What is Heaven?

Music has a unique ability to influence people. This influence is powerful enough that we often associate music with memories of a place, a person, or simply a season of our life. As I’ve been wrestling with the question What does it mean to be a music fan? I find that I’m more mindful of song lyrics and deeply interested in knowing what life circumstances have led musicians to write the songs they write.

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Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Brett Dennen. If you’ve never heard of him and you like Ray LaMontagne or Amos Lee, you would probably dig his stuff. I encourage you to check him out! Brett has a song titled Heaven that has been especially intriguing…

Beyond the rules of religion
The cloth of conviction
Above all the competition
Where fact and fiction meet

There’s No color lines or casts or classes
There is no fooling the masses
Whatever faith you practice
Whatever you believe

Heaven. Heaven.
What the hell is Heaven?
Is there a home for the homeless?
Is there hope for the hopeless?

Throw away your myth misconceptions
There ain’t no walls around heaven
There are no codes you gotta know to get in
No minutemen or border patrol

You must lose all earthly possession
Leave behind your weapon
You cannot buy your salvation
There is no pot of gold

(chorus)

Heaven ain’t got no prisons
No government no business
No banks or politicians
No armies and No police

Castles and cathedrals crumble
Pyramids and pipelines tumble
The failure keeps you humble
Leads us closer to peace

As I’ve contemplated the “story behind the song.” I’ve felt compelled to respond to Brett’s question: What the hell is Heaven? I’m currently in the process of writing a song that responds to that question. I think Brett’s thoughts on the topic capture some of the truth that I’ve come to know and my deep desire is that Brett would also come to know The Truth!

How would you respond to Brett’s question? How has music influenced you? Do you care about the life of the musician behind the music you’ve chosen as the soundtrack to your life?

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The Bride (Part 2).

So after holding many people in suspense (or maybe just myself) it is time to fully process what becoming a Bride meant to me. If you missed my earlier post, feel free to brush up on what I am talking about here.

During our engagement process, we were very excited about the wedding and daily consumed by the details of planning and preparing for such a mega-event. Although planning was time consuming, we made an intentional effort to not only focus on the details, but to focus on the process of preparing to be Husband and Wife. For me, this meant becoming Simeon’s Bride and over 7 months of engagement this process proved itself worthy, essential, and wonderful. From the moment Simeon placed my beautiful engagement ring on my finger I knew we were entering into something beyond ourselves, something that would require sacrifice, patience, unconditional love, and intentionality.

Over those few months we sought out mentoring relationships with other couples, learning opportunities from books like Love & Respect and Sacred Marriage, and marital counseling from our Pastor. We even attended a Six-week class on all things marriage at a church in another city. We were FULLY committed to learning as much as possible and preparing ourselves for marriage. We learned how to resolve conflict, the importance of respect in a relationship, the role of communication, and the ever needed presence of community to have a successful and joyous relationship. We will forever be grateful for the people that poured into us during that time.

However, the deepest impact in my heart came from another source. It wasn’t the classes, or the books, or the many conversations that truly prepared me to become a Bride, it was the supernatural experience of God’s design for the Bride that completely changed and overwhelmed (in a good way) my heart and Spirit.

Okay, you might be thinking, ” whoa, this girl is getting all cooky on us talking about supernatural things…” but hear me out. This was a once in a lifetime experience that becoming Simeon’s Bride allowed me to fully and deeply resonate with God’s design for each of us. So really, the process wasn’t supernatural at all, it was actually the natural revelation of what God intended from the beginning when he created us; that we would enter into a loving relationship with Him as His Bride.

Let me illuminate what I mean. One day, while driving from who knows where to who knows where, I was excitedly and anxiously counting down to the days to marriage. I could not WAIT to marry my Best Friend and experience all the great things about marriage that we would share. While I was voicing my anticipation to God, I felt this incredible love pour over me and I heard Him say, “You have been waiting so long to become Simeon’s Bride, now imagine how long I have been waiting for my Bride!” This revelation instantly took my breath away. I was AWED by God’s simple, yet complex statement about me, and all of us.

There are many scriptures that talk about us being the Bride and Jesus being the Bridegroom. There are also parables that Jesus taught that compare Heaven to a banquet table and a massive celebration. One of my favorite worship songs, by Phil Wickham, has the lyrics, “We’ll hear the wedding bells ring,  your Bride will enter in and we will sing, ‘You’re beautiful.'” I could go through the Bible and list many scriptures that illustrate my point, but to save time I would prefer to tell you what happened to me on my Wedding day that confirms for me God’s plan to claim us as His Holy, spotless, beautiful Bride.

After all of the preparing, planning, and excitement, October 1st finally arrived. I was finally getting to marry the man I had fallen in love with several years before. I could not be happier. We began the day with a getting ready party at a beautiful home on the Mission Viejo Lake. After that, the Bridal party drove to meet the Groomsmen in Modjeska Canyon as My Groom eagerly awaited my arrival. We then took lots of pictures and had a great time enjoying the last few hours before entering into marriage.

After our Modjeska Canyon photo shoot we were whisked away by our photographers to meet Simeon’s family at a park near the church to continue photos.

After the park photo shoot, it was time to head to the church where we would quickly take pictures with my Grandmother and Simeon’s Grandmother before the ceremony started. During this photo shoot, we used our “get-a-way” car as the backdrop. We had a beautiful 1960’s something Cadillac Seville to drive us after the wedding. As we were busy snapping away photos, I bent down to get closer to my grandmother and the back and side of my dress brushed against the front tire of the car.

Moments later I realized what had happened: My dress had tire grease spots all up the back and side from touching the car. I had my first (and only) stressful moment of the day. Seeing what happened, my Photographer quickly grabbed me and rushed me upstairs enlisting my Brides Maids to clean up the spots.

I was quite the sight. I was standing in front of a full length mirror with my best friends surrounding me. People were shouting out instructions and trying to figure out how in the world to get grease off a wedding gown. As I imagined the horror of walking down the isle with grease spots on my train, I took a good, long hard look at myself in the mirror and realized that the frown on my face was far worse than the grease on my dress. That’s when I remembered that I was not only Simeon’s Bride, but I was the Bride of the King. I raised my hands in worship and decided to have a change of heart. Out loud I prayed, “Lord, I know you care about this day and I know you care about my dress. If you wanted, you could heal these spots and take them away right now. You cover me in garments of salvation and garments of praise. I worship you and thank you for this day!” I then started to laugh and the whole atmosphere changed in the room.

Moments later, a dear friend of mine rushed upstairs with a scripture on her heart. I was sitting in front of the fan hoping to dry the wet spots from where we attempted to blot out the spots, but they still remained. My friend told me that she was waiting downstairs with other guests and she felt the Lord speak to her and told her to come and share something with me. She began by saying that she saw a vision of me walking into the ceremony and that I was beautiful. She saw Jesus stop me just before I walked in and he placed a gold necklace with a ruby or diamond heart around my neck. She said the heart was shinning brilliantly and she felt the Lord say that He was bringing healing to me on this day. Then, she read something from her Bible that blew me away, she read, “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a Bride adorns herself with jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10). That was it, the tears started flowing and I was overwhelmed with God’s love and goodness and His attention to every detail. I could tell you countless stories about Isaiah 61 and how God had used it multiple times to speak to me at pivotal moments in my life. This was just further confirmation of what my heart was beginning to understand: Eternally, I am His Bride and He loves me deeply, wholly, and has healed every blemish and spot from my life. There is no shame or condemnation in my relationship with Jesus.

I cannot explain to you the deep joy and excitement that I felt the rest of the day. Our wedding was perfect in every way imaginable. I have never felt more happy, free, or loved than on the day of my wedding and I believe that is a small snapshot of what eternity with our King will be like.

The spots on my dress never went away and are still on my dress even now, but the Lord made good on His promise. He covered me in garments of salvation and righteousness that day. Not one person noticed the grease spots, even when I tried pointing them out. In fact, not one of them showed up in the photos (I even asked my photographer is she photoshopped the spots out and she said she had no need to, she never saw them). But the gifts didn’t stop there. The following day we had a fun dinner with Simeon’s family. At dinner, my Mother-In-Law said she had a special gift for me. I opened a tiny box to find a gold necklace with a diamond shaped heart adorned on it. I was ecstatic and told her the story of what happened the previous day. In all the excitement of the wedding I didn’t get the chance to share my experience with the spots, the worship, and Isaiah 61, but God had not forgot. Long before my mother-in-law got on a plane to come to California, God spoke to her about that necklace and told her to bring it for me, it belonged to her mother. I was speechless.

I tried to condense the story, but there is just too much goodness in there not to share. In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul exhorts husbands and wives on how to love and respect one another in the same way that Christ loves and respects the church. Specifically, verse 25-27 says this, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

This is exactly what Christ did for me and the truth resounded loudly on my wedding day. Through Christ’s sacrifice He has washed us and made us holy and blameless. We are being prepared as His Bride and He is cleansing us so that we can be radiant for Him. This is an eternal truth. There has been many, many weddings throughout time, mine included. But the biggest wedding is still on it’s way…

There will come a day that the Bridegroom will come. He is coming for His radiant bride, his cleansed and Holy church. Thankfully, through Christ’s sacrifice we can be cleansed. It is not by our works, rather our acceptance of the one who made us. I cannot wait for this day…I eagerly and excitedly anticipate the day we all become His bride..

What does it mean to be a music fan?


A couple weeks ago I shared about RYFO at a show and I posed this question to the audience. The responses were what you’d expect to hear: buying merchandise, listening to music and going to shows. I pointed out to everyone that the list of things they provided were primarily acts of consumptions; a list of ways to enjoy a musician’s work. I presented the audience with the challenge to adopt a shift of perspective. A shift that places a greater significance on caring about musicians rather than an emphasis on the “consumption” of the art they’ve created.

Last month the RYFO staff had a chance to experience the impact this shift of perspective could have. Together we attended a show and brought one of the bands a care pack of items they were in need of, a handwritten note of encouragement, and found an opportunity to talk with and pray for the band after helping them load their gear into the van. The show itself was fun, but it paled in comparison to the memorable interaction with that band through our simple acts of love.

Imagine what the music community would look like if there were a growing group of fans that followed the example of Christ and loved musicians ahead of their interest in the music they create. A movement like that would create numerous opportunities for the Gospel to be proclaimed and for musician’s lives to be changed for eternity.

So I ask again, What does it mean to be a music fan?

-Sim