Thursday, March 31, 2011

Impressing smart people

If I were I honest with myself, I would admit that a small part of why I started this blog is about impressing smart people somewhere down the line when I actually have someone other than my mom reading it. Of course there are other more noble reasons why I'm blasting these ramblings into cyberspace but I can't lie, wanting to look smarter than I am is a little sliver of it. As a Christian I am perpetually striving to find my identity in Jesus, but there are two major things that I am striving against in that battle.

1. Getting smart people to think I'm smart too. The compliments that make me feel the warmest and gushiest inside are ones where people tell me that I said something profound. Or when my sister tells me she wants me to be the one to talk in an argument with my dad or a disagreement with our pastor because I "talk better". I have a handful of smart friends that I am always trying to impress. My friend Dustin has an encyclopedic memory for facts and dates and authors and theology. I try to soak up information like a sponge when we talk but I'm a big ideas person, details don't stick. A compliment from him is like winning the intellectual lottery. Conversely, if someone like Dustin doesn't think any one of my ideas holds water I freak out and assume that everyone thinks I'm a moron. (by the way, I just spent about 10 minutes thinking up ways to get the word 'conversely' in that sentence).

2. Speaking of morons, the other thing I tend to find my identity in is making people laugh by acting like one. I'm not a terribly witty person, much to my chagrin. I'm one of those people that ends up thinking of the most perfect, most funny thing to say about two hours after it would have actually been funny. So what do I fall back on to make people laugh?- making ridiculously ugly faces, awkward dancing, random sound effects at inappropriate times, making people feel know, stuff like that. Some might say I've taken this to the next level, because last December I actually won a competition for it. Looking back, there was never a doubt in my mind that I would win. It was destiny.
That's right people. I actually won a contest for the weirdest face in Austin. That baby was posted on two billboards in downtown Austin. I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty proud of that thing. (Although, I will be adding a normal picture of me to my profile so as not to scare off any future husbands who might be lurking on here...that's for you, Dad)

So what about you? What do you struggle with finding your identity in?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The first time I questioned the Bible...

I remember clearly the first time I questioned what I thought was an inconsistency in the Bible. I was thirteen years old on my very first mission trip. It was my very first time out of the country, on a team of kids I didn't know, who were all older than me. It was all brand spanking new and I absolutely loved it. My team leader literally had to dig my mom's claws out of my shoulder at the airport as she sobbed out how much she would miss me and that everything was going to be okay (for twenty minutes) while the other kids looked at me sympathetically.

Up until this point my faith had been the faith of my parents. I have no doubt that Jesus had already taken up residence in my heart, but at the time I don't think I was aware of it. Stepping off the plane into Port Au Prince changed everything. I remember exiting the plane and walking across the hot pavement to see hoards of people pressed up against a chain link fence, jockeying for a position near us so they could sell us their crackers and trinkets. My team leader pushed us through the crowd shouting directions at us to not accept any offers for help with our bags. Too late- a couple of my team members had already lost their stuff. We hurried onto the bus awaiting us and settled in for the long drive into the Dominican Republic. Everything came into sharp focus on that four hour drive. Seeing the card-board shanty towns along every highway told me all that God stuff was real, although I had no clue how to make sense of any of it.

I've always been a questioner. I've always needed more clarification, more information; always quick to point out inconsistencies. But two things happened here that set the course for the rest of my life:
1. Jesus became a real person. All that stuff I had learned in Sunday school hadn't mattered until then because I had no need to apply it, no need to rely on parents were pretty reliable. Here I was on my own and I saw a great need and felt I was supposed to do something about it and I couldn't do it on my own.
2. I realized that someone had some explaining to do. I started reading the Bible because I wanted to know what God was saying/had said and quickly realized there were things that didn't line up. I don't think I could have articulated it then but I was already beginning to wonder why I had been so blessed with a family and a home and food for every meal and why these people, who God loved, were not--my first taste of "the problem of evil".

The first time I questioned the Bible was on this trip but didn't have much to do with the stuff God was beginning to do in my heart. I think I said to my leader, "The Bible says we are saved by grace and not by works but here it says that we will  be judged on what we do when we get to heaven. Which one is it?" I don't remember what his answer was but I do remember it wasn't satisfactory. I also remember feeling just the tiniest bit of pride that I had stumped him.

This story recently came back to me out of the abyss of my memory and for some reason it comforted me. When I'm in the midst of the valley and all I have are questions and uncertainty, I sometimes romanticize this imaginary time in my youth when I didn't question anything and everything was easy. But remembering this story tells me it was never that way- that God, for better or for worse, created me with the brain I have for a reason. It's frustrating to know that I'll probably be this way for the rest of my life (questions only lead to more questions), but it's comforting to know that God will use me in spite of myself.

What was the first time you questioned the Bible?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I'll believe it when I see it

This is not the first blog I've ever started. Oh no, not by a long shot. You see I have a history of starting things I can't or won't complete. I have HORRIBLE follow through. I'm perpetually the girl who cried wolf in regards to the plans I make for my life. My sister knows me well and will call me out on it, sometimes painfully. Back in January a friend of mine decided to get a team together to play soccer in a coed recreational league. I jumped at the opportunity to fulfill a few of my new years resolutions (be adventurous and get outside your comfort zone). I rambled on and on telling Stephanie about it and asking her to join and gushing about how we would get to wear shin guards (!). Her response? "I'll believe it when I see it." Ouch. My feelings are hurt every time a comment like that is made, whether it's from family or close friends...but at this point, they're justified in those words. Every year I have a laundry list of ideas on how to make my life better, ideas on how to change the world, ministries I want to start or join etc etc...but here is the point; here is why I almost never follow through: because I want to do EVERYTHING. Not only do I want to do everything, but in my ridiculous (albeit, well intentioned) reasoning if I don't do these things, I think they won't get done! 

I recently read a quote from Oscar Romero that kicked that ridiculous idea right out of the park:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

I'm starting this blog because I'm tired of only being a consumer of ideas. I want to challenge myself to let my spiritual imagination loose. I want to join the dialogue of the many voices out there who are acting as their one part of the body of Christ and are doing it very well. God may not be depending on me to save the whole world but He did create me uniquely for a purpose. These are my musings as I stumble along my way. 

Side note: I actually did join the soccer team...and I get to wear shin guards!