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 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.

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.

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.

 

Trying to do my best

Even if nobody appreciates it, is it worth it to be kind?

I feel like there are so many middle aged women who are self-made martyrs. On the playground, it’s always, “I wont give him a turn because he didn’t say please!” We refuse to pick up our toys until the playmate who helped make the mess starts helping. Kinda reminds me of Martha getting mad at Mary.

I have this friend. Well, ex-friend. One of those people in your heart, you can’t help but hold onto. Swallowing my foolish pride, I’m trying to make the best of the situation. I want the best for her. I’m going to do what I can to just be nice.

Sometimes, my sister tries to provoke me to wrath. I swear, she’ll bring up memories from high school that I cant even remember. The depression stole those memories from me, and for whatever reason, she tries to make me feel bad by citing instances where I made a fool of myself. The jokes on her, because I legitimately can’t remember. But for the most part, I put up with it, because I know that she makes fun of me to feel better about herself. Taking the bait would be to lash out at someone who’s already wounded. Not classy.

There was this one time in the last week of kindergarten where this little girl I work with strongly reprimanded me. We were all headed to the magic carpet to do the next activity (aka where they sit) and I can’t remember what it was even about. She had been sassy for a while, but because she’s a lot like me, I think she was just testing limits. Our main teacher made her apologize, and told her that it really wasn’t nice to speak that way to a teacher. She apologized. I said it was okay, and that I wasn’t mad. The next time I was there, when we were cleaning up between centers, her little arms tightly wrapped around my waist in a hug that lingered. I understand where she was coming from. And that’s a hug I will definitely remember.

I recently asked another friend from a good while ago if she would forgive me. I’m kind of a hard-ass, so being willing not just to apologize but to ASK FOR FORGIVENESS was a whole nother…well. But I did it, and you wanna know why? If I didn’t have the balls to do it then, I wasn’t gonna do it at all. So I did. And I’m glad. This friend really doesn’t have a good impression of Christians. I was just trying to show her better than she’s used to.

We all have choices to make. One of the most common lies that bothers me to no end is that people only deserve the kindness they show you. Like a Frankenstein’s monster of the Golden rule. Some how generally social niceties become excuses not to be kind to one another. If she said then I said then she said, then she’s the one who wasn’t nice to me!

But friends, is that really the best we can do? Is that your best?

We all make choices.

I don’t want perfect justice. I want grace. I want forgiveness. I want it to not be about me. Shouldn’t good things be free? Don’t we have the power to control that?

You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be willing. You don’t have to be perfect, but it’s good to try. Better doesn’t have to come today, but maybe it’s possible? Isn’t it just good to want better, even if you can’t yet achieve it? Isn’t it better to work at humbling ourselves than to be okay with complacency?

I think we can do better. There is a people alienated from the Church that want to believe in God, but we give them no evidence. Jesus is naturally appealing. The way he cared for people. The way he loved. If we woke up and allowed the Lord to change us, maybe a few more skeptics would buy into God. I for one thought believing with your whole heart was batshit crazy at one point, but I guess somethings have changed. I think that there are people out there that need us to be flexible. If church was a lot more about getting out of God’s way and a lot less about us, then we’d all be better off.

It feels like a blur already

Like a flat highway in New Mexico,

All the people I’ve met and loved blur together.

The memories of being here and being there are haunting,

And I keep running into the same kind of people where ever I go,

Only to be caught up in clandestine kindness and remember a fresh face for the next round.

God, I keep running because I have to,

And it’s a long time before I find a place of peace off the ground,

And all of my friends run together into the same,

I can’t remember where one person ends and another (with similar traits) begins,

Here, there, everywhere,

I’m disoriented because traveling only makes the world blur together.

God, I wonder how you see it. How you see us. I feel so far from home sometimes. It’s like I’m running down a long highway and I can’t tell whether it’s reality in front of me and another mirage.

Be here, Lord. Be the grace I can’t answer.

I still have so much life to live, but all my friends feel essentially the same. I have to move on and find new ones in new places, but they are all like a reflection of your love. Finding you in every new place is disorienting. My reality is a melting ice cube.

Please be my strength when I don’t feel like fighting. These days, I just see the illusion. It’s hard to know where you’re at. It’s hard to know how to let go so that I can be found.

I wish there were a quicker way. I wish my path were more obvious.

But I look out, and I see a long and skinny road blurring off into the distance, a mirage. And God be my guide, because I have no idea where you’re leading me.

I want to believe that I’ll find the same beauty everywhere. God bless your holy name.