About Joshua Caleb Roman

Joshua is a musician and writer based in Lakewood, Colorado. He recently graduated with a BA in Theology from Colorado Christian University and plans on pursuing a Masters in Counseling from Denver Seminary. Josh's primary interests include playing music, writing both nonfiction and fiction, and exploring the mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien. He is a dreamer, but that's not always a bad thing. Be prepared for a lot of nerdy references and breathless accounts of snowfall.

A Kingdom of Comfort, Part 2

I often encounter a single passage of scripture that, simply put, wrecks my entire day with its implications. It’s a good kind of wrecking, though, like when you wreck the deceiver’s plans or when your plans fall through only to allow you to hang out with a friend who really needed someone. This time, the passage is Genesis 24:67. It’s the very end of the discussion of Isaac and Rebekah. There’s a sentence in there that simply blows my mind: “So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”

WHAT?

You think that’s epic? Check out 2 Corinthians 1:3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (ESV)

Clearly, from these passages, there is more to our healing and comfort than simply God healing us through the Holy Spirit. We know that our salvation comes with a call to action, and we know that the Gospel was never intended to save one soul; it was intended to be spread. But how amazing is this? Seriously! So that we might be able to comfort those who are in any affliction…

In the realm of relationships, God must be our primary healer and comforter. When we find that our love for someone has been rejected, or gone to waste, He is there to comfort us…and yet, I wonder if one of the beautiful things about the marriage relationship is its amazing ability to show us the closest thing to a divine relationship as we are likely to see this side of the Parousia. There is a certain type of redemption that a new relationship brings – the chance to not make the same mistakes, the chance to honor someone the way we were meant to. This is a rather exciting thing! I think we get way too wrapped up in being “in a place with the Lord” where we are somehow mystically able to date, as if we could somehow correct the problem of our disordered loves by a simple matter of will, once and for all, and never have to deal with such a problem ever again. I think this equates God with a level-up system in a video game, as if at some point we are suddenly able to date, so long as we’ve trained to Level 80 and mastered casting fire spells. Rather, I think God places people in our path for very specific reasons, at a very specific time, regardless of our perceived “readiness” or not. He then prepares us as we walk forward in faith. This is not to say that we date every single person we encounter and are interested in. Rather, it means that, if we find ourselves attracted to someone, but are afraid of our past hurts or failures getting in the way, we trust the Lord to deal with such things, and pray to know His will on how to act. For all we know, He could be preparing to use a new relationship to bring healing for the things that hurt us in the past. I have experienced this, as have many of my friends, especially my friends who are married.

Ultimately, when we come into such a place, we must remember two things: first, that it is about learning to love, about making love a verb that we act on, not about being loved and seeking our own good. And second, it is about approaching every relationship from a standpoint of seeking to glorify the Lord and not ourselves. For all we know, the Lord could be leading us to pursue someone in order to accomplish His will for their lives, or to give them a better understanding of Him. I had an experience like that a number of years ago, where I felt called to pursue a girl, only to realize that my purpose in her life at that time was not to be in a relationship with her, but to encourage her that she was still WORTH being pursued, even after a painful breakup. Since then, my affection for her has been strictly platonic, and that was my call, because that is where I felt the Lord leading. However, had I held myself back from acting on my attraction to her, who knows if she would have remembered how precious she was to the Lord?

Every relationship consists of two people who are broken, regardless of how recently the breaking took place. Besides that, automatically holding ourselves back from a relationship simply because we fear we are not in a place for it is, to a certain degree, a potentially selfish act. If our outlook is about receiving, then this makes sense; however, if our standpoint is to love someone else, then our focus is removed from our own hearts. We must always ask, “Lord, how am I to best represent You in my relationship with this person?” Ultimately, that is the point: incarnating Jesus in each of our relationships. I think it’s very clear from the story of Isaac that, in some circumstances, God provides us with relationships in order for us to be His arms for one another. In this way, we spread the Kingdom of God: not the Kingdom that will come at Parousia, but the one that has already arrived, and is continually arriving – a Kingdom marked by mercy, comfort, and fresh starts. Few things are as powerful for the Kingdom of God as the love of a righteous, God-honoring marriage.

Obviously, all this comes with a very special qualifying statement: this is an observation, and we must be exceedingly, exceedingly careful with our hearts and with the hearts of others. We must always consult the Holy Spirit and trust His leading when it comes to our relationships. This is not at all meant to justify every dating scenario, nor am I trying to claim that this is primarily meant for dating. This all plays itself out in friendships and other platonic relationships in exactly the same terms, and can be interpreted exactly the same for such situations. We also cannot assume that we are always in a place to date, for we often are not; and if you aren’t, don’t try to be in one! This is something that you have to take to the Lord and trust His leading for you individually. This is merely the thoughts of a 22 year-old male, and I am by no means the wisest 22 year-old that has ever lived. Far from it. I simply find that this principle could radically change our attitude about dating relationships into something more resembling bold trust in the Lord and a desire to love others as He wishes for us to.

So we see that God uses others to comfort us, both in romantic relationships and in platonic ones. We were made for one another. God is eternally in community as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our humanity emboldens us toward community with one another: between male and female, as both friends and also as marriage partners; and as the same gender, as brothers (or sisters)-in-arms for the sake of the Kingdom.

But does God heal us fully?

Let us examine that and find out for ourselves in part 3!

A Kingdom of Comfort, Part 1

I’ve recently been hearing so much about humility that it’s forced me to take a moment and reflect. At church the other day, a good friend of mine gave a small talk based upon the premise that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” We all know, upon examining scripture, that this is a reference to Proverbs 3:34. This verse is expounded upon in the writing of James in chapter 4, where it is quoted in verse 6, and built upon in verses 7-10: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (ESV)

I love the correlation here between humbling oneself and mourning. I think that, all too often, believers are encouraged to “let go and let God,” to “surrender it to Him,” or to “trust the Lord,” as if those things magically remove the pain from our hearts when we encounter difficult circumstances. This is certainly an act of humbling oneself, but I believe it also becomes one of deception when we refuse to acknowledge grief or sadness. Much like sin (we see this elsewhere in James), grief and hurting can only really be healed when we finally admit that we need healing. Sometimes, we’re like small children who have cut our hands playing somewhere off-limits. We return to our parents, simply because we have nowhere else to go, and instead of raging about our disobedience, our Father simply beckons to us and says, “Show me where you’ve been hurt.”

Part of humility is an unrelenting honesty about the state of our hearts. When we humble ourselves, He is faithful to lift us up; that means that He will be faithful to heal our heavy hearts.

But how precisely does this God, this loving Father, this Great Comforter, heal us?

Does God heal us Himself, by His spirit, independent of other people; does He use new relationships and friends to comfort our hearts; or does He allow some of our hurts to remain, in order that we might find our comfort in the promise of His eventual return at the end of the age? This question could occupy our minds for the better part of our lives without ever truly being answered fully; however, for our purposes here, it is worth discussing. I believe the Lord uses all of these things and more to heal our hearts, and to prepare us for the Kingdom of God, both here-and-now and in the age to come.

Himself

This one should come as fairly obvious, and thus will not be discussed in as much length, for it’s a truth every believer knows, confesses, and takes heart in: He is our Great Comforter (John 14:26, where the Holy Spirit is referred to as our Comfort); He is our refuge (Psalm 46:1-3). The Holy Spirit himself comforts our hearts, speaking through the Word of God. According to Isaiah 58:6-11, when we care for the oppressed and act as justice-seekers for those who need justice, He is faithful to heal us, and our gloom “will be like the noonday”; that is, it will become light. While this message is contextually for the Israelite people, we as 21st century Christians can glean much wisdom from it. Rather than focusing on our own healing, we should seek to share the Lord with others, not only in the preaching of the Gospel but also in taking care of those who need to be taken care of. It echoes something Jesus says in Matthew about seeking first the Kingdom of God, and its righteousness; then, all things will be added to us as well. In this sense, we simply obey, since “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam.15:22), and trust the Lord to be faithful.

The Lord’s heart to heal is all over Scripture. He is faithful, too.  Even before Israel had a king, in the time of the Judges, He always appointed someone to save His people, even though it was their unfaithfulness that caused their pain. How crazy awesome is that? Even when it is our own sin that causes us to be harmed, He is STILL faithful to heal us! He doesn’t even abandon Israel when she is unfaithful in the years of the United and Divided Monarchies; rather, He is constantly sending prophets who preach a word of forgiveness and repentance to a faithless and loveless bride. One needs simply to read Psalm 40 to realize the depth of God’s commitment to healing and delivering His people: “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Verses 1-2, ESV). This is what He does. He heals.

Another key point to remember is the truth that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17), and therefore, at the basest level, every good thing that brings joy to our hearts, be it a song, a relationship, or even the sunrise, is ultimately from the Lord. Make no mistake: He is the source. He always has been and always will be. This could go on for ages. I’d like to move on to a slightly more controversial topic in part 2!

Like the Little Boys We Are

As a weight loss counselor, I see a wide variety of people during the course of my work day. You have the graduates: the people who have achieved their goals and walk into the center with smiles on their faces and skinny jeans on their hips. Then you have the people who are struggling to lose their weight. They had a rough weekend or they simply haven’t been trying hard enough. They are defeated. It is truly heartbreaking.

My favorite clients to sit with are the ones who bring in their children. It’s always an adventure trying to have a counseling session with small boys running around at top speed shouting war cries! Anyone who’s ever had a conversation with me knows that I absolutely love the warrior spirit that boyhood is so bent on celebrating.

The other day, I had a father come into the center with his three children. He had a daughter of probably seven, a young son who couldn’t have been more than three, and an infant of no more than eight months. The father sat down and began his session with one of my co-workers, and the girl and boy proceeded to do their laps. After only a few minutes, as you might expect, there was a slight bump, and the sound of a small child crying issued forth from the other side of the center. Immediately, without a single word or even a look of frustration, the father jumped from his chair and sought out his injured child. There was no anger in his face, but a solid, daring determination. He sought out his son, picked him up his arms, took him back to his seat, and kissed his forehead and simply asked, “What happened?”

Meanwhile, I’m sitting at my own desk practically in tears. You see, dear friends, this is the father heart of God! He chases after us the moment we cry out to Him, wraps us up in His arms, kisses our forehead, and simply asks, “What happened?” This is not to say that He does not know what we’ve been up to. He is fully aware of our metaphorical (and perhaps literal) laps around the room. However, He is patient with us. He asks us because we are designed to be comforted by His voice. The voice of our Father is the voice of the One who loves us. In that moment, that young boy’s tears began to fade as he felt his father’s arms around him. The father was not angry. He did not strike his son or berate the little one for running around like the boy he was. He was merely patient with his son, and comforted him.

How much more does our Father in heaven love to wrap His arms around us? And how much more grace does He have for us when, like the little boys we are, we injure ourselves simply by running around the room? Ultimately, as Karl Barth would say (in far less words), God’s “Yes” to us far outweighs His “No.” It is this “Yes” that we hear when we cry out in pain, needing comfort. And my, what a comfort He is!

Perhaps the best part of unconditional love is the complete and utter lack of I-told-you-so’s. Unconditional love doesn’t keep score or lose its patience. Rather, “…It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NIV) If Jon Foreman is right, and love is a verb, then love sounds a lot like grace and looks a lot like comfort. It is this crazy notion that a person is worth more than the ways that they hurt themselves and make themselves cry. Love is this huge, resplendent, lion of a Father who couldn’t even dream of letting His children cry forever.

Friends, let us take comfort in this image of our Father: the one who, at the sound of our voice crying out, immediately leaves His throne, wraps us up in His arms, kisses our forehead…and shows us the Love that we could never deserve or earn, but that Love that has found us.

Heroes and Lions

Think back to your favorite stories. You might not have to think back terribly far at all, actually; our favorite stories have a way of sticking with us, of imprinting both our minds and hearts at the same time. Your favorite story might be one of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. It might be a more contemporary series, such as The Hunger Games or even Star Wars. And let us not forget the ensemble of heroes that make up the legendarium of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth! The world of fantasy would hardly be the same without Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Aragorn and the rest of the members of the Fellowship of the Ring. If you’re like many of my friends at Colorado Christian University, your favorite story revolves around some “Doctor” who travels around space and time in a contraption called a “Tardis” saving the world from evil or some such shenanigans. I don’t really know what it’s about.  I just know that it’s British television and somehow it’s awesome. But I digress.

I still remember the first time I saw Luke Skywalker dueling Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. I’m not ashamed to admit, from that point on, no stick, pole or other pointy object was simply an object anymore. No, from that point on, they were all lightsabers! Whichever one of my brothers was around was instantly Darth Vader, regardless of their previous allegiances. And I, obviously, was Luke Skywalker. After all, every little kid wants to be the hero.

Think back to your favorite stories…the ones that really mattered. What’s one of the key elements to every fantasy story?

Every good story has a hero. But what makes a hero…heroic?

A hero doesn’t shy away from a fight, but he also doesn’t cause unnecessary bloodshed. He is strong, but in control of his strength. Strength without mercy is brutality, subjugation, and ultimately results in tyranny. As Gandalf states in the new Hobbit movie, “True courage is not knowing when to take a life, but when to spare it.” When he fights, a hero fights well. If he falls, he gets back up. He doesn’t give up after failing. He only gets stronger.

A hero also protects those who are important to him at any cost. Laying down his life for them is part of the job description. He does not shrink away from harm. This one is particularly biblical. There truly is no greater love that a man who gives himself up for those whom he loves. Back on 9/11, some amazingly brave men and women lost their loves striving to save innocent civilians from the wreckage of the Twin Towers. The brave men and women of New York City’s police and fire departments are remembered as heroes, and rightly so.  One of the most powerful moments of the entire Harry Potter series is actually before the main events take place. It is when Harry’s mother dies to save her young son. She is a hero in that moment and forever more.

I have to be honest. One of my favorite heroes of legend is Link. Who is Link, you may ask? Link is the main protagonist of The Legend of Zelda video game series. Most people have never even heard his name before; they often assume he is Zelda, but Zelda is actually the princess that Link spends the entire series attempting to rescue! I relate so well to Link because he is, at the onset of any given Zelda game, very normal. However, Link is destined to be a hero, and he eventually steps into this role after training and being made aware of his destiny. Link is a wonderful hero because he doesn’t ever speak, and doesn’t seek his own glory.

Link is a hero because he is selfless. He gives his life over and over for those that he loves.

But here, we’re really talking about human heroes and invented characters.

Don’t we all want to be heroes?

I’m not so different now than when I was a boy. Sometimes I still pretend things are lightsabers. Sometimes I dream of rescuing princesses from castles and traversing miles and misunderstandings to rescue my princess. And more often than not, when I read books and watch movies, I want nothing more than to be the hero of my own story.

But I’m not.

Really, though. I’m not.

Truth be told, I’m terrible at fighting for people. My main enemy is myself. Whether I’m letting my insecurities cloud my judgment or if I’m simply not looking out for others’ interests first, I am simply bad at fighting. I am my own worst enemy, and I hurt those I should protect and fight for. I’m not a very good hero.

Truth be told, neither are you. None of us are.

We can’t be the hero of our own story, because we really are the damsel-in-distress. We are the slaves behind bars. We are the broken who need to be healed. We try and try and try, but ultimately, we can’t rescue anyone, ourselves included.

We aren’t very good heroes. But luckily, we don’t have to be.

When Jesus came, He personified what it meant to be a hero. Link, Frodo, Katniss, Peter, Edmund…they may be heroes, but they are only echoes of the one true Hero.

Think about it…what keeps you on your toes while journeying through Narnia? What are the parts of those books that really make them worth reading?

Simple…it’s when Aslan shows up. Because He is the Hero. He is the Lion. The funny thing about when Aslan shows up is that, typically, those who haven’t seen Him before are rendered speechless, utterly in awe of this Lion that is striding among them. But those who know Him approach Him differently. They run to Him and bury themselves in His golden mane. Whenever Aslan speaks, you hang on His every word, and you search those words, desiring to know all their meanings. As a result of His words and presence, traitors like Edmund are made into kings. The lost are welcomed home as princes just like Cor. Obnoxious little Eustaces finally shed their dragon scales. And men like Peter finally learn what it means to protect those they love.

Aslan is the hero of Narnia. He is the rightful King.

We aren’t very good heroes. But luckily, we don’t have to be. Just as Aslan is the true hero of the Chronicles of Narnia, Jesus is the hero of our story.

Our pride drives us to act in self-interest, as if what happens to us were the chief element of our story. We’ve swallowed the lie that it’s all about having things our own way. If we are happy, if we are rich and famous, if we are known- then we will be living a good story. After all, we’re heroes, right?

Wrong. Our stories have never been about us.

It’s not our kingdom any more than Narnia was Peter’s. He may have been High King, but there was a King even higher than Peter, and Peter willingly bowed down to Him.

But not only is God the true King…He is also the best hero we could ask for. Our place is to admit our faults, admit our need to be rescued…and finally to let Him do it! We don’t get very far when we try to be our own rulers. We hurt those we love. We return like dogs to our own bile, our sin. We love so, so poorly.

But God is not us. He loves perfectly. In 1 John 4:8, we are told that God is love. 1 Corinthians likewise explains to us all the virtues that make up love. Following the logical connection between the verses, one might easily say, rather than “Love is patient, love is kind” that “God is patient, God is kind.” Let’s take another look at that passage (italics are added to show change):

 God is patient, God is kind. God keeps no record of wrongs.

God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 

God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

God never fails.

Sounds like a pretty good hero to me. I really like thinking of God in a similar vein as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings…He is never late, nor is He early. He arrives precisely when He means to. Which brings us to the final element of a hero:

He saves the day just in time.

We cannot see the whole story. God is not simply the Hero; He is also the Author and Perfector. His timing is perfect, because His plot is perfect, and He will reveal Himself in the perfect plan. We are at His mercy…but that is no bad thing, for He may not be tame, but He is very, very good, and mercy covers His throne. We must trust that He will come through with the perfect resolution at the absolutely perfect time! And He will! He is unable to fail!

Friends, let us not try to be our own heroes and solve problems in our own time and by our own methods. We are not meant to rescue ourselves. We are meant to be rescued, and He has already done it! On the cross our ransom was paid, our rescue finalized, our adoption secured. Jesus is the perfect hero because He won the ultimate victory and that can never be reversed or taken away. He is eternally victorious.

And because of that, so are we.

Let God be the hero of your story. Let Him rescue you at the perfect time. It takes humility…but that is Christianity: humility before God, and humility before others. Let’s face it…we’re really bad heroes. We need to be rescued.

Let us come face to face with the Lion who is also the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

Let us celebrate the one true Hero…and, after knowing Him and being made like Him, find a way to become little lions- little heroes- ourselves.

Echoes

Certain things make me feel like I’m falling in love.

They aren’t typically things that every single person would sit and marvel at. They aren’t even things that everyone enjoys. But sometimes, when I’m very quiet, and when my heart is open, I can feel them moving my heart.

Snow-covered mountains.

Silent winter nights.

Snowfall.

The sunset.

That moment of leaving a night of conversation with good friends.

Seeing my breath in the air.

Listening to the sweet, melodious sound of a violin, cello or piano.

Looking directly into the eyes of someone you truly care for…and smiling warmly as they return the favor.

These things move my heart in a way that few other things can. It all sounds rather emotional and elementary; however, in this regard, I hardly mind being reduced to a child-like state of wonder and awe. Such things and their effect on me is a rather humbling prospect- they allow me to remember how small I really am, and how vast, beautiful, and mysterious creation is. They quiet my soul, force me to inhale, to slow my walking…and marvel.

These things aren’t unbiblical. As Isaiah 1:18 says, “…Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them white as snow…” The Psalms are similarly full of poetry and verse extolling the beauty of nature, literally commanding us to strike our chords in time to the beat of thunderclouds, the rush of rivers, and the blowing of the wind. You get the sense that the Psalmist composed those verses in a similar state of awe; he was baffled, perplexed, and mystified by what he was witnessing in nature. In the Song of Solomon, the appreciation of physical beauty is overtly stated over and over…it is literally composed for the point of exposing that which is beautiful.

All these things are beautiful. Truly. And yet we say that creation, that this world, that our bodies, that all that surrounds us is fallen, is broken, and is therefore not worth finding any sort of worth in.

Are we so sure?

A man by the name of Athanasius would most likely disagree. He was a bishop who lived during the 4th Century, a champion of the faith who fought tooth-and-nail against the heresies of Arius, a man whose misunderstanding of the nature of Christ would rock the church and force our ancestors into formulating the creeds that form the early statements of Christian doctrine. Athanasius believed that when Jesus became incarnate, He was clothed in flesh that we might be clothed with incorruption; He died in order to meet the end of death. When this took place, all of creation was given new life, and the process of redemption started and completed. The world was still fallen….but the sacrifice of Jesus Christ made it beautiful, it made it new…and gave it all, gave us all, a chance to be what we were always meant to be.

Thus, all of creation was permeated by Jesus’ love. Our bodies were made like His, our souls given the chance to be united with the Triune God, and creation itself was brought back from the brink of destruction. When Athanasius thought of being “only human,” he saw it as a blessing; it was us being made in the image of God, in the image of that which is perfect. Thus, to him, humans had worth because of our nature- because we were given the chance to take upon the nature of Jesus Christ Himself. All creation has been irrevocably united with Love.

I think that I often feel like I’m falling in love when I see the snowfall because the snowfall reflects the perfect Love that was shown for me. I think that the beauty of creation, of music, of nature, of human love, is that, by their very existence, they whisper gently in our ears the identity of a Love that is utterly unfailing, unending, and utterly, blessedly beautiful. Creation echoes with redemption and love.

And that is why it is beautiful.

Human relationships are meant to do the same- to echo Christ’s love for us. When we choose to love one another not based on our potential, our gifts, or our perfections, but rather out of knowing who we are in Christ, and when we choose to accept and work with and bear with and love one another despite the ways we don’t measure up, we are incarnating Christ in that relationship. We are becoming a tangible example of how Christ loved us.

Music is beautiful because it shows elements of God that are mysterious, yet beautiful. Haunting, yet comforting. Foreign, yet blessedly familiar. Structured, yet as free as the flow of the ocean’s waves upon the shore. In music, we find a release, a breaking of tension that can unlock a place of peace for our souls. We can find a way to express emotions that words simply cannot personify. In music, we find a way to be ourselves, and to belong. In this, we are given even greater hints at the wonders of God. In Him, we can truly belong. In Him, all of our unruly emotions can be captured and made sense of. In Him, we find the most profound sense of peace.

The majesty of mountains cannot hope to compare with the glory of the One who can displace them with a flick of His thoughts. The ocean is power, and yet could be emptied by a word from His lips. The forests and plains personify life and rebirth- and yet, God is the only one who is capable of birthing or rebirthing anything. Snowfall can temporarily clothe the world in newness; God’s garment of unblemished purity is everlasting. In all things, He is more. He is bigger, stronger, and more effective. He is utterly ultimate.

All the things in this world that we find beautiful are, at their core, merely and simply echoes. They have so much worth…but only as they direct us to the One, True Source of beauty and life.

All things are echoes.

May we, as humans who have been clothed with incorruption, who have been given a second chance to have a million second chances, who have been given the gift of being made in the image of God…

may everything we do, big or small, be echoes of the beauty, majesty, power, and Love that is the sole providence of the one true God.

Certain things make me feel like I’m falling in love.

Certain things makes me know that I am loved.

Certain things makes me know that I was made to echo love.

May our lives be echoes.

Dust

I’ve always been a bit of a wanderer.

As a boy, and especially into my early teens, I was always captivated by the world around me; by nature. I remember being on Virginia Beach as a child, relishing the feeling of wet sand beneath my toes as I explored the horizon, venturing as far down the coast from my parents as my legs would allow. I remember always trying to swim past my brothers in the shallows- and laughing as I was carried back to the shore by the embracing arms of the ocean tide. I held seashells to my eager ears, marveling at the symphony of the big blue. The musician in me was watered by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

The woods are a particularly fascinating place when you’re a young lad. You waltz and walk through the forest; you are braving new territory, even if, in reality, you’re only yards from your own backyard. Every tree branch that has collapsed across your path is no branch at all; rather, it is your trusted blade, your storied sword with which you will vanquish all the foes that dare stand in opposition to your righteous boyhood. Every tree that rises against you from the ground is such a foe; you slash, stab, and parry, and, in a stunning display of swordsmanship, you disarm (or perhaps, de-branch) your opponent. As you leap from bank to bank, you are traversing Middle-Earth, escorting and leading Frodo and the Fellowship toward Mordor. You are a knight on his way to rescue the most beautiful princess in the land. Personally, I was Link, solving puzzles and fighting monsters in order to get the six medallions needed to rescue Zelda and free Hyrule. Above all, you are an explorer…you are wandering. You are dreaming. You are daring to believe something more than circumstance.

Though I’ve grown older, I still wander…but not in the way that I used to as a child.

Rather, I often find myself wandering through fields of green, pacing along lakesides, all while my flip flops leave a trail tracing where I’ve been…but giving no indication of any sort of destination. Truth be told, my wandering has been entirely directionless, for the most part. Rather, they are walks that are built upon communion and intimacy, rather than a desire to reach a certain point on the horizon. The Lord and I have been going on a lot of walks lately. I often find myself daydreaming as I walk…wandering feet are often the product of a wandering mind. Thus, I often catch myself in Midwest towns, upon the shores of vast bodies of water, at the tops of grey peaks, and swimming in the midst of saltwater rooms. However, my wandering was also spurred on by a heavy heart- by a confusion that needed to be taken before the King of Kings, before my Great Counselor, before my Best Friend. He certainly met me and journeyed with me, which I am immensely grateful for.

When you embark upon a journey, it’s a good idea to plan what you bring along, lest you find yourself overburdened or severely lacking in necessary items. Typically, when I set out from whatever port I find myself at home in, I bring my Bible and my water bottle; living water and H2O, if you will. However, I noticed something recently. When I’ve been wandering in warm weather, I tend to wear flip flops. I’d go barefoot, but I have a nasty history of pointy things finding their way into the soles of my feet. However, I tend to accost a fair number of stowaways on my journeys. As a boy, they were sticks that had proven themselves on the field of battle, or perhaps rocks that were my trophies and medals from a particularly long campaign. As an adult, I notice that my feet tend to get rather messy in my wanderings. I tend to accumulate a fair amount of dust on my feet. Although I set out to be with my Saviour on these excursions, I can’t help but bring along a bit of a mess.

My feet have been covered with dust.

In life, our journeys tend to accomplish the same task. No matter what we do, our paths will always have their little stowaways- especially if we find ourselves tramping through deserts and arid plains, so to speak. All too often, I have spent time on the plains of my life, swept by gale winds, pelted with rain and pebbles, barely able to see the ground in front of me. But I never give up. I always keep plodding on, regardless of the storm in my heart or my life. After all, those who turn back in the face of adversity might as well have never set out in the first place. The goal is intimacy with God, and thus, any dust we accumulate is entirely worth the price. However, the dust that cakes our feet slows us down, displaces our steps…and makes for a rather difficult time. Given enough journeys, perhaps we would lose our ability to wander entirely…and that is a rather frightening thought.

Humans were made from dust- dust that was breathed into by God. Dust was made into God’s image; we were not perfect…but still beautiful-reflections of the one true beauty in this world.

God made a beautiful thing out of the dust. However, the dust did not remain…dust. It changed. It was breathed into. It was made beautiful…and it became us.

I love that, within the gospel of John, chapter 13, Jesus stoops down, and, with the dignity of a servant (which is no dignity at all), begins to wash the feet of His disciples. Peter (it’s always Peter, by the way. He’s kind of “that guy” in Jesus’ disciples) initially refuses to let the Lord cleanse him, but Jesus quickly stifles his protests. He says, “Unless I wash you, you will have no part with me” (NIV). Peter, of course, quickly gives in, begging the Lord to wash his entire being, rather than simply his feet. I wonder if that’s why Jesus said “Unless I wash you,” rather than “your feet.” It went further than Peter’s feet, messy and dirty as they were. Jesus states that those who have been bathed still need their feet to be washed…I have to wonder if that has some more meaning than we initially think.

We as Christians have indeed been bathed- we are given new life, made into new creations, and given the very image of God to bear…we are indeed clean. However, in our journeys, our wanderings…our feet still get dirty.

Unless He washes us, we will have no part with Him.

My feet have been covered with dust.

Notice, too, that Peter determined his worth, how worthy he was to be washed by Jesus, not based upon who he himself was, but rather by where he had been, by his journey. However, Jesus saw much more than that. He saw his dear friend, his comrade, his brother, his disciple in whom He had and would invest so much. Peter, in his self-deprecation, was denying his very identity- how Jesus saw him- based upon his tangible self, the physical dust he carried with him.

I’ve been doing much the same.

I can clearly tell you about why the way I am is so new for me, about the wonderful journey the Lord has taken me on…but in many ways I still bear the dust of my wanderings, and I define myself all too often by where I’ve been, by what I’ve already accomplished, and by the scars of my past that have yet to fade…rather than by the reality of my son-ship and companionship with Christ.

The reality is, I will never be able to truly serve, to love those around me, or to fully glorify and follow my Lord unless I let Him wash my feet. Then I can do the same for others…then I can serve, and lower myself and do a bit of foot-washing.

The fact that we can do so for one another is absolutely humbling and beautiful. By lowering Himself the way He did, Jesus was serving in a way that a Master should never have to. He was dealing with cuts, and scars, and learning, forgiving, and accepting where His disciples had been-indeed, He had been with them all along-defining them not by their dust, but by their true selves.

Perhaps, once we are cleansed from the dust of our lives, we will know what it truly means to love and care for those around us, and what it truly means to follow the Lord. I would indeed be able to resume the wandering I did as a boy…indeed, I believe that we must all re-learn what it means to wander and dream. After all, as a dear friend of mine stated decades ago, not all who wander are lost.

If Jesus can turn dust into humans…then surely He can turn our dust into something beautiful. After all, He makes beautiful things out of the dust…and He makes beautiful things out of us. Perhaps, once we allow Him to wash our feet, our dust will be made into something beautiful….and we will finally be granted peace. We all have dust; whether it’s a giant cuff around our ankles or a slight discoloration of our feet, we have it. And it can all be purified and cleaned…if we take ourselves out of our comfortable places and allow Him to wash us properly.

I’m ready to wander without dust clinging to my footsteps.

Our wandering may not have a clear direction. We may not be able to see the horizon. We may not even know why we wander. All we must know is who we are wandering with, and who we are as we wander with Him- and, suddenly, journeys to distant shores aren’t quite so frightening.

For we may wander…but we are not alone.

I am utterly amazed at the care with which the Good Shepherd bathes the feet of His wandering sons and daughters. He binds up our wounds…He anoints our heads and feet with oil…and our cup surely overflows.

We were made from dust.

But that doesn’t mean we have to stay that way.

Indeed, we are not our own…for we have been made new.

And now that we are new…will we allow the Lord to finish His work and wash our feet?

Will I?

Will you?

Bellarive – “The Heartbeat”

In this day and age, it would be fairly easy (and is) for a band to make simple worship music to appeal to the masses and conform to the typical formula and feel of Christian worship music. Indeed, more often than not, people — even within the church –tend to be turned off by Christian music because it seems to be at a lower musical and lyrical caliber than most secular music. Enter Bellarive, an atmospheric worship band that hails from Orlando, Florida. They are relatively young, but are already garnering much attention through their unique blend of styles, deep, heartfelt lyrics, and energetic live show that is more worshipful than showy. They manage to blend elements of worship bands such as Leeland or Ascend the Hill with other artists such as Owl City and Mae (much of their music is very piano-driven) and, naturally, the result is an atmospheric, emotional work of astounding maturity and beauty, especially from a band that has only been around since about 2009.

Their most recent (released in 2012) full-length album, The Heartbeat, captures what it means to be a worship band in the modern age. The opening track, “Heartbeat”, starts things off with a high-energy beat, reminiscent of the rock band Ivoryline. However, Bellarive are masters of dynamics and thus the song itself moves dramatically throughout the verses and choruses. This is just one of many tracks that would be perfect for a corporate worship setting, along with “Love Has Found Us,” “Taste of Eternity” and “The Father’s Heart.”

Early on, perhaps one of the only flaws in the album becomes apparent to any who have much experience playing worship music in the modern church — namely, that because their music is so dynamic and complicated, it may be difficult for the average worship band to learn their songs in any amount of haste. This is particularly noticeable with the previously-mentioned songs, and is especially true for “Love Has Found Us”; however, as it remains unclear how much of their music Bellarive intended to be played by others (unlike other worship bands such as Hillsong United or Ascend the Hill), this may only be a marginal problem.

Lyrically, Bellarive does much to create songs that are relatable and sing-able, yet also manage to avoid the conventional method and lyrical format of most worship bands. They also have many songs that are significantly more personal in nature, such as the confessional-esque “Shine On” or the wonderful “I Know You,” which is told from the perspective of God calling His children to Himself. The final song on the album, “Stories”, is yet another song that could be played in the corporate worship setting, and indeed dynamically is structured perfectly for such a medium.

Perhaps the most stand-out track on the album is entitled “Tendons (The Release)”. The song starts out low and slow, with an emphasis on the simple chords and words, focusing on needing to see God at a new level and being held back by our flesh. This leads up to a spoken word section that is performed over music, driving upward in dynamic until it reaches a blistering and intense rise. This is perhaps the most epic and inspiring piece of the entire album. It comes to a conclusion with a simple refrain: “Light up the sky! Set our hearts on fire! Light up the sky! Let us see our Creator!” It could be said that this singular idea embodies all that Bellarive and “The Heartbeat” attempt to be. They are creations crying out to see their Creator. I rate this album a five out of five, a must-have for any modern Christian who wishes to have new worship music to show them more of their Lord, Jesus Christ.