Lord come quickly

Trying to sit in the silence. Like a steady gaze, the need to just breathe and be seen by God is all I can manage. Trying to believe that there is a reason for the things that happen in my life, that God understands the ins and outs of this life, the sorrow, the death, the joy. When the whole world seems fragile and so quick to point out one another’s flaws as we speed forward towards a land of few solutions, I just want to be still.

I can’t give up hope that the Lord will do something. There are children looking to me to remain steady, giving up isn’t a choice. If we let our fear distance our hearts from the Lord, we accept defeat on behalf of the next generation, who is looking to us. We are still alive. There is still work to do. In a time where simple honesty seems to stir up everyone’s emotions, where we have the sacred right to destroy ourselves and others, and when abandoning the need to prove something makes you into a martyr, at least we have meaning. That our lives are actually valuable to God, and are capable of being useful. Where we can actually know God’s spirit, and trust him. I am not a fan of everything God does, but he is God. Who can disagree with him? Who can question his ways?

When I was younger, I wanted to pursue wisdom. I grow older only to find that most people have abandoned it. Running off in ten thousand different directions, trying to find a way to be less hungry, bitter, and cold. Has your senseless idealism bought you anything? Have you gained wisdom in all the places you know you should be happy? The truth is passing through our fingers and are throats are so thirsty. Who will be bold enough to drink? Who still believes that God owns these things: the things we take for granted, the things we do not recognize, the people we often forget? It’s terrible, but I find myself hoping that he would judge even to wrath with his coming. May he destroy our foolishness. May our clever words and actions be dashed to pieces.

I cant think of a single member of my family who isn’t broken, crying out for things they don’t feel like they could ever accomplish, let alone, find. I can’t think of any of the families I have come to know that value each other even most of the time; and even of those that do, in this life they are defenseless. A marginal minority trying to make a difference in overwhelming apathy and disillusionment. I realize that now is an excellent time for people to believe in God. Unique shades of sorrow, conflicted emotions, and confusion speckle the news. Why does it have to take disaster to have something beautiful to share with people? Why does it have to necessitate famine, or war, or illness, or death to get anyone’s attention? If God is just and trying to get to know everyone all of the time, unsuccessfully because of our mixed interests, how can so few people come? We are beginning to cannibalize one another from the depths of our need. Truly, we all want to believe we ourselves are the most broken. We starve our children for affection because each of us is the most hurt. We ourselves are broken children crying out for an answer.

I believe so much in honesty. Like looking in a mirror. But who likes what they see, anymore? When we examine ourselves, are we satisfied with what we have done? Are we happy with the choices we have made? The things we have accomplished? If we don’t allow ourselves to drink in this honesty, we will never find peace and never need to move. We will sit pretty in these rusted seats until the day where each is called to account for it. There could have been hope for you, if you just were willing to take it. There could have been peace. There could have been life. There could have been family. There could have been wholeness. There could have been sanity.

May God finish it quickly. When he’s tired of giving options, when he’s tired of reaching out to us and the last group of people are finally offered the choice to believe or to disbelieve it, it will be finished. We will be home. I wish I were already in that place. There is still work left, but I just see bitterness and chaos all around me. Come quickly.

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“that’s not respectful”: God’s tenderness and a conversation about honor

In the school where I worked in the role of a classroom tutor, we had a five-point strategy to encourage good citizenship and kindness in our students. Different goals, such as “soaring to success” (academic excellence), “act responsibly” (good stewardship), and “be respectful” provided our classroom the words and benchmarks to encourage one another forward.

As a grown woman, I wonder how many people know what it is to be respectful. But not just that. Apart from complacently neutral, past the boundaries of pleasant contempt, who knows what it means to honor others?

If respect is the bare minimum allotment of honor, what does it mean not just to respect, but to honor our elders? To honor our husbands or wives? To honor our family and friends?

If love bears all things and believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things, how can we ignore this requirement?

The Lord does expect us to love one another. In Romans 12:10, Paul tells us “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” To be perfectly honest, I have not yet researched what the word “honor” means in this context, in Paul’s letter. Yet from what I do know about God, it sounds a lot like Ephesians 5:22-33, which commands husbands and wives to love and submit to one another. Out of abundance instead of hunger, we are called to build one another up.

The love of God is tender as much as it is kind. As God will glorify his children in the second coming, and vindicate his family on that day of judgement, so he gives us reason to be still because of himself. There are many angry people these days about the state of our families, marriages, and civic institutions, but few fulfill what it means to love one another.

In a perfect relationship, it is not a burden to be a woman. The man that loves his wife as he does himself honors her, and makes her happy to be married. He takes care of their children. He does not act as though he himself were a child. Instead of seeking his own interests, he seeks the welfare of his family. Like Jesus being willing to go so far out of his way for us and sacrifice for what we could not do on our own, the equipped man of Christ has everything he needs to fulfill his calling. God is able to equip each of his servants (male or female) for the love he has set before them. Contrary to popular ideology, marriage really is a blessing.

Historically, I have held many strong opinions. I get angry, though I try to contain it. I have been one to feel hopeless. I have been one to feel alone, and the Devil certainly used that in seasons where I was convinced nobody wanted me.

When you go to the Lord with your full heart and he restores those empty places, a funny thing happens. It’s not that your opinions become less valid. Or that you start to feel bad for holding them. It’s that you have less need to insist in your own way and be right about everything. Love does not insist in it’s own way, and as we become more satisfied, being right is no longer the priority.

There are some people that become bolder through the love of God, but I am not one of them. As a kid, I was prepared to raise hell at all times. In all my classes, I have never been shy to share my opinion. I am not often afraid in an external sense, but fear hits me internally.

I know that each person is different. In my case, the love of God made me rest more. It made me happy. More peaceable. Less alone. It gave me words to express mourning and hope for better. It gave me the sense that God does not abandon us when we are angry, but provides us the tools through faith to fight for justice. His love helped me make sense of my life, and use it for better. He constantly provides for me out of my need, and gives me very practical help in times of trouble.

God helps in unexpected ways. For example, making the decision that I will start tithing with my first paycheck this August gives me a sense of stability. This year will not be living off of abundance, but giving God my best gives me the peace of knowing he will provide for me. God also strengthens my body when I give thanksgiving for the food I receive. I have seen it happen, and I have seen this act of thanksgiving radically change my mind and body through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, when we live in relationship with him in thanksgiving. I am well aware that my last claim sounds crazy, but I invite anybody willing to thank the Lord for your food on a consistent basis and see if he doesn’t strengthen you (I’m talking physical strength).

So many good things are already prepared and provided to those willing to allow Jesus to change their hearts. You don’t have to live in bondage forever. To live enslaved long after you’ve been paid for is to miss the entire point.

Biblical sacrifice and why do bad things happen

I’m going over some material to prepare to teach Sunday school kiddos tomorrow, and I have a question. You know how people used to have to sacrifice animals to God to cover their sins? And when Jesus came, his body and his blood became the last sacrifice necessary?

I know that most of the time, Christian leaders interpret the blood as a symbol of what we as humans deserve, having fallen short of God’s commandments and abandoning the truth in following him. I know that understanding the nature of sacrifices as they were offered before Jesus’s death is deeply important to having the right perspective of human “goodness” and stature in reference to God.

But could it be possible that the God of Isaac and Abraham, who cares deeply about justice, cares deeply about his creation, and is completely justified in both anger and sadness may also use sacrifice to depict his grief?

Why couldn’t we just follow him? Why did we have to pursue death? Why couldn’t we just listen to instruction? God more than anyone else understands the grief and the suffering that was birthed through our sin. Above everyone else, God intimately knows and is witness to that cost. People dying with environmental pollution. People neglecting older relatives. Children killing children in gun violence, with parents who have likewise been murdered. I know for certain God didn’t want us to end up that way.

Maybe the sacrifice is also a reflection of God’s pain in watching us run far from him. Who can give him anything? Yet I wonder if he too isn’t grieved by our rejection. I wonder if the separation between Heaven and Hell and ultimately justice doesn’t just come as a result of him doing everything he possibly could to bring us back to him, and creating a place where the people and demons who legitimately don’t want to be around him are free not to be. If it comes down to God trying to save every scrap of faith and every good thing that was left from our disaster, and having to destroy the rest so it doesn’t destroy the people left standing. Does God have to save us from ourselves? Why else would Jesus become a sacrifice?

I’m sure that the Righteous Judge has the potential for wrath, but it seems to me that he saves any and all people who are willing to come to him. Through grace, I think he just wants to bring his family back together. In every place, high, low, and otherwise, there is God. His seeking spirit runs to us long before we run to him. He does his very best to protect us, but so often, we don’t listen. We don’t even notice his hand in our lives. And we wonder in utter ignorance “where is God” and “why do bad things happen”, never bearing the burden of truth that it is absolutely a result of our decisions that bad things happen. But even then, we are made in the image of God. And he still wants us.

How much grief must the Father have for those who will never truly love him. How much love he has for them still, and for all of us when we reject him.

I know that the Lord isn’t human. I don’t know for certain if any of this is really what God was trying to say all that time. I just feel like if he wanted to catch our attention and prepare us for the Savior through rituals in a way that didn’t involve blood and participatory atonement, he could do that. If the Lord wanted us to throw giant bonfires and burn a bunch of incense that ate people’s homes as a symbol of his forgiveness, he could do that. If he wanted us to go around and smash all the anthills around our cities as symbols of his power, he could do that too. But the Lord commands us in ways that are meant to get our attention, to tell us something about himself. The story of Isaac and Abraham is a great example, because Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son. Jesus was the son that never got rescued, in order that he would be the Rescuer. All of the bible runs together into a clamor of voices that confess Jesus as the son of God. And if the Lord wanted to weave the story in a different way, he could.

I think it’s definitely possible that God used sacrifices as a way of atonement serves many purposes. On the one hand, I think God might be trying to force us to recognize the intimate covenants we’ve made with death through sin and despising his commandments. At the same time, I believe that blood spilled might have effected our spiritual conditions in a supernatural way, because the sacrifice acknowledges the eventual death of Christ. Sacrifice shows God’s righteousness, because his justice remains the same, and the blood that was once required from us was eventually required from Jesus. Sacrifice demonstrates mercy (because we aren’t the ones who die). Sacrifice demonstrates grace, because we don’t deserve the mercy.

Combined with the promises of God about restoring his people and not leaving us to forever experience what we deserve, he is more than justified in requiring sacrifice (first through animals, now through Jesus, for all those willing to accept him). Without such a vivid reminder of death, how could we stay sober-minded long enough to acknowledge our sin and weakness? When it’s easy to hide from our sins, we reject God (which is one of many many reasons the Lord hates false idols). If any remnant of Israel was going to be saved, having a regular call to repentance for the people of God surely has achieved that purpose.

I really don’t believe that God wanted any of us to sin or experience all of the things that lead to death. Unfortunately, after the Fall, it was no longer his choice. After he gave us instructions to obey, it was no longer his choice. He gave us free will so we could actually enjoy being around him. But when we don’t want to be around him? WE deny him. WE made the decisions that it took to fall short. Sin was our mistake.

Calling God unrighteous because of the consequences of our actions contradicts his perfect love. He has done, is doing, and will do everything within his (unlimited) power to save us. But who will believe what we have heard from him? Who will be small enough to experience his great love? May the world call it insanity. But he was never the one to choose that.

 

Misunderstood: the gospel vs. being popular

We all have this common belief in middle school that being weird sets you up to be alone. Struggling to fill our blank spaces that cry out for God, people invent superficial standards so they don’t become unwanted. It’s a noble goal to be both weird and unashamed. We invent characters on TV that either validate their own quirks through cynicism, or water down their differences to be just another unique flavor of bland. Growing into adults, we deny that there is any such thing as “normal” (even though every social outcast alive would tell you there is), and hope to God that if other people ignore our weirdness, we’ll be able to strike a deal to ignore theirs.

So which is it? Do you ignore the differences in order to forge on, or do you acknowledge those things that you can’t change, even if your quirks make you feel guilty? Is there a way to both acknowledge your eccentricities and not let them define you?

On the other hand, I know a lot of nerdy people who absolutely hate topics in pop culture because they are so convinced that their differences will never be accepted. I know so many people who actively resent and try to sabotage people who seem to be more well-liked than them. It is easy to covet another person’s social standing when you feel like the perpetual outcast. But maybe hating people who fit in better isn’t working?

As the Breakfast Club would teach us, cynical nerds and popular kids straddle the same double standard. Either you are cynical and genuine, or you are well-accepted and a sell out. Is there no way to be popular and genuine, or well-appreciated and weird? If the world stopped at high school, we’d never know.

I’m grateful that God isn’t like that. I find so much vindication in the cynicism of the prophets. As a cynic who doesn’t feel as though cynicism is optional, it gives me great peace to think that being bothered could be a gift. We all hunger for justice, and in my family, we’ve got all sorts of people praising or despising God for that very reason. We are a people like Thomas, a people who needs to see the nail wounds. I keep praying for my family, and I believe that God will honor that.

I wish it were as simple as hating the popular kids and belittling the nerds. No one would ever have to work harder than hating each other, and we could all just remain in the same muck we were born into.

But God isn’t happy to leave it that way. In my short life, I have gotten to this point where I am finally aware that I don’t need other people to understand me to be accepted and loved by God. I cant tell you how many geeky people would be freed of their bitterness if they could just accept that. I don’t believe that the people who fit in better have any less need for God. I think we are all just trying to do our best and on opposite sides of expectations that do nobody any lick of good.

Regardless of your social standing or the way the world sees you, He is Lord. He knows us intimately, in a way that no other person could know us. Well liked or not, we are known. There is no need to translate for a God who knows everything. God really does understand. He really does care. Even if nobody else does, the Lord knows. Even if people really liked Jesus when he was doing cool stuff for them, I really don’t think too many people understood him. I personally think he was probably the most misunderstood person to walk the earth. Which is okay. His relationship with God was clearly pretty decent. His identity was solid anyways.

As Christians, being nice to people doesn’t depend on whether they understand you or you understand them. God’s goodness can be enough for us. Even if everyone you know is hard to be around, God really loves those people. Even if people remain weird or people never understand you, you still should be kind.

Falling

Some time in the middle of last night, I woke up from a dream where I was encouraging people to follow God. Trying to explain that the Lord is always faithful, I gradually woke and continued to say similar stuff being half-awake. It was kind of strange because most of the things I realized in that semi-conscious state are entirely valuable to the stuff I’ve been struggling with lately. I had fallen asleep thinking, “Some people die without ever knowing that the greatest needs they’ve ever had could have always been met” and woke up knowing that the power of God really is the most high, he really is the greatest authority, and if I trust him, things are going to turn out fine.

I’ve been quietly worrying and wondering about moving to Washington, DC this July. I haven’t consciously been disobeying God, but as doubts have come up, I’ve dealt with them. In that moment of delirious trust last night, I recognized that I had been feeling this sense of falling, and wondering if God really would catch me. I of all people should know that he follows through, given where I’ve been in life before. But still, with this big move (that symbolizes so many things I cant control), I needed to remember that all that is required of me is faith and obedience. If I believe, the Lord will show up. I just need to trust God, and he will do the work through his spirit. Everything is going to be fine. Still, it helps to acknowledge that I had been feeling afraid. Moving for the first time from college is definitely stressful. Still, I know the Lord will provide.

May we be put to shame in politics

I find peace in God, but I find no rest at the University. All we do in a spirit of political correctness is to deny the presence of sin and white wash any legitimate dispute over the way we’re living. Like sickeningly sweet rat poison, our insides church with unresolved spiritual issues yet we heap our sin onto others as we denigrate their choices, social class, professional habits, and resistance to gain their identity through publications. Terrible for the mind, terrible for the body. Our words will shift yet again when it is fashionable, but for now, we use this patronizing and empty tactic to deny our sin. When others don’t walk the cakewalk, they are liable for stoning.

Yet more often than not, the people who attack political correctness attack it out of fear. Without any legitimate opinion about the openness and mandatory acceptance of other people that political correctness represents, we become afraid. We hide behind shallow slogans and political sound bytes because we don’t want to deal with what assimilation to a new norm would actually mean, or whether we really have faith strong enough to deal with it. For those of us whose faith has been in who we don’t accept or what we don’t believe in instead of the mercy and wholeness of Christ, this is a hard transition. Having to confront legitimate racism, sexism, or homophobia that’s crept into your heart (especially in the name of Jesus) in mid-life has got to suck. Yet instead of seeking God, we go with the easy choice and shame ourselves through politics.

At what point do we recognize that we are all sinners? At what point is it easier to humble ourselves before God? May our wisdom be revealed as lies the longer we stay apart from him. May we be naked before God when we use his name in vain, and we make him a tool of politics. May we know that the reason that we don’t get what we want is because we’ve used his name as a buzzword instead of in truth. May we have to actually realize that God is powerful, very real, and constantly influencing our world in utmost power. May we actually come away from this election year with a little more recognition of God, for those actually willing to receive it.

Better to have no political affiliation than to bicker over the grounds to justify your sin. Like children in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, we all live in and through sin, yet we belittle one another for the way it presents uniquely in every person’s life. Is no one really the wiser? Has everyone really fallen for the act? In an election year that feels like a punchline or long dragged out nightmare, is no one actually content with God? May the Lord shame us in our fabricated homemade wisdom. May we actually have to seek his face in this.

Amazed by the kindness of God

I just spent a lovely evening with a friend and her family, and I’m so amazed by the beauty of God’s people.

My friend is a student from Saudia Arabia who has come with her husband, 6-month old baby, and 4 year old daughter to the US. I met her while we were both working (her as a volunteer) to greet new International Students to my campus. Immediately, she has been someone who has been kind to me and very open to receive even botched translations. As we’ve spent time together, I have really enjoyed taking turns holding her baby, interacting with her daughter and asking her about daycare, and talking about the differences between our cultures. She is from the city of Hajj, Saudia Arabia, and they have an enormous mosque there. We spent a lot of time tonight talking about the differences between our faiths (her as a Muslim and me as a Christian), what it means to be modest, what it’s like to go to school and raise a family, and other things.

I just really appreciate her ability to laugh with me about silly cultural details. She is one of few students who understands more of what I say without as many explanations. It is as though she understands what I mean without the specific words. The time I have spent with her, her husband, and their little children has been a blessing. Like many other Muslims from my college, elementary school, and past experiences, not only was she warm and hospitable, but easy to be around. She cooked for me. As we ate rice with meat and potatoes, grapes, soda, Saudia Arabian ginger coffee, cookies, and Mint tea, I really felt free to enjoy her hospitality.

I know that she doesn’t view the world just like me, but I trust God to judge fairly. The more time I spend with people who have different experiences than I do, the more I am amazed by God. I often crave to go back to Chile and China, and I want to see so much of the world. Even if I had bittersweet experiences at different parts of my trips, I miss the people, the food, and the culture. I feel so blessed to be free to love people far from home. The ability to make the best of things and just eat what’s in front of me makes me feel equipped to grow God’s kingdom and be willing to go wherever he calls me. The way he is softening my heart is just awesome.

I spent so much time today receiving love. In kindergarten, I am getting better at discerning what kids need (as in, what they don’t ask for). Being able to spend a lot of quality time with the kids and follow them throughout the day is awesome, because then I learn the art of gentle correction. May God make it even easier for me to care for them. Today, I received a lot of little hugs.

When I spend time in kindergarten, I understand the times I have felt different from my peers. Tutoring at the same elementary school where I was raised, as I try to help them with their work, I remember how I felt doing similar equations. I realize only as an adult (with an external perspective) why I got into trouble, that I probably was fairly smart (to get bored so easily), and BEST OF ALL, how to minister to the kids who are too much like me. I know that often, the arrogance children put on is only a cry for attention. “Bossiness” is basically the desire to do something meaningful. Crying easily over spilled milk and picking fights is like wanting someone to validate how much they care for you (“Do you really see that I’m in pain?”). Being cold and somewhat self-centered is the desire not to be the same (and to not get hurt). If you can recognize it in children, it’s a lot easier to have compassion on adults.

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about what I will and will not settle for in marriage, what it means to have a ministry that most elevates children, and the kindness of God. I believe that if we honor children above a lot of our older members, we can fix nearly everything else. These days, I see a lot of my confidence in God resurrecting. The past two weeks, I have felt so vindicated at church. As I hear a living, breathing Pastor say things that I have thought for years and thought I would die before hearing discussed in daylight, I feel risen. I have more compassion on the people who I still think are wrong. The longer I’ve been alive, the more I’ve held to my convictions. Even before Christ was rooted in my heart strongly, I wanted to know God. I always used to assume that if I let go of who I was (but couldn’t be), life would get easier. Funny thing: the more I hold fast to who God made me and the woman he wants me to become, the more he sets me in a place where others will conform to my example, instead of me having to sacrifice parts of myself. I’m not sorry. This is the depth and the width and the height and length of the love of God. He didn’t make me for no reason, but he made me to live out my purpose. For me, that means living passionately, with boldness, and without much fear. I know that God can purify just about anything, even the things that the Devil tells us are too shameful to make holy. In giving thanks to God, I can make most earthly desires reconciled and sanctified to him, provided he brings fruition about.

Realizing how much people long for love but don’t have it, I have a lot of hope for my ministry. My friend Angela thinks that if she and I end up marrying husbands someday, it will be to show the world how good God is, and to demonstrate his redemption through our own immediate families. I think she’s right. I don’t need to get married, but it would be one helluva testimony of God. As I sit in my Intimate Relationships Psychology course, I am so aware of how many people long for the answers about love and don’t have them. I want to live out a compassionate response that can actually demonstrate why people need Jesus, and how much better my life is because of him. I’m not going to crucify people based on relationship sins because if people sin, they probably don’t know what it feels like to be satisfied. I’m not going to be that person who misrepresents the truth by bringing a spirit of constant judgment. If the Holy spirit convicts, he also corrects, encourages, testifies on behalf of God and intercedes for the rest of us sinners. Why can’t everyday Christians be more like that? I’m going to demonstrate what that means and if the Lord wants it, maybe that will be good for all of us. I’m not going to be afraid of this.

It’s a lukewarm truth if it’s not coming out of love. I really do believe that Jesus has power unlike anything else, and I’m going to live my life as a fulfillment of that love. To love people is to fulfill God’s expectations for my life because how else should I testify? Without love, I am a poor steward. My actions will not invalidate the truth.