I love sites like this. It’s always entertaining to get a humorous perspective of something when you live so closely to it that you’re often blind to the parts of it that are, to be blunt, pretty silly. It’s no mystery that the modern Christian is quickly becoming defined by fashion statements, coffee shop attendance, and entertainment choices. I especially love the one about Leading Worship Barefoot. We LOVE to be comfortable on stage and create a non-threatening atmosphere for those who come to worship with us! ;)
And I only bring this website up to familiarize the concept a bit. I frequently think like this. Just by nature, I’m a bit of an observer. I never hesitate to point out something that seems odd, or to ask why if I don’t understand. I need more than two hands to count the times I’ve offended someone by challenging something near and dear to their hearts just because, quite frankly, I never saw the connection between their faith and the subject of said offensive question (eg: removing hats for prayer, using ‘soft’ swear words).
Last night my roommate and I were watching The Soloist. And I’m going to bold this sentence because it’s important: I’m NOT speaking out against The Soloist, or any movie that would fall into the same general category. I swear, if anyone sends me an email or responds to this with some dimwitted comment about how I missed the point of the movie, he or she will be met with a swift reply about something in which he or she also missed the point. ;)
The movie had a good message. In all honesty, I liked what the director said in the preface more than the movie itself. Homeless people ARE our brothers and sisters, and often times, treating them like human beings might be more helpful than apologizing for not having any spare change. But that’s the moment that hit me: This is something Christian culture loves.
We love movies with wholesome messages. We love songs with motivational and encouraging lyrics. We love any and all media that encourages a humanitarian reform in our lives.
Ready for the kick in the crotch? Here it comes…
Why does it end there?
Why do get so swept up by movies that call us out on crap that we do that is actively damaging the world around us, and then not change? Is it Christian to just show our support for those things, and then go about our daily lives as if it doesn’t apply to us? Are we honestly so naïve as to think that just because we agree with a convicting message that it somehow excuses us from any responsibility?
I mean, imagine if Luke 9 had actually gone like this…
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve
1When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3He told them: "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. 4Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them." 6After that, while nodding in approval, Peter said to the other disciples, “Wow, yea, he’s got a good point!” Fidgeting uncomfortably, Andrew nervously suggested, “You guys wanna just go back to fishing? I’m sure there’s someone else who is better at this whole ‘Kingdom of God’ stuff than us.” 7They all breathed a sigh of relief, and walked away knowing that the weight of the world was no longer on their shoulders.
Can you begin to imagine the fury Jesus would’ve felt? Unless I’m drawing a line between things that are unrelated, that’s roughly what we, as Christians, do. A defining aspect of our Christian culture is to say support good causes, but not actually get off our butts and do anything about it.
Anyway, I’m going back to my comfy desk job. I just thought I’d share these musings with you.
There are a lot of Christian bloggers out there who love to take an aspect of our culture, vilify it, equate it to sin, and make us all think twice about doing something that we all do anyway. Well, I’m no different. There are a lot of things that genuinely abhor about the way we live our lives as we claim to be followers of Christ. But, I’m not about to blame the gun for hurting someone – we make our own choices, and we’re responsible for the consequences. And, for the record, I won’t preface anything I say here by saying I don’t intend to offend you. In fact, if something I say here pertains to you, I hope it DOES sting a little, because I think it’s a pretty important that we step beside ourselves once in a while and look at the big picture of our lives in relation to the one we call our savior.
That said, the recent hype over smart phones has been an excellent reflection of something that gets to me sometimes. I’ve owned one. They’re pretty slick, there’s no denying that. It’s fun to instantly text your friends as many times as you want, even while you’re sitting in a boring meeting at work. It’s nice to be able to poke around on the internet in the middle of a conversation to look up some important information. And heck, I’ll even admit I’ve been impressed by the program that can identify a song just by listening to it.
But, here’s where I get hung up. I know a million people who own these top-of-the-line phones, so I’m frequently exposed to conversations about them. While it’s neat that these fancy phones have all these extra features that could probably neuter your dog if you needed them to, I almost never hear anyone saying how thankful they are that they own this big, fancy phone. They tout the features of it, but never how helpful it is, or how convenient it is, or how “It totally saved my life when I was lost on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere” (a frequent excuse for owning one).
I can’t honestly say that I have ever heard anyone, nor do I think I ever will hear anyone, say, “I am SO happy that I have this iPhone so I can play farting noises in the middle of quiet rooms!” Yes, there is a Fart application. I’m not kidding.
And it makes me wonder, how often do we do things JUST because they’re the cool thing to do without really thinking through whether it’s something we need or not? I’m not about to roll into a rant about being wise with your money, or how we should consider our blessings in light of those less fortunate, though those are both topics very worthy of discussion in their own rite. What I am more concerned about is the underlying behavior, and how we drag it into our faith.
It reminds me of when I first started in music ministry. I was itching like crazy to play. I remember harassing Michael Novotny for weeks on end to get me an audition in the middle of Easter season. And when he finally did, I was all over the place almost instantly. I got into playing for the Hope weekend services, I quickly got asked to play for Immersion, people in the Immersion band asked me to help with student ministry music, and soon I was dragging my bass out to Jordan Creek and Ashworth 5 or 6 nights a week. I was on fire!
And this isn’t entirely different than what it’s like getting a smart phone. First you see your friend’s new phone and all the fun things it can do. Soon you’re enamored and hell-bent on getting one for yourself. FINALLY the day arrives when you’re holding that $500 pile of plastic and gadgetry in your hands, and it begins! You get all your contacts organized, synch up your email, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever other account you “need” to access with it, load on all your music, get pictures of all your friends, download all the latest applications, and use any and every excuse to be meddling with your phone throughout the day. I mean, if you’re stuck in a long line at the McDonald’s drive-through, the Twitter-verse needs to know about it, right?
But, slowly it started to wear on me. This super awesome music schedule that I’d run headlong into had basically overtaken my life and was pulling me away from friends and family, distracting me at my job, and interfering with good habits that I’d worked hard to develop. There came a point where I realized that it had felt like months since I’d even sat down and had a heart to heart with the person I considered to be my best friend. And from there, the realizations of the life I’d lost started pouring in…
How I never got to work out…
How I never had time to go out to eat during the week…
How I never spent time reading the Bible…
How I was blowing off family engagements and holidays to play…
How I hadn’t seen to my mom in nearly a year, and was using music as a reason not to…
And what killed most, how most of the time when I was out there playing, I felt empty. It wasn’t giving me life. I wasn’t giving a gift to God – I was there begrudgingly, because I felt I had to. As a musician, this is just what you did, right?
Well, in my heart, I don’t think so. I don’t think Christ would call any of us to live that way. I will boldly say that I think we, as Americans, do way too much, way too often, and we let it suck life away from us JUST because that’s what is expected of us. Or, that’s just what we do. That’s just what is cool.
If you are a Christian, and you aren’t going to church at LEAST once a week, you don’t read your Bible every day, you aren’t in a Bible study, you don’t volunteer in some ministry within the church, and you haven’t shared the gospel with your coworkers, you’re some kind of failure. Tell me that message hasn’t crossed your mind at least once. Do it, and I’ll happily call you a liar.
I could go on and on about this, but I think you see my point by now. Never be afraid to genuinely examine your life, your time, your investments, your activities, and asking why they’re a part of your life. Is it there because it’s a genuine calling from God, or is it there just because you felt like it was what you should do? If you never even have time to just go sit in the sun and watch the grass blow, maybe you need to think about the relative importance of everything that is filling up your life.
Try it sometime; I think you’ll be pleased with what you discover.
I don’t really know how or why it came to me, but this morning I had a pretty neat thought pertaining to all of the current relationship discussions we’ve had at Immersion:
Christ calls us to be servants, not to change who we are.
Jesus finds us just as we are, accepts us, and then invites us into a relationship in which we’re called to submit 100%, just as he already has for us. In the midst of our sins, shortcomings, and failings, he doesn’t withhold his invitation for a single one of us. And in those times when we don’t submit ourselves entirely to him, he offers us grace - a chance to get up and try again, all the while knowing full well that it won’t be long before we slip up the next time.
And in that grace, Christ encourages us to turn from those things that pull us away from him. Never forcefully, Christ offers us a chance to redefine who we are. We don’t have to define ourselves according to our struggles. Instead, a few words that describe us are redeemed, valued, treasured, special, adored.
But the most beautiful part of that is, when we know that we’re redeemed, valued, treasured, and adored, Christ encourages us to be who we are! He encourages musicians to sing and play, he encourages artists to paint and create, and he most certainly encourages those with a knack for the culinary to cook mouth-watering feasts!
This is why the words that came to me this morning struck me as so profound. Christ asking us to turn from our sin isn’t asking us to change who we are; he’s peeling away layer after layer of crap to get to the core of who we are, while revealing the most beautiful parts to shine more brightly and truly than before.
When you’re thinking of your current relationship, or a future relationship, keep that in mind. Know that being a servant doesn’t mean giving up what makes you who you are; it means allowing God’s love to shine through that other person to you, and vice versa, so that you can both be complete in one another, lacking nothing. It means being completely open and honest about your deepest struggles, and loving each other enough to move out of them together.
It doesn’t mean you’re going to have to give up every hobby you enjoy. It doesn’t mean you’ll never get to enjoy Thai food again. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to be bored by every movie you choose to see. Heck, with the way that God knows the deepest desires of our hearts, the person he pairs you with might even have those same quirky preferences as you! ;)
It never ceases to amaze me how often I find myself revisiting what I consider to be the most basic, core principles of Christ’s teachings. You know what I mean, those little token phrases that get tossed around in the church, like how “Jesus loves everyone equally” or how “Jesus was God.” So often, I dismiss those concepts as things I’ve heard before, and don’t give them so much as a second thought. But it seems that God has done some of the most powerful work in my life – or at least, in my brain – with those very concepts that I never bothered to think through completely. Although these sayings that we’ve all heard a million times are very familiar, the implications are vast, and seemingly endless.
The one that really has been ringing loudly in my ears lately is the one about how Jesus calls us to be “in the world, but not of it.” Jesus himself frequently spoke about his kingdom not being of this world, and likewise how if the people questioning him knew his father (who is also from said kingdom), then they would know him. However, a quick read through any gospel will quickly reveal that friend and foe alike had no clue where Jesus was from, where his kingdom was, or why he was there with them in the first place despite his best attempts to explain everything clearly.
I think it goes without saying that there are a million great examples of Jesus demonstrating behavior that not only affirmed his own faith in his claims, but validated them. Curing diseases, controlling nature, and raising people from the dead are just a few. But, what particularly interests me is how he interacted with the culture – the people of the time.
Anyone who had grown up for over 30 years in first-century Nazareth would have had a pretty sound understanding of the cultural norms of that time. Said person would know that people with skin diseases are to be avoided. He would know that when a person has been dead for several days, there is no saving them. This person would understand that disrespecting authority would earn you more than a slap on the wrist.
But, these are exactly the kinds of things that Jesus ignored. He did everything that made people’s jaws drop. He chose love over the norms that their culture had constructed because he knew that love was greater.
This isn’t anything new under the sun, nor is it a huge revelation for most people. But as I said, it’s when I think through the implications of those things that I think God really starts talking to me. With that in mind, I have to wonder about a few things…
Jesus knew what he was doing. He had to know that people were going to react extremely when he turned a deaf ear to everything that was “right” in their time. He had to know that the lowly, mistreated, and ignored people would almost instantly turn their hearts over to him. Likewise, he had to know that he was going to piss off the people who had dedicated their lives to keeping their religious beliefs in check, and their communities in order.
Think about that for a second. It’s easy to say, but put yourself in the shoes of those people. Think about how incredibly offensive Jesus was, right or wrong. I have to wonder if maybe the heated arguments that Jesus got into with the Pharisees weren’t fueled by the fact that he had no respect for their high-and-mighty position in society. Numerous times, we see them coming back to fight with him and try to catch him in a trap. Do you think maybe their pride was a little bent out of shape? I mean, we paint the Pharisees to be such horrible people, but we’d react the same way if some low-life came talking to us like he knew something we didn’t. How would you feel seeing someone standing outside an abortion clinic who, instead of protesting, was doing nothing more than giving hugs to the women who walked in and out? What if he sat on the bench outside the clinic and had a conversation with them? What if he loved them as if they hadn’t done anything wrong? Does that get on your nerves just a little? It probably would.
Now, on the other side of the coin…
Be brutally honest with yourself about your biggest insecurity, your worst fear, or the thing you hate most about your life. Think about the thing that you feel segregates you from the rest of society, or the thing that prevents you from ever taking risks in your life. What if an unsuspecting person on the street, who looked to be nothing special, walked up to you and relieved you of your affliction? How would you feel? Part of me would feel completely thrown off by the fact that someone who appeared to have no money, no education, or no power changed my life in a way that a doctor or psychologist never could! If it were me, I’d probably be asking for a way to repay him and show my gratitude! I’d go around telling everyone about the incredible thing he did for me!
Anyway, like I said before, this is probably nothing that you’ve never heard before, but God’s really been speaking loudly to me about this lately. It’s easy to say that I’m a Christian, but it’s not always easy to do the “right” thing and risk being seen as someone who has no clue how a culture operates. It’s not easy to get off my high horse and serve someone lower on this irrelevant totem pole of society that we’ve arbitrarily constructed. It’s equally as challenging to speak love into situations that 90% of our culture would chastise me for contradicting.
I was left tossing and turning, jumping at every noise outside my window, wondering who was out there, making sharp turns to look at my bedroom door. I didn’t want to feel this way, I prayed that it would stop, it felt so…. so… unnatural, when I think being afraid of a serial rapist would be societies “natural.” I felt so distant from myself, so lost, so disturbed. How could this man who I have never met or (to my knowledge) never come in contact with, have so much control over my thoughts and actions. It occurred to me that I was in my home, but it didn’t feel safe, it didn’t feel like home. My fear took that from me.
Why did this feeling have so much control over me? It was running my life. I know that God is always with me, whom shall I fear? God is my strength and my refuge… all those things were so far from me… I couldn’t seem to control myself. How did I get this way? I wasn’t acting like I knew these truths.
I was fearful.
I was a mess.
I hated it!
It got me thinking as to the other thoughts or feelings I may have throughout my day that steal God’s best for me.
Selfishness, envy, insecurity, lust, impatience, laziness, anger, gluttony, greed, oh… did I mention selfishness… I swear that is the root.
There are so many “little” things that can creep into my mind that eat away at my soul and destroy my life. Do you ever act our of one of these ugly things listed above and think to yourself “this isn’t right, this doesn’t feel like my true self, this is stealing me away from my home, my life with my maker.”
I want to take steps and notice these little things before they become bigger, deal with them with God and try not to let them control my thoughts and actions.
I want to be home.
For those of you who weren’t in attendance at Immersion last night (or for those of you who weren’t watching the live steam on live.bedeviant.com) Justin gave a pretty neat talk about the ways that we have seen advancing communication forms change the way in which we’re able to share the news of the gospel.
The example that he gave that pertains the most to us as Christians, I think, is Martin Luther’s belief that everyone should have their own Bible in a language that they could understand (not Latin). More specifically, the example relied heavily on the technology that allowed him to run with this idea: the printing press.
Martin Luther pushed printed translations of God’s word to everyone who had ears to hear, and became revolutionary in doing so. Today, the effects are still very tangible as 99% of us still have a printed Bible of some sort.
Justin went on to compare the technological advances of the internet to the printing press. The internet has given us nearly limitless capabilities to reach people on all ends of the globe in a plethora of mediums. Much in the way that the printing press was able to bring God’s word right to people’s hands and eyes, the internet takes that to a whole new level. People can watch church services online, watch worship music on YouTube, meet fellow Christians on Facebook and Twitter, read blogs where nerdy musicians are allowed to ramble, so on and so forth. The fact that we have a million golden opportunities is undeniable.
But, a question remains…
After the service last night, a friend of mine seemed less than enamored with the message of the night, so I inquired for an explanation. She told me that although Justin was correct about everything he said, she was concerned about the internet making church so accessible that it could promote complacency [or, at least, that’s what I heard]. That, while it’s great people can watch Immersion online, if that’s all they ever do with their faith, are we really helping? Or are we holding them back?
It’s a great question, and a very valid concern. If we go to the aforementioned example, we can definitely say that something happened between Martin Luther’s revolutionary actions and where we are today with printed Bibles. Perhaps people in Luther’s time were concerned that giving a Bible to everyone would have similar negative repercussions. Maybe they were concerned that people would sit in their homes and read, and that church attendance would plummet. Maybe they were concerned that people would start forming their own ideas of the Bible and start their own religious belief systems. Who knows? All we can say is that despite what concerns they may have had, the printed Bible has become a staple of anyone’s faith, and that a Christian life without it would be a very difficult one indeed.
I think that as we move forward into this unavoidable digital future, it would behoove us to ask similar tough questions and address our concerns about what we’re doing.
- What can we do to ensure that, even though we are using technology to reach people, we are still nudging them into community?
- How can we simultaneously broadcast our services to be viewed in front of a computer and promote a life of action that involves people getting up and going?
These new technologies are fantastic, and embracing them with the hope of spreading God’s love is equally as fantastic. As Justin said last night, “If Jesus were here today, he’d be on Twitter.” But, I’d have to add, Jesus would still get off his computer to go cast out demons, heal the sick, and preach the good news. Let’s make sure we’re doing the same!
I was taking a walk the other day when a little boy who couldn’t have been older than two or three suddenly ran out from behind a house, looked at me, and yelled, “Hi, Mom!” Now, this greeting was surprising on at least two levels. First, I’ve never come close to mothering a child. Second, I’d never seen this little boy before. I laughed, but then got to thinking about it. Kids aren’t the only ones who get confused. As adults we sometimes do the same thing; we don’t see things as they really are, though we may not notice at the time. We call it love when it’s really lust. We deem something or someone a success or a failure, when really we’re merely thinking in worldly, temporary terms. We consider situations hopeless when God’s cooking up something really great. God must react to those mistaken assessments with laughter, much as I reacted to the little boy, and also with grief, when these situations pull us away from him.
As I turn 27, I find myself struggling with questions about where I should be and what I should be doing. As I crawl closer to my “late 20s” it’s hard not to evaluate life so far and consider my current situation versus that of others and the expectations I had for myself through the years. When I look at it compared to the world’s standards, I’m lagging behind in a lot of areas.
Like a lot of people these days, I’m really struggling to find a job. As some of you know, I worked with a team of missionaries in Mexico City for most of 2008. I could talk about my time there for hours, but let’s just say it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. But I arrived home last winter in the midst of a brutal economic crisis. I’ve looked online nearly everyday for the last four months or so and have had little success. Thus, I’m pretty much itinerant, living with my parents, my sister and friends. Also, as my friends get married and some begin to have children, it’s easy to feel a bit left behind sometimes. Besides that, I still yearn for Mexico and constantly ask myself (and God) if I should be there or here.
So let’s review: no job, no place of my own, unmarried, confused about the future. This is not where I expected to be at 27. But this is exactly where God expected me to be and that’s so much more important.
I think as Christians we should constantly remind ourselves of the things that God has already done in our lives. When I get bogged down by my frustrations, I pull out journals I’ve kept over the years and meditate on things God has done for me. I’m not a stranger to waiting on God’s provision. I waited for almost a year to see if the funding would come through and everything would line up for the Mexico City trip to happen. It was a year filled with uncertainty, stress and worry. But it worked out perfectly. If God had my life so under control then, even though I wasn’t aware of it, why would now be any different?
And I also remind myself that we all have different needs, which God knows utterly. I could have all the things my younger self expected me to have at 27 and still be completely unhappy. God wired me with a heart for Mexico and took me there. And in order to have the incredible experiences I had there, other things had to be put on hold for awhile. But those things will happen when God, in His complete knowledge of the world and of me, deems it right. And that makes the world’s standards insignificant.
But what do I do in the meantime? Despite the comforts I just described, I still have days when I’m really frustrated. And when I’m frustrated, it inevitably spills into my relationship with God. And it’s confusing, finding myself vacillating between trusting God’s provision and getting discouraged when nothing changes. Sometimes I get hung up on just asking God for things - for guidance and for signs - or just complaining to Him. Don’t get me wrong, God still wants to hear those honest petitions and expressions of anguish. But sometimes I lose track of seeking God merely for the joy of seeking him, being in his presence and knowing him better. At times my soul doesn’t long for Him, but rather for direction, an answer.
Since my time in Mexico City was so important to me, it particularly touches my heart when things I’m learning or experiencing here are affirmed by friends there. As we talked about having “eyes to see as God sees” at Immersion a few weeks ago and I processed through these thoughts, I talked to a friend in Mexico City about some of my frustrations. In response, he said “Ask God to give you understanding so that you can see what He wants you to see”. I don’t think God wants me to just see my struggles. The point of this period of my life is not just to find out the answer or the next step. As I wait for guidance and opened doors, God wants me to see the joy of a beautiful Iowa spring, of reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, of learning to salsa dance, of meeting my first niece. He wants me to see his faithfulness as he provides in his timing, and his comforting presence when everything seems messed up. And, most importantly, He wants me to see Him.
A side note: Please continue to lift up the people of Mexico City in prayer as the city is disrupted and frightened by this influenza. Thanks.
There are times I find myself facing a decision in life, a hard one, one that I do not think I can handle or control on my own, something that scares the crap out of me – I am calling this a mountain…. because, let’s be honest – that’s what it feels like.
I believe God places us in front of these mountains throughout our lives because He knows the amazing life that is on the other side waiting for us, the Promised Land. He wants us to trust Him and in doing so He wants to mold us and teach us and bless us beyond our wildest imagination. *
*Christian disclaimer: God never says life is going to be easy, but He does promise His strength for those who trust Him, fulfillment, contagious joy, peace, patience, love…. etc. Now, you can’t put a price tag on those things people!
There are 3 stages to every mountain:
1. Base Camp
2. The Climb
3. The Promise Land
The base camp is your comfort zone. Sure, it can be nice and pleasant most of the time, but there is a part of you that feels like something is missing. You see the mountain in front of you and you can’t help but think to yourself “I wonder what’s on the other side?” Sometimes I like to be in denial about the mountain in front of me. I may stay in base camp for a lot longer than I should because I’m afraid and I do not believe what God promises, because if I did, I would get off my butt! Unfortunately a lot of people stay in the base camp their entire lives, fear takes its grip and they can’t let go. This is a sad…sad thing.
The Climb is…. well, let’s be honest, it’s hard. It’s hard to trust, it’s hard to let go of your comfort zone and give up control in your life. The climb is when you say to God “okay, let’s do this!” It’s hard work, it’s a struggle, and it’s a time of great struggle but with this comes great reward, growth and excitement.
Things that will help you on your climb:
n. pl. Sher·pas- local people, guides that can help you through your climb. This could be a close friend, someone you can trust, who has great wisdom and has maybe climbed a similar mountain and can encourage you along your trek. God places these specific people in your life and uses them to encourage.
n. Symbol O– When my heart is breaking or I’m scared, it can literally be hard to breathe - can I get some air up in here!! Just saying the name of Jesus gives us breathe, he is the life giver and will always be there with us.
n.– I bet you didn’t see this one coming, ☺ it’s God’s word. The B-I-B-L-E! God spells things out for us in His word to direct us. Read it!
And finally, the Promise Land which is intended for all of us, and it’s not just when we get to heaven. It’s our sweet spot, the best God has to offer for our lives here on earth. He wants this for each and every one of us; we just have to let Him take us there. This is a life of greatest fulfillment. Maybe you know someone who is living here, they are full of life! This is what God want for you too!
Some mountains seem bigger to us than others, some are scarier to overcome, some make you want to pee your pants. ☺ However, I believe God calls us to LIVE LIFE to the fullest and I truly believe if you are bored in life, you have no one to blame but yourself!
Let’s get a climbing!!
This is something that’s been on my heart for quite a while now, and I have yet to come up with any answers as to why we do it.
Let’s face it, Christian or otherwise, people are just generally not very good at communicating with one another. Yesterday over a bowl of Potato Pepperjack Soup from South Union (outstanding soup, by the way), a friend of mine told me that her friends know that when she says, “Nothing!” that she is actually trying to say, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Everyone does this is some way or another. Smiling and nodding at someone when you’re not really interested in what they’re saying, or saying you understand someone so you don’t have to face the embarrassment of not understanding – all sorts of little lies and miscommunication.
So, if everyone does it, what’s the problem?
Well, quite a few things. For starters, lying isn’t good. Even in a casual greeting, if someone asks how you’re doing and you tell them, “Good!” when you’re really not, you lied to them. I don’t think we’re called to tell the truth unless we think that the person isn’t really interested in hearing what we have to say.
That’s just one example. But, there’s one particular behavior regarding poor communication that I am finding interesting. What I’m finding is that our propensity as people, when we’re confused by another, is to go to a third person. When someone behaves in a way that perplexes us, we go ask someone else why they did it. When a significant other is speaking another language to us, we run to a friend of the same gender for translation.
My question is: How rational is this? If you’re confused by someone, what are the odds that another person is going to understand them any better than you? Sure, they may have more reasonable assumptions than you, but they’re still just assumptions, right? Wouldn’t it be more rational to ask the person who is confusing you what they actually mean?
But, we almost never do this, and I have no idea why. I do understand that there is merit in sorting out your own feelings and thoughts with a friend. For instance, if you’re in a disagreement, sometimes it’s constructive to explain how you’re reacting to the situation to an objective third party as a “head check” to make sure you’re not being unreasonable. However, beyond that point, involving someone else can be downright destructive, and basically gossip. The inflection point is when the conversation fails to be constructive. Gossip, in English at least, is defined as “idle” talk (pointless).
I have a coworker who loves to assume he knows other people’s motives. He is convinced that everyone else is motivated by cynicism and is out to make his life miserable. I know this because, well, he tells me about it. Almost everyday I’m told how one coworker who was assigning him work was particularly condescending to him (when in reality, he was just doing his job) or how another coworker is overreacting and being a hot-head about everything towards him.
Here’s the hard question though: If he actually felt talked-down to, or irritated by perceived anger, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to talk to those people, and not me? Probably…
...Wouldn’t it make more sense for me to tell him this instead of griping about it in a blog? Probably…
Anyway, if any of you have seen the movie Doubt, you might remember this. But, I heard a cool analogy about gossip in that movie. It really challenged me to think differently about how I address situations involving a third person. It challenged me to ask myself if I really want to discuss something important and reach a conclusion, or if I just want to complain and make someone else look bad.
Here’s a paraphrase of the story based on my [questionable] memory:
A woman went to confession, and asked the priest about gossip. She explained what she had done, and asked if what she had done was really gossip. The priest told her that yes, it was gossip and that yes, she needed to confess and repent for it.
After that, he told her to go home, take a pillow from her bed, go up to the roof of her house, and stab the pillow with a knife.
She returned to the priest and he asked if she had stabbed the pillow like he asked. She told him that she had. The priest asked her what happened, and she told him that she saw feathers, tons and tons of feathers.
The priest told her to go recollect all of the feathers that had flown from the pillow. The woman responded telling him that it would be impossible. The wind had blown them in a million different places and they couldn’t possibly be found.
“THAT is gossip!” the priest replied.
So, as a fellow human being, I’d encourage you to be counter-cultural. If someone isn’t being clear with you, or you don’t understand them, do the “weird” thing and ask for more explanation. If someone is upsetting you, take some time to cool down, and then talk to them about it. They’re not easy conversations to have, but they’re necessary. The world will know we are followers of Christ by how we love one another – never forget that!
1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.”
Philippians 3:12-14, “But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
2 Timothy 4:6-8, “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”
God has been teaching me a few lessons these past few weeks about my race:
1. A good diet and plenty of water are crucial. I struggle to run when I have not eaten well for the day and have not had enough water. Same goes for our spiritual races. We need to be in the Word and drinking of the Living Water for our nourishment. How is your spiritual diet?
2. It is hard to run a race facing backwards. It just does not make sense, but yet I do it in my spiritual race. So often I look back at my past mistakes and past failures rather than looking ahead at who I am now and where God is taking me in my future. I’m looking the wrong direction and find my race to be much easier when I turn around and run forward looking ahead. Are you looking back? I encourage you to focus on the race ahead and on the finish line for a much better race.
3. “90% of the race mental and 10% is physical” my coach would say. It is so true...especially in an endurance run. In the middle of a longer run I catch myself looking down at the ground in front of me rather than keeping my head up and focused on the race ahead. I also find that I start to think about how much my body aches and how tired I am rather than thinking about the finish line and how great it will feel to finish the run. In life, are we focusing on the here and now or the finish line. Do we have our eyes on the prize?
4. It is much easier to run with the wind than against the wind. Nothing is harder and more discouraging than to run directly into a strong wind. Nothing is better than having that strong wind at your back to help push you along and keep you strong. Are you running with or against the wind? I pray God will guide me and show me His path for my life so I can always run with His wind at my back. I don’t always know which way I am to go or what I am to do, but I do know I want to go God’s way because I want to run with the wind.
How is your race? Do you run each step with a purpose? What are you running for? What is the prize?
(Before I begin, let me just say that my thoughts below may not be entirely correct so I look forward to feedback either way.)
The past several weeks have been quite a journey for me in my spiritual walk with my Savior and my God. I literally drove 3,750 miles on a 3 week road trip designed to get me out of my normal routine so I could focus on what God’s plans and purposes are for my life. During the trip God and I talked about and wrestled over several questions I have about my life.
What is my calling? What is God’s will for my life? Am I in the right place? Do I need to stay or do I need to move? Who am I supposed to love? Is my girlfriend the “one”? Does God desire to bless me? Does God really have a dream for my life beyond what I could ever think or imagine?
Twenty one days with over 50 hours in a quiet car and I can tell you I really don’t think I am any closer to knowing answers to those questions now than before I left. Am I frustrated or disappointed? Absolutely not.
God didn’t give me the answers, but I did learn one really big lesson: a life of following Christ and living in God’s will is meant to be an adventure. It does not guarantee certainty and is more likely to be a life of uncertainty.
It seems too often I think that following Christ or living in God’s will for my life means I will know all the answers to my questions. The reality is God wants me to move forward in what I do know while trusting Him to take care of the rest. I do know I am called to love God and love others. Really that is all I know and basically, beyond that, it’s in God’s hands. It sounds rather pathetic at first but that is the real exciting part!
In the world of uncertainty comes a divine adventure with the God of this universe who is infinitely creative and good.
It is so easy for me to put false security in my own strength, my own abilities, my own determination when I think God calls me out of what is certain into what is uncertain. As this happens, I cannot rely on myself and I truly need to have trust and faith in Him. I realized I desire to witness miracles in my life but I never put myself in a context for them. I never let go of my own security to utterly and completely put my security into the hands of God. It’s almost like how can God perform a miracle if I never give Him the chance.
One of my main prayers over the past several weeks was that God would turn my world upside down as I put everything I hold dear into His hands. This was not easy to pray or do. I gave Him my career aspirations, I gave Him my dreams, I gave Him the love I have for my girlfriend and gave Him many other things. Again, it was not easy.
I truly felt like I imagine Abraham felt when God told him to go but did not give him a direction or did not tell him where to go. Can you imagine what that would have been like? Talk about a life of uncertainty. How did he do it?
I believe he trusted that God loved Him God and would take care of Him. In the end, that is all I can do as well...trust that God loves me and will take care of me like He promises. I am sure this will be a lifelong learning process but to say the least, I have witnessed a few miracles in my life the past few weeks.
In short, I now try to take each day for what it truly is...an adventure.
A not-so-clever play on words for you. But, it's about the feeling I get each year around this time. Either that Easter week is actually just a big disaster, or that it's some kind of disease afflicting people.
One of my wise friends once said that he feels more spiritually attacked on Easter week than any other week of the year. It sounds a bit far-fetched at first, but given what Easter is really about, it would make sense that Satan would do his best to derail us in a time like this.
[If anyone replies saying, "Why would Satan be upset about bunnies and colored eggs?" you're going to get a virtual smack upside the head.]
But seriously, for the past few years especially, on the week when I am supposed to be celebrating the resurrection and life of Jesus, the son of the living God, I've been nothing but miserable. Every petty little annoyance will get to me, every miniscule worry can bring me down, and it takes everything I have to just sit down and read God's word at night, much less pray and mean it. And I loathe feeling like this. Given all I have to be thankful for, I feel such an ungrateful scum moping around like every problem I have is worse than everyone else's.
Maybe it's being busy with worship music that doesn't give me time to just relax and recooperate. Maybe my friend was right and Satan really is tempting me away from my normal flow of life and into a despression. Who knows?
All I know is, despite the crappy feeling this week may bring for some of us, there are angels around us just waiting to us to give them a chance. If this week gets to you the way it does me, just remember that God is always alive in your brothers and sisters. Open up, tell them how you feel, and let God in.
If any of you cross paths with me this week, and I seem less than chipper, you have my permission to remind me of this! :)
Normally I’m a person that’s quick to try to see the big picture of things. I don’t often get hung up on one particular bad period or bad situation because I know, deep down, that God’s up to something. People often comment about how lax I am about everything, and truthfully, that’s why. I see no point in getting worked up over things that, 1) I have no control over, and 2) Are probably being done for a very good reason well outside of my sphere of understanding.
I don’t know why, but it’s always come naturally to me. So when I say that, right now, I feel like I’m at my wit’s end, I want you to know exactly what I mean.
What do you do when your heart is breaking so badly for someone that you want nothing more than to support them, but supporting them would mean contradicting your faith in Christ?
My family life was never quite normal. My parents parted ways when I was 10, and have both since remarried. However, due to some serious issues from his past creeping back up on him, my dad was recently admitted to and released from a rehabilitation clinic. Although I was sad he fell so far to have to wind up in a place like that, I have never been prouder of him. Seeing him become man after God’s heart and God’s will has been one of the most encouraging things I’ve seen in my brief 26 years here. I am proud to call him my dad, and I love him with all my heart.
However, as far as he’s come, everything isn’t all peaches. Although I certainly don’t know all the details, I do know that his wife has had an incredibly hard time understanding and dealing with his addiction, and it’s really torn them apart over the past half year. And now, they’re facing a divorce.
If you aren’t familiar with what it’s like living with an addiction, think of it like a way to not deal with real life. Anytime you have to do something, have to make a decision, have to go to work, have to deal with people, or anything other than what you would do in paradise, your first instinct is to run to your addiction. Problems pile up quickly because they choose to ignore real life and indulge in a substance or behavior that gratifies them instantly and helps ease the stress and pain.
As you can imagine, overcoming a pattern like this takes an indescribable amount of self-discipline and immeasurable amount of support and patience from loved ones. So, with that in mind, I can easily see why their marriage is suffering.
I want my dad to continue to keep his life in order. He has come so far since last year. He has made new friends who share his struggle and support him. He attends meetings and talks to others regularly to continue learning. He’s even started reading the Bible and pursuing God, which is something I never thought I’d be able to share with my dad.
But, for whatever reason, he feels that his marriage is dragging him down instead of building him up. And with that in mind, I want nothing more than to support him and tell him to make every sacrifice he needs to in order to keep from falling back into the pit he’d fallen into last year.
But on the other hand, I’ve come to see God’s answer for marital issues is rarely, if ever, divorce. That’s not a topic I think I need to give much thought to, because it’s pretty clearly stated throughout the Bible.
What do I do? How do I encourage my dad to continue to seek God and keep his life in order when I don’t, at my core, support what he’s about to do? How can I say that I think he SHOULD get a divorce, even though I believe it’s not the right answer? Could I even justify urging a brother in Christ to something that I firmly believe is sinful if it meant preventing a multitude of future sins?
So, yea, any words of wisdom are sure welcome… *sigh*
I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much about myself in one time period as when I briefly saw a Christian counselor back in late 2008. I initially went because I had a horrible relationship with my mother at the time (which has gotten back on track, thank God). But, in working through that issue with my mom, I ended up spending a session with my counselor talking about communication levels.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, I’ll do my own paraphrase (they exist in many formats, but they’re all similar):
Superficial – The things we say that we put basically no thought or intentions into. The “Hi, how are you?” and “Good, how are you?” that you hear 900 times a day in the elevator at work.
Factual – Basically like your Facebook or Twitter status. After the superficial level, we’ll often move to things like “So what’s new?” or “How is your job going?” Again, very little thought is required at this level of interaction.
Evaluative – This is where a person starts to become defined to another. We can share our opinions, goals, dreams, desires, etc. Normally, agreement at this level is the basis for the start of a friendship, and disagreement, vice versa.
Emotional – If two people are comfortable sharing opinions with one another, even if they don’t necessarily agree on all points, they may be more comfortable moving further and sharing emotions with one another. Typically, women move to this level much more easily than men.
Communal – The level at which two people are so emotionally intertwined that they actually feel the emotions of the other with mutual intensity. Ideally, this is the level at which married couples would communicate.
I loved talking about these. Having these variable definitions of communication between people allowed me to get a better understanding of the relationship I had with EVERYONE in my life. From the coworker who only ever discusses weather and politics, down to the MySpace pen-pal who knows the deepest, darkest voids of my heart. And having those things in mind, I was able to see more clearly why the relationships existed as they did. I loved learning about how we tend to match communication levels with people, and how we tend to seek out people who will easily move to the level at which we’re most comfortable talking.
However, I was particularly interested in those relationships that somehow managed to cross the level at which I was genetically predisposed to remain: Evaluative.
So, out of curiosity, I asked my counselor what enabled people to move from Evaluative communication to Emotional communication. And consequently, from Emotional to Communal. His answer is something that has profoundly impacted my relationship with God ever since:
And like that, my relationships with my closest friends, as well as my relationship with Jesus, were put into a sharply-focused perspective. Frequency, it’s that simple. We learn to trust our closest friends through frequency of sharing our opinions, thoughts, emotions, feelings, etc. When we share those things on those deeper levels with people everyday, it comes more naturally to us.
And suddenly, I realized why I felt so distant from God sometimes. How often was I making time for him? And to what level of communication was I going?
What is your relationship with God like? Is it one in which you might have a casual thought or two about him once a week or so? Is your Bible reading a quick thumb through that never really sinks in? Is your prayer life on the level of thanking God for the same things you thank him for every time (ie: you don’t even think about it)?
Or, are you in a communal relationship with God? Do you frequently talk to God about every thought or feeling that crosses your mind or heart, no matter how painful or discouraging it may be? When you read his word, do you give it your utmost attention and earnestly seek to understand what God is saying to you? When you pray, are you reaching down deep to the things that your heart desires most, and trusting God to make good on those prayers?
So, as I may have previously mentioned, I’m not the hugest fan of uncensored public forums on the internet in which any uneducated Joe Schmoe can get on his soapbox. But of course, it’s that same freedom that lets me do this each week, so I’ll live and let live I guess… :)
But, earlier this week, a friend of mine sent me a link to an article about how less and less of the country is identifying itself as “Christian” in the traditional sense and how the people drawn to religion-less organizations like [some] mega-churches is absolutely skyrocketing. On one hand, I totally identified with the article. I sure didn’t grow up a Christian, and what initially drew me to Christ wasn’t the fact that taking my hat off to pray made sense, or that I just had this inkling that I was more holy for doing some obscure version of pew-aerobics during the sermon, but the simple fact that Christ was the epitome of love laid down for others.
But, on the other hand, I clicked the red X in the corner of the window with a heavy dose of dismay. Because see, I couldn’t help but read a few of the comments left by anonymous internet pirates at the bottom of the page - the kind of comments that make you glad that the people can’t see your face when you read them.
Rather than talking about the topic of the article, the comments quickly deteriorated into debates about the validity of Christianity as a whole. Which, as a minor aside, I LOVE [loathe] when a single person thinks he or she has the logic and mental capability to refute our entire history of religious tradition and thought. The notion that one person knows better than hundreds of religious scholars who have influenced the way we approach Christ today is simply the pinnacle of DUH!
Anyway, back on topic…
Despite my dry heaving, I couldn’t help but notice that a majority of the comments were aimed at things like the timeframe in which God created the universe, how God first created man, and [this is my favorite] a rabid rejection of Christianity on the sole basis that God making Eve from Adam’s rib was too difficult to grasp. The people arguing against Christianity were focusing so intently on the miraculous and unimaginable things that God did that they never even bothered to say a single word about Jesus himself.
And, with that, I couldn’t help but wonder…
What are we doing so wrong that the unbelieving world only sees God’s magic tricks? At what point did we stop communicating the simple fact that Christ was HUMAN? To everyone who doesn’t know Jesus, are we just silly people who want to believe in a God who can snap his almighty fingers and answer our misguided prayers? Why don’t people get that it’s about Jesus, and nothing else?
I mean, from a purely argumentative standpoint, we can debate whether the story of Adam and Eve was literal or allegorical until we’re blue in the face. But at the end of the day, despite the fact that none of us will ever know if we’re right or wrong, will it ultimately make what Jesus said or did untrue? I mean, let’s say God didn’t actually make Adam from the dust of the earth, Eve from his rib, or a garden for them to live in. Let’s say that God never actually spoke to Abraham commanding him to sacrifice his son, or that Moses’ parting of the sea was nothing more than a timely gust of wind. Is our faith in Jesus totally bunk based on those things?
But, back in the bigger picture, why are those things the subject of so much debate, and why is Jesus so often left out of the picture as if he was just an accessory in the grand scheme of the Bible? It seems that people need to be able to grasp the concept of God having superhuman powers before they will even consider the fact that Jesus may, in fact, have been who he said he was. And to an extent, that’s so silly. That would be like me demanding that a person explain all of his quirks, personality traits, habits, and opinions before I decide whether or not we can be friends. But, in reality, it’s often the opposite, right? We befriend people, and the parts of them that may have been tough to stomach in the beginning tend to fade into the background. Why is it not that way with God and Jesus?
As with so many other things in life, I don’t know the right answer. I really wish I did, but I don’t. I know that when people ask me about my faith, I’m going to talk about Jesus’ model for our lives and how it’s nothing but awe-inspiring. I’m going to talk about how his limitless endurance in everything he did inspires me to be a better man. And I’ll definitely say that my life is a million times better now than it was when I tried to get all the answers on my own.
From there, I can only hope and pray that my conversation partner managed to see the point of it all.
Hey everybody, Justin here.
All that to say, recently I came across a site that I've really been digging and have started to use it to communicate to our Team Leaders on weekly basis. The site is TokBox.com and it's really sharp. Amongst other things, it allows for group chat rooms and individual video chats. (Oh yeah, it's a regular instant messaging service as well.) Check out my page here.
Today I do not have any real thoughts to offer so please allow me to just share a little of my current adventure with God. I am in the midst of quite a wrestling match with Him.
To say the least, I have been under spiritual attack the past few weeks as you can tell from my blog last week. In many ways I am still in the midst of a dark storm feeling really lost, but the past few days I have been full of joy. The turnaround came later in the evening on Ash Wednesday just after I wrote my last blog called “The Eye of the Storm”.
During this season of Lent I gave up a very significant love of mine. (Please know I am not writing about this to brag about myself and my only intention is to encourage you with what God is doing in my life through these 6 weeks.) I really did not even like the idea of a fast at first. I’ll even admit the motive at first was to please someone else and it really was not for me. It has not been easy and I struggle every day with temptations to break the fast. But wow...my eyes have been opened and now I realize how much I actually needed this time to focus on God.
Feeling lost, I’ve been asking God where should I go, what should I do, who am I to be and who is the one to be next me. Those really seem to be surface level questions, but I want to have more passion in life, more meaning, and more fulfillment. I am really wrestling with Him right now on an even deeper level: I’m asking Him what is my purpose here and now. Trust me...I don’t just get down on my hands and knees and pray like a good little Christian kid. I wrestle with God and I actually get frustrated and angry with Him sometimes.
Now before I go any further I will say I know the Christian cliché answer is my purpose is to love and serve God and bring glory to Him in all that I do. I have heard that answer from Christian circles all my life. And all I want to say to them right now is...really? Is it really that simple? I feel really lost in so many ways right now and that answer just does not seem to be enough. I need something more...something more tangible...something more real. Maybe that is the answer and I just need to discover that for myself (which may be what God is wanting to teach me right now), but I’ll be honest and say I don’t like that answer right now.
I’ve started reading Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life book for the first time. I know the book has been around for years now, but in the past it has actually been something I have tried to avoid reading. However, it seems to fit perfectly with what I am searching for right now since it is based on a 40 day schedule of asking God questions about one’s purpose. I'll give it a try anyways. Through the book and many other things God has been teaching me some amazing things even in just this first week. I certainly don’t have any answers yet, but I am excited to see what God has in store for me in the weeks ahead.
Help me out. Tell me...what is your purpose in life? What motivates you to get up day in and day out?
I guess that given most of the unintelligible drivel you can find in the public sector of the internet, it shouldn’t surprise me that a website like this exists. But, nonetheless, I find myself pretty discouraged by it.
When did we become so sad that we needed an entire website devoted to the most depressing, miserable, unfortunate, and even heartbreaking moments of our lives? Furthermore, given that the aforementioned moments are undesirable, why would we want to share them with others in such a way that they’re allowed to judge whether or not we were justified in saying “F my life!” or if we’re just whiners?
Yes, we all have bad moments, and a lot of us have pretty significant problems that we’d rather not laugh about. But wow, is that really all the basis we have with which to connect with each other anymore? Can you imagine if every conversation you had were only about drivers cutting you off, a waitress spilling hot coffee on your lap, or getting fired from a job for stealing food they were going to throw out anyway?
Personally, I’m quite tired of the negativity in the air as it is. The economy, the skeptics about our new president, tax season, winter being too cold, gas prices slowly rising again. It seems like so much of our media and daily conversation is comprised of nothing more than a finely-focused lens on depressing issues and just general complaining.
What if there was a website that did the opposite? How encouraging would it be to read about selfless, humble, honest, loving people improving the lives of those around them and asking nothing in return for it? Would you like to open your email each morning to read stories about how a stranger behind you at Starbucks paid for your drink when you forgot your money in the car? I know I sure would.
How about Bless My Life instead? http://bmylife.com/ It can work twofold as a way of saying “God, be my life,” and as a way to say, “Bless my life!” by focusing on the blessings you have (even though they may seem few) amidst all the things you’d rather not deal with.
Honestly, if someone out there is familiar enough with web page development and at all interested in pursuing something like this, I’d be first in line to help get this site started.
Whether you’re a Christian or not reading this, have you ever had those days and nights in your life where nothing seems to be working for you? Where you feel completely lost and totally confused? Well, I have been having one of those months and I just had one of those nights. It is about 5:00 in the morning as I start writing this and I have not slept a wink all night and I’m actually at the office to just start working when I finish writing this. It is going to be a long day.
I have been wrestling with God about a great number of things tonight. Please allow me to be extremely vulnerable and personal in this post. Yes, I am a full blown “sold out to Christ” Christian, but I feel really lost right now.
I don’t know who I am supposed to be in life, I don’t know where I am supposed to go in life, I don’t know who I want to walk along side me in life. I just don’t know. So I was up all night asking God some really hard questions and frankly getting sort of upset at Him. Then I became even more frustrated because I realize that God is probably trying to give me the answers but I probably don’t even know how to listen for the answers. I am so very confused, broken, and frustrated.
I heard this song called “One Thing” by Paul Coleman earlier tonight on the radio. It is one of my favorites, but today it really hit home for me. I made bold the things that really resonate with me right now.
Well Here I am In a river of questions
Can I pour my heart out to a listening ear?
Well I see this life
Its valley’s and mountains
And I think of all the roads that brought me here
Oh that brought me here
Walkin' down, walkin' down those roads
Well I’ve questioned my reasons
This life I’m living
I’ve questioned my ability
To judge wrong from right
Well I’ve questioned all the things I’ve ever called certain
My race, my religion, my country, my mind
Chorus 1: But the one thing I don’t question is You
You really love me like you say you do
You really love me like you say you do
So hold me, 'cause I need you
Well I’ve questioned my significance
Meaning and relevance
Does the work I’m doing really matter at all?
Well I’ve questioned my friendships
Who will still be here when I fall?
Chorus 2: But the one thing I don’t question is You
You really love me like you say you do
Yea the one thing I don’t question is You
You really love me like you say you do
So hold me, (come on now) hold me
Hold me, (come on, I need your love)
Only one thing doesn’t change
Only one thing stays the same
All I know at the end of the day is your love remains
I know I have a great number of questions right not but I suppose I don’t really question God. I know he will be here for me and will make things clear in time. I did seem to get one answer from Him when I was asking why I am going through all this. The answer seemed to come as He gave me a mental picture of a hurricane.
I feel so surrounded by the storms of this life right now just like a hurricane. The strong winds surround me and are beating me down. I can’t see which way to go and feel so lost. To be honest, I’m a little scared.
Then it hit me and I know it was God talking to me. It just clicked.
At the center of the hurricane in which they call the “eye” there is great peace and I can have clear vision in one direction which is up...toward God. I feel so lost and surrounded by life’s storms but I fully believe I can look up and know God is looking right down on me. I just can’t stop looking up and I can trust He will give me peace in the eye of the storm...
Thank you God. I still love you. (Even though I was mad at you last night.)
I only have 26 minutes and 43 seconds to write this, so I’m going to be as efficient as possible.
Yes, that was a stab at our culture.
Lately I’ve been reading a pretty cool book called Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships. The author, Sherwood Lingenfelter, talks a lot about breaking down cultural barriers in inter-cultural relationships and ministry, and it’s really helped me put my life as an American (and especially as a Christian) in perspective. It’s a life-long battle to try to see the world through God’s eyes, and when we can strip away the biases and influences of our own culture, it helps that much more!
One thing that Lingenfelter did that really struck me was to compare a time-based culture (America in a nutshell) to an event-based culture. In America, everything is about time. We make the most of it when we have it, and we never seem to have enough of it. Investments in technology help us become more efficient with our time. We conduct business through email and telephone to make things happen faster. We have clocks everywhere so that our rigid schedules are adhered to down to the minute.
However, obviously not everyone in the world works like we do. Lingenfelter spent several years as a missionary in a Pacific Island state called Yap, where time matters little, and events matter most. He gave many examples of how time doesn’t matter in the Yapese culture, including most “scheduled” events beginning 2-3 hours late on average, as well as local movie theaters waiting for a full crowd to begin showing a film.
As an American, this sounds ludicrous, right? If an usher came into a movie theater and told the customers that they were going to wait an hour to allow more people the time to arrive, most of the movie viewers would get upset almost instantly and probably demand their money back. But in Yap, this is common. They’re more concerned that the movie be seen at all than when it is seen.
But there was one example that blew my mind. It wasn’t so much the example itself, but the way that Lingenfelter explained the attitude of the man in the story. He said that in the village where he lived, he watched a man take two years to build a new house for his family by hand.
Is two years an incredibly long time to build a house by yourself? Maybe? But this is what I liked. He said that the man would just decide to take two days off of working on his house to go fishing. Or if his neighbors needed his help, he had no problem dropping what he was doing to lend a hand. The man had no reason to rush. He just knew that he wanted a new house for his family, but it wasn’t important that it be anytime soon.
Is that as inspiring to you as it is to me? The man’s primary objective could take a backseat at any time that he so chose. He didn’t ruin relationships or burn himself out in a race to the finish. He enjoyed every step of the way and did what he wanted, when he wanted.
Now, this IS a ministry blog, so let’s bring it back to Jesus. Remember the story of Lazarus? Jesus said he would heal Lazarus. But, Jesus didn’t make it back to Lazarus in time to heal him, and he died. When he arrived, Jesus was rebuked by the friends and family of Lazarus who said that if only Jesus had gotten there sooner, Lazarus would be alive now. However, as we all know, Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead, fully-healed, just as he promised.
As Americans, how often are we like those people who got upset with Jesus? How often are we so blinded by the perceived importance of time that we lose sight of the big picture? Have you set an unrealistic goal for yourself to lose weight after New Year’s? Do you keep in touch with most of your friends with your phone? Or maybe you’re upset that God hasn’t given you a spouse in your early twenties like everyone else.
Do you have the eternal perspective to understand that, although achieving goals is important, quality of time spent is as well? Do you know that, once God fulfills the desires of your heart, because you’re so spiritually-filled, you will be able to look back and laugh about all the time you spent worrying? I know I’ve done that before!
Obviously we can’t turn our culture on its head, or even remove ourselves from it. But, I know that stories like this are always great reminders for me. I can rest easy knowing that God WILL deliver on my prayers. That doesn’t mean it will be tomorrow, nor does it mean it will be 10 years from now. But he knows the desires of my heart, he hears my prayers, and he came so that I would live life abundantly. With my time, I "plan" to let God do just that.
Dang, that took me almost 40 minutes… Oh well… :)
This is not going to be a well-planned entry by any stretch. This topic literally came to me this morning a matter of hours ago, and having had very little time to think about it, I don’t have many of the important details sorted out. But, I’m just going to throw what I have out there and hope I might stir up some controversy… :)
I realize it sounds cliché to say this to a certain extent, but I’m not the kind of person to lie about my shortcomings. So when I say that I don’t like accepting praise for things that I firmly believe I would not have been able to do without God’s grace, I mean every word of it.
I’ll use my involvement in the worship ministry as an example. This is a little-known fact in the church community, but a LOT of us musicians (not all, but a lot) honestly don’t like being told what an awesome job we did after a service. Being that each and every one of us is a flawed human being, it’s always a struggle for us to remember that we’re playing our instruments to and for God alone. But being told that we did such a great job in a song, although the compliment is no doubt heart-felt, is somewhat counterproductive. It takes something we brought to God as a prayer and offering, and turns it into something to puff up our own egos. It’s pretty tough to not let those kinds of things go to your head sometimes.
Through that lens, it’s equally frustrating to never hear the same people who would compliment a worship musician for a job well-done offer a single piece of gratitude to those who ran sound, set up the stage, served communion, prayed for people during the service, or even set up the coffee and snacks before the whole night went down. Not a one of us who serves God through volunteering in a ministry wants human praise for what we do, and I’m willing to bet that it would be pretty awkward if someone came up to a greeter and said, “Wow, you did an excellent job shaking people’s hands tonight!”
Now, I don’t mean to pick on anyone. Like I said, I realize that the compliments given are coming from a place of good intentions, but I wanted to expose the issue for all of us to think about a little bit. There are a million and a half questions to ask about this kind of thing, so I’m not even going to try to do justice to them. Instead, I’d much rather see some kind of discussion if people would be so bold as to post! ;)
When you’re complimenting someone, are you thinking about why you’re really doing it? Are you doing it because you appreciate what they brought to the ministry as a whole, or are you doing it to get on their good side? Are you offering the same praise to other people who work just as hard for the ministry, or are you swayed by a bias?
When you’re on the other end, receiving a compliment, where does it end up in your heart? Does it make you feel, “Oh, wow, finally SOMEONE appreciates me!” or, is it more rightly something like, “Well, God really deserves the gratitude, not me.”? Is your satisfaction in your servitude contingent upon human praise, or are you fully serving God with what you do?
As I said, I sure don’t have all the answers. Though, I’ll suggest that if you’re out to offer praise to someone, it’d be best to thank God for that person’s heart as well. And if you’re frequently receiving compliments for your servitude in the church, well then, thanks are also due to God for your gifts and abilities that have allowed you to serve in such a way.
Cheesy title...but it's only been in the past year that I've come to accept this truth: The Creator of the Universe is in Love with ME. Say that to yourself...
I read this passage from Genesis 29 this past weekend and it made me think of my own past relationships:
31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he enabled her to have children, but Rachel could not conceive. 32 So Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said "The Lord has noticed my misery, and now my husband will love me."
33 She soon became pregnant again and gave birth to another son. She named him Simeon, for she said, "The Lord heard that I was unloved and has given me another son."
34 Then she became pregnant a third time and gave birth to another son. She named him Levi, for she said "Surely this time my husband will feel affection for me, since I have given him 3 sons!"
35 Once again, Leah became pregnant and gave birth to another son. She named him Judah, for she said, "Now I will praise the Lord!" And then she stopped having children.
Now granted, I have no children, but as a woman, I can totally relate to Leah's situation. We feel unloved, lonely, or scared we actually might end up alone, and so we manipulate circumstances or become someone we are not in order to gain affection, in an effort to feel loved and accepted. Looking back on most of my signficant dating relationships, I often compromised my values and lowered my standards in order to gain the love and affection of a particular guy I wanted to be in a relationship with. I desperately wanted someone to really get to know who I was and what I believed in. Someone who understood my hopes and dreams and fears and walked along side of me. Someone who pursued me with interest and was willing to go to great lengths to ensure my happiness.
I never realized it at the time, but what I was searching for all those years was God Himself. So it's no surprise to me that I never really knew myself until I knew God. This idea of a relationship with Jesus - it was completely foreign to me. For all the years I had been going to church, I never understood that the Creator of the universe wanted a relationship with me. I could've saved myself a lot of heartache if I had learned this earlier...
Is it possible this was God's plan all along? Maybe He knew exactly what it was going to take for me to accept His love, so He let me take my sweet time going after what I thought I wanted, only to end up with a bad ending every time.
I have to say I'm not where I thought I'd be at my age. But most importantly, I am learning who I am in the Lord's eyes and trying faithfully to follow His will for my life. It's not easy because the world tells me I am someone else - that I should look a certain way, act a certain way, that I should get nervous because I'm almost 30 and not even close to being married...
As women (myself included!), we need to do a better job at allowing Christ to be the One who fills our cups. We need to get out of the mindset that we need a man to bring any sense of excitement to our lives. We need to stop basing our sense of self-worth on whether or not a guy is interested in us. We need to focus on becoming who Christ says we are and who He created us to be, so that we are ready when He decides it's time to bring us the man chosen for us... the one who will be the overflow in our cup.
Why do we hide those items away? I suppose it is to keep the surfaces around us in our kitchens or rooms cleaner. It is so people (including ourselves) don’t have to see or deal with the junk. Interestingly enough, we know right where the junk drawer is and it usually the first place we check for the random item we need. Yet, we really never enjoy digging through the stuff and for some our drawer is so full things fall out when it is opened.
I think it will be obvious where I am headed with this but please follow me to the end. Here comes the transition....wait for it...wait for it: many of us have a junk drawer within our hearts as well. It is where we put the life experiences many of us don’t know what else to do with. All of us have made mistakes, but some of us have made really huge mistakes – ones we want to hide the rest of our life. The drawer might even contain wounds we carry from others who have hurt us. The thing about the junk drawer in our hearts is we know exactly where it is at and what is in there and we certainly don’t want others to see it.
I don’t want to come across as “preaching” today, but rather as one who struggles with this as well. I am realizing when we have a junk drawer in our hearts it prohibits us from loving with all our hearts because part of it is hidden away. We are not able to love God with all our heart and we are not able to love those around us with all our heart. We guard ourselves from vulnerability but in turn we guard ourselves from those who love us.
We say to ourselves “no one will love me if they knew the stuff in my drawer.”
That is a lie.
It is simply not true.
When we put things in our junk drawer we do not even let Jesus Christ love us. He already knows all the junk...the junk from our past, the junk we are in right now, and even all the junk in our future. Yet, He does not want us to put the junk in a drawer where we hide it and carry it and let it weigh us down.
What are we to do with it?
Jesus wants it.
Give the junk to him.
All of it.
Even the stuff that is buried so far down in the drawer that it hurts beyond words to bring it out.
I could go on and on with this but I don’t want to preach. I myself have tears in my eyes as I write this knowing I still have my own junk to give to Jesus. It is not easy and I will not pretend that it is, but let me tell you from personal experience that it is so, so, so much better once we give it to Jesus.
We are to have faith like a child, right? Well, when I was a little kid I remember I loved to go find stuff in the junk drawer and play with it to the dismay of my parents. The “junk” would be all over the house if it had been up to me, but I had fun with the stuff and found such joy in it.
Can we have that kind of faith with the things in our junk drawers?
Can we believe God can use them to bring us joy in life?
I believe so because it has been true in my life even though I am so often quick to forget. I have made some serious mistakes and deal with some serious wounds, yet God has used them for good in my life and I can celebrate what He has done in and through my “junk”. I know it sounds Christian cliché but it is true. I get so excited when I need a little tool or trinket or some random item and I find I have had it stuffed away for years in my junk box under my bed. It is a great feeling to have the perfect little tool or item for the time when you need it. Give your junk over to Jesus and allow Him to give you joy where there has been fear, shame, and condemnation. I guarantee you he will use your “junk” in exciting and miraculous ways you never would have dreamt imaginable.
I know this from my own experiences.
Don’t take my word for it. Here are some promises for you:
Galations 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,who have been called according to his purpose. (“All” means all and that is all “all” means!!!!)
I can’t remember where I first heard it, but this quote has been ringing like a bell choir in my head for weeks now:
Love is giving someone the power to hurt you, and trusting that they won’t.
Maybe it’s just me, though I doubt it, but it seems like it’s a pretty big deal when someone knows the depths of your heart these days. And by depths, I mean information that could collapse you into a ball of tears if someone were to use it against you - some of the most humiliating and depressing things you’ve come to experience in your life. It takes a heck of a lot of trust in someone to be comfortable giving them that kind of power, doesn’t it?
At first, I wanted to think that it was a quote that really only applied to our societal format where we’re very inwardly-focused, and where we all walk around with a thick coat of verbal armor should anyone try to expose the parts of us that we don’t like. But it wasn’t until a good friend told me a story yesterday that it really hit me how God used this same model.
Think about what we commonly uphold as divine attributes (God’s characteristics). God was not created, he is the creator. God, in the blink of a figurative eye, could wipe out existence as we know it. It’s only by his will that we are given each breath we take.
So, with that in mind, why even bother with people? Well, I think the aforementioned model of love might lend a good answer to that. In doing what God did through Jesus (ie: become fully human and allow us to hurt him, both physically and emotionally), he extended his own vulnerability to us.
Chew on that for a second. The creator of the universe, that could end our existences if he so chose to, allowed himself to be vulnerable to us as an expression of love. Jesus’ teachings can be read as “good advice” in one way, but if you really think about how God demanded reparation for sin in the Old Testament, Jesus was effectively saying, “This is how you can betray my love and trust for you, and sin against me.”
And he continues to do so in giving us the freedom to sin and receive his grace. It’s through this model, where we are given the choice, that the love God receives from us is genuine. Were we forced to obey God, there would be no love, because there could be no absence of love.
At this point, I’m sure I’ve said something that has poked or prodded some philosophy buff’s last nerve, so I’ll quit with the extra-biblical implications for now. But as long as we’re here, why not bring it down to Earth? How are you doing in this regard? How vulnerable are you to the people you’re close to?
I’ll lead by example and bluntly say that, for the amount of “friends” I have, I think it’s pathetic how few of them know me on a real personal level. And it’s entirely my own doing. I trust small handful of people in my life with very personal information. I know those people will never hurt me because they’ve proven it time and time again. But to those whom I don’t willingly share my personal life, I’ve developed some kind of “rationale” as to why I don’t. Rationale, at the end of the day, is just a reason for me to continue to be scared.
Perhaps I’m scared of what people will think if they knew that I’d been medicated for clinical depression on more than one occasion. It could be I’m concerned that people will think less of me for having been engaged once upon a time, and ending the relationship and leaving my fiancé in the dust. Maybe I’m petrified to think of how most of Immersion would react if they knew that one of their worship leaders used to be a raging pothead.
Last week I wrote about being a sideliner. My question for you now is: what would you do if you knew you could not fail and money was not an issue? What are your dreams and passions? What are your God given talents and gifts that have been hidden deep down inside you over the years? If you cannot think of anything, I challenge you to list 100 things you love to do. Maybe a few things will come to mind.
I wonder what was going through the mind of David when he volunteered to fight Goliath. (Check out 1 Samuel 17.) David was just a little shepherd boy, but yet he was the only one willing to step up and fight the giant Goliath. He had to be afraid deep down inside. Yet, I think he knew what he was cable of with God on his side. Everyone around him, including his brothers and the King, probably thought he was crazy and was signing up to commit suicide. However, I think David knew he had been practicing and training with a sling shot day in and day out all his life. God had prepared him and had given him the gifts, talents, and tools to do the job. So finally the King agrees to let David fight but then tries to tell David to use the King’s armor and sword. Basically, he was telling David he needed to do it his way...the worlds way. David tried on the armor and he had to have been thinking, “This is not me. I’m not a soldier. I’m a shepherd boy. I’m going to do it the way I know how and the way God wants me to do it. It may look differently than the way the world would say to do it, but watch this because my God is about ready to rock your world.”
What is your Goliath?