Division, the Heart, the Mind

“Or else she stayed in and nursed a mood with which she was becoming too familiar for her own comfort and peace of mind. It was not despair; but it seemed to her as if life were passing by, leaving its promise broken and unfulfilled.”
― Kate Chopin, The Awakening

“I’m not unhappy,” he said. “Only people with no purpose are unhappy. I’ve got a purpose.”
― Cassandra Clare, City of Bones

“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”
― Winston S. Churchill

1 Corinthians 1:10 – I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

My husband has been saying that I am mad at life.

He may be right.

I’m one of those people who internalize basically everything and who loose sleep at night trying to figure out and understand every minuscule function of the world and the people in it.

Lately, the things that keep me up at night really make me mad.

Life is really complicated. So. So. Complicated.

1 Corinthians 1:10 makes me mad.

I am a passionate person. There is a poem by David Jones which I used to use to describe my boy-child. Now I realize that the poem describes his mother too. It goes:

“It is both a blessing

And a curse

To feel everything

So very deeply.”

Yep. That’s me. I am fire and ice. Hot or cold. One, or the other. I have no in-between. And I’ve not yet figured out a way to be Switzerland.

If I’m one thing, you know it. And while I realize this is a flaw in my personal character, it is still an area I have been unable to improve myself in.

Some say I wear my heart on my sleeve.

Personally, I think I wear my heart on my face.

I remember taking a Facebook quiz many years ago…there was a question, which I cannot remember, however I clearly remember my response.

When I form an opinion, it takes me a very long time to do so. But when I form it, I am all in or all out.

I remember several of my friends commenting on this specific answer, leading me to understand that not everyone really takes the time to think about their own opinions.

For me, my opinions are not just a part of who I am. They quite literally are who I am. My opinions are informed and comprised of those things which I know and believe, my schemas and scripts and worldview, which are in fact who I am.

How will a person know who they are if they do not know what they believe?

And yet, while I understand that my schemas are likely to differ from others, because they are my own, and develop uniquely because of my experience, temperament, and personality, I struggle with how this fits in to the larger picture.

On an intellectual level, I admit that not everyone needs to nor should hold the same opinions as myself. But on a deeper spiritual level, life gets complicated quickly.

Because who you believe God is will influence who you seek to become in Him, how you live your life, the choices you make, the things that you do and say, and ultimately what you believe about yourself and the world.

The older I get, the more I realize that not everyone actually believes the same thing about God. And this fact has implications that enormously affect every single day of our lives here on earth.

And I’m not okay with this!

Admittedly, my own feelings regarding this matter war against myself. While I hold true to the fact that God granted us all free-will, which in turn suggests that we all have the freedom to choose freely in our lives, I cannot comprehend how God ever expected Christians to all be on the same page about things when he granted us said free-will.

I’ve always had a motto that goes something like this: Christians are the worst of people.

Mostly to remind myself that I have the potential for sin the same as everyone else.

But lately, I can’t even begin to understand or reason within my finite mind just how crappy we are.

Of course, I am no theologian. And I don’t pretend to be. Additionally, by adding my thoughts to this discussion specifically focused on Christians I admit that I am contributing myself to being a crappy Christian. The worst of people. Although, I will say that this composition is solely for my own soul, rather than others. I share them publicly because there are some people who like my thoughts, and also so that one day my children can read them.

So there it is. I’ve laid it all out. I’m not okay. I’m mad at life. I’m mad because I am a Christian and not everyone agrees with me. I am mad because the fact of this realization is that free-will makes life hard. Christians don’t agree with each other. And this is a problem for me. And probably for everyone else in the world.

We are literally the worst of people.

We tear each other down. We criticize each other. We judge each other openly, and then again behind closed doors. We fight with each other. We publicly call each other out. We call each other out on the internet. We disagree. We believe different things. We are not, for lack of better words, on the same page. At. All.

One of my friends, in response to an issue close to my heart, expressed appreciation for open conversation, and reminded me that at the root of the topic is a heart issue. But what makes my heart better than someone else’s? And if we as Christian’s are not of one heart, what does this say about us? How can we possible believe in the same God if this God is different in the heart of each of us?

I am all for friendly discussion.

But where do we draw the line? When does open dialogue become toxic disparagement?

For me, this is one of those “what would Jesus do” situations.

Again, I am no theologian.

I honestly don’t think that Jesus would have Facebook, were he walking the earth today.

When I think about how Jesus spoke truth in the face of darkness, he did it in a relational way. He did it face to face.

I recently finished both of Bob Goff’s books. Life changers, right there. The central message that I took away from these reads is that people don’t want your opinions, but they do want their love, no strings attached, and this sends a bigger message about Jesus than anything else.

Again, from an intellectual standpoint, I agree with this 100%. I just haven’t quite figured out how to love people without any strings – aka me and my big opinions – attached.

But the first step for me, was that I left Facebook and all it’s Christian drama behind. Who has time for that anyways?

I think that there is a time and a place for open discussion, but that is among friends, and should take place face to face.

We aren’t doing anyone any good by debating our distentions on Facebook people. If you have an opinion and want to share it, find a friend. If you don’t like the way another Christian is living or what they are saying, remember to examine your own log before you call out their speck.

I still don’t claim to understand exactly how 1 Corinthians 1:10 is possible. I really haven’t the slightest idea. And this still makes me really mad. I’d really just like everyone to agree with me – pride and selfishness openly acknowledged here. We are the worst of people. We are the worst enemy of our brothers and sisters, the enemy within.

So while I might be unhappy, it will only last a moment in the timeline of my life.

Because I’ve got a purpose.

I’ll just be over here trying to follow my own advice. And figuring out a way to love people the way Bob Goff describes…just like Jesus.

 

 

 

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In Which I Struggle With Myself

“I had begun to feel that life was a repetition of the same thing; that there was nothing new either in me or in him; and that, on the contrary, we kept going back as it were on what was old.” ― Leo Tolstoy

“My mind,” he said, “rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
― Aldous Huxley

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
― Plato

 

They say, “Ignorance is bliss”. I used to believe that. I used to think that not knowing, or not wanting to know, was the best life. But not anymore.

Stagnance is the friend of ignorance. Together these two moral flaws breed humans which are wholly incapable of being who they were created to be. Their spiritual growth is cut off by bovine trust in the opinions of those whom they surround themselves with. They take things at face-value, with little a thought given to true understanding. Discernment is dependent on the past, on what is known and comfortable and familiar (but is this true discernment, then?).

Shall we not rise from our own ashes, then? Resurrected from the limitations of our selfish, lackadaisical, minds, which thwart us from truly knowing Him and all that He has intended our lives to be?

Nay, I don’t want to be like every other person.

I want to be more.

I want to be better.

I wanted to be resurrected from myself.

Of all of the things in this world, I pray that I am never ignorant. I pray that I never take things at face value. That I abstain from blind confederacy. That I am active in my faith, in understanding what that faith is, what that means for my life, whom that faith is in, and ultimately who He is and who He wants me to be. I want to go beyond face value. I want to take in the whole picture, and truly understand. Dimly first, but then in a mirror face to face. I want to come face to face with God and understand. To know. To truly know. To go deeper, and dig deeper. And know.

Because if I take my life at face value. If I simply trust and accept. Stagnance and ignorance are my heart and my soul.

And doing this, and seeking this bigger picture…is hard. It is so hard. It takes time. It breaks your heart. When you start asking questions, and trying to understand, those rooted in stagnance and ignorance become agitated. They enjoy their complacency, though they cannot recognize it themselves.

Psalm 51:6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

 

But truth must be sought. It must be searched out. It must be pursued and examined. And then it can be understood. And when the truth is there to set you free, still the choice remains.

Will you let it?

Will you give up all of your former conceptions? Will you bury them six-feet-under? Will you say goodbye to your old man, and embrace the new?

Because the truth is not always what you thought it was. It is not simply a repetition of the past. It is not what you have always known, and sometimes not what you have always believed.

There are some truths which stand forever. But other truths stand falsely through the effort of man and man’s assumption that the past is always correct.

Proverbs 18:15 An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

And so, my dear Azrielle and Kreade. I hope that the life that I live shows you daily the importance of seeking this knowledge. Of truly knowing and understanding God. I pray with all my my heart, to the very depths of my soul that you not take life at face value. God created within you a desire to know. Do not allow stagnance and ignorance to take root in your heart and soul. Do not repeat the past simply because everyone else is. Seek him out. Seek out the whole picture. Start looking in that mirror, dimly first, until you come face to face with God, and understand. Above all, don’t take my word for it. This is your faith. This is your faith.

Deuteronomy 4:29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

 

 

A Love Note: For My Prince Charming

Image result for forest love

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.”
― Plato

“I ask you to pass through life at my side—to be my second self, and best earthly companion.”
— Charlotte Brontë , Jane Eyre

I’ve been married for almost a third of my life.

I remember what it was like all those years ago…when everyone tells you not no marry young. But the vanity of youth encourages naught but to defy the world in which you find yourself.

Nine years ago.

It seems like a lifetime. But isn’t that what I always wanted? Always wanted, but never dreamed I would ever come close to? A lifetime in love. A lifetime with you.

Looking back to that girl I used to be…I almost don’t recognize her.

Because our marriage is just as much about my adventure to find myself, as it is about my adventure of being in love with you.

I thought I knew who I was back then. But now I realize that I was only starting to know. I was a shell of myself; filled to the brim with self-doubt, fear, and lack of confidence. I was wary and cynical, constantly my own biggest skeptic. So filled with anxiety that there was no room left for joy. I thought I knew what life was about: the point of life was to just get through the day, to be married, and have children, to find happiness in this, and just keep on living.

That’s what I thought life with you would be like.

And that was the life that I wanted with you.

You were my rock. You were the confidence that I do not possess. You were the surety in my world filled with fear. You were my champion – saving me, providing for me, loving me despite my lack of belief in myself. You were the calm in my storm.

I never thought that anyone would love me. I never thought that I was beautiful. I never thought that I would actually find someone who would want to marry me. After-all, I am not the most ordinary person. I had been that way for quite some time… I’d rather spend my time reading stories than talking with actual real people. I’d rather be outdoors, breathing in the fresh air, than taking even a few moments to apply makeup and arrange my hair. I’d rather inhale the smell of carburetors in the late summer night than do whatever it was that other girls were doing (I don’t actually even know what other girls spent their nights doing…but it certainly wasn’t breathing fumes from fast cars). When I tried to wear nice clothes, it usually just didn’t work – I have no fashion sense at all. But when you’d rather be reading than shopping at the mall, it was easier to just give up and wear t-shirts all the time.

My books never seemed to care anyways.

Some things just aren’t meant to be.

And I never thought that I was meant to be married.

Not to someone like you at least.

My Prince Charming.

I was so young. So sure of myself. Yet so unsure. It is amazing how things change. How people change. How I have changed. Yet I would be crazy not to admit that the person I am today may not have ended up with the person that you were then. We are so different. Shaped and formed like stones along the river. Now I understand why they say not to marry young – because when you find yourself, you may not like who you find yourself with. But the sententious reality is this: I wouldn’t be who I am today without you.

So my story is not one of finding myself and being filled with regret.

I stand again to defy what society expects.

My story is one of finding myself and finding myself still completely and wholly in love with you.

My Prince Charming.

The one who made me.

I find my life so completely entwined with yours. And that, quite frankly, is a very, very good thing.

You who talked to me when I was content to be a wallflower, who (probably quite literally at times) removed the book from in front of my face…and saw me. The one who noticed.

The one who noticed me.

Utter lack of fashion and all.

You, who put up with my rambling discussions of all things nerdy…who enjoyed the smell of engines on a warm summer night with me.

I married you then. And I’d marry you now.

You, who were my confidence for me. Who was strong when I was not. I thought I knew what my life with you would be like. But it is really unlike anything that I ever imagined. Our dreams began to grow together, and they have changed like the clouds that shift in the sky…and we have continued reaching for them all the years through.

Once, I was content with that life I thought I knew. And you were content to let me  have that life. But life has that funny way of dragging you along on adventures you never wanted to have.

Or at least it feels like you are being dragged sometimes.

Sometimes it feels like you have dragged me on some of those adventures. And I mean that in the most lovingly way possible. I don’t know when you really started making me. Maybe it has always been that way. But looking back now, I see all the ways and the times that you encouraged me to be so much more. Never judging. But gently pushing, telling me to try. Telling me to just do it. Listening to all my fears, but telling me to do it anyway. Throughout the years you have challenged me, encouraged me, pushed me, and loved me through it all.

I said I’d never go back to school. But somehow, in your quiet way, you helped me to do it. You told me it would be alright. You knew, even when I did not, that I was meant to earn my degree. And apparently to keep earning them.

You knew, even when I didn’t trust myself, that I was meant to pursue a career. I thought I knew who I was, I thought I’d only ever stay home with my kids. I never believed that I would have worth outside of this. But whatever you saw in me, that I didn’t even see in myself, you challenged me to recognize my worth and potential in what has turned out to be a very fulfilling career.

I thought I knew that I would be a fabulous parent. Turns out…teaching may be my thing, but parenting really doesn’t come naturally to me at all. But that doesn’t matter to you. You love me regardless of my flaws and weaknesses. All the while telling me, knowing for me, that I can be so much more.

You have pushed me to be involved. To face life head on, and unafraid. To try, and fail, and try again.

And know that it’s okay.

I’d say that you hold me when I cry. But you know that I prefer to cry alone.

And I love you for that too.

So here I am. Where once was a shell of a person stands a being wholly made. I do not doubt. I know who I am. I am brave. I am strong. I may be small, but I make up for it with a passion and intensity that rivals the sun. I have known fear. But fear doesn’t frighten me anymore. Fear challenges me. Fear pushes me, and teaches me. Where once I lacked confidence….there is no lacking now. I wear the clothes, the clothes don’t wear me. And it doesn’t matter what I am wearing; I know that I am beautiful nonetheless. I can do this. I can do this. I can handle life. Now I am my own biggest fan (well maybe my second biggest fan, I think you will always be my #1 biggest fan). I do not hide in the shadows of cynicism and skepticism anymore. This is my life. Our life. Whatever will come, will come. Those shadows do nothing but slowly drink the life from you. I will not spend my life in the shadows. Maybe before….but never again.

So here I am.

The life with you that I always wanted.

Whole. Sure. Complete.

A lifetime.

A person changed. But only because of you.

My equal. The other side of my coin. My balance. My lover and friend.

When God made me, He made you too. And He knew that I would be yours forever.

And I know that while you will always help me to grow, and change and be more…I know even still that no matter what or where or when you will love me…love all of me…no matter what.

And I will love you too.

So thank you, Babe.

Thank you for seeing me, and loving me, and making me yours.

Here’s to a lifetime of you and I.

Always.

 

But Really? Where IS Neverland?

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
― Heraclitus

“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.”
― Henry Ward Beecher

“End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Do you remember when you were a kid and all you wanted was to just be old? Maybe not like wrinkly and eighty, but older. As in I-have-my-license-drive-a-car-do-cool-things-have-a-house-have-a-hot-husband-super-cute-kids-awesome-clothes-sweet-job-and-don’t-look-a-day-over-sixteen?

Please tell me I’m not the only one who every wished this.

But really. When I was a kid I thought about that all the time. I’d sit in my log and grass-thatched tee-pee hideout in my funny 1990-something clothes and think about what it would be like to be older. Life is always amazing in your day-dreams. And you can do anything… Be anything…

Weren’t those the days.

I can still see those sunsets of my childhood. Feel the bone-chilling cold of those rainy fall days, playing outside until it was dark and the moon began to rise. Remember what the sand felt like between my toes and in less than pleasant places that those little kid bathing suits just loved to capture so much sand in. I remember my imagination, my adventures, how I half lived outside. The pain of getting my finger caught between logs I was stacking as I built a forest hideout. Of carrying buckets of water to try to make a pretend well. Of hoarding miscellaneous pieces of wood to act as butter and bread in that outdoor pretend store…oh,those were the days.

In some ways I miss them. But in most ways I don’t.

And here I am now. Twenty-eight years old.

I was married when I was twenty. I had a sweet babe before I was twenty-five. Finally graduated (the first part of) college at the age of twenty-six. I’m now twenty-eight and I still don’t drive the car of my dreams. I’ve been married for seven and a half years and it just keeps getting better. Now there are two kids to spend my time with.

And I still think about what it will be like to be old.

I look at this picture and already notice all of the lines our faces didn’t have.

I’ll be thirty in two years. If I live to be ninety, one-third of my life will have passed by.

I used to be scared to get old. To grow up, live, and someday die.

But life doesn’t frighten me anymore.

As hard as it is to grow older, the easier it gets all the same.

What I didn’t know then, sitting in that hideout, holding on to my pocket-knife whittled stick sword and blue and gold painted shield, pretending to be a knight, or an elf, or some other amazing, immortal, half-mythical heroin was that… I would grow up to be all of those things and so much more (well, I still don’t have pointy ears so I guess I didn’t achieve elf status).

I am amazing.

I will live forever (but not on this earth).

And my life has a purpose.

I never thought I’d marry such a hottie (and what a story that was). I never thought I’d graduate college (never mind be working on my Master’s degree). I  never thought that I would be anything more than a stay-at-home-mom (but my work is my calling). I never knew how much I could love (until I had my children). I never knew my purpose (until faith opened my eyes and love became my anthem).

Yes, almost-thirty years has been full of life and learning, of finding and becoming.

And so, if one-third of my life is over, I have no regrets. And if two-thirds of my life remains, I will live with confidence.

Of course because it’s me so I’ll have to bring up Tolkien. Who of course completely nailed it when he wrote about going out of your door. There really is no telling where you might be swept off too (I certainly never expected to end up where I am at today). But wherever it is, and no matter how dangerous the getting there was, it’s going to be amazing. Because the going out of your door is the most difficult part of the journey…the part where you surrender it all and decide to follow The-Giver-of-Life and pursue the purpose that was created for you, and only you.

So thirty more years will likely bring several more lines.

But it will also bring so much more life.

And if in living I share the Love and purpose that I have found with whomever I can…well..

Well, that’s what it’s all about.

Holding On…

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
― Emily Dickinson

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
― G.K. Chesterton

I have been taking part in an Online Bible Study and am loving it. One of my biggest regrets of being a WAWM (wicked awesome working mom) is that I don’t have the opportunity to participate in Bible Studies.

Problem. Solved.

I freaking love the internet.

Oh, you want to go to college but don’t actually want to GO to college? Go to college online!

You want to participate in Bible Studies, but can’t actually GET there? Go to Bible Study online!

Amazing.

The topic of this Bible study is centered around the book of Ruth. It is a practical approach to not quitting things.

Honestly, I’ve struggled a bit with having anything to apply this whole concept to as (and I hate to toot my own horn here) but I really don’t actually every quit things. I kill myself mentally, emotionally, and what often feels like physically…but I never, ever, ever quit. I mean really, that’s what being a WAWM is all about. Doing things and doing lots of things, and never giving up.

But as God always does I have been shown that there is an area of my life that I have quit…

I know, shocker. I was shocked myself when I realized it.

You see, I am this kind of person: “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” ― Alexander Pope

And I have given up on hope.

Who really knows how it happened. As it does, life likely whittled and chipped away at the walls surrounding my soul until slowly but surely the  hope that once lived there began to slip away. Until one day I just quit having hope.

They (and don’t ask me who exactly because I really don’t know) say that the first step to fixing your problem is admitting it.

Well, here I am admitting it. I have quit hope. Which is really quite shocking because I truly love inspirational and motivational things. Maybe in an effort to jump-start my own dying soul…

It’s funny how you don’t always see the truth about yourself. There I was in the middle of a Bible study about quitting things and being all “I’m-so-awesome-I-never-quit-things” driving to work and I hear the words of the song by Danny Gokey:

There’s hope in front of me
There’s a light I still see it
There’s a hand still holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I might be down but I’m not dead
There’s better days still up ahead
Even after all I’ve seen, there’s hope in front of me

And I realized all at once that I don’t have hope in front of me.

I don’t have hope at all.

I like to talk about hope, but I don’t actually have any.

I just take life and all that happens and goes on and try to deal with it. I just move along through life doubting anything and everything.

And the only place that has gotten me is into a depressed and negative place…like a dark, dark forest that you can feel closing in on all sides. And you can’t get out. At first, you want to. But then you sort of just get used to the forest. You tell yourself it’s not so bad. This is just what life is like. It just…it just is.

But it doesn’t have to be.

A quick search for the keyword ‘hope’ in the Bible revealed 151 results.

Well, guess I’m not the only one who has quit this thing!

So many  powerful reminders of what hope is…and where it can be found.

 

The way I see it, hope is rather like love. It’s not actually something that we feel. Like love, it is a choice. It is something that we do, and seek, and look for, and purposefully put into our hearts and souls.

And when we find ourselves in the heart of that oppressive forest we don’t give up. We look for hope. We look to Him to give us that hope. And we carry on victoriously in life with His hope in our hearts.

Because life doesn’t have to just be.

Hope gives us victory in life.

Since the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one, I think I’m on the right track to not quitting hope.

I will hope that these college degrees are the tool He has equiped me with to make a difference…

There is hope in your future, says the Lord… Jeremiah 31:17 a

 I will hope that things will be fine financially, and not allow financial worries to consume me…

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not. Lamentations 3:21-22

 I will remain hopeful that He has my best interest at heart…

That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments. Psalm 76:7

I will hold on to hope and will not fear my future…

Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

I will not let depression and anxiety fill my soul…

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance. Psalm 42:5

When I’m tempted to lose hope, I’ll turn to Hos word…

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word. Psalm 119:114

When I want to worry and stress about my job, my kids, my life, my finances, anything and everything…I’ll let His promises comfort my heart…

 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I won’t let go of hope, instead, I’ll hold on to it…

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.Hebrews 10:23

And so my sweet Ellie and my passionate Kreade…

Find your hope. Find it in Him and hold fast to it. Don’t let your souls wander into that dark forest. Be hopeful. Remember that every detail of your future rests in His all knowing and perfect plan. And never lose hope. I pray that He fills you with so much hope in the midst of so much doubt that people cannot help but notice. And when they ask you why you dare to hope…tell them. Tell them why. Tell them where. And tell them Who. May the hope that He gives you be the reason that despairing souls find their way out of the darkness and into the light…

 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:15

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When Middle Earth Becomes Reality…

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Fear does not have to make you cruel or cowardly, fear can make you kind. -Doctor Who

“To fear is to have more faith in your antagonist than in Christ.”
D.L. Moody, The Overcoming Life

Lately, I feel that my dreams have finally come true. And in a way of sorts, they have. Here I live, in my comfortable heated home, in a beautiful part of the countryside, with the ability to sit by my fire and smoke my pipe, and if it weren’t for the fact that I lack hair growing between the toes of my nonexistent tough-skinned feet, my life could nearly pass for the complacent, comfortable, unadventurous life of a Hobbit.

Middle Earth at last.

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’
I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”

I am afraid that that basically sums up so many of us out there. So many of us Christians. Paralyzed by fear. Swallowed up with doubt. Empty as a clanging-gong or cymbal. Wholly without love or care. Or eyes that see and feel.

We are so privileged to live without fear of death or rape or hunger or pain. But of course, many will argue that we have many things to fear. And yes, we do. There is always the possibility of a horrible car crash, that vaccines will kill us, that non-organic food will cause our sudden demise. But really. We are so privileged, to be burdened by fear that in the perspective of the larger world, seem so trivial and mundane.

People are dying out there. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

And no one seems to care.

I literally don’t get it.

How have our Western Christian hearts become so callous? Truly it blows my mind.

We have forgotten to feel. We have allowed our hearts to become stone, and fallen prey to the Devil’s lie that it could never happen to us…and that it shouldn’t.

As if we are simply too good to ever experience the horror of what so many others live day in and day out.

I get it. We have issues of our own. We have homeless people, and veterans who probably deserve more. Our education system is hugely flawed. Our politicians largely selfish. Our food system may or may not be healthy. The Mexicans keep crossing the border. We have too many taxes, not enough money, we work too much, sleep too little, we never have enough time. We have problems of our own.

We are Hobbits.

Plain folk, who have no use for adventures. Who care not one bit for those who live elsewhere. With our heads in the sand, and our hearts guarded by stone. We care not and do nothing.

But still, we fear.

It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply.

And the ache in my heart has been fully reawakened by the recent issue surrounding refugees from Syria that has become such a hot topic lately.

My first reaction to my fellow Christians is completely less than wholesome – they’re f***ing refugees for Gods sake!

Refugee noun someone who has been forced to leave a country because of war or for religious or political reasons; :  one that flees; especially :  a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution

And I don’t care if our of the 1000 of them are hurting women and children and one belongs to that infamous terrorist group who I won’t give the satisfaction of naming.

We can’t just ignore what is happening in the rest of the world.

With every chance we have to help, and every choice we make to do nothing, we only allow our hearts to be overtaken by stone.

In this highly political issue, I don’t pretend to know what the answer is. I am not saying that we allow them into our homes. Although I am not saying that we should not.

I only urge my fellow Christians to look at these people as Jesus would. To see the hurt and the pain, to acknowledge the sin and the shame, but ultimately to love and treat with care and respect.

Whatever that means for us.

“Bilbo saw that the moment had come when he must do something.” 

I urge you to prayerfully consider what it is that God would have us to do. Because I cannot believe for one second that He simply wants us to turn our eyes, blind to the reality that could have been ours.

 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

The fact is staring us in the face. And something has to be done.

And in my heart, I feel that the end is nearing.

As a child, the thought of the world ending or the though of dying was just too much for me. I have lived under the oppression of anxiety of these things for so long.

But it is amazing how God gives you what you need.

In one of my psychology classes I learned that normal development prepares you for death. And that the majority of people are truly ready to die when the time comes. I was very comforted by this. Death has scared me since I was young. And it is comforting to know that God has designed us to die, and die well.

I never thought that at 27 I would be alright with the thought that the end times are more than likely here.

A year or so ago, my pastor showed a video of a woman and her family who were being persecuted in some country somewhere. The family had the chance to leave the country, but chose to stay and share His love with whoever they could. The video told of the woman giving her life, literally, to the hands of the Lord. Then her husband, then her children. Through prayer, they committed themselves. And decided that if they were to die, their last words would speak of forgiveness to their killers.

I really struggled with this.

I made myself imagine being in this situation.

And it was hell.

But it is amazing how God’s word speaks.

So that we may boldly say, The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. ~ Hebrews 13:6

This is the meaning of Azrielle’s name. Her name literally means the Lord is my helper. And this is her verse.

I always wanted my children to have names full of meaning…and sometimes I wonder if there is so much more awaiting them because of it.

And now I have peace. Because this woman- I wish I knew her name, and the rest of her story – has helped me to know with every part of my heart that no matter what is going on around me, no matter how He chooses to use my life and the life of those I love, He will be enough. He will give me what I need.

And I refuse to live in fear. 

And I will see people.

And I will do whatever it takes to allow my life to be the difference, to exude the love, and tell the story that gives Life to all.

Whatever it takes.

And so Kreade and Ellie…

“Things are drawing towards the end now, unless I am mistaken. There is an unpleasant time just in front of you; but keep your heart up!”

In this world full of so many things – decisions and choices, hatred and persecution, right and wrong and everything in between…never loose heart.

Because if it is the end, we have a job to do.

We must be the faithful church. The ones who persevere. The ones who overcome. The ones who keep His word.

We must be great and do great as we allow ourselves to be filled with His love.

And never loose heart.

“Where there’s life there’s hope.”

Do not allow your hearts to become stone. Even if we are called to lay down our lives for the brethren.

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.”

And when that day comes, I will see you when all things are made new.

“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” John 3:17

 

 

…We Do Not Lose Heart

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

– Edmund Burke

“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
― Abraham Lincoln

A while ago I had the harrowing experience of attempting to debate justice and mercy. I hate debates. My blood rushes to my head, and I get sort of dizzy and I have a very difficult time collecting my thoughts and expressing my argument. This is made even worse by the fact that I take a very, very, very long time forming my opinions and thoughts on matters of life and this world; they sort of become a part of who I am. They form me and define me, and I feel so attacked and condemned when I don’t see eye to eye with someone. Then I get really angry and I just want to bash the offenders head against something and hope that I knock my view point into them.

But I am realistic. And I know that not everyone will feel the way I do. Though I wish they did sometimes.

I haven’t been able to get the conversation out of my head. It has bothered me so much so as to keep me up at night. I fear that we forget that we are all people. All imperfect people who are just trying to find our way in this world. And sometimes our faith causes us to feel better-than-you, and we use it as a reason for passing judgment.

And yet judgment has already been passed. And we too were found guilty.

I understand the need for justice. I’m a soon-to-be psychologist and I’ve read the research that tells us swift consequences are most effective, for children and adults alike.

But in issuing justice and the consequences thereof I just hope that we see people. That we really see them. That we really try to understand.

Maybe it’s just psychologist heart…the one that breaks when you learn that not everyone can fit into the mold that society has created. The one that aches for people when you see the evidence of how stressors in early childhood, experiences throughout the lifespan, and how poor choices from the important people in their life causes them to be different. And some of it, though so many Christians would like to deny it, some of it is biological too. It’s who they were made to be. Genetically inherited traits that put them at risk for so many of the things that fall outside of societies perfect box. Because when you were abused as a child, when your mother was never around, when your father did drugs, or you have a family history of mental illness (don’t try to tell me it’s just a lack of faith) your brain develops differently. DIFFERENTLY. They are not the same. And though it does not excuse their behavior, I wish that it would help people understand.

You are lucky.

That curfew your parents had for you…that’s nothing.

Remind them tobe subject to rulers and authorities. To obey. To be ready for every good work, to speak evil to no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward men appeared. not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. Whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. Titus 3:1-6

So is the justice we issue and the judgement we pass too harsh? I’m not here to debate that. I’m here to encourage you to use your authority and position which allows your to issue justice and pass judgement to see people. While you do what you feel is necessary, please, take a second and just consider who the person is and why they are the person that they are. Maybe they deserve a second chance. Maybe they deserve some extra support. Maybe they don’t. But they at least deserve to be seen, to be loved, and for goodness sake they deserve our prayers. We can’t just issue justice and pass them by.

We could have been them. In a different world. In a parallel dimension. In a new version of reality. Wherever and whenever, it could have been us.

I really don’t have all the answers about justice and mercy. I wish I did. But perhaps God does not intend for us to  know all things.

I do know though that God wants us to be like Him. And we were once foolish and disobedient, and yet God extended His mercy to us. So shouldn’t we extend mercy to others? To that parent of your student that blew off their parent teacher conference? To that kid in your class that got caught for using heroine. To that addict who backed into your car in the parking lot. And even to the drunk driver who hits and kills your loved one.

Idon’t think that extending love and mercy in any of these situations is easy. But I do think that God does call us to extend it. After all…who are we? Sinners just the same. In need of God’s love and mercy and forgiveness too. Only we know it, and they don’t. How much more so do our actions speak than our words?

But even I with all my heart is not so great at practicing what I preach. Though I feel I do a fairly good job at work extending mercy and trying to love, I know there is more that I can do.

Lately I have come to appreciate the people in this world that I see loving as He does and extending mercy and a second chance like God gave to us.

It’s really quite beautiful. And if you know what I know about people, the way experience causes them to develop, and you see the reasons for who they are…it can almost bring tears to  your eyes. It’s inspirational. And I wish I had the confidence to just take a chance with people.

My father-in-law does a pretty good job with this, I think. It might be the family joke that he hires anyone who is a felon, addict, thief or generally non-typical member of society;I personally think that it is awesome. I think that it is love and mercy in action. And it is God working through him.

I think that he sees people. And their potential to know the love of the father. He gives them a chance. And sometimes it doesn’t work out for him. But I guess you never know the seeds you have planted. And then sometimes it does. My father in law once hired a mechanic to work for him, and there was a whole history of those bad things that don’t fit into societies box. But hired he was nonetheless. I remember this mechanic, I don’t recall ever seeing him smile. But my father in law gave this guy a second chance, and the short version of the story is that the mechanic now knows the love of Christ. He knows the mercy and forgiveness. He has a hope and a future. We saw him when we went for ice cream with my in-laws a few weeks ago. It was the first time I ever remember seeing the guy smile. He told me that by the love and grace of God he was still able to keep his long hair.

Wow. Just wow.

I wish I could be half as awesome.

When we were camping my father in law told me about picking up a hitchhiker who disclosed to him he had just been at some sort of drug festival. Really, the man is just a magnet for these non-conformers. He gave the guy a ride and shared the gospel message with him.

I wish I was half as bold.

But really, it is inspiring and encouraging to see that there are Christians in this world who see people. Who see beneath the exterior of the-world-can’t-touch-me to the hurting soul in need of a Savior. And I just wish that more people would allow themselves to be half as used as my father in law allows himself to be.

Because people are worth it.

Ellie and Kreade, I’m so glad that you get to have a real life example of what it means and looks like to extend mercy and love to those who we might think deserve it least. Remember that not everyone is the same, we are all unique and have unique experiences that form us. Sometimes, people just need a bit more prayer and support. I pray that you will be as bold as your Pa, as as full of love and second chances. Don’t lose heart my children. Allow Him to work through you, and you will see miracles. Because you were worth His son giving His life on the cross. We all were. Let your ministry be seeing people, as He has seen us.

Therefore since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2 Corinthians 4:1