Can we talk about hell? I mean really talk about it? Seems as though this is a missing word in circles where I roam. Maybe it’s just because I myself don’t bring it up either. Why?
I remember having a conversation with my father. He is a man who knows scriptures and can easily overrun me with them. I was pushing my food around on my plate trying to understand what he was sharing with me. He’d had a health scare and started looking into the existence or should I say non-existence of hell as we perceived it.
My dad has been a Jehovah’s Witness for 40+ years. He kept trying to tell me hell was simply sleep. Inwardly I was disturbed by this doctrine that hell is laying in a grave alone, but he is my dad? He is a man who has been reading scriptures for decades and gone to so many services it is a lifestyle he gives all his time to. Who was I but a baby Christian in his eyes and my own? I knew he’d often been disappointed I didn’t come into the fold of JW ministry. To honor my dad I tried to listen until finally my spirit’s grief could be held back no longer. I spoke, “what it looks like I can’t answer, I just know I don’t want to be there!”
There is constant discussion of its description using many translations of the bible. Inwardly I think on much simpler terms. Jesus spoke of this not being a desirable place for us to exist. I believe Him and that seems enough for me.
Looking back I don’t really think my dad ever meant to share hell wasn’t real, he was just curious to dispute what it looked like. He was bold enough to share his thoughts with me. Maybe I missed the bigger point at the time of our conversation; his love for me to even speak about hell openly.
Why am I not bold enough to share with those I love and care about? I talk enough about love for sure, but perhaps I also need to love enough to talk about hell in a conversation…
I paused in my writing. A word kept coming to mind but it wasn’t one I was familiar with. Ruminate? Even though I felt it was a real word I couldn’t remember what it meant. I finished my train of thought for my journal and then folded the book closed. My bible still lay open and again I heard ruminate. It was time to look this up.
Ruminate – think deeply about something, contemplate, consider, meditate on, muse on, mull over, ponder on/over, deliberate about/on, chew on, puzzle over.
Now I understood what I was hearing. With better understanding I began to ruminate on the Lord’s word with more diligence.
Psalm 119:15 I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways.
I can remember when I first felt led to start coming to church. I wanted to sit way in the back, unseen and unbothered, but also close to the doors. In time I began to move closer and closer to the front. Initially I had heard talks about how the anointing was greater in that location and of course I wanted all that was to be had. Now it’s years later and I can feel just fine in the back.
I don’t think anointing has a preferable spot in God’s desire to touch any of us. Matter of fact I wish people in front would recognize that sometimes the people sitting all the way back may need some encouragement by us approaching them. Too often I hear the call to come up front to the altar; but if we are the temple isn’t the altar wherever we go? Maybe it’s us who need to go to the back to meet people where they are, rather than trying to get them to come to us where we are? After all Jesus left heaven to come to earth in order to bring us His encouragement and love.
Today I reflect upon what my true freedom looks like. I live in a country where the laws and culture want to take me hostage. They want to make me a captive of injustice, compromises and deceptions.
Recently a friend sent me a coin inscribed with a harp. She knew what it meant to my heart. Historically speaking, Jewish people were taken captive to Babylon. Without freedom they lost their reason to sing a song. In my friend’s note she reminded me of the importance to pick up my song of praise, my song of hope, my dreams. Not for those who would desire my entertainment, but essentially for the One who would desire my heart, even when surrounded by such immorality.
I will indeed play the harp of my heart. I was born to be a light in darkness. I will sing a new song filled with truth in a world desperate for real hope. I will speak openly the name Jesus and share his gospel with all who desire the melody of heaven. Strum, strum, strum…
I hold a tiny bird in my palm and it needs my help in this moment while it is weak and growing. As it gains strength, I can feel it pushing against my fingers, wanting to be free of my care and nurturing. I feed it and watch it carefully as the days pass, seeing its beautiful soft silky wings sprout fuller and fuller. Each day I feel its fluttering push to be released from my grasp. My love for this tiny bird wants to hold tight, but I know better.
I walk into the sunshine and lift my hands upward. I can feel the fluttering stronger than ever. With an ache of love I unlace my fingers one by one until nothing binds the wings of this tiny bird. It turns to look into my eyes momentarily. In an instant it has flown out of my palm. Watching it for as long as I can, I see it fly into the sunny sky and go in its own direction.
I have been thinking about wedding dresses of late. Last year I had been given a framed picture of a girl in overalls standing before a mirror with a wedding dress. My friend who gave it to me wanted me to think about what I will one day wear before the King. In an odd moment this past week I was looking through old videos of historic weddings which captivated the world’s attention. My eyes focused upon the trains of these elegant gowns and I began to wonder about, “and the train of his robe filled the temple”.
What if our viewpoint of what a train looks like is not the same as heaven’s? In curiosity I looked up the word train and one of the first things to come up was, “teach (a person) a particular skill or type of behavior through practice and instruction over a period of time.” And of course there is the obvious understanding too that a train carries lots of cars on the strength of the engine pulling it.
What if Christ’s train is us? Meaning those he trained to look like him, to love like him, to act in mercy like him? I look again at the train of many wedding dresses and their design is to bless the groom in the beauty of his bride. I think too about, “there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes…”
Every wedding dress I have ever seen was white. Imagine each of us standing in the temple wearing our white robes as his bride? Can you see it? Can you see yourself in His train?
*Isaiah 6:1, Rev 7:9
I was in the service with a picture in my hand and wanting privacy I sat in the very back row. Getting lost in worship I began to pray with my tears, thinking about my family. I missed them not just in the natural but the supernatural. Some of them say they believe and others openly profess there is nothing more than an energy released into the soil to live again as grass or a tree. I could see each of their faces in my mind. I ached for them to know the reality of truth and what it meant to have hope in Jesus Christ.
In time I put my picture back in my journal and tried to engage in my surroundings. Seeing a young man I knew come in, I felt ache for my own son. I tried to listen to what was being shared but it felt so distant from me, from my family, from my experiences. Reaching for my bible I held it tight. Throughout the gospels I remembered Jesus’ walk to meet people. Sometimes it was inside church but often it was outside the walls of church. He loved on them where they were at; in their homes, in their lives, in their desperation for help and healing.
Afterwards I asked the young man what he thought. He openly shared how bored he was. I understood his thinking. My son would not have found this environment engrossing either. I looked around at the people I loved, sensing they wanted everyone to join their celebration. My heart did not feel the celebration and I chose to continue my prayers in private. I asked the Lord for remembrance how to walk like Him; to love those who were inside, but especially to love those outside. Thinking about these young men, I knew I would feel like celebrating one day.
I kept thinking about him, wondering what he might be thinking about me in this moment. If I closed my eyes would I feel him brush the hair aside on my forehead? Would I hear his heart beat for me if I leaned in close to lay upon his chest? I wondered if I were to open his chest and look at his heart would I see myself as the seal placed there by my love? Would I go faint with love in his presence? Breathing in deep I longed to smell the fragrance of his presence.
Laying down my pen upon the pages of my journal I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.
Just before a seemingly long dark night…
Among the rocks and grass was a dispersion of feathers precious to me. A dove had been taken down. My heart hurt at this seemingly random act of nature. I gathered some of these feathers while giving my thoughts to life itself.
Weeks passed and I kept a watch upon our property, looking out the window daily, hoping to hear or see the couples of doves; none came. In the absence of the doves, life itself felt heavy. I found myself listless, wondering what would come next in a barrage of dismal events.
A cool breeze blew in the face of an approaching summer and I opened the office window. Leaning back in my chair I finally began wanting to write once more. I could hear cooing nearby, it sounded like something from a memory. A dog began barking in the street causing me to look up from my keyboard. Thinking the neighbor’s pet had gotten out I decided to go try to corral it.
Opening my door, two doves flew out from where they had been sitting upon the light we turn on in the night…
Today we celebrate a risen Lord throughout the world. All over our nations, we gather together in services commemorating such a special occasion. These used to be exciting for me to go to when I was still new to what a Christian looked like. I enjoyed being entertained and inspired. Over time I became unsatisfied with these events. It was no one’s fault, just a heart changing in me.
I read through my Word trying to glean more and more from scriptures and I couldn’t find a reference to Easter until I looked at the KJV verses where it spoke about an ungodly king wanting to hurt the church and the reference to a pagan god celebration.
Now whenever I see a service labeled as Easter I cringe because it feels like compromise to me, but to those who have not done their research, it’s ignorance. And where they have done research, but choose to lure the world to their doors with a celebration of fertility and eggs, I cringe again. What do we really teach our children in this? That eggs represent Christ dying on a cross for our salvation? No! We simply reinforce a mythical legend of a pagan ritual of old. And when we as a church agree to call our celebration of Christ’s resurrection Easter we put a stamp of approval upon this compromise.
What I write may come across as overly critical or religious in some manner. It is not my heart to beat up anyone for what they do to celebrate the glory of Christ; however I am obligated to always share truth in love. If I am to love you enough than I need to share the true meaning of why we should celebrate today.
We have a King who chose to die for us! Being merciful and compassionate He saw each and every one of us in our inability to help ourselves. We could never be good enough to walk without sin and He saw the plans of our enemy Satan to want our destruction. Laying down His own life He sacrificed Himself to cover us with His purifying blood. He paid the ultimate price so that we could return to eternal life with Him. Eternal life with those we love.
This is the truth about why we celebrate His resurrection. When He rose from the grave He helped us rise too. When we confess our belief in Christ we join Him in being resurrected. So the next time someone says to you Happy Easter, think about the depth of what it really means regardless of what we have been taught. How you get to live eternally because He died and rose again.
Acts 12:1-4 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.