Inspiration as Communion, Combustion, and Co-existance

Today’s inspiring post on inspiration and connection comes from Matheus Yuhlung. Matheus is a Christian blogger who is pursuing an M.A. in Philosophy and currently lives in New Delhi, India. This beautiful post in is one part theory and one part poetry, and all parts wisdom. 

Fireworks, Interfaith, Celebration, Inspiration

It is often said that the communion between the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit was so spectacularly un-containable that they had to create men to join in their blissful co-existence. Though, there really are no theological grounds or scriptural references to support such sayings; it still never fails to fascinate me.

As a Christian, my greatest source of inspirations has always been the Bible; which in turn is said to be inspired by God himself. And yet, I can’t help but be inspired by things that are not based on scriptures too, like the one I mentioned above.

The way I see it, the act of being inspired and inspiring others is both a conscious and a subconscious act. It’s like a need-based dependency, where we are obligated to take a chunk out of another being’s soul or to give ours to them, to motivate each other in our spiritual sojourning.

For this, we hand pick some sources and curate it with utter care and imbibe the inspirations we cultivate from them in our lives. While, there are some sources through which inspirations just grow in our souls when we come in contact with them, say: culture, people, education, art et cetera.

But as much as inspirations can act as a metaphysical adhesive that glues us together for good, it can also work in the opposite direction as well; and so Rabindranath Tagore wrote:

My song has put off her adornments. She has no pride of dress and decoration. Ornaments would mar our union; they would come between thee and me; their jingling would drown thy whispers.

Ornaments of my soul i.e. ego and its siblings called pride and vanity would certainly mar our union and this is one thing that I’m most uninspired to do.

But, if life is a spontaneous combustion of a great blue flame, the act of being inspired and inspiring others, I believe, becomes the intricate entwining of our souls that forms the very basic elements of hydrogen and oxygen that burns this great blue flame of our spiritual co-existence. And if in such a flame, I’m by the very nature of my being obliged to burn; I’ll put my best effort, to try to burn with the finest particles of my soul.

For more from Matheus find him on twitter:  @matheusyuhlung  

Advertisements

Desire for a Radical Chrisitanty

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

It is important to note that for the purposes of this article, the word “radical” is used in the sense of desire for drastic social, political, economic and cultural reform. It is also important to note the privilege that I, as a white christian writer, have in using that word. I encourage everyone to consider their own personal reaction to this article and its title if we had substituted Islam for Christianity. 

So let’s get this out of the way… I am a radical, anti-racist, sex-positive queer feminist. Oh and one more thing, I am a Christian.

As such I believe in the unconditional love of God, and in living a life dedicated to  the service of others. I believe in the power of prayer, and the power of the Bible.

I also believe we live in a racist society that privileges white skin over lack and brown skin. I believe that, as  Dossie Easton put it, “Sex is nice and pleasure is good for you”.I am pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage, pro-gender neutral bathrooms.  I know that many people, indeed even some people reading this very article may think, may believe that my beliefs are incompatible with Christianity. Some may even think that my desires, my beliefs, cause me to be separated, or distanced, from the love of God.

I however, believe the opposite. There is a passage from the Bible that is often cited by my friends over at Faith Aloud, at times when people see their work, or a woman’s reproductive choices, as keeping them from God.

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love –Romans 9:38-39 The Message Bible

I can turn to God’s love and know that I cannot be parted from the love of God, no matter what anyone else says. My beliefs, my desires, my thoughts, and even the opinions of other Christians, cannot separate me from my God.

Yet, for me I want more than to be able to claim that my beliefs aren’t separating me from God. I need, I yearn for, and I call for a view of Christianity that embraces these beliefs. In fact, I demand a Christianity that reflects the radical politics of that totally radical guy, Jesus, whose message was one of radical love, radical action, and radical welcome.

Riffing on Flavia Dzodan’s awesome article on intersectional feminism, I  would say that my Christianity will be radical or it will be bullshit. Let me say that again, my Christianity will be radical or it will be bullshit. I don’t think this means everyone’s Christianity needs to be as radical as mine, but I do desire to have a place in the world of Christianity. I need a powerful Christianity that challanges me to be a better adovocate for justice in this world, but I also know that my desires aren’t everyone’s desires. 

I desire worship services that reflect my beliefs, I desire churches that seek out and support marginalized people, I desire sermons that discuss how difficult and revolutionary love can be. But mostly, I desire a racial Christianity that worships this Jesus:o-JESUS-570

Yet, I am well aware that many people have no desire for the view of Christianity I am talking about here, and I think that is okay.  I am also called by the Bible to honor the fact that no one’s belief’s can keep them from being loved by God, and that I am called to love people whose views are different than mine. Indeed, love for each other, and everyone else is what defies us as Christians, or as the writer of John puts it:

 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.–John 13:35

We are all human, our desires are infinite, but we all deserve a place at the table, a chance to voice our desires without judgment, and above all, we all receive, whether we deserve it or not, the unconditional love of God.

Unfulfilled Desires

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

The things I have wanted that I don’t have could fill a book. Sometimes it is hard not to look at life as a list of unfulfilled desires: the PhD program that I didn’t get into, the marriage that didn’t work out, the job I didn’t get. Sometimes it seems like my path is strewn with only what I don’t have. Given the current state of the world, I know I am not the only one who has unfulfilled desires, I am not the only one who feels the harsh sting of failure, who has done the hard work of mending a broken heart.

So today, when my head started spiral into that negative space, I pulled out my Bible and began to search for wisdom. Now, while I have several bible copies, some pristine, etched in gold, but the Bible I search through isn’t one of those. It is full of highlighted sections and notes in the margins.  It is bookmarked by prayer cards from every funeral I have ever attended, and mementos from many years of bible study. Often, this Bible simply falls open to a page, which seems as good of a place to start as any.

As it happened, today the Bible fell open to one of my favorite passages:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. –Hebrews 11:1

So there it is. The wisdom I have to share today is to simply have faith. I have to keep walking on my spiritual journey, even when things look bleak and when my hopes end up as unfulfilled desires. I have to trust that I am co-creating something beautiful and meaningful with my God, with my comrades, with my lovers, my friends, and my family.  In short, even when desires remain unfulfilled, when prayers seem unanswered, when wishes are not granted, I must have faith…for the bible tells me so.

How Many Loaves Do You Have?

ByJenni Taylor

941234_10100514988401111_869514584_n

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat…’

His disciples answered, ‘where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?’

‘How many loaves do you have?’ Jesus answered –Matthew 16:32-34

My fridge is full, but my eyes are hungry. Hungry for more time, more freedom, more peace, more wisdom. I am hungry for less- less stress, less pain, less loneliness, less daily doses of despair. I want to be faster, smarter, kinder, more patient, more giving. I want to be better.

All this wanting leaves me paralyzed.

I kick and scream in my tantrum, a small ugly smugness creeping from my heart. I want to be good; that means I must be halfway there already. I want, I want, I want… My eyes are turned inward, my ears tuned to the sound of my own voice, and there are my fists- closed tightly, ever so tightly.

“How many loaves do you have?” He asks.  The question burns.

“I have compassion for these people,” he says, and I finally look up. I see the thousands of high-rise apartments surrounding me, their lights softly glowing in the night. The lights outnumber the visible stars a million to one, and I am gently reminded how selfish I am to ever think I am alone.

My clenched heart hears a thin strain of music, ancient and connecting and almost completely forgotten. A song of giving.

I am hungry. My needs are not belittled or lost in the void, but no longer do they come first. I accept the hunger, and I accept I still have so many things to give. My heart begins to thaw, and I close my eyes and pray for the same compassion the Great Teacher had to put his own hunger to the side and care for those around him. I have loaves- warm, buttery, full of goodness loaves to offer the world. People break bread, they connect, they open their hands and in return are filled to the brim. I count my loaves, I count my blessings, and  I see the same miracle in my life that we see in the gospel of Matthew-

There is more than enough.

 

Equality in Marriage

Today’s post comes from our regular contributor David Etim, who is writing from Lagos, Nigeria. He writes about the ways he finds equality as necessary in a faith-centered marriage.

In a globalized world that is filled with cross-cultural relationships and marriages, I have been thinking a lot on how it is possible to build a healthy and growing family where the woman (wife) is unjustly treated and she is not in decision-making position in the family. To be honest I believe this injustice goes against my faith.

The Scriptures has many guidelines on marriage and gender equality. We can see it captured in Ecclesiastes for example : ” Two can accomplish more than twice as much as one, for the results can be much better” ( 4:9 TLB ). So, ” Live happily with the woman you love….” ( Ecclesiastes 9:9 TLB).

In the light of this, and in all honesty, “Marriage is honorable.” So, at this moment in my life, I believe my dignity is not in my strength, nor my skill; it is in my God-ordained friend, counselor and loving wife, mother and real partner for life. “….A gift too wonderful for words!”  ( 2 Corinthians 9:15 NLT). To find this equal partnership is a great honor that I take very seriously.  ” ….What is important is faith expressing itself in love” ( Galatians 5:6NLT).

 As it has happened, Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America today not just because his parents disobeyed the law criminalizing marriage between Whites and Blacks at that time, but more importantly their cross-cultural marriage has a divine tinge, as we might see in their love and in his actions.

In this globalized world, equality in love is one of the most consistent and striking findings that I have discovered through my faith.

Defining Strong Faith

Today’s guest post comes from David Etim who is writing from Lagos, Nigeria.   David, who wrote in February about Love and Childcare, retired as a career banker in 1998 to strengthen his commitments to God. Today, he shares his journey of finding strength of faith through the Bible and God. Even when we come at spirituality or faith from different paths, there is still wisdom to be gained from  the love David has for his faith and the strength he and others find there. 

“What is faith? It is the confidence assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT).

Faith is something I cannot do without. My faith determines what happens to me, and without faith, life seems pointless. My faith may sometimes seem small but it is strong.

” …Abraham never doubted. He believed God, for his faith and trust grew ever stronger, and he praised God for his blessing even before it happens” (Romans 4:20 TLB).

I think that true faith results in actions. Faith without action is mere theory. Strong faith trusts in God for the results. When I walk daily by faith, I  hope to please God.

In a branch of my bank where I was working in 1995, we were unable to meet the profit target set for the branch. The bank management’s decision was to demote the branch at the end of the financial year, if we could not meet the management’s expectations.

In the light of scriptures I had faith that God would help me. ” If you will only let me help you, if you will only obey, then I will make you rich.” ( Isaiah 1: 19 TLB).

I sought the Lord in prayer, asking: “Lord you promised me that Your Presence shall go before me, and that I shall see prosperity”.  The Lord told me, “Preach My Word on Prosperity”.
During fellowship hour in the morning, because I was the branch’s Christian fellowship assistant coordinator, I told them what the Lord said. To God be the glory, the branch was not demoted, rather, there were mass promotions.

I have also witnessed strong faith in others.  Recently, a young lady offered her January pay to local children’s home. I asked her what the reason behind her decision was.  She told me that she loves children, and that, children are the heritage of the Lord, citing, Psalm 127.  Secondly, she told me she is expecting something from the Lord. I quoted Matthew 9:29 and told her: “…Because of your faith it will happen”.

I believe strong faith is simply obedience in love. Strong faith has to do with sensing the direction you are moving in and knowing that something good is in the making.

Love is a Choice

Today’s post from David of Lagos, Nigeria helps us transition from the theme of Love into our March theme of Choices. David shares with us how his faith helped him navigate the choices and challenges of his love life. So here’s David’s wisdom for all of us, as we navigate our own choices, our own loves, and our own spiritual journeys.

We live in a world of choices. Love is a choice. Dating and marriage are choices. According to the oft quotes phrase by Chinese philosopher Laozi, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” My journey of a thousand miles in search of a life partner began with the first step of a choice.

During my days working as a career banker my search for love was rather pathetic; I made choices, and my love life hit a brick wall twice. During these years of disappointment and rejection, I made up my mind never to engage myself into another relationship.

I chose to remain single in life, never to marry. I strongly believe that singlehood is a choice not a curse. I held onto Isaiah 56, especially verses 3 and 5 in the The Living Bible translation, which say, “…Don’t let them think that I will make you a second-class citizens. And this is for the eunuchs too. I will give them – in my house, within my walls a name far greater than the honor they would have received from having sons and daughters….”.

Yet, I also learned from Scriptures how others made better choices about who to marry, and I also understood that the choice of a life partner shows a lot about our priorities in life. I learned that spiritual qualities are more important than physical appearance. I discovered a plan towards marriage when God says, “….Remember that in God’s plan men and women need each other” ( 1 Corinthians 11:11 TLB ) and ” I advise you to obey only the Holy Spirit’s instructions. He will tell you where to go and what to do….” (Galatians 5:16 TLB ).

From my experiences and readings I realized life can be fulfilling when you are connected to someone worth living forever. At this point in my life, I would love to say, “Holy Spirit thank You for the closed doors. Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, you were re-directing me to something better……a marriage of spiritual qualities and special comfort.” This is my dream, wish and prayer for that special person whom the Holy Spirit chooses…but for now, I remain single.

Life is full of choices and life is very interesting. I found strength in the Scriptures, and now I am like a pearl merchant on the lookout for choice pearl…… “All I need is faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).

Espresso Faith

Today’s post comes from Emily Hornburg, a Chicago native who moved down to small town Missouri to work as a youth minister. Her post links our November theme of Food with our December theme of Traditions, as she talks about traditions she has made surrounding faith and coffee. You can read more of her writing on her website, Love Woke Me Up This Morning, or  follow her on Twitter @LoveWokeMeUp. And now…take a sip of your own coffee and enjoy Emily’s caffeine-enhanced wisdom.

For some reason, I associate coffee with faith.

Maybe it’s because in high school my friends and I were all coffee addicts and we named our Bible study “Espresso.”

Maybe it’s because in college the guy I had a crush on lived at the coffee shop and convinced all of his “fan-girls” it was the best place to have a deep discussion about life and faith. Even after he graduated, and my overly-romantic heart had found another guy, I still had weekly coffee dates with friends so we would talk about the Bible and pray together. Searching for Sophia together if you will.

Maybe it’s because whenever I lead chapel at a local school I have to run by Starbucks on my way. Now, the students say when they go for a Starbucks run before class it’s called “pulling an Emily.”

If you were to look at my old Bibles, you would probably find multiple coffee stains splattered on the pages. But still now, years after high school and college, you’ll still find me sitting at a café with a warm cup of steaming caffeine goodness, a Bible somewhere nearby (even if it’s on my iPad where it can’t get stained), and a good friend sitting across from me.

I think though, it’s because in our world today, or at least in my world, it’s the equivalent of breaking bread in the Bible. In Jesus’ day, when people broke bread together, it was a sign of community. A sign of friendship and family and being together. Being able to break bread together was something special and holy.

In my world, it’s coffee. If I ask you to share a coffee date with me, it’s holy. It’s taking a moment to take a breath from the world and enjoy someone’s company. To share life together. To share faith together. Even if you’re drinking tea or hot chocolate while I have my coffee fix. While it’s not quite the same as the Eucharist, it’s still community. It’s still holy.

I think today, if Jesus were to walk up to me, he wouldn’t invite me somewhere to break bread. I think he would invite me to coffee.

Life, Death, and…

My Bible is filled with death. I know there is a lot of death and dying in the Bible in general but all of my favorite passages are bookmarked by funeral prayer cards. Aunts, Uncles, Grandfathers, I even have prayer cards from people who died before I was born. Perhaps this sounds a bit morbid, a bit too depressing, but, for me, it is the best way to keep them in remembrance.

While I do find a great deal of Wisdom in the Bible, often it is within the people I have known that I find the most ardent grace, the most holy faith and the most divine kindness.  So when I seek Wisdom in the Bible, I also find it in the memorial cards of those who helped shape who I am today.

For me, life and death are connected because death is what makes us human. Indeed, death is what made Jesus human too. We are constantly reminded of all the other things that make us human; whether it be our mistakes or our achievements, our joy or our suffering, we cannot neglect death as part of the human experience.

Whatever I believe about that nebulous”…” that lies beyond, through, or around death, I know that like all of the people who have most clearly shown me Holy Wisdom and Divine Grace, I will have to face death.  I do not let that fact frighten me, for in my Bible I see there always life, and death, and…something more.

Loose Threads: Bible Passages

Loose Threads is a place were we all can discuss a topic and share wisdom. So here is today question:

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

Jenni: :

To you O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.

Psalms 25: 1-2

This question was way harder than it should have been, but I finally picked this one because faith is hard. It’s not something I necessarily feel or understand all the time. This verse, for me, is like a deal with God. If I lift up my soul, if I pray and focus on him, I can trust him to come through. Verse 3 continues by saying, “no one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame.” By doing my part, he will do his. By having faith even when it’s difficult and doesn’t make sense, by trusting him and putting my hope in him, he promises that I will not regret it. That’s something worth believing in.

Autumn:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

I love this passage because I believe I am loved by God, and that nothing can make God stop loving me. This passage not only confirms that, but challenges me to believe the same about every other person and creature. Even the people who make me angry, even the people who preach hate, even people who disagree with everything I believe–they are all loved by God no matter what. Sometimes this is unfathomable to me. How can a love exist that cannot be broken? However, this is the God I believe in–a love that is unbreakable, for me and for everyone else.

Now it is your turn!

Where do you find wisdom, love, …and lint in the bible?