Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I read the news today...oh boy!

So in these days of unemployment, I am making the most of my time. I am familiarizing myself with the philosophies of Oprah and Dr. Phil, identifying with the losers of daytime television (the actors and the viewers), and make the occasional trip to the kitchen for a healthy diet of mac-n-cheese and Mt. Dew. Seriously, I’ve been writing furiously, but today I actually watched the news and found it quite amusing how truly gospel-worthy it was. As I mocked and pitied the people channel 7 deemed newsworthy, it suddenly occurred to me that I could’ve easily have been right there in front of the cameras too…along with all you other crazy Christian try-to-do-gooders. There is a little bit of each of us in the characters on the TV. I am the 11-year old boy scout lost in Yosemite who hid from his rescuers the first time around until he was exposed on a trail and returned to his loving family. Do I not hide from my rescuer until he exposes me and carries me home? I am the actor fleeing in my pretty white bronco from accusations of guilt, trying to outrun justice. Do I not lock myself inside a pretty white box claiming innocence? And I am the runaway bride trying to escape the pressure of my life. Have I not tried to outrun my own insecurities and fears and find refuge anywhere but here? Oh, I am so newsworthy!

And yet, God does not broadcast my imperfections to an unforgiving world. Rather, He gently embraces me and leads me back home. Ok, ok, so it doesn’t always play out that way. Kicking and screaming I protest…and I doubt…and I set my sights on disproving His love. My pastor likes to say this gospel is best served beaten. I like to take it one step further. Instead of mixing it with non-essentials and oversaturating it with complications, we should beat it…until it bleeds! Rip it to shreds (if we dare), question its validity, and beat it until we see nothing but the blood of Christ pouring over us every minute. Because that is exactly what He does. Christ’s blood may have been spilled at the cross, but it is washing us clean on a daily basis, in fact, every minute, and by no justification on our part. We are getting what we don’t deserve, grace and eternal life – deserving death, receiving breath.

We can certainly claim to be deserving, beyond reproach, and righteous, but in His eyes, our words are meaningless without faith and honesty before Him. In the parable of the two brothers (Matthew 21), a man asks his sons to go work in the vineyard. One says, “Sure thing, Pops” (ok, different words, same idea) and doesn’t end up going. The other says, “Beat it, Pops” and then changes his mind and goes out to work. I am so much of each of them; there’s a constant battle raging within. If my faith were a Miller Lite commercial, it’d read something along the lines of, “Talks great – less willing.” Part of me still struggles with my own ability to earn God’s favor and the other part doesn’t care to try at all. I wish I could succumb to the latter more often. I am so rebellious in nature. I don’t like to be told what to do, but when I am honest before God, He changes my heart for me (on occasion) and sometimes, my hands even produce good works. And when that happens, TO GOD BE THE GLORY! I don’t have to pretend to be worthy of His love. I need only to believe He is who He claims He is and without Him, I am beyond all hope. Gives ya that warm, fuzzy feeling, doesn’t it? Hey, I would venture to guess those nut-jobs on the news didn’t have that warm, fuzzy feeling either. Collectively, we have truly “lost that loving feeling,” but we do have a loving healing. We are being reconciled to our Heavenly Father.

Oh yes, I was all over the news today and I was not so pretty. Here’s what I see as our main malfunction: we need to stop playing “Hide and Seek” and start playing “Tag – you’re it!” Instead of trying to conceal our ugly parts, our scars and our wounds – the parts of us other people find repulsive – we need to start ripping off the band-aids and exposing ourselves (whoa, that might make the news, huh?). Seriously though, if we stopped avoiding the lepers and touched their scars once in a while, we wouldn’t be so quick to hide our own. It’d be an endless game of tag and everyone would be having so much more fun, cause at the end of the day, when the sun went down, we’d all be running toward the same dinner bell in the same house, seated at the same table, eating the same bread and drinking the same wine. And everything would be right with the world. Ok, enough daydreaming! Here’s the reality, it ain’t gonna happen, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

I’ll close with some brutal honesty and the reality of it all (as I see it). We are all backsliding day in and day out and yes, that does mean we are all walking back down the same road (of sin) we once traveled before we met Christ, but here’s the good news: the road has not changed. It’s still the Calvary road, we are still sinners, and Christ is still at the end with open arms. A friend at Bible Study tonight said it this way, “We are strong in His grace.” I am in complete agreement. We are weak in this place, but strong in His grace. I think that’s somewhat newsworthy, don't you? Move over Hour of Power, there's a new kid in town and it's called the gospel of saving grace!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Whose side are you on?

I went to four weddings last summer (yes, and a funeral too) and each time I sat on the bride’s side. I think for the most part, most people want to be on the bride’s side. Let’s face it; it’s her day. She is the one with all eyes on her, stunning in her wedding gown, beaming with anticipation. Here’s the problem I have with this scenario. In God’s family, I am the bride and sometimes I am my own worst enemy.

As I walk down the aisle, my eyes are on my groom, my Jesus. My future is in His hands. My home is with Him. My heart is under His supervision. If I were to scan the bride’s side, I’d likely see a lot of brokenness. There I would find the dysfunctional family to whom I belong. We are not flawless. We are not well put together. We are not of high standing, prestige, or elite society. But we are hopeful because we are marrying into a family of righteousness. My groom has chosen to call us His own and has vowed to remain true. In my desire to escape from the deceitfulness, falsehood, and fa├žades of this life, it is comforting to know that as I stand here in my tarnished gown, I am walking toward someone who is anything but tarnished. I have been chosen by one unblemished and perfect in His love.

So though I am seated on the bride’s side at the moment, and it is comforting to know that I am a part of something real, I still find myself longing to cross the line and take a seat on the groom’s side. And when my wedding day has come and gone, I don’t think I’ll seal my gown up nice and tight to use at a later date. I think I’d rather count it a loss and trade it in for a robe.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Jesus had a little lamb (who looked a little lame)

Do you ever feel like you’re a sheep in wolves’ clothing? Yes, I said it as I meant it. I feel like that quite often these days. I know that I am God’s property, that I am a sheep–inwardly–but on the outside, I am much more of a wolf. We’re supposed to be clothed in humility, kindness, love, patience, and all things sugar and spice, but my wardrobe is riddled with everything contrary to that. So I won’t lie. I’ve been told before that my behavior and attitude is not reflective of a “Christian” lifestyle, that I don’t appear to be a follower of Jesus, that I sin too much to be a Christian. I object! Wasn’t Jesus followed by liars, thieves and even murderers? Didn’t they lurk in the shadows attempting to catch a fleeting glimpse of Him? To touch the hem of his clothes? To be healed? By worldly standards, these people did not appear to be cute, little, fluffy sheep; in fact, they appeared to be ugly, disdainful wolves. Nevertheless, they followed the shepherd; hence, they were His sheep. Sound familiar?

I’ve asked God several times, “You say they will know I am yours by the love I have for others and I don’t express that love very well, so how then will they truly know that I am yours? What do I tell them when they ask why I continue to live in sin? What do I tell them when they question my sincerity? What do I tell them when my faith is on shaky ground? What do I tell them when they call me a hypocrite? And what do I tell them when they want to know why horrible things keep happening to them?” The answer He gives me always seems to be the same, “You tell them that I love them.”

God loves you!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

You Say It's Your Birthday

Today is my birthday and yes, in true Gemini form, I am again practicing tapping in to my fickle side. This is quite possibly one of the best birthdays I have ever had. It wasn’t about the gifts (though they were all ghetto fabulous and much appreciated). I did not age DOWN a year. I did not party like a rock star. But I have a loving family who knows just what I need and knows how to love my Jesus as purely as possible (for a dysfunctional lot such as us); I received my yearly phone call from my dad (just to check in and remind each other that despite our vast, vast differences, there is love nonetheless, in whatever form it expresses itself). I am greatly humbled in my need for financial help during this period of unemployment (though created by me, both precious and disturbing all at once – I have never written so much in my life); I am intensely aware of the phenomenal people my God has so blessed me with right now…to provide…to come through…to love me despite me…to show up. Needless to say, God and I are again, on speaking terms. Today, if only for one day, (ah hell, if only for one moment), I am happy to be loved by Him, honored to be called His daughter, and hopeful to meet Him again tomorrow. Ok, so my love for a good Zinfandel sometimes gets the best of me, but doesn’t a glass of wine just intensify what you are already feeling anyway? Long live the blood of Christ!

Bitter with Baggage Seeks Something Entirely Different

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive." ~Harold Whitman

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes me come alive. Anger can be the greatest motivator. I’m feeling my “Calvary Road Rage” again. God and I are not on speaking terms (and He knows why). He is not my friend at the moment; He is the enemy and I’m pissed off. I guess anger is somewhat of my comfort zone. Anger does not make me come alive. Woe to my horribly plagued life and me! Ok, so maybe it’s validating to be angry and to curse this life, but here’s my bottom line: if you don’t confront that which terrifies you, you will never come alive. I think anger stems from a deep-seated fear within me, or rather, four hundred thousand deep-seated fears. I am afraid of failure, of vulnerability, of pain. Anger kills the fear…and everything else in my life. How then, do I push past the anger to make myself come alive?

Life will take me where I don’t want to go. I will enjoy the ride.
I will meet people I don’t like. I will find something good in them and celebrate it.
I will fall flat on my face from time to time. I will get back up.
People I love will not always love me back. I will love myself.
I will take 2nd place, 3rd and sometimes last. I will congratulate those who went before me.
I will gain weight, lose it, and gain it back. I will never be accused of being predictable.
I will be afraid of change. I will change.
I will forget all of the above quite often. I will remind myself to remember.
I will make a million bad decisions. I will make one good one…I will trust God (even when I'm mad at Him).

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Purpose-Driving Life

So, I’m pretty tired of trying to use my spiritual gifts of wisdom and discernment (hahahaha) to figure out what my purpose in God’s kingdom really is and to be honest, it’s turning out to be much more of a purpose DRIVING life. It’s driving me crazy. It’s driving me into the ground. And it might even be driving the nails into Jesus’ hands all over again. So maybe it’s time to accept that He already died at the cross, was resurrected and ascended. I don’t think He needs to repeat those acts for me to figure out my purpose in His kingdom. So here it is…accept it! My purpose is to accept His grace, His mercy and more importantly, His love.

Revelations 3:15-16 says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Yikes! Good thing this isn’t an admonishment to work a little bit harder or we’d all be up a creek! I think it’s a little more along the lines of “need Jesus a little bit more, rely on Him to be all that you can’t be and trust in His purpose” and man, then you’ll be on fire for Jesus (the good kind of fire, not the eternal damnation kind).

Let me go one step further. We can all “do” marvelous and masterful things in the name of Jesus (which, essentially, is Jesus doing things in us for His name’s sake), but at the end of the day, we all get one denarus, the same wage; we all get Jesus! What we do pales in comparison to what God does through us, in us and often, in spite of us.

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:7-9). We have one purpose – let God grow and flourish whatever we attempt to create.
So I’m not entirely hopeless and wholly devoted to a life of laziness and immobility. I will certainly not give up the hope that He might actually cause me to do some good in this lifetime. I will continue to believe in a system of right and wrong. I will occasionally even be nice to someone just for the heck of it. But what I won’t do is believe for one second that my “purpose” is more important than my reliance on His purpose. Philippians 2:13 states, “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” So I will do my best, try my hardest, and fight like Hell to allow His purpose to work in me. And when I’m trying to figure out where I fit into “ministry,” I’ll break it down like this: in my eyes, ministry is merely two words stuck together – minus + try. I’ll keep that in mind next time I’m trying really hard to figure out my purpose in God’s kingdom and just let His love be enough.