Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Is There REALLY Room for Differences?

Sometimes I get tired. Okay, I'm tired most of the time, but sometimes I get tired of people telling me what to do. Good people. People I respect and who I know hold their convictions and beliefs out of love and wisdom and research and knowledge. Thanks to the Internet, we all know now exactly how everyone strongly believes we should think and act.

And I'm also a little confused. A main thought these days is that we should embrace and love people even as we disagree. But that doesn't seem to stop anyone from writing and proclaiming and advocating for their way of life. I try to read non-fiction and blogs. I really do. But at their core, they are still telling me what to do. And they've written their book or post because they earnestly believe people should think the way they do.

Often my biggest beef lies with those who write about the state of today's Church. People band together, pointing their fingers at one congregation or group within the congregation or person in the congregation, making sure that everyone knows how much they disagree with that one thing. Or they'll generalize, saying how ALL churches should be (insert a certain action.)

But what if there is room? What if there is room for a church who is burdened for the inner city AND a church who longs to serve the increasingly unchurched middle class suburb? Or upper class suburb for that matter? There are so many different groups here in America and out in the world, and are we really supposed to have ONE method and expect them all to fit in? Can we really say that those churches with new buildings  and fresh carpet and paint in the suburbs, who works hard on excellent music and current technology, is missing the point? Because they're not in the downtown areas every day? If everyone goes downtown, who will serve the people who aren't downtown? And of course if everyone stuck to the suburbs, then whole groups of people will slip through the cracks.

Paul goes into great detail about the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. It's a good thing he wasn't a journalist, sticking to as few words as possible. I mean, he really takes his analogy as far as it will go. Which tells me it's important. It's important to grasp the understanding that there are different parts, with their different functions, and that they are equally important to the body of Christ. This alone tells me there is room.

I guess what I'm saying is, I wish those articles and books said less of "You SHOULD be doing this" and more of "Hey, I'm doing this over here!" That's it. That's all anyone needs to hear. That something is going on over there, not how important it is and why it's the most important thing ever and why you should be doing it too. God gave us each our personalities, talents and interests, and they will be peaked by different things. It doesn't make you better or worse to be interested. It just makes you you.

Because the thing is, chances are the people doing that thing over there that seems unimportant to you might just be the thing God has called them to do. Just because a church spent money replacing their carpet doesn't mean no one prayed about it. Or that the pastors and elders are only concerned about appearances. If that one thing doesn't interest you, then you should be working in another part. Because all parts need tending to. And if the church you go to now doesn't focus on the things you want to focus on, then you have the freedom to go find one that is burdened for the same things you are. And when you go, I hope you go with a smile and a "keep up the good work, brother! I'm going to work over here for awhile."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The 2015 Buzzword: Love

Love, love, love. Love is all you need. Love will keep us together. Love everyone, man.

I hate the word love. No one knows what it means when someone else says it, because everyone has their own idea of what it should look like. It should look like the movies. It should look like giving everyone a gold star for every word out of their mouth and every choice they make. It should look like 100% agreement at all times.

Our nation has turned a corner. One that will be mentioned in history books. There is much celebrating. There is much mourning. And no one wasted any time jumping into the argument of how Christians SHOULD be responding/behaving/believing about it all.

I struggle with love. What does love look like? What on earth am I supposed to do to show that I love? How can I prove that I love them when I say I do, but they say I don't? Or when YOU say I don't because I haven't followed the exact steps you so carefully articulated in your Facebook post?

I live with a Biblical worldview. Everything I do, everything I believe comes through the lens of what the Bible says. Sometimes the Bible is murkier than others, and clarity is harder to come by. But when it comes to love, I have to follow the Bible. Not conventional wisdom. Not popular, enlightened, modern ideas. Just the Bible, as revealed by the Holy Spirit.

Love is patient. Love is willing to bear the burden of hardship, pain, delay, annoyance with a calm demeanor, and without complaint or anger.

Love is kind. Love shows benevolence. Love actually does and says things for the good of others, and is helpful.

Love is NOT jealous...and does not harbor anger at someone else's success or indulge in suspicion or fear

...or boastful...acting triumphant at its own success or relishing in a victory at the expense of others

...or proud...feeling pleasure over something that can be credited to it alone

...or rude. Love does not act impolite or harsh with someone, even when that someone says or does something that offends or is wrong.

It does not demand its own way. It does not demand to be heard or become upset if it is not being listened to. It does not demand that anyone acknowledge its opinion as valid or correct.

It is not irritable...or easily annoyed

...and it keeps no record of being wronged. It literally does not remember the last time it was offended, and definitely doesn't bring it up when confronted about something else.

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Regardless of its opinion, it knows when an injustice occurs and it does not celebrate that fact. It celebrates truth and only truth.

Love never gives up...even when a devastating blow occurs

...never loses faith...even when its allies seem to be turning away always hopeful...always choosing to look beyond the circumstance to the promise given

...and endures through every circumstance. Love bears without resistance every event, fact and detail.

Love never fails. It doesn't end. No matter what.

That's love. Not kissing someone else. Not berating your fellow man into a belief you hold. Not shaming someone else for a belief they hold.

In fact, love is not a response at all. True love is proactive and rather than respond, love simply acts. Regardless of what is happening around it, Love will always act that way.

Lord, help me act that way.

All words in bold are taken directly from the New Living Translation of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

On Death

So much heartache.

I only know a tiny piece of her story.  I wasn't an avid reader of her blog.  But I can't help but feel the weight of the death of Kara Tippetts.  I know she was given the task of walking with her family through a terminal brain cancer diagnosis, and I can't even imagine.  I know she did her best to point to God and His love, and she is a beautiful picture of the lost art of dying well.  And so we should rejoice at the thought of her living forever, pain free, with Jesus.

Because we know she believed and lived as a child of God.  She was secure in her eternity because of her faith.  She gets to LIVE FOREVER. And live forever in a place that is not riddled with the horrors of this world.  We should rejoice!

But I cry instead.

Why does death sting so bad?  I know why it does for those who choose to live apart from Jesus.  Their eternity is a worse place than this one, and that's saying something.  They should be scared.  But I shouldn't be.  And I'm not scared of death, but I definitely am not looking forward to it.

Even saying that makes me feel so disloyal to my Lord.  I love Him, and I can't wait to just be with Him forever.  But on the other hand, I very much can wait.  So do I love my life on this broken planet more than I love Him?  Is that what that means?  Because I'm ashamed at that thought.  I'm ashamed that it's not so much that I don't want to go, it's that I don't want to leave.  The thought of the sorrow that I would leave behind if I were to die, the sorrow of my girls and my husband, the amount of work it would take for my family to make life liveable again, is unbearable.  Even with knowing the joy I will experience on the other side.

I try to remember this, though.  I would cite the article if I could remember where I read it, but it was about those Christians in Egypt (yes?) who were publicly beheaded by ISIS recently.  Articles have popped up about how peaceful they were during that incident, singing and praising the Lord as they faced that horror.  And the author of the article said something along the lines of, "Don't worry about whether or not you could face martyrdom with that kind of joy and grace, because you could."  I think he meant that that kind of joy and grace is a very specific joy and grace given by the Lord for that very moment, and while we don't have it now, we don't need it now.  If we need it then, it will be given then.  I think Kara experience that same kind of joy and peace and grace, even in the midst of her sorrow at knowing her time was ending.

I had a dream a week or so ago.  In the dream I was on a table, about to be executed for my faith by lethal injection.  But the injection kept going wrong, like it just wasn't working.  And I was upset.  I knew my family would be sad, but I was so excited at seeing Jesus that I just kept thinking, Come on!!!  Work already!!  It was a weird, morbid dream, but I can't get it out of my head.  And I feel like so much death is happening around me that the dream keeps coming back to the forefront.

I have no conclusions.  Just a heaviness of heart and a lump in my throat.  I want to live and be ready and excited to spend eternity with Jesus and protect my girls from this level of sorrow.  But I'm afraid that is an order that is too big to fill.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Confession: I am a Food Ruiner

Sometimes even I get irritated by my love of routine.

I have a nasty habit of ruining perfectly good food.  By ruining, I mean eating it so many times in a row that I reach a point where I never ever want to see it again.

Case in point: last year sometime I changed some dietary things to help me shed the last 10 baby pounds that seemed to make themselves at home on my body.  So for breakfast I starting having smoothies: 1 cup of frozen fruit, one big dollop of greek yogurt, a squirt of honey, 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed and 2 Tbsp of chocolate Instant Carnation Breakfast.  I felt so healthy, and it really seemed to help.  I also began eating a salad with some kind of chicken on top every day for lunch.  Last year I was able to lose 12 pounds.  And now I am SO OVER IT.

So I found this recipe for a scrambled egg in the mug and a two-minute breakfast sandwich.  It's glorious and FAST.  I can make it three and half minutes total and have a real filling breakfast.  But I just know I'll probably ruin this too.  The question is, how many will I eat before I never want to eat it again?

Spice things up, you say?  Variety is the spice of life, eh?  Maybe. Probably.  Too late.  I'm already stuck in my rut.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Dreamy Thoughts

Or, more accurately, "Thoughts on Dreams."  As in, a bunch of random thoughts on dreams that don't exactly go together, except they are on the same subject.

I'm a dreamer; my husband is a realist.  Maybe I've always known this, but I feel like this is a new revelation about me.  I feel like it is something I have suppressed for years and years, because my husband is a realist.  Who wants to dream dreams when you know someone will just tell you how unrealistic they are?  He's never done it on purpose, but in the name of peace keeping I've kept my dreams to myself all this time because I know what he'll say.  Well, no more.  We discussed this fact today, and I told him just to go with it when I start dreaming.  I don't think my dreams are crazy, and I also know they are just dreams.  I like to think of myself as a realistic dreamer, enjoying the process of dreaming while knowing the practicality of the situations.

I don't really want all my dreams to come true.  If I did, I would work for them. I would scrap and fight and never die.  But I think I don't really want to be a hard-core gardener or learn how to compost.  Because I don't like the smell of mud.  But the thought of being a hard-core gardener and living on acreage is still a dreamy dream of mine.  I have other dreams too, but the more I think about them and how they would come to fruition, I think that maybe I don't really want them to come true after all.  But I like dreaming about them.  Or maybe I just read too many books.

Hebrews 11:13 - "All these people died still believing what God had promised them.  They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it.  They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth."  This verse comes smack in the middle of the Heroes of Faith chapter, where you read stories about all the greats and the faith they had.  But this verse has stuck to me like the macaroni noodles stick to the seat of my todder's pants.  They had more than dreams; they had promises.  And they were content with that, even if they never saw it's fruition.  So why do I think that I'm entitled to see the very best outcomes of my dreams?  I'm not entitled to anything.  This place isn't even my home.  But the American Dream is that you can have everything your heart desires, as long as you work for it.  But I'm not so sure that's a Biblical view.  But I actually find this verse freeing.  I can dream dreams, but I don't have to worry about making them come true.  Maybe they will.  Maybe they won't.  Maybe someday I'll dream a dream that I'm so excited about that I just have to figure out how to make it work.  But these dreams are not my prize.  Eternity is.

No witty conclusion here.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Those "Don't Ever Say" Lists Probably Aren't Effective

You know the ones.

"10 Things To Never Say to Introverts"

"Things Christians Should Never Say"

"508 Things You Should Never Say To a Stay-At-Home/Working/Homeschooling/Short-Haired/Hungry Mom"

These are all fictitious, of course, but you know the articles and blog posts I'm talking about.  You could find one right now, if you wanted.  Just go to Google and start to type in "things to never say to" and see what pops up.

Not only are they completely overdone at this point, but I believe they are completely NOT doing what people hope they do.  People hope that these types of articles will cause others to treat them in the way that they want to be treated.  But I doubt they are being read by the people who they think need to read them.  These types of articles are only read by subgroup of people who the article is about, and used to reinforce the perceived injustice they feel from other people.

Whenever I see these things shared, they are shared by the introvert/non-Christian/stay-at-home mom.  Never by the person who has one of these people in their life.  Frankly, it's passive-aggressive.

First of all, I've come to the realization that no social battle will ever be won on the internet.  The internet is too impersonal, and these issues are ONLY personal.  There are too many ways to find only the viewpoint you are looking for, so if you're trying to push for change and someone doesn't agree with you, then they are probably not going to even read your post.  Or they'll read it and reference five other posts that support their side.  So it's a waste.

Second, it is almost directly opposed to the Golden Rule.  In Matthew 7:12, we find Jesus saying, "Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you" not "Tell others how you want to be treated."  The action always starts with us, not with us telling others what to do.  Basically, we're not the boss of other people.  And articles like these scream, "treat ME better!"

I'd like to think that someday I'll get to the point where if someone says something to me that is hurtful, then I'll be grown-up enough to talk to them about it, rather than finding an article online and posting it to my Facebook wall, hoping the offending party will read it and feel contrite.  I'd also like to get to the point where if someone says something to me that is hurtful, I'll quickly try to think of where they might be coming from and realize that they weren't trying to be hurtful.  In fact, they were trying to be supportive, even though they said the completely wrong thing.

I'm guilty of this kind of passive-aggressiveness.  Especially when I was pregnant.  Often now that I'm a mom.  And maybe even with this post.

But I don't think those articles work any more.  And I'd like to see them disappear in 2015.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Area I Refuse To Simplify

It's the third day of 2015, and I feel like I'm behind the game.  I should have had my goals for the year neatly mapped out by 9:00pm on December 31st so I'd be ready to go the next day when the calendar became fresh and new.  It's not like I didn't want to have my goal set out; I just am having a hard time pulling them together.  I will, mind you, but I decided to not be bound by the calendar.

Blogs are fun to read this time of year.  They're chock full of ideas of goals and plans, as all the wonderful people who write them are more on the ball than I am, and have their lives ready to go.  I suppose another side of the coin is finding ideas and goals that you know without a doubt you absolutely do not want any part of.

This blog post popped up in my news feed.  I like the blog in general, and the title of the post is compelling this time of year: "Making Facebook Interactions More Purposeful."  I think we all want that, right?  We know how clouded and half-hearted social media has become.  The lovely author needed to create more boundaries in her life, so she deleted 500 people from her friends list.  The post explains her reasoning and how she did it, and is very informative. 

But while I do understand the heart of her post, I absolutely do not agree with the method.  Here's the thing: yes, your Facebook profile is probably filled with mostly people you do not interact with on a regular basis.  But whether you want it to or not, deleting someone from your friend list is a very clear signal that says "Your life is not worth my time." 

A few months ago I was in Target and I saw an old MOPS friend across the way.  What did I do? I turned down the other aisle to avoid her.  Because a few months before that I had thought about her and realized I hadn't seen any Facebook activity from her in awhile.  I bopped over to her page, only to find out that she had unfriended me.  So when I saw her in person I felt extremely awkward with the knowledge that either I offended her somehow or she just deemed my activities not worth her time.  Hence the passive-aggressive avoidance act.

The author of the post mentioned how it had taken her a long time to pull the trigger on deleting so many people because she didn't want to hurt people's feelings, but then decided that wasn't a good enough reason.  But I think people's feelings should always matter.  Especially in the world of Facebook, where if you are trying to clean up your news feed, then you have the option of simply unfollowing people, rather than completely cutting them off.  They may not mean that much to you, but perhaps you mean a whole lot more to them, whether they show it or not.  And that knife could go a whole lot deeper than you meant it to when they realize that you've shut them out without so much as a word why. 

I've unfriended people before.  I regret it now.  It pains me to think that maybe one day they were looking for me and very obviously saw that I closed them out.  I know from experience that that realization causes pain, no matter how close you were at one time.  And it's not enough to just say to them, "It wasn't personal!  I was just trying to clean things up!  And you didn't make the cut!" 

I will never simplify my friends list.  I reserve the right to unfollow someone, but I always want to leave that door open, so if they need me, I'm here.  I think I would only unfriend someone if they were actively doing things to do me harm, but thankfully I haven't had to deal with that yet.

Obviously everyone will do what is best for themselves.  But I challenge you to always consider someone's feelings, and find every avenue possible to handle something before resorting to something as clear as unfriending them.  Because once that door is closed, it may not be easily opened.  And people matter.