Monthly Archives: August 2014

Facebook, peer pressure, cold water, and what to do

It happened.

I knew it would, and I had been trying to figure out how to respond to it when it did, but, when it actually happened, I still didn’t have a clue.

See, there’s this thing, going around on Facebook where people dump water over their heads in support of a horrible degenerative disease that goes by the initials ALS, and since over half my Facebook friends are kids, well, I was gonna get nominated to dump ice over my head at some point, sooner or later.

But see, I’m in this thoughtful season of life, when I want to think about everything before I do it.  So, I wanted to know where I actually stood on this “challenge” thing before I simply lemming-style dumped five gallons of ice on me – in public (well, filmed, and then posted on Facebook, so the modern form of public).  I know, I know, I’m probably over-thinking it.  Or, as my brother would affectionately say, I’m “femaling it up”.

But I didn’t want to just mindlessly dump water over my head.  And no, it’s not because it’s cold.

See, I want my kids to think through something before they do it.  And if I want that from them, then I need to model it.

And I’m not really sure of the best response.  See, ALS is a degenerative disease where you lose control of everything.  And that’s horrible.  And if pouring a bucket of ice over my head will help someone research it and come up with a cure – great.  Pour five buckets over my head.  But see, pouring a bucket over my head means that I’m not giving money to fund that person to go find that cure.  So, I should give money.  Which I’d do if I had any (being a student will take all the money you’ve got – and then some).  But even then, even still, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with it.  Because, see, if I simply give money, than I can be done.  I don’t have to think about it anymore.  I can say I did my part and go dive back into school papers, or hiking in the mountains, or drinking coffee with one of my teens.

But that’s not really what we’re called to do as Christians.  We’re called to sit with each other in our pain.  We are called to help someone out – to take care of them – no matter what.  To stay there, where they are.  Not to throw money at them and then walk away.  Not to say, “Hey, look how much I care; I’m pouring water over my head” and then walk away.  I’m called to befriend those in pain, those who are uncomfortable, those who will ask much of me because they can’t give anything back.

So, how do I do that?  I don’t know anyone with ALS.  Do I go find someone who has ALS?  Do I just accept that God hasn’t put anyone in my life with ALS and focus on the people He has put in my life – and their needs?

Truth is – I don’t know.  I could dump a bucket of water over my head in solidarity or something, sure.  But…doesn’t that just bring more attention to me than to the thousands suffering?  I mean somewhere the video label will say ALS on it, and so everyone will know I care…but do I, really?

The only answer that comes to mind, as I wrestle with this, is one that feels trite because it has been a Christian cop-out so often – prayer.

I don’t know anyone with ALS; I don’t have anything to give; I don’t really believe pouring a bucket of watery frigidness will do any good, so what do I have?

I have God.  I have prayer.  And, in the long run, assuming I actually pray and ask God to do a work – in my heart at the very least – that might be the most powerful thing I could do.

Note – if I felt God was calling me to do something about ALS specifically, this would be different.  Maybe I’ll talk about that next week.

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Mommy, why is the sky red?

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The sky was red last night.  Gorgeous streaks of what my fourth-grade self would have described as neon watermelon (it was a colored pencil name – mid 90’s, era of the neon…until now, of course) swirled among puffs of deep soul blue and quiet gray.  It was glorious.  Gorgeous.  Breath-taking.  And I took pictures, because that is one of my favorite ways to express all the joy and love that is inside me during such moments.  And I did a couple step-hops as the neon watermelon swirls got deeper and brighter and less watermelon-y and more…indescribable.  And I ran from one side of the house to watch the sunset over the mountains to the other side, to watch the sunset over the city. And every atom currently making up my body felt loved, and overwhelmed, and accepted, and beautiful, and…. And I am full.

As I watched the sunset, the phrase, “The sky is red Momma, why is the sky red?” kept coming to my mind.  My last year of college (so, a while ago) I wrote a one-act for my college’s final theatrical fling of the year – called Drop Dead.  It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime-experiences-that-I-got-the-privilege-of-participating-in-three-wait-four?-no-I-can-only-remember-three times.  I wrote one acts for all three times.  And the last one act I wrote I don’t remember as vividly as I remember the first one, but I know it started out with a little girl and her momma staring at the sky, with the girl asking her momma why the sky is red.  The point of the play was a bit about perspectives, and a bit about arguing with God, and a bit that God really does have a plan for all things. 

I’d re-read it right now, but I wrote it on a different laptop, and I don’t have the jump drive with me that I saved it onto when that computer died. 

But it got me thinking about sunsets, and God, and love, and how He really does have a plan for everything, and how He’s in charge. 

Recently, I’ve wondered a bit if He does.  I mean, yes, I know, God’s in control and has everything covered.  But, as is always the case when what we know in our minds is challenged by real life experience, I’ve had to do a bit of trusting that it’s really true, and then releasing worry to God, and praying my heart out. 

Because, see, I’m rather human, and I don’t understand everything. I mean, how does free will work?  If God loves us, and if He’s constantly pursuing each of us (I’m not much of a pre-destined-er) in the best way for us, what about when we don’t want Him to pursue?  Does He still pursue our hearts, just more gently, more from a distance, more from the shadows?  Does He let us go about our lives, doing what we want, in the hopes that our empty lives will draw us back to Him?  Does that tactic work? 

How does this work?  If true love really does allow us a choice, how do we express that choice?  And then if God is love, than He respects that choice….  But then He also knows everything, and is outside of time, and knows how it all plays out…so if He knows that you say you don’t want Him now, but you will in five years, then what? 

I don’t know.  I trust that He loves each of us, and that He desires each of us to enter into the relationship with Him that He originally created us for. He wants us to be the best, most fulfilling version of ourselves.   And I’m not sure I’ll ever know – or ever really want to know exactly how He handles every little detail.  God is God, and I am not.  And He is love, and good, and righteous, and merciful, and graceful, and just.  And patient.  God is sooooo patient.   And I trust in that – even when it’s easy to trust that because the skies are full of masterpiece red and orange and yellow and purple swirls.

 

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I wish…

This is not the weekly blog post, it’s just something I need to get out.

There are days, like today, when I deeply, intensely, passionately wish that God and His love for me would capture my imagination, my emotions, and my mental world to the extent that so many other things on this Earth do.  I wish that I could dream about God as passionately as I do my future, my friends, my experiences.  I wish that I could be satisfied with the wonderful, heart-filling proofs He does give me all the time (if I’m looking) of His love for me.  I wish the world hadn’t been broken, so that He and I could walk, side-by-side, hand-in-hand through one of the lush, green forest gardens He’d recently grown.  I wish I could long for Him the way I do when I miss my friends.  

I want that sort of connection with Him. 

To say I long for that day isn’t expressing the depth of my desire, but the words don’t exist to express it.  So, I’ll simply say:

I deeply, passionately, intensely, long for the day when all will be made right again.  And I don’t know what it’s going to be like when the world is made new, but I pray that I’ll still have a body, so that I can know what it’s like to feel Him hold my hand.  

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A = B, but that doesn’t mean B=A

A couple years ago one of my youth group kids made the statement “God is not love, LOVE is God”. At the time I’d never heard that before, and while I instinctually didn’t agree, I hadn’t thought much about why up until then.
I came across a meme on Facebook the other day that said the same thing, and so now thoughts are flowing. Careful, they’re a bit mind-bending. Feel free to respond, please.

I have an issue when we say Love is God, because that statement makes it sound like the only characteristic God has is love; also there is the implication that Love is the end all. And while most Western Christian culture seems to agree with this statement, I think we’ve missed the mark.

God isn’t JUST love; we modern, Western Christians have a huge problem with forgetting this. “Well, if God is love, why is this happening, why is that happening? Why is there pain and hardship, etc etc etc? A loving God wouldn’t do that.” We forget that God is just and righteous, Creator and Ender (or “Changer of seasons and chapters” might be the more accurate title). To say He is only love sells who He is short. And while yes, all of His other characteristics are affected by His love, this does not necessarily change those characteristics into love. To say He is ONLY love takes away a good deal of His incomprehensible God-ness; it takes away quite a lot of His majesty and power. Not that love isn’t powerful, we all know it is. But it’s a different sort of power than God occasionally displays.

Also, to say Love is God, changes worship. If love is God, than worship is merely loving others – whether in a friendly way, in a family way, in a romantic way, in a taking-care-of-you way. If love is God, than all we have to do to be right with God is to love others. And yes, a great deal of Christian worshipping God should be loving others. Many people who are not Christian do a pretty good job of this. (I’m not going to get into whether or not people who are not recognized by the church as Christian are going to heaven; someday I might)
But loving others is not our only act of worship and is not all we are called to do. Christians are to actually love God. We can’t love God if Love is God. That would be loving love…which yes, people do. But rarely are those people happy or well-balanced people. These are usually the desperate and red-and-wild-eyed people in your life who tend to be hard to be around. They leave you emotionally empty when you’re done hanging out.
But let’s get back, briefly, to how Love being God changes worship. There is no reason to live to bring God glory, and the biggest purpose in life you have outside of yourself is to love other people. Which, again, don’t get me wrong, is a HUGE purpose (it’s in the Bible over and over)…but if your purpose in life is to merely love other people and not love and serve God, nor is it take a part of the story He is writing, your life has so much less meaning than a Christian’s should.

Love is not God; Love is the means to show others all of the intricate facets of just exactly who God is.

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Mountain Tops and Attitudes

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I just got back from backpacking with some of the awesome high schoolers in the youth group I work with.  And I noticed something odd, something that has been niggling at the back of my mind for over a month now.

See, a little over a month ago I went camping with some of my middle schoolers from the same youth group.  We hiked a 14er (I think I’ve mentioned this before, but that means a mountain whose summit is over 14,000 feet above sea level).  Now, this is nothing new; we do this every year.  And I am the “in the back” leader, pushing those who don’t necessarily want to go, up the mountain (mostly because I’m one of the slowest hikers I know, so I naturally fit there).  Until this year, I’d never summitted a mountain.  We’d gotten pretty close at least twice, but never to the summit.  But somehow, this year, the group in the back made it all the way up.  Craziness.  I knew it wasn’t because I was in better shape.  Definitely NOT the case this year.  I chalked it up to having kids who were in better condition and more willing to hike than in years before.

But then, this last week when we went backpacking, a similar thing happened.  Hiking into the camping site, backpacks the size of some of our middle schoolers on our backs, we didn’t stop nearly as much as before.  And, the coolest part was, I, personally, didn’t have to stop nearly as much as in the past.  Really, I promise I’m not in better condition.

But obviously something’s changed.  Whether it’s because the kids needed me to push them less this time ‘round, or there’s less emotional baggage for me to carry, or what, I don’t know.  But I’m enjoying the difference.

It’s kinda crazy because other than not using strength to push other’s attitudes aside and encourage them, there really was not much different.  Which, I guess goes to show just how every important it is to have good attitudes about everything – and to have people around you who encourage you (as well as you can encourage).  When the people around you are only griping and complaining…life gets hard.  It’s hard to be the sole encourager; it takes a great deal of emotional strength to do that, which saps your physical strength.

So, I guess my challenge is to surround yourself with people who will encourage you as much as you encourage them.  Make it up the mountain with them.

And keep trudgin’.  It’s when we stop that we feel we can’t start again.

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Reflections and Hummingbirds

Matthew 7-11  Hummingbird
The way the sun is hitting my computer screen creates a pretty good reflection right now.  I see myself, my white earbuds in, the butterfly necklace around my neck, my navy blue shirt which looks black in the screen.  The way the sun is hitting my face is rather artistic, half lit, half in obscured shadow.  I see my thin-framed glasses, the arch of my eyebrows, the outline of my lips, the beginning hints of the wrinkles that will deepen over the rest of my life.

I like what I see.  Not necessarily the physical aspect of my reflection (though I’m pretty partial to that face and the twinkling eyes), but the heart and unshaped dreams that also are reflecting back at me.  I don’t know exactly what’s coming.  I don’t know where I’ll be when I’m done with seminary (or even if I’ll finish, though I plan to).  I don’t know what my life or my dreams will look like.  But I like the woman I am becoming, and I am excited to see what God does with and through her.

Mixed in with this morning’s version of my reflection is the computer’s background – which is a picture of a humming bird with blurry wings sucking nectar from a yellow flower.  I took this picture something like two years ago, a couple weeks after I had been fighting with God.   It is a reminder of God’s love for me, and how far He has brought me in the past couple years.

And I think the fact that I like the reflection of the girl in the monitor is a direct result of the fact that she actually believes God loves her, that He has a crazy adventure planned out for her, and that He is a God who, while being God and so Just and Righteous and Powerful, is also a God who simply loves.

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