Real Joy Actually Hurts



It can be easy to romanticize a passion or a social cause or a marriage or raising kids with tons of posed pictures and flowery words—but all such things are gritty, raw, rough, and painstakingly sculpted from our fully invested hearts. There is a lot of standing around and sweating through our shirts and seasons of self-doubt and all the frustrated parts that no one else can see. We fall in love with highlights but these were formed in the valley. Please don’t be seduced by soundbites and filtered photos and bowtie daydreams. Real joy actually hurts, but that’s why it’s real. It was carved from the best of us.
J.S.


[Photo by The Ganeys Photography.]

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The Reversal of All That Is Wrong.


Here’s why I believe in Jesus.

Because at some point in human history, God became one of us and reversed the human condition. Just one place, at one time, in the dirtiest sand-swept stain of a city, He healed our entropy: and He invites us into that better story.

In the cross and resurrection: Jesus absorbed the cycle of human violence. He showed there was a better way than self-centered tyranny and retaliation. He paid the cost of sin on our behalf. He reversed the ultimate consequence of death from the first Garden by turning death backwards in a new Garden. He bestowed that same death-defeating power into those who believed his story. He identified with us by taking on all the harm of sin, though he never sinned himself. He promised us a union with Him by uniting us to the Spirit of God. He inaugurated a new kind of kingdom where the weak can win, the poor can succeed, and all our survival values are flipped into sacrifice.

Jesus redefined what it meant to be human by creating an upside-down kingdom where the humble will be elevated and the prideful would be melted by love.

He walked into the fragments and re-created the pieces. He doesn’t answer why bad things happen, but he gives us a love stronger than all that does.

J.S. Park


Around The Corner: A Second Wind

You’ve been in meltdown before, when the world felt unusually cruel and your insides collapsed and there weren’t enough tears to cry through your heaving convulsing sobs.  Like the wind was uppercut out of your soul.

It’s not pretty.  Not like the movies.  It’s not dramatic or cathartic or ironic or Oscar-worthy — it’s ugly, snot all over, face puckered in fifty places, bowled over with all kinds of noises spewing from your guts.

I was reading John 20, and Mary Magdalene was there too.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying.

I read this and grew horribly sad, imagining her hunched over and hopeless.  Her world was punched through.  I knew how she felt.

The man they called Savior, who had rebuked seven demons out of Mary and had been bathed by her family’s precious perfume, was now just a cold lifeless body in an airtight tomb.  Along with his body were the dreams of a different future.

Continue reading “Around The Corner: A Second Wind”

The First Time Around Always Sucks: But That’s Growth

If you ever look back on your old creations — sketches, journals, dance moves, videos, or that squeaky song you wrote for the girl in sixth grade who didn’t know you — you will always cringe at your amateurish recklessness.

The first time through your masterful brilliant brainchild, you probably thought it was the greatest idea in the world. Now you run from it as fast as your friends bring it up to you.

But: we all go through this. It’s a clumsy, gaudy, lumbering phase of growth that requires a purging of all your awkward first moments, and it’s absolutely necessary.

It’s also okay. You can embrace the process and shed the old skin and keep pursuing your perfection. You’ll look back a year from now and possibly hate what you’ve made today — but that’s only a natural part of your growth. One day you won’t look back on any one single thing you’ve done, but rather see an entire mosaic in a single-hall museum of your creative journey: and that’s life. It’s a collaboration with yourself.

Continue reading “The First Time Around Always Sucks: But That’s Growth”

Book Review: Enemies of the Heart


Enemies of the Heart
By Andy Stanley

Summary:
Andy Stanley, one of the most effective church leaders today, writes another practical work: this one on emotions gone bad. Diving into the core of the matter, Andy digs deep enough to start the hard work on overcoming our fluctuating feelings.

Strengths:
Andy Stanley is like the cool uncle who dispenses the best advice over a cup of hot coffee on a rainy day. His voice feels like inviting an old friend in your home: safe, reassuring, almost “by-golly” at times, with just the right balance of zip and patience. It’s why Pastor Andy is one of the bestselling preachers and writers for every age range, walk of life, among different communities and races, for the erudite scholar or the everyday layman. He has a cozy, broad appeal.

Enemies of the Heart is no different, as Pastor Andy covers the four most aggressive emotions that threaten to hurt us: Guilt, Anger, Greed, and Jealousy. Turning each of these into “debts” — such as Guilt becoming “I Owe You” — Pastor Andy gets to work on the diagnoses and the cure. While some would accuse him of being soft on doctrine, Stanley actually does a great job incorporating the Gospel into each of these emotions, showing how Jesus came to rescue us daily from the power of sin.

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Francis Chan: Lukewarm and Loving It



“Even if you’ve been coming for years or grew up in the church or whatever else, I have this fear that some of you, or possibly many, many of you — are going to hell. It keeps me up at night. … Do you understand the reality of what I said? I’m talking about hell.  Have you heard that word so many times that you’ve just grown numb to it? Eternal punishment.  So what in the world am I doing up here then? And again, I sure hope you don’t see this as, ‘Oh Francis is up there judging the congregation saying he’s saved’ — I’m not saying that.  I’m saying I’m willing to bet some of you would leave this room and say it about yourself, that you are lukewarm — meaning you’ll be spit out of the mouth of God and cast into the fires of hell.  That’s all I’m saying, is what you would say about yourself.  And it blows me away that some of you won’t do anything.”

— Francis Chan, Lukewarm and Loving It

Still one of his best sermons.  October 8th, 2006.