Why does God have me around all the people-pleasers?

Since I have moved about a month ago, I have met the overwhelming power and presence of God over my life. Through a series of events and daily encouragements, I am so convinced that the Lord is with me, and it is certainly his will that I am here, learning to be a teacher. Overwhelming, nearly inexplicable strength has come over me despite having moved to a new city, making new friends, setting new habits, etc. I have found a wonderful church. I have people I am supposed to care for. I am being groomed for ministry through working with children and other people (and their parents). If ever God lays something so thick on your heart about the direction you should go but doesn’t explain it, listen. I would have never expected that the best training I could receive for ministry would be in a Master’s degree program for Early Childhood Education. The Lord knows all the details. I don’t yet, but it’s so obvious that this is his will that it’s hard to worry about all that.

For the past year or so, the Lord has brought friendships in my life with people who instinctively try to make everybody happy. Which to me, is madness. I am direct. I am decisive. I don’t mince words but I’ll go miles out of my way for a friend. I get the feeling that I’m supposed to learn something through all these people, and I have. I get the feeling also that I’m meant to strengthen people somehow, and model/teach about what healing is and the freedom available in Christ. It isn’t always easy.

When you are made aware of people’s needs by the Holy Spirit, that can be a heavy burden. It’s hard watching my friends struggle to parse out how to meet what they need. I often watch people pursue all sorts of paths that I can tell you from my own experience won’t serve you for nothing. I can often tell you why those paths are false, both from scripture and personal experience. I can even tell you what it feels like to be in that specific situation, because I remember. It’s maddening to know what people are going through and only be able to tell them what I know about the truth: That Jesus came and rose again so that we would not just have life, but have it to the full. That Christ is strong enough. That literally the only thing that is going to fill that hole is Jesus. It sounds crazy. It is crazy. It’s also true.

When people see where God has brought me but weren’t witness to where I’ve been, they just have to take my word for it. If you already have a hard time believing, that may be a stretch. I’m just trying to keep the same steadfast behavior and even become more kind. Shifting your heart attitude to a place to where you’re willing to believe that there could be a God takes time. You can’t rush it.

Which is maddening. I know what could heal you TODAY, but most people aren’t ready. I have to patiently wait and continue to show grace until the day comes (if it comes) where you’d be curious or desperate enough to seek Jesus. That’s hard. My soul mourns and cries out watching all of these people killing themselves for a grace that can’t be found where they’re seeking it.

God has honored me by teaching me these things while I am still young, but that’s also difficult. So few people have found God at this age. So few people of my generation believe that Christianity could be genuine. We are scattered in 1000 different directions because of the lack of integrity in the generations before us. We are desperately pursuing authenticity wherever we believe it might be, despite all of these bitter old people who want to act like we’re the most shallow generation that’s ever lived. When you criticize Millennials, you basically admit that you aren’t willing to help us, and you aren’t actually invested in growing the next generation of the kingdom of God. That’s selfish.

Lord, please teach us to bear with one another, ESPECIALLY when it’s hard. We are a people in need of healing. We believe that you are powerful. That you’re strong enough. Please come and heal us through your own name. Amen.

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.

Let it be what it is

Have you ever noticed how **freaked OUT** people get when something they can’t quite place reminds them of something else they are already afraid of? Like a little kid that calls everything with four legs “doggie” because she hasn’t learned the word for “horse”, having a deeper appraisal of the world might inform how Christians look at certain “problems”.

Let me give you an example. In Kansas, there are so many people who will never go to big cities or want contact with the exceedingly populous rest of the world. To be honest, I can understand that. Though I will be moving to Washington, DC in a mere four months, I am going to miss the wide open spaces, cloud forms, and sense of quiet as much as anyone. But along with all of our milkweed and open expanses of prairie, it can be easy for people to base their entire understanding of a group of people or a specific thought off of a character on TV. I bet you plenty of Kansans have never eaten dinner with a Muslim. I bet you that plenty of Kansans don’t understand the deep loneliness that envelops same-sex attraction and how social rejection makes spiritual pain worse. We aren’t necessarily a stupid people, but there are things that we just don’t come into contact with as much as the more industrialized world. And while I can tell you plenty of people I know that can give you one helluva deal on fixing your car/plumbing, or could resettle your cracking foundation (of a house) for free, I really doubt that self-reliant DIY home skills are in as quick supply in the urban core.

It’s possible to disagree with most of another person’s beliefs and still care for them as a person. Just because a person represents a category of things we don’t understand doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want them to miss out on Jesus or for us to take it easy. I feel like a lot of Christians have this mindset of “I’m going to take it easy and watch people burn”, and that’s some bullcrap. God uses some pretty bizarre people and means to tell people about his son. Are we really going to settle for resentment?

Enjoy every season

A little over a year ago in a women’s small group, there was a moment where the pessimism and insecurity of some of our groups members drove me to tears. As women of all ages, we met together periodically, and on this special occasion, several women who were somewhere in the ballpark of 50-60 years old absolutely would not stop belittling themselves and their bodies. When I tried to change the tone of that conversation based on the respect I hold for women of all ages, they absolutely ripped me apart, insinuating that bitterness and regret related to one’s physical appearance was some natural thing, and that I’d be the same way once I became their age. I went to the bathroom and wept.

At no point in my life will I allow that kind of ugliness to cloud my judgment. Despite what some regret-filled older people often insinuate, young people do not have perfect bodies, and it is hard to be young also. So many of my peers (and in many things, I myself) have not worked through a lot of the battles that will give us the wisdom we will have, God willing we reach that age. We haven’t had kids, we haven’t had to let them go, we haven’t done quite a few many things that are ridiculous and just not here yet. We shouldn’t be pressured to idealize the present for fear of the future. When the time is ready, the good Lord will take us through the ringer and we’ll get our turn.

But I refuse to believe that I have to enjoy the coming seasons of my life less than I do the present, or even the better parts of the past. Life presents us new challenges continually, and I have a very present help in the form of Christ. He and I will keep moving through the obstacle course, and then I’ll die, and I’ll be with Jesus. Why in God’s name are we trying to hold onto the earth? There are beautiful times and hard times throughout every season, and how would you age into the nuance of a different form of beauty if you didn’t dare to keep going and keep that joy of being alive? Being young isn’t that great. Fun fact: at no point are people’s bodies, minds, or hearts perfectly structurally secure, from birth to finish, as evidenced by the fact that we all die, we all make mistakes, and we all remain oblivious.

As long as I am physically able to move around, as long as I am still lucid, as long as I still have Jesus, I am going to enjoy it for what it’s worth and choose to keep living. At no point will I age into bitterness. At this point, I’ve left the bitterness behind me.

 

Tribute to a forgotten friend

Recently, I texted my friend Angela about what the Bible says concerning giving money to the homeless. I was conflicted about scripture, and unsure of whether it actually helps to give money to the homeless, given that some individuals can use charitable contributions in a way that never helps them move forward.

Though Angela and I vowed to talk about it in person, I’ve kind of already answered my own question. I believe in giving to the needy. I believe in giving regardless of whether need is a lifestyle, a season, a personal choice, or the result of a tidal force, like systemic racism. Like how I am commanded to give grace in exchange for sin, Christ teaches me to give regardless of people’s righteousness, because their unrighteousness is as my own. None of us deserve Jesus. And neglecting to give just denies the need to care, or to actively be in search of a solution so that justice can come forth. I don’t want to be that kind of a person.

A couple of years ago, I met a friend on study abroad in Chile who changed how I consider this entire problem. I volunteered with her chatting with homeless patrons of a soup kitchen, as they ate their evening meal. She has such deep love for the homeless. Her passion and the desire to serve with her challenged me to use my language skills to make that a possible, and has continually thereafter.

We had a falling out before she left, and there is hurt on either side that remains to this day. I remember Christ’s teachings; I want to reconcile. I don’t think she wants that, which is really hard. I care about all the people I have been friends with. Once I care for somebody, they remain in my heart and memory always. So for the time being, I’m in a rather tricky place.

But I remember her love for the homeless. I remember how much she was ready to sacrifice in order to serve, and how much I learned coming with her. I remember how God was able to bless us and the people we served through those moments of hit and miss communication, and I remember his presence over us.

All that my heart desires is that in my life, forgiveness would be spread out like a banquet. That like Christ, people could find the kind of counsel and support they hunger and thirst after in my actions and words. I am not Jesus, but he helps me be like him, piece by piece. So I have an idea.

I know that her love of the homeless didn’t just come out of the sky for no reason. She loves the needy like Jesus. I personally have trouble giving to people in situations of homelessness. The need overwhelms me. However, since I can’t support her either for now or for however long, I will serve the homeless. I love Jesus. I know this desire comes from him. If I can’t be her friend, then I will be a friend to the people she loves. These are her people. Maybe they can be my people too, and I can live to serve them as I would anyone else. It makes a lot more sense that way.

Instead of being sad over the end of a friendship, I’m going to live in way that celebrates the passions of the people I care about, regardless of if they are still with me. I honor them and I honor Christ when I serve the people they love on this earth. This is a much more organic and kind solution to friend loss than anything else. I struggle to not care for people after they or I have been hurt, so this just takes the love I have for them and donates it in the form of a living solution. If I love Jesus, and I care for her, then surely I can care for others in remembrance of Christ, and other people I have loved.

Let the Lord teach me my own need.

Caring about justice, not knowing how to fix it

One of the biggest lies I have ever met when trying to reconcile my desire for justice with the world is that I have to know what I’m doing. While some people think action is prudent only after you’ve developed a perfectly thought out plan, I want to share a couple reasons I’ve decided to abandon that belief.

Rarely in life do we have a perfect understand of where our actions (or lack thereof) will lead us. We all live within a limited amount of time, and despite comfy illusions to the contrary, none of us knows when it will end. Because we still do not understand how the outcomes of our actions will be described in history books, it’s kind of a touch and go situation most of the time when we are confronted with choices based on whether or not we care.

And while some ambiguity is helpful, what isn’t helpful is the assumption that you have to be in control in order to pray and work towards a solution. I am an independent young woman, and I like to know that my actions are working towards some kind of a solution. While it’s good to examine how solutions are born, sometimes my part to play in that solution is relatively small. It’s not because of who I am. It’s because if I really care about something, I need to be willing to serve long before I am ready to lead. If I really care about something, I need to commit to building up the people who are working with me. If I really care about something, it’s not about how I think something should be done, but what kind of change I can facilitate as part of a group. And though these lessons take years to learn, while I am still able and still relatively young, I need to let go of the delusion that change should always be under my authority.

As someone who desires to live out ministry, I surrender my right to an opinion. For the love of my friends and Christian family, I can make myself less. It’s not because I’m a woman. It’s because more often than not, the roles that no one really wants to take are the most necessary. Listener. Witness. Encouragement. If Christ came in order to serve all of us, then my image of leadership should start with making myself less.

It’s not about what I can do to be a better person, it’s about how I can grow in faith to become more like Jesus Christ. My goal for my ministry here on earth is to empower others in their faith, and to be willing to make myself as a servant in order to invest in all people’s leadership. On my own, I have no clue how to solve nearly all of the world’s problems. One of the most important parts about allowing justice to happen is to follow the people who are most worthy of leadership and know more than you. If who I am needs to be put on the sideline to minister to people and to give them what they need, I accept that.

And you know what? As a follower of Christ, it is my duty to try to understand where hurting people are coming from, based on a Savior that was nailed to the cross. Mark 2:17 “On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” How can I pray for God to heal people’s pain if I’m not interested in a ministry of intercession? Disengaging from the world’s pain is not appropriate for someone who believes in God’s almighty power to heal.

Thoughts on Peacemaking, 12/19

  • What do Adam, Cain, Judas, and Babylon all have in common? The inability to be satisfied. If you cant be satisfied, it is hard to remain under the protection of God’s Holy Spirit, and be saved by “The Prince of Peace.”
  • Isn’t it weird how “peace that transcends all understanding” has a common tendency of making easily upset people anxious?
  • Condemning others when you witness or detect their sin is wrong for a variety of reasons, but one reason that is rarely discussed is because if you condemn someone, you cannot learn from their mistakes. If you see yourself as similar enough to someone who has stumbled to learn from them and discern what God might be trying to teach you in those moments of recognition, you are a lot better off. Condemning a brother or sister, even in your heart, will lead you to address your own hard heartedness instead of unraveling some kind of lesson that their sin might teach you, or blessing them by being kind to them anyways. It’s like a Red herring strategy that Satan does in order for us to not love our neighbors and forget that they are fellow children of God. If we judge them instead of learn from them and receive divine instruction, we will catch ourselves in the same kinds of traps, and not understand what God is trying to teach us there. It’s a lot easier to judge than recognize your own sin, and listen. If listening is the only way you can be saved from a similar sin yourself, what good is it to judge others? What good does it do to someone who is still being bound by their sin? It shows no forgiveness. It is worse than useless.
  • Worship is any act that is done in sincere reverence to God. You can worship doing just about anything, so long as it is for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
  • The more you love God, the less you will feel as though you are missing out when something doesn’t go your way. Even when you have problems that by most diagnoses are pretty serious, if you realize what a precious gift you have in the Lord, you will feel weird by how little such things bother you. This is the blessing you get when you serve the Lord with your full heart: that even though struggles persist, you feel rich in spite of them.
  • To be honest, I believe whole heartedly that the solution to basically any problem is to do your best to love God more, and see what happens. That might mean loving him through grief, or doubt, or misery, or anger, or betrayal, or all sorts of other painful places. Yet when we invest in loving God to the best of our abilities in hard situations, he remembers us. It reminds me of Mark 12:42, and the story of the Poor Widow with 2 minas as her offering. Comparatively to the rest of her temple, hers was the smallest offering, but it was the biggest portion of what she had: she gave all that she had to live off of to the Lord. While God doesn’t expect our faith to always be easy, I believe he honors those people who stick it out when any amount of worship or thanksgiving is all they have to give. Having come out of years of clinical depression and feeling like the walking dead myself, I believe that God progressively took any joy I was able to offer and multiplied it for his own glory. Though I am no longer living in hell, I know that he is constantly present and mindful of people who are currently suffering. He forgets no one, and he is always willing to help, even if it takes longer than you want it to. Even if it hurts to praise, Satan can’t touch joy, and being grateful is the best antidote to fear that I know of, along with laughter. It seems contrived and taxing, but you end up with a lot more than where you started.
  • Even if you have to swallow your pride and be called “wrong” falsely, it is better to be a peacemaker who is unfairly accused than a person who wins fair and square but is belligerent. Righteousness belongs to God. All we can do is steward our responses, and try to introduce as much reconciliation as possible into turmoil. As per Mathew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (NIV).
  • The world says that the ideal solution to a disagreement is being smarter, stronger, bolder, more articulate, and better liked than your opponent. God ends up using our interpersonal conflicts in a way that humbles us, giving us the opportunity to serve a person who we consider our enemy in order to help shoulder their load, and act as stewards of the good news in their life. If you allow God to use you, you can change someone’s perception of a problem, rather than punishing them for not getting your own way. Perfectly satisfied, perfectly healed people do not seek conflict, but none of us is like that without the intercession of God. If we fight with someone, deliberately show mercy, take time to deliberately pray for them, and serve them once we are given the opportunity to help even if it isn’t about us being right, then we have the opportunity to lighten some poor soul’s burden. If we are resentful and cling to our own self-righteousness, we are advancing ourselves instead of God’s kingdom.