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Posts Tagged ‘Heaven’

Like probably many of you I have met people who are fascinated, compelled, or drawn to Jesus, but some question or obstacle keeps them away. They may have heard from a Christian, “This is how it is – end of discussion. The Bible says it, so that settles it.”

Or they might have been taught that to follow Jesus, they had to go down a certain road and believe certain things, some of which they found problematic. What interests me is the power of questioning and the experience of solidarity in finding you’re not alone—of always wondering, “But what about that?” and then finding out, “Oh, other people feel the same way.”

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Rob Bell wrote a book back in March 2011 called Love Wins.  You may have heard of it.  The subtitle – A Book about  Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. If you haven’t read or heard of this book – its not a book about hell, fire and brimstone.  It’s a provocative book that upset lots of fundamentalist Christians.  For me, that was a compelling reason to get myself a copy.

The first chapter of Love Wins poses this interesting question:

If a missionary got a flat tire, and missed meeting with a nearby village, would this really mean that the villagers missed the only opportunity to hear about God, and would not be saved? Would a flat tire mean that they are all destined for hell?

This of course raises a couple of far more disturbing questions like:

Is your future in someone else’ s hands?

And then the next question:

Is someone else’s eternity resting in your hands?

Perhaps Rob’s purpose here is that we get loosened up with the questions – that the questions pull out us out of ourselves and wake us up, like a triple shot flat white coffee. It’s okay. There should be no fear in the questioning and no hesitation in the asking. We can go there. The biblical tradition, particularly the Hebrew tradition, is actually filled with questions, all the way to Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Many people are afraid to question their faith, having been taught that this is tantamount to either rejecting or losing one’s faith. The best evidence against this line of thought is the Bible itself, in which both God and all the main characters ask many, many troubling questions.

Asking questions is, in fact, a means God often uses to help us rid ourselves of limited and wrongheaded notions about God, so that we catch a larger and expanded vision of who we worship. The bible is full of questions, and full of people who have many doubts and need answers.

By the way – if you’re still stuck or maybe uncomfortable about the two questions following the flat tyre question above then the answers are “most likely no – God has a Plan B.”

Perhaps questions are actually one of the ways we meet the Divine. Somewhere in here we find our own questions and we learn that we are never alone.
And the quest – behind the question is even more interesting and compelling than the questions.

May you, my brothers and sisters remember this week that the questions of life may be more important than the answers. May you recognize your quest behind the questions and may this take you to a place where you can sit in wonder and awe at what the Divine is doing in your life and how much he loves you.

Grace and Peace.

The Quest Behind the Questions

The questions that we ask
Follow the answers the we seek
They riddle the hours of our lives
As our days become our weeks

As we strive to understand
The complexities of life
We miss the here and now
As our worries lead to strife

As we wonder how the past
It teaching us the way
We miss the burning bush
As we rush past it every day

It is not the ‘why’ the matters
As we seek to know the reason
Don’t we just accept the sun
As it moves through every season?

Perhaps the ‘what’
Is the one compelling question
As it grounds us in the present
With it’s beckoning suggestion

That perhaps these questions comfort us
As we seek what keeps us safe
As our present hope is anchored
On our the object of our faith

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Gladiator is an epic historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe who portrays the fictional character, loyal Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius, who is betrayed when the emperor Marcus Aurelius’s ambitious son, Commodus, murders his father and seizes the throne. Maximus flees and hides his identity by becoming a slave and a gladiator.

Maximus rises through the ranks of the gladiatorial arena to avenge the murder of his family and his emperor. Eventually, Maximus journeys back to Rome to confront his archrival.

Having arrived at the Colosseum, their team is put in a match that is meant to be a reenactment of the Battle of Carthage. Maximus and his teammates are on foot, armed with spears and shields, against a cohesive and well-equipped force of mounted fighters and archers on chariots. By means of Maximus’s leadership, however, the team is able to upset their opponents. Commodus comes down personally to congratulate Maximus on his victory. Maximus prepares to kill Commodus, but at the last moment decides against it.

At this point, Maximus removes his helmet and reveals himself to Commodus. Maximus promises to exact vengeance against Commodus, who is still in shock to learn that Maximus is still alive. While Commodus yearns to kill Maximus on the spot, he cannot; doing so would cause the watching crowd to develop distaste for his leadership, since the crowd loves Maximus.

This is a powerful moment in the movie and like all movies there is a story here that is far too familiar and meaningful. Once Maximus reveals his identity, and who and what defines him, the fear on Commodus’s face is palpable. This is exactly what happens when we know our identity, and when we let God define us – then the accuser has no more arrows, and has to flee. Here’s the moment:

 

We have a gladiator, someone who fights for us, our own Champion of Heaven. It is only when we let God define us and name us that we really find out who we are, why we are here and can begin to dare greatly in the arena. God calls us to this place, the question is though – will we follow?

May you this week come to know more clearly the Champion of Heaven. Ask God your real name, ask Him what he thinks of you and then listen for His voice, not yours, not others – just His. May this moment define you.

Champion of Heaven

I have heard you calling my nameimage
Through the rolling thunder and the rain
For you I live, to the end of my days
Champion of Heaven
You call my name

I have felt you beating my heart
You breathe my life into your art
For you I praise, day after day
Champion of Heaven
You move in me

I have seen you in my dreams
Flowing colours in braided streams
For you I pray, night after day
Champion of Heaven
You build my dreams

I have held your hand in mine
We will never run out of time
For you are here, year after year
Champion of Heaven
You walk with me

I have tasted, I have seen
Of your glory where you’ve been
For you are for me, not against me
Champion of Heaven
You make the way

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Anyone can walk in the miraculous. If you’ve ever wanted to live and walk in the supernatural power of God, you have the power to activate this and begin today. All it takes is to invite the full force and weight of heaven to fall behind your life.

It is truly possible for us to walk in the divine, and Christ came to show us the way. It is by rediscovering our true identity in Him that we can begin to move into the promises of God regarding the miraculous. The supernatural can be imparted in us by changing the way we think, live and act.

If you are not walking in the miraculous, you’re living far below your birthright. It is possible to lay a carefully constructed biblical foundation for walking in the supernatural power of God. When you invite Heaven to invade earth you experience miracles every day, as miracles  happen every day. All we need are eyes to see.

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We all recognise the heaven to earth moments, where we know that something extraordinary has just happened but we have no words to describe it. Kim Walker-Smith from Jesus Culture describes this moment:

So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
when I think about the way
He loves us
Oh how He loves us

The act of Heaven invading earth can be summed up in Isaiah 61:1:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.

God has sent Jesus on a mission. He has great news for us. God has sent Him to restore and release something. That something is you. He came to give us back our hearts and set us free.

When we realise this freedom the full and mighty weight of heaven is behind us. Our job is just to do, there is no try.

May you this week call out your future, do what God has given you. As you walk in this freedom, notice what you do with it. Notice what happens when The full weight and power of Heaven is behind you. May you this week carry out the will of God here on earth as it is in Heaven.

Heaven invades earth

Calling out the future
From beyond the shadowy veil
Lifting eyes to heaven
As the ship begins to sail

Speaking out the not yet
In between the past and now
Connecting people with their God
Crafting the where and how

Bringing about focus
As heaven invades our land
Abundant and in excess
Gods favour by His hand

The words I speak are life
Like seeds that fall on ground
If you listen they will grow
And weave light all around

So as these words fall on this page
And life transforms from art
May the full force and weight of heaven
Today invade your heart

Finally, here’s the song that you knew was coming

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Heaven on Earth

William Blake would have to be my favourite poet of all time.  His depth of poetry is without equal.  What I really like about Blake is that he is the master of the poetic form and content. Blake’s poems inspire me. I have many favourites, one of them is Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is a short poem written in 1804  from William Blake’s collection of writings known as the Prophetic Books. Today it is best known as the hymn Jerusalem, with music written by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916. Check out he video clip at the end of this post.

It has been said that the poem Jerusalem was inspired by a legend that a young Jesus, accompanied by his uncle Joseph of Arimathea, a tin merchant, travelled to the area that is now England and visited Glastonbury during Jesus’ lost years. The legend is linked to an idea in the Book of Revelation (3:12 and 21:2) describing a Second Coming, where Jesus establishes a new Jerusalem. The Christian Church in general, and the English Church in particular, used Jerusalem as a metaphor for Heaven, a place of universal love and peace.

In the most common interpretation of the poem, Blake implies that a visit of Jesus would briefly create heaven in England, in contrast to the “dark Satanic Mills” of the British Industrial Revolution. An interesting story.  Could it be possible that like William Blake, we could invite Heaven to Earth?

Because with every action, comment, conversation, we have the choice to invite Heaven or Hell to Earth. ~ Rob Bell

What do you think about this?  Could Heaven really be a place on Earth, not now – but sometime? What’s your view of Heaven?

Jerusalem

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land

~ William Blake

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At the height of my short-lived career as a busker I once made $60 in one hour on the streets of Wellington.  Just me, my bright yellow basket ball boots, my John Lennon reflective sunglasses,  my Grandad’s green hat, and my acoustic guitar.  Believe it or not the combination worked!  That was 20 years ago, while I was a studying at University.

I had a standard set of songs that I’d learnt which included a few well-known numbers by Dire Straits, Don McLean, Tom Petty, Simon & Garfunkel – The Boxer was my favourite, and even the odd Christian song just to mix things up a bit – that makes it evangalism, right? Just as well I’m saved by grace rather than works.

Now it’s 20 years later and I’m 41 – the same age that my Dad was when I was born, unsurprisingly he’s now 81.  Where did those years go? Reminds me of a verse from my favourite busking song:

Now the years are rolling by me
They are rockin’ evenly
I am older than I once was
And younger than I’ll be and that’s not unusual.
~ The Boxer (Simon & Garfunkel)

One of my son’s is now 10, he plays the guitar and is fast learning a selection of busking songs.  After regailing him with my many busking stories, he’s keen to go out and earn some money –  he wants me to go with him.  I’m quite excitied about the idea and getting back into the busking groove, and besides, kids are great to take busking because you always get more money – we’ll still have to split it though.  

It’s interesting to pause and reflect on how life moves on, the beginnings, middles and the endings, and how the years just seem to disappear in the busyness we call life.  Sometimes life can feel like a rollercoaster and then other times it can feel a bit like Groundhog Day.

Despite how will feel about life, I believe no experience is wasted and each experience teaches us something new, whether we realise it at the time, later or never.  We may not use all these learnings in our lifetime but it may just help us prepare for the next life.  Perhaps our journey through life is really just preparing us for our new beginning.  Here’s some  of my thoughts on this. I hope it strikes a chord with you.

New Beginning

In the end
every tear is collected
dried and pressed into the book
by the one who cried with us

In the end
we are not forgotten
by the one who remembers
how he made us to love him

In the end
we are saved by grace
even though we use deeds
to work out our faith

In the end
every sacrifice ignored
is noticed by the one
who matters most

In the end
our journey is not in vain
as we step in his footprints
that will lead us home

In the end
we will all find our place
where life completes us
for our new begining

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What will heaven be like?  The Bible mentions heaven quite a bit, but is very short on the detail. Maybe one of the reasons for this is that it is just not possible to understand the full nature of heaven from a human perspective. Since heaven is where God is, it must contain more physical and temporal dimensions than those that exist on earth. We cannot see or even imagine, what these extra dimensions might be like.  Recently String Theorists (a special breed of Physicists) believe that they may have discovered be up to 11 dimensions, some of which we can’t see or even experience. 

Sometimes  I think I’ve caught a glimpses of these dimensions.  How?  I’m not sure, maybe in connections with others, maybe in those experiences that I know just can’t be coincidental.  Those times when I know I can see something, but have not seen it.  I hear something, but can’t quite make it out. Sometimes I  just know that I have had an encounter with God but am unable to explain what it was to someone else.  Sound familiar? 

I believe that God wants us to show us glimpses of himself and heaven to remind us that we are spiritual beings, to remind us that he gives us hope,  to remind us that he made us in his own image, and to remind us that one day will be with him in heaven.

 
Eyes To See 
 
Let me show you something
As I paint my sunset in the sky
Do you have eyes to see
Have you stopped to wonder why

Let me show you something
Through the thunder and rain
Do you have ears to hear it
Have you heard me call your name

Let me show you something
As I shift your world today
Notice how space departs from time
As I create a brand new way

Let me show you something
As I speak light into your soul
Do you feel me beat your heart
Do you want to be made whole

Open the eyes of your heart
Align your soul to me
Let me transform your mind
Then you will have eyes to see

However, as it is written:
What no eye has seen, 
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived 
the things God has prepared for those who love him
~ 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

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What Dreams May Come, directed by Vincent Ward, won an Oscar in 1998 for its expansive and impressive visual vistas depicting heaven.

Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams), a doctor, with his artist wife Annie (Annabella Sciorra) suffered through the loss of their children, who were killed in a car accident. Although Annie’s all-consuming depression nearly destroyed their marriage, the couple rebuilt their relationship and are now living out a comfortable middle age.

Stopping one night to help a motorist in a wreck, Chris is hit by a car and killed. At first confused about where he is, Chris meets Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.), an Angel guide who helps him to realise he’s passed away and that he must move on to Heaven. After trying with  limited success to communicate with the devastated Annie, Chris moves on and discovers Heaven can become whatever he visualises.

Chris’s creates his paradise as the paintings of his wife, and he awaits the day when Annie will eventually join him. Tragedy strikes again when Annie commits suicide and goes to Hell. Although it is rarely done, Chris insists on traveling there, risking his eternal soul to save the woman he loves. Accompanied part of the way by Albert and another guide called The Tracker (Max von Sydow), Chris finally reaches Annie in Hell, and must convince her of the truth in order to release her from her dark prison, before he himself is also trapped with no way out.

This movie is one of my all time favourites.  I like the idea of Heaven being a colourful landscape , that’s my kind of paradise. I also believe that hell is a place without God.  Again the movie is pretty accurate to my idea of hell.  It also reminds me of how we can paint our own heaven or hell on earth.  It’s our choice which world we live in. 

So what about you?  Where are you living? I watched this movie again a few months ago and felt inspired to write about it.

Colour your Heaven

If you asked me to paint my heaven,
I’d choose colours of red, yellow and blue,
And create a vast vivid landscape,
Of a place I somehow knew.

If you asked me to play my heaven,
I’d use the key of G.
With a minor fall, and a major lift,
To sustain life in harmony.

If you asked my to write my heaven,
I’d use words of depth and rhyme,
To draw you in to my Maker’s world,
Where space departs from time.

If you asked me to share my heaven,
I’d speak the greatest story ever told,
Of Jesus who died for me and you,
So we could walk the streets of gold. 

So what colour is your heaven?
What is the best musical key?
To write and paint your heaven,
For those who need to see?

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C.S. Lewis was a close friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, and both authors attended Oxford University. In his memoir Surprised by Joy, Lewis mentions he was baptised in the Church of Ireland at birth, but fell away from his faith during his teenage years. Owing to the influence of Tolkien and other friends, at the age of 32 Lewis returned to Christianity.  His conversion had a profound effect on his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity brought him wide acclaim.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a  novel written by C. S. Lewis. It was originally published in 1950 and set in the 1940s. It is the first-published book of The Chronicles of Narnia and is the best known book of the series.

Some have said that the main plot of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is an allegory of Christ’s crucifixion.  The Lion, Aslan sacrifices himself for Edmund, a traitor who may deserve death, in the same way that Christ sacrificed Himself for sinners. The cross may be suggested by the Stone Table. As with the Christian Passion, it is women (Susan and Lucy) who tend Aslan’s body after he dies and are the first to see him after his resurrection. The significance of the death contains elements of both the ransom theory of atonement and the satisfaction theory: Aslan suffers Edmund’s penalty (satisfaction), and buys him back from the White Witch, who was entitled to him by reason of his treachery (ransom). In Christian tradition, Christ is associated with the Biblical “Lion of Judah”, mainly on the strength of Revelation 5:5.

C.S. Lewis was a literary genius.  Through his stories he has painted images of earth and heaven that have shaped my thinking about my faith.  He has inspired me to develop my own writing and poetry.

What about you?  Who has inspired you along the way in your journey of faith?

Here’s my reflection on the writing process and my version of heaven.

Winter’s Heaven

Beyond the frontier
Of our temporal world,
We dare to dream and
Say the unsayable.

In this break for freedom
Form and substance are forged,
In the furnace of our heart
And beaten into a badge of honour.

This emblem of courage is worn
When we use words,
To describe a journey
To a destination unseen by our eyes.

In this winter Narnia
Reality and perception,
Blend into a heavenly forest
That we still pine and search for.

Poetic grace creates an open door
Through which we can all enter,
And experience Aslan’s kingdom
Where the streets have no name.

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. 
~  C.S. Lewis.

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A way out in space lies the Whirlpool Galaxy (also known as M51). It has been described by scientists as an interacting  grand-design spiral galaxy that is estimated to be 23 million light-years from the Milky Way Galaxy  in the constellation Canes Venatici. It is one of the most famous galaxies in the sky.

The Whirlpool galaxy was discovered in 1773 by Charles Messier.  In 2005, the Hubble telescope noticed something strange. In the middle of this Galaxy is a strange formation. That formation, is a cross. Some may think it looks like an x, but take a closer look:

That looks like a cross to me. One reason that it does not look like an X to me is because the vertical part is bigger than the horizontal part. It seems like its meant to be viewed from an angle, as if the camera was below the direction that the formation was facing. Either way, I see a cross.  Actually I see something more. I see heaven.

So what? (you may be asking).  I just think that the odds of an object (M51) in space 23 million light years away looking like a cross is quite remarkable. 

I believe that this galaxy and the rest of the universe was created by an intelligent designer.  His name is God.  He knows the name of every star in the universe because he created them and holds them all in the palm of his hand.  He is a big God.  He is beyond words. He is indescribable. He was there in the beginning, he is here now, and he will be around forever.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep,
and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
~ Genesis 1:1-3.

 So what does this mean to you?  Do you see an ‘X” or a cross?  What’s your point of reference?  Here’s my reflection on this:

The Celestial Cross

In a galaxy far far away
I’ve seen heaven in the sky,
A long long way out
Then a long large way up high.

At the far end of the universe
Did God place heaven there for me?
Beyond the reach of human eyes
One day for us to see?

Set in this celestial galaxy
There lies a perfect cross,
Beyond the gamble of chaotic chance
That evolution has won and lost.

So look to the sky and count the stars
I wonder if you can?
Find your heaven, then join the dots.
It’s all part of the Master’s plan

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Lord of the Dance

I’m going to step right outside my comfort zone and write about something you may not expect I’d write about – dance. Yes, that’s right, dance.   Luckily for you, I know a bit about dance (a little bit). 

Believe or not I once had Rock and Roll dance lessons, I actually became quite good on the dancefloor.  It’s really easy for a man to be good at Rock and Roll dancing, it’s a simple box step and that’s it. A friend of mine, let’s call him Tony, as that is his name, had a real problem with the box step and had to go to a special box step class to catch up.  He got it eventually.

Life is a lot like dancing.  You grow up watching and learning, then you practice it, then you get quite good at it.  Sometimes you fall over and then have to pick yourself up and start dancing again, or maybe even learn  a new dance.  It’s all very fluid, creative, and there are generally no rules. 

Jesus also danced upon this earth. His life has been compared to a dance in the hymn Lord of the Dance, written by English songwriter Sydney Carter in 1967.

Dance then wherever you may be
For I am the Lord of the dance, said He
And I’ll lead you on, whenever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said He.

When I get to heaven I think I’d like to dance for Jesus.  Just like Mercy Me in their song Imagine,  I can only imagine what that would be like. 

So, if life is a dance ,what type of dance are you doing right now?  A slow waltz, a fast jig, a crazy hip-hop, or maybe a belly-dance?  Spend some time today thinking about your dance. Here’s my reflection on dance.

Lord of the Dance

I have no idea
What my eyes will see
When I stand in your presence
When you cast your eyes on me

Will I dance for you Jesus
As my heart and soul are free
Will I lose myself in you
For all eternity

Will I hear you speak
As my questions all run out
You will be my answer
As you chase away my doubt

Will I dance for you Jesus
As my heart and soul are free
Will I lose myself in you
For all eternity

Will I will fall at you feet
As you love flows over me
At last we’ll be together
For all eternity

Finally, here’s a great version I found of  The Lord of the Dance – be inspired!

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On a pale blue dot
In a sunbeam of light,
Our tiny earth
Spins day into night.

Our dot is so small
In a universe so vast,
We think we’re immortal
Forever we’ll last.

We live and we die
In peace and through war,
We all exist on this dot
But do we love any more?

So who made this dot
And moved space through time,
To make the earth spin
On no more than a dime?

It’s so easy to forget
To remember it seems,
Our mote of dust
Suspended in a sunbeam.

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Colour Your Heaven

If you asked me to paint my heaven,
I’d choose colours of red, yellow and blue,
And create a vast vivid landscape,
Of a place I somehow knew.

If you asked me to play my heaven,
I’d use the key of G.
With a minor fall, and a major lift,
To sustain life in harmony.

If you asked my to write my heaven,
I’d use words of depth and rhyme,
To draw you in to my Maker’s world,
Where space departs from time.

If you asked me to share my heaven,
I’d speak the greatest story ever told,
Of Jesus who died for me and you,
So we could walk the streets of gold. 

So what colour is your heaven?
What is the best musical key?
To write and paint your heaven,
For those who need to see?

Read Full Post »

Perception

Stars at night hang in the sky,
And plead with us to wonder why.
Our existence, and our role
Who we are, and are we whole.

Do we perceive our reality,
Or are we blinded by captivity.
Are they stars, or holes we see
Do they twinkle in harmony.

What is behind the stars we see,
The brightest light – something heavenly
Are stars really just pin pricks of light,
Penetrating the darkest night.

What do you see, and what don’t you hear
Are your stars far, or are they near
As the darkness draws you in –
Is it light, that blots out your sin

Just like Pythagoras, change my view
And help me to be light – like you.
To look for matter, and not for lack
To stay in light, not paint it black.

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