them every day.
Also, it is important to remember that I have given one reason for death that answers one question. God has ALL the answers. Therefore, there are more answers, more perfectly explained than I could ever speak, to give a complete justification for this difficult experience. I'm glad God has all the answers. Sometimes, I'd like to know more of them, but a part of me is glad that I don't have to have that responsibility. I just have to know there is a reason, and we are not lost.
Other PERMANENT experiences God has given us: Marriage and Parenthood. I'd like to address these in later blogs. Stay tuned!
If you are looking for fiction writing that shows the love of God, please check out my books from the Angelmen series here.
I have no more blissful feeling than the moment I slide between the sheets on my bed and settle my head on my pillow. My winter sheets are plush, so they are never cold in the winter. Honestly, sometimes the only way I can motivate myself to stop what I am doing at night and go to bed, is by thinking about my awesome bed. It's the first thing for which I give thanks in my evening prayers.
The very second I am under the covers, I can feel my muscles relax. It's usually accompanied by a soft exhale of contentment. After that moment of recognition, I spend the next few minutes getting my position just right - completely sprawled out, but allowing my husband enough room to stay on the bed too.
It rarely takes me more than a few minutes to completely surrender to sleep, and I almost always sleep well.
I realize that not too many of you can relate to that. Putting aside any biological difficulties you might have and I do not, the reason could be because I have learned to embrace that concept of "surrender."
I am blessed to have few worries that consume me. Yes, blessed. In realizing that, I feel free to let go of the more trivial thoughts at night. When I relax my body at night, I am also relaxing my mind.
"Now I lay me down to sleep... body, spirit, and mind."
In the Bible, those who were most desperate for the Lord's favor laid themselves prostrate, or flat out, face to the ground. To me, that always seemed to be a way of bowing to the recognition of God's supremacy.
He can't be everything until we are nothing. We need to relax our grip on everything we control. Our relationship with God can only total 100%. How much is us, and how much is God? Are you giving up 100% of yourself to allow 100% of Him in? Or are you keeping back, say 20% of yourself and only allowing 80% of Him in? Is there 20% of you that thinks you can do it on your own, not needing God's help?
Let's get back to the sleeping idea.
There have been times when I have been so dog tired that I have fallen asleep in a sitting position. It doesn't work well; that's a terrible way to sleep. But, the more reclined I am, the better I will sleep.
You see, to stay in an upright position, you have to retain some control over your muscles. The more upright you are, the more muscles you use. Standing, or even sitting, is your body saying, "I got this. I can do it."
However, when you surrender every muscle you have to sleep, you allow yourself the consequence of whatever your body will do without your conscious assent. Often times, our brain wants to take over that control as well and not allow complete surrender.
I wonder if God made our bodies to sleep best when lying down just for that specific purpose - so that we can practice giving up 100% every night.
I pray we can surrender 100% to Him every day, as yes, just as we wake up, stand up, and get out of bed every day, taking back control of our bodies, each day we also need to relax our control back to his guardianship.
Doesn't it feel better to relax anyway?
So, good night to you! Sleep loose...
We do what we like. So why can't we like what we do?
When my first book came out, I went right on Goodreads and gave it a 5-star rating.
"Hmm. Really, Tracy, you think you're that good?"
I don't remember who offered that sentiment, but as you can see, it stuck with me. My finished, published book came from much toil. Writing was fun! Finding the right publisher and getting it accepted was less fun. Going through the editing process - wow. Talk about work. First word written to book in hand took about a year and a half, two editors, and more re-reads than I can count. A lot of work went into the final product. Of course, I like it!
But is my own favorable opinion conceited?
I've spent some time thinking about it. Here's what I've decided.
There is a place for humility, and there is a place for recognizing God's gifts. Humility is simply recognizing that God is greater. If you recall, the purpose of man is give God glory. How do we do that? By praising Him for who He is and what He has done or created.
He created each one of us. Beyond that, He has blessed us with gifts and talents that can be creatively and uniquely used to draw man's attention to Him.
Do you remember the parable of the talents? (Matthew 25:14-30). A master was going away, so he gave his money to his servants to care for while he was away. One was given 5 talents, one was given 2, and one was given 1. (Talents were a form of money.) The one with 5 worked with it to gain 5 more; the one with 2 worked to gain 2 more; the one with 1 took his and hid it until the master returned. The worker who buried his talent was chastised by the master. The two servants who worked hard with their talents were told the words we all long to hear someday - "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
You were given a talent too. You were meant to use it, not shamefully bury your head and hide it. When you use the talent God has given you and then deny it - "No, no, it's not that good. Really, I stink." - that's what you are doing. Burying your talent.
What are the rules, then? What are you supposed to think about your work?
1. Recognize the source of your talent
All I can give you here is my story.
So, I wrote some books. To be honest, I feel like the ideas came to me as an answer to prayer.
I started writing many years ago, and I really liked it. Then, I was inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia. I loved the idea of a modern re-telling of Christ's sacrifice in a way that was appealing to kids and adults. I loved that C.S. Lewis could almost bring to life creatures not found in reality. I wanted to do that too.
So, while I was out running, the wheels in my mind were turning. The first thing I wanted to come up with was the un-real creature to be central in my story. Almost instantly, something from the Bible came to mind - the Nephilim. The Nephilim were the result of fallen angels intermingling with human women. What if they still existed today? (They don't, but that's why it's fiction.) And since these Nephilim (who I renamed "angelmen," for the sake of ease) were not part of the human race, they did not have the same salvation plan as humans and needed a new one if they were to have any hope of making it to heaven. And that salvation plan would require a sacrifice.
Boom. We have the basis for my books, as I feel was given to me as an answer to prayer with a principle from the Bible.
2. Think how you can use it to give God glory
Writing is an easy one. I use my writing to bring focus on God. God is a major part of my stories. Song-writing or performing is likewise easy to use for God's glory. Taking pictures of God's creation is a wonderful way to use His general revelation.
But what if you are good at math or sports? You make jewelry or scrapbooks? You sell cars? This is where you need to use your creativity. And yes, even if you don't think you have any, it's there. God would not have called you to something that He doesn't plan to use to further His kingdom.
Here are a couple of examples from my life. I am very good at remembering dates. Seriously, give me just about any friend, family member, or child in church (don't worry - I'm the Sunday school director, so I have a reason for the last one) and I could tell you their birthday. How does this glorify God? Everyone needs encouragement on their birthday. Although I have given up the easy little "Happy Birthday" on Facebook, (it just creates more work for that person) I'll pray a blessing for that person.
Or how about this one? I can bathe my children, even washing their hair, without them crying. I must say, this isn't always a treat, since the kids always need me to be the bath person. But it is a chance for my kids to learn trust. Something that will be essential to their faith.
If you can take a minute, I would love to read about your interesting gifts in the comment section below.
3. What if your talent is difficult to use for God?
First of all, make sure your talent IS something God-given. The world has a lot to offer. I don't think God is calling too many people to the likes of gambling or other sins. If you are Rain Man, you better find a better way to use that genius than running off to the casino to count cards. If you can't come up with a way for your talent to glorify God, then what you have is not a God-given talent.
4. When should you be humble?
Always. Humility in promoting your talent just means using the right words so that people aren't thinking about you. Humility is lifting God up, not putting yourself down. Simply recognize God's rightful place above you (and your work).
5. At what point are you bragging?
Easy. The very minute you take credit for anything for which God is responsible. When you find yourself saying any of these sentences, you're in trouble.
"I knew I could do it. I believed in myself."
"I never doubted my ability."
"I expect to put up a lot of sales because of how hard I work."
"I did it my way."
(See why I don't like Frank Sinatra?)
6. Does this mean you don't need to work hard?
Of course not. The parable of the talents is a great example of how God urges us to use what He has given us. The servant given 5 talents worked to turn it into 10. But James 1:17 reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights. The work you do shows God that you are thankful for what He has done for you. But always remember Who got you started.
The bottom line is if God gave you something good, it's okay to like it. If you like it, it's okay to say so. It's possible someone else might like it too.
By the way, if you would like more information on my books, go here: http://protectthecause.weebly.com/about-the-angelmen-series.html
We were getting ready for Valentine's Day on one of our many snow days this winter. My youngest child has overachiever tendencies, and so she had already gone gung-ho in getting her seed packets stapled to the cards on the day I let her at that stapler.
I was proud of the cards I had come up with for my son. Minecraft is the obsession du jour, so I printed out cards that simply said "Be Mine" with a picture from the game. Now, of course, these days a solitary piece of paper is not enough to show your classmates you have fake feelings for them one day of the year. With allergies and diet restrictions all over the place, my brain gets taxed coming up with ideas for the little extra to be included. It had nothing to do with the Minecraft theme, but whatever - I picked up an easy bag of heart-shaped lollipops.
As my son opened the lollipop bag, he noticed there were actually generic little "To:/ From:" cards in the bag with the candy. He had a little laugh, since he had already put names on all the Minecraft cards. But then he took one pop and attached it to a card. He didn't write my name or do anything other than put a pop in the assigned spot on the card. Then he looked at me and said something to the effect of, "But I'm so glad you made me cards that I liked instead."
The compliment slid right off my back. Of course, I did something for my son that would make him happy. It was pretty easy and cost nothing.
To him, it was apparently something else. To him, it was another brick solidifying our relationship. I knew what he liked and didn't think twice about doing it. That meant a lot to him. My boy isn't a typical boy, at least not in this day and age. He has somehow managed to hold on to a sweet innocence that could easily be muddied with every step through the school hallways. At 9 years old, he still holds my hand and smiles at me.
He handed me the card and said, "Mom - don't ever throw it away."
The lollipop was sweet, but his commission has taken a hold of me. Its importance has strengthened since he issued it.
Ever. That's the word sticking with me.
I'll be honest. I get a lot of papers and pictures and crafts from the kids. They don't ALL make it into the box of things I keep each year. I have come to the realization that sometimes I am the convenient excuse for the kids to not throw away their crafts.
"Here, Mom. It's for you," actually translates to:
"Mom, I don't know what to do with this thing the teacher had the whole class make, but I know you treasure every single thing I do, so here's a reminder that I want to make you proud."
In other dialects, it could also mean:
"If I go near the trash can with this, you might ask me to take the trash out, so I'm going to play cute and make you do it."
How do I know these are accurate? Because seldom am I asked, "Mom, what did you do with my picture?"
This lollipop was different. The word "ever" caught my attention. That word said, "I mean it, and I'm going to check up on you."
OK, son. It's just a lollipop. I can hang onto it. It won't get in the way.
It sits next to my computer station in the kitchen. The kitchen is one of my busiest places. I spend a lot of time there, cooking, cleaning, and getting life into a more organized chaos. (My writing is more concentrated and done in the living room, so my kitchen work station is a place I only visit for a short time, but I do it frequently.)
Truly, I don't think I could have put that lollipop in any better place.
The lollipop sits right by my medicine dispenser. I see it when I need to take my pills, and I suddenly remember why it's important for me to stay at my best. I'm not doing it just for me.
At night, I'll stop by the area to pick up a drying towel after I wash the dishes- the dishes no one else volunteered to do, but I do without a second thought. Everyone else in the family comes along as I am washing and dump more dishes in the sink. No "thank you's" or any other kind of acknowledgment from the children. If I'm lucky, the water won't splash up into my face.
Then, I wipe my hands dry. I see the pop, and it says, "I might not tell you I care that you do the dishes, but I tell you that I care about you."
Maybe on another day, I'll prop the computer on the counter with the Pinterest recipe I need to use to cook dinner.
Dinner is a hard time for my family and me. Tastes are so specific and varied, that it's all but impossible to come up with a meal everyone will eat. I'll think I've found one, and it will be met with resounding complaints that make me want to scream. I try so hard! And no one cares. To them, I am still the evil mom forcing disgusting nutrients into their bodies. How dare I take claim on their lives in such a way?
But the lollipop is there. It has been there through all the complaints. Even if one of the complainers is my son, his sentiment remains on the counter. His words say, "I'm mad," but his lollipop says, "Don't give up on me. Ever."
In the kitchen, we keep the containers that hold everyone's shoes. My son's box is right next to my work station. In the box are the basketball sneakers that my son dreads putting on. Two months ago, we bought him good shoes for the season. He tried them on and they were fine. I think it was a day later that he put them on and they were a size too small.
Day by day, those feet will grow until they are bigger than mine.
But that lollipop will never change. It won't grow up, it won't move out. It won't need bigger shoes or money to go out with friends. It won't get a driver's license, it won't go to college.
The lollipop will always stand in its spot by my work station saying, "I love you, Mom."
Pieces might crumble from it if it gets knocked around, but it won't be thrown away. Never.
That lollipop will stay on my counter forever.
One day, my boy won't let me hold his hand. He'll be holding someone else's hand. I'll have to hold the lollipop instead. I hope he comes home one day, maybe with his wife and kids, and asks me, "Mom, do you remember the lollipop I gave you when I was in 4th grade?"
Because I will have it. I'll get it out and show him that I never threw it out.
He will smile again because we both know that the sentiment still stands true. My boy loves me.
Passion Under Grace,