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  • Sacred Tension

    And when hell seems RIDICULOUSLY cruel.

  • Christian Art not Family Friendly

    I heard recently that if you write a book and it has the words “damn” or “hell” in it, a bunch of the Christian book stores won’t even sell them. 📷 I heard a highly experienced agent talk about two people who had beautiful, redemptive stories.

  • Why Pagans Love Mother Earth

    And that eat-or-be-eaten type of mentality, shared by both the remaining humans and the pagan gods confined to earth (which Christians assume are fallen angels) makes a society that looks a lot like hell.

  • STORY: Getting into Heaven - Prodigal Son gone awry.

    You look like hell but no matter what you’ve done, I’m just glad to have you home. 

  • Abundant Dying

    The followers of God may be raked through coals, they may have the hell ripped right out of them, they may find themselves naked on a hard floor, having been robbed of everything they have ever hoped for and earned.

  • STORY: Aro City (rOCD)

    But he knew that if they got it wrong it could be hell.

  • 5 Secular Songs with Christian Message

    My favorite type of worship song is usually those secular songs which I already love, but which become Christian when I picture God speaking the lyrics to me. Sometimes certain lines don't perfectly match up, but I just overlook those. I have a few of these songs in my playlists and I'll list them below. But I'd love to hear which secular songs you listen to that seem to have a Christian message. Adele: Hello I know not all of the lyrics make sense of God speaking to me, but the heart of the singer captures a sentiment that melts me when I picture God saying them to me. Hello, it's me I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet To go over everything... There's such a difference between us And a million miles Hello from the other side I must've called a thousand times To tell you I'm sorry For everything that I've done But when I call you never Seem to be home This one seems super applicable when I haven't tried very hard to get close to God recently. I picture him sort of saying, with the aching longing which Adele exhibits so well, I'm sorry things have had to be so hard lately, but I just want you to come back to me. John Mayer: Say I think this one's great for prayer because it's like God saying, tell me what you've been wanting to tell me. Just say it, brother. Here's one verse and chorus, but pretty much every verse gets me. Take all of your wasted honor Every little past frustration Take all of your so-called problems Better put 'em in quotations Say what you need to say Say what you need to say Tracy Chapman: The Promise This one is heartbreaking. And it feels like God's heart to come back to me even at the slightest movement of me toward God. Here are a few of the lyrics. If you wait for me Then I'll come for you Although I've traveled far I always hold a place for you in my heart If you think of me If you miss me once in a while Then I'll return to you I'll return and fill that space in your heart There are also some other classics like the following: U2: Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For U2 is known for their secular songs that have Christian undertones. This one isn't even that hidden. I like how it is honest about still waiting on God to fulfill his longings. You broke the bonds and you loosened chains carried the cross of my shame, of my shame You know I believe it But I still haven't found What I'm looking for Creed: My Sacrifice Here's an old classic. It seems a little corny now, but it's not bad. Hello my friend we meet again It's been a while, where should we begin Feels like forever Within my heart are memories Of perfect love that you gave to me Oh, I remember When you are with me, I'm free I'm careless, I believe Above all the others we'll fly This brings tears to my eyes My sacrifice Do you have your own favorites? Leave them in comments below and I can include them in the post! Raw Spoon, 8-27-2020

  • Do we really Thirst? (Sermon)

    This was given as a sermon to Endicott UMC, Fairbury UMC, and Daykin UMC on March 24th, 2019: Our psalm today, psalm 63 said, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” Do I really thirst for God? Do I really find satisfaction in God like I do a large cool cup of water? And our passage in Isaiah today, Isaiah 55 said, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! How can we buy bread and drink when we have no money? I think what God is telling us is that what he offers is free. And what he offers satisfies like water, or food. So often it doesn’t feel like that is true. +I pray, and I don’t feel like I get an answer. +I try to read the Bible and often I get what I want out of it. So many other things seem more satisfying in this world. · I eat food and I get full. I ate had a double burger on Friday night a Criner’s in Endicott, and I only ate one quarter of it before I was full and had to take the rest home. That satisfied… for a time. · I spend time with fun people, and I am entertained. · I indulge in other immediate pleasures, like watching YouTube, or scrolling Instagram and for a short time I am satisfied. So what does it look like to be satisfied by God in this world of errands and emails and playing cards and watching sports? Church told me it’s all about relationship with God, but I’ve been disappointed. It’s not like any worldly relationship I’ve ever had before. · I can’t get a text from God like I can my friends. · I can’t see him like my friends when I sit across from them at coffee. · I can’t call him and hear his voice like when I call my dad. · I can’t hold him like I hold my girlfriend. So I wonder, is this really any relationship at all? It is when I get discouraged about this that I try to picture this metaphor. I picture God and I are on a ship and he is my a quiet captain at the helm. He is sailing us into the sea of my life and he’s just happy we’re together on this journey. I talk his ear off, about what I want and what I think I need. I ask a lot of stuff but he rarely directly answers. He mostly does a lot of silent nodding, just listening, but he wants to hear my thoughts and is always quietly steering my ship. Sometimes I can tell he wants me to fix my sails or waterproof the deck, stuff that I don’t want to do. But if I do it our ship works a lot better. Sometimes scary storms or pirates show up on the horizon and I freak out and tell him I just want to go to a happy place. I can just keep putting up the sails or running up flags of peace, and other stuff when I know he wants me to. I just do what I can get up each day and trust him to sail my ship. And I go to sleep at night trusting him at my helm. And when I wake up I realize that he has sailed us to safe waters again. Even if it wasn’t where I thought I wanted to go I realize he heard me, and was watching out for me and has led me somewhere I know is good. If I can trust he hears me and wants my best and steers my ship accordingly, it helps me feel a little more like it is a satisfying relationship, and I can keep on talking to him. But sometimes I think he does respond to me. But He’ll use other things in the world to communicate with me. · Sometimes He will bring good people into my life and their words can be His words to me. Their hugs can be like His arms around me. · And sometimes it’s the storms he brings me through that teach me in a deeper way than words from a worldly mentor could be. · Sometimes when I have a big life decision, He speaks in the form of doors to my future that seem to open. · And sometimes he speaks through what I learned His heart to be in Sunday school. Because of that I often know what his answer would be to my questions. · It’s been words from an Adele song before, When she tells me, “Hello, it's me. I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet” That breaks my heart and brings me back to prayer again. · Sometimes it is words from the Bible. I tell God what I’m worried about and I’ll open to a scripture that seems to address that exactly. But if I’m lucky, if I am paying attention when He speaks, I can hear his voice as actual words in my mind. People have told before that they hear God’s voice directly only a few times in their life. Like a voice that says something straight into our heart. And it is sometimes like, “Stop that.” Or “Go help that person.” But more often, for me and from what I hear from others, it is usually things like, “I love you so much.” and “You are my son.” Or “You are my daughter.” and “I am so in love with you.” And it’s when I realize that God is next to me steering my ship and talking with me throughout my day through circumstances, other people, the Bible, and every now and then his actual words, that I feel really deeply satisfied. Even so satisfied that the next day I thirst for more of Him again. Raw Spoon

  • Guest Post: help with Suicidal Thoughts

    Today I introduce you to a good friend. We were in small group together years ago and have stayed friends since. I think it is in part due to both of us being aware of our brokenness. If you know of someone who struggles with suicide, please share with them these tools Dave has found to help him navigate the struggle with suicidal thoughts. *** HOPE FOR SUICIDE. Hello my name is Dave Saunders. I have lived with suicidal ideation for 25 years. I had my first suicidal thought in 1995 when I was a senior in college. It was only a few months into my senior year and my three best friends, who were a year older than I, had graduated and moved on. I felt so alone. I felt like I had no one to talk to and no one with whom to hang out. Since that time, depression and suicidal ideation has still been something I’ve struggled with. However, I have steadily improved and am still here! Though I have been hospitalized many times for suicidal thoughts, I have never made an attempt. I wanted to write this account because I wanted to offer people hope. I must admit, I have not found the “answer” for living with suicidal ideation from a clinician. I have had to come up with the “solutions” to suicidal thoughts largely on my own. I am not suggesting that a person boycott the mental health system. However, I am relaying that it took a lot of perseverance, persistence, and effort to navigate my way through this SERIOUS medical condition. I want to share some of what has worked for me in hopes that it will help you. I must share a caveat: if you live with suicidal ideation, I believe that you also must come up with your own reasons to live. No one can “save” you – you must find the reasons that work for you. But I do believe that what I’m sharing below may provide you with some things to consider. 1. I believe that every person was placed on this planet for a REASON. You-yes YOU- can do something better than anyone else who has ever lived and who will ever live. God has given you gifts and a personality that he has never given to anyone else. He wants to use you to bless other people – your friends, your family, your community. Don’t give up or feel that your life is hopeless or POINTLESS. You may hear a “voice” in your head that says, “You’re no good at anything. Your life is pointless.” Don’t believe that voice-it is a lie! You have a purpose in life, a REASON for being here. Viktor Frankl wrote, “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.” Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 109. Discovering your purpose and doing it is what life is all about. Living for your purpose brings joy and satisfaction. Never give up because God will NOT give up on you. 2. You are LOVED. Even if you don’t love yourself, God loves you. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us…We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:10,19. You may FEEL like no one loves you or no one cares. Again, you may FEEL like no one loves you. You may have just had a fight with a friend or a family member or just gotten a divorce. You may feel that you don’t have any friends or haven’t found a significant other. But God loves you more than anyone could ever love you. God ALWAYS loves you. “Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 20:21. This may sound obvious, but God does NOT want you to end your life! He will NEVER STOP LOVING YOU no matter what you’ve said, felt, thought, or done. No matter what your situation is, God is there. He will “never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5. You may feel that you’ve made a horrible mistake and that no one will forgive you or that you cannot forgive yourself. But God will ALWAYS forgive you (1 John 1:9). Don’t give up on yourself because God will NEVER give up on you. You are loved. 3. PAIN hurts. Again, PAIN hurts. I do NOT want to minimize what you are going through or what you HAVE gone through. Sometimes it feels like this problem that you are experiencing will NEVER end. And you want so desperately to get out of the pain – to END your pain. It may seem that suicide is the only answer. God HEARS us when we are in pain. “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” Psalm 55:17. God IS listening. I don’t know why, but God does not promise that we won’t experience pain. Even Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33. But God DOES promise to be with us and carry us THROUGH our pain. Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Robert Frost wrote, “The best way out is always through.” Sometimes we have to go THROUGH pain before it will subside. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Unearned suffering is redemptive.” We may not realize it, but we learn from pain. The pain of touching a hot stove teaches you not to touch it again. Sometimes pain brings things out of us that would never come out otherwise. Enduring THROUGH the pain builds our character. Dealing with pain teaches us perseverance, creates courage in us, enables us to learn coping skills we never would have otherwise, and teaches us to NEVER GIVE UP. When we are in pain, all we want is for it to END. We think ending our life will end the pain. But ending your life will only create more pain – those who love you will be in pain and the world will lose you- the world will miss out on the beauty you bring by existing. In addition, PAIN ENDS. It WILL subside. Job, a character in the Bible, experienced such suffering that he wished he’d never been born. But Job learned something about himself and about God through his experience, and God richly blessed him. You also will receive an incredible blessing if you don’t give up. “BLESSED is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12. God wants to reward you and build your character through your experience. Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Hang in there. Stay positive. One day at a time. God is teaching you something and he’s building your character. 4. Connection. We were made for connection, for relationships. You may not have those relationships right now. You may feel that NO ONE ELSE ON EARTH has ever or will ever be in as much pain as I’m in right now. But pain is a universal human experience – everyone feels it in different ways and at different times. Don’t allow the pain to ISOLATE you – seek connection with someone – anyone! Call a crisis line or a “warm line.” Talk to someone; try to connect. People may not understand what you are going through, but they can relate. Don’t believe the lie that, “Nobody cares.” Again, don’t isolate. The band 311 wrote a song called, “Beyond the Grey Sky.” It says, “Don’t give up the fight to stay alive and even if you have to, find the reason of another’s pain if they lose you. If not for your self than those around who care like I do. One day you’ll see the clear blue beyond the grey sky.” Don’t let anything bring you down or make you feel worthless because you mean the world to someone. We all need help from others from time to time; we need each other and we were created to exist in community. The apostle Paul writes, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ…But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be NO DIVISION in the body, but that all its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:12, 24-26. Our community functions better with you as a part of it! We would all suffer if you were gone! 5. Suicidal thinking is often a manifestation of depression, anxiety, and even anger. Don’t make decisions when you are in a depressed state of mind. We may feel ANGRY about our situation or even angry at God. “Why would he EVER allow me to feel this way? He doesn’t care about me- he is a cruel God. I want NO PART of this any longer. This is NO WAY to live. It must end NOW – it has to end NOW. This is TOO MUCH. I can’t handle it any longer. There is NO WAY out of this. My only option is to end my life.” When I am thinking this way, I am not in the right state of mind. I’m using words like NEVER, ALWAYS, FOREVER. This is All or Nothing thinking, which is something I do when I’m not thinking clearly. DO NOT make decisions when you are in a depressed state of mind. Trust others’ judgment and even your own judgment when you are feeling well. As the saying goes, “This, too, shall pass.” I hope this has helped you. Remember, sometimes it takes hard work dealing with suicidal thoughts and fighting just to stay alive. I will leave you with one last quote: “Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations.” *** Thank you, Dave for redeeming your struggle in ways that can help others! I value your friendship. And your struggle has in fact helped me with my struggles. I haven't struggled with suicidal ideation, but your journey has born fruit that has helped me with mine. If you'd like to get in touch with Dave, I believe that can be arranged. And this would bring me value by being able to make that connection. Also, as I read Dave's words about everybody having a purpose to live for, it reminded me of a book I wrote/illustrated a few years back. It is about a man who does not know what talent or skill he can use to give to the world. But, he realizes he can always bring value to the world by bringing joy to others. The book is called "Pick-me-up Lines for Nice People" and can be found here! Raw Spoon (reposting Dave Saunders' essay on dealing with suicide) 6-1-20  |  (303) 359-4232

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