Thursday, July 03, 2014

Celebrity Teammates

I've really enjoyed watching the World Cup this year. I got into living overseas, four years ago, and it didn't wear off in the last two years in the US. The game between the US and Belgium was so much fun to watch, despite the outcome. The most of the press in the US has been on the fantastic goalie, Tim Howard, and rightfully so. He's amazing. His saves were fantastic. At one point the announcers said that he had not once dove in the wrong direction. All that, and he's good looking!

The aftermath of it, at least for him, is an incredible jump in celebrity status. He's trending on FB. He spoke to the president, along with the team captain Clint Dempsey. You know you've gotten into the big league if the president calls you AND films himself while doing it. I mean, wow.

The articles have been, as a whole, very positive. Even the captain of the Belgian team has respect for the play of Tim Howard. But there's something about all of this that I don't understand. Suddenly, there are also articles about how Tim Howard's a Christian and it's all shocking and wow, I bet you didn't know. What's up with that?

I'm all for supporting your team. As a Christian myself, I know that other Christians are my family. But the sudden interest in his faith seems, disingenuous. It's like we only care if he's a Christian once he's famous. Either that, or there's the idea that because he's a Christian and famous that I'll get some fame because I'm a Christian? I don't know, really. I know that's not what people were thinking when they wrote the articles, but I can't help but feel that its false boasting or something.

Maybe I'm wrong to be a little annoyed by these things. I mean, I'm glad he's going to Heaven and all; I'm happy when my family succeeds. But are we happy to know about believers who aren't succeeding on the earthly stage? Are we willing to identify ourselves with them as easily? Do we Christians just as excitedly claim them as part of our "team" as well? Or does our embarrassment over our less flashy relatives really mean we disown them and send them into exile.

I know there's a balance. Modesty is required for the unpresentable parts of the body of Christ. But somehow I don't think earthly success and celebrity is really the measure of a man.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Morning Snippets

This morning in my car I sang the Baby Shark song, Old MacDonald, If You're Happy and You Know It, and some song with Boom Chicka Chicka in it. The kids called out one song after the other asking me to sing with them. Their mother laughed at them and me, perhaps more at me for singing along.

I loved it. I'm still smiling. I'm exhausted from having to pull kids aside, make them look in my eyes, and repeat: "Keep the ball on the floor." We still managed to break one light shade. "No snacks in the main room." The little boy points at his brother all the while there are bits of chip stuck to his own shirt. After a whole pile of chips mysteriously gets spilled in one corner, the boy and I have another chat: "Do you see why I made that rule? You made a mess that has to be cleaned up." He understands and one thread of trust is built. I don't make rules for no reason.

One little boy is used to getting his own way. His habit is to slap the adult's face or spit if he is not given whatever he wants. But by today he has realized, that doesn't work with me. I told him no and instead he put his arms around my neck and put his head down on my shoulder. Trying a new tactic. He still wasn't allowed to clobber the other children. But I prefer this response.




Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Safety First!

With all the violence in Iraq now, more and more people comment on how they are glad I’m not there anymore, they are glad that I am safe.

Even before this, people have commented on how they are glad I survived, glad I am safe now, glad I’m in a safer place. It makes me angry. I know they mean well, but it isn’t better to have survived. It isn’t always better to be safe. Men in solitary confinement are safe.

Our modern American society and even especially the church culture has bought into the evolutionary lie that survival is the highest good. We have adopted a Hunger Games mentality where survival determines who is fittest and best. Caution is the new moral standard. Anything remotely perceived as reckless is no longer brave, but labeled as foolish. We have found a way to justify our cowardice.

But in the world of Scripture, survival has very little value in and of itself. St. Paul says that to die is gain. Living is mostly characterized by suffering. We are told to live a life that daily anticipates and accepts death, why else would we carry a cross? If safety is your greatest concern, carrying crosses is not your thing.

Survival can be good, but it isn’t an ultimate value. In fact, survival without much more becomes meaningless. Why does suicide even exist?

We are to live urgently, fully, patiently, courageously, carrying a cross with us wherever God has called us to be whether it looks safe or not. After all, our idea of safety is only an illusion. If God calls you to our glorious eternal home he can do so just as easily with a car crash in a small American town as he can with a bomb or gun in the Middle East.

We have fashioned a God of our own making. Our obsession with safety first has created an idol that causes many to cease living at all, to hide away talents and callings in the houses of our lives like agoraphobic old women afraid to step out into the sunshine. The truest death is not found in the dangerous places, but rather found in the dusty forgotten corners where piles of dead bones lay having only wasted away, never having been used or seen or spent.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Overanalyzing My Self

I'm tying myself up in knots as I see how I've grown and changed over the last couple of years in the US. I've become more lazy (or maybe just more easily worn out?), more selfish and focused on my own needs, and I've somehow lost some of my best Bible reading habits. I came back to the States a giant wound open and bleeding, ready to show everyone, because no amount of bandages could hide the mess I was. But now? It's scarred over, and I'm glad for that. But there is less grace from others for being a bit of a mess still. Or maybe there isn't less grace from others, but rather I think there will be less grace from others. Who knows? In this Southern world of people appearing perfect, scars are scary.

Whatever the case, while much of the pain is gone, the adjustments to life in the US still continue. This afternoon I went to take a package to the mail. I was wearing a sleeveless dress around the house. Before I left I put on a sweater. It wasn't until I was half way to the post office that I realized that I don't have to make sure my arms are covered to my elbows here. It was such a habit, and still is, I guess, that I didn't even notice my reasoning for wearing a sweater out into the 85 degree heat. I still find these things as they fly out of the blue and crash into my mind. Sometimes the object is a water balloon or even a soccer ball. But sometimes the cleanup of the wreckage is more time consuming.

As I've gone back to things like teaching English I run into more of these things... different, the same... assumptions about life, living, people, how I'm treated, expectations. Culture affects us on so many levels. I've spent so many years trying to make things work with as little in resources as possible that I find having more things available overwhelming. I am accustomed to relying only on people I know well and trust to accomplish things, but here the networks stretch far and wide. It makes me nervous to trust that a friend of a friend of a friend will come through in this or that situation.

I'm learning more and more how much I desperately need God to walk with me through all of this. My trust should be in him, not in the people anyway. My resources come from him, no matter where I am. He is in control of the many planes circling overhead. I need to rebuild new habits and life patterns, making sure I take the time to spend with him. Because it's only through his help that I can conquer the SELF that cries so strongly for coddling and attention.



Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sticky Note

1 Peter 5:1-5
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

I am very blessed. The elders I have been under have behaved according to this passage. They love the church, serve eagerly, and lead well. Money and status have not been their object. I have learned from them all well. They will receive unfading crowns of glory and I am glad. 

I find though, that as I get older that these standards are also things I must apply to myself. These good leaders are to be examples to me and thus I should follow in their footsteps. I also realize more and more that people watch me and emulate me. I still, so often, feel like a foolish little girl struggling to even exist in the world so this all feels terribly odd. But God has given me a responsibility by the gifts and learning he has given me and I must also serve and lead.  That said, I am still young and am so very grateful for the mentors and leaders I have. I have many people to learn from and cannot forget that. In all my learning and growth I ought not to think myself greater than I actually am. I must then also be a good example by not being proud.

Thus, humility. Clothe yourselves with humility. Clothe. Am I naked without humility? Or am I merely wearing something else. Do I have a choice here? It sounds like I do. In the morning do I think of putting on humility? Nope. I have often been a proud person. I am smart, but often I think myself smarter that I am, or at least smarter than everyone around me. I am grateful for the men and women God has put in my life that prove me wrong on a regular basis. I am a fool and it is God's grace to me that he never lets my pride get very far before smashing it to bits again. I am thankful. 

For when I am humbled and then become humble I get to rest in his grace. 


So I'm putting up a sticky note. 


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lazy Saturday

It's completely dark in my house now... except for the arresting white of my computer screen. Somehow it got dark while I sat here; the sun set, I didn't move.

I feel blah. You know that feeling where you were given a whole day to live and breath and accomplish great things and you did so little. One phone call, one missed call, another call forgotten. A couple of times of eating.  I do have a little to show for today. Several inches of afghan suddenly appeared in the dark green yarn. I did catch up on White Collar while the green pineapple shapes spread across my already too warm lap. But that is hardly an accomplishment. I should have weeded the garden even though I don't know what I'll plant there. I should have heated the labels off the wine bottles in my craft room so that I could have turned them into my own crafts. I should have swept the kitchen floor.

But you know, I could have done all of these things and while it might have taken the edge off of the blah, the deep heart blah would still be there. It's all because I didn't talk to God. Sure, I threw out a few phrases every now and then... maybe that's the wrong way to put it. Sure, I talked to God. But I didn't LISTEN.  I didn't read his word, or open my heart in the quiet stillness, or sit on his lap and just be. And that is why I'm blah, today.

I have no life if I hear not the author of life. There is still time in the day. I could take care of the garden, the floor, or even tackle those bottles. But a few hours of work and a night's rest won't dispel the fog in my heart.

Off I go. This dragon will die. I know a good knight who will fight for me.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Keep On

1 Peter 4:12-19

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

This seems to me one of the biggest things the Southern American church struggles with and part of the reason that the modern "health and wealth" teaching is so very flawed. We are afraid of the cost of discipleship and would rather be "safe". How much joy do we miss out on for being safe? Rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ. The few small whispers of moments where I have participated in that suffering gave me understanding and perspective on life that I would never choose to give up. But somehow when faced with these decisions again I shy away from them. I, too, prefer my comfort.  


The passage goes on to talk about judgement. God usually begins by judging his own people. But if we need correction, how much more those who are on the path to Hell? What will they end up facing in the end? Won't it be much worse? Our troubles will be over soon. We get to entrust our souls to the one who made us. It ties back into verse 12--the "fiery trial" for us is often here on earth. The "fiery trial" for those that are lost will be in eternal fire. It's both depressing and a comfort.  



Saturday, March 22, 2014

What to do when the end of all things is near...

1 Peter 4:7-11
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
The end of all things is near. This statement is assumed, stated as fact. This is the premise on which he bases the statement after saying "therefore".  Some think this refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, others the increasing persecution, whatever the case, the instructions are clear. Be alert and sober minded so that you can pray. I am reminded of the disciples falling asleep in the garden. For them the end of all things was near. They were asked to keep watch, be alert, and pray. But they could not. So often I turn to things that numb my mind instead of staying alert. This is foolishness and disobedience. 

Above all, love. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love covers. God's love has covered our sin, not in some willful blindness but with grace and his blood. Love invites people over and serves them (hospitality) without grumbling, without complaining about how you have to clean your house, without bringing up grudges. Love serves dinner to and washes the feet of the man who will betray you. 

It logically follows that we are to use our gifts to serve others. I've been reading Richard Fosters "Celebration of Discipline" again. I'm not sure I've ever really finished it; I find myself re-reading sections over and over. Service is one of them. God has been good to me. I have many gifts. And I know the consequences of pouring them out on others. Sometimes they are received with joy; other times they are thrown back in your face. But you cannot fill yourself up again either way. But the truth of it is here. These things we have are gifts. I didn't give them to myself, they are not an outpouring of myself. Rather they are what I've been given by God, his outpouring into me is my pleasure and joy to be able to pour out to others. In imitation of Christ who didn't hoard his great wealth in himself in heaven, but came to earth to pour himself out, to pull out a towel and wash his disciples' feet, even those of Judas. Thus our words, our service, is God's. The strength to continue in it is his also. And in the end, the glory is his as well. It is my prayer that both I and you will be filled with God's strength to do his will, to use his gifts as faithful stewards in the service of others. 

What did Jesus do when the end of all things was near? He was alert and praying. He was loving even his betrayer. He was hospitable and serving.  

"Voluntary servitude is a great joy." -Richard Foster



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Difficult

1 Peter 4:1-6
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
Sometimes various pastors I know talk about going through Scripture so that you can't escape dealing with portions that are difficult. It sounds nice when they say it, sort of like you know they can't get away with a lot of nonsense. When it comes around to yourself, though, things are a little more difficult. Verse one of chapter four makes no sense to me. I don't understand how Christ's suffering in the flesh is a way of thinking or living in the flesh having ceased from sin. I know there are people who believe in some sort of instantaneous sanctification that happens after we're saved, but I haven't found that view supported throughout Scripture or even in the lives of people who profess that view. It could be interpreted in the same way as the other verses about "living in sin" and that makes sense although I haven't looked up the Greek. Maybe I should. Ok.  "Has made an end to fault or failure." No progressives or such in the grammar, but translation is a tricky work and my Greek isn't nearly good enough to be authoritative. I'm going to let this sit and keep going to see if context helps.

Whatever the previous verses mean, it is clear that we are to behave differently. The past carries all sorts of sin, but for now we are not to join in with them. This reminds me of some of my friends in the Special Forces. Drinking parties were the norm. When we didn't join in, they moderated their own drinking, but they thought we were weird. They didn't malign us, though. We all must give an account. 

And then another odd verse. The gospel was preached to the dead. Jesus did it in those three days he was dead. That they too might live in the spirit. That always seems to be such a victorious part of the story. All those who died before Christ who believed in his coming got to be rescued! 

Back to the beginning. We are not to continue to live in sin, certainly. But what more does this mean? That after we die (is that the suffering mentioned?) we get to cease from sin? Or that through Christ's death an end to sin has been made? Is it that through Christ's suffering and death we are set free from sin and given the Holy Spirit (God's will) to live by? Perhaps. Perhaps there is more that I'll discover in another ten years. That's the cool thing about Scripture. There's always more to learn. 


Friday, February 21, 2014

Jonah Days

The black bell tolls the death knell
It rings in formless tones the fatal word
Of power and fear and helpless drowning
It gives me its ominous name "Overwhelmed".

The white page is vast with empty hope
Uncertainty of life and dreams that press pale
Like a giant whale about to swallow me whole
Though I am not yet running... to or fro.

But I want to run. To hide myself away alone, my fear
Of alone, to block out both the black and white
Not to risk the taming and giving of the wild things
Not to risk the tears and grief and failure.

They will come. They always do. I  know
I bleed red when cut by life's sharp shards
My legs buckle against my will and I fall
And on the way down I wait for the pain.

But then, there I am carpet-faced and crying,
and from there I can see, and seeing, I have hope.
The gong is not for me, the page is not a void.
I can see the palace, and I am not alone.