Tag Archives: eternity

almost heaven

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“Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue ridge mountains, Shenandoah river…” And now most of you will have John Denver stuck in your head for the rest of the day. My apologies to my West Virginian friends, but I’ve never really thought of West Virginia as being “almost heaven”. For that matter, I have never thought about Odessa, TX or Flint, MI, or even Chattanooga, TN as being almost heaven either. Well at least not geographically. However, when I stop to think about some of my encounters in each of these places, I begin to see heaven breaking through a little bit. Bob Benson wrote a poem called Looking for the Threads that I think catches what I’m trying to say:

I used to think,
loving life so greatly,
that to die would be like
leaving the party before the end.

But now I know
that the party is really happening
somewhere else.
That the light and the music
escaping in snatches,
to make the pulse beat faster
and the tempo quicken,
comes from another place.

And I know, too,
that when I get there,
the music and the love and the praise
will belong to him
and the music will never end.

Maybe that’s the almost heaven part? The “light and the music escaping in snatches”. I like the way the writer of Revelation put’s it in his final description, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’.” – Revelation 21:1, 3-4. That new heaven and new earth part sounds pretty awesome. Because I think what limits our scope of heaven and seeing the “light and the music escaping in snatches” is because we are encumbered by time, death, distance, sickness, etc.

Maybe we’ve all experienced the “almost heaven” part, but our vision is limited by those things that will soon pass away. Maybe my visions of heaven in Odessa, TX will come to fruition in the new heaven and earth. I can see me spending a large part of eternity sitting around with Kenny Mayes and just talking about the goodness of God (and hopefully it will feel and smell a bit like his shop). Maybe my vision of heaven in Flint, MI won’t be hampered by the cold and the snow and some of the brokenness that has come to falsely label this great city. I can see myself spending a good part of eternity walking in the fresh grass with Sam Owens just laughing about how grace welcomed us both in. Maybe even the visions of heaven I’ve had from the town I grew up in will fully blossom as one day I find myself fishing with my grandfathers¬† Raymond Arp and Garland Patterson (who I never got to meet) and us just enjoying being fully in the presence of each other and God.

I’ve never really enjoyed moving away from a place…and it has nothing to do with the geography or the restaurants or the sights or the entertainment venues or any of that stuff. That’s not what defines life for me. But the people who have shaped and changed mine and my family’s life are for me the part that is almost heaven. And much like that same song, they are the path that will help to, “take me home to the place I belong.” This life is short, but I’m beginning to see how beautiful heaven will be through all the folks who have been Jesus to me.

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allegiance

It doesn’t take much to get people riled up these days. Think about it with me for a moment. From one week to the next people are getting extremely angry about all sorts of different issues. One only has to open up some form of social media on any given day and scroll through for approximately .05 seconds and you will find something that someone is angry about. I finally decided that I just can’t click on any headline that has the key words ‘upset’, ‘outrage’, ‘displeased’, or any of these synonyms if I want to lead a more productive day. Most recently people have been getting outraged over a few athletes disrespect of the US National Anthem. And I understand where that frustration comes from, but my question is this: is this what we should truly get so upset about?

Before you click off of this blog post or delete this email hear me out for a second. I am not discrediting any of the symbolism or history or pride that people feel are bound up in this issue. I don’t want to discredit the complexity of this issue…I just want to raise a different issue. A million years from now many of us will not even know what all of this hullabaloo was about. Why? Because we believe in something that will outlast the temporal. We believe in a Kingdom Come that is and will be eternal and all earthly kingdoms, nations, principalities are like vapor in comparison. So my question is, why are we as Christians so worked up over this issue of disrespect and allegiance when there is something much greater at risk?

Let me clarify a bit. I get mad too. I get outraged. But I try not to get upset over things that will not matter as much in the eyes of eternity. However, when someone misrepresents the name of Jesus. When someone uses the name of Christ to belittle, exclude, alienate, oppress, wound or in any way hurt someone else I get outraged. This is something that deserves our anger and our ire. In his first epistle the writer of John writes this about our character, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:7-8. Love is the defining mark of those who belong to God. And if someone claims the name of Christ but their actions, their words, their posts, their tweets are not characterized by love then I believe this is a reason to get upset and feel disrespected. Not only that, but if we as Christians aren’t working for the betterment of the world and the lives around us then I also feel that our allegiance to the Kingdom is in question. Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said this, “The greatest sin of man is not the hatred, but indifference to his brothers.” By our inaction and lack of engagement with those around us we are also showing that our allegiance lies not with the Kingdom of God but with the ideology of indifference and apathy.

So may you get upset today (see, I gave you permission), but not with things that won’t matter in the eyes of eternity, but over the violation of the law of love. And may you become proactive in loving God and loving your neighbor for all else truly pales in comparison.


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