A Letter To My Future Wife (If I Have One)

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To my future wife (if I have one),

You may think “he does not care about me”, and you are right, (a phrase that at times will not always be said in our marriage as we are both human beings who still have sinful tendencies), because how can I care about a person that I have no idea whether they exist or not? I do not always care about the people I am close to that do exist, let alone someone who does not. At least does not in my life at this point in time. There are many believers who think that God has promised them a spouse, that they are entitled to a wife or husband, I am not one of them. You may exist, you may not, whatever the case, it should not make or break my walk with the Lord. My prayers to God consist of “if” I have a spouse, not “when”. Again, my walk with God is not determined by your existence or lack of. Sorry. When it comes to a spouse, if I ever have one, the only quality that  should matter is whether or not Christ is the center, the drive, the reason for their existence, not a long list of shallow qualities that I think should compose you. While on the surface this is not our natural tendency hence why I said “should”, it should be what all that attracts us to one another at the end of the day, but because of our flesh this will not always be so. Beyond that I have no standards, not even a set of basic ones, because God knows what I need and that is better than anything I could ever want.

There are going to be many times where I will not choose to love you, and vice versa, you will not choose to love me. To say I will not care about anything other than who you are in Christ would be a lie and ignorant idealism. I do care, my mind a heart are set on things, some good, the others not so much.  I am not sure if you know this or not, but even believers still have the flesh, and while it does not define us, there are still several occasions where it can dictate our actions. I will care about things I should not care about and you will too. There are moments where we will annoy the absolute hell out of each other and quite possibly will not be able to even stay in the same room. Love is not something we will always express, grace not a benefit we will always give. Even more so there may be points where it seems like the only solution there will be is to call it quits, to give up, to want out and give in. We will get angry, be bitter, say things that will end in regret, and treat each other like we are not even believers. That is the reality, relationships are more of a mess than they are pretty, more rough than they are kind. Then again when is anything easy worth it? While “it”will not be easy, if “it” happens, “it” will be worth it. We will almost certainly treat each other lousy at times, thank God that Christ is love not us. When 1st Corinthians 13 talks about love, that love is not us, and while it may not be us, it is in us through Christ, and that love will be affirmation when shown and consolation when not.

I cannot emphasize enough how little it matters to me what you are looking for because my life is not about living for you, it is about living for God, your view should be the same too. Relationships are about pulling one another toward Christ even if it means pushing away from each other. It does not matter who I think you should be or what I want you to do, God is the only person you answer to. While it matters if you are walking in Christ, your motivation for doing so should not be me, it should be Him. The only way for any relationship to be a success is not just to put Christ at the center, but to put Him above, below, around, and in every crack an crevice possible. If this marriage ever happens we will fail at it, but I am convinced that even in our failures we can find success as long as we are pursuing Him.

You may be real, you may not, my life is not going to depend on it. I would be foolish to make a long list of romantic promises and idealistic claims, when I do not even know your name. Marriage may not even be something God has in my future, which would make such statements seem futile and sound doubly foolish. I am not against getting married, I quite like the idea if I am being completely honest, but if that is not what God has, there is not point in losing sleep over it.

See you if I see you,

Chris

 

 

 

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Not Feeling It

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One Of Those Days

You know when somebody says they are having “one of those days” and you know exactly what they are talking about because you have had one too? I am having one of those days. Living for Christ, in Christ, is just as much of a choice when we feel it, as it is when we do not. That is was I keep telling myself anyway. To be transparent, I am not feeling it right now. At the moment I have shut down, am burnt out, and really feel like I have nothing left to give….just like so many times before. Yet, here I am, still going, keeping moving. History tells me, that I have gotten through this before, and I will more than likely do so again. You have to get through the Two Towers before the Return of the King, deal with the Empire Strikes Back before Return of the Jedi.  Either I really am a moron, an idiot, a big buffoon, or something inside of me, deep within, two doors down then take the third on the right, truly believes there is something to continue moving forward for. Right now, I just do not feel it man. I love the idea of quitting, scenes play in my head on loop of what it would be like to walk away from everything, friends, ministry, life, forsaking it all to lay in a fetal position, like a giant baby, surrounded by darkness as I fade out of existence. Then a voice inside in my head that sounds similar to mine, makes statements which question worth, and in the moment I listen to them, making matters worse. Lies that say I am not good enough, that if I were better looking, did things differently, was somebody else, then maybe I would be loved or be something. These cut to the core, and bring me down lower, almost as if I try to see how low I can go. Emotional limbo, only there is no winner, eventually I come back to truth, this is not my first rodeo, I am not a beginner.

Present Reality

This at times is the reality, especially for those of us who are in Christ. Some days we will want to give up, desiring more than anything to quit. Being a believer does not always take away depression, emotional pain, or negative feelings, but it can provide us comfort during it. Although I feel despair right now, what I know tells me I will get through this somehow. I have been here before and I will be here again, but that is okay because I know this is part of the process and not the end. While my flesh may run a muck inside trying to slow me down, I am in Christ, so I know life is not about the rate I move, but the fact that I am moving. Here I am, feeling sad, and beaten, my only consolation is that I cannot be defeated. I will get past this, there is no questioning that, and while the pain I feel is intense,  a lifetime of pain, is worth it when you have the hope of an eternity without it. Even for Christians, life is not always pretty, and can be just as messy No amount of discouragement will take away my position in Christ, I just have to keep being reminded and encouraged by the truth that there is more to life.

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Something To Talk About

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Four Panel Philosophy

I have always said that writers of comic strips often say more in four panels than most authors do in four books. This strip is not an exception. In these panels Calvin points out a problem in the quality of people’s conversations. However bad it was then, today this social downfall has likely become a bazillion times more pervasive. We know more about pop culture and interests than we do one another, and I think that is an awful injustice.

Saying Something About Nothing

I never lack amazement over how much pop culture has infiltrated my generation. There is nothing more depressing than walking into Books A Million and coming to the realization that a lot of the nick knacks, toys, and tchotchkes are being sold to adults not children. It is hard to decide whether it is funny or sad to see grown people buying action figures, spending their money on pieces of plastic that are part of a fad. While I can handle seeing toys targeted at adults, one of things I hate seeing taken captive by media, are the conversations between people. Oh, the never ending banter about sports, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Taylor Swift, who is the best superhero, or whatever, choose the subject, topics that in light of eternity do not matter, seem to be more commonly the crux of people’s interactions. If it is among unbelievers, this sort of thing makes a bit more sense, but for believers, I just do not get it. When I was in Bible college, my peers would have knock out, drag down, fights over some of the most banal and insipid nonsense, yet when it came to anything Biblical or theological, it was mostly nonexistent. News flash, there will NEVER be a zombie apocalypse, so stop wasting your time having intense conversations as if it will one day happen, it wont!  Saying something without saying anything is easy, human beings are masters of it, that is why we have to speak intentionally, when it comes to interacting conversationally. Not only are there a lack of conversations surrounding the Bible, but rarely did I hear many that had any meaning. Pop culture is like a religion. People build their whole existence around films, shows, literature, and music. I think what happens is many buy the lie that in and out of their-selves they are not interesting, then hide behind interests! Humans are complex, just being alive and breathing automatically makes you interesting! The other part to this is I think that we are afraid, because being open, talking about things of meaning, exposes us and presents some vulnerability. Friends, we do not have to be shallow, there is far more to life and the universe than pop culture or interests!

Motivation For Conversations

So what should we do? Talk about things that matter, it is that simple! Set the tone, be the one that takes your conversations and interactions to another level. If you want depth and transparency, start by being deep and transparent, the solution is easy. People talk about how they desire for others to be authentic, yet do nothing their selves to achieve authenticity. We value people who are open and honest, yet we fail to do so in our own lives. None of this is to say stop talking about media altogether, but there is more to life, and often our relationships stay on very basic layers. Peel back the onion of people. Yes, it is messy, and sometimes involves crying, but it is worth it to see the fullness of somebody. Humans are beautiful, flaws and all, to see in one another what Christ sees in us means diving beneath the surface. When is the last time you asked about your friends lives, how they are doing, where are they seeing success, or what they struggling with? Do you know what God is doing in their lives, the ways in which He is growing them, where they are having problems being dependent? When it comes to the Word, can you recall what the last thing was your friends have learned? At the same time have you shared those elements of your life with others, transparently divulging details no matter how hard it may be? It is a two way street, if you want people to be authentic with you, be authentic with them. Set an example, talk about what is genuine. You can know what people like without knowing who they are. This is where many, if examined, would find their relationships are at. We know a lot about what people enjoy and are interested in, but when it comes to information of a personal nature, most  of us could not answer a single intimate question about a person if there were a gun held to our head.

So Then, What Next?

What more can I say? Go out of your way today to get to know something deeper about a friend or an acquaintance. Stop wading in the shallows, dive beneath the surface. Make your motivation to have genuine conversations, move beyond the superficial, get to know someone. If you want to, go for it, quit holding back, otherwise keep living life the way that you have.

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Direction and Details

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A Great Big Neon Sign in the Sky

It is interesting the things you learn about yourself with age. A few nights ago as I stood under the star filled Iowan sky, I found myself not asking, but commanding God to “give me direction.” This is not an uncommon command on my part, and has seemed more frequent as of late. Whether questioning or commanding, there have been innumerable times in both small decisions and big transitions, that this monologue has occurred as I plead to God. As the days went by, as I pondered directions and decisions, like a light bulb, no not a light bulb, a light house, like a great big lighthouse on the dark sea that is the brain of Chris Cantrell, what I really was doing became exposed to me. All of the moments, the situations, the instances, where I have asked God for direction, what I really wanted from Him was details. Whammo! The light switches on  and you say to yourself “How could I be so stupid?!” At least that is what happened to me.

All of this time, the many commands and questions I had submitted to God regarding direction, was really about the details. When it comes to direction we do not have to ask God to give what He has already given. God has given direction, and that direction is forward. Move forward, keep moving forward, and do not stop. For the believer, the Christian, the follower of the way, whatever buzz phrase you have given your faith, the direction God has given is forward. Not backwards, not at a stand still, but forward, that is the only way. Life, the universe, the people around us, all of it will continue to move, whether we want to move with it or not, and so our goal should be to keep going, to not stop. I have direction, but I want details, and when God does not provide those details I get pissed off, I drag my feet as God pulls me, like a child being pulled to his room for misbehaving over not getting what he wanted. I know the direction, it is the same direction I have been going since my life in Christ started, it is the details I want, but as history as shown, it is not always details I get.

The Faith to Not Get Pissed Off When You Have Direction Without Details

I guess this is where the whole faith thing comes in though right? You have heard of having enough faith to “move mountains”, I would like to have enough faith to not get pissed off. Let’s cut the Hillsong “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders” crap, the every worship song that romanticizes the hardships we actually hate, and spews a false idealism instead of the actual realities, the real struggles people face. Faith is not knowing what is next, and moving forward anyway. Sure, that is easy to say in the abstract, but what does it mean in the concrete? Right now there are a lot of unknowns approaching in my life. Summer is ending, my time at camp is almost over, and I still do not have all those things that are apparently necessary to be a mature and responsible adult. By the way, I cannot imagine those four words will ever be used to describe me, but maybe I can create illusion at least. What does it mean to move forward knowing that is the direction God has for you, even without having details? You do what you can with what you have. First and foremost I focus on today, on the here and and. In this moment there is still a lot of work to be done where I am at, and God this has plenty of things for me to do. Whenever people as me “What is next?” I like to reply by saying “If I can get through today, that is good enough for me.” and while it is meant for humor, there is a lot of truth in my response. Secondly, in the midst of the here and now though, I take steps towards making arrangements regarding what is to come. While we may not have details, that does not mean we should try to do some planning/ This means applying for job, searching for apartments, and doing what I can with what little time I have to begin planning for the future. Faith has to have some action, we do what we can do and then say to God “the rest is up to you.”

When All Else Fails Quote Tolkien

And now you know my present reality. It is not pretty or easy and is somewhat uncomfortable, but life could always be worse. As it stands, in comparison to a majority of the world, my life is not that bad, I would even say it is pretty good.. I have written about a scene from the book The Hobbit before and it is one that resurfaces in my mind during situations like these. In the story, Bilbo, a hobbit, an ordinary person, not a wizard, nor a warrior, just an everyday guy like you and I, finds himself one day abandoning the comfort of his lifestyle to pursue an adventure, a life bigger than the one he had always known. As the tale goes along there comes a point where Bilbo is separated from his companions, lost and alone in the caverns of the Misty Mountains trying to find his way. Instead of stopping or backtracking, Bilbo makes the resolve to move ahead, despite the unknown, despite lack of details, he had a direction and followed it. For Bilbo there was no going back and staying put would have had no fruit, so the hobbit kept moving regardless of not knowing where it would lead him into.. Bilbo did not know the details of what would be next, friends or foes, life or death, but he did not stop, and like him we have to do the same. Was it hard? Yes, but if you know the story it had a good end.While often we may only have direction, we know how the story ends and  that should be motivation enough. Direction does not require details, but the few that we have are more than sufficient.

At the moment my life does not have a lot of details, but it does have direction. and I guess when it comes down to it, that is good enough for me. Life is not always easy, but it is worth it.

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A Man with a Plan

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Claims From James

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

-James 4:13-17

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about this excerpt from the book of James. In the passage James addresses business men who seek to follow their plans over God’s. These people that James describes have life mapped out, stuck to a strict plan, their plans take precedence over God’s. In his commentary on James Douglas Moo says “Instead of the self-confident, this-world-oriented attitude expressed in verse 13, the business people should qualify all of their plans and hopes with reference to the will of the Lord.” The plans of these men show not only independence from God, but dependence on their selves. James problem is not as much plans, as it is the root of making them. Instead of living a life where they were walking with God in the moment, these men were occupied with their selves and what may potentially come. The people here allowed the plans of their future to hurt their relationship with God in the present. Fellowship with God, had been forsaken for the fleeting time of this world. Zane Hodges says in his James commentary “They have plotted out a year’s program in without knowing what tomorrow itself may bring.” In this situation, it is not the planning that is bad, it is the loss of sight that matters, in that they do not realize how quick life could be over, their perspective was on what may happen, instead of what was happening. In this case the root of these guys plans was arrogance and pride, not God. These men had become consumed by their plans, forgetting what matters, in order to pursue what does not.

Bringing this passage to today,what does this reveal about the plans we make? When it comes to life, our goal should not be to have plans that are set in stone, but directions that can be flexible no matter which way they go. Moving through life, we have to involve God in the planning process, not just leave Him to the side. That means following the passions He has given us, allowing the abilities He has implanted to guide us, as we seek to live the Christian life. This means taking advice from other believers, praying, and acting on the basis of truth, whether spoken or in Scripture, not just going turbo and doing whatever the heck we want. If we are faithful to follow His directions, He will be faithful present His plan.

As my graduation approaches, questions regarding what I am going to do after graduating come with it. My answer, as it has always been when it comes to plans in life is, if I can get through today, that is good enough for me. The older I get the less value I see my plans, and the more value I see in His. Every long term plan I have ever made, has never come to fruition and I am okay with that. Where I am at is better than any plan I ever made. I have an idea of the direction I am going, but it is only as He guides me. While my plans may fail, His succeed.

Best Laid Plans of God Not Men

If your plans are not God’s plans, they are not good enough. Missions, ministry, marriage, or career, if your will does not align with God’s, what  is the point of it? Can all of these things be a result of following His plan? Yes, but they have to be just that, a result, and not the plan itself.  I am not knocking plans, plans when used properly are a good thing, what I am talking about is how we place our plans as the guiding source of our life, not God. How many times does our desire trump God’s when it comes to planning?  Our plans can be destructive, limiting our thinking to the finite, whereas His plans are constructive, enlightening our minds to the infinite. It is very much like the prodigal son. The prodigal son’s plans lead him to be content eating with pigs, yet all he had to do was follow his fathers plans for life to be so much better. The prodigal sons plan was to eat crap, whereas the fathers, was something much better. Here is a thought, God’s plan for our lives, is better than our plan for our lives. Basic, but often the basic truths are the ones we need reminded of most. Are we limiting God by sticking to our plans, dining with pigs even, or are the plans we make for His sake? The point is not about our plans, but our process in making them. Are we like the men in James whose plans distracted them for God’s, or are we in fellowship with Him, open to whatever He may have?

God the Builder

Whenever I meet someone who is in ministry, missions, or just a Christian living the Christian life, I often ask them “are you where you thought or planned you would be?” and out of those I have asked (a few hundred by now) only three have said yes. This is not to say do not make plans, but make them according to Him and the presence of Christ in your life, not yourself. God brings men down in their selves, to build them up again in Him. Did I ever imagine I would be in the middle of nowhere Iowa pursuing a Bible degree? No! And yet all the same here I am, and it is because I want to follow His plan for my life, not my own. If I had followed my plan I would be doing nothing more than living for myself, doing nothing, going nowhere. Let Him build you, let Him plan for you, and your life will be more fulfilling than had you tried to live on your own. I have no  idea what is next in life for me, and the more people ask the more I am reminded of this reality. What I do know is that wherever I go, whatever I do, if I pursue His plans, not mine, I will find something, somewhere, and it will be better than anything I could have found for myself. Is it always easy? No, but I have to trust that He has given me these skills and abilities for a reason, and intends on using them.That is my plan, if I can hold to that, and do so even somewhat well, that is enough of a plan for me.
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Love and Some Verses

Some thoughts on last years Valentine’s Day I still hold to and am working through today.The only thing SAD about Singles Awareness Day are those who choose to view it that way!

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“If you are single today, the portion assigned to you for today is singleness. It is God’s gift. Singleness ought not to be viewed as a problem, nor marriage as a right, God in His wisdom and love grants either as a gift.  An unmarried person has the gift of singleness, not to be confused with the gift of celibacy.  When we speak of the “gift of celibacy,” we usually refer to one who is bound by vows not to marry.  If you are not so bound, what may be your portion tomorrow is not your business today.  Today’s business is trust in the living God who precisely measures out, day by day, each one’s portion.”

-Elisabeth Elliot

Nothing You Can Sing that Can’t Be Sung

Every year during the second week of February, moaning and groaning begins to dominate social media, as well as, everyday conversation. What is this…

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Keep Moving Forward

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Having faith means to keep moving forward when we succeed, and to continue doing so even when we fail.

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