Passions and the Pursuit of Them

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Over the past few days I’ve become acutely aware of the battle that is being waged for my passion.  Because I am a single soul in a grandiose universe, I am seriously dumbfounded.  Why does my passion matter?  The other day, I talked about the importance of one. I’d like to bring it up in a different context again today–the importance of the passions of one.  To talk about that, I have to start with one profoundly simple statement.  Jesus Christ died that I might be saved.  That’s it.

Merriam-Webster defines the word passion in several ways:

1) a strong feeling or excitement for something or about doing something

2) a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way

3) a strong sexual or romantic feeling for someone.

Most of us have felt one or more of these, have we not?

Given those definitions, I can tell you that many things stir “passion” within me…my family, my baby granddaughter, cycling, fitness classes, yummy healthy foods, travel…..there’s an endless list.  Ironically or not, the definition for “Passion,” when capitalized, happens to be “the suffering and death of Jesus Christ between the Last Supper and the Cross.”  Countless millions of people have suffered and died,  yet the true definition of Passion singles out Jesus alone.  This matters to me, and it serves as a reminder to me.  Christ alone suffered and died for me!  Many, many entities will compete for my passions, but Jesus….he DIED for them.

Here’s the truth.  There is ONE throne that inhabits the ruler our hearts…..just one.  Sure, we can love many, many people and things. Jesus gave room for these, in their proper position, when he taught us this in Matthew 6:33:  “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (KJV)  In other words, if we put Jesus on the throne of our hearts–the very object of our passion, he will provide for us all else we need.  There isn’t a single other competitor for my heart that can promise me that.

Let me give you a phrase that can serve as a warning bell when someone or something seeks to captivate your passion….”_______” will change your life!  Or in another way….”_______” has changed my life!”  Put any word in that blank, good or bad, it is counterfeit!  If Jesus isn’t in that blank, no life has been or will be changed.  It is idolatry, plain and simple.  I don’t care if it makes you gorgeous, rich, healthy, skinny, well-educated, virile, happy, or pain-free.  If Jesus is not in that blank, your life has yet to be changed.

Getting back to the matter of the importance of the passions of one, I offer this:  That which drives you controls your life.  Why are your specific passions important?  It is because they will determine the choices you make and the very effect you will have in the lives of others.  He or that which inhabits the throne of your heart will determine the impact you make in this world.  Will it be temporary or eternal?  Will it lead to temporary satisfaction or eternal satisfaction?  If it ain’t Jesus, it’s temporary.  No exceptions.

 

(above image hijacked from livewithpassionnow.com)

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Expect the Unexpected

I’ve grown accustomed to hearing the above phrase used in reference to God and his actions in our lives, but this was different….I was reading the phrase yesterday on the marquee of a closed down stripper club.  It piqued my curiosity.  It also took me back in time.

Back when we lived in the the outer rim of civilization of Mesa, Arizona, our two oldest children spent a year attending a beautiful, mission style Anglican church school.

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Trinity Christian School remains the most beautiful campus I’ve ever seen.  The highlight of each morning took place as I drove the kids to study amidst the cacti, tumbleweed, boulders, and sand.  There was, however, one blemish.

One mile from the school, there was an intersection that contained a single business–a triple x-rated video store.  I hated this interruption to the beauty that surrounded us.  We’d developed a habit of praying before they left the vehicle to go to class, so I began asking God if he would mind shutting down that business.  For three or four months, it became part of our morning prayer ritual–asking the Creator of the universe to remove an adult video store from our morning desert drives.

Something happens when you pray with children.  At the same time you’re thinking, “Yeah, I know, this is never going to happen” children are absolutely full of faith that GOD CAN DO IT!  They haven’t lived to take on the doubt and cynicism that grips most adult hearts.

Imagine our delight when we again made our drive to school, and saw on the marquee of the adult video store, “LOST OUR LEASE!  EVERYTHING HALF PRICE!”  The Creator of the Universe, the Redeemer of our Souls, had heard our prayers and answered in a “Too easy!” fashion!

The building was bulldozed, and up came an Exxon/McDonalds.  In the middle of the desert….with NO other businesses around!  Okay, I’m not going to pretend it was nearly as pretty as our little church school, but it KILLED the ugliness of the adult video store.  Furthermore, it provided a place where we could get fuel and ice cream, all in one stop!

I hope the “Expect the Unexpected” message at the closed down stripper bar will yield way to something amazing God’s going to do.  I pray that women will no longer be legally degraded, objectified, demeaned and bought & sold in that building.   My prayer is that whatever the “unexpected,” may entail in this situation, it will at the very least involve ice cream or, at best, a church!

Just sing….

We’ve all had nightmares like this, haven’t we? We find ourselves in front of a crowd, unprepared….incompetent….set up in such a way as to look like idiots.

It was our first post-adoption trip to Ukraine. We accompanied the founder and president of Hope Now, an organization that works to aid the infrastructure in Ukraine in the areas of hospitals, orphanages, prisons, and education. I’ve just spelled HOPE, did you catch that?

There I was in a church service inside a men’s prison, the first of its kind in the whole of the former Soviet Union. I WAS AN OBSERVER!!!! You can imagine my horror when Vic, the president, looked at me and said, “I want you to speak.”

“WHAT??!!!???”

“I want you to speak.”

“Well, I can’t you see, because I am a WOMAN, and these are men. At my church I’m not allowed to……”

“Speak.” He answered.

I got up and walked to the front. Everyone was silent as they waited, having watched us go through our debate in a language they didn’t understand. I fumbled through my Bible to a Psalm that had meant very much to me, and began to read. The interpreter repeated in Ukrainian everything I spoke. I had never done this in any church, let alone a prison church. I then explained how I felt this passage could apply to their lives. Relieved to be finished, I turned to go back to my seat.

“Sing.” Vic was giving me one word commands again.

“WHAT?” You’ve got to be kidding me.

“Sing.” I can’t sing.

“But I can’t sing.”

“That doesn’t matter, just sing.”

Regretting my return to Ukraine by this point, I turned back toward a room full of thieves, murderers, and all that landed themselves in this prison church. I chose a hymn I’d known as long as I could remember. Amazing Grace. Other than my voice, you could have heard a pin drop. No one moved. These men, with no bars between themselves and me, sat listening and gazing. They didn’t know the words, and there was no interpretation. They just listened.

I heaved a sigh of relief and turned once again toward my seat.

“Tell them Katie’s adoption story.”
“WHY?????”
“Just tell them.”
“It’s a long story,” I said.
“These men have plenty of time.”
I considered hopping the next flight home, but I turned back toward the prison audience and told them about Katie and how she’d come to be ours. The interpreter served them once again with the Ukrainian version, as I, trembling, dreaded what I would be asked to do next.When I turned, Vic was at last satisfied. I know I was as red as a boiled lobster when I sat down. How could he ambush me this way?
After the service, we returned to the van. Vic knew I was going to need some answers. In his thick British accent he explained to me, “These men have not heard the sound of a woman’s voice in a very, very long time. All they hear are harsh voices…men’s voices. Whether it’s prisoners or guards, it’s all they ever get to hear. Your voice was therapeutic for them. It didn’t matter what you said, it was the way you sounded. They needed to hear your voice.”It is that way here, isn’t it? We live in a culture where individuals demand THEIR needs be met, THEIR rights be fulfilled, and that THEY be served. Turn on a tv or radio, or go to a local restaurant, and you’ll hear it. Close your eyes. Is there a soft voice calling you to awareness of someone greater, someone full of mercy and grace, a God who became both man and servant for you? The media will tell you every bad or unfair thing that is going on in the world….or you can walk outside your door and see it for yourself. But where’s the voice calling out that this isn’t all there is?  WE ARE CALLED TO BE THAT VOICE! We are called to be merciful. We are called to share hope. We are called to love. We are called to look people in the eyes and smile, sending a message that they matter. We are called to be Jesus in the places where there is no Jesus.

It is my new goal to be that soft voice in a world of harsh voices. It may be tough at times. I may be tempted to demand my needs be met and my rights upheld. I may tremble. I may want to run back to my seat, but I am called to be that voice. God help me be it.