This is what I do, don't try to understand how I do it; I don't really know either

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Crackers for Everyone

I have celiac disease and so it makes normal things very challenging. My food can’t touch food that has gluten. I have had a bad rash on my leg for over a month now and that is just a minor reaction to my disease which can range to very severe.

Today in church we have communion. Something Jesus commands us to do to remember him. Churches can handle people with celiac disease in three ways – force people to bring their own “bread” (which I never remember so usually I go without), offer both rice crackers and bread (thus segregating people like me), or like my church – they just offer rice crackers instead of bread. They might be offending people who want bread- I mean Jesus did break bread and not rice crackers. They do not have to offer this alternative or force all who want communion to have crackers but they do this for the weakest among them. Is it a sacrifice for others – sure but is it worth it for us all to have communion together and not feel different?

This isn’t really about rice crackers though that’s a real and tangible example of how churches treat people. Dear Christian brothers and sisters, please look around you and ask God to show you who you can eat rice crackers with in the name of Jesus, not just in communion but also in life.

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I Don’t Want Dead People’s Goals

I have been told many times in my life to guard my heart, including recently. I mean it is Biblical right? “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,” Proverbs 4:23. I believe this is not unwise advice, but Proverbs are just that, proverbs. They are good reminders but not exact doctrine to live by. 

I mean, if you literally “guard” your heart, would you ever let anyone in? We were not created to live on solitary islands. That being said, there is a lot of hurt that happens in the world that was never the intention either. So how do you balance it? How do you live vulnerably but still not be a doormat?

I am a super passionate person and when I do something, I am all in. I work all in, I parent all in and I love all in. I don’t do things half way. I understand the wiseness of slow and steady but I can’t remember a time I have ever done it that way. I feel like I wasn’t wired that way. The problem with this is that I make decisions that are not always the best and my heart gets fully invested very quickly. I am also a very visionary person, so often I see things as they could be (not that I am ignorant to reality) and believe that they will get there. I believe people can change, I believe goals can be achieved – because they can, but they don’t always.

So when things don’t work out I am devastated. I get so heavily invested, sometimes and somethings you need to be fully invested in. When the market crashes and all you have invested in is gone, what is left? I have the broken pieces of my heart and I hold those tight and say ‘Never Again!”  I swear that I won’t love people recklessly. I start to build walls around my heart. I put armed guards at the door and I try my best not to feel.  When Susan and the babies died I could not imagine how easy it could be to lose something and someone you loved so much. When my marriage ended I never wanted to love someone that way again. The pain that comes with loss is so enveloping you can’t feel anything else and you never want to feel again.

Susan David has a powerful Ted talk I have watched multiple times, the gift and power of emotional courage (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDQ1Mi5I4rg). She says people have said those kinds of things to her about not wanting to feel and she says to them, “you have dead people’s goals.” She’s right. Dead people don’t feel. We don’t get to pick and choose our emotions – we either have them or we don’t. You feel pleasure and pain, hope and sadness, excitment and disappointment. Your alive or your dead. I want to live.

I do still understand the wisdom of healthy boundaries and I will do my best to hold to those even when they hurt. I will screw them up. I will try again.  I will not give up, because I want to live. Not a day before God decides to take me home am I going to give up. I will lean into the pain and let it craft me into a better person. I will admit my mistakes and work at change.

My heart will hurt, it will also hope. It can harden or it can heal. You chose.

It’s what you do after

We all fail. Repeatedly.

My ethics class is really about examining failures. It’s fascinating to see where people crossed the line and what were the factors that influenced their compromises. We all have them. Some are bigger than others. Of course it’s easier to see these in others than in ourselves. Self reflection is sometimes as productive as trying to lick the back of our own head.

Eventually we are confronted by our own decay. So what then?

Do you deny, minimize or cover-up as much as possible?

Do you downward spiral into a pit of dispair and self loathing?

Do you run and hide?

Or do you own it?

I am working hard to not own my mistkakes in the way that they are part of my skin or my DNA. I am not the sum of my mistakes, but in order to grow and be free I do need to own that I made them. They were an article of clothing I had put on but am deciding to take off. It looks like, “Yes I did that, but it is not who I am.” This is not easy.

Shame says, all those people who talk and think negatively about you are right.

Guilt says, that was wrong but you are better than that and can make good choices.

What do you do wtih people who fail? You look at their behaviour after, you err on the side of grace, and most importantly you remember that you are one of them.

It’s Time to Quit

Bob Goff says you can quit anything on a Thursday. I decided not to wait till Thursday and on Monday I put on my big girl panties and rolled out the chopping block. Yesterday and today I have/am quitting a lot of things. It’s been long overdue and it’s painful.

My favorite song is by Avicii and it says “all this time I was finding myself, and I, didn’t know I was lost.” One morning you wake up and think, who am I or where am I? You learn things about yourself that you didn’t realize because you didn’t notice getting off track. It’s just a slight degree in deviation and it can change your whole trajectory. It’s like cooking a lobster slowly but lobsters can still realize what’s happening and jump out of the pot – at least this lobster is.

Priorities are important. Going for what you want in life without compromising who you are is essential.

Quitting things that need to be quit means I may have to hold off on some big dreams, but if I get there in a way that is not true to me then it’s not worth getting there. God called me a long time ago and He still does. If He wants me to achieve these things then He will find a way. I have to follow Him and make the right choices- even after I have made wrong ones. I own my story – the good and the bad, it’s all me. People can make any judgments they want, it will not change who God created me to be and that when I forget that, He will remind me and call me back.

There has been so much ongoing pain since last October and it has not ended. I thought yesterday that quitting things would help bring an end but I realize today that that might not be the case. It probably will, in fact, get worse before it gets better because moving away from things and people you love is painful. A whole year (and possibly longer) of constant pain is a very long time and makes sense why I compromised in some areas. But today I decided that even if the pain doesn’t end, I will find a way to live with the pain, acknowledge that it is there but still live a healthy life.

I am His child, dearly loved and daughter of the King of Kings.

A different kind of revival

It’s been happening slowly over time but I noticed it last weeked fully. There is a change among those I highly respect in the faith, in my friends and in myself. I named it last weekend and I call it a revival. For those in pentacostal circles that word brings images of large tent meetings, probably songs, flags and many numbers of conversions, but thats not the kind of revival I mean.

Especially when you grow up in a home with a family that attends church, there comes a time when you either decide that is not your faith or you make that faith your own. We made that decision a long time ago, but there has been a change and I believe it may have come partly from this; “We need to find ways of bring reminded that our religious sanctuaries are at best chapels onto the great cathedral of creation. Otherwise the impression is given, as historically has been again and again, that God is somehow more present within the four walls than in every other place and that the time for meeting within the four walls of our religious sanctuaries is somehow more sacred than all other moments and that the people who gather within the four walls are somehow more holy than all other people, ” P. Newell (Christ of the Celts).

See, we found God within the church and we were taught that that is the only place to find him. Our revival is coming from finding God outside the church. We are finding him in creation, we are finding him in each other and we are finding him in ourselves (contrary to the doctrine of original sin). We never knew this could be possible. This new perspective, “views Christ as coming from the heart of creation rather than beyond creation. And it celebrates him as reconnecting us to our true nature instead of saving us from our nature,” Newell. Just because God is in us, doesnt mean I am God – quite the contrary as anyone who knows me can attest! It means I don’t have to GO and meet with him, I already am. Where I go, He IS. We get too scared of sounding new age, and we reject any thoughts that are remotely like it, but we miss some important and valuable things by throwing the baby out with the bath water.

If the church is not more holy, and that time is not more sacred, and the people are not more worthy then do we dismiss church all together? Absolutely not! It feels good (pride) to be thought of as holier or more sacred than others and that you go to a special place that others can join if they adhere to the perscribed set of rituals. Our entire focus for evangelism was to get people into the church. That focus is completely off the mark – the goal is to show people Christ, notice I did not say bring people to Christ. How can you bring someone to someone who is already there?

Our time within the four walls as a body is not about being more special or having a holy club, it is about coming together, unity. However, unity has often been the farthest thing from what has happened within the church. We want religious nurseries, as Newell calls them. In a world that often feel rejected, labeled and less than, we love our holy clubs that make us feel special. If we really knew who we are in Christ, our churches would not be the same. In Nigeria, I danced with people who didn’t feel more special, they knew they were special. I sang with people who didnt think that time in church was more sacred, they new every minute they had breath was sacred. Being among the poor there made me feel closer to God than many times I have been in a church. That’s why I am going back. Not because I have a lot to offer them, but what they offered me.

I have a great home church but I often visit other churches. I love the people in them, some are easier to love than others. I will never give up on the congregating of the church, but I will advocate for it’s health. George Macloed is the founder of the modern-day Iona Community in Scotland (where I plan to visit one day). His prayer is what I pray for us:

Give us grace in our changing day,

to stand by the temple that is the present church.

the noisome temple

the sometimes scandalised temple that is the present church,

listening sometime to what again seems mumbo jumbo.

Make it our custom to go

till the new outline of your Body for our day

becomes visible in our midst.

Amen

 

Love

Love is my 8 year old making me a salad for breakfast.

Love is my daughter waiting five years to go to camp and then one camp morning leaving her friends to call her mom just to say hello.

Love is my 14 year old going to the movies and diner with his grandmother.

Love is my daughter who whispers in my ear that she will always love me no matter what.

Love is little things that amount to big things. Love is the daily and the dirty. Getting into the grind of life and falling on your knees. Love is sacrifice. Love is work and effort. It makes you sweat, makes you strong. Love builds you up. Love is sometimes leaving and sometimes running full speed ahead. Love is more than an emotion, it is choices. Love makes a difference.

Love is messy, very messy.

It doesnt always look like we think it should, and sometimes it stares us in the face.

Sometimes we miss it.

It can grab hold of you and never let go.

It can die for you on a cross just so you don’t have to be eternally apart.

 

A New Chapter

I am about half way through my trip to Africa and I have come undone. What a great and also painful place to be. There is so much going on in my life personally that I am trying to manage in the background and in the foreground I am confronted daily with how much bigger than me life is.

I have seen amazing things. Stories of resilience and strength. I have also seen the worst of humanity. The more I see, the more I wrestle with how I fit. I can never watch life like it’s a show on TV. I have never been a sit on the bench person. I want the world to be better because I have been in it, and that doesn’t happen by not getting your hands dirty.

I have learned that effectiveness happens when you are strategic about the work you do. There is so much that is possible and if more people would even do SOMETHING, the world would be a significantly different place. They say 20% of people do 80% of the work. So figuring out where the best place is to invest my time and resources is important but also a great challenge because the needs seem never ending- not just in Africa, but in every country in the world. Developed countries like to pretend they have it all together, but reality is that there are huge issues in those countries as well – they just have a fancier ball gown to wear to the prom to cover the problems.

I think it’s fitting right now to be wrestling with where I fit on the global stage when there will be so many changes in my life when I get back home. It’s time again to turn a page and write a new chapter. Blank pages can be scary but I’ve stared them down before and ended up writing great adventures. This will be no different. The same God who was with me then is with me now and His love for me hasn’t changed. Below are lyrics to the song we sang in church last Sunday. They are reverberating through my mind and heart.

Our God

Chris Tomlin

Water You turned into wine

Opened the eyes of the blind

There’s no one like you

None like you

Into the darkness You shine

Out of the ashes we rise

There`s No one like you

None like you

Our God is greater, our God is stronger

God You are higher than any other

Our God is Healer, awesome in power

Our God

And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?

And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?

And if Our God is for us, then who can ever stop us?

And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?

Then what can stand against?

Then what can stand against?