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.

 

 

We went out to see the Supermoon…

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For some people small, beautiful events are what life is all about. – The Doctor

Last week, we went out to see the Supermoon.

I was reminded once again just how beautiful the world is in the eyes of a child. The way that they perceive the things around them is just so wondrous. Their untouched perception of the world and all it has to offer is comparable to a cool glass of water on a hot summer day…refreshing.

I didn’t really know what they would think of the moon. But I figured that since it has been nearly fifty years since the last Supermoon, I should probably fulfill my parental responsibility to make sure that they saw the moon with their own eyes so that they could tell their grand-kids someday “Yeah, I saw that moon”. Cuz, you know, that will definitely be something to brag about.

Anyways, we got on our winter jackets and hats and mittens just before bedtime.

And we went out to see the Supermoon.

And in the crisp, cool air of that moon-lit night, something beautiful happened.

The second they saw the moon those precious little children started running.

I mean flat out running as fast as their 4 year old and 2 year old legs could carry them.

Eyes on that bright, huge moon. Running towards it, fully expecting that they could jump up and touch it.

And as their feet brought them to the edge of the dark woods, their eyes stayed on the moon, and their glee echoed through the night air in strains of unashamed laughter.

They ran towards that moon, eyes unwavering from their goal, and they expected to touch it.

Being a parent is one of the most beautiful things in the world. And it is small moments like these that really do remind me of what life is all about. Small moments, small adventures.

Sometimes it takes the un-touched perspective of a child to remind you…We adults get so caught up in reality that we often loose sight of our goals. Our minds become so distracted by everything else around us that we forget what we set out to do. We forget where we are going, or get caught up in the details of how we are going to get there.

My kids didn’t loose sight of their goal. They kept their eyes on it and never looked anywhere but where they were going. They weren’t distracted by the darkness of night all around them…nor by the shadows of the trees, or the edge of the forest…by the bird in the tree watching them, or their beloved cat who followed along in their glee.

They didn’t stop to think that they would never be able to actually reach their goal…and really, it didn’t matter because they believed they could, and that was enough.

I’m pretty obsessed with the song 7 Years by Lukas Graham lately. The words from his song ran over and over through my head that night as I watched my children running towards that moon…I only see my goals, I don’t believe in failure, ‘Cause I know the smallest voices, they can make it major. 

And isn’t that the truth.

As adults we allow ourselves to listen to those little voices, and something small becomes something huge and all of the sudden all we can see is our failures, and we are too afraid to try to reach our goals anymore.

But not my kids. Childish or not, there was nothing going to stop them from getting to that Supermoon.

Now I know what Jesus meant when he talked about faith like a child.

Simple, beautiful, un-touched and un-ashamed faith.

And so Kreade and Ellie, I hope that you always remember this night. I want you to know that God used you to touch mommy’s heart and remind her of a simple life-lesson.

I want you to always remember this night, and remember running towards that moon – nothing was going to stop you from reaching your goal.

If you remember anything that I say or write for you, remember this – Run toward God. Run toward Him and never stop running. Make Him and His glory your only goal in life. Set your eyes on that goal and do not waver from it. Remember that night when you were running towards that moon, unaware and uncaring of anything else around you, unafraid of the darkness of night, the edge of your little world that began at the edge of the forest, or of the fact that you couldn’t see me anymore.

Run. Run towards God and do not be afraid. Keep your eyes on him and remember that place in your heart where your childlike faith lives.

Run. Run towards God. And never turn back.

Phillipians 3: 12-14 (The Message)  I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. 

Remembering Reality

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot

In the recent past, our Pastor has been including stories of the past and present persecuted church. If I’m being honest, I really have not enjoyed these parts of the sermon. I don’t know about your imagination, but when I hear these stories I pretty much insert myself as the “main character” and everyone important in my life into the “supporting roles.” This is all well-and-good when the tale has some sort of fairy-tale ending. But when the content includes the persecution of Christians, my stomach isn’t on quite-so-friendly terms with the story. And as a mother, when the stories include children it’s really almost too much…

But sometimes reality is too much. Nonetheless, it remains the same.

And I haven’t been able to get them out of my head.

I don’t generally watch the news. Well, I really NEVER watch the news. It’s much too depressing and negative for my taste. But now-a-days the news is not just on TV where it is easily turned off. It’s much harder to avoid the news stories that your friends share all over Facebook. And seriously, they have been all over Facebook. The horror is everywhere. The heartbreak is slammed into your face. The truth does not allow you to run and hide.

But we try. And it is so easy to lose ourselves in our comfortable little worlds.

A reality that is so very different than the ones that so many other Christians find themselves in. I sit in my house, warm and cozy while someone out there (Christian or not) sees their breath in the frigid air of whatever place they call home. I drive my car wherever I need and want to go while someone out there (Christian or not) is forced to walk to where they NEED to go, and maybe without any shoes. I have access to immense varieties of food while other have little or none. I am able to nurse my baby while other mothers are so starved themselves that they are unable to produce what their infant needs. I complain about having so much laundry while others wash their one and only garment in a dirty river somewhere so far away. I can sit in my children’s playroom (and actually have a playroom) surrounded by toys and play with my children while mothers across the world fear that they will be unable to protect their children’s lives. The comparisons are unending.

And here we sit, debating whether vaccines are blessings or curses. Arguing whether organic or non-organic is better. Judging the new people at church because of their “past”. Engrossed in who is dating who in the celebrity world. Obsessed by the stats of our favorite sports team. Surrounded by the latest technology, a world of TV shows, running water, toilets that flush. Comfort after comfort after comfort. Privilege followed by privilege followed by privilege. Yet we debate and demean each other over issues that- when you really think about- it seem so trivial. The state of the public school system…medical care and practices…government and politicians…whether or not Taylor Swift is all she cracks herself up to be…the latest and greatest toys…we wear all the best clothes and are obsessed with providing the “best” for our children.

We have houses and cars – independence found in our own piece of the world. We have safety – laws that protect and a large body of people that work to enforce those laws. Yet we complain about getting pulled over. We have convenience – grocery stores, gas stations, shopping malls. Yet we are frustrated when the line is long, or the organic variety is limited, or they don’t have your size. We are surrounded by so much. So much of everything that so many do not have.

And we keep on trying to run and hide from the truth. From reality.

The reality that all of the issues that you spend time and energy contemplating and pursuing, all of the things you take for granted or don’t remember to appreciate make you feel like nothing compared to the world.

The world that is full of suffering. Persecution. Christians…women, men, children…being killed, tortured, raped…Christians who do not have permanent homes. Christians who do not have cars. Christians that do not have access to “good” food. Christians that don’t have even a bit of what we have. They’re dying. Dying for goodness sakes…while I sit here sipping my coffee and writing this very sentence. Infants ripped from their mothers…husbands torn from their wives. Children…babies…

And I can’t even handle this thought.

Why?

Why them? Why not me?

And what if I were in their shoes? What if?

I can still see the video that our Pastor showed at church a while ago. A woman in some Middle Eastern country telling her story…her prayer. Through her prayers she felt God asking her to give up herself, and then her husband, and finally her children. To come to terms with the reality that it may be His will that their lives be taken. And through her prayer and discussion with those family members she did this…she answered God back with a yes. Even when offered the chance to be brought to safety, her family chose to stay.

I can’t imagine trying to explain to my child that God’s purpose for our lives might be that they be taken. Or choosing to stay when I had a way out.

But maybe you can’t really know what you would do unless you had lived through the experience yourself. There are some decisions and choices that can only be made after experience has brought you to that point.

And we are so fortunate that we aren’t being brought to that point.

But some people are. And it really is just so hard to understand why. Yet faith directs our questions to Him Who Knows All Things. And though we tend to complicate life and the answers we demand from God, sometimes the answer is really quite simple.

“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them- those who are mistreated- since you yourselves are in the body also.” Hebrews 13:3

For reasons only He can understand, some are purposed for persecution while others are purposed to pray.

And while the voices of the testimonies of these suffering Christians, and the challenge that their faith offers to me, and the horrors that I can’t get out of my mind fill my thoughts I can’t help but think of words penned by J.R.R. Tolkien (please don’t tease me, I promise it really does apply).

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. 

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us.” 

So as I hold my children tight, and enjoy the multitude of privileges around me I have decided that my time is meant to remember. To remember those who are mistreated. And to pray.