Light

March 26, 2012

Light

Just something I realized on the ride home the other day.

Housewife Reality

March 11, 2012

Housewife Reality

After hearing so many negative comments about my choice to be a stay-at-home mom, I realized I didn’t need to justify my choice, but I wanted to defend it.

The quote that displays on my Facebook profile says, “I believe sincerely that if Christians took the time to admit that none are perfect and show love to those ‘obviously’ imperfect, then the world would be saved at an alarming rate.”

I have been marinating in this thought for a few days now. I am one of the obviously imperfect, and the outreaching hands of those in my life now have been the most positive, grounding force in my maturing faith. I know that without the love and forgiveness shown by those in my life, I would still be wandering, lost in sin and feeling like I had to find another way to God because I certainly can’t measure up to the “Christian standard.”

So, I started thinking, if more people were like the women in my small group at church, we’d all be better off. Yes, there are those of us who’ve had children before marriage, and women who’ve been redeemed from that. There are women who didn’t have children until marriage but certainly weren’t saints, and they’ve been redeemed from that. And, there are women who followed all the rules and lived the life God asked of them, but instead of looking down their noses, they lovingly come alongside the rest of us. I can’t say for certain, but I fully believe it’s because they know that they have also been redeemed from some less obvious sin.

You see, I used to look up to these impossible standards and feel so discouraged. I would see these ladies at church and feel judged by them, whether they were judging me or not, because their lives seemed to be so together, so much closer to God’s plan than mine. But, as I grow, it is not the Marys who inspires me the most: it is the Davids and Thomas’ in this life. The imperfect, the doubters. The ones who need forgiveness as much as I do.

In my world, it is hard for me to look at the life some lead because it turns into uncomfortable conviction. (That is not a bad thing, by the way. It is a calling to something better). Still, there are some that are so encouraging to me because of their obvious growth: my friend who refused to name her daughter after a Greek goddess because she didn’t want to glorify an idol. My brother-in-law’s strength of conviction and growing maturity in spirit. My sister’s unfaltering compassion. My father’s ability to seek academically but believe intrinsically. A friend from my old life who stuck by me and really loved me, the sinner, despite my horrendous sins.

Maybe you spend time thinking there is a standard you cannot meet and it keeps you from trying, but I tell you that there is a world full of Christians who love enormously because they know that they cannot meet the standard either.

It is our constant striving for more that binds us the most.

Granted, there are snobby Christians, but that doesn’t mean there should be snobby doubters. Don’t resist those who are further down the path because you assume they think they’re better than you. It is a mistake I made for far too long, and one you don’t have to live.

Lightbulb Moment

December 30, 2010

Today while trudging through Leviticus, I had a moment which made me feel like a cartoon character. If someone decided to sketch the moment, I believe fully that they would see me, rocking a baby to sleep with my Bible in hand. Then, suddenly, an angel would appear just over my right shoulder to whisper God’s message in my ear. My eyes would widen and a light bulb would appear above my head. That’s how it felt, anyway.

In chapter 4, Leviticus begins to detail the proper sacrifices for unintentional sins. At first, it seems very redundant. The rules are all the same (which I will come back to), and to be frank, it’s boring. We don’t do this anymore. The Jews don’t even do this anymore, so it’s very hard to feign interest.

But, don’t forget…Lightbulb.

Five times in chapter 5 it says if a person commits some sin “even though he is unaware of it, he has become unclean and is guilty.” When I first started reading this, back in chapter 4, I felt that compulsion that you feel as a child: to offer some blanket prayer of forgiveness for all the sins I didn’t know I committed that day, but I felt strongly that there was something more.

Here was what was whispered to me that caused the light bulb: “Maybe the intent isn’t to make you pray about something you don’t know you’ve done. Maybe the intent is to make you be aware of how you are living.”

Light bulb.

Let me see if I can be more clear.

Clearly the passage says that we are held accountable for even the sins we didn’t know we committed, but maybe just maybe it is also implying that we should always be aware of the sins we commit. Eventually they will be revealed to us, anyway. I have this nagging feeling that we would know instantly we were sinning–no matter how small the sin–if we were really in tune with God.

There was so much more. In my Bible, chapter 5 is titled ‘What to Give if One is Poor’, and what interested me was that rich or poor the price was ultimately the same: the death of an animal in place of the person. “For the wages of sin is death…” It has always been the price. And it couldn’t be just any animal. It had to be “one without defect and of proper value.”

So, either I got another whisper or just another layer of the same whisper was revealed.

Some people say that the old system of sacrifices was inefficient. Some say it simply became outdated, and this is why we needed Jesus. I disagree. It’s not that the sacrifices were inefficient, it’s just that we stopped getting it. It wasn’t enough to watch perfect animals slaughtered to take our place. We had to have something more powerful. Enter Jesus.

Light bulb.

Wonder, Awe and Marvel

December 28, 2010

1mar·vel

noun \ˈmär-vəl\

1: one that causes wonder or astonishment
2: intense surprise or interest : astonishment

There are words in praise and worship songs, in the psalms and in general conversation which we use in reference to God but are immensely difficult to comprehend. Awe, infinite, forgiving…

In the past, ‘marvel’ has been a word that I would place in that category as well. Astonished amazement isn’t the easiest thing to wrap your mind around, but this week, as I really looked at my sons and reveled in the joy of being a mother, I connected with the word.

My oldest boy is almost 5, and while he continuously amazes me and surpasses my every want, hope and expectation, I often take him for granted unintentionally. But, with the birth of my newbie, I was re-introduced to the art of marveling. From the first moment of meeting, to the early days of bonding, there was intense love. Now, however, 5 weeks later, there is simply a lot of marveling.

I spend countless hours simply holding him, looking at him, smelling his hair, listening to his coos and touching his skin. I hoard every hour, every memory, every look and sound and move to store up and cherish. I look back on those first weeks with my oldest and I have a new, overwhelming appreciation of that time with him.

In short, marveling comes more naturally than I assumed.

When I apply that word to my life of faith, I come to a new understanding of just how I should view God and His works in my life and in the world. His beauty, His divine planning, His providence and provision should hold me captive.

I should be able to easily linger in His presence, eager to soak up just one more detail of His essence that is almost beyond comprehension. I should recognize that each moment in His presence is a gift and I should never, never become disenchanted with His glory.

That is to marvel. 

To be wonderfully surprised and intensely interested in who He is at all times, not just when He is fulfilling some obvious need, but when He simply is. That should be enough. Like yearning to hold a sleeping baby, I should yearn simply to be with Him. To touch Him, and to feel Him breathe.

Marvel.

Now that I understand, I think that word says it all.

I am Bad at Praying

December 16, 2010

The title is pretty self explanatory.

It’s not that I don’t like to pray. I’m just not very good at it.

I’ve never gotten into the habit of praying regularly. I get bogged down under the pressure to say what I want in some beautiful way. My mind wanders horribly. I don’t fall asleep but I do end up making checklists of things I need to get done when I’m done praying. I try to recite to Lord’s Prayer when I’m desperate, but I know this gorgeous song-version of it, so then I just end up singing. I sometimes feel like I’m a crazy person. (I’m very sorry if you are really good at praying and this offends you. I genuinely want to be better at it). In most circumstances, talking to someone no one else can see isn’t regarded highly in today’s society. I then get distracted trying to remind myself that I’m not crazy–you see the trouble?

I want to be good at praying.

I want to be a selfless pray-er. I don’t want to come at God like He’s a magic genie sent to fulfill my wishes, but I usually don’t know what else to say.

Sometimes, though, there are amazing passages in the Bible that say all I’ve ever wanted to say. David’s prayer/Psalm of forgiveness is one great example. Here’s another.

First, I’d like to establish for you the relationship God and Moses had.
“The Lord would speak to Moses face-to-face, as a man speaks with his friend.”--Exodus 33:11

I long for that.

It is from this place that Moses is able to pray this prayer.
“If You are pleased with me, teach me Your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with You.”–Exodus 33:13

It is a prayer I borrow when I don’t know what else to say. This is all I want: to know God and truly find favor in His eyes.

Here’s another great thing: “The Lord replied, ‘My presence will go with you and I will give you all the rest.'”–Exodus 33:14

The Lord replied and made a promise to provide. I hang onto that.

Baking Faith

December 11, 2010

I realized something tonight as I began my Christmas Cookie Extravaganza:
There are quite a few people in the world who approach faith like I approach baking. These people gather a few recipes from what they consider reliable sources and try it out.

Let me assure you, this is a very good approach to baking. I can quickly discern if I like particular flavor combinations or if the family hates the experiment.

It is not such a brilliant approach to faith.

For one, when you botch a baking experiment, you can look at the outcome and clearly see what you did wrong. ‘Ah. That I cooked too long,’ or ‘Less flour next time,’ are quick and easy assessments. This is not so with faith.

With religions, a person is not able to clearly say why one religion does not work for them. Very often in America, people will come up with some PC excuse as to why it did not fit their particular needs, but in fact, it’s usually a very superficial and muddled reason.

Secondly, in baking, you can usually still tell if the recipe COULD BE good. Sure you baked it too long, but had the bottoms not been burnt, the cookies would have been perfect. Maybe the cookies didn’t stick together so well because of all the flour, but they were delicious! When you experiment with different faiths, there is no leeway to make such small tweaks to the overall structure. You must accept the faith as-is, or you must leave it behind. (Claiming only a watered-down version of faith is, in fact, leaving the true faith behind).

Maybe the world would be a better place if we all looked at religion, faith, like I look at cooking.

Yes, I love to try new recipes, but I’m not going to put the effort into a lasagna from scratch if I’ve never tasted lasagna. It’s a lot of work for a ‘maybe’. And I’m never going to serve my guests blowfish because I don’t want to accidently poison them.

Just a thought…

I have never felt the bonds of slavery. Not even metaphorically. I am a thoroughly Midwestern, American woman. I have parents who allowed me a fair amount of leeway when I was a minor and a gracious amount of forgiveness when I was old enough (and dumb enough) to need it. I had a liberal curfew, fairly flexible work schedules in my work and the right to vote since the age of 18. I don’t really know what it is like to be in captivity, to be truly afraid for my life, or to be bought and sold like property. Slavery is the one thing in the Bible that I simply cannot relate to, even though it is discussed often and in detail.

Sometimes, that makes it difficult to really appreciate the writings about being set free.

In recent years, though, I have come to face my enslavement to sin more fully. Instead of looking at the sins I commit as an inherited disease, I have begun to see the snares and trappings of slavery that sin carries with it.

This is significant for two reasons: One, it removes my ability to make excuses. Sin is not inescapable. It, like slavery, is a temporary condition because I have been offered freedom. Two, It helps me realize that my situation is not hopeless. Sin is not a disease I was born with; it is a condition of this world, and I will one day be released from it for good.

Now, when I feel myself slipping, falling back into old patterns, I don’t feel a sense of rebellious “freedom,” I feel the chains tightening. I feel my true self slipping, silencing and the handcuffs of old ways binding me.

Sin now feels like what it has always been—slavery. And when I find verses dealing with slavery in the Bible, I’m able to at least comprehend my personal slavery and my personal, God-given freedom.

The Old Testament contains list after list, chapter after chapter of laws that were dictated to the Israelites during their time in the desert. Usually, these lists are ignored in modern society or irrelevant because we do not have an ark to carry around, a tabernacle to construct or sacrifices to offer. Once in a while, though, a word or phrase reaches out from the past to shout something relevant about the future, about the present. One such passage on slavery struck me recently.

Exodus 21:7-9 discusses the proper handling of slave girls who are given to the sons of the masters. She becomes entitled to full inheritance. How interesting.

Proof that God really doesn’t change.

Simply by being married to the master’s son, the bride is redeemed and set free from slavery, entitled to full rights as a daughter. Likewise, we the church, the bride, are redeemed by our relationship with Christ. We are freed from the slavery of sin and entitled to full inheritance in His name.

Organ donation…no, really

November 10, 2010

I watch a very popular teen drama. It’s not something I’m terribly proud of, but it’s true. Occasionally, it’s poignant; more often, it’s ridiculous. Last night was a rare glimpse of writing genius, and I came away with two nuggets worth repeating.

1.) “Happiness is a mood—not a destination.”
In church, we are taught to distinguish between happiness and joy, but this simple explanation of the fleeting nature of an emotion and the significance we place on it really hit home for me.

2.) We need to start viewing Jesus as a life-saving organ donor instead of a patch or even a bridge to some mysterious “other side.”
On the show, a character I grew to love last season survived a gunshot wound because another young man died and was the needed match.

Here’s why this shift in perception is necessary:

Firstly, viewing the sacrifice of Jesus as an organ donation requires us recipients to recognize the severity of our situation. Organs are not taken from one person and placed in another to improve function, extend a healthy life or brighten someone’s outlook. No. Organs are given when a person’s life is on the line. When there is no other way; no option; no treatment available.
Viewing the reality of our sin in this light, we see that God had tried every other treatment. There was the law, the sacrifices, the rituals…these treatments did not work. It was only when our situation was deadly, and all other options had been exhausted that this drastic procedure was offered as an option.

Secondly, it is important for us to realize that we have no choice.
On the show, the character was in a coma when the other man died and the decision was made to give him the organ that allowed him to live. Similarly, we have no say in who gave for us, nor whether or not it was for us. The sacrifice of Christ was for all men whether they want it or not. We all have a new life available to us, we need only take it.

Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, we should view Christ as an organ donor because it demonstrates the attitude we should carry about life going forward.
Again, my nighttime soap opera shed some light on this.
The character who had been saved was struggling with rehab. He was frustrated by the length of time that his recovery was taking, and he was getting discouraged. When he saw the obituary of the young donor, and seriously contemplated the immense sacrifice that it had taken to give him life, he changed his attitude. Suddenly, the struggle of rehab seemed like a welcome fight and the annoyance with his slow recovery was put in proper perspective.

To view Christ as a man who gave His life, who willingly traded our lives for His grave, puts all the struggles of Christian life in perspective.
Ok, we might take longer to “arrive” than we’d like. It’s frustrating that we aren’t instantaneously transformed into new, sinless beings, but so what. We have been given life.
Our family and friends may label us cooky, zealous, or insincere and the world might question our sanity or stability, but so what. A man died to give us the chance to live this zealous, odd, blessed life.

Who are we to scoff at such a sacrifice?

Just like in organ donation, there was only one match. Our family and friends, our ideals and hopes, the systems of the world and our own attempts to right our wrongs…no matter how well intentioned…cannot fit the need within us. They simply are not a match, and Christ was.

Each election cycle, Americans are asked a very important question: Which direction do you want the country to go? Though it is a question we all answer individually, it is something that only about 28 percent of eligible voters feel strongly compelled enough to act on. During an “off” election year like this one, the percentage is significantly lower.

An odd thing struck me as I read some informational flyers today: Faith is a lot like an election.

Every time I am asked about my faith, every time I declare myself a Christian, I am saying to the world that I have chosen which way I want my life to go.

Just like in politics, there are many “schools of thought” on this direction. Some people believe that it doesn’t really matter what we choose individually. These people believe that the world (or the country) will continue on a pre-determined course outside of our control. Others believe that left is best, while some will say the right is right. Still others say there is no way to really know which way is best.

I, however, have a different point of view about politics and religion.

I sincerely believe that first, there is a right direction. Second, I believe that it is possible to know which direction that is, and third I believe the choice of direction is of utmost importance.

While I will not claim omniscience, I believe we are given clues into knowing, and while I do consider things like intuition valid in matters of faith, I will exclude the more existential elements for this discussion.

Clue No. 1
Nature: If you are able to look at the intricate pattern of a fingerprint, or DNA sequence, or vein system in a human or a plant and say it all occurred from chance, then I’ve not much to say to you because I simply do not understand that logic. However, I believe that there is an essential human nature which must be taken into account in both politics and religion.

Governments which go against this essential human nature of freedom, avoidance of pain, quest for sustenance, etc., those governments often fail rather more quickly than those who at least try to respect the basics drives. (All governments fail, but mostly due to another unavoidable natural fact–imperfection).

Another fact of human nature is the quest for understanding divinity. Whatever people may call it, there is and always has been a drive for people to worship something, to understand the force that brought them into being.

Clue No. 2
History: The most potent evidence we have is history. From the annals of our history, we are able, as a species, to evaluate the missteps which lead to immense failures and the valuable decisions which led to incredible advances.

Anyone remember human sacrifices…or serfdom. See. We learn.

Putting the two together, in politics and religion, we are able to assess our standing, our direction.

Which politicians are making mistakes we’ve lived through before? (I don’t know about you, but I was taught that printing money to pay off debts without backing the paper with anything of value creates a bad situation…Hoover). Which religions are proclaiming radical eradication of a particular race or society. These are not things that have been tested and tried by societies, time; trial-and-error.

You see, by these standards we do not have to rely on intuition. We can look and see what has worked and dismiss what hasn’t.

Pure, unadulterated, untainted Christianity calls followers to love God and love one another as they love themselves. Seems like a solid system to me. Respect the power of the creator and you respect the creation. Respect the creation, love the creation purely and then cheating, lying, stealing, murder…all those other little rules of religion…are pretty much sewn up.