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.

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.

It’s hard for me to sympathize

In a world where men justify raping women “based on her actions”,

It’s hard for me to relate to your porn addiction.

In a world where your lust can be the defining feature of my character,

It’s hard to have sympathy.

In a world where women are burned in acid attacks,

And where children are raped freely,

Where terrorists are enshrined in patriotism,

And we beg God to come quickly,

When I see so many beautiful single women in churches,

And so many broken marriages because of cheating,

When there are so many single moms just trying to make ends meet,

And little boys focus on getting laid,

And many girls unilaterally suffer the consequences,

I feel angry.

Even at work, there are always those guys who expect you to counsel them through the temper tantrums,

And want a shoulder to cry on,

Without doing any work.

I don’t want to hear your poisonous locker-room banter about how “she deserved it”,

I don’t want to wonder how you turned so vile.

There are good men, but they aren’t common.

I wonder how so many beggars can be choosers,

With leaders like this.

I want to care about how this sin affects you,

But it’s hard to see so many leaders absolutely apathetic to how this sin affects me.

And if you once more have access to the goodness of God,

And the perfection of Christ,

I wonder why there aren’t any strong men of God stepping forward,

Prompted by God to move.

Articulating the dark

I’m at this weird spot where God is showing me how he works by absolutely suspending my ability to articulate it. I’m watching him weave through a bunch of different people’s lives, and when it comes to my life, we are just at the beginning of exploring wounds I didn’t even know I had. This is gonna be great. (lol)

It’s like staring at the bottom 98% of an iceberg you really thought was only gonna be an icicle, but it’s here now, and you have to deal with it. Have fun stumbling through that dank and dark cave. You better get used to feeling your way around in there, because so help you, you wont be able to see.

Which honestly is awesome. That’s exactly what I needed to follow a season of gathering confidence to use words in a way that directly makes sense to me. My sense of bravery and the ability to cope was just cut off from me. Ironically, there went my courage.

So it’s weird metaphor soup and verbal surgery, trying to explain the work of the Holy Spirit. But I can see it. I can try to explain it. Still, my words won’t get at that sense of permanence that you get when the spirit really moves. It can’t demonstrate what you see when you are watching chains fall off. I am not God. My words will not do.

To be honest, this is a season that comes after a brief but seemingly lengthy season of people legitimately appreciating my gifts. So I now know that what the Holy Spirit is legit, but whatever I’m supposed to do with them is still a running joke that operates smoothly due to my blindness and God’s omnipotence alone. I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. The things I say and do; I swear it feels like doing the hokey pokey blindfolded. I don’t think I could embarrass myself at this point, because I’m not even sure what standard I’m supposed to be meeting. I can definitely be afraid, and most of the time, I definitely am. Lord only knows why. Cue the underside of the iceberg.

I am curious as to how God wants to unravel the icey block of my cowardice. Feeling the weight of failed opportunities to grow closer. My sense of security is going to have to die. Good thing I can only make sense of other’s understanding and how they are being woven into God’s story, right? Now I know that when the good stuff comes, I can’t make it up. I have no idea what logically follows after this. One day, maybe it’ll make sense strung together, but I doubt I will be the one to make sense of my own words. I guess I’m going to have to get used to speaking things I don’t even understand as truth, and go with the flow of whatever the hell they mean. For the record, that feels really uncomfortable.

Speaking something that somehow blesses someone but having no idea what did it (other than just God at the maximum level of vagueness) is really uncomfortable. Do I smile and nod or just keep listening? Like, cool? If I could understand what I’m doing then I could see what I’m doing and I could make up my own gospel, but that is no longer a reality. It feels like that tunnel in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. All images, some scary stuff, some weirdly graphic insect pictures, and an indecipherable stream of consciousness. Ironically, I think that part of the story was meant to symbolize what it’s meant to grow up.

I know that my weakness is probably a clever scheme by which God will (hopefully) be glorified, but in the meantime, I’m just a tad bit confused. Stay tuned to stumble with me, and figure out where exactly that sense of clarity comes from.

 

Scripture about Offerings and Partiality

  • James 2: 
    • If God is the greatest authority, then to accomplish his works, he must believe in himself. If Christ had to believe in his father and obey him (both faith and works) in order to bring about salvation, then that is essentially proof of God believing in himself to accomplish his purpose. When I say “believing in himself”, I’m not talking about self esteem. However, God following through with the plans he was going to work out from the beginning seems like a form of faith to me, or at the very least, works. If God was not confident of his own plan to see out the rest of creation, he would not have moved or created the entire universe to begin with. If God didn’t think action was necessary, none of us would be here.
    • We dishonor the poor man a lot in how we frame politics of poverty and personal worth in the United States. Sounds like a human problem.
    • If you want to work for God’s kingdom instead of just exalting yourself here on earth, work by mercy. I know that we are all fellow sinners, but it’s not like with grace, mercy is impossible, or that God is vague in what he’s asking. He expects the impossible with the assumption of a grace he freely provides. Which means that you and I have some work to do.
  • Deuteronomy 2:4 When the Sanhedrin killed Jesus, they did it because of this reason. Because of their own righteousness, they killed the one who was only truly righteous. Isn’t that how judgment works? When you divide your heart and partially dole out love to the children of God you like or the parts of Scripture that you think encourage (gutting the rest), you are committing the sin of partiality and become a judge.
  • Leviticus 22:17-20 Despite how rejecting Leviticus has become a slogan of supporting gay marriage, if we actually look at this book, there is a lot to love. This particular passage focuses on the importance of having your offerings be without blemish for the Lord to accept them (under the Abrahamic covenant). The fact that Christ was absolutely without blemish is probably  part of what made his life, death, and blood compensation enough to atone for all of creation.
  • Side note: When I say “All of creation”, I’m actually also talking about the animals. We can debate this one. It was human’s job (both genders, Genesis 1:28) to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth”. Given how God cares for every part of creation intimately, this would imply not just authority, but stewardship of the entire earth and everything in it. When we see the destruction of ecosystems, global pollution and species extinction due to negligence, that is also the sin of humanity.
  • Leviticus 2-5 My favorite section of Leviticus, the rules and descriptions for different types of offerings! In these chapters, we can examine how Christ’s coming fulfilled the requirements for all types of offering.
    • Grain offering: Part of the “hidden manna” mentioned in Revelation 2:17 is actually the body and blood of Jesus Christ, who was an offering for man. We represent this by communion, but communion itself is also a throwback to Old Testament sacrifices of grain and livestock (blood) unto God. When Jesus performed the last Supper communion ritual before he went to slaughter, he knew full well what role he was supposed to play. Like the bread and meat brought to Elijah by ravens during a famine (1 Kings 17:6), the honey and milk coming out of Jerusalem, and the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37, Jesus is our source of living water, life, and provision. Having his body be delivered up as food for the spirit achieves this end.
    • Peace offering: This type of offering was to allow for reconciliation with God and other humans. This was the redemption part of the promise that every believer receives by faith and by God’s mercy. The process of God lifting you out of pain and earthly suffering by the strength of his spirit and not necessarily circumstance is him making peace with us, like the rainbow promise given to Noah and the covenants he made with generation after generation of his people. Because Christ is the fulfillment of those promises and all those prophecies, and was the much awaited hope of a lot of people’s steadfast love and hope, it only makes sense that his life and death would be a symbol of joy, as it is because of resurrection.
    • Guilt offering: This is grace. The purpose of this type of offering was to make atonement for the sins of a people. This offering is in order to make restitution for sin, and by the blood of the animal offered, the sins of the believer are forgiven. This is the part about the new name given to Jacob “Israel” (Genesis 35:10) and the new identity given to people in faith mentioned in Revelation 2:17. I like to think of this kind of offering as wiping the slate clean, which was what Christ had to do in order to have God forgive us. It’s not like God is this big terrible being, but by Israel turning from God over and over and over again, their disobedience made it impossible for them to still receive blessing from God (by following his rules, the commandments). Without this crucial piece of paying off debts, it would be a lot harder to bridge the gap. People still have to choose God via free will, but by Jesus, at least there is a way to get to him.
    • Sin offering: This one is my favorite. For this type of offering, you specifically need the blood of a lamb (Get the worship songs now? hehehe kay). Like Passover in Egypt and the blood of lambs applied to the doorways of homes with hyssop (or your body, which is a temple and the house of God), we’ve got Jesus’ blood as the mark of purification over the faith of a believer. For Christ to be a lamb, then it means that he is one who was perfectly blameless (of the disposition of lambs). The horror and destruction that was inflicted upon the Egyptians without the blood of the lamb is echoed again in Revelation, what with the various plagues and opportunities for the people’s repentance. This one is meaningful to me to think about how much Christ’s death cost him, but also his followers; most of all, his mother. It is especially weary for me to realize that Mary both treasured up the joy of having Christ as her son in her heart, and had to watch as he suffered on behalf of all humanity. Any woman who has lost a child to violence or bloodshed can relate to that. I think of the fear of bringing children into a crazy world when I think of Mary’s life, especially with Herod trying to kill Jesus as a toddler and ultimately, the cross. She must have had a really hard life. And yet, thinking about all that sorrow creates a more thorough understanding of the comfort the Lord will bring to Zion, and to his creation. Eventually, there will be some kind of peace.

Please include women (and gut the politics)

Today was a day for coming to terms with my ambition. Instead of filing anything I care about away under “selfishness”, I’d rather engage with the thought that God may want me to indulge in those dreams. It isn’t selfish to have hope. As selfish as I can be, I refuse to believe that the gifts God gave me will inevitably devote me to destruction just because they can’t be diminished. If you’ve ever had one of those moments where you have to believe that God gave you a gift for a reason and maybe other people don’t know as well as they think they do, you’ve had a day like this.

Ironically, this is how I felt every time I decided not to commit suicide or to hold on a bit longer, in the midst of my depression. I turned out to be right then by the grace of God, and this feels like another one of those times. I don’t want to be so afraid of who I might become that I forget that God is the one who would teach me to steward leadership, to have the endurance to pursue my dreams, and to give him credit in the end. Just because I want something doesn’t make me selfish. Welcome to being a woman.

When guys look at me, they should see someone who is not easily bought, if not almost unavailable. I’m proud of that. My heart is guarded, and a man would have to work hard for the right reasons. My faith is full by Christ and I want to be someone who is strong as she is. I’m not looking for a boyfriend, which ironically makes me feel more noticed. When I’m in my classes and I focus more on learning the material than the men who are sitting next to me, it feels like a victory. I don’t hate men, but I need to grow up a little more before I can invest in a relationship. It means a lot to me to do things right, and I like that I’m not seeking someone else to subdue and micromanage my life for me. I don’t need constant correction, I need love. I just want to live my life. Faith is the center of any good marriage, not controlling your wife. I just want to be happy.

Women’s hearts are not little treasure chests and sandboxes to be opened, fiddled with, described by crap poetry and then deserted. I’m not “guarded” by mistake or by some misquotation of Freud. For most intents and purposes, remaining guarded can be holy. Men have a lot fewer consequences of stringing women along than the women who in cant help but let them. For the most part, it’s hard enough to be a woman in this world than to tolerate the immature dabbling of good guys who still need some time yet. If you mean business, say it and act like a man. It’s hard to pick yourself up over and over again because some poor fool can’t decide what he wants. This is cyclical.

I don’t want to be the mystical nymph who taught some poor schmuck how to feel in approximately 150 pages. Ironically, the most attractive guys in my opinion aren’t very academic, but they know how to fix things, they are strong, and here and there, they know how to listen. That seems so much more helpful than young men who describe themselves as academics. I know that isn’t particularly kind, but it is important to know how to work and how to commit to something. Sometimes I feel like the college I go to is in separate universe.

It’s hard to be a young woman and feel like all your importance in the body of Christ comes from being a potential spouse. My church doesn’t often make me feel like that, but this is the larger US culture of what churches are known for. We have sermons on all sorts of things, but we have to create special organizations and divisions of ministry to make sure women are remembered. As a young woman, I feel preyed upon sometimes inside church (the entire body of Christ) because of my age and it doesn’t always feel any different than talking to creepy professors. This is the environment we have in place. I heard a story of a friend’s middle school classmate who got raped on a mission trip (at another church). I hate to say that I’m not surprised.

These are the results of excluding women from most forms of leadership. How would you know about gaps of ministry that you aren’t meeting if you don’t ask, and if you don’t include? Oh, I have a hard time with this. We as the body of Christ are not as strong as we could be. This is not the best we can do. If we don’t include women as equal members of the body of Christ, they will find places they can lead and leave. It’s happened so many times in history, with different alternative faiths popping up and previously Christian women abandoning these institutions to find some sort of validity in their faith. If all women are called to be is mothers, as this century stretches on, you will see more and more women leave because they assume the church never had the meaning they needed for their lives. They will abandon all of this for a place that gives them opportunity. This isn’t a threat, it’s a promise. If we make church a pissing contest and a boys club, you will distract everyone from the actual spirit and life of Jesus. Inserting politics into this love story is cause for rebuke, and it seems like so many leaders are competing with one another. We continue to poorly steward the earth. We exclude.

Loving God and loving others is easier without as much striving. Gutting the politics, it is easier to love your neighbor. Loving like Jesus becomes more about Christ than replacing him. We can finally get some peace. From what I can tell, the world is tired. If purity in religion is to love widows and orphans and keep oneself unstained by the world, we need to remember Christ when we claim him. Loving God first and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves is intuitively a lot more simple.

 

 

Babies above Jesus

I am challenged today by the way that women require their faith to pass through men before it is an offering before God. I don’t believe that entrusting my faith to male leaders/an eventual spouse/etc. is a healthy thing, and I don’t think it is a full offering if I have to pay it first to others.

We call it “leadership”, but in practice, it is not the same. We turn over leadership of the church, of ourselves, and of our bodies to men not because it is holy, but because it is convenient. You can find a husband that way. You can belong that way. You can be a mother that way. You don’t to be accountable to yourself. For people who are raised inside the church, this is a coming of age story.

Why cant we have both? My elevating men to leadership and excluding women, you are telling one gender to take it easy and to focus more on raising a family than to focus on God and learn what he means by family. Why cant we be women who are also made in the image of God? If my faith is genuine, why must it pass through another sinner in order to get to God? Martin Luther once wrote about that, but today, I claim that injustice by the way of how we assert the need to steward women’s lives, thereby emasculating the concept of free will. Don’t you want a wife who would freely choose God, and not just for the perks of childbirth? We aren’t worshiping Jesus, we are paying our dues to the idol of family and hoping it will appease him. Family is such a part of the church, but the practice of flocking to faith and hoping to acquire both while elevating sex/marriage/babies above God is an abomination. God will teach you about family, but it is more important for your eternal and earthly self to seek his love first.