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.

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May we receive what we did not purchase

Who will believe what was spoken to us? Who will take up this sacred offering?

I see the song of my life, an anthem of your forgiveness in the face of certain death. I watch you redeem my every plot twist, and give me a new name. Who still believes in the intimate love of God, that transcends sex, transcends human intimacy, transcends the limits of our own forgiveness?

Who would believe in the audacious love of God, and the promises of his Son? Who is willing to hope so large and so wide that the love of God is with us to acknowledge the divinity of the Son?

Who has need of resurrection? Who among us has tasted the fruit of the world, and found it to be bitter?

The love of God rolls out like waves we haven’t wanted. We resist the very fiber of what gives us life to insist on our own choices that don’t sustain us. We plead with each other and sculpt individual credos of morality, without every encountering the Almighty who made us all. Ignorant of religion, ignorant of sin, ignorant of fulfillment, devoid of peace. We act as though each one of us being judged separately means that there is no love, no judgment, no justice. We long for justice, but don’t believe in it. We ache for God’s love, a love we’d never believe in.

Who is capable of becoming less, so that he might be more? Who among us is wise enough to hear him calling her by name? All the works of his Kingdom acknowledge his divinity and obey, but we resent it. How could you love us after that? Is there really grace?

May my generation realize that the love of God always triumphs over your attempts to outrun it. May the church actually believe in grace, as we look around and realize that all have fallen. May we testify to the truth that is in us, and this amazing love that was and is and is yet to come.

On my own, I will always be disappointed. Only when my sin was nailed to the cross and my righteousness is defined through the Son of God can I truly be free. Yet who will have a heart to know what he has heard from us? Greater love has not been known than the all consuming love of God.

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.

Though bucket 6/23/16

  • Without repentance, we are not fit to grow in our capacity to hold God’s love. As sacred vessels, if there is no intentional acknowledgement of the way we still fall short, our usefulness to God’s plan is limited. We cannot bear the good things he has for us if we allow ourselves to just coast.
  • Believe in who God is and his promises regardless of whether you feel happy with what he’s chosen to give you. There will be times when trusting God can’t be dependent on feeling happy with him or your present circumstance. Being confident in the Lord can’t just be about our feelings.
  • Do most people have good social skills? These days, I don’t think so. I’m not convinced that it’s bad to have some room to grow in how we relate to other people. It’s like beauty, or perfect physical appearance. We all want to be well liked, to be good looking, to be able to make other people like us, to fit in. It’s probably more important to be respectful and thoughtful than free of social mishaps. So long as you are trying to model Christ’s love for the people around you and do the little you can well, I think it’s okay to leave perfection up to God. God already loves us all more than we can imagine, even if only some of us decide to allow him to care for us. It’s okay to be imperfect and trust God to help compensate for your weakness.
  • Judgmental people are afraid to lose God’s love because they’re living their faith like it depends on their performance. Trust God. Pray for those people. Show them that the grace of God doesn’t depend on their performance, and set somebody free of bondage. Deep down, nobody really wants to wound others. We make decisions trying to compensate for what we are convinced that we need. Pray that people who make others feel condemned for minor flaws would realize that God’s love extends past their own character and past other human’s collective weaknesses. Pray that they encounter the abundance of God. People only judge like that when they are spiritually hungry and don’t know where to eat. Repay judgment with grace and kindness.
  • It’s good to have blessings large enough that they feel like burdens sometimes. Depending on whether you are grateful and trust God’s Holy Spirit, a gift will be good, neutral, or bad. It’s okay to have to take time to grow into the gifts God has for you, and to learn to steward the ones he’s already given. If you are actively trying to pursue Christ, becoming a better steward of what you already have is natural.
  •  A society where Teachers don’t parent and Parents don’t teach is doomed. A good Father teaches his children, and a good teacher cares for her students with a mother’s love.
  • I’m going to do the best I can with the little I have for as long as I can until it pleases the Lord to increase it. He who is faithful with little is faithful in much. Like the parable of the widow’s giving, we should aim to be faithful with what we have instead of feeling overwhelmed by what we don’t have. It’s more useful while you are waiting for certain life seasons to embrace God through the things you already have, than to be disappointed that it’s not here yet. Faith is based on what is unseen, not what is easy.

Unpredictable God

Spent most of this morning and a little of last night considering how few of the blessings I take for granted were things I knew about beforehand.

Really didn’t expect Jesus to be as many things as he’s turned out to be. When I decided to give it a shot with my whole heart on study abroad, really didn’t expect this journey would change how I think about everything. Didn’t expect it to so significantly affect my beliefs and my habits. Didn’t ever assume I’d be one of those. Didn’t expect to have peace over what I read in the Bible. Didn’t expect to make peace with the type of churchy people who just seemed to exclude people, just because we believe in the same Savior.

Never expected to meet so many Christians from all over the globe. Never anticipated that my faith would enhance my cultural competency instead of limit it. Never realized that my faith would give me God’s strength to transcend racial barriers that our society so encourages. Never expected to have my own fully-secure identity in Christ that never resulted in me trying to prove anything.

I never expected to have so many friends, let alone live this long. Never expected to know legitimately helpful information that has the power to heal my community and family. Never thought my life could be this useful. Even if there is a lot to live yet, I really did not envision becoming a peacemaker. I never thought I would be able to escape my baggage. For a long time, I was just coasting, trying to keep my head down.

Beyond those easy shores of neutrality, being a Christian actually helps me make sense of the constant chaos and death of this life. My cynicism has recourse, and I find myself hopeful. There is a truth in the redeemed image of humanity that helps the suffering seem justified. For all of us, death is inevitable. In Jesus, there is life in full supply.

For God, who is without sin, there is no death. The Lord does not remain angry. As we live, death is a constant. From the perspective of God, who is eternal, death is the inevitable outcome of humanity’s actions. But despite this world, there is the love of God all around us, constantly available in Christ, and in full supply.

As I prepare to move, I’m looking forward to those blessings remaining unpredictable. The Lord has power and the authority to move and we just have to be willing to respond to him.

So…how political is Jesus?

I just had dinner with a nice couple from my church who are pretty fun to spend time with. We spoke for a while about church, recent events in our lives, and through my questions for them, politics.

I know there are some people who don’t just launch into political discussions, but I think that so long as you try to be respectful, there isn’t all that much to lose. There are definitely issues that can set people off, but overall, the most important identity for people already under Christ is that you are a Christian.

Talking with people inside and outside of the church about politics is productive. Regardless of the results of this election, working across party lines and towards reconciliation is really important for people who believe in Christ. Most importantly, discussing politics can be a really good exercise in learning to listen and see things from alternate perspectives. In the hour or so I talked with these friends, I understood a lot more of their frustration and disappointment with the current state of affairs in the US. Though we certainly come from different schools of thought when it comes to politics, the fact that we are willing to listen to each other is probably the most important purpose of that conversation. Likely, no one was converted into my school of thought, nor I theirs. But the fact that people with legitimate differences are willing to listen and support one another is a valuable goal in and of itself.

Politics doesn’t always include discussions about things that matter, but it can. At it’s best, politics can be inspired by the desire to see God’s justice here on earth and love for creation. There are so many people who are currently suffering and to them, if God isn’t actively pursuing justice in a way that can be considered political, he must not be real. Who is God if he doesn’t really care about me and my situation? How can you try to tell me about God and not address the fact that I’m suffering?

Ultimately, the desire to see God’s kingdom on earth should be larger than the strategies we use to accomplish it. Different political parties are like different philosophies on what is best for most people, and what people really need. As a Christian, my faith is a worldview that outranks my opinions. I endorse specific strategies that I hope will help the poor, the foreigner, the elderly, children, the oppressed, and families. I could tell you how my political orientation relates to my faith, but at that rate, is it really political?

Another uncomfortable reality related to politics is that no matter how great our lives are on earth, heaven is better. Which also sounds like a cop out to people who are legitimately suffering. Still though, if any of us got everything most people strive after, it still wouldn’t be as good as God’s kingdom and all that exists through the spirit. If we invest too much in trying to manipulate every detail of this life and try to convince people we’re right about everything, do we lose sight of God? People who only care about politics are exhausting.

So, which is it? Does faith cause you to participate more in politics, or less? Maybe it calls us to participate in ways that could be both? Or that when we allow ourselves to be led by faith, others attribute political intentions over faithful ones?

If you don’t know God, faith can seem a lot like passionate politicking. When people assume that our greatest bone to pick is probably political, that just reflects a lack of understanding of God. Overall, God is greater than the political squabbles because he’s GOD. Like, he’s so much bigger than that.

The body of Christ is made up of a bevvy of different opinions, which all matter less than the perfection of God. You’ve got people from every tribe, nation, and tongue who are gradually adding up to praise the Lord, and the cultural diversity alone isn’t going to allow a situation where everyone agrees about everything. Given how much people’s opinions change within one culture over 100-200 years alone should be enough evidence that most of the things we believe don’t ultimately matter.

In the end, politics is useful only so long as it is useful to God. God can work through a variety of different methods and more often than not, mistakes. His plan doesn’t require our righteousness. The fact that he doesn’t need us to be right is good.

Resisting “I told you so” and focusing on love

Anyone saved by grace with a temper might find some hope in what I’m about to say. I don’t know about y’all, but sometimes when my family provokes me, I get really mad.

Part of what angers me is when people don’t listen. I can tell my family members something legitimately designed to help them, they’ll blow me off, and I find it hard not to feel a little justified and self-righteous when things happen just like I warned them.

I don’t know whether it’s just women that do this, but the “I told you so”s are a constant temptation for me. It’s not as though it’s not true that you warned somebody, they didn’t listen, and the present consequences of their actions are their own fault. Sometimes, it’s really cut and dry. Like last week, when my dog peed on the floor and I told my sister to put a paper towel down so she didn’t step in it and then she stepped right into the puddle some 10 minutes later.

Needless to say, I’ve already ruined the introduction of what I’m trying to say. It’s just that when you know better, it’s so hard to watch people make mistakes. I know that love bears all things, but I sometimes find myself praying for bad things to happen just so that people will have a need to re-evaluate. It’s not a great place to be, but I’m just trying to be honest here. I don’t want my perspective to remain this way, but this is definitely where I’m at today.

But you want to know what I have at least learned (and still struggle putting into practice)? If you shut your mouth and let the spirit speak for itself, it often works out well. Better even.

In “I told you so” situations, I can pray that the Spirit convicts. I don’t need to always fight for myself. For example, when you’ve already carefully picked out words to ask a family member to work with you to solve a problem and they don’t listen, just stay silent (after you have made a reasonable effort). Sometimes the Holy spirit speaks through other witnesses to the situation. You can pray that God will help the person you love get their crap together in times where you know they wont listen to you. Which is absolutely infuriating. But it is what it is for now.

I really hate that my family finds creative ways not to listen to me, but it gives me hope that there could still be help available to them through the Holy spirit. I know that it’s not really up to me to work this hard, but this is the way it’s always been, and it’s taking time to adjust. It’s hard to learn all these things about God that could really help them and nobody cares what you have to say. It’s hard to be the only person that takes God seriously in your family, especially when some family members may only believe in God through a situation involving absolute destruction, because they presently hate him. But I still love them. And I still want them to be saved.

I’m trying to learn to bear with it and trust God to provide when they wont listen to me. I experience a lot of cursing aimed in my direction. My family has such shallow things to talk about (everything under the sun from politics to money to ideology) that if we’re being honest, they really don’t know me very well. My friends know me to a certain extent, but in God, I am known fully. And I have peace and hope for a future where I can do better for my kids. I get angry, but I try to buy into forgiveness. It’s still hard. I am going to be one of those adults who doesn’t try to ignore helpless situations. When I work with kids or if I have kids of my own, I won’t just ignore them.

As of today, that is the solution to my problem. It’s not in solving my own situation, but in being a listener for people struggling in similar situations of their own. My children (biological or students or just the ones I care about) will have an advocate in me. Without people like that, I would have never had hope for long enough to buy into God. And now I know that he helps me.

To be honest, my situation may never change. Hell, that’s even likely. I get mad at God and ask him to save my family, because I love them. There are a lot of decisions I’ve made that nobody appreciates or understands that I made out of love for them specifically. But I believe that Jesus cares for them, and that God would still love them if they always rejected him. So I’m trying to focus on leaving it up to God. It takes some bravery.