Friday, April 29, 2011

My enemies are just like me: Thoughts on Christian pacifism Pt 1

Isaiah 53:6
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned- every one- to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

I think it only fitting to start off this blog series by laying the foundation with the simple understanding that, as stated by the prophet Isaiah, we all like sheep have gone astray and Jesus has paid for the sins of us all. This may seem like a no brainer but it bears repeating. It's easy within our class structures, within our races, our religions, our isolated countries (especially America), even our own neighborhoods to consider those not in our group to be so different from us that they become wholly "other". This can be seen clearly in something as seemingly insignificant as a high school clique or something as heinous as the gradual displacement and extinction of the Native Americans from their homelands. When we lose sight of our common brotherhood, of the dual truths or threads that hold us together, namely, that we are all sinners and all deeply loved by God, it's easy to overlook or even justify loss of life in the pursuit of our own welfare.

This understanding has come sharply into focus for my friends Claire and Brent. Recently they felt the call of the Lord to go as long term missionaries to a Muslim country. They have spent their time since making this decision taking classes, learning all they can about cross cultural ministry, and most importantly falling in love with the Muslim brothers and sisters that they haven't even met yet. Recently one of their good friends informed them that he would be joining the Marines and going to war. As a close friend and their brother in Christ, they were burdened in a fresh way by the fact that their friend would potentially be put in a situation where he would be targeting the very people they were called to love and minister to. They decided they would sit down to chat with him and find out where his heart was in the matter. It was a rough conversation filled with racial slurs and defensiveness and an unwillingness on their friend's part to consider any view but his own. As Claire shared this with our community group this past week, there were tears in her eyes. She found herself conflicted between love for her friend and love for her future people.

I recently read an interview with Bernard Lafayette, who was instrumental in the non-violent protests and sit-ins of the Civil Rights movement. When asked about what methods were used to train him in non-violence he replied:
"...The entire training program was to get people to think about how to put yourself in another person’s position and see the world through their eyes. That was so helpful for me in being able to embrace nonviolence. We practiced "loving, not judging" your opponent, but thinking about the fact that there was a reason your opponent behaves the way they do. It's important to understand that if you want to bring about change. We learned that the idea is not just to get rights, but to behave in such a way that we would win our opponents over."

According to Lafayette, the key to keeping people firmly in the "us" camp instead the "them" camp is to put yourself in their shoes. Ask the important questions about why they are behaving the way they are, even if the way they are behaving is horrendous. 

In our own way, we're all horrendous. That doesn't mean our sin doesn't mean anything. This isn't some lame attempt at moral relativism, just a firm reminder of the truth- that my enemies are just like me. My black heart of sin is just as much in need of a savior as theirs. 

"I have come to give you life
And to show you how to live it
I have come to make things right
To heal their ears and show you how to forgive them

Because I would rather die
I would rather die
I would rather die
Than to take your life
How can I kill the ones I'm supposed to love
My enemies are men like me
I will protest the sword if it's not wielded well
My enemies are men like me"

-Derek Webb, My Enemies Are Men Like Me

More thoughts next Friday...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Like vultures to a carcass

This past December I was going through a rough time...maybe my roughest yet. All of the spiritual issues I was obsessing over converged into one massive blow to the face and I spent the holiday season just barely able to pretend I was ok. When things get rough spiritually, everything else gets rough too. I start nitpicking myself- WHY did I not wear my retainer after I had braces? Will I NEVER have skinny ankles? Will anyone EVER ask me on a date? It's not pretty, not by a long shot. With spiritual unrest, there inevitably comes loneliness. So, in a moment of weakness I signed up for three months of online dating- GASP! I know, only a select few of my friends know about my dirty little secret and I sure as heck wasn't going to get over my own pride long enough to tell my mom about it, seeing as I've sworn I would never ever try it.

As soon as I was signed up I realized pretty quickly what I already knew- the ratio of awesome Christian girls to awesome Christian guys is huge. Boys, we outnumber you 5 to 1. In the first month, I was pretty active on the site. I knew as soon as I was matched with a halfway decent guy that I would have to snatch him up quick before the other vultures girls got to him.  I couldn't afford to wait around and be pursued. But most of the time I was just trying to make things fit where they didn't fit. "Ohhhh, this guy says he wants to work in international law, that kinda fits with what I want to do, I could make that work. Maybe while he's travelling around I could have my own ministry on the side in those countries." Or "Hey! This one is passionate about faberge eggs. I'm not really into that but who knows? Maybe they're really awesome!"  Graciously, God preserved what little bit of self respect I had for my own dreams and callings and I never actually pursued many of these guys.

Over time, I stopped logging in except for every few weeks to purge all the (mis)matches from my inbox. And of course, in the last week before my subscription expired, there he was- online dating gold. He answered the profile questions in all the right ways, he liked all the same things I liked, he loved Jesus, loved to talk theology and philosophy, he was handsome, and the cherry on top- he liked and could quote Arrested Development with the best of them. I immediately emailed him and we started talking. Not just me gushing and asking him questions with short, civil responses from him...we actually talked. He asked me questions about my life, fancy that, and we made plans to get together over chocolate milk. About half way through our correspondence though, I started to get a little uneasy. This next part is going to sound terrible and self-pitying and I know that it's stupid, but it's the truth. I started wondering why is this guy talking to me? He is really handsome and educated and successful, what does he see in me? And then the awful realization- that of all the vultures who date online, I can't be the only one he's talking to. I felt this horrible compulsion to up my game, to make sure I said the right things, that my grammar was perfect, that I was witty and hilarious, that I asked good questions. Alas, it wasn't enough. Only a few days after my horrible realization, what I knew was inevitable came to pass. He emailed me for the last time saying he was sorry, but he was "going to pursue someone else exclusively now. Maybe I'll see you around Austin." I knew it was coming but it still felt like someone had punched me. And it wasn't about him. We had only been talking for a couple weeks. It was about not being good enough. I felt like a contestant on the Bachelor, minus all the hot tub dates and hot air balloon rides. I had lost.

I'm so exhausted from trying to earn people's love. I do it with God and in reading over what I've written here, I realize I do it with people too. If there's anything I've learned about myself, or rather re-learned, it's that I want to be pursued. What girl, or person doesn't? I don't want to get into a serious relationship and look back at our beginning and say, "I won. I beat out all the other girls"'s not very romantic.

On Easter Sunday my pastor gave a sermon about how Jesus is a reconciler and how He pursues us. He gave the example of the disgraced Peter, who had denied Jesus three times, even after he was so cocksure he would never do it. Peter is remorseful and worried that he's finally blown it for good so he runs off to go fishing and clear his mind. In the morning, as the sun is rising, he sees Jesus standing on the beach, inviting him to breakfast. In his relief and excitement Peter literally lobs himself out of the boat into the water like a crazy person, even though they weren't very far from the shore. This has got to be my favorite passage in Scripture for so many personal reasons. It may not directly relate to my experiences with online dating but I love it because Jesus pursued Peter and Peter was smitten.  

I do not need to, nor can I earn love from anyone. Not boys and not God. Jesus knows my story and He knows how much I want and need to know that I'm worth pursuing. If I get married, I will be pursued first. And if not, if the only one that ever pursues me is Jesus, then so much the better. He's a pretty good pursuer. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday chuckle fest

I've been staring at the screen for a long time but...I got nothing. At least for now.

I know I've really made a reputation for myself as a hard-hitting, intelligent blogger, so for today I thought I'd keep it classy by sharing a funny cartoon. Enjoy a  little chuckle to get you through the rest of the week.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Don't make eye contact

Love hurts.

Love makes us vulnerable.

Love opens us up to suffering.

These are probably not the first things that pop into your mind when you think about love. We like to think about the warm, fluffy stuff. At least I do. But the hard stuff, the truths listed above, are what make me cringe when I see a care-worn old man on the street corner in need of spare change. Or what makes me look away, fiddle with the dials on my radio, when a woman comes to my window holding a sign that says "On my last leg" and she literally is on one leg. Or what makes my heart shut up like a startled clam when I hear about a little boy in my neighborhood who was removed from his home by CPS when he prayed at an after school program for his mom to stop hitting him.

I don't want to love these people because I know how bad it will hurt.

In 2007 I spent a month in Kathmandu, Nepal encouraging the local church and doing street ministry. On one of the days that I had opted to stay home, hanging out by the toilet, my team had gone to do a prayer walk at one of the largest temples in the city. White people were a pretty exciting attraction for kids at these sites. Usually we'd attract a crowd of miniature followers pretty quickly, asking to see our cameras, or ipods and joyfully receiving the little candies we typically had in our pockets. This time though, a few of the kids stood out to my friend Lindsey. They were a little dirtier than normal, not as outspoken, and if I remember correctly Lindsey gravitated towards them immediately. There wasn't much to say because of the language barrier, but our Nepali friends informed us that these girls were temple orphans. Not knowing what else to do, Lindsey pulled a bottle of lotion out of her backpack and motioned to the girls, asking if she could put it on them. They nodded and Lindsey began massaging it into their dry, cracked arms and hands. Tears started seeping out of the little girls' eyes and then eventually out of Lindsey's. It's easy to assume this was probably the first time in a long time that these children has been touched in a loving way. Lindsey lingered with them as long as she could, silently hugging them, holding their hands as they walked around the temple. When it was time to go all three girls cried freely and held each other. Lindsey came home and told me everything, her face visibly registering the heart break behind it all. This story haunts and moves me even now.

When we love someone the strings of our heart become attached to theirs. You mourn their losses, cheer their wins. And I have been closing myself off to these things. At least for the ones that I'm sure will hurt the most. I put my head down, secure the blinders, turn up the music, and tune out my heart. And it's time to stop.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Maybe this means I will be weak with the pain of it all, but "His strength is made perfect in my weakness." Maybe this means that I will suffer great loss, but "I will count it all loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus." 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Raging insecurities and the promise of a new name

I won't lie. Sometimes I have raging insecurities. This should come as no surprise because I hardly know anyone who doesn't have them. We do our best to keep the voices at bay. You know, the ones whispering, "You're not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough." The ones who slowly engrave lies on the walls of our heart- "That thing you did? You'll never be able to live that down." Or- "That guy you think might like you? It won't be long before he figures out who you really are and walks away."

My personal journal is filled with admonitions to myself, to cling to the truth that Jesus thinks I'm pretty great. He thinks I'm beautiful. He desires to have me all to himself. But I confess that sometimes it feels about as lame and insufficient as the twelve year old boy complaining to his mom, "No one likes me." Only to get a response of, "Well I like you." "Thanks mom", he replies, sulking off to his room.

Sometimes, for better or worse, this is how I feel. But other times the weight of the idea that Jesus thinks I'm worth something comes crashing down and ruins all my paltry self deprecation. Revelation 2:17 talks about God giving a white stone with a new name on it to those who overcome, and no one knows this new name except that person and God. I've always loved when people in the Bible received new names but I've never really given much thought to what it will be like to receive my own.

George MacDonald further explores the implications of the new name:
" "God has cared to make me for Himself", says the the victor with the white stone, "and has called me that which I like best, for my own name must be what I would have it, seeing it is myself. What matter whether I be called a grass of the field, or an eagle of the air? a stone to build into His temple, or a Boanerges* to wield his thunder? I am His; His idea, His making; perfect in my kind, yea perfect in His sight; full of Him, revealing Him, alone with Him. Let Him call me what He will. The name shall be precious as my life. I seek no more." Gone then will be all anxiety as to what his neighbor may think about him. It is enough that God thinks about him. To be something to God- is not that praise enough? To be a thing that God cares for and would have complete for Himself, because it is worth caring for- is that not life enough? ....Surely to know what He thinks of us will pale out of our souls all our thoughts about ourselves! And we may well hold them loosely now and and be ready to let them go."

I'm done with allowing such silly lies to find a place in my heart over the truth. I'm not naive enough to think I won't ever struggle with insecurity again, but I am ready to hold my thoughts about myself with a looser hand. Jesus is not just an idea, He's a person. He really does know me, and He really does love me in spite of myself. Sometimes I forget that. 

* I googled Boanerges and it means fiery, passionate preacher. I generally have to google every other word when I'm reading MacDonald.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Friday meditations : The only thing you ever need to know

I've written on here before about how much I identify with "Doubting Thomas", even though, there's not too much written about him. What we know is that he was a follower of Jesus, and he asked a lot of questions. When Jesus died, the disciples didn't really know what to do with themselves. Their world was falling apart. The person they had pinned all their hopes on had just died a gruesome, humiliating death. A few of the disciples were in disgrace, having abandoned and even denied Jesus in the hour He needed them most. I honestly don't know what I would have done if I were a disciple at this time. The little mustard seed of faith in my heart is so small and frail, I fear it would have faltered along with the rest of his crew.

So when the women come running to report that the tomb was empty, that Jesus was indeed alive, word among the followers spreads fast. John 20 says that soon after Jesus appeared to Mary in the tomb, he also appeared to the disciples who were hunkered down in a locked room, for fear of the Jews. The disciples rejoiced at the return of their Lord. But Thomas wasn't there to see it. And when he was told about the event he said he would never believe until he put his own fingers in the holes in Jesus' hands. A week later Jesus appears the group again, this time with Thomas present. He immediately turns to Thomas  and says, "Here, put your fingers in my hands, place your hand in my side. Do not disbelieve but believe." Thomas is overcome and exclaims, "My Lord and my God!"

I always used to take comfort in the fact that Jesus accommodated Thomas' need for verification and his questions. Jesus did indeed accommodate those for him. But as my own questions began to get more complex and seemingly more urgent, I couldn't help but feel left out. "Jesus, why did you accommodate Thomas and not me?". I found it disheartening and eventually stopped hoping for answers. A while ago I was sharing this with my friend Sarah Coker and she suggested that maybe the only thing Thomas (and I) needed to know without question or doubt was that Jesus died for us. "Put your fingers in my hands, see what I did for you? I never ever want you to doubt this, or question this." The suggestion was like a light bulb that finally went on in my head.  In all the other stories in the New Testament, Jesus seems pretty content to keep people guessing, to get them to search for deeper meanings. He hardly ever said anything straight up. He was always telling stories, always answering questions with more questions. But this- this question required all doubts to be put to rest. It was important to him that we know without wavering, how far His love went for us- the love that took Him all the way to the cross.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Good Friday meditations : A feast for your heart

Good Friday is just a few days away. This is the first year I have observed lent, having given up Facebook for the duration. This week we mourn our sin and celebrate the cross and its triumphal results for us, the fallen. I don't often allow myself or rather make myself ponder the reality of the cross- what it must have been like to have the weight of the sin of the entire world crushing down on you. Truth be told, I've heard it so many times I've become numb to it. I hate the numbness, so I begged for God to reveal this story to me in a new way.

Over the past few months I've been reading sermons from George MacDonald's "Unspoken Sermons". Like CS Lewis, he is one of the few people who act upon their spiritual liberty, dreaming up new ways to tell old stories, to wake my slumbering heart. Here he expounds upon the exclamation of Christ on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Trembling in humility to ask what might have been going on in Jesus' head at that moment:

"And now, after three years of divine action, when his course is run, when the old age of finished work is come, when the whole frame is tortured until the regnant brain falls whirling down the blue gulf of fainting, and the giving up of the ghost is at hand, when the friends have forsaken him and fled, comes the voice of the enemy again at his ear: "Despair and die, for God is not with thee. All is in vain. Death, not Life, is thy refuge. Make haste to Hades, where thy torture will be over. Thou hast deceived thyself. He never was with thee. He was the God of Abraham. Abraham is dead. Whom makest thou thyself?" "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" the Master cries. For God was his God still, although he had forsaken him—forsaken his vision that his faith might glow out triumphant; forsaken himself? no; come nearer to him than ever; come nearer, even as—but with a yet deeper, more awful pregnancy of import—even as the Lord himself withdrew from the bodily eyes of his friends, that he might dwell in their profoundest being....This is the Faith of the Son of God. God withdrew, as it were, that the perfect Will of the Son might arise and go forth to find the Will of the Father. Is it possible that even then he thought of the lost sheep who could not believe that God was their Father; and for them, too, in all their loss and blindness and unlove, cried, saying the word they might say, knowing for them that God means Father and more, and knowing now, as he had never known till now, what a fearful thing it is to be without God and without hope? I dare not answer the question I put."

Most Christians have been told at some point in their lives that Jesus was thinking of them on the cross. But what beautiful new imagery of Jesus Christ, our intercessor, the One who goes before us, uttering what we cannot utter to the Father. What magnificent empathy, completely unfathomable to us, that He must have felt for His children who did not then and still do not respond to the love He so freely offers. I'm blown away. Completely ruined. My heart will never know a Lover as sweet as Jesus. 

As we prepare for Good Friday and then Easter, let your heart feast upon the love of Christ. Who in the darkest moment of the universe was faithful, crying out even without sight or feeling that God was still His. Who rent the curtain of the tabernacle making a way for us to march boldly inside and dwell with our Maker. Who not only thought of us in those last moments but spoke on behalf of us. He truly is a friend of sinners.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Everyone wants to be loved- even Hitler

So I'm working on a series of upcoming blogs that will expound on the ideas of Christian pacifism and how it is tied to the longings of every human heart. Typically I just sit down and word vomit whatever is in my head and call it a blog entry. But for this I'd like to have a bit more structure and really get deep into the issue, and why I think it's one of the precious few things that the Bible is pretty clear on. I hope to post on this series once a week.

Here's a brief overview of what I plan on covering/including:

  • Reconciling the "Old Testament God" with Jesus' teachings in the New Testament
  • Blazing the path: past and modern day saints who have lead the way on the path of non-violence and reconciliation
  • The root of non-violence and violence: we're all in the same boat, well all want to be loved
  • Pacifism doesn't mean we sit back and do nothing
  • What are our rights?
  • Constantine and the beginning of the Christian empire
  • Jim Elliot and a common double standard
  • Practicing peace, forgiveness and reconciliation

Books I plan on using and reading are:
If you get a chance, check out some of these books. I've read most of them and they will get you asking some good questions. I think you can start looking for this blog series (I feel so pretentious calling it a series) on Fridays. In the mean time, I'll leave you with a question of my own.

What do you think our rights are as followers of Christ?

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Bible is Dead; Long Live the Bible

I've been thinking all morning about what I wanted to write about today. I suppose I could use the weekends to plan ahead for stuff like this but who wants to do that when there are springs to swim in? So instead I'm going to link to a brilliant article I just read by Timothy Beal about the Bible and the way we view it and use it.

This is something I've been pondering on for about the last year. How do we make sense of a book that seems to shift ground as soon as we think we're starting to understand it? How do we make sense of the many voices (sometimes competing and contradictory) contained in it? Have we begun to idolize the Bible as a book of answers? What really is God's purpose for His book?

If you have the time I strongly suggest you read the article for yourself:
The Bible is Dead; Long Live the Bible

I hope to write more thoughts on this topic soon.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Can you draw me a map?

This morning I read what is probably one of my favorite chapters in all of Scripture.
John 14: 1-6
"Let not your hearts be troubled.Believe in God; believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4And you know the way to where I am going."5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

My heart has been troubled lately, for a multitude of reasons that have ended up leading to general exhaustion. I'm confused, lonely, apathetic, disgusted with my sin, etc etc. But the more troubled I get the more I long for simplicity. I long for one thing to train my eyes on. One thing to quiet the endless white noise of all the shit and busyness in my life. Simply put, what I long for is Jesus. Maybe that's stating the obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be stated. We add a lot of other non-essentials into what we think it means to be a Christian, and tend to think it's a lot more complicated than it actually is. Thomas- he and I are birds of a feather. Jesus has just told them, "Hey, don't freak out. Believe in my Dad and believe in me. I promise I have a place for you. You know me, you can trust me. You already know how to get to this place." And Thomas, the wheels turning in his brain says, "Wait, no we don't. Do you think you could draw a detailed map for me?". The truth is, I'd have probably asked the same question, trying to cover all my bases in case I got lost or started doubting whether I ever knew the way to begin with.  And Jesus just says, "I am the way. That's all you need to know." 

Jesus is it. I love how the book of John has so many way to describe what He is to us. 

Jesus is the way. Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the life.- John 14:6
Jesus is the vine. The source of growth for us his branches - John 15:5
Jesus is bread. He satisfies our deepest hunger- John 6:48
Jesus is a shepherd. We recognize His voice and He looks after us -John 10:11
Jesus is a ladder. Our connection point to the divine- John 1:51
Jesus is light. So we can see in the darkness- John 8:12
Jesus is a lamb. The final sacrifice for our sins- John 1:29

Theologian Karl Barth uses a diagram to describe how finite creatures can have anything to do with an infinite God. 

The  inside of the circle represents all of humanity. everything that has ever happened or will happen. The line (which by it's very nature is infinite) will only touch the circle at one point and that point is Jesus. He is our connection with Something that is wholly other. 

And I couldn't dream of a more perfect, lovely, heart-thumpingly beautiful connection point. When I remember to just look at Him, I forget all about wanting a map.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Is God a risk?

I have an aversion to risk. I play it up like I'm an adventurer and my life may even look like I am, but I meticulously plan every detail. I like to know for sure that the choices I make will benefit me and not cause me heart-break or cost me my emotional comfort. This aversion to risk plays itself out most devastatingly in my spiritual life. I want my relationship with God to be nailed down, taped up, wrapped in twine, inside a nice little box with a bow on top. I don't want to have to guess about anything. This, I often think to myself will be the most meaningful, secure way to live my life as a Believer. Because obviously if you have to ask too many questions about something or if it looks and feels a little too much like a real relationship, then it can't possibly be true. But Daniel Taylor in The Myth of Certainty thinks otherwise:

"No significant area of life is free from risk. It is a key ingredient in every accomplishment and every relationship. Whenever a decision is required, there is a risk. Wherever we must act, there is a risk. Wherever people intertwine their lives, there is risk. Should we expect it to be any different in our relationship with transcendence? Why should we insist on being certain about God, on having proof of His existence, or on having unmistakable absolutes on which to build a faith when none of these is compatible with being the finite creatures God has created? If risk is an inescapable part of the daily life of the businessman or woman, the politician, the farmer, the artist, if it is at the heart of all meaningful relationships between people, then we should not be chagrined or embarrassed to find it also at the heart of a relationship with God."

So what about you? Would classify your relationship with God as a risk? Why or why not?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rules of Engagement : Idiotic Girl Edition

My friend Dustin posted a hilarious blog yesterday detailing a short list of things that men wish women knew. Since things have been a little serious and somber over here at Light Bulbs, I thought I'd take a little intermission to respond with a few things women wish men knew. I'll also be adding just a few simple tips for guys to give them that extra edge when impressing the ladies.

1. Do you like a girl? Wink at her. A lot. Winking is hot. I assume this goes both ways, but I wouldn't know because I can't wink without looking like Lucille from Arrested Development, or like I'm having some sort of stroke.

2. Read Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I'm not going to lie and say it's not some weird twisted form of Christian girl porn. It kinda is. Michael Hosea is the kind of man every girl secretly wishes they will end up with. Read and take lots of notes. Every girl wants to be pursued in spite of her baggage, although hopefully you won't ever have to encounter "growing up in a brothel" baggage.

3. Hold a baby. Anyone's baby will do. Try not to hold it like it possesses some sort of disease. Be aware that it is alive and that your big manly arms can crush it if held incorrectly.

Cradle it like you would a football and act like you like it and you're golden. If possible, get your picture taken and make sure it's tagged on facebook. Any girl stalking you in the middle of the night will stumble upon it and assume you're her soul mate.

4. Any girl who has an interest in getting married at some point in her life will, within the first few moments of having a crush on you, try adding your last name to hers. We're not as insane as this may's just a fact of life...don't freak out. You would too if you had to take the girls name and her last name happened to be Schicklegruber.

5. It's ok to not always hold out for the drop dead gorgeous, but complicated girl. We know you're willing to work through all that complicated stuff because hey, if it works out, you're dating a hot girl. But there are plenty of us who are mildly to moderately attractive who are worth pursuing as well.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hacking my lungs out

In October of 2007 I boarded a plan that would take me (via four different layovers) to Perth, Australia for a six month Discipleship Training School (DTS) through Youth with a Mission (YWAM). I thought I was going to learn how to disciple others and be a better missionary, and while those things happened, I mostly ended up being discipled myself. To this day, those six months were some of the most meaningful of my life. I put a lot of things on the altar that badly needed to be burned. Sins that Jesus had forgiven me for, but I had yet to let go of. I had never felt so free in my life....that is, except for those pesky little "sins" that kept crawling off the altar called unbelief and the idol of intellectualism. At least, that's what I was told they were called. I knew I had a problem. Sometimes things would be going great! -awesome quiet times, powerful worship times, meaningful prayers, and then inevitably a question would come up that I couldn't answer and I would find myself rocking back and forth on my bed wondering if God was even real. This couldn't possibly be what God wanted for me as a missionary, I was supposed to be someone of great faith. And besides didn't James 1:6-8 say, 
"...for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." ?
Yes, surely my doubts, my questions, my thirst for understanding must all be from Satan himself. This conclusion was confirmed by my leaders during lectures on "Freedom in Christ" week.

Before I go any further with this story (because it's about to get freaky weird), I just want to say a word about YWAM. First, I love YWAM. I love their heart for the nations and I can assure you I would not be the person I am today without the impact that my DTS had on my life. If the Lord led, I would go back with YWAM in a heartbeat. Having said that, there were a few things that happened during that six months that I don't really agree with and this story is one of them.

All the students in my class were eagerly anticipating the climax of our Freedom in Christ week, which would be application day. In past weeks, application day had been a powerful time of spiritual renewal and the Spirit of God was always faithful to move in unexpected ways. We had spent the last week going over all the areas of our lives where we needed to see major freedom. For some it was freedom from self hatred, others depression, and so on. Mine? Freedom from the "spirit of intellectualism and doubt". This "spirit" had tormented me for too long and I was looking forward to getting rid of it once and for all. On application day our class sat in chairs in a big circle while our school leader stood in the middle. We opened by praying that the Spirit would do a miracle in our hearts that day. We were given instructions that whenever our leader read off the area of sin that we needed freedom from, we were to cough as a physical representation of the work that the Lord would do in us. Coughing, representing him casting out the spirit of sin. Wait, what? Ok, so that's a little weird, but honestly I was so desperate to be free of it, I was willing to try anything. I mean, God does what he wants in really weird ways sometimes, like speaking through Balaam's donkey or spitting in dirt to heal a blind man. My sin was further down the list so I got to observe for a bit while my classmates started hacking their lungs out. Some began sobbing and praying out loud, begging for God to free them from their bondage. The more they coughed, the more God was supposedly getting rid of. I became more and more aware of how badly I myself wanted to be free. So when he got to doubt and intellectualism I started coughing with the best of them. I coughed and coughed. Then I started sobbing. Then I lay prostrate on the floor, a pool of tears and snot forming under my face, begging God to do something. But nothing was happening. I did not feel any freedom. In fact I started feeling worse. Am I doing this for the wrong reasons? Am I just acting? Has this idol so captured my soul that I'm not really wanting to give it up? Does God hate me? Because why on earth wouldn't He heal of this when I need it so badly? The more I coughed, the worse I felt, the more I sobbed. Meanwhile, all my friends and the leaders think I'm having some sort of spiritual breakthrough. An hour later my leader finished. Some people felt like they had encountered God and had broken bondage. And others I could see, felt just like me. I went back to my room and took a nap, my voice completely gone from coughing. 

The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of Commitment has been blowing my mind this past week. This book gets me. And that's really nice sometimes. Here is how the author better describes the plight of the reflective Christian (maybe more commonly referred to as a doubter):
"The reflective person is first and foremost, a question asker- one who finds in every experience and assertion something that requires further investigation. He or she is a stone-turner, attracted to the creepy crawly things that live under rocks and behind human pronouncements. The writer of Ecclesiastes was such a person: "I directed my mind to know, to investigate, and to seek wisdom and an explanation..." (Eccles 7:25). To be reflective is to be sensitive to and fascinated by the complexity of things. It entails an openness to the nuances and grace notes of life, and it implies an eye for hidden beauties and white-washed sepulchers. The reflective person seeks demarcation in the indivisible and finds unity in diversity, discovering likeness in seemingly unlike things."

The truth is, my problem was labelled wrong. It wasn't the sin of intellectualism and doubt. It was me struggling to deal with the fact that I'm a reflective Christian. Thankfully, God has been so faithful to show me, to prove to me that I was made this way for a purpose. But with that purpose there is a hard road ahead. I think I've always known it was going to be hard, but just because something is hard doesn't mean God doesn't intend for us to do it. And here's where the reality is: I need freedom from bondage. But it isn't bondage from my questions and my mind, it's bondage from the paralysis that comes with those questions. The author continues by remembering his own struggle with this, 
"What stands out most clearly is the paradoxical combination of constant motion and paralysis. My mind was constantly moving, but my will was paralyzed. A great sense of wonder and complexity and challenge of being human was the gift of my growing reflectiveness. The cost was an ever diminishing ability to say, 'This is true, that is not; this is good, that is evil; this I will do, that should not be done.'"

I don't have a nice pretty way to wrap this up. Obviously I'm still learning, still being lead. But on my worst days, the days when the questions are too much, my memory tells me that I "have tasted and seen that the Lord is good." I will fix my eyes upon Him, I will preach the Gospel to myself, reminding myself that He loves me and He knows what He's doing. And I will keep reflecting on Him, for surely I am not in any danger of ever getting to the bottom of Him.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Paradox observed

I confess, after reading the question I posted yesterday I had no way to answer it in any meaningful way. But this morning I was thinking about what a contradiction feels like. What does a paradox feel like to me? How can a contradiction feel like anything, you might ask.

Well, we all have experienced it before. It's that feeling we get in our gut when we've experienced something one way and then are told it's actually another way. This doesn't sit right, it's hard to move on from (at least for me). Inevitably, these situations are labelled a contradiction. I would be lying if I told you I only find contradictions in others' belief systems, but unfortunately that's part of the path God is bringing me through now. How can a good and just God control every single thing that happens on the Earth for the purpose of His will, and at the same time hold us solely responsible for our sin? I have experienced God as good and just in my life and I have an innate understanding of what justice looks like so I reject this idea as a contradiction. Contradiction always stems from how we experience the "facts" in question.

Paradox occurs in my mind when I experience two seemingly contradictory facts, ideas, propositions (etc) as equally valid. How can Christ be fully man and fully God? I rely on the experience of the New Testament authors to attest to Christ's humanity while I rely on my experience of Him as God in my life to attest to His divinity. I cannot attribute paradox to the contradictions of other faith traditions because I either experience only one of the facts in question or none at all. For example, Buddhists believe that desire and ignorance are at the root of all suffering and that Nirvana is achieved only by eliminating desire. While I agree that desire can be a form and a cause of sin and suffering, I have never ever met anyone who has been able to successfully rid themselves of desire, nor do I think it possible. Even the desire to rid oneself of desire would ultimately cause you suffering. This then is a contradiction and an impossibility to me.

Now I'm aware that I've pretty much built a house of cards with nothing but experience and feeling as the foundation, which vary wildly from person to person. This is not to say there is not an ultimate Truth out there, just that we differ in how we relate to it. Experience and feeling are two separate things but they tend to go hand in hand. I was lucky enough to grow up in a stable home in a stable country with a (relatively) stable childhood. My understanding of justice is defined by my experience of it due to the circumstances I was born into. Conversely, a girl my age can be born into an unstable family, in an unstable country, with a horrific childhood marked by abuse and degradation and her experience of justice will be decidedly different than mine. 

I bring all of these things up not only to justify why I might label apparent inconsistencies in my own faith as paradox rather than contradiction but to justify why someone of another faith might do the same thing. The longer I sit here staring at the blinking cursor, the longer I realize this topic brings up more question than it answers (surprise, surprise), questions I'm definitely not qualified to address. For example, if paradox always stems from how we experience a fact or proposition, then how can we ever know if anything is true? Then there's the very obvious explanation that we (myself included) are willing to call something a paradox because it sounds nicer than contradiction and is a little easier to live with. So here we are, and I fear I dug a hole that will be hard to get out of. 

What about you? Can you think of times when you're willing to call something a paradox just to avoid the fear of it being a contradiction?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Contradiction vs. Paradox

Nothing much on my heart to share today so I will post a simple question for you to ponder and engage with. I pulled this question from another blog that I regularly read and thought it was one important enough to work through:

Why do we call them contradictions when inconsistencies are found in other people’s faith and paradox when contradictions are found in our own faith?  

As a side note, I was chosen to read an advanced copy of Sword of the Lord: the Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family by Andrew Himes and review it here on my blog. I'm really excited to do this, so stay tuned to read my thoughts on the book some time in May. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I will wait for you: Part 2

The video I posted yesterday could not have been more timely. God knew I would need those words in my heart for today. There are days when I go about my business, serving the Lord, going to work, coming home, sending emails, going for a run, all without noticing or caring that someone is not beside me doing it. And then there are days when the realization is so tangible it hurts. Inevitably (after a good cry and a few times childishly asking, "Why?") these are the sweetest, most intimate times with Jesus. These are the times when the facade of being able to do it all on my own is completely shattered and I go running back into His arms, clinging to him, waiting to hear the words that always come, the words I so desperately need to hear, "I love you. I desire you. You are treasured." And I gather up my courage, I feel His strength in my weakness, and I am empowered to wait for Him.

These words stood out to me from the video:

A virgin in the physical, but mentally just a grown woman on the corner in heat!
Who was tired of the wait!
Ready to sell my aorta for a quarter, not knowing the value of its use to me.
Arties so clogged with my will, it blocked His will from flowing through me.
So, I thank Christ that His blood pressure gave this heart an attack,
That flatlined my obscured vision, put me flat on my back
Through my ignorance He sawed,
Through my sternum He sawed & cracked open my chest
To transplant Psalm 51:10
A new heart & a renewed right spirit within!
So now I fully understand,
Better yet I thoroughly comprehend,
How much I need to wait… for You.

I will no longer get weighted down,
From so-called friends & family talks,
About the concern for my biological clock
When I serve the Author of Time.
Who is NOT subject to time,
But I’M subject to Him,
He has the ability to STOP, FAST FORWARD, PAUSE, or REWIND at any given time…

But to my Father, my Father who has known me before I was birthed into this earth
Only if you should see fit…
I desire Your will above mine,
So even if you call me to a life of singleness,
My heart is content with YOU – the One who was sent.
YOU are the greatest love story ever told,
The greatest story ever known
You are forever my judge & I’m forever Your witness
And I pray that I’m always found on a mission about my Father’s business
Oh, I will always be Yours!
And I will always wait for You Lord, more than the watchmen wait for the morning
More than the watchmen wait for the morning…

I will wait.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I will wait for you

I know I just posted earlier but I saw this video on one of the other blogs I read and just had to add it here. She may have slightly unrealistic expectations of the guy she is waiting for, but everything else is dead on. It made me cry because sometimes you just need someone else to tell you what you already know.

Hippie drum circle

I meant to post over the weekend but didn't find the time between building a chicken coop, playing a soccer game and transcribing an interview for a future blog post. Also because last night I enjoyed participating in my first hippie drum circle. This is why I love Austin: you can go for a dip in the freezing cold water at Barton Springs and then hop out to find your hips twitching from side to side of their own accord to the beats of a hippie drum circle not far away. My friend Chelsea and I decided to go and check it out. Across the the creek we found a big group of people dancing and hula hooping and reading poetry while a self assembled "band" played the sitar and the bongos. Chelsea wanted to hula hoop but I mostly just wanted to watch and observe. These people were in their own world. A lot of them had just come by themselves and had no qualms about closing their eyes and flopping around like a wet noodle. Let's just say that their moves would rival my own best awkward dancing. It would have been easy for me to laugh at them but the truth is I was jealous of how little they seemed to care about what other people were thinking.

But the longer I sat there and watched the more I realized I'm just like them, they're just like me. It may have looked like they didn't care about what others were thinking, but the truth is they probably were trying to prove their membership in that specific "clan". Just like how I try to prove my membership in the intellectual clan, or how hipsters try to be more hipstery or soccer moms try to be more soccer mommy. We're all looking for the same thing. And while I may try to throw in my lot with a specific crowd, ultimately I know it will not satisfy what I REALLY want, which is love, which is Jesus. I think sometimes we as Christians get into this rut of thinking about people on "us versus them terms". But the only difference between me and that group of hairy hippies is that I actually know what it is I long for. I've met Him. I've tasted and seen that He is good. And while I may see the deceivingly beautiful spread that the world has put out and sample the fare it has offered, at the end of the day I'm still hungry.  They long for the same thing I long for, they just haven't met him yet. They haven't tasted him yet.
Romans 8:22-23 says,
"For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies."

So as I laid back on the grass with the stars above me, the wind blowing my hair, and a naked baby dancing in front of me, I couldn't help but feel tied together to this group of people I didn't know, overcome with love for them. What a good gift it is when God gives us just a tiny glimpse of the never-ending expanse of His love for His children.