Saturday, June 26, 2010

Castles in the Air

Photo by Fallingwater123 via Flickr

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." ~ The Declaration of Independence
In 1776, when the founding fathers signed into existence a new country and a new hope, I wonder if they considered the way that centuries would erode the connotations of the words Jefferson penned that Philadelphia summer.

Among the smudged and often misquoted phrases is the beautiful and titillating "pursuit of Happiness." Two hundred years after the words were penned, this phrase is the foundation of the American Dream. It is our culture's creed.

So, almost from the time we are born, we are taught to build our castles in the air. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" the chorus sings as we grow to understand that, whatever our answer, our dreams can come true. Shoot for the stars. Better to dream big than to dream small.

Eventually, reality rains down on our parades. Some dreams come true. Most don't. Some kids do grow up to walk on the moon. Some boys grow up to be president. Some girls become princesses. But the majority of us grow up to button-up blue-collars, settle down, and tell our children to dream big. Maybe their castles in the air will become a reality.

The problem with this system is not only it's absurdity, but it's blatant self-centeredness. Too often, our pursuit of happiness is "all about me." After all, isn't happiness subjective? Isn't it for me to decide what makes me happy? And don't I have a right to have that?

The answer, when you are a follower of Christ, is, "No. You most certainly do not."

Jesus Himself said we cannot serve two masters:
"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." ~ Matthew 6:24a, ESV
When we come to Christ, we renounce all masters but Him. Too often we forget that this renunciation must include ourselves.

Jesus becomes our breath. Our bread. Our water. Our life.

He also becomes our hope. Our life-goal. Our dream.

When Christ is our Master, we pick up the keys to His Kingdom, and we begin building His heavenly castle in the air.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Contentment: Looking at life with the eyes of Christ

"True contentment is a real, even an active virtue - not only affirmative but creative. It is the power of getting out of any situation all there is in it." ~ G.K. Chesterton

When I came across this quote last week, I was feeling particularly introspective about the topic of contentment. It's something I've thought a lot about over the past few months, having spent several class periods discussing it during my last semester of college.

Like many people in my culture, I've sometimes struggled to live in a state of contentment.

Jesus Himself said "blessed are those who mourn." And the older I get, the more I realize how much there is to mourn over.

Every day the news recounts the suffering of thousands worldwide. We read about wars and famines across the globe. Government policies threaten to bring us into economic crisis. And waring political functions in the government and the media reveal a truth that is murky at best.

Close to home, my eyes are opened more and more to the lost all around me. Friends and family struggle, and not everyone stays on the path. The wheat and the tares look very much the same, and there are no guarantees when it comes to who you can trust.

Yet, the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi that he had found the secret to being content.

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need,” he said.

He revealed his secret: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, ESV).

The “him” to whom Paul refers is, of course, Jesus Christ. But despite the beautiful simplicity of Paul’s secret, what every Christ follower knows is that the way of God is rarely easy.

Chesterton points out that contentment is active. It is Christ that gives us the power to get "out of any situation all there is in it," but we must actively seek the mind of Christ to see our situation with His eyes.

Lately God has been opening my eyes to the small joys that surround me. The smell of honeysuckle wafting through an open window. A sip of hot coffee on a cool morning. The pure color of blooming flowers. A firefly blinking his love song in the darkness. The laughter of a table full of friends. The quiet companionship of sleeping house full of those I love best.

If I look at my life through Christ's eyes, I see how blessed I am. Even on my worst day, I have so much to rejoice about.

No matter how hard it rains, the sun is always shining somewhere.