Christian Parallels in The Land Before Time

Up next on Christian Parallels in the movies is “The Land Before Time.” I remember watching this movie as a kid and balling my eyes out every time… Well guys, watching the movie as an adult with my six children… I still cried… maybe even harder.

1574021716953

Movie Recap

The movie opens with the narrator describing a great drought causing the dinosaur herds to be on the move heading towards a great oasis known as The Great Valley. He states that the herds only stop to hatch their young. We see several species of dinosaurs hatching their young, as we are focused in on the “Long Necks” who only have one baby to carry on for their herd. He is our main character, Little Foot.

Little Foot’s mom explains to him the need to get to the Great Valley and how marvelous it will be. He asks her how she knows if she’s ever seen it. To which she responds, somethings you see with your eyes, somethings you see with your heart. Of course, the young dinosaur does not understand, but he will soon.

Soon after this, Little Foot attempts to play with a Triceratops names Cerra. However, her dad interjects telling Cerra that “Three Horns” do not play with “Long Necks.”

Little Foot asks his mom what’s a “Long Neck?” And she basically tells him all species stick to their own kind and do not intermingle.

That evening Little Foot follows a hopper into a pond. Cerra is there too. The two of them play happily until they meet Sharp-Tooth. Little Foot’s mom comes to their rescue, but she is hurt badly. During all this, the ground begins to shake. The narrator claims this to be the continental divide. Cerra is separated from her family. Little Foot is separated from his grandparents.

And Little Foot’s mom is about to die. She reminds him how to get to the Great Valley and encourages him to follow his heart. His heart will lead him.

However, the young dinosaur is struck with grief. He doesn’t even notice his own hunger. Eventually he falls onto another dinosaur, Rooter, and says it’s all her fault. She should have known better than to take on a Sharp Tooth.

The wise dinosaur tells Little Foot that it’s nobody’s fault, not his mom’s, not his. It’s part of the circle of life. But that she is never really gone if you follow what she taught you.

Little Foot is guided by his mom’s voice, “Follow the bright circle past the rock that looks like a Long Neck, past the mountains that burn. I’ll be in your heart, Little Foot. Let your heart be your guide.”

Soon after, Little Foot sees Cerra and is overjoyed to see her. But she is proud and still determined to only talk to Three-Horns.

But through a series of events, Little Foot is brought together with Ducky, a big mouth, Petrie, a flightless flier, and Spike, a newly hatched spiked tail. Together they set off for the Great Valley.

Cerra learns that Sharp Tooth did not die. She is scared to be alone, so she joins the herd.

They are all hungry and tired. But Little Foot pushes them on. Knowing in his heart that are on their way to the Great Valley. But also denying that Sharp Tooth is alive.

Eventually they come to tree with leaves at the top. Little Foot, Ducky, Petrie, and Spike work together to pull those leaves down. Meanwhile, Cerra sits back and laughs at how ridiculous they look. Once they are all feasting, Little Foot invites Cerra to eat. She refuses saying she can get her own food. She rams her horns into a tree trunk. Nothing. She does it again. Nothing. As she goes to do it a third time, Little Foot throws some leaves down for her. She proudly humps and eats her food.

Then they all learn that Sharp Tooth is alive. Cerra decides she wants to go her own way. It is easier. And the rest of the tribe agrees. Little Foot carries on while Cerra leads her companions in the wrong direction.

Trouble is brewing. Little Foot comes in and helps his friends. Together they get out of the mess. However, Cerra is still too proud to admit she was wrong. She goes her own way.

As the herd carries on, they hear Sharp Tooth and decide to get rid of him once and for all. They have a plan for Ducky to be the bait luring Sharp Tooth to the dark area of the lake. Then Little Foot and Spike will push a giant boulder on his head. During this time, Petrie learns to fly. However, Little Foot and Spike are unable to move the boulder. Luckily Cerra return and help them push the rock over the edge, taking out Sharp Tooth and saving Ducky. However, they fear they lost Petrie. But good news, he shows back up.

After all this, Little Foot lies alone hearing his mom’s voice in the clouds. He tells her he tried, but it’s just too hard. She tells him to follow his heart and starts to fade away. Little Foot chases the cloud and finds… The Great Valley!!!

It’s everything they hoped it would be. All the dinosaurs are reunited with their families, but more importantly, they stick together.

Christian Parallels

Let’s start with the obvious. All of these dinosaurs were on the same journey to the Great Valley in the beginning, but they stuck to their own kinds. Prejudice much! Some of those herds were much more vocal and prouder of their kind than others, but all followed the unwritten rule to stick to your own kind. Until the day of the Great Shake. Now families have been separated, and they need each other. No one wants to be alone. No one. Not even the proud Cerra.

This is a great representation of Christianity. We all have the same goal- Heaven! Yet, for some reason we are prejudice against others who worship differently, sin differently, or live differently than we do. It doesn’t make any sense in the movie, and it doesn’t make sense in real life. But it really is just the way it is due to our sin nature. We want to be comfortable, so we stick to what we know.

However, when our world shakes, we are anything but comfortable and willing to look at others in a different light.

I’m just going to throw this out there- I don’t think God wants us to be comfortable. Because when we are comfortable, we miss out on His blessings. It’s when we are uncomfortable, we admit our need for help, our need for a Savior. It’s in those moments we look to God for strength, guidance, and peace.

Throughout the movie we are drawn to the relationship between Little Foot and Cerra. From the beginning there’s a potential friendship blooming. But due to prejudices, it does not easily form. Even once they are traveling together, Cerra hold her values and views. At one point she even leads her companion astray due to her pride. Yet it’s her same pride that causes her to leave her new tribe.

Pride. A sin that everyone struggles with. Pride is a sneaky little lie told by the enemy that you know best. You are the best. You can do whatever you want. Pride is Cerra’s problem in the movie. And if I’m being honest, it’s a sin I struggle with regularly.

Living in America, I can make my own money. I can buy my own food. I can buy my own needs and wants.  While I do recognize my job as a blessing from God and the way he provides for me, it’s easy to think that I did all that.

When I look at other cultures, it’s easy to think my way is the best way. It’s easy to think they should conform to my liking, instead of embracing our differences. Forgetting God made each and everyone one of us in His image, perfectly and wonderfully made…. I prefer easy.

That’s how Cerra convinced the other dinosaurs to go her way. It was easier. Easy is not always the best way. In fact, in this movie, easy was a trap, a distraction to NOT make it to their chosen destination.

Easy will not get you to your chosen location- Heaven. Doing God’s work is not always going to be easy. It will take work. “Do not be conformed by the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of mind… (Romans 12:2)”

Don’t be led into sin by the temptation of easy. Don’t be led away from your values by easy. Embrace the challenge knowing God will never leave you or forsake you.

No one wants to be alone. And thank God He sent Jesus, so we wouldn’t have to be.

After Little Foot’s mom died, she still led the way for him. She was in his heart. She had taught him about faith and after grieving her loss, Little Foot had faith. In this movie, the way Little Foot’s mom speaks to him after her death is similar to how God speaks to His people- in their hearts. Some people do hear the audible voice of God. I am not one of those fortunate people. But He does speak to my heart. He does give me nudges. He leads me in directions I cannot understand. (Point to case writing a blog about “The Land Before Time.”) God speaks to each person differently; it’s not a one size fits all formula- it’s a relationship. But just like Little Foot’s mom appeared at the needed time, so does God. But God is always there. The whole time. We are just not always looking for Him.

Sometimes… ahem.. Often… God appears by sending His people. Much like Little Foot arriving to save his friends or Cerra coming through to push the boulder. God’s people are God’s chosen source of blessings to other Christians.

That little nudge at your heart. That feeling you just can’t shake. That’s probably the Holy Spirit directing to help, encourage, or support a fellow Christian.

No one wants to do this alone. In the movie, a herd of misfits were brought together after a disaster to help each other and keep each other safe. We too have a similar mission. Help our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Love them. Model Christ. And make disciples of all nations.

Alone we are bait for Sharp Tooth… or another common enemy- Satan… Together we are stronger. Together we can reach our chosen location. Despite all prejudices. Lay down your pride. We need you. We can do it together.

Learning to Walk- Wear Those Socks and Shoes!!!

My one year old (GASP! I can’t believe he is one…) is trying to walk. This morning he grabbed a hold of the back of my legs and followed me from the kitchen into the living room. It was adorable. But also, a little bit annoying.

You see, for the past month, I have been trying to get him to wear some socks and shoes to help with that whole balance thing that he hasn’t completely figured out. But within minutes, he starts pulling off his socks and working off his shoes.

Kid! If you’d just keep those socks and shoes on…

But he doesn’t get it.

He just wants to walk. And be comfortable… In his own way.

1573421505912

You know there are quite a few similarities to learning to physically walk and learning to walk with God. 

Faith is not something you just catch. It’s something you have to pursue. But here’s the good news, God has been pursuing you since you were created. And he’s not going to make you do it on your own. 

 If you claim to be a Christian, you recognized that, accepted this truth, and were baptized. But it doesn’t stop there. Learning to walk with Christ, is much like learning to walk. 

You don’t really know how, but when you first start the journey, you are eager. You stumble. You fall. But eventually something clicks, you start to figure it out… yet you still fall sometimes… like when you are going too fast or don’t see what’s on the ground in front of you. 

Maybe there are some people who have come along side of you to offer up some assistance, to pray for you, give you advice. Listen to that advice. 

I get it. It’s not really something you want to do… 

I’ve been here too many times to count. I just want to be walking faithfully with God. I want the peace of a life with Him. I want the blessings that come from a life aligned with Christ. I want the mutually beneficial relationships I see other Christians having.

But I don’t want to keep my socks and shoes on. I also want to be comfortable in this world. 

I don’t want to put the time into reading my Bible. I want to sleep in. I’m too busy. I don’t know where to start… All these excuses. But the truth is, it’s uncomfortable. And I want to be comfortable and still reap the benefits.

I want God to answer my prayers, but I don’t like the way it feels. I do all the talking. I just want things to go the way I planned. Since I’m not really in my Bible, I’m not really even sure my will is aligning with God’s…  

My sinful, human nature is selfish and greedy. I see what other Christians have and I want it for myself. When things don’t go my way, I revert to doing it all myself again… I don’t see all the behind the scenes work people who are strong in their faith are putting in. I don’t see their morning devotional time, their on-going prayer life, the sacrifices they make, the things they chose not to do.  

But because of the power of the Holy Spirit, you too can be there. We can all have an amazingly beneficial overflowing relationship with God! But it takes trust. Trust that God is a good God and His ways are the best way. It takes obedience. You cannot simply hear the word, but you also must be a doer of the word. 

Walking with Christ is the greatest blessing ever! But people don’t take full advantage of what that means. Listen- the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in you. You have that power in you! You can have an ongoing prayer life. You can constantly be learning more about your heavenly Father and His will. 

Put on those socks and shoes, so that you can remain steady in your walk. Always growing. Always learning more about God, His character, His plan, and how you are part of that plan! 

Read your Bible. 

Pray. 

Fellowship. 

Mentor.

 Grow. 

Trust Him and His ways.

 Obey His word. 

Follow Jesus’ example.

Walk humbly with your God! 

Christian Parallels in The Lion King

Last week I had the opportunity to share some Christian parallels of the movie “Aladdin” in my blog. It was honestly really neat to see how the messages of the movie fit perfectly into the blog I was currently writing. So, I decided to try this again with another movie.

 

So, this week on Christian Parallels in the Movies, we have “The Lion King!”

Christian parallels in the lion king.jpg

Movie Recap

As the movie opens, we see the beauty of Africa. Land. Water. Sun. Sky. Animals. Lots of animals. Animals of the sky. Animals in the water. Animals of the land. All of these animals are living in harmony as the viewer’s attention is brought to the King (Mufassa), his wife, and new baby cub (Simba). There’s beauty. There’s harmony. There’s peace.

Then, we meet Scar. Scar is Mufassa’s brother and Simba’s uncle. Within his first scene, we learn that Scar is power-hungry, bitter, deceitful, and willing to do whatever it takes to get his way.

Mufassa, however, is a wise king and good father. He takes every opportunity to teach and lead his son. He teaches him the circle of life, the natural order of things. He teaches him to respect and care for all of creation. He also warns his son to stay away from the dark places because their kingdom covers everything the light touches.

Now, Simba is a young cub and naive. His uncle is able to plant a little seed of doubt, so Simba decides to check out that dark shadowy place, finding himself in a lot of trouble. And Mufassa protects him.

Though Mufassa is extremely disappointed, he continues to instill wisdom in his son. He points him to the stars, telling him the great kings of the past live there, and that he is never alone.

Sadly Mufassa’s reign is about to come to an end. His brother is able to carry out a terrible plan and have him killed. Then he is also able to whisper a lie into Simba’s mind, making him think he is responsible for his father’s death. Then his evil uncle tells him to run away and never return.

Simba listens. He runs away. Yet, he carries the weight of the past on his shoulders.

He meets some friends, Timon and Pumbaa, who help him learn a new moto, “Hannakua Matta.” With some new friends by his side, Simba is able to make a new life for himself.

Then one day he reconnects with his childhood best friend, Nala, by pure consequence. Nala tells Simba that Scar let the hyenas take over the Prideland. There’s no food and no water; it’s horrible. Simba can no longer hide! And he is torn. He knows where he should be, but he thinks he can’t go back.

But Rufiki knows the way. Rufiki appears telling Simba he knows his father. He tells Simba to look at his reflection. As Simba looks at his reflection, he is directed to the stars in the sky.

There he sees his dad. Mufasa tells Simba he has forgotten who he is. He is his son and the one true king.

Now, Simba must return home. To a land that Scar is now running. When Simba comes back to Pride Rock, it looks horrible. “We’re going to fight your uncle for that!” his friends ask.

Simba returns, confronts the past, learns the truth, and defeats his uncle. He then takes his rightful place as the king of Pride Rock.

The movie ends exactly as it began. There’s peace, harmony, and beauty as all of the animals are celebrating the birth of a new lion cub.

Christian Parallels

The movie opens with all of creation in harmony under the righteous king, Mufassa. There’s peace. There’s order. It is beautiful. This reminds me of Genesis. In the beginning God created everything, and He created it good! He gave order and purpose to every living creature.

Then Scar entered our scene. In this movie, Scar is our bad guy. He saw all this beauty and only wanted power. He is the representation of evil, like Satan. Scar planted a seed of doubt, just like the serpent planted a seed of doubt in Eve. From that seed of doubt, came sin.

Now, God’s beautiful creation is now fighting sin. And just like in the movie, there are dark places His people should not go. Those dark places are different for each person. But let’s be clear, those places are places where you are going to fall back into a sin that consumes you.

I’d like to skip ahead here and point out the differences in the two kingdoms. When Mufassa, the righteous king ruled, there was beauty, harmony, and peace. When Scar, the greedy, prideful king ruled, there was destruction. Scar paid no attention to the natural order of creation and allowed the hyenas to take over the Prideland.

Likewise, when we allow God, the righteous king, to rule our hearts, there is peace and beauty. However, when allow sin to rule our hearts, there is nothing but destruction. Satan’s goal since the beginning of time, has been to separate creation from God with a little lie… a little sin.

Sin can weigh us down… make us feel unworthy… cause us to run from our purposes… make us doubt everything we have ever been taught. That’s what happened to Simba. Simba didn’t even commit the sin he believed he did. He tried to run from it. But it crippled him.

Simba is able to start a new life separate from his purpose. The life was a good life… but not complete. But then, by pure coincidence, he reconnects with his childhood best friend, who tells him how badly he is needed. This happenstance, was a plan of the writers to bring Simba back and redeem his kingdom.

This is our story too! God is the author of life. He had a plan from the beginning to restore and redeem his creation.

AND He is writing our story too. Trust him with the story. He knows the way. He will lead you!

Much life Rifiki knew the way for Simba. Rafiki shows Simba his reflection which points him to his dad. “Remember who you are. You are my son and the one true king.” He didn’t confront the past. He didn’t clear up the past. He simply reminded him who he was. He has the power to do the right thing because of who he is.

Remember who you are. You are a child of God. It doesn’t matter how far you run from God, He is there. He wants you to be in relationship with Him. Though there are no old kings of the past in the stars, God is there. You are never alone.

But confronting the past will hurt. This movie did not skim over that detail. It actually enhances it by adding the humor of Rafiki hitting Simba on head with his stick. That pain is real, it hurts, but because of who Simba is, he can confront it.

Because of who you area you can too. You have to confront that past. It will hurt. But by doing so, you are confessing your sins and giving them to God. Once you confront that past, you have given God room to move. You have literally broken the chains of sin. You are free to be the person you were created to be.

Remember who you are.

You are not the lie you believe. You are not the sum of things that have or haven’t happened to you.

You are a child of God. Perfectly and wonderfully made. In the image of God Himself. You were designed with a purpose! You have a God who loves you and is always with you! He started a good work in you and He is faithful to carry it out to completion!

There’s more! In the movie, Simba came back and redeemed his kingdom. We too have been redeemed by a righteous King’s son who shed his blood to cover our sins! Because we have a redeemer, we can live in peace and harmony. Yes, sin still exist. Yes, we will be tempted everyday. But because of who we are, children of God and covered by the blood of Christ, we too are made righteous!

A Poison Ivy Wreath

This week we have seen the beautiful colors of fall in St. Louis! As my kids were playing outside, they kept showing me the colorful leaves that they would find. So, I decided we should make an autumn wreath for our front door.

Oh, they had a blast finding all the leaves around the yard. But I specifically wanted them to get the red and orange ones.

Then my girls and I glued them to a cardboard circle. While we waited for the wreath to dry, we all played outside. I noticed a bunch of orange and red leaves on a vine twirling up a tree.

“Hey honey, what is that?” I said pointing to the colorful vine.

“Poison Ivy… or poison oak,” my husband replied.

I did a little gulp… no way… So, I had to verify by checking out Google…

Yep… we just made a beautiful fall wreath out of poison ivy and poison oak… I itched a little bit…

But they were so pretty… yet still just as bad…

It’s like this lie wrapped up in beautiful colors.

It’s that little bit of hope we are looking for but in all the wrong places.

 

a poison ivy wreath

We all fall into this trap… even as Christians…

We know we should find our purpose, our identity, our comfort, our hope… (ok, I can literally put anything here) … We know we should place all that in Jesus.

But we see beautiful colors… then we don’t realize it’s poison.

My family and I just watched the remake of Aladdin.  I honestly loved it. I felt like a kid again. And let me just say, no one else could have played a better Genie than Will Smith!  But what I loved most about this version was that they spelled out the messages of the movie… (maybe they did in the original, but it’s been a while.)

1- You cannot live a lie. It will consume you. The Genie was able to make Aladdin look like a prince on the outside,  BUT what is on the inside is what mattered. And guess what? The princess didn’t like the showy prince; she liked the man inside- Aladdin. 

Appearance changes nothing. No matter what is going on in your life- you are a child of God. Don’t forget that. We live in a fallen world. A world full of sin, hurt, and pain. We can try to pretend we have it all together, but that’s a lie. We don’t. We can’t do this life alone. We weren’t designed to. We must free ourselves from the bondage of slavery to sin by admitting we are sinful and in need of a Savior. 

2- Having more will not make you happy. The Genie told Aladdin over and over again that having more would not make him happy. More money. More power. More _____. It can’t. Happiness doesn’t come from stuff. 

There is only one thing that can truly satisfy- Jesus. We were designed for a relationship with Creator. Yet, we look to all those worldly things- created things- to fill that void.   

3- Having more changes people. As Aladdin got what he wanted in the movie, he wanted more of it. We have the same tendencies. We have success, we want more. We have money, we want more. 

What if… what if we sought more of God? What if we sought to share God with everyone we could?

How great would our world be if we were all filled with Christ! Actions are an overflow of the heart. 

Remember God created everything good, sin corrupted it all.

So, what’s leading your life? What’s consuming your heart?

Where are your treasures? Your family? Your job? Your status? Other people’s opinions? A hobby? 

It looks pretty. It looks harmless. And maybe it is… but maybe, maybe it’s poison.

You don’t have to sit back and pretend that everything is perfect. We all have struggles. We all have problems.   We live in a fallen world. Sin has corrupted everything. Even a beautiful plant. It’s not what it seems. We must stand guard. 

The Bible tells us to guard our hearts above all else because everything we do flows from it. Everything. Where your heart is, there is your treasure. 

Ask yourself,  “Is your treasure heaven?” 

If you cannot honestly answer yes, I understand. We live in a world full of sin and temptation. But that is not a free pass to sin. It is a reason to draw closer to our Creator. 

We have to guard our hearts. We have to recognize that sin wrapped up in pretty colors. There is only one thing that can satisfy that longing in your heart. When you start to feel that emptiness. When you start to reach for that idol to fill that void- stop and pray. Shift your focus to God.  Ask God to see this situation through His eyes. 

Don’t fall into the trap of a beautiful sin. Fall into the arms of your God! 

 

 

 

 

Parents: A Glimpse of God

My kids were playing outside as a storm rolled in. I saw a flash and heard a boom. So, I called them inside. My youngest daughter was apparently really scared when I called them in. I gave her a hug, told her she was safe, and sent her to play with her siblings.

About 15 minutes later, she came to me and said, “I safe cause I got God and dad.”

It was adorable. She is right. She is safe because she has God and her dad.

I love that she put God and dad in the same category. Yes, dad is human. But sometimes I think parents forget that children are shaping their view of God based on your words, actions, and character. You are the most important person in their world. You are teaching them about God. Though they can’t see God, they see you. Thus, they are connecting your qualities to God’s qualities.

My daughter sees her dad as a protector and defender. Dad is strong and fierce. No one and no thing will hurt his baby girl, if he can prevent it.

God is also our protector and defender. “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you, and protect you from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3).”

I’m not sure that she sees that parallel at the age of 3, but I hope one day she will. 

parents a glimpse of God

 

Parents, we are giving our children a glimpse of God through the way we parent them.

As Christians, we should want our children to know the all-knowing, ever-present, consistent, loving, just God we serve. Our young children will not be able to wrap their developing minds around the character and nature of God, but the way we treat them and others around us shows them a glimpse of God. 

If your discipline is inconsistent and based on feelings, they will not understand God’s discipline.

If you say one thing and mean something different, they will not value God’s word. They will not understand the concept of a never-changing God.

If you are constantly manipulating situations to get your child to do what you want them to do, they too will see God as a manipulator in the sky who gave free will as a joke. God can just make you do whatever he wants by changing your circumstances.

If you live one way in public and another way at home, they will think all Christians do the same. Therefore, they just need to put on a good front, wear a good mask. Sin all they want behind closed doors.

But all of these are the furthest thing from the truth. Our God is a good, just, and consistent God who loves us so much that he gave us the choice to love him back. He knows we cannot do it on our own. He’s not asking us to. He does not want you to pretend to be holy in public. He wants you to admit you are weak, so that you can be given a strength only he can provide.  

Our parents are our first teachers in every aspect of the world. They teach us how to love. They teach us how to interact with others. 

The way we respond to situations becomes the way they respond. 

The way we talk to them becomes the way they talk to themselves.

And until they are really old enough to own their faith, the way we live our faith is the way they too will live their faith. 

It’s a big responsibility. But I truly want everything I say and do to point to our Heavenly Father. 

I know some people are reading this, and it’s striking a nerve. Maybe you are the parent of a prodigal and you are thinking, “I tried.” Please hear me, that’s ok. A relationship with God has to be personal choice. You can plant seeds all day long, but you cannot force faith. Only God can make that seed grow. Some people just take longer to reach that point. Some people have to hit rock bottom before they recognize their need for a Savior. Don’t stop praying for your child. 

 Maybe you didn’t have parents who pointed you to a loving God. Maybe your parents were like the ones I previously described. Or maybe you know someone who did not grow up knowing the true love of a Father. That’s ok. Talk to God about it. Trust me when I say, He knows. He was there. And He will use that pain to help you grow, witness, and further the Kingdom, if you let Him. 

The sad truth is, we are all sinful. We all fall short. And even the best parents, will still miss the mark. This is why it is so important for the body to represent Christ. 

Everyone needs Jesus, but not everyone knows that. We must share this good news. We must witness to the lost and hurting. And sometimes those people are in our congregation, friend groups, family… Don’t assume everyone who claims to be Christian has a true understanding of God. 

We must come alongside of the prodigal, hurt child, and confused to point them to the loving Father who desires a relationship with them. Share the good news of Jesus. Share the character and nature of God. Share how God is working in your life. It matters!  Keep planting seeds!

Cleaning Out the Closet

So, I’m not exactly a perfectionist. I’m the kind of girl who will purposely hang something up crooked so that I don’t have to worry about it looking level.

My husband…Not that way at all. He’s the type of person who will bring out the level and pencils while carefully drawing lines and hanging the picture up perfectly.

They say opposites attract. Well, that’s a good thing. We are very different in many areas.

Another thing we are the exact opposite on is clutter verses decluttering.  Now I wouldn’t say I am a hoarder by any stretch of the imagination. But compared to him, I am.

About a year after we got married, Ben went through his closet and quite literally pulled out every shirt he owned and threw them on the bed.

“What are you doing with all those?” I asked.

“Throwing them away. It’s time to get new ones,” he responded.

“What’s wrong with them?”

He starts pointing out all the flaws- This one is faded. This one has a tear. This one has a paint spot. That one doesn’t fit right.

I glanced in my jammed-packed side of the closet… well, there’s an extremely worn T-shirt from high school. There’s one that I’m pretty sure I’ll never fit in again, but it’s the shirt I wore when he proposed. There’s one that my best friend from college brought me while on a trip…and I have never worn.

So many clothes… I couldn’t even fathom just throwing any of it away. But here he is just throwing them all away.

He picked up his pile, threw them in a trash bag, and asked if I wanted to go shopping?

Fast-forward a few years…

I now have three kids and a closet stuffed full of maternity clothes, pre-pregnancy clothes, in-between clothes, clothes that are 10 years out of style… you get the picture-my closet just got fuller and fuller. Until one day, I was so mad that I had nothing to wear.

So, I did it. I caved. I cleaned out my closet. I threw out every single item that didn’t fit or hadn’t  been worn in at least a year. Then I tried on what was left. Will I wear it?

I had almost everything cleared out. It came time to get to the dresses. I am not a dress girl, but I still had a pretty nice stash of dresses in my closet. Most were fairly easy to throw out due to the fit, but there were a couple I could still hold onto.  I had to ask myself an honest question. If I have to go to an event calling for a dress, is this the dress I want to wear, or would I rather go buy one.

If I held onto the dress, I would not have room for a new one.

That moment. That thought. It was freeing.

I can always go buy new clothes. Why hold onto something you will not use?

I realized this concept was not just literal to the clothing in my closet but in every area of my life.

cleaning out the closet

If I hold onto ___, there’s no room for new ___.

If I hold onto the past, I cannot be led in the present. I cannot move to the future.

If I hold onto worry, I cannot live at peace.

If I hold onto busyness, I cannot live in peace.

If I hold onto that sin, I cannot experience God’s peace.

There seemed to be a theme. If I want to experience God’s peace, I need to clean out the closet of my heart.

My heart was so full. Full of good and bad.  Full of love and full of hurts. Filled with expectations and disappointments.  Filled with joys and filled with suffering. It all needed exposed.

Part of the cleaning out of my heart included opening up past hurts. As I stuffed those hurts further and further into my heart, nothing changed except that I couldn’t see them. They had to come out. They had to be acknowledged. Then there was room for something beautiful to replace it. I had to forgive.

Holding onto pain others caused me… Holding onto the hurt… Holding onto the pain I caused…It all took up a lot of space in my heart, and it was stuffed into the back of the closet. Once I exposed it, I could give it up to God and let him do what only he can do. It literally freed me. It lifted the weights of regret, shame, guilt, and all those other stuffed emotions that kept me in chains, holding me back from experiencing God’s peace, His love, His comfort, His wisdom.

I also needed to get rid of worldly desires.  My need to be in control. My secret envy and pride. My need for other people’s approval. My desire to be liked by sharing gossip disguised as truths. As long as I was letting my flesh consume my heart, I gave God no room to move.

During this time, I felt a huge conviction to guard my heart. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23).”  I didn’t realize just how much my heart was influenced. Just how much someone making a sny remark could cause me to stumble. How easily I got sucked into drama. How hearing one word would suddenly have me divulging into other people’s personal information.

I had to distance myself from all that. “Do not be misled: `Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

I had to learn to fill my heart with God centered stuff. Music, TV, books, even the groups I chose to play online games with. I needed my outside influences to point me to Christ.

I had to lose my heart of stone to be given a heart for Christ.

This is no task any human can do on their own. It takes discipline. It takes practice.  But more importantly, it takes God. We need the help of the Holy Spirit, an open heart, and a prayer, “Create in me a pure heart Lord.”

 

Love Song from China

Every morning at 5 am, I wake up to teach kids in China online. I love my job! I really do! It honestly amazes me the relationships you can build with kids across the world using a pre-planned 25-minute lesson. That’s not the point of this post, though.

Yesterday morning, I entered the classroom a couple minutes early as normal. The student was also already in the classroom. However, we don’t start class until the count-down timer is close to zero. Basically, we both just sit there with our cameras off and watch the timer. Sometimes I can hear the student’s background noise, sometimes I can’t.

This morning I could. He was listening to music. Though I had no idea what the words to the song were (they were in Mandarin), I could tell it was a love song. The tone, the melody, the music arrangement.

We live in two completely different cultures on opposite sides of the world. We speak different languages. We have completely different traditions. Yet, both cultures are in love with the idea of being in love.

All across the world, we, as a human race, literally worship romantic love. Movies. Books. Music. Almost any form of entertainment… it’s all saturated with this idea of romantic love. 

We expect it to complete us. We expect it to make us happy.

And it’s not just part of our culture. It’s part of every culture. It’s part of our DNA.

We long for it. We sense that need for completion.

love song from china

I was telling my husband about this love song from China and my thoughts pertaining to the worship of romantic love. He said, “Isn’t it funny the one thing we are all looking for and expecting out of a relationship is the one thing we were created for… To be in relationship, communion, with our Lord.”

I wish I had more to add. But that pretty much sums it up. We were created to be in relationship with God. But due to the Fall, our desires have become twisted. Sin took everything that was good and tainted it.

Adam and Eve no longer walked with God. Their work became toilsome. Their relationships became infected. Life got hard.

Everything that was once good, now became a struggle with the flesh. Work. Food. Sex. Relationships.

And we feel that. No matter where you are from. You know that something is missing, and you go looking for it in all the wrong places… substances, food, success, relationships, wealth, power…  

But that something is God. There is only one thing that can fill that hole in your heart.

Since walking with Christ, I have said so many times, “I wish I had chased God the way I used to chase boys.”

When I was a teenager and in my early twenties it was like my mission. I needed a boyfriend, or at least a love interest. If I didn’t have one, I spent my weekends looking for one. It was a game. It was fun. It also consumed my life.

I was looking for something that was missing in my life. I was expecting that relationship to complete me.

Then I got married to a wonderful man. But guess what! He is not God. He did not complete me. There was still something missing.

This is probably a large part of the reason our first years of marriage were not a honeymoon. I expected him to fulfill me. I expected him to make me happy. I expected him to be my god.

When we put our faith in people, they will let us down. All people, no matter how good they are, are flawed sinful humans.

But God knew our nature. He knew we would mess up. He knew we needed someone to save us. So, He sent His Son to be the greatest love story ever told. He came down from His throne in Heaven to a world full of sin. He lived as a poor humble human. Preached the Good News of God’s Kingdom. Though He never sinned, took the punishment of death we deserve. But it doesn’t end there. He defeated the enemy. He conquered death by rising from the dead! 

Why? So that we could be part of His Kingdom. So that we could have eternal life! But not just eternal life, we now can bring His Kingdom to Earth! We also now have ability to be in communion with God again- through the Holy Spirit. This is the greatest love story ever told! And it’s true. 

We have to put our faith in God. This is the love story our hearts need. This is the love that will change you and fulfill you.

That sense of completion comes from a relationship with Him!  When God is your number one relationship, you can take all your relationships to Him. He will guide you, lead you, and help you flourish in all areas, including earthly relationships. But He has to be that number one relationship, not just a random thought occasionally throughout your life when things get hard. He alone is the only thing that can satisfy that longing in your heart. Chasing anything else is like chasing the wind.