Home Part 2

According to the all-knowing Google, nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. Such poetic words for such an intense emotion. Have you ever been at a loss for words for the emotions that you were feeling? After having a great experience, I would find my mind wandering scrolling through my memories and feeling my heart miss that time. My Brazilian friend taught me a term that helps to describe this emotion. The term is Saudade. It is defined as a dreamy wistfulness. Where nostalgia is a missing of something in the past, saudade can define a longing of something that has never happened.

With that being said I want to ask you a question, what is the term for longing or missing something that you didn’t even know existed. Your imagination is unable to comprehend this place or state of being. Is it possible to have nostalgia or saudade for the future or something that your mind and heart have never experienced? How do we describe that desperate desire for something that is indescribable. What is it? Why does my heart and mind drift towards that unknown?

I’ve had these questions. I’ve had these emotions. A belief that there was something more than what I already knew, and hope that that something was more beautiful than I could describe. You understand this feeling too, don’t you? You’ve felt it before. You’ve been there--whether you were in nature or sitting in your room, with tears in your eyes and clasping your chest not knowing why you missed this… thing, but knowing that you did.

In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul talks about the visible and the invisible. I remember working at summer camp thrilled to be surrounded by all my friends and surrounded with inexpressible joy but a slight sadness in the back of my mind. That sadness coming from the knowledge that one day this was going end, and dealing with that end was slightly unbearable so I would continue to push that in the back of my head. Everything here on earth comes to an end. All the visible things are temporary. With every freshman year is a senior year; with every sunrise there is a sunset, and with every hello there is a goodbye. And then that’s it, the end of an era. I’m here to tell you that despite this sad reality there is a joyful truth. Even though the visible is temporary the invisible is eternal. That longing in the deepest crevice of your soul… the one that hopes for no goodbyes and hopes for eternal hellos exists. I’m here to tell you that never-ending joy is achievable and it’s even easier than you think.

So what is it? What is that thing? It’s home. It’s rest,… it is a place and a person. What your heart craves can be found in Revelation 21:4. It is there that we read about that beautiful promise that gives us comfort. A place that is almost unimaginable, no more tears no more ache, no more pain, no more goodbyes. All things that make us sad vanished forever. Fortunately, that’s not all that promised. In the verse just before we read the most beautiful promise ever given, it is that Jesus will be there with us, Jesus our Home.

The origin of the word nostalgia comes from the Greek nostos. The definition of nostalgia means homesickness, but in the original Greek you can find that the meaning of the word was homecoming. Think about that. Homecoming. A return. Dear Friend, we are almost there, almost returning to where we were always meant to be. Keep the faith, keep hope, we are almost Home.

Chantal Williams recently graduated from Andrews University as a doctor of physical therapy, and has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2011.


Is Jesus the Best Option?


Is Jesus the Best Option?

It’s well established and I’m sure you’ve heard it before - God is love - Jesus loves you.

So what do you do with that? How does hearing that God loves you make you feel?

Perhaps you feel like there’s no way he could love somebody like you. Perhaps you feel like ok cool, he loves me but that doesn’t help my friend problems. Perhaps you’re so upset with your current circumstances that God’s love feels empty, secondary, tertiary…to the pain you’re feeling - right now.

I struggle with the idea of God’s love constantly. Stephanie and I are grad students finishing up our last weekend at Andrews University in Michigan and just last week, I was doubting that God truly cared about what I was going through. It wasn’t even that serious - I think I had a lot of homework and a headache - I am a weak man. But it felt really serious at the time so I was angrily looking in the Bible for some kind of answer. 

I stumbled into John chapter 6, and I was reading about all of the amazing miracles and signs that Jesus did for the people around Him like, feeding 15,000 or so people (if you include women and children, which Jesus totally did), walking on water, and claiming to be the source of eternal life. All of these absolutely not normal events took place for those around Jesus to see and observe - and what happens?

Verse 66 says, "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”

This doesn’t make sense. Why would his followers abandon him after he did all of these miraculous, visible, tangible miracles in their lives?

We ask this question, but we face the same situation today: We know God has worked in our past. We know God has amazing promises for our future. Yet, we know that we are still suffering right now.

So now we have to reconcile our feelings with our thoughts. We have to acknowledge that God loves us and wants the best for us while we’re in pain. Yikes, man. Much easier said than done. I can relate to what the mass of Jesus’ followers asked him in verse 60, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”

But in my confusion, in my time of doubt, Jesus doesn’t sit idly by far away in Heaven. He intentionally goes out of His way to come to me personally in order to love me to Himself. Jesus sees what’s happening your life. He sees the hurt, he sees the difficulty with friends, he sees the fear of the future, he sees your loneliness, your anxiety, your talents, your everything - and He hurts and celebrates right alongside you. He loves you in the good and the bad.

But after all of the things that God did and does for you, He asks you the same heart-wrenching question that He asked his 12 closest friends, “Do you want to go away as well?”

Oof. I see this question and I know how I’m supposed to answer…but the claims that Jesus makes are straight up crazy. Sometimes I wonder what would I be like if I didn’t choose Jesus.

But then I see how Peter responds to this question. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Not so hidden in Peter’s response is a wave of doubt. That’s relatable. He’s wondering if Jesus really is all He claims to be. He’s feeling confused and unsure - but he’s honest. He basically says I guess so, God. I’m going to stick with you because you’re my best option. I have nowhere to go that’s better.

As I was reading this I realized that I’m more like a crowd member that abandoned Jesus than I am like Peter. God provided the means and the time for Stephanie and I to thrive at Andrews University, and all I could do was complain about it. 

But weirdly enough, I also can relate to what Peter said. When things happen in life that are horrible (pretty sure homework doesn’t actually kill you), I am tempted to search for answers elsewhere when God doesn’t take me out of my suffering like I want Him to.

But Peter’s question reverberates through my mind in the midst of my doubts - God, where else would I go?

So the simple conclusion that I’ve come to is that

Jesus is the best option. 

Look. God values your choice so much. So much. Your relationship with him is not dependent on being in a spiritual environment, having the right friends, or saying the right things. Those are all good things! But your choice to love Jesus each day is yours and yours only. It’s deeply personal, but it’s also simultaneously a community, a family, a taste of heaven.

However, here’s the hard reality: There’s another side that’s the complete opposite of what Jesus wants for you in your life. This other side is actively fighting for your decisions too. Maybe you didn’t realize that your life is so important that literal supernatural beings of light and of darkness are fighting to prove that what they are providing you is best. Your decisions and your choices are like graduate degree diplomas (sorry, graduating in a few days and that’s totally how I feel) that are worth any price. 

So yes, Jesus loves you. But the reality is that God gave us the ability to not love Jesus back. 

Even before Jesus came to the Earth, Moses understood this:

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life,

Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Moses makes the decision seem so obvious. Who in their right mind would want to choose curses and death?? 

Here’s the thing - a life without choosing Jesus is choosing the bad stuff that Moses mentioned. By not choosing Jesus, you’re still making a choice.

The good news is that you’re never really alone in this choice making process. Not really. Jesus is seeking you out, he’s romancing you, sending you the best Valentine’s day card you’ve ever read. He’s wanting to spend the rest of eternity with you. And that’s exciting!! (You know, I have this folder of really dumb Christian memes on my phone and I can’t wait to talk to Jesus in person about all of the absolute nonsense his people get into.)

Listen, I just can’t wait!

I may be entirely biased, but I’m confident that Jesus is the best option. And the beautiful thing is that one option, one choice has such a cascading effect on the rest of your life. 

Because what is character if not a compilation of choices made over and over again? If you choose Jesus constantly, then how can you not become more like Him?

Who, or what do you choose to love? It’s important because who you love decides what home is for you. As you go about the rest of this quarter, this semester, or whatever kind of time frame your years are divided into, panicking about deadlines, worrying about this thing or that, remember that God has blessed you with the opportunity of life with the choice of whether or not to love him back. He’s already proven that He loves you.

So now the choice is yours. What’re you going to do with it today?

Jonny has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2009. He is currently about to complete the MDiv. program at the Andrews University Theological Seminary (Hype!)


The Housewarming


The Housewarming


I’m on a date with a plate of Totino’s pizza rolls when he crashes through my window.

It’s kind of like the movies, I guess. I scream. Glass flies into my living room. He screams.

He flies into the corner of my coffee table. We both scream some more.

For a minute, it’s silent, save for the wind blowing through the gaping hole in my window.

I rise and approach, prepared to knock him unconscious with my paper plate. He’s massive. A sumo wrestler, honestly, but instead of baby oil, he has a solid layer of hair. A fur coat. He’s got more ink on him than a coloring book, accentuating his grapefruit-sized biceps.

I give the unidentified flying object a little nudge with my foot. No movement. I try a little harder this time. Still won’t budge. I kick him like a soccer ball. Nothing. I’m about to declare the time of death when the moaning begins.

Imagine the whimpers of a stray dog, except the dog is a rhinoceros and the rhinoceros hasn’t eaten in five days and he’s actually a PTA mom on a mission to hunt and destroy. In one cry, the sound barrier is broken from an 800-square-foot flat in Chicago.

He roars some incomprehensible swear as he slowly looks up at me, and that’s when I see the gash across his forehead. I say gash because it sounds medically correct, but really it’s more of a small canyon. A fountain of blood is streaming down his nose and onto my carpet. This is not good because a) now the landlord is going to kill me, and b) I’m not good with blood, and I can feel my head start to swim. But his head wound doesn’t stop to consider my feelings (rude), and I can’t call for backup because I couldn’t pay the phone bill this month. So I try to pull on my very small knowledge of first aid.

“Lay down or something,” I order him, my voice shaking (with confidence, obviously). He stays hunched over, so it soon becomes my job to try to roll this refrigerator of a man onto his back.

“You could help, you know,” I tell him, my hands sinking into his belly fat. He scowls. With a mighty flop reminiscent of a walrus, he finally flips, and I rush to find some sort of tourniquet.

Soon I’m plugging up Niagara Falls with a Martha Stewart Spa Fashion hand towel. I find that I only feel the need to puke about four times, which is pretty impressive.

When I took my single ladies’ self-defense class, they taught me how to aim for the crotch, guard your handbag, all that jazz. They did not tell me how one should respond if, hypothetically, a 300-pound-intruder is is writhing in pain on your living room floor.

So I ask him, innocently, if there’s anything he needs— and he starts muttering a grocery list of drug names that I would not find at my neighborhood Walgreens.

“I’m gonna have to stop you there,” I tell him when he starts mentioning some mushrooms. “Is Tylenol okay?”

He nods, then winces with regret as he does.

“Okay, well, if I’m getting up, you’re going to have to hold your skin in place.” I direct his plate-sized hand to his blood mop, then head to the junk drawer.

“You made me drop my pizza rolls, you know,” I huff as I rustle through paper clips and coupons.

Incoherent grunting echoes from the living room.

I come back holding the pill in one hand and the bottle in the other. He takes the bottle and proceeds to empty it into his mouth.

“I don’t think the FDA would approve of... okay. You know what? Go bananas.” He takes this as permission to swallow them all dry.

Seconds later, he’s out like a light.

He doesn’t wake up until I start breaking out the Mickey Mouse band-aids. That’s when he jerks upright and starts sniffing the air— which confuses me, until I realize he’s tracking down the ramen I made while he was knocked out. I try to hide the container, but when he starts drooling, I hand it over. He doesn’t seem to care, or even notice, that it’s half-empty. He just gives me these huge anime eyes of disbelief until I tell him to go to town.

While he slurps and I stick a Goofy on his eyebrow, I make a little small talk. “I never got your name, sir.”

He turns to me with a noodle stuck in his mustache. “You can call me Reggie.”

I peel the back off of a Minnie Mouse. “And, uh, Reggie? If you don’t mind me asking, seeing as I live here and pay the rent, why did you break into my apartment?”

“I needed a place to stay.”

“Mmhm. And at any point— the climb up three flights of the fire escape, the moments before you body-slammed my window— did it not occur to you that someone might be living here?

Trying to have a nice night in?”

 He straightens a little, like he’s trying to defend his dignity, while broth dribbles down his chin. “Ma’am, I never meant to scare you. Straight up? I’m homeless and I’m cold. And I swear, I thought this unit was empty.” He hesitates.

“You know why? Kid, your place— you ain’t got nothing. You got a coffee table but no couch, no TV. You got a sink but no real plates. Your lights are off. So’s your heater. You don’t have magnets on the fridge, photo albums on the coffee table, those little plants on the windowsill. Maybe this is a house, but it’s not a home, you know?”

I’m suddenly self-conscious in front of the homeless giant and the Pluto bandaid on his nose. “Point is, I honestly thought this place was empty. So I went for it.”

He pauses to slurp, shakes his head incredulously, and continues with a full mouth. “Thanks for not selling me out, by the way. And for cleaning my cut. And for making me

ramen. I can’t remember the last time I had ramen.” I try to clarify that, no, that was not his. But I think I see a tear trail out of his eye, so I don’t push it.

He turns to look at me straight on. His eyes are softer now; his wrinkles are kinder. Now I can see that the tattoo on his neck reads For those I love, I will sacrifice.

“You’re either really stupid, or you’re, like, some sort of angel in disguise.” He looks at me with those anime eyes again, like I’m his fairy godmother or something.

He sighs. “I gotta do something for you.”

 “No, it’s okay, really. You don’t have to do that.” I’m understandably hesitant about letting the heavy-weight champ with a nose ring do any favors for me.

He doesn’t seem to grasp this idea. “I’m gonna steal you a sofa.”

I don’t think I process it at first, because I let him rise from the floor, staggering a bit, and do what I suppose are a few pre-theft stretches. But when it clicks that he wants to commit a bonafide crime to repay me, I jump to my feet and try helplessly to block the door from this seven-foot-bulldozer.

“No. No, you’re not. You really don’t have to do that. In fact, I insist you don’t-”

 “You don’t need to worry. I’ve stolen tons of furniture before, alright?” He tries to reassure me with a paternal look. Then he picks me up, sets me down a few feet away, and heads out the door.

This is how, no more than an hour later, I find myself frozen with horror as six more buffed, inked sumos form a tag team along the fire escape, hoisting a couch up three flights of stairs.

Reggie, sporting a number of Disney bandaids over Valley Forge, stands next to me as we gaze out my broken window and survey their work.

“I’ve done this before,” he grins, clapping a hand on my shoulder and thus knocking me several inches forward. Maybe it’s the Tylenol, maybe it’s kleptomania— he’s got so much energy now, I feel like he’s going to burst into 300 pounds of confetti.

I peer down at the crew, who’s now setting the sofa on the second-floor landing. It hits the metal with an echoing clang, and I’m surprised Chicago’s sleeping through this. I swear, every sound feels louder when you’re trying not to get booked for aiding and abetting.

“You guys okay?” I call out, asking less of an are-you-safe and more of a could-you-please-hurry-up-with-the-illegal-activity.

 The one they keep calling Butch gives me a toothless grin and two thumbs-up. If he’s got goosebumps in that sleeveless vest of his, he doesn’t let on. In fact, none of them seem to mind the below-freezing weather, or the sweat they’re breaking with this impromptu moving project.

The sofa inches its way to third-floor landing, and I’m introduced to the lead guys— Butch, Pops, and Snooki, the roller derby queen. Together, they hoist the tail end of the couch through my broken window while Reggie steers the helm. Snake Eyes, Bloodhound, and Rex, the spotters, crawl through soon after. In other words, I end up with a larceny crew of seven bodybuilders standing around my apartment, each wiping their sweat on my blood-stained towel.

“Ta-da!” Reggie’s literally bouncing up and down with joy after we position the couch. The others follow suit, hopping until I’m sure they’re going to fall through the floor. It’s like watching the Seven Dwarves of WWE.

“Guys, this… this is really great.” And it is. I say it with sincerity. “But isn’t this whole thing technically illegal?”

“Technically only applies if you get caught,” Rex winks. “Which we won’t!” Bloodhound boasts.

“And even if we did— I mean, I’ve been arrested for worse. I wouldn’t mind doing time to thank you for saving my buddy’s life.” Pops smiles as he says it, and the others agree loudly with “amens” and “hallelujahs.” What kind of protest am I supposed to give against that?

I think I’m crying when I hear Reggie speak. “You’re not gonna get in trouble for sitting. Go on.”

I do, and I’m immediately showered in applause. Cheers and wolf-whistles echo off my walls. There’s more bouncing, more plaster falling from the ceiling. The whole thing makes me double over with laughter, the perfect kind that burns your abs and takes your breath away.

From there, the night looks like seven giggling giants, each taking turns flopping onto the newly acquired couch as spectators offer Olympic-style scores and eat through my Totino’s supply.

“See, now your place looks like a real home!” Reggie gestures to the couch as Snake Eyes goes for round number five.

I look around at them, each beaming ear to ear like I just won them the Super Bowl. I look at Butch pulling another box of pizza rolls from the fridge, Rex happily wiping the blood off my coffee table, Snooki laughing as she tries to perch on the windowsill.

A real home.

 It’s not about the couch, but I know exactly what he means.

Aubrey Gilliam is the second place winner of EnspireMe: Passion Project 2019 in the short story category.