Experiencing God through emotions

Last night, Sarah and I were talking about what place emotions hold in experiencing and worshiping God. I don’t know that we broke any new ground, but it was really cool to discuss our thoughts on this. We are both very emotional people, yet deep thinkers.

God has given us emotions. They can be very powerful. Sometimes, they can even run away from us and lead us to bad behavior and decisions. However, our emotions are also a vehicle for depth in relationships, both human and divine.

Today, I stumbled upon a video of a young boy who was born with some serious medical issues. It told his story, and finished with the young man standing on stage, before thousands of people, singing one of my all time favorite songs. He isn’t the best singer in the world. Yet, he touched my heart in such a way that tears flowed from my eyes, and love pulsated through my spirit.

I, for one, need my emotions stirred. They help me feel alive. They release the floodgates of thoughts and feelings that pool up inside me. They draw me into a more profound relationship with God and people who are important to me. They enable me to put my fears and stresses in their proper perspective. They allow me to be inspired.

I am a very logical man. I do not need emotions to do these things. But at times, I truly need that release. I’m not just logical. I’m creative. I’m passionate. I’m expressive. There are times when it is absolutely necessary to let my emotions out in a healthy way.

I love worship. I love singing. I love music that grabs my heart and soul. I feel as if I’ve crawled onto God’s lap and am held in His loving, warm, safe embrace. I don’t expect that everyone is, or should be like me in this regard. We are all different. I just know that for myself, I absolutely need this level of emotional intimacy with God. It’s not about seeking for anything other than being close to Him. That is why this song, in particular, is so special to me. Is my mom, whose body was broken down by illness, dancing and leaping before God, or is she, as she was unable to do in the last dozen years of her earthly life, kneeling before Him in humble adoration?

The cares of this world are real. Sometimes, however, we just need to simply crawl onto God’s lap, and let Him hold us. It’s not always enough to just know He loves us. Sometimes we need to feel it, and offer Him whatever is in the very depths of our hearts. Just let it go. Allow it all to come to the surface.

For me, this song, this video, this young man ministered to me. I’ve heard better singers. But this isn’t for entertainment. It is a glimpse into God’s love for us, and our love for Him when we imagine what it will be like to be with Him in the place He has prepared for us, in which we will have eternal, and perfect fellowship.

Please take a few moments and watch this. Don’t be afraid to let Him touch your heart.

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Easter 2014

Disclaimer: What I’m about to share is my story. My purpose is not to denigrate a church or denomination. It is simply my experience and observation as it relates to my spiritual awakening.

I was raised Catholic. Even so, that was more a rite of passage than a lifestyle. My parents were Catholic. Their parents were Catholic, and so on, and so on. I went through the different practices as I grew up. First Communion, Confirmation. A typical Sunday involved me waking up, getting ready and walking to church by myself. I went in, God took roll, I sat down, stood up and kneeled when everyone else did, then left at the end. The mass could have been in Swahili for all I took with me from the 60 minute experience.

Fast forward to when I was 18 years old. I was in the latter stages of my senior year in high school. My parents had embarked on their own spiritual journey nearly a year earlier. In the latter days of 1982, my parents had “accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior”, whatever that means. Then, they turned their focus on getting me to go to a Protestant church. It was complete culture shock.

Without going into great detail, for the sake of brevity, it was April 4, 1983 when I quietly empty_tomband privately committed my desire and intention to have a relationship with God. It was the day after Easter. For the first time in my life, at least in a manner that stuck in my heart, I realized that Jesus wasn’t a statue or stained glass window mounted to a cross. He wasn’t a chain around a neck. In His death, He took upon Him my sin. As a Catholic, pretty much in name only, all I ever observed or knew about was His death. There is nothing wrong with that, except that’s not where the story ends.

It was about an empty tomb.

Jesus left behind His grave wrappings, and brought with Him my redemption for my sin. I never really knew that.

Easter is precious to me. It wasn’t just the death and resurrection of Jesus, but my own death and resurrection. My sins were nailed to the cross. His blood was shed as He quietly  accepted His fate in order to secure mine. Love isn’t love until there is sacrifice. Life is the result of sacrifice. Love is forged and purified in sacrifice. He did that for me.

He did that for you.

Count the cost

There are times in our lives when we face significant challenges. When these times come, we are often presented with different options in how we resolve, or cope with these difficulties. These times, and these decisions, will reveal who we are at our core. Do we handle them with dignity, or do we look for an escape, or the easy way out. Do we face our difficulties, or do we curl up in the fetal position and pray it will all go away.

Every now and then, we face the temptation to go the easy route. But inevitably, that 10174800_10152333212342863_1643042142151823382_ncomes with a very high cost. Sure, the easy route can make things go away quicker, but at what cost? Relationships? Integrity? Maturity?

We must embrace these difficulties. When I was driving from California to New England, I spent the first two plus days going through a rather desolate stretch of highway. During this period, it was very easy to just kind of set my brain on autopilot. You lose good driver discipline. It’s so easy to get distracted. But when I started to reach populated areas, especially Chicago, I hit traffic. No one likes traffic. But this forced me to really pay attention and focus on what I was doing. Life is no different. Challenges force us to dig in to our values. To see what we’re made of. To see and prove what is of greatest value to us. In times like these, I often reflect on this quote:

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything it’s value.

~Thomas Paine

I would dare say that if you’re in a difficult stretch of life and there seems to be an easy way, and a longer, more difficult way, the correct way is the one you really have to work for. By grinding, by enduring, by persevering, we grow in so many important areas. Just like lifting weights, the resistance of gravity pushing down on us, and us pushing back, is what builds our strength and muscles. The path of least resistance yields only temporary relief. We will not be any better equipped for the next challenge that is sure to come.

Romans 5:So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

~Living Bible

Let it go

Last week, we finally got around to sitting down and watching the movie Frozen. I do love Disney/Pixar movies, so I was interested in watching it. However, I was dreading the moment when that incessant song would be featured. Now that song is on a never-ending loop in my head. Last night, Sarah and I were out running errands, and as we stopped for gas, I left the radio on for her as I pumped the fuel. Guess what song game on. And of course, the dutiful prankster that she is, she cranked the radio to the point of melting the speakers so I would have no trouble hearing the song through every pore in my body.

In recent days, one of my favorite verses has also been on a loop in my head and heart. Psalm 46:10.

Be still and know that I am God.

Some translations of this verse say, “let go of your concerns”. The New American Standard version says, “cease striving”. 

In other words, let it go. Stop trying do do things on your own power! The verse goes on let_go_balloonto tell us that in doing so, we will see what God can do. When we let go of the worries and concerns of life, we can then cling to Him, releasing God to do what only He can. Then, we will know that He is God. When we still our hearts, when we calm our worries, when we release our kung fu grip on our situations, we release them all to God, where they belong.