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.

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.

Brief sketch of my family

My mom’s older sister has come to visit on their way to another destination, along with my cousin, my cousin’s husband, and their daughter. Watching their old Irish Catholic style of banter resurface is weird in a way that is worth describing. I’m using this as an opportunity to define the differences between my mom’s side (Irish Catholic) and my Dad’s (German).

My mom’s side:

  • We had corned beef and cabbage, chocolate cake, and veggie tray for dinner. My mom was drinking a Guinness. There is literally nothing left.
  • My mom feels the need to automatically insult the food (“the cake is dry”), and make similar comments while still not being able to take a compliment
  • My mother’s name is Katie (Kathleen). Her mother was Mary Kate. My second cousin who is my age is also Kate (Katie). The naming traditions are so repetitious.
  • Talking crap on the family members who aren’t present, while still using a bunch of euphemisms being ambivalent about raising hell. Being benevolently and malevolently mischief minded.
  • Statements that are ambiguously offensive and truly offensive caricatures of ethnic minorities. And just think, it’s not even a holiday!
  • Talking about car maintenance (my Grandpa worked his whole career at Goodyear and her three brothers were all at some point into working on cars). DIY home maintenance and fixing things.
  • High cheekbones, feathered hair, sensible yet muted color palette for clothing, home of the mom jeans.
  • “The little guy takes the kick in the pants for these oil robber barons” is literally something that I heard come out of my mom’s mouse. So much focus on working class values. Somebody talking about how the people who were rich and “cared about the community” left. Not really sure what town they were talking about, but for the most part, the comments are interchangeable.

My Dad’s side:

  • Much more vain philosophy, cynicism, and nihilism
  • More idealistic beliefs and the telling of fantastical tall tales
  • Dreaming/Imaginative quality blends into substance abuse
  • Glorified self-narrative in the style of bildungsroman (in which a young man finds himself), focus on personal fulfillment and proving oneself through glory/financial success. Look up the Wikipedia summary of Faust by Goethe and we’re nearly there.
  • More favoritism of male children
  • More schadenfreude (laughing at the suffering on your enemies/inventing enemies to laugh at), authoritarian values, and bullying
  • So much Iowa and farming and pork products and corn. Mix in cornbread and watermelon and we’ve almost got a potluck. Yay Midwest!
  • Bickering and debating at the dinner table. Whipping your opponent into submission. Tears/emotional expression as a sign of weakness. Caustic masculinity.
  • Weird fantasies of self-sufficiency.
  • More fascination with nature.
  • More intentional cheapness and acceptance of being poor/love of bargains

To be honest, I am a lot more like my mom and identify with the values on my mom’s side a lot more than my Dad’s, based partially on his various bad choices. I know that there are redeeming bits and pieces here and there, but so be it. My mom has always been very invested in our community, and I really resonate with her sense of mischief and the belief that authority figures hold social responsibility. My mom is very blunt, and very passionate, and she stands up for her beliefs (especially when she feels good about her self-esteem). I like how my both my parents but even more so my Dad raised me to eat what was set in front of me, and to not enjoy getting a bargain at Goodwill. I like how me and my Dad spent a lot of time enjoying silence observing nature on road trips and taking walks out by Kansas’ various man-made lakes. My Dad is a lot more striving, and he doesn’t believe in God. For the most part, I don’t like how a lot of the German literature I’ve read seems completely idealistic and nonsensical. It just reminds me of his broken promises and inflated self image.

I love my parents, but we are all broken people. I think that’s okay. If there’s anything I want to be able to pass on to my children, it would be competency with emotion-based skills, the ability to respect others while you disagree, and an intense love of honesty. I used to love debating with my Dad, but he rarely fought fair. My mom usually thought that talking philosophy was me arguing with her, and she never engaged with a lot of my desire to question and explore. They are both getting better. My mom is making more of an effort now that she feels less overwhelmed (and my sister and I have aged), and my Dad has become more sensitive and mellow now that he has less to boast about. I think they’ll be good grandparents to my kids, but on a personal level, I want to be a better parent to my own children. Childhood is so special. I guess it is what it is.

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.

 

Body image related to getting closer to the worst year ever

Over these past 7 years, I have been in the process from not only recovering from clinical depression, but learning to thrive. Though it’s been a couple years since I’ve been depressed, coming to faith and using grace as a means to change everything has been a surreal. Because I talk about my experiences with depression a lot on this blog, I’m going to leave the lengthy explanations at that (just search the “mental health” or “health” tags if you want more subject matter). Just know that in my experience, recovering from mental and physical illness were interwoven and resolved solely through faith.

I spend a lot of time outside these days, when I can. Getting better and becoming happier means that I exercise for fun (what a joke), usually by walking all over the place. Because I walk, I have gradually been building more muscle tone concurrently with the process of being spiritual strengthened by grace, which I don’t think is a coincidence. By growing into the person God wants me to be, I’ve been pretty thoroughly blessed.

Getting more into shape sounds fabulous, but there is a nasty side of it that up until recently, has been hard to identify. Due to taking a variety of antidepressants, bipolar meds, and anti-psychotics over years, I ended up gaining weight thanks to the only drug of many that worked. Coming back down in weight and into shape is like rewinding the hands of time, and the closer I get to the place I was at the skinniest and ironically, the worst mental health time of my life, the more anxious I feel to lose weight.

Weight gained and lost from you will externally recycle you into your past self. Looking in the mirror and seeing what I used to see when life was hell is a really complicated set of emotions. On the one hand, I’m happy because I’m healthy. I’m relieved that being skinny is no longer such an idol of mine, like it was during and before my depression. I’m angry that my health is only seen in a positive light now that I have external physical proof instead of by just telling people I feel better, and that that proof is tied to fleeting stereotypes of beauty which ultimately damage everyone. I’m annoyed that this process is feels so complicated, and to be honest, I’m somewhat terrified because I never want to return to the place again. It’s like returning to the ground zero of my life. Both disturbing and unsettling in the same glance. And honestly? Being overweight wasn’t nearly as bad to me as fixating on being skinny. My mental health issues were linked to my body, but depression on it’s own was a lot more detrimental to my well-being than my physical health alone.

Getting skinnier isn’t a glamorous thing in my memory. Suicidal thoughts, a verbal lexicon of ways to describe crying, and wishing I was anywhere but home comes back when I remember what I once cared about, and how complicated body image as a whole has been for me. I know that God will continue walking with me through this particular bump in my path, as he has been faithful perpetually. And yet, the memories of today will never allow skinny-ness to hold quite the same amount of appeal as before I was sick. I can never truly go back to that place, even if I look more like it by the image in the mirror. I don’t have to like it, but there is strength in going back to the beginning of pain and overcoming the fear there. This is one of many things that can be overcome, even if it’s not comfortable. It’s gonna be okay.

My self-righteousness and possessiveness of the truth

Having a little extra time this morning, I read an article about the Lord’s prayer about purity as being a designation under Christ, instead of narrowly defined by sexual activity alone (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/worldview/purity-more-saving-sex-marriage). These two articles helped me focus in on something that has been bothering me lately: my own self-righteousness.

I really love being right. It is possibly my greatest distraction from the glory of God as of this point. I love the truth and the sense of justice that has been made available to me under God, but that often takes the form of my own selfishness and trying to take possession of the truth. Being stubborn, I don’t often allow other people the ability to be concurrently right, though God has humbled me in small doses. Because his work is still not complete in me, maybe I can use my sin as an opportunity to grow closer.

The issue with self-righteousness is not the love of the truth, which in itself is holy. The issue here is tying the truth explicitly to oneself, and ignore that God alone is the one who make the difference. Combined with some issues with authority, self-righteousness can be a fiercely isolating force in my life, but if I ask God in prayer how to respond to a situation instead of resting on my laurels, I’d be a lot better off, and so would others. The proof that righteousness is not up to me comes at the point where I am willing to condemn other people who I perceive as a threat to my ability to remain comfortable. This is a trait that being rooted in the flesh, is not glorifying to God.

None of us receive grace on our own, so the solution for this is probably to turn to God as the solution, and ask for help. Asking him for guidance to love the truth but not take possession of it is probably more helpful than insisting in my own way and being surprised when I’m dealing with more unforgiveness over time, as my sin multiplies. Selfish as I am, I’m still framing this question as what it offers for my own personal good, but the fact of the matter is that loving God and seeking his fruit instead myself is for my own good (which loops back to me, but is also about him). If I keep going like I’m going, even with un-exposed sin still brewing in my heart, I’m just going to set myself up to hurt and estrange loved ones, strangers, and family. This kind of selfishness is a threat to God’s kingdom. Sounds like it’s time to pray.

If you follow this blog, expect that I will be talking more about this process in the following days and weeks. I’m going to be looking to God to help me see outside of myself.

The Glow (and the things that I have seen it cast out)

Psalm 34:5 “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (NIV).

About sometime last fall at a women’s event at my church, I heard Psalm 34:5 read aloud for the first time. Having newly arrived at my church, I was looking for a way to connect with other women in our growing body of Christ there and this verse has continued to catch my attention ever sense. Before ever hearing it, this scripture was spoken over my life in a way that slowly transformed my walk with Christ and brought me to the point where I am at today. Like portions of Isaiah that speak to the redemption of Zion, in casting off the chains of depression, in coming to Christ, in taking bold risks with unexpected forms of pay off, I have stumbled across the glow.

The glow is something you can see on a person when they have been especially blessed. Think of it like annointing oil or broken chains. The Bride of Christ, the Church as she stands, is meant to be glorious, like a city on a hill or a light unto the world. For whatever reason, when I examine the lives of women I know who have been blessed and redeemed, the glow has come with it.

The glow is healthy. The glow is giving. It is compassionate, wholesome, good to be around, honest, pure, and simple. It laughs easily, like Proverbs 31:25, laughing at the days to come (which was also woven into the scripture at that women’s event). You see, the glow is something that comes into your life when you have enough to share (think Luke 6:38). Like any spiritual phenomena, the glow isn’t something that we as humans always see, but it exists on the same level with other routine spiritual events that we don’t pick up on unless we’ve seen them in passing. When you get the feeling that a woman gives life to be around, I’m pretty sure you can find it there.

I was petting my dogs just now, and the words that have been echoing in my head steadily as I’ve contemplated what it means to be beloved came back in full force: “I am the one you love.” Those words speak to Christ, but they can be taken up by all of us. Speaking those words in my heart, it was a weird moment. The sense of warmth I get when others have off-handedly noticed the glow in me came out at the expression of those words, and it was a haze of love for a second.

One of best lies people cling to when they disown spiritual truths is that God’s love is impractical, irrational, and fruit loops at best. While a Savior who would die by us for us is certainly fruit loops, spiritual happenings are not inherently unscientific, they aren’t inherently illogical, and they aren’t made up. As a different way of intuiting truths that no one has the cajones to admit we all look for and quietly disown, you can see the fruit of the spirit all around you if you try. No, you cannot prove it. You cannot prove Christ either, which is good, because proof is beside the point. I’m not trying to start any false doctrine here, but if you open your heart to the work of the spirit, you will run into more and more stuff like this. The weird way concepts interweave and conversations echo in a way that answer your questions sometimes immediately. The weird way you were able to strengthen a person in passing without realizing that for them, it was much needed. The weird way that God throws us into “mistakes” or situations we didn’t sign up for just to prove a point. Y’all can think that’s mostly fruit loops, but as for me, embracing the fruit loops was one of the best unwilling, dragged into it by the nudges of the Holy Spirit decision’s I’ve ever made. Some “crazy” is meant to be heard until you accept that it’s not going anywhere, and maybe crazy is a definition we should reconsider. Although I haven’t heard any voices in my head as of today, I think the nudges of the Holy Spirit definitely qualify as a pre-requisite to cast most commonplace conversations into a realm of immediate awkwardness for nearly all people you’re talking to. Which is ironic, since I’ve learned more about health and recovery from depression through learning to trust in all the crazy I can’t explain.

In my psychology classes, I often wonder if we design guidelines for what is and is not clinical to exclude the experiences of people who have been helped spiritually by accepting what others might see as crazy. It’s like casting crooked lines for voting districts sometimes, in what people accept, don’t accept, and only accept if you are paying thousand of dollars for therapy where professionals may or may not address your “problems”. I believe God in Christ is the cure. I don’t accept how conveniently we designate psychologists and psychiatrists to be the definitive and squabbling audience for deciding what counts as crazy. If the vine is the solution, what need is there for so many trained professionals?

For me, depression was an intensely spiritual thing. The amount of willful resistance I had to any kind of treatment, (especially anything that would cast out sin) was fierce. I was not down for other people telling me how to fix my problems. Without being able to remember, without being able to sleep well, with constant chronic body pain, an erratic appetite, chemical dependence that I wasn’t happy about, constant low self-worth and feelings that no one would ever accept me as I am in love, I didn’t really know what there was to live for. Being gradually dragged into faith cast so much of that out. The first major thing to go was sexual sin and thoughts that I would have to compromise unconditionally if I ever wanted anyone to love me. The last thing thus far has been ignorance of what it means to be redeemed (and what a man of character even looks like, through the lens of faith). It took me years to believe that I didn’t need anything to buy me my happiness, whether medication, close friends, male approval, being “smart”, etc. Having peace over the past and how awful living was back then has only come from the blood and the life of Jesus Christ working in my life. Without him, I’d be just as screwed as I was before.

The root of so much sin that capitalized my life was the false belief that no one would ever love me. Given the love I have encountered in Christ, no love could ever replace or come close to that. I know that anything is possible in Christ because I remember. I know that he is capable because years later, he is still just as faithful.

So tell me which is more fruit loops: Striving to seek out healing in academic accomplishment, beauty, the company of others, “success”, money, men, etc., or the all-saving power of grace that I could do literally nothing to earn? Part of the way you know that Christ has the power to heal is that what he gives is free. This is no magical snake oil, because the Son of God has nothing to prove. It has already been proven because it has already been given. What exactly is there to lose but a bunch of sin that was making you sick to begin with? Godspeed.

I don’t need to prove myself because my story and the life I am living now is all the proof I need that my Father heals. It’s a radical faith that is intensely practical, based on having experienced how the spirit moves and knowing for a fact that he is willing to meet us. Above all things, I plan on continuing to invest in the spirit of love and the fruit of peace that God intentionally places in my life in order to minister to others. He is more than capable.