You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Christianity’ tag.

The end of February marks the end of the 10th year this blog has been in existence. 10 years! Some years have been more prolific than others, especially lately. And these 10 years have seen many changes in my life. But here I am still posting . . . and rambling. I beg your indulgence as this post may be a little more rambly than usual.

I got on tonight to write an end-of-January blog (as part of the usual blog-a-month New Year’s resolution that’s more a flurry of ideas for blogs throughout the year than it is an actual resolution to write more). Got on to write one of those idea posts, one involving a YouTube playlist I’ve been working on and intending to share . . . . But as I was tweaking the list and getting it ready to post, another song came to mind that perhaps I should have included in the list . . . and off I went to find it. And it led me to other songs by the same artist–an artist I’ve appreciated over the years but haven’t exactly followed. An artist who has some really great newer (and older) stuff.

And I got distracted looking at songs.

And somewhere along the way, I found this one. I especially love the first few lines–because I’ve been reflecting lately on how different my reality is from what I always thought it would be when I arrived at this age.

I remember my parents at this age and thinking how much they knew, and I assumed that by the time I was “an adult” I would know everything and be the expert and always know just what to do and what to tell others to do. And adulthood is very much not that way.

It also seemed logical to think that at some point I would have “arrived” as a Christian and have all the answers and be able to tell everyone what to do. But that is not the way that it works. In reality, it’s very much like the horizon: you reach the line you thought was the end of the world and find that there’s a whole lot more still ahead of you.

And so . . . instead of the New Year’s blog I thought I was going to write today . . . I am quietly reflecting (briefly) on where I find myself here, at the end of 10 years of blogging, on the changes that have come and gone and the changes that are ongoing. Most of all, there’s a most important constant. And it’s really hard to put that constant into words because the constant is a person, the one I’ve been chasing and who somehow has also been pursuing me and finding me all these years.

I’m just going to borrow some of Andrew Peterson’s words to express this most amazing (and perhaps baffling, at times) constant–because his song finds a very strong echo in my heart.

After All These Years–Andrew Peterson

 

 

 

 

Why in the world am I sorting spinach? you might ask.

Well, because the big bag of spinach we bought from Costco (with all the good intentions in the world of making salads and smoothies galore) has been slowly turning that dreaded dark green which signifies that certain leaves are better suited for compost than for consumption.

And because there are still a bunch of good leaves left, and–I think to myself–perhaps I can still eke out a couple more salads from this bag . . . .

For some, this stage of development is the stage at which they simply throw out the rest of the spinach and get a new bag. And sometimes I do that, too, considering that my time is worth more than it would take to separate the yummy from the yucky, and deciding that composting is not quite so wasteful as throwing the whole mess in the trash. But tonight it seemed worth my while to sort through the bag of spinach looking for the good leaves in and amongst the mush.

And as it is a rather large bag, there is time for thought as well as for action . . .

I take a spinach clump in my hand. The dark green seems to be predominant. No, wait, there’s a nice vibrant and whole leaf still on the bottom. And in pulling that one off, I find a couple smaller ones all bunched together. Ew, this dark green sludge can go in the compost stack, and with it these other leaves that are so covered in the sludge that I doubt they’d last long even if I did save them.

I take another clump. The one on top has a large bit of dark green in its center, but I see that it’s from another leaf that has turned to mush on top of it. The leaf itself may still be good. No, actually, it’s starting to rot, too, right where the sludge was lying on top of it. This leaf won’t last long. Too bad. If I weren’t trying to salvage more than just today’s salad, I’d probably keep it and eat it as it is. But I’m hoping to save some for tomorrow, so this leaf won’t make it.

It occurs to me that much of my life is spent sorting spinach. Pulling things apart to see what is good and what is not; what to keep and what to discard.

I am surrounded by ideas–from books, from tv and movies, from stories people tell and from actions that people take, from conversations and from silences. Not ideas, as in “hey, let’s do this!” but ideas as in opinions, beliefs, themes, and notions. What is good? What is worthless? What is decaying, and what is alive? Like spinach, the ideas are all clumped together and sometimes seem inseparable. And like spinach, sometimes a vital thought comes sandwiched between worthless ones.

I’d rather not have to sort the spinach, of course. I’d rather buy it from the store–presorted, prewashed, certified good and ready to digest.

I’d rather not have to sort the spinach. When it’s starting to become all gross and slimy, I’d rather just toss it and get a new bag. But tonight, its value as a source of nutrition was worth the trouble of taking the time to sort through.

And it occurs to me that we all choose what is worth sorting.

Here are a few reflections that come to mind in thinking about sorting:

First: It’s hard to sort carefully. And sometimes we don’t want sort carefully, we just take whatever we can get at the moment! We’d never do that with a handful of dark green–and slimy–spinach, but we don’t mind it with a funny movie! I’m not here to disparage our viewing habits, I’m simply reflecting on the fact that I know I have swallowed things I’ve seen or read or heard without really recognizing that they were decaying rather than vibrantly good–and often at the same time as taking the good.

Second: Sometimes we choose not to sort. When we come up against something that is clearly slimy and icky, it is sometimes quite best for us to decide to toss the whole thing and start afresh. (I tend to feel this way about horror flicks. It’s pretty easy for me to decide to toss the whole thing rather than picking through for the one or two leaves I might find there. Might.)

Third: Sometimes we choose to sort and get little from it. We toss and toss and toss and toss, and we are left with nothing. The thing is that there really are some bags that are completely gone. But sometimes it’s just that we don’t want to touch anything that’s not perfectly whole. If it’s even slimy, don’t wash it off; just toss it! That’s not going in my mouth!

Fourth: Sorting often yields surprises. My family and I recently visited the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. Fascinating site! Also fascinating to watch the scientists carefully sorting through all of the tiny little pieces they find, painstakingly separating them from their asphalt coverings and reconstructing prehistoric (and not so prehistoric) skeletons. To them it is worth getting down in the black sticky mess if they can come away with a shred more information to add to what they already know about “life back then.”

And it’s no different with us. Where we might be terribly tempted to discount ideas where we see absolutely nothing but slimy green . . . it’s somehow worth our while to do some sorting when someone we know and love is handing us the spinach of life. We can toss out everything they say as untouchable, but we toss them out with it, too.

And this is where Common Grace comes in.

Because every human is made in God’s image, every human has good leaves mixed in with their decaying ones. In fact, all of us have slimy green beliefs mixed in with our very best ideas about life, the universe, and all things in between. And because we are each made in God’s image, it may just be that our ideas are worth hearing out and sorting through rather than being thrown out at the first sign of sludge. It’s one thing to sort out a horror flick, but what about my neighbor?

I can think of some very personal examples–things I have been sorting through in my own life lately, finding unexpected good leaves and being uncertain about others (will they stand the test of time and eternity?). But rather than giving a lot of backstory for personal sorting, let me choose a more national example.

Islam.

For those of us who have lived our lives by the truths and traditions of Christianity, the thought of welcoming Islam into our schools, communities, and friendships–let alone our country!–is a no-brainer. Islam is not the truth, it’s the dark green decayed sludge. Toss it out! Keep it out! It’s dangerous in more ways than we can count (even without its associations with terrorism). Don’t sort it, toss it!

But I remember a movie I saw the summer of my junior year in high school. It was about a young adult who’d gone to an Islamic country on a mission trip, and had made friends with a Muslim man who, in the movie I watched, immigrates to the United States. The American man does his best to win the Muslim man to Christ, but instead finds that he is learning from this non-Christian’s example how shallow his own Christianity really is. We’d love for the movie to end with the Muslim recognizing his need for Christ and being gloriously saved, but the movie ends instead with the Christian man recognizing his need for Christ and for the lovely zeal he sees in his Muslim friend’s life.

Thinking back to that movie, I see that it forced me to do some sorting. Rather than throwing Islam out, I had to recognize that it had something to teach me. No, not that I should be working harder as a Christian, but that maybe my love for and zeal for God should be strong–though for a different reason, perhaps.

And thinking today of the White Helmets of Syria, the group that goes into danger to save as many lives as they can, I see many vibrantly green leaves to honor: courage & compassion among them. Their motto “Whoever saves one life, saves all of humanity” comes from the Koran. That isn’t something I can easily toss.

And so I find myself sorting spinach yet again.

 

 

My first year of teaching high school, I was faced with the question of why we read and teach the books we teach. What makes them worth reading?

Well, they’re classics, right? They’ve been around for a long time, lots of people have read them, so they must be worth reading, right?

But that can easily become a circle to get stuck in, can’t it? We read these classics because everybody always has. And they read them because everybody always has.

So. I began making a list of the qualities that give these books staying power.

Don’t worry. I won’t treat you to the whole list, but if you think of the movies that your family watches every year at Christmas time, you will most likely be able to figure out some of the qualities I discovered.

Unique characters–what is it about George Bailey that keeps us watching his wonderful life again and again, even though we could quote all his lines for him? Though no one will ever be able to breathe the life into those lines like Jimmy Stewart did. _It’s A Wonderful Life_ gives us two characters for the price of one!

Engaging characters–Elf, the Ghost of Christmas Present, the Grinch and Cindy Loo Who, Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit, Tim Allen’s Santa Claus, Clarence Cloudbottom: they touch our hearts and lives because they are like us or like someone we know . . . or even wish we knew. Somewhere along the storyline, we find a person that we can connect to through our own lives and experiences. And as we grow and our life experiences broaden, we experience these stories in a new way.

Universal themes–How in the world did _The Sound of Music_ become a Christmas classic? There’s nothing remotely Christmas-y about it! But it’s been shown on tv at Christmas ever since I can remember . . . and I can remember watching it from a rather young age! Perhaps it’s because at Christmas time, families want to come together to watch something good and something filled with hope and joy and love and something worth believing in. And the story of the Von Trap family–both the true story and the Rodgers-and-Hammerstein version we all know so well [I’ll bet you’ve sung along with it at some point or another yourself!]–their story is full of those things. Something worth believing in so much that it’s worth risking one’s life and livelihood for. Hope and love: “A dream that will need all the love you can give/ Every day of your life for as long as you live.” And, of course, joy.

Timelessness–some stories can only be enjoyed once or twice through before they are put on the shelf and never really thought of again. Some are good again if you are experiencing them with someone to whom the story is new. But some. Those classic some. They are good again and again. There are new things to notice, new connections to make each time we experience them. They grow with us. We connect with the story and characters in different ways as our experiences follow the path of time that we all take. Scrooge today is a rounder character to me than he was when I was a middle-schooler reading _A Christmas Carol_ on my own for the first time. And though in the past I have been more touched by his own personal redemption story, my attention was caught this year (as Dickens would have had it, I’m sure) by the poor and the needy and by the way that Ebenezer did what he could to remedy the deficits. Timely story indeed.

Unique characters. Engaging characters. Universal themes. Timelessness.

Do these apply to THE Christmas story? The one that started it all?

You know what my answer should be, of course. The “Sunday School answer” that I should give as a good Christian.

But I hate giving answers just because they’re the expected answers. Not even the First Christmas story should be locked into a cycle of meaninglessness: “we read it every year because everyone reads it every year because it’s the classic Christmas story.”

Is it worth reading every year? Should not the Author of the Universe do work excellent enough to withstand scrutiny? Is the First Christmas story timeless enough to be heard again and again each year with ears both familiar and new at the same time?

This will, of course, depend on the other three qualities we have just mentioned. In this post I will leave you to ponder its universal themes while I take the briefest of looks at the characters.

We don’t know a lot about them. Some of the principal players are known only by their occupations and titles. And even those around whom the story swirls are sketched with minimalist lines. Yet it’s an old actor’s adage that character is action. And from the actions that make up the plot of the story we can derive the characters. What kind of a person kills all the babies in a town to try to get at the one he fears may one day grow to take a throne he will, by then, be too old to hold? What kind of men rush from fields to search a sleeping town for a little baby? And what kind of person sends his only son into a hostile world?

The story of the First Christmas is a story of many different reactions to the same gift. Were we in their shoes, what response would have been ours? In whose company would you find yourself?

Steven Curtis Chapman was exploring that question himself one Christmas, using those thoughts to write his song “I Am Joseph (God Is With Us).” And on this Christmas Day, I leave you with that question: where are you in the Classic Christmas story this year?

Steven Curtis Chapman “I Am Joseph (God Is With Us)”

Steven Curtis Chapman “I Am Joseph (God Is With Us)” lyrics

May 2009

Make me human, Lord.
Gentle and soft to the touch,
Quick to find joy in the
Everyday and the commonplace.

Make me human, Lord.
Teach me how to be hurt
So I may heal and forgive
Those hurting humans around me.

Make me human, Lord.
Let those who see me see You
In your humanity—
Weak yet strong,
Humble and wise,
Patient and kind.

You made Yourself human,
Imperviousness taking on vulnerability,
Infinity becoming visible, palpable.
Then You came to live in me.
Make me human, Lord.
Let me so dwell in You
Who lives in me
That I know I’m safe,
Safe to be me,
Safe to be real.
Human.

This last portion of the poem deals with the one word that seems to be impossible–hope. Because that is the message of the Resurrection. Hope. Hope for new life that springs from the inside and changes us for eternity. Hope because the One who knew no sin became sin for us so that WE MAY BE MADE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM. That’s hope. And not the wishful-thinking kind. It’s the hang-your-hat-on kind. The lay-your-every-waking-moment-on-the-line kind of hope. Expectation.

I’m standing at the tomb
His tomb
My tomb
Your tomb
Dare I hope to see an angel
Announcing over empty grave-clothes
The Impossible has happened?
Where does my heart,
My death-wounded heart go
to find Your Resurrection?
Like Martha, I believe
You are Who You Are—
God, the Son of God,
The Resurrection and the Life.
Can this belief become
the spice I bring to mourn the dead?
Here is where we dwell:
We dwell with Death—
death of loved-ones, hopes, and dreams
Should I really be
Surprised that You should die?
It’s not ok
But I’m used
To it, to death
There’s always one more tomb.

But Yours is empty
Empty, hollow, vacant—
Incomprehensibly absent
Is the corpse I came to find.
“Because I live, ye shall live also”
Was Your promise,
A promise just as impossible,
Just as improbable—
Teach me to believe!
For now, just help me trust
In You, the One I’ve come to know.
I know You’ll read my message
When I send to You saying,
“Lord, the one You love is sick, is dead.”
You’ll come, e’en though he’s dead,
Because You love him, too.
I’m waiting for the glory of God
Promised by You,
Incomprehensibly impossible.
Hoping, waiting, believing
That You defeated Death.

Nov 29, 2010

I was wrestling the other day with a wrong (or perhaps a series of wrongs), committed by a loved one. I wasn’t sure what to do with them in my own mind. When I read Psalm 62, verse 12 jumped out at me: “Also unto Thee, O LORD, belongeth mercy: for Thou renderest to every man according to his work.” Of course, this is going to sound like I am stating the obvious, but I realized that no one is big enough to handle the consequences of his wrongs. And I didn’t want that person to pay for the wrongs. I truly did (do) want mercy for that person.

But I also want the consequences to be taken care of, the wrongs to be fixed or made ok or made right somehow. Because it’s not only ourselves that must deal with the consequences–it’s those around us.

As I talked with God about it (or perhaps just TO Him at that point), He brought the Ultimate Payment to mind. Jesus’ death pays all debts. But the question I still have is this: if I stand here with the wrongs in my hand, can I truly accept the exchange of those wrongs for Christ’s blood and suffering? I mean, do I really want that? His death? His blood? I don’t want blood. I don’t want more suffering. That’s just one more wrong to be made right.

Maybe I have the wrong idea about the exchange. Maybe the exchange isn’t wrongs for blood; maybe the exchange is wrongs for grace and mercy. Mercy for the one(s) who wronged me; grace for me as I grapple with the consequences. And maybe living through the consequences is part of entering into the sufferings of Christ–following His lead as He entered into our consequences: “surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows”; “but He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.” [fyi: those last two verses were quoted from memory, not carefully copied, so the punctuation, at least, is prob not quite right]

And I have been trying to follow His lead; I just seem to be doing a poor job, slipping and tripping a lot.

Jesus, I need
Your arms and blessing
Enfolding and securing me
So I can remember
What it is
To be a little child

God reminded me of a piece by Elisabeth Elliot in The Music of His Promises and it was what I needed to remember in my busy day . . .

God can make room for it all–
Responsibilities, concerns, tasks–
I had forgotten to ask.

these thoughts came from reading an Elisabeth Elliot piece called “Dwell in Christ, Dwell in Love” from her devotional book The Music of His Promises

What is unsettling
Me? Why am
I not “serene and whole”
And at home in
Your love? Is it because of
Remodeling?
Redecorating?
Some building project
Restructuring
The fabric of
My heart? Is it that
I have run away from home–
Camped out?
Taken up
Temporary residence
Elsewhere?
Or is it something else
Altogether different yet
Not so dissimilar?

I was pondering these verses at the end of February when life’s activities suddenly blossomed. Take the “how” as a how-to question, not the “how can you ask this of me” kind of question.

“Isaiah 30:15-16”

How can I keep from running
When activity bombards my day,
When adrenaline rises to meet each need
And sleep wanders far, far away?
How can I keep from running
When there’s suddenly so much to do?
Is there something I’ve missed?
Or some new key to this
Task of finding my rest in You?

This post should, most likely, be some piece of poetry . . . preferably by me and not someone else . . . or so I’ve been told 😉

However, since it’s late at night and I shouldn’t even be up right now, let alone on the computer,
And since I haven’t written any poetry lately,
And since I haven’t gone through old poems in a while to see if there are any new ones to post,
This will have to do,
For now =)

So I had forgotten to add a link to a blog that contains some student writings that are really quite fun: Around the Writer’s Block. Check out the pantoums. And if you want something to sink your teeth into, there are the essays =)

And then there is the blog of the friend who does cakes for a living–you should totally check out the pictures! She’s amazing! Cakes by Suzy is as fun as the name implies =)

Finally there’s the one I found most recently. Meditations for the Liminal is not for everyone, though there was definitely something there for me. It’s primarily for those who have found themselves hurt by those who looked very spiritual and turned out to be modern-day Pharisees (probably because they themselves truly knew nothing of God’s love). It’s for those who are “liminal” as the author explains: those who have found themselves “in between,” so to speak–not easily categorized as “Fundamentalist” but also not willing to deny the things that are fundamental to a relationship with Jesus Christ. I have been moved by the way the blog explores Who Jesus is–something that we all find ourselves coming back to again and again as we grow in our Christian lives. Growing closer to God and learning to be more like Christ inevitably leads us to ponder what Christ is really like. =)

So now I am going to conclude this post and head for bed . . . maybe. 😉

Make me a window, Lord.

Let my life be clear so that Your life will shine through me. Let others look at me and wonder what is inside that glows so brightly, invitingly. In all I do, in all I say, in all I think, reflected on my face, let others see You. And may what they see make them want You to live Your life inside of them.

Make me a window, Lord.

Let me see outside my little world as You see. Let me see the beauty around me, beauty You have made, beauty You are still creating. Let me see Your hands busy working everywhere, and especially amid the ugly scenes of our lives. Let me see the opportunities You give my little hands to join You, working alongside You as I work alongside my father and my mother sometimes still. Open my eyes to the moments that I can bless others as You always bless me. Let Your light illuminate the truth that secures me in all places that I go.

Make me a window, Lord.

When it is dark outside–when the night closes in around me and I cannot see clearly–let me look at my window and see Your face reflected: You alive in me. With You inside, no night can be too dark.

Make me a window, Lord.

“And, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.”  ~ Matthew 28:20b

Oh, God of dust and rainbows, help us see That without dust the rainbow would not be. ~ Langston Hughes

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 63 other followers

JoyousThirst Archives

Categories