Monday, January 30, 2012

Humility Begins In Love

When I look a the political process before us I wonder. Why is everyone so adamantly right about absolutely everything? How can there be no room for discourse any longer?

When I hear parents at school pick up or sports practices declaring the right way to handle any given situation I wonder. Why do we assume parenting is one size fits all? Why do we think we have the answers for another family and not see the work we need to do in our own parenting?

When I see friends hurting one another because they cannot see the other point of view I wonder. Why do we feel an intense need to defend ourselves instead of evaluating our actions? Why do we expect grace when we do not show grace to others?

When I read myself typing words of pronouncement I wonder. Do I actually think I know the answers?

The truth is I don't know the answers.

But I think that might be the key. Because in finally acknowledging that I don't know everything, I am able to be let go.

I am able to let go of being right.

I am able to let go of being perfect.

I am able to see who I really am, flawed and wonderfully made at the same time.

I am able to experience God's true love for me in that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me. I wonder what life would be like if we Christians really understood that God loves us just as we are. If Christians could feel safe and secure in God's love for them. For when I am able to truly experience God's love, I find myself in the right spot.

A place where I can humbly listen to someone else. A place where I can take correction. A place where I can extend grace to those around me. A place where I understand that God is working in each of our lives but that the lessons we are to learn may be different. The choices He asks us to make may be different. A place where I can understand the greys of His hand at work.

But this all comes out of my true belief that God loves me. He loves me just as I am. And because He loves me, I am safe. Not from the hardships of life, but from the need to be right. I am safe to listen and learn. I am safe to try new things and make choices that seem strange. I am safe to seek him just as I am.

I am safe enough to not need to be the best, the most righteous, the most right.

I am safe enough to be humble and secure.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Do You Believe?

A friend of mine recently wrote a post entitled "Believe" and at the end she wrote,
"Claim it, lay it down now. . . What are one or two truths you believe?"
What a great question to consider? Because all of our life decisions start here. Everything starts with what we believe.

My answer came to me immediately. Galatians 2:20. I memorized the verse when I was a teenager and it has stuck with me ever since. It is the absolute essence of what I believe about God's grace and who I am.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
This is what I believe.

I believe God loves me.

I believe Christ died for me.

I believe I am made new because of my faith.

I believe I live this life with him now and always.

A few years ago, someone mentioned my relaxed nature, my calm, my confidence in God, as if these were an anomaly and not something available to all believers. It made me sad then and it makes me sad now when people assume that my trust in God is based on easy circumstances or a personality quirk. Because if you knew me as a high strung child with a suicidal mother, or as a perfectionistic college student having to take time off school to deal with depression, or as a young married woman dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you know that my life has not been conventionally easy.

Any yet....

It has been easy. Because through it all, through every dark moment and painful memory, God has been faithful. He has been the cornerstone, the strong rock on which I built my house.

Hard things happen. Stress encroaches at times. But deep down I do believe what Galatians 2:20 says.

"I have been crucified with Christ. I no longer live but Christ lives in me."

I do not have to hold onto my past. I do not have to hold onto a sinful nature. I do not have to fear the battles of this world. Christ declared victory on that day so long ago and I hold onto that truth.

I will falter. I will fail. But only temporarily.

When life sends hardships, I know there is a plan. I know Christ is with me. I know that this is just part of the story God is telling with my life.

I know what I believe. For me.

Do you?

Do you know what the foundation of your life is? What you believe?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Don't Judge Me By the Color of My Minivan

I drive a red minivan but I am not a red minivan driver. Don't get me wrong, I love my minivan. I am quite happy with my Swagger Wagon.

But I am not a red minivan driver, red being the key word that makes this descriptor inaccurate. My minivan is red, a dark red. It is a fine looking red but I still, after all these years, don't feel like I am the type of person who drives a red car.

I never wanted a red car or a red minivan. I like a nice blue color on my cars. Maybe even silver or white. But not red.

I remember being at the dealership, back when trying to find a minivan on a dealer's lot was next to impossible. They did happen to have one minivan available with all the safety and convenience features I wanted (An automatic back hatch that opened with a push of a button was my dream. Oh and those side impact airbags are probably a good thing to have too.) and none of the extras we did not want (those built in DVD players that would have my kids begging and whining constantly with me eventually giving in and wasting my precious tv time in the car).

Honestly it was the perfect minivan, except for the color. It was red.

I asked about finding what I wanted in another color. Suddenly the price jumped along with the timeline. It turns out getting exactly what you want costs money. But taking a minivan, that has sat there for a few weeks because it doesn't have a DVD player, off the dealer's hands can score you a deal. If you are willing to drive a red van around town.

And I have to admit that was a big if because people make assumptions about you based on the car you drive. Is it too flashy? Is it too trashy? Is it a statement car? A statement color?

You know BMW for flash. Mercedes for class. Toyota for reliability. Kia for price.

I wanted a blue minivan. It was my dream car.

But then I remembered, it is just a car. A way to get from point A to point B. You don't even see the color of the exterior really when you are in the car. I could pretend it was the perfect blue color when I was driving enjoying those leather seats and air conditioning.

I got a really good deal on my minivan because it was not the color I wanted. (Even as I took my time pondering if I could drive a red car, the price dropped even more.) I like a good deal. I really like a good deal on a car.

So now I drive a red minivan. But I still feel a need to explain that red was not my color choice. Because I am not a red car driver.

Which is really silly since some of the best people I know drive red cars.

And now that I write this all, I am curious what is your dream automobile color? What assumptions do you make based on the kind of car someone drives? (Or is it just me that judges people?)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In the Room

She sat on the linen couch, her back against the oversized pillow a mug of hot tea cupped in her hands. Other women filled the seats around her, the sun lighting the room. They had gathered to be together, to seek God this Monday morning. Everything was set up to create warmth, a safe place to be.

The music started while the women sat listening to the lyrics, letting them wash over their busy mornings, the rushed breakfast dishes left in sinks, the second trip to school after a backpack was discovered left behind. The melody calming them, the words sneaking into their souls.

"Father we confess,
we have loved you less..."

She did not catch the next line, she was stuck on this one line.

"...we have loved you less..."

The words stung at first. She thought it must be guilt, guilt over not loving God enough. But it wasn't that, no there was something else. Something that pricked but did not break. She held the tea, warming her hands, the words turning over in her head even as the song went on.

She looked around the room at the women sitting there. She knew them only through the hostess. She wondered what they were scribbling down in their journals. What words were stuck in their minds.

This was her friend's home. She had been here countless times, though usually sitting casually aat the kitchen counter or on the smaller couch in the family room. Kids playing games out the back door. Today though the room filled with seekers her friend had picked up along the way.

"...we have loved you less..."

Those words would not go away.

A new song played. The Lord's Prayer filling the space.

"...we have loved you less..."

She sat and pondered and wondered. Did she love him less? Did she even know how to love?

There was that sting again as she realized the truth there.

Did she know how to love?

Did she even know what love is?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why do I do this?

I sometimes wonder why I blog.

Not why I write. That I have learned is what makes me dance, what makes me feel alive. Putting words on a page, feeling the keys beneath my fingers as they tap and fly across the letters. After a good day of writing I feel a deep satisfaction in my soul.

I live so much of my life in my own head. My son is the same way. I guess it is in our DNA. But sometimes I keep rehashing the same idea, the same words, until I write them down. And then they are free and I can move on to other thoughts. If I ever need them back, I can read what I wrote in the notebook on my desk, on the yellow lines of my iPhone notepad, or on this screen.

So I know the value of writing for me but why do I open this screen?

I guess I hope someone will read my words and relate. My thoughts might be validated. My words might encourage.

While I have always said I write for myself, I write because the process helps me understand, helps me grow, that does not explain why I blog, why I hit the publish post button at the bottom of this page and send my writing out into the world. That is a much more complicated question.

Do I think I have something worth sharing? Yes, oh arrogant, prideful me definitely thinks my ideas are good. But does my pride diminish the possibility that my ideas might be worthwhile to others.

Do I need validation? Absolutely. One of the hardest struggles of writing a novel is spending days, weeks, months writing and living in the world of characters that exist only in my head. There is no comment section or retweet to spur me on.

But there are also really good things that come from blogging, from sharing what God has put on my heart. Sometimes, my story does resonate with someone else. Sometimes, what I wrote are the words someone needed to read that day. Sometimes, nothing happens when I hit post and I am again reminded that my work and my reward is the writing, not the following (or lack thereof).

So I guess I blog for all those reasons, the good, the bad, and the truly ugly.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Isaiah - Just Starting Out

So I decided to start studying Isaiah. I know a weird book to choose to study on my own but it kept coming to mind ever since I ran through it while reading the Bible in 2010. And when things keep coming to mind, I have a sneaking suspicion that is God at work.

So this week, I opened a group study Bible I have and started with Isaiah 1.

Here's the thing - when I show up, God shows up. Every single time. Not always in warm gooeyness. Sometimes just a phrase that won't leave me or a Bible verse that keeps popping up. Sometimes a song. But He always shows up when I do.

The book begins by describing the rebellious nation of Israel,
"ah, a sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt." (Is. 1:4a) 
A nation loaded with guilt. A soul weighed down by guilt. A guilt not reflective of our God but of our rebellion. My mind turned these words over and over. How many people do I know weighed down by guilt? Too many are lost in that desperate place.

And then I keep reading. And the Lord says through Isaiah,
"I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats," (Is 1:11b)
and then,
"Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me." (Is 1:13a)
These passages sound harsh when read independently. God was the one that established the blood sacrifices of animals. How can he say their sacrifice is meaningless. But then I read back through the cross references. The stories of the kings. Of Uzziah who began obedient to God but after he became powerful, "his pride led to his downfall." (2 Chron. 26:16) Uzziah became so out of touch with his place as God's servant that he dared to enter the temple to burn incense. A job reserved only for the priests. I read how Ahaz took up idols and continued acts of worship to God. He spilled the blood of animals not just in the temple but everywhere. Taking the sacred and making a mockery of it.

No wonder God took no pleasure in these sacrifices. No wonder these acts of worship became detestable to God. His people were acting out traditions with no basis in faith, no understanding of God, no heart's desire to honor and please their Father.

And somewhere in reading this and flipping to other passages to understand, I feel alive. Not necessarily because of the content but because of the process, the studying - the desire to know and understand my God.

I loved what Kathy Escobar wrote about loving God in different ways. She lists different ways people love God. I am an intellectual (not to be confused with intelligent).  I experience God in the process of studying His word.

So while I may not find some life changing wisdom in the passages I read, the act of reading and processing and decoding, changes me.

But that is just me. How do you experience God? How do you find your way when you are lost?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

One Word

My twitter feed has been full this past week with #oneword365 links, posts written across the internet declaring the writer's one word for 2012. I love the idea of holding onto a word for a season, of focusing my attention on one thing, that then impacts the whole of my life. I love the idea. I want to participate. I want to link up. But....

Right now, I can't seem to grasp one word. At least not one word I want to focus on in 2012. Because right now, when I think of one word, when I ponder the idea and ask God for clarity, the only word I hear in my mind is - lost. 

I feel lost right now. Not despair. Not dejected. Not confused or doubting. Just a bit lost. Like I am walking through a new village without a map. I can see visual markers that guide me, a church steeple, a red cross on a hospital sign, but I am not sure where I am going - what my destination is. I am missing the voice of my internal gps that tells me to turn right in 40 feet, the voice that tells me my destination is on the left. 

I am not sure how I got lost. I think it sometimes just happens in life. We drive the same roads every day, take the same path to school drop off and the ice rink, and then one day our usual route is changed but road construction. We find ourselves on a detour, just a few blocks off our usual route, but we are in new territory. And if the signs are not set up exactly right, or we decide we know better and make a different turn to get back on track, we can find ourselves lost. Lost in our own neighborhood, looking around for clues to get back on our previously determined route. 

That's me. I somehow found myself just a few blocks from home but still lost. 

And so I look for the markers to find my way home. 

I ask for direction. I pray. I ask my friends to pray for me. 

I look at my map. I open my Bible. Not sure what I am looking for, I can't decide where to start. Should I read it all over again? Maybe just the gospels? The Psalms? I think about being lost. When was I last lost in the Bible? 

I remember. I was rushing to finish the Bible in one year. I was behind and hurrying to catch up with my friends. I found myself reading through Isaiah and Jeremiah at warp speed. My eyes hitting the words but not really understanding what I was reading. My mind occasionally seeing something that confounded me, but I had no time to stop. No time to decipher its meaning. 

But now that I am lost, maybe it is time to go back to Isaiah. Maybe by trying to understand it, I will find some answers. I order books. I open to Isaiah 1. I read the questions in my group study Bible. My mind goes to work. I check cross references. I remember things I have studied in the past. It is only day 1. I am still not sure what this book is all about. But I now know more about the time and circumstances in which it was written. 

I am still lost but maybe soon I will be found.