Tuesday, February 22, 2011
This afternoon, for the first time ever, I decided to run to music.
With Riley at my side, I pushed start on my pedometer and play on my ipod. We began to run. At the first sign of a slow song, I decided to make my way over to Kevin’s Kitchen Dance Playlist. My mission was this: every time the chorus plays, I had to double up, I had to run twice as fast.
Ha. Oh wow. When was the last time you’ve listened to Phil Collins “You’ll Be in My Heart”? I suggest you google it. Now. That chorus is WAY too long. Someone ought to talk with his producer about that song… can’t he consult with Justin Bieber and come up with a quicker catch phrase?
Next up was Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You” Yeah, I get it. I was thinking it too... “What kind of Kitchen Dance Playlist is this??” Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be the one to ask… I’d dance to that song if it weren’t for the fact that I was running, and at this point pissed at my attempt to be creative with my workout. Too stubborn to give up on my idea by the third song, I found myself really wishing that Kelly had never run into relationship issues… if it weren’t them, she wouldn’t have anything to sing about. My lungs would have appreciated the break as well.
By the time Pat Benatar came on with “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” my momentary Tourettes kicked in. I would have loved to her him with my best shot. I’m pretty sure I would have aimed for the pharynx; in hopes of being lucky enough to affect the vocal cords.
When Journey came on with “Don’t Stop Believing” I’m pretty sure I began reciting this to my dog, begging him to keep pace with me. Upon making it to our house, I collapsed in the grass. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt like they could vomit. Riley decided to nom on the tall pile of grass right beside me and then let out a satisfying burp. Ha, what a run! We shaved 6 minutes off of our 4 mile routine. My lungs felt every absent minute.
I’m going somewhere with this story. I promise.
After lying in the grass and watching the clouds, for who knows how long, Riley began to squirm at my side. Assuming he was just fidgeting because he was hungry, I disregarded him. It wasn’t until my intuition kicked in that I sat up. I found my neighbor, one who I have unfortunately been afraid of, standing in the street looking at me. Scared, I quickly jumped up, grabbed my stuff, and headed for the house. When I got to my front door, I thought about what happened to me earlier today…...
After class this morning, I jumped on the Light Rail (yay public transportation!) and headed for my dad’s office in Tempe. After deciding that I wasn’t quite ready to study, I decided to park myself on the grass outside of his office, overlooking A mountain, and journal for a while. The sunshine felt great and I couldn’t contain my smile. After being there a while, I noticed, in my periphery, that a man in a motorized wheelchair was heading my direction. My visual assessment concluded the following findings: his head was in a fixed position and he really only had mobility in the arm he was using to steer. When he came to the portion of the sidewalk that was just before me, he stopped. Surprised, I looked at him and smiled. He asked me if I was okay, if I was doing alright. Warmed to my soul I smiled and reassured him that I was, and then just as quickly as he’d stopped, he was going again.
I felt special. I was blown away by the fact that someone with obvious difficulties would care enough about a stranger to inquire about their current state. I was humbled, reminded that I wanted to be like that in life, in the lives of those around me. That threw the lid off of my grin and I’m pretty sure the receptionist at my dad’s front desk could see my filling, I was smiling so big. So touched. So special.
The point of my two stories?
Today, I was reminded of Jesus.
In Luke 10, you can find the story of the Good Samaritan, I will summarize here. In Jesus’ day, those two words were an oxymoron to the Jews. The story goes like this: a man was walking towards a city and was accosted by robbers. Beaten to a pulp, like Rodney King, he was left on the street to die. A pastor walked by him and kept walking, not only that, he crossed the street so as not be near him. Likewise, a man from prestigious heritage, honorable roots, walked by him and crossed to the other side of the street. But then *Spoiler Alert* a Samaritan (not particularly favored by the Jews) walked by him, and Jesus said that as he “came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.” The story ends with the Samaritan man nursing the victim back to health.
This was demonstrated to me today. Although I hadn’t been accosted, the man in the wheelchair saw me, came to where I was, and showed compassion on my soul. So dear! My problem with high tailing it to the house today, my torment with running from my neighbor, who was still standing in the street, was this: I felt like I was as bad as the pastor, as bad as the levite. As I opened my door this evening -- knowing that my neighbor was behind me, with more conflict in his mind than what the victim encountered physically, in the story – tugged on my heart strings. Oh how I longed for the same boldness the handicapped man displayed today. I desired the same courage that the Samaritan embodied in the story. I wished that I had what it took to show compassion on this man, and to demonstrate to him that he too is someone special.
Sitting on the porch swing typing this and sharing the last of the Pirate's Booty. 3 for me. 1 for Riley. And my family wonders why I'm his favorite? What a cutie. :)
Friday, February 18, 2011
This week has been rough. I have felt, all week, like my thoughts are too loud for my head.
I drove to class on Tuesday because I didn't feel like having the patience to wait on Public Transportation. On my way to class, I felt like my thoughts swelled so big they occupied all of the empty space in my car. I have been in a remarkably melancholy mood this week and have had a sour attitude. I have recognized this mentality in myself, starting on Monday, but have had no intrinsic desire to do anything about it.
In the same way, my thoughts have been circling the toilet bowl. Do you ever have weeks where you feel like you're failing? I am not talking about circumstances (Surprisingly, I did remarkably well on my test on Monday... Not a fan of neuro). I mean have you ever felt like you're failing at living? I have woken up most mornings this week thinking "God, why? Why even get up?" I have felt like with each breath I am just failing more and more.
I couldn't really explain the feeling to you if I tried. The previous sentence is about as close as I can get. I'm not writing this, publicizing this on my blog, to get your attention -- I am not fishing for an encouraging word. I know the truth.
The truth is that it's not about me. It's not about what I can do or what I've done; it's about what Jesus has done for me. I get that. The reason I am writing this, is because I want you to know that if you've ever felt this way, you are not alone.
Moving on, at this point in my life, I know when I am avoiding God. I am habitual. If you know me well enough, you will probably know where to find me on Saturday night or even predict what I will order at any given coffee shop. In the same way, I have noticed two themes in my life, when it comes to my relationship with God.
One. I avoid God when I feel ashamed. No explanation needed here.
Two. I avoid Him when there is something else in my life that I am wanting to place on the throne of my heart. I don't even think this needs explaining.
Both are pitiful, I recognize, but are still reality to me. I avoid Him by keeping busy, preoccupying my life, my time, with silly things.
Today, after coming home from a Dr's appointment, I crashed on the carpet in the living room. Desperate, I threw up the arms of my heart in surrender. Hurting and aching in places of my soul that I didn't even know I had, I made the decision to posture myself before God. To stop avoiding. To turn. I read from Matthew 11 and prayed earnestly that I would be rested by God. Prayed that His yoke would manifest in my life, that the weariness in my heart would be removed. Prayed that I would find rest for my soul.
I'm pretty sure my dog didn't know what to do with me. As I was laying there on the floor, one by one, he brought me every toy in his toy box. He would deliver a toy, wag his tail, drop it at my side, and return for another one. I woke up an hour later to a squeaky toy under my back and a dog pouncing on me, thinking I was playing hide and seek with his toy. He's cute.
This post seems down cast. My apologies, my soul isn't there any more. I was writing about my week in my journal tonight and felt like I was supposed to share. Having weeks like this is NOT concerning to me. I believe that these kind of weeks are every bit as real in the life of faith, as weeks of bubbling joy. I do not shy away from the difficult weeks, the crappy weeks, to be frank. They don't scare me. I know that in the end, my soul will relinquish, Christ will be, yet again, the victor and life will go on.
Be encouraged this night, that if you've ever experienced these feelings, you are not alone. If you are avoiding God for one reason or another (be it shame or the desire to be like the Israelites and place something else in the center stage of your heart), I pray that the gracious Spirit of the living God will woo you back to Himself. Know that when you are faced with presence of the living God, whatever you are struggling with today, won't even matter.
Know that you are never too far gone for God's kindness. Know that you are never too dirty to turn and accept His holiness. Know that the shame you have been carrying can be removed, the blood and death and new life of Jesus can set you free -- cause you to feel light again. I speak of these truths, not because of what I've read. Not because of the doctrine I have studied or debates I have won. I speak of these truths because I have experienced them for myself. The LORD God has been gracious in my life; even when I obviously miss the mark, Jesus exceeds. May your soul find hope in Him tonight, the only one capable of making you whole.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Last night, as I was about to surrender into sleep, my eyes shot open.
Awake from a thought I had had, I knew that imminent sleep was no longer possible. The thought seemed silly and I couldn't figure out where it had come from. It was as if it had just been dropped into subconscious and made a big splash when it landed.
The thought was this: if I were to become terminally ill, who would stick with me? Out of all the relationships in my life, who would put their life on pause to visit me, to love me? Family was a given. But after that, the numbers were realistically small.
My thoughts then migrated to this: who would I put my life on pause for? Who means so much to me, that regardless of their state or condition, I would make the effort to show them how much I care? And of these people, do they know today, in their well-being, how much they mean to me?
Here I am, in the library, less than 12 hours later, and there is more irony in those words than I would care to admit.
Lesson from today: If you love someone, let them know.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
This weekend, I went to Sun Valley.
Sun Valley has been home for me for the past two years. I have felt more alive in the past two years, more inspired, more excited to follow Jesus, than in the summation of all my years growing up in the Christian church.
I admire Sun Valley because they're different. At Sun Valley, the emphasis isn't on the building, it's on the people. The church is you. The church is me. We constitute the church, thus, wherever we go... that is the Church too. *You can check it out here -- I highly recommend watching the message in "Unstoppable"*
With that being said, I was very much enjoying tuning out the congregation and singing on Saturday night, when God revealed His goodness to me once again.
You see, I was praying, while singing, and partly dancing (I often try to resist that urge)... praying that I would be like Abraham. Praying that for every Issac in my heart, that I would build an alter and sacrifice what is precious to me; sacrifice, unto God. As I was praying this prayer, I began to go through the roll-a-dex of things in my life that distract me. Things that beckon for my time, attention, affection and focus. Things that I have inherently had a difficult time letting go of, entrusting to God.
While doing this, I had an epiphany (undoubtedly one of my favorite words... especially when it is used in conjunction with the Spirit of God)! My epiphany was this: Jesus is the only treasure in my life that has ANY redeeming value, literally.
I began to think about finances. My conclusion? Money cannot save me. I began to think about people that I love and others that I crave acceptance from. My conclusion? No one can offer me wholeness. What's more, I thought about my desires in life. To that, I concluded that if every desire I have was fulfilled, they still would not fulfill me. I would be more accomplished, certainly, but empty just the same.
It was then that God tenderly reminded me that Jesus is the only treasure in my life that can redeem. He has the ability to satiate my soul's greatest desire, to fulfill me in ways that nothing in this life can, to offer me wholeness from the inside out, to redeem any old and dying circumstance in my life and breath into it new life. Redemption is only possible through Jesus.
May you come to know, tonight, that Jesus is the only treasure in life that will ever treasure you back. He is the only thing in life that can offer you hope, a clean slate. His redemption came at a precious price, but for those who are willing to accept, it is the sweetest gift you will ever receive. He adores you.
On a parting note, this weekend has been full of wonderful people. My relational cup is full.
(We may or may not have had a coloring contest)
(My heart was colorful. His was anatomically correct... that's so overrated ;)
Friday, February 4, 2011
I just came back from Church. That's not a the whole truth; I just came back from spending time in a building where the Church, each individual follower of Christ (and I say follower because "believer" is used lightly in society today and people often use it without much weight... to follow Jesus means something, looks drastic, radical even. To say that you believe in Jesus -yet have your life mimic the world's are just empty words to me), meets together as a whole.
I had the privilege of painting, of praying, of rejoicing over names of all who have been baptized in the past 2 years. The Lord is at hand, He is active, and believe it or not, His Spirit is at work.
I am writing this because I am irritated. I am hoping that this will be cathartic for me. Maybe, just maybe, I feel like venting too.
While I was at this specific building, constituted of these particular people, actively forming the Bride of Christ, we began to chat. The topic of choice was "what is the story of your testimony?" Wonderful. I like it. It is always refreshing to hear of how others came to experience the love of God. I say experience, because to "know" the love of God, more often than not, produces religion -- I speak from experience of course, you're reading the works of a recovering Pharisee. Ah yes, it wasn't until I experienced the love of God, in a tangible manifestation, that true change, true adoration occurred. Adoration that leads to following, to being fully confident that there's no where else you'd rather be than on the small and narrow path, following the footsteps of the Savior of sinners.
I digress. While actively listening to one woman share her story, I began to smile, to nod my head in agreement. I listened to her talk about her struggle with "religious people" and how it's not about religion, it's about Jesus. "Right on", I thought to myself. And then the conversation changed. It moved from Jesus into works. Prayer, daily devotions, discipleship, the lives of the people she was sharing the message of Jesus with -- all healthy leagalisms, I began to wonder where she was going with this? "Hmm, okay?" I thought to myself. The conversation then progressed and she began to give an account of a conversation that she had had with a friend recently, a conversation about prayer. In her words, the friend had thanked her for covering her in prayer, and her response was "don't thank me. Prayers are cheap! They don't cost me a thing."
At this point, I felt a flame light under my chair.
It continued: "my friend then asked me why God answers my prayers. It used to be that 20% of my prayers would be answered, but more recently, He's been answering about 80% of my prayers. My response to my friend was simple. 'All you have to do is open up God's word and apply what you read.'"
My blood was boiling. I then chose to pull a Lassiter and open up my mouth without the courtesy of a filter. From my little mouth came BIG words. My response:
"Um, well, you see, I would disagree with you."
Upon saying that, the focused faces suddenly looked up from their work...
"I disagree with you" I said with more confidence. "In fact, I don't think that it has ANYTHING to do with you. I believe that it has everything to do with Jesus. I believe that He acts as your MOST HIGH PRIEST, ushering you into the throne room of God. Without His blood, His life, His death, His new life, I happen to believe that You wouldn't stand a chance before the Holy of Holys. I believe, in fact, that it has nothing to do with your works, or what you 'do for God.' It has everything to do with Jesus. You see, I believe that God doesn't love you for what you do, or don't do. HE LOVES YOU FOR WHO YOU ARE."
Quiet, I surveyed the reactions around the room. I suppose you could say that I was looking for a can-I-get-a-witness? I didn't really find it. Silent, people just looked back down and continued painting.
More than that, I was angry. I completely disagreed with the premise of prayers being cheap. It costed Jesus His life. HIS LIFE. For us to be in communion with God. How can something so dear, so expensive, so costly be cheap to us? It's not even about us. No. I say not.
Torqued, I simmered down. "Why am I so mad?" I thought to myself. The answer was clear: she was taking away the glory from Jesus, and that made me mad. She wasn't getting it. It's not about her, it's not about me, it's not that either of our words are eloquent enough to reach the ears of the King. It has everything to do with the One who made it possible for us to be before the King. Everything to do with Jesus.
On my way home tonight, I started to wonder if I should feel bad for what I said; for speaking with fervor, heated in a moment of uncensored anger. Why must I feel the need to set someone straight? In the process, I likely gave off the appearance of being a white tower, perfect and without blemish. All of which I am not. Before reaching the driveway,I arrived at the conclusion that an apology would not be appropriate; I wasn't sorry for what I said. With that being said, I did recognize that my delivery was inappropriate, unnecessary even, because truth is: God does not need my defense.
At the end of the day, I hope that you know that you'll never be good enough. The revelation that God gave to me, to my heart, was that I'd never be good enough to earn His holiness. BUT Jesus was more than enough. May you come to know that the world's economy of working harder = earning more, is not God's economy. May you be liberated in that truth. In fact, God's economy operates on grace, the notion of not getting what you do deserve (life eternally apart from HIM) and getting what you don't deserve (eternal life in His presence). May you live and love for Jesus, may you abound in showing grace, and may the Lord reveal to you this day, that it's not about you. It's all about Jesus.