Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: The year of Change, Renewal, and losing my life to find it!

Here's to 2014, my favorite year yet. I don't even recognize the person I entered this year as and that's probably a good thing. I've been pushed, pulled, broken and restored both physically and mentally venturing into this whole new life experience becoming a mother and leaving my old life behind.

I've experienced being on the mountaintop, watching my sweet babe nuzzle on my breast as I seen the beauty of Grace and Love blossoming from her sweet innocent dreamy-like content face.  Feeling the new breathe of Life and God, and goodness in her fragile being and suddenly realizing "There is more to this life than just centering it around myself."

But this year has also brought struggles as I started it with my big round belly and aching body ready to give way to this baby anytime, January was the slowest most anticipating month of my life.  I was ready to quit letting this baby borrow my body for her growing and I was ready to take the task head-on of continuing her nourishment and development as her parents.  Little did I know what I was getting myself into?  There were times not long after Febuary 8th 2014 that I wish I could just stick her back in so I could get some time to myself for just a little bit longer.

And then we realize that's what stretches you and that's what teaches you.  To live a life dedicated to someone else even when you're not feeling up to par.  There's no giving in when the going gets tough.  There's no breaks (especially if you breastfeed exclusively) it's around the clock, worrying, wondering if you've done enough, feed your baby enough, changed their diaper enough, the worries are endless.

But out of the hard nuances of my changed "everyday life" a new joy was born.  A joy that came from my hard times, a strength that was other worldly that I learned to lean on.  Suddenly the hard times looked beautiful because they were making me into new! They were preparing me for the life ahead.  At the same time this was also breaking me.  It was shattering my views of self-inflated happiness and repaired them into a servant's Joy.

The first few weeks of motherhood were awesome but I found myself in my vulnerabilities, looking and sometimes longing for that life that I use to have.  When Ivey was 7 weeks my husband and I went to Asheville for a night.  I was so excited to be able to experience just a taste of that old life.  We went to dinner at nice restaurants and went shopping but it just didn't seem to suffice anymore.  There was a new hollowness in those actions that wasn't there before.  Then I found myself that night longing for the life I have.  Longing for my baby's touch and even longing for every aspect of what that motherhood had to offer.  Suddenly the grandeur of my previous life started looking pitiful.  (Only talking about my OWN pre-baby life.  I know lots of selfless people who aren't parents.) I use to chase after my own entertainments and my own selfishness diluted all my thinking in every aspect of my life.  I couldn't even find joy in being pregnant because it had become an inconvenience on my life for 9 months!  Sorry I know this is raw but I am just opening up every dark area of my life and shinning light on it! It's quite refreshing to do that!

Then came the realization of all this coming to light which started happening around the end of this year.  Have you ever wondered "Well life is good, but there is some puzzle pieces that I am missing that I need to find, or if you were like me at the beginning of this year, you were just trying to fill it." When I began to let Jesus shine his light in those darker areas of my life, it was really hard to do.  It takes REAL Faith to open yourself up and say "Here I am! Baggage, brokeness, foolishness and all!"  But Oh WHAT JOY COMES WITH THAT KIND OF FAITH! Everything comes to light.  Our shames, our selfishness, our self-pleasing Idols, and our self-fulfilling Religion, our prides. With this light shinning on every vulnerability comes Love. It infiltrates you,  it's so weird!  When my own imperfections are brightly shinning in the light and life of Jesus everyone else's imperfections pale in comparison.  Suddenly Christ is shinning brightly from them as well! From my atheist friends, from my Christian friends, my agnostic friends, even my enemies! Christ image was in them and it blessed me.  I think that's when I started really falling in Love with God. His beauty captivated me in those around me.  When I saw him in every good thing and when he broke me of my pride.  Wow, pride is such a hidden, disillusionment in us and that is usually what the plank in our own eyes turns out to be.  I was using my Christian Religion to fulfill my own desires, to pat myself on the back and to not care about my enemies.  I had hidden Idols of greed, wealth, lukewarmness and selfishness as I didn't care for my neighbor as much as I cared for myself.

And isn't that what our Faith should boil down to? Love God with ALL your Heart, mind, body and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.  No wonder we want to turn to darkness again and try to shine Jesus' light on other's sins before our own.  We become lovers of darkness when we refuse to look at ourselves instead of others.  The light is bright and it shines in every aspect of your life. It is intense!  We want other people to have the light but we don't have it for ourselves a lot of times and people sense that. Because of our fear and unbelief, we settle Jesus to an afterthought of the surroundings and place him exclusively for a way to get to Heaven but not as Lord of reigning in every aspect of our lives and becoming active members of His Kingdom.

If there's anything I could take away from this year that has changed me is this: instead of being just a Fan of Jesus, I became a Follower. And boy is it hard! I had my first panic attack recently and of course it stemmed from a number of things but a lot of it was my mind and soul changing and wrestling against each other.  I was released from the Fear of Them, and am becoming a being of love but my mind and my body war against the selflessness that I should possess.  It's a daily struggle, and that day my body retorted against it.  Fear was seeping in like a cold snake and it shook me to the core that day. He came at me with the flickers of his tongue brushing against my ear and my stance of selfless Love and that Jesus wasn't for war but for Peace. That I was no better than my sins and I didn't really believe it either and they were going to lock me up in a mental institution for believing in all this hippy mumbo-jumbo. After retorting I had to tell myself I wasn't crazy.  I wasn't crazy for believing in Love. I wasn't the only Christian who believed that Kingdom is here and it's a Kingdom of Love, Peace and everything good in this world.  I wasn't crazy in believing for better for my life, our world and in Jesus's narrow path of Peace and not the wide gate of Destruction of War-loving, power hungry Religion riding on the back of Empire greed. (Does the whore of Babylon on the back of the beast sound like a familiar analogy here? I made that too easy :).)

But then we have to remember one thing: There is Joy in suffering and there is Peace in Servanthood.  I couldn't see this joy when my life was about myself and the dark areas in my life.  Jesus said "Woe to you who are Rich, happy and Full because I have nothing to offer you."  He came to be a King of the Oppressed, poor, meek and lowly.  I thank God everyday for bringing my very own Angel, that cold day in Febuary.  He has taught me so much in the selfless love that I have for her in becoming a parent. In the still, small ways I'll endure anything for her, he tells me He would endure anything for me.  In the hard moments, he's made me strong as I see Him being made perfect in my struggles. So this coming year when you are feeling like a failure, crazy, not good enough, not perfect enough just remember those are the times Jesus is waiting for us. He's more present in the hard times and more beautiful in our imperfections.  He wants to shine a light on your vulnerabilities and trade them for beauty in this world!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Idols & Grace for all...

When I think of Idols, I think of people worshiping statues or elevating a person or thing above God.  I never really assumed I would have idols in my life.  Or I guess I never thought about it too deeply.  When my daughter was born (yes, I see a lot of life's analogies in becoming a parent) my life shifted.  I use to spend my days at work, watching tv, shopping when I got bored, pampering, eating out at nice restaurants. Those things are few and far between now so when someone doesn't have kids, I say enjoy that life because it is sooo not about you anymore after becoming a parent.

Those things I did in my pre-parenting life aren't bad, and we all need a break from life with pampering, movies, entertainment, etc. but if you turn to those things to keep life filled up with things to do then that's when it turns into Consumerism and that can and is a big idol in our life if were not careful.

Consumerism is a popular idol in our society.  And it's one that is glorified almost patriotically.  If we are not careful being acquisitive (seeking to acquire more things, own greedily) can take place before seeking God.  The bible says you can not love God and money for you either love one or hate the other but you can not serve 2 gods. (mat 6:24)

That verse didn't really hit home until I started studying about the Babylonian, Roman, Egyptian empires and how in those empires, wealth and power are the objects to get.  They are what everyone works towards. Wealth and working hard are glorified.  When God delivered the Isrealites from Pharaoh's Eygpt he gave them the 10 commandments and put more emphasis on the Sabbath commandment the most. He gave them the 10 commandments to keep them from ordering their society around Pharoah's Eygpt. Which if you've ever read the 10 commandments, murder seems the worst but this is how important it was for God that he wanted the Isrealites to not follow the way of Egypt where your in work non-stop. To try and take command of your own dominion and wealth not only leaves no room to put faith in God to meet your needs but usually along with the desire of wealth comes power and greediness. They go hand in hand!  To desire to become powerful, greedy and wealthy is to follow the pagan way.  Without realizing it you can easily live to serve wealth and not God but think you are still serving God.

That is what happened with Isreal after God delivered them from Egypt and gave them the 10 commandments.  When they came upon the land of Canaan, Moses sits them down and like 30 chapters of Exodus, Moses warns them not to forget God when they take Canaan for Canaan was a prosperous, rich land.  Well I think you and I know exactly how the story goes afterwards, because we probably would've and still do, the same thing.  Of course the Isrealites enjoy the land and of course they act like they are serving God and honoring the Sabbath but then they start making a festival out of the Sabbath that requires more work and God knows their hearts weren't in the worship and they can't wait to get back to their work so they can prosper, prosper, prosper.  All the while putting God on the back burner but still needing Him to be on their side so they give Him (or so they think) the Sabbath.

God gets angry with them and tells them their worship was blasempous because they were serving another god: wealth.  To follow wealth, we start following the way of Pharaoh's pagan Eygpt without even realizing it.  Pharaoh always had the fear of scarcity, that Egypt was going to run out of supplies and food.  When you pursue wealth, you start noticing others around you. What they're wearing, how hard they are working, what latest trends they are on and you either perceive them as a "threat" as competition.  Not only that but the welfare of the other Human is not taking into perspective as much anymore.

The sum of the whole 10 commandments are actions taking toward the 2 commandments Jesus said to do: Love God with all your heart, and Love your neighbor as yourself.  When you serve money and wealth these 2 commands come in second, right?  Your main goal is no longer to help someone in need or put God first but to build more to your own empire and Jesus says that's wrong.  I'm not trying to point fingers at anybody because everything I passionately write about is something I've dealt with in my own heart.

One example lately that I've witnessed these things is my heart towards God.  I was not putting Him first I didn't even realize this until someone else did the same thing towards me.  My dad.  Just to tell you a little back story of our relationship.  My dad moved away when I was 9.  I've seen him over the years since then but now that I'm an adult those mediocre monthly phone calls about the weather and the fact that my dad hasn't seen his only grandchild yet just weren't cutting it anymore.  I needed more sustenance to our relationship or I just didn't see it going on any further.  I started seeing him using me as a way to ease his guilty conscience.  If he just had to call me every month and ask how the grand baby was doing then he was doing his fatherly duties.

This kind of relationship was okay with me until I had my own child.  And like I said being a parent starts putting everything into perspective for you sometimes.  I started thinking about introducing Ivey to this weird relationship and it kind of pained me to see her endure it as I was.  The mundane relationship with no depth and meaning just wasn't cutting it anymore and it was giving me anxiety.  I no longer knew my dad and he really never knew who I was.  This Thanksgiving I decided not to call him.  It pained me but then I thought "What's the use." It's kinda pointless. I felt guilty but I prayed.  I asked God why I felt like this.  I was suppose to be this being of Kindness and Grace but didn't want a pointless relationship sucking the life out of me.  But then as gently as a whisper God began speaking to my soul about how I and so many others were like that with him.

I was lukewarm.  The odd thing with this realization, I didn't feel any guilt or shame, only humbleness and awe (remember the HolySpirit will never guilt or shame you!) at how good God was and how weak I was.  Was I going to hell up until that point? No.  Was I a Christian before that, yes, thankfully because of Grace.  But in that moment, I felt how God felt towards us.  I sympathized at how annoying it is to be someone's guilty conscience reliever and it didn't feel good.  I wept.  I wept because of the beauty of Grace!

I know what Grace is.  I preach it all the time and it is so much easier for me to dish it out than it is for me to take it.  But until it's poured on your underserving soul it becomes that much tangible and almost so much you can't take it.  I just felt like that lady who was a sinner and how she washed Jesus' feet with her hair and her expensive perfume.  She was a lowly sinner and the disciples wondered why Jesus even let her in but she didn't care she just wanted to thank Him.  And Jesus was so honored and so touched by her humbleness because she knew she didn't deserve to do this very act but she couldn't resist.  I just wanted to sit at Jesus' feet and thank Him.

So many times other well meaning Christians and people say I should just give up on my dad.  It's been 20 years since he left and he has no intention of coming back.  But I can't.  I can't go back on Grace when it has been so abundantly poured out on me.  I can't hold back the Grace that has been given to me.  So many times we think we shouldn't be treated unfairly or we get mad that someone is taking away our rights as Christians.  We want to retaliate and show people were not weak.  But Jesus calls us to not pick up swords but to be Lambs among Wolves.  We are to give the Grace that God gives us back to our fellow man.  Back to those same 2 commandments.  So my dad doesn't deserve a relationship with me?  Probably true.  But what makes me any better than him?  I have used the same escape mechanism of getting what I want to put God on my side.  I give Him a little and the rest of the time I lean on Grace.  But just like I can't stand to be in a lukewarm relationship, God can't stand to be in a lukewarm relationship with us.  We keep him at arm's length and it's safe. We keep Grace at arms length and it feels good.  But too much, well that can just make people uncomfortable.

I've noticed along with this renewed passion I have at not being able to contain myself about God's goodness, I make other Christians uncomfortable.  More so than a lot of sinner for some reason.  I actually had a conservative Christian say to me "Well, you believe what you want to believe and I'll believe what I want."  WE LIKE BEING COMFORTABLE AND WE DON'T WANT TO BE AWAKENED! It feels good to be asleep. Believe me I don't judge them, I will always be looking for the plank in my own eye before seeing everyone's speck. I've been there too and it has made me unsettled before when others act like that.  I questioned the authenticity of them and I'm sure that's what people do to me.  But now I'm at the point where I don't care! I don't want idols of comfort and luxury in my life anymore.  They are really quite boring and they end up just lulling me to sleep. They leave me empty, filling up my days with meaningless pleasures and end up leaving me with less faith in God.

So I challenge you not in a condescending way but in a loving, I'm still fighting this flesh everyday sort of way to see if you have any hidden idols in your own heart.  Ask God to broaden your own horizon's and to think outside the box.  To think outside what this society tells you are the normal things to do and follow Jesus.  He's always going to against the crowd.  To go upstream in a world where everything should normally be going downstream.  Seem's normal to love yourself over your enemies right?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

That time I loved Jesus, but didn't like being a Christian.

I've always liked Jesus.  I've always gravitated to his story.  I like the fact he was born in a manger when no one could fit him into their house.  I liked when he told parables instead of direct answers, I also liked that he just didn't quite fit in and people didn't know how to take him.  I liked that he had a heart for the oppressed and he bended the Jewish laws in order to reach the divide to those more marginalized people.  Jesus always appealed to me even as a kid.

When I was a kid Jesus seemed cool but God always seemed scary.  Like the Wizard of Oz scary.  You know that big voice behind the curtain that will make you tremble and chastise you,  that kinda scary.  Jesus was my friend but God was my oppressing, kind of insane Father.  I wondered why they didn't seem to fit each other sometime.  Jesus died on the cross for me just so he could be my friend, but God was ready to pounce on me and send me to hell in the moment my weakness showed up.  "Stay strong." He'd say. "Your better than this, your better than your sin." But I didn't feel better, I felt weaker than my sins.  I felt less human, I felt more ashamed.  God had a way of guilting me over and over again.  It was an endless cycle I didn't know I could get free from.  Temporary relief came when other "godly" people didn't see my unhappiness or my struggles.  I could seem better than I was.  I could seem well when I was really sick.

Well there's only so much our spirits could take when it comes to that rat race of godliness catching.  I loved Jesus but I didn't love not being myself.  I was sin and sin was me.  We opposed each other but yet we couldn't live without the other.  I hated sin but it was so engrained in me that I was always falling short somewhere in my life.  Continuously failing God again.  Not giving enough.  Not excited enough.  Not in love enough. Grace was preached in my life but it came with strings attached.

I could have this wonderful gift of Grace but it came with stipulations.  You know, kinda like when someone tries to sell you something.  They make it look so wonderful to you, make you think you can't live without it but then pull back and say "Oh it can be yours for just so many small payments each month."   By the time I was done paying I didn't want the stupid "gift" anyways.  Seemed worthless.

And somehow that's how my Christian speech came to be in my life. Worthless.  I loved Jesus but the Christian stipulations weren't making much sense to me.  Jesus loved me.  He went to Hell and back again for me but God was not so impressed.  I was doing everything he said but it just wasn't cutting it. I started wondering what all these stupid rules meant.  Why can't I sleep in on Sundays? Why can't I have a drink?  Why can't I fit in with sinners?  I like them.  Why can't I say a cuss word when I'm mad, it feels good.

And then I realized the world still goes on, grieving to be made right and looking for a home, while I sit here wasting time wondering what things are okay and what things will send me to hell.  Suddenly when you put yourself in someone else's shoes, someone different from you, those things don't seem important anymore.  Really they just seem dumb to worry about.  I mean what is God, Santa Claus?  Is he making a list and checking it twice? No.  No he's not.  I found he's really not worried if you a good little Christian, following the rules.  We'll leave that for the other religions to waste time on and worry about.  He's worried about that homeless guy on the corner.  He's worried about strife between believers' denominations. He worried about Peace. He's worried about that person hurting inside. He's worried about your "sinner" friends you keep a distance from so you won't quite be lumped into the same category as.  He's worried about you loving this world and bringing the Good News to them.

It wasn't until recently that I got excited to call myself a Christian again.  I was distancing myself from Christian things and didn't really want a part of them.  I loved Jesus but Christian things just seemed cheesy and no sustenance in them.  They didn't seem like me.  I didn't feel right bearing it all in front of my congregation.  I had wounds that I wasn't ready to expose and heal.  I couldn't see myself as the person that got active in church again, prayed for people or just got excited and had to tell people about Jesus….

And then I found Jesus again.  I found Him somewhere I didn't expect to find Him.  I found Him saying Peace.  I found Him wanting to expose my wounds again to the church.  I found Him wanting me to draw closer to people again.  To lean on my brethren and love them where they are.  That's where I found Jesus again.  I found Jesus in my non-religious friends.  I found Him in the broken.  And  then all of a sudden he wasn't so hard to please.  He wasn't so above me or irrelevant for I didn't find Him in the cliche Christian lingo that only Christian's say but in the still small gestures of a caring word, a helping hand and a soft opened heart.  Yessss!! That's what he did and that's what he's been doing lately.  He's been softening my heart.  Making it wide for the people we overlook.  Fitting in the marginalized. Cast aside people that don't quite fit in like me. And even the religious ones.  For they have Grace too.  They just compare it more to a Human Grace than a God Grace.  They do what they think is right.  We must not always blame them.  The Pharisee's weren't evil people they just didn't look for God in the outskirts or the stigmatized.  They looked for him in the places, he should be: Fighting Rome and starting a war to free the Israelites instead he was a belittled plain looking guy that became the scapegoat for all of us when His teachings of Peace and Kingdom come, brought the Empire and the Religious crowd to crucify Him in the most Inhumane way.

So yea, I started to like being a Christian again once I seen Jesus in everything beautiful and good.  When I quit looking for Him in the places I expected to see Him and I found His image in Saints and sinners alike.  I started to see His Kingdom come together and it made me want to be apart of it. I got excited about it. I didn't just like Jesus, I started falling in love with Jesus. He was so fascinating and alluring, I had to be apart of it. It made me want to help bring forth what's inside of others and to speak life into those around me.  That's apart of telling the Good News this World is looking for.  Will you join me in bringing New Life to this Dying World?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Beautiful Mess of New Life.

The Christian conversion is such a beautiful story and everyone has their own different place where they came to be a Christian.  In the bible I love Zacchaeus' story of coming to know Christ.  So many good meaning people make it a salvation recitation but for Zacchaeus to become a Jesus Follower, he simply climbed a tree so he could get a glimpse of Jesus as he walked by and without trying, became a part of the story.  He was a wealthy sinner that became rich by exploiting the poor Israelites. He was so intrigued by seeing this Jesus that he had to climb a tree.  He was also a short man.  So that probably wasn't such an easy task for him.  But when Jesus saw him, he told him to climb down and Zacchaeus so enthralled with the beauty of this man, told him he would sell half his possessions to the poor and pay back anyone he cheated 4 fold.  Then Jesus said "Today Salvation has come to this house."  He didn't have to recite the Lord's prayer nor do we have to guarantee to pay back everyone we wronged in our own Salvation plans but that's what worked for Zacchaeus.

I have heard the term "born again"as the depiction of becoming a Christian my whole life.  But have you ever really sat down and thought about how crazy but also how true that term describes our conversion as Christians and the Christian walk? I think of us and the beautiful rawness of giving birth and each story of how we all came to be is so unique and compelling. The only problem is a lot of us want to shield our conversions, our own stories. Maybe we don't think they seem right.  Maybe we don't think they look like others people's stories enough and we want to compare them to others. We want them to seem less messy and more Holy.  More perfect.  As if we didn't suffer when we had our babies, as if they were born into this world in one easy clean push and "Whalaaa" a beautiful baby is born without any suffering, and all is perfect in the world.

And then if your like me, you realize this kinda depiction is even crazier but so many times we try to make this as the representation of our lives.  As if we still have virgin eyes after giving birth.  As if we weren't birthed from that same experience ourselves.  And as if having a baby isn't a total upheaval of the life you once knew, gone forever.

Becoming a mom was quite traumatic to me in a lot of ways.  I planned on becoming a mother and before I got pregnant, I dreamed of what I would look like with a cute little bump and how precious I would look in maternity clothes.  Now I think, how precious I was for thinking like that! Once that test finally got 2 lines a sort of gravity sunk in for me.  I had this bubbly excitement followed by a feeling of dread knowing this life that my husband and I shared together was suddenly going to be changed forever within a year. I knew it was coming…

Don't get me wrong there were joys in becoming pregnant and birthing a baby.  Actual joys, and purpose and me being pushed to limits I didn't know I had in me.  But the make widening of my heart and life to make room for my baby didn't happen instantaneously and it became a process and is still a process. I think of the story of Zaccheaus and how easy it was for him to convert to his new life. I know for me and others it isn't that easy to change over a new leaf.  And we shouldn't expect others to be just as easy as ours. And yet the birthing process is a similar effect.

And people don't tell you the struggles and they don't tell you the messy gory details of the delivery room and the aftereffect.  They don't tell you how it feels to knowingly die and say goodbye to that old life where mostly life is about you.  I struggled with losing my old life. When my baby came out, it was not a pretty process.  I lost seemingly half the blood in my body, my inner most private parts were exposed for all the world to see, I was naked and exhausted, and all of a sudden this strange little baby that had been making its home in my body emerged and I was too in shock to grasp the concept of becoming a mother to this child at that very moment. I was a mother but it just didn't click yet. And yet our conversions a mirror image of that.

The image of giving birth can be so unsettling for a lot of people but yet in a sense it is beauty and a real raw image of the glory of God.  And in a same sense we draw closer to God, it's alluring and magnificent but its also unsettling to us and those around us.  I think of John Mark McMillian's song How He Loves Us as a sweet description of how humanly beautiful giving birth and spiritual conversion are: "When Heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss, and my heart turns violently inside of my chest, and I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves Us."  I love that verse but you might have not heard that version of the song after he wrote it a more mainstream one came out, changing the lyrics to "Heaven meets Earth like an unforeseen kiss." And that version just frustrates me now because it dumbs down the intensity of becoming like Christ and makes it seem more "crowd appropriate."

For some reason we want to play down our conversions and fit them easily into our daily lives and the lives around us.  As if giving up a few things that "sinners" do is going to separate us as Christ followers from the rest and the fact that if we pray everyday and memorize the bible, it's going make us love Jesus more.  It doesn't work that way.  I could go through the motions of being a mother but that isn't going to make me love my baby anymore.  I could learn to be the most perfect pinterest mom out there but theres no sustenance in that form of motherhood.  But it's the way my daughter looks at me that turns my heart.  The way she depends on me and the way I see myself and our loved ones in her smile that makes me love her and just for being her.  You can't make an image out of that love, it just happens.  You can't make a plan out of Salvation either.  I might not look like the best mom but I'm just glad that the image I look like doesn't actually portray my love for my daughter.  And it's the same way with Christ.  We might not look like we measure up as the perfect Christian but thank God that doesn't portray who we are in Christ and the measurement of how we love Christ.

It's that Messy conversion that starts us.  And the disheveled, craziness of life doesn't stop at the hospital.  Noo, it just starts there.  15 years of being a Christian and I'm still just catching glimpses of Grace and truth out of the conner of my eye.  I'm still learning about Christ.  I used to think that I pretty much knew the gist of what was in the bible but now I'm starting to know I don't know anything about it.  I could read it all day but until I see it through the eyes of Jesus it's just text and a lot of times it just seems muddled and it doesn't make sense.  And the more I learn of this mystical insanity of Grace the more I  fall in love with  God and how he is just as obsessed with me, it makes me infatuated back.  It makes you crazy, and it makes you not make much sense especially to the most practical ones.  You know, the ones who think they have it all figured out.  Well, I'm learning God is just as obsessed with them as well, they just don't know it yet.  They just get too scared of His sloppy wet Grace that they keep Him at arms length.  It's easier that way.  It just makes sense. It's less messy.  It's easier to control. But they're missing out on so much of the beauty and the art of it all.  And Fear holds them back. Fear of being wrong. Fear of not taking a stand. Fear of not being apart of the Christian crowd. Fear of Hell.

We're scared we will mess up our image. We want to take the story of Jesus and we want to shape it into principles and laws, spiritual laws. Something pliable, but it doesn't work that way.  The moment that you've taken the beauty of the story of Jesus and made it into a formula  plan to get into Heaven, you've lost all beauty, and the art of God's creativity.  I've realized lately that to understand Grace more, you have to just dive head first into it.  And  I not going to lie, it's scary as Hell. It'll even make you question if Hell really exist.  That's how powerful and plentiful God gives His Grace.  And it effects you like giving birth and having a child has.  It takes our planned "us" centered life and it turns it into a messy, chaotic upheaval.  And you won't  even know it until your all in over your head!

And that's how Grace works.  It makes you understand life more but it also makes you disoriented to the view of the world.  Suddenly, you see people and you love them where they are.  You see them, through the eyes of Christ.  You see them with Hope and you see them with their scars.  And they become beautiful to you. Thats what made sinners compelled to Jesus and scared the religious elite to murder. It's a love out of this world. One that sees the deepest workings of our heart and still loves us where we are. The scripture starts to make more sense.  You read in Psalms when David caught these little glimpses of Christ's love before God Himself even took human form.  How much more should we see the beauty of New Life before it even embodies itself in others?

Monday, December 1, 2014

How Can I be different from the world as a Christian?

Ever wonder as a Christian, how you can be different from the world?  I've wondered that a lot.  In my younger, more impressionable years as a Christian I use to think there were certain things I could avoid and then I would look more "holy" and set apart as a Christian.  If I didn't cuss, drink, have premarital sex, lie, only listen to Christian music, avoid certain movies and most importantly take a stand against sin and for Jesus, then I was being a great solider for the Lord. That was my formula and thats what I did for a couple of years.  I smile looking back now because only 2 of those are actual sins the rest were not even in the bible.

But as I grew up in my faith and like anything that is bound too long, you get restless.  I found myself listening to the radio to "secular" music and liked it.  I also liked movies and thus the reason I went to Film School.  Well, the main reason I went to film school was to make Christian movies and Save the world through my films, but God had a different plan and I'm so glad that one didn't work out.  Anyways, when I was away at school I was exposed to a lot of things that didn't fit into my little formula of how to be a "good little Christian girl." My heart didn't change but my surroundings and my experiences did.  I still wanted to do good for the Lord but my small "box" was growing and the god that I was raised in believing suddenly didn't fit into that box anymore.  He couldn't be contained in that box any longer, and I learned this by meeting different believers, who were raised different but seriously followed Jesus.

I met a good friend named Carol in college and she is still a good friend to this day.  Carol was a Catholic.  Growing up, I always believed Catholics were the "religious" ones that the bible said to stay away from.  They had too many meaningless rituals that seemed religious. Now I don't believe that but anyways, Carol loved the Lord.  She loved the earth and the animals in it.  Even her stuffed animals, she treated with respect. :) (I would always pick on her about that, though.).  She recycled and as a marine biology major knew the importance of taking care of the world and how it affected the animals in it.  She taught me, as Christians, we should take even more care of the world because it was a gift from above. Carol helped me to see you didn't have to speak in tongues to be a good Christian (thats what I was raised to believe).  Actually, she never spoke in tongues before in her life and lived a better Christian walk than a lot of my Christian friends did that had spoken in tongues.

That's just one example but there were numerous others that lead me to believe there was a lot more to a relationship with Jesus than just the rules.  I always say Thank God for learning more about Grace because I would have bounced a looong time ago if it wasn't for discovering the GOOD NEWS of the gospel when I started questioning my Faith it led me to dig deeper and still does.  And the more I dig the more I'm discovering God's Goodness. I always said God is Good.  But I'm really starting to have little inklings of just how good he really is, lately.

But back on point, God also put me in a path with a wonderful Atheist friend/co-worker named Sam.  I love Sam, we've had our debates but we don't really do that anymore.  Sam loves people. Sam loves insects too, and won't kill one.  She makes me feel bad when I kill them, but I still do.  Anyways, Sam has the ability to put herself in others shoes.  She has a heart for the oppressed and has even reprimanded me in the past for some "unchristlike" comments I've made towards people I know nothing about.  I recommend all Christians get an atheist friend like Sam, lol.  They keep you on your toes.  She's probably gonna kill me for putting her in my Christian blog but I look up to Sam and she's made a difference in my life without even realizing it.  And please don't kill me Sam, but I see Christ a lot in her and she doesn't even believe in him even more so than a lot of Christians.  She is giving, would give you the shirt off her back, if she could.  She is not materialistic at all.  She likes fashion but won't stoop to buying expensive things for herself.  She won't be believe anything without seeing the facts first. She's a free spirit and I love her for it.

I use to compare myself to her righteousness and fall short.  It use to trouble me how someone who could not even believe in Christ but still in so many ways have such a big heart for Humanity.  But thats how falling in love with God is.  It's seeing Him in the creativity and goodness of those around you.  Everything good and beautiful comes from God.  Some just haven't followed the breadcrumbs back to the Creator. He is a creative God and he made Creativity.  We get so fearful of being like "the world" as Christians that we miss out on all his goodness around us. We miss out on his creativeness in those around us and we don't get as Creative for fear it would offend someone.  If you love people like Christ loved us, you would see Christ in them.  You would love them how they are, not when they become a certain way then they could be our friend. Nooo, if Christ could love me as a sword-swinging, probably hurting the kingdom more than helping, legalistic Christian than he can love anyone just as they are, wherever they are.  I believe Christ loves Sam too.  I don't try to win her over anymore, I just sit back and admire the fresh perspectives of loving people without Religion and learn from it.

We say "Oh, but I want to be separate from the World, though, I can't mingle with them, I gotta be separate. " Follow Jesus, that will separate you from the world as well as a lot of religious people too.  Speak about Peace.  That one really makes people mad. Actually they'll start thinking you've gone mad. We say Jesus has given me Peace in my heart but that peace doesn't spill out into our daily lives.  We would rather Stand for Jesus than to follow Him.  Jesus didn't take a stand.  He just loved people. And he preached Peace everywhere he went. We've made it so we would rather worship Jesus than follow him. I like how Brian Zahnd puts it:

I believe in worshipping Jesus I really do, but you have to be careful: worshipping Jesus can be the cleverest way of all to not follow Jesus.  Jesus said to take up your cross and follow Him.  What is His cross? Jesus beared Hostility on the cross. He bears it and forgives it. We look at Jesus and we say "I worship you Jesus!" okay Jesus says "Follow Me."  "Oh yes, Jesus I worship you!" "Okay, take up your cross."  "Oh yes Jesus, I worship you! Your the Son of God!" Then finally Jesus says "Why do you say Lord Lord and don't do what I say?!"  You can not claim to worship Jesus and promote Hostility. Jesus came to preach Peace and not hostility and his followers must do the same.  Since the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus there is a New Truth in the world:  There is No Them, theres only Us.  To believe there is an Us Vs Them is to believe the devil and follow the old way of the world.  But Jesus is Lord over our lil Blue Marble since he ascended into Heaven.  

Coming out of Legalism and into Grace, I've often wondered if I was being "set apart" enough.  I don't need rules to define me as a Christ follower but what did, if even my atheist friend could love people just as much or even more than I did.

I read Brian Zahnd's book "A Farewell to Mars" recently and its one of my top 5 books that I highly recommend. What comes natural to others who aren't even Christians didn't click with me until 15 years after being a Christian.  And that makes me sad.  That's why I want to expose Religion.  It is so intertwined with the Christian church that it dilutes God's Grace and only offers it to a certain kind of people while turning the rest away from the church.  People who might even have catched a glimpse of Jesus' love before we have even seen it. I'm sad that I've been a Christian for 15 years and the central message of Love and Peace is just now hitting home to me and it's been in front of my face in the text the whole time.  Reading that book helped me realize the idols I've had in my life without even knowing.  Idols of consumerism, selfishness and Empire worship.  These things keep us busy with our own worship to them that we almost forget the sick, the poor, the immigrant and the helpless. Did you know Our nation alone has enough food to sustain everyone in the world? But the Empire of our Nation is greedy.  We are prideful and we a lot of times don't care about hostilities happening on our own turf, much less whats happening in other countries. Were always running around trying to keep up with the Jones' and acquire more stuff and Jesus is saying: Follow Me. Not the ways of the old world before I became Lord of the Earth but of the new ways of loving and putting aside our differences and making the oppressed our first concern.  You can't follow God and wealth you either hate the other and love the one.  But not both.  (matt 6:24)

IF YOU WANT TO BE DIFFERENT FROM THE MINDSET OF THE WORLD, LAY DOWN YOUR LIFE FOR YOUR ENEMIES! Let go of your pride and jealousies! See Christ in Everyone! See Christ in the least of people and you will not be like the world. Quit bringing up their sin because you suffer from the same sickness they have, just in a different way.  Love them like Christ and you won't have to preach to anyone because your actions will speak louder than any words you have to offer.

now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14For he But himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph 2:13-22)