CONNECT – verb (used without object) – to become connected; join or unite.
This word has been plaguing me for over a week now. Its like when you hear a word for the first time in your life. You may have been around for decades and never heard it before, but for some reason when you finally hear it, you hear it over and over again. Or when you buy a new car. You love it because its unique and you haven’t seen anyone driving it, but then you start seeing them everywhere you look.
God definitely has a sense of humor. He seems to show me things in ways that wouldn’t make sense to anyone else, but me. I guess you could say I have a twisted, or maybe a more P.C. term would be unique, sense of humor. God puts things in front of me and and I walk right over them without noticing, but once I find it, I never forget what it was, where it was, and why it was there.
I have been going to a new church for a few months now. I just started back to school and went from being self-employed for almost 3 years to full-time hours in a classroom. I am in a new apartment (since December) in Uptown Charlotte, a little change of scenery from Concord, NC. So I guess you could say I’m in a transition phase in my life. As the country is experiencing “Change” so are Jesalyn and I.
If you haven’t been on a college campus in the last 2 years you probably wouldn’t know this, but the new trend is to wear your ipod. You wear it to class, from class, and sometimes in class. In stead of walking to class with a friend or finding someone to talk to, you look down, put your earbuds in, and walk to class while listening to the newest T-Pain song. If you aren’t listening to your Ipod there is only one thing you could be doing. No, not talking to your friend, or even talking on the phone…texting. It’s said that calling someone is a simple communication and emailing is pseudo-communication, then texting must be the lowest form of communication possible. Its too much to actually find out how someone’s doing, we have to get to the point in 100 characters or less. BTW, if u no “txtin lingo” u dnt need 100 characters…10 will suffice.
In World Religion we were discussing how disconnected we have become. Disconnected from nature, disconnected from each other, and disconnected from God. I couldn’t help but walk out of that class with my head up. Watching everyone walk around with their heads down. It really began to bother me. My mind began to think about the day of a 21st Century American…TV, Video Games, Internet, IM, maybe a phone call or two, between all that we are lucky to get in a genuine hug from a friend, kiss from our family, or an actual conversation lasting longer than this paragraph.
We have reserved areas for trees and nature, and we usually have to drive to get there.
We know people on TV Shows better than we know the person we are watching the show with.
We spend 10 hours a day in artificial lighting and maybe 10 minutes in the sunlight.
What’s the problem?
We are born to connect. We are here for that reason, and that reason only. To unite with God, to unite with each other, and to unite others with God. That’s it! No, really…that’s it!
In Genesis God created Adam and Eve. The Garden and everything in it was blessed, in total connection with God and each other. That’s why they were here. To be with God and with each other. Adam and Eve experienced a connection with God which in turn connected them to everything He made. Then it went down hill… They chose to be disconnected. They become ashamed and covered themselves. They were disconnected from God, which disconnected them from nature, and then each other.
NOW, we live in a DISCONNECTED world.
In Rob Bell’s book “Sex God” he points out that this could be why babies cry. The first thing we experience in life is being severed. We feel alone for the first time and we weep.
So if we are born disconnected and we live in a disconnected world, then how can we connect? How is it even possible?
When God sent Himself to Earth as Jesus He was connecting us. He was sending us a cable that will plug us back into Him, nature, and each other. And here’s the best part. We already have this cable…all we have to do is plug it in. This is what makes it so amazing. In every other belief or “religion” we have to do something to earn the cable. We will never be truly connected unless we get it ourselves. The Bible says that we are already connected. God has done it for us! All we have to do is…
The letter to the Ephesians says that there is, “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and IN ALL.”
And in Hebrews, it’s says God is the one “for whom and through whom everything exists.”
Do you see God in the grass you walk on? Do you see God in the person you are sitting next to? The God of The Universe, the creator of EVERYTHING! If you saw Him in that person, do you think you would put down the ipod a minute and talk to Him? Do you think you would open your eyes, look up, and see what He has done/is doing around you?
So that day after we talked about connecting in my World Religion class I put away my Ipod and walked with my head up. I came home from school and decided to connect with God by reading. I picked up the Rob Bell book I was reading months ago and started from my bookmark that was on page 36 of “Sex God” which starts, “We’re disconnected from the Earth and we know it.” I kept reading in amazement as Bell goes on to talk about connecting with ourselves, the earth, and each other. I then started thinking about connection, realizing the church we are now a part of is Connection Church and the small group study we are doing is called, Just Walk Across The Room, about connecting with other people in your life. It was right there in front of me. I had walked right over it without noticing.
I guess you can say God started laughing.
Are you connected? Yes, you already are! You just have to realize it. God has already connected you and all you have to do is look up. It doesn’t matter where you are, what you are doing, or who you are. He is already above ALL and in ALL! He has already given you the cable…just plug it in!
Today at church Jerel spoke about stress. He had a bucket of sand and a rock on stage. He talked about Matthew 7:24-30. To build our lives on God is like building our house’s foundation on a rock. To build it on anything else is like building our house on sand.
That is not what this blog is about.
Relating this parable to stress Jerel used the analogy of a sponge. How do you find out what a sponge is full of? You squeeze it. When we are stressed we are under pressure. When we are under pressure we are like a sponge. Whatever we have on the inside comes out. You really find out what you are made of. If you have built your life on God you will see it come out when you are under stress. What a great analogy!
This got me thinking. Our souls are a lot like a sponge. Not just in this way, but in a lot of ways.
1. You see our true character when we are under pressure/stressed.
I already mentioned this, but want to make sure it is emphasized. When you are under pressure to get a project done on time, do you cheat or work harder? When you are stressed about money, do you get angry, blame others, or trust God to provide? How about when you are in a fight with your spouse…you get the point. When we are pushed to our limits our soul is exposed. Do we flow with goodness, joy, and love, or is that when the anger, deceit, and sin prevail?
2. We absorb what is closest to us.
What do you surround yourself with? What/who do you watch, listen to, and hang around with? These things define who you are. Why do companies spend billions of dollars on advertising. Not because you will see a commercial and immediately run out an buy what they are selling (unless you are my wife and mother). They spend huge money on repetition and prime ad spots so it will slowly sink into your soul. So next time you think of the Panthers you hear, “Gotta Wanna Needa Getta Have a Bojangles” and can taste the chicken. Or the next time you feel a little sad you know you need those new shoes because those women sure looked happy in Cosmo.
In the same respect. You become like the people that are around you. If you hang out with negative people you soak up their attitude and begin to see their point of view. Proverbs 12:26 says, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.” It also works the other way around. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
So just as a sponge soaks up whatever it is near, our souls soak up our surroundings. So be careful where you set your sponge.
3. If we are not moved or used for a while we become stale.
Our soul is designed to take a beating. To be squeezed, shaped, and molded. We need to be careful that we are allowing it to be filled with the right things, but even the right things, if not used as intended, are pointless. If we just sit around and read the Bible, pray, and worship all day it means nothing if we don’t do what we were intended to do. A sponge is intended to clean. If we use it once and then set it on the counter and never use it again it will become stale. Just the same, if we do all the right things and don’t serve God and build relationships then our soul is being wasted. It is becoming stale.
Make sense? It does to me. See, sponges are made to be pliable and fit into hard spaces without breaking. They are designed to be tough and delicate. Sound familiar? Our souls are designed to bend, but not break. They can be put through difficult situations, but will always be strong enough to make it through. Even if our soul is filled with good things, if we don’t use it, it becomes stale, breaks easy, and sour. Just like our soul. We have to use it regularly or he good things we put in it go to waste.
4. Most importantly a sponge is made to clean the things around it.
How do we effect our surroundings? If we are clean ourselves then we should make the world around us a better place to live. We should use our gifts to make our neighborhood/world better. Just like a sponge. If we are not clean we just smear the filth around and are not really serving the purpose we are meant to serve.
But there is nothing like a clean kitchen freshly scrubbed down by a clean sponge. That’s the kitchen I want to live in.
I have had this idea for the last several years. It all started when I went through a depression in my life. The more I read the Bible searching for a cure for my depression, the more angry I became. It was if my efforts to understand what the Bible was telling me was bringing more questions and not solving the problem I had. I struggled for months with the idea that I was becoming angry with God.
My brain was telling me something like this…Why won’t He answer me? How could I be angry with God? I must be a terrible person to question Him. I don’t get angry over anything, but I am pissed off at God…that just doesn’t make any sense. I must really be depressed.
For most of you who know me, you know that I don’t get angry. I am a very laid back guy except when it comes to sports and politics. I don’t rattle easily and I DON’T GET UPSET WITH ANYONE. So for me to be angry at the person who is love, the person that created me, blessed me, and was allowing me to live, just didn’t make sense to me.
It wasn’t until I actually expressed my anger to God that I started realizing that this was his purpose all along. He was teaching me not to accept what I had been taught my entire life. Get mad, ask questions, and dig deeper. Don’t just be Mr. Nice Guy who knows all the right answers. Speak up and tell me how you feel. I had found the true meaning to a verse i had been staring at for months.
A friend of mine called me and brought this verse to my attention:
Psalm 13: “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer.”
I read this verse several times during my depression and always saw the statement of anger. David seemed angry and i was angry. I identified with David and realized it was okay to be angry.
So I had this idea. To help people realize its okay to be angry at God. I wanted to write about my experiences. To let others know it doesn’t make you a bad person. To hopefully get other people to see past their “depression” and realize it is healthy. My conclusion would be to show that not only is it healthy, but God craves us to want more from him, to cry out to him, and to wrestle with our situations and not just accept them.
Fast forward a few years…
I’m reading Velvet Elvis. I believe it is Rob Bell’s first book. (Don’t ask me what its about because so far he has presented so many ideas and thoughts that I can’t remember half of them.) Somewhere towards the beginning he introduced a new idea (to me) and used Psalm 13 as an example.
He is making the point that questioning sets us free. God wants us to question Him. In fact, the “great” people of the Bible all questioned God when He chose them.
In the book of Genesis, Abraham is told by God what He is going to do to Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham says, “Will not the ruler of the Earth do right?”
When the angels tell Mary she will give birth to the Messiah she says, “But how can this be? I’m a virgin!”
For two chapters Moses tries to convince God that He has the wrong man. God almost seems to get more confident in his decision the more Moses questions.
And David, In Psalm 13, questions God repeatedly.
Its almost as if God chooses the people who don’t just accept what they are told. Why would that be? The idea itself even raises more questions.
Here’s the point…
Don’t just accept. It has taken God several years to explain to me that the purpose of my life, the Bible, and my experiences are not to teach people to accept Christianity. I am to teach people to question it. To question life, the Bible, and their experiences. I think this is the role of all spirtual leaders. That is what Jesus did. He rarely gave a direct answer to questions about God. Even God himself usually answered with a statement that lead to more questions. Like when Moses asks God for his name, God replies, “I am”. Now that is a definitive answer, isn’t it? This is what teachers and leaders have been missing. God is making sure I don’t miss this.
So from here…
I don’t know about the rest of the book yet, but at this point if I learn nothing else from it, the point he makes in the introduction is worth the time spent reading. This is where God has been calling me. This has been His Work to get me to the point where I am today.
Jesalyn and I are in a huge transitional phase in our lives. What started as pursuing a selfish dream of mine has now evolved into pursuing The Truth. Pursuing God’s will for my life. And this is it.
This will be the purpose for my new blog, my life, and for the new direction God is sending Jes and me. To continue to get closer to the Truth by questioning and getting others to question along with me. I really appreciate all the support from friends and family we have been receiving the last couple months. I am so excited about what God has in the future and I hope all of you will be with us on this journey.