What I Don’t Know

Life has a way of moving at breakneck speed. Last week I worked every day filling in some shifts at my previous job, and had no time to write. Life is different when I am working, but I enjoy having opportunities to vary my schedule on occasion.

I’ve also been working on some home improvement projects, which I LOVE. I love perusing Pinterest, cataloging ideas and then coming up with ways to do it on my own for as cheaply as possible. I love a good challenge and an opportunity to be creative. Last week I remodeled my bathroom. My bathroom has been looking dingy and depressing for so long, and now it is all fresh, white, clean and organized. It’s lovely and it makes me happy every time I walk by it. Organizing, decorating and making things more beautiful and functional is definitely high on my list of favorite things to do. I even like painting!

During my time of working and DIY projects, I thought about my blog and what I should write about next. Each week I ask God to give me an idea, and His answer was a bit different this week. He told me to write about some things that I know nothing about, and/or are still in process with.

In some ways this is nice.. It gives me space to process things “out loud” without having to do a bunch of research and have conclusions or definite opinions. In other ways, it is scary to not have the answers that, in many cases, I would really like to have. It’s writing from a place of vulnerability, and that is scary. I’ve been in many circumstances where I was told that I should be open about places where I was in process or struggling through things. I was told I should always share these things. I’m a rather introverted person and an internal processor, so sharing mid-process is difficult and even sometimes impossible. It’s difficult to verbalize words to thoughts and feelings you don’t even know you have yet, but that was the expectation.

Sometimes these conversations went well, but other times, I felt crushed by the responses I got. Verbally smashed down for the things I was thinking or the feelings I was having. I was told I was wrong a lot. I learned there is very little grace or freedom for being in process when my thoughts/feelings were in disagreement with, or challenged other people. This is particularly painful when you thought you were in a safe place to be able to share openly.

Being unsure and without answers is a scary place to be- especially when talking to others about it. However, God told me to do it, and I’m certain that I can’t be the only one struggling with some of these things, so without further adieu, here are some things I DON’T know.

Politics

You would have to be hiding under a rock these days to have missed the political climate in America right now. I bet there’s a lot of us that would prefer to be under said rock at this point, though. I have to say.. I care VERY little for politics. Very little. Very, very little. In fact, it would be quite difficult to get me to care any less about it. I don’t find it interesting. And to be honest, I don’t believe it even matters that much. It all feels to me like what Solomon would describe as, ‘chasing after the wind’ in Ecclesiastes.

This election however, has started to get under my skin, and I am starting to have feelings about it. I won’t share them because that’s not the point, but call it intuition or whatever, but warning bells are going off in my head and my heart about what is going on in America and it’s concerning.

The problem is, there is absolutely no one trustworthy whose opinion I can believe. I don’t know where/how to research to even begin to come to a semi-knowledgeable opinion. Everything written is skewed to one side or another and usually has an agenda. To fully understand what is going on would take years of study and none of us have that kind of time. I guess when it comes down to it, we all just have to be responsible to do the best we can with our vote and leave the results up to God.. which is the answer in every election I suppose.

I guess what I’m saying is that it kind of matters to me right now, and there’s nothing I can do about it and I’m frustrated about that.

Friendship

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in Starbucks trying to think of something to write. I was chatting with a friend and asked her if she had ideas. She suggested I write about friendship. I just about spit out my Frappuccino. The thought of me writing anything knowledgeable or helpful about friendship is laughable.

The longest friendship relationship I’ve ever been able to successfully maintain is the one I have with my husband. Obviously, relationships take two people to maintain, and I’m certain he has much more work in maintaining me than I do at maintaining him. We’ve made it 18 years this December, and we’re going strong. I have no earthly idea what has made my marriage so much longer and healthier than any other relationship I’ve had. Perhaps my husband has a unique God-given ability to put up with me and give me grace that no one else has.

Over the years, I’ve had lots of friendships. Some long, some short, some surface-y, some deep. I know that love, grace, freedom and forgiveness makes up the most important elements of a healthy relationship. I know that the opposite of those things cause disfunction in a relationship. I’ve come to a few conclusions over the years about friendships, but I feel sadly lacking in the practical outworkings of a healthy friendship. All I know is;

  • Relationships are hard.
  • Both parties have to be willing and capable of giving sacrificial love (which includes grace, freedom and forgiveness) in order for it to work.
  • Boundaries in relationships are absolutely necessary, and knowing what your personal boundaries are is helpful.
  • Friendships last for a season. Sometimes long, sometimes short, but God is working and in control of all of it.
  • Sometimes God removes people from your life in order to protect you/them.
  • Watching my daughters (who are 9 years old) and my son (in high school) deal with some of the same things I deal with as an adult brings me to the comfortable/uncomfortable conclusion that it may not ever get any easier.
  • It’s worth it. (I think)

Who I Am

As a kid, I never considered that by the time I hit mid-30’s, I would continue to struggle with knowing who I am and who God created me to be. Why don’t I just know already? I feel as though I am still learning about who I am. I’m still learning what my gifts and skills are, what my likes and dislikes are, what my boundaries need to be. I struggle with even knowing what my needs are, much less voicing them. Worst of all, it seems everyone around me knows who they are, and are living out of that knowledge. So, why can’t I get it together?

What I Want To Do With My Life

Because I don’t know who I am or what makes me tick, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I am content right now not knowing, but eventually I’m going to need some direction. I’m considering going back to school. I’m considering becoming an ordained pastor, or a seminary professor, or an author/speaker. I just don’t know. I’m hoping that God will make it clear what path He wants me to go down at some point, and the sooner the better as far as I’m concerned.

Well, how about it? Am I the only one who is struggling with any of these things? How about you? What are you struggling with?

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What is Love?

.. Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more..

Just kidding. You were all thinking it though, weren’t you? When Haddaway wrote that song, he asked a valid question. What IS love? What does it look like? What does it mean? What does it require?

Our world has attempted to answer that question over the last few thousand years with many, many different ideas. In this moment in history when school shootings, police brutality, racism, protesting, and wars permeate our daily news, it is a good time for a reminder of what love is.

Ultimately, the answer to the question of “what is love?” is God. God is love. It is who He is, and we cannot understand Him apart from it. He is the author and creator of love. We see what love looks like in the walking around, everyday world when we look at Jesus. His sacrifice of leaving heaven to come to earth and suffer and die at the hands of the people he was coming to serve is the ultimate example of love.

A few years later, Paul has a nice succinct list of what love looks like. We’ve all heard it, but right now especially, it’s worth repeating and really thinking about again. We’ve seen this love lived out in the life of Jesus, and because of that, we are free to love others in the same way.

Love is patient, love is kind.

Are you patient? Are you willing to lay down your desires and needs in order to give people the space they need to grow, or change or mature? Are you patient with people you disagree with? How are you at waiting for the things you want? Are you kind? Do you treat people with kindness and graciousness? Is grace your first response to people? How would people describe you?

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

How do you feel when something good happens for someone else? Are you quick to celebrate with them? Or is there a part of you that feels gypped that you didn’t get that good thing? Do you feel entitled? When it’s your turn to get something good, how do you treat others in light of it? Do you lord it over them? Do you brag? Do you think that suddenly you’ve arrived or are now superior them in some way?

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

How do you speak about people behind their back? Can people trust you to stick up for a friend if someone else is dishonoring them? What about after a conflict when your emotions are strong and you feel hurt? Do you tell stories or use life examples when you speak that highlight you and the good things that you do? Are you always the victim in your story? Is it of ultimate importance that others think highly of you? When someone disagrees with you or does something you don’t like, are you quick to jump to anger and attack them? How short is your fuse? Do you hold the sins of others over their heads? Do you bring up people’s sin repeatedly in conversations? Do you think of people’s sins first when you think of them?

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

How do you react when someone brings up something you have done to hurt them? How do you react when someone shares an experience with you that is hard for you to hear? Do you rush to justify or defend your actions or the actions of others? Do you turn it around and blame the other person for feeling hurt? Are you grateful for hearing the truth, or would you prefer to stay in the dark?

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

How are you at protecting the people in your life? Physically, emotionally, spiritually? Are you doing your best at keeping them from harm, from yourself or others? Do you live your life in such a way where you are free to trust that God is sovereign and in control of your life, others’ lives, and in situations? Do you trust that He is good and He will work it out? Or are you seeking control? Do you look at the lives and situations of yourself and others and see hope? Are you willing to see the best in them? To hope for the best in them? Or are you quick to discredit when you don’t get what you want? Are you willing to continue to love people even when you don’t like them much?

Love never fails.

People fail. All the time. People hurt us. We hurt people. But God doesn’t fail. Love doesn’t fail. God’s love doesn’t fail. God’s love does all of the things on this list perfectly. God is working His perfect plan of love all the time. We can trust Him. We can trust His love, His goodness, His plan.

 

Christian, it’s time for us all to live as if we believed that.

 

Jesus and the Sinful Woman

“…So I tell you this. Her many sins have been forgiven. She has shown that she understands this by her great acts of love. But whoever has been forgiven only a little loves only a little.” Luke 7:47

Her story inspires imagination. The woman described in Luke 7. Who was she? What is her story? What was her childhood like? Did she have parents who treated her with kindness and respect? Had she been hurt or abused somehow in her young life that resulted in poor life choices, either her own, or others choices for her? Did she feel used? Did she feel trapped?

If I was writing a fiction story about her, those would be the questions I would answer. We must ask ourselves these questions, I think, when we come to scripture like this. It is so easy to judge. So easy to think ourselves above her, or find ourselves immersed in “chronological snobbery” as C.S. Lewis would say. When we put ourselves in her place, imagine walking in her shoes, if only for a moment, that is when grace begins to infiltrate our dreary souls. We are all desperate for that infiltration. We are desperate for that Grace.

The Bible leaves out the details about who she is. We don’t even know her name! We know only that there was a woman, well known for being ‘sinful’. Most of us have assumed or been taught that she was a prostitute. The Bible does not label her that way, but the rest of us have. Whatever her sins were, she has clearly been defined by them. Everyone knew she was a sinner. Herself included. Seeking grace and forgiveness from the people around her had clearly not panned out. She carries the labels people have placed on her wherever she goes.

This woman’s very foundation is shaken when she meets Jesus. She finds out where Jesus will be dining, and she decides to go to Him. It does not matter to her that He will be at the home of a highly educated and religious man. A man who could have been the one who gave her the labels in the first place. It doesn’t matter that she was uninvited and would be breaking every social rule. She is drawn towards Jesus. She is drawn towards His goodness. The grace and truth that He is. She longs for it.

Walking into that home, uninvited and unwelcome must have taken a great deal of strength and courage for her. She knows that she must walk through that crowd of people with their opinions and judgements, in order to get to her savior. Bravery begins to build in her soul as she gets closer to Him. The weight of her own sin, the weight of the judgements against her begin to lift. She feels the love, the acceptance, the grace from Jesus as she gets closer. By the time she reaches Him, she can no longer hold it together. She is overcome. She throws herself down at His feet and weeps.  She anoints His feet with her tears; sorrow and joy overflowing. The tears mingle with the expensive perfume she pours, and together they slowly wash away the dust and grime from his sandaled feet, and create an offering that she, and she alone can give. She lets down her hair in gratitude and freedom and wipes away her tears of sorrow.

Interestingly, the more freedom she feels in this moment, the more shocked the people around her were. A woman’s hair in that day was considered to be her crowning glory, sensual. No one was meant to see a woman’s hair except for her husband. For this woman to have such a public display of emotion towards a man who was not her husband, is scandalous. Even worse, taking down her hair in front of the group of religious men, goes against everything that would have been considered proper.

The Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this. He said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him. He would know what kind of woman she is. She is a sinner!”

How many times have I myself seen someone feel free in Jesus to do a particular thing and judged them in my own heart, for thinking that they dared have the “perceived” freedom to do that thing! And how many times have I myself felt judged by others, when I was feeling free in Jesus to do a thing. I am both the sinful woman and the pharisee, Jesus help me!

We must wonder to ourselves at this point in the story, why Jesus’ feet were still dirty. We take for granted here our paved roads and close-toed shoes, but at this time, there were only dirt roads and open-toed shoes. Culturally speaking, when guests entered into someone’s home, a good host would have a servant ready to wash the dust off of the guests feet. If they didn’t have a servant, the host would offer to do it, or have it available for them to do it themselves. To invite someone to your home and not offer this, was poor hospitality and a slap in the face to your guest.

When our friend enters the room and begins to cry at Jesus’ feet, she sees that His feet have not been cleaned. This host has not treated Jesus with the respect that He deserves. He invited Him in, but did not care for Him. This emotional woman weeping at His feet, gives Jesus the honor that He did not receive from His well educated, religious host, who certainly knew better. This is what we should be shocked about. The other men sitting with Jesus are shocked by this woman. They are shocked at her actions, her freedom. They are shocked that Jesus does not send her away.

How many of us are shocked at the wrong things? The things that offend our own sense of “rightness”, rather than be shocked at the things that offend Jesus.

Jesus’ response to the woman at His feet is beautiful and breathtaking. He is not shocked. He does not treat her as “just a woman”. He does not rub her sin in her face. He does not tell her to leave, or indicate that her presence is unwelcome. He does not tell her that her emotional response to Him is wrong or inappropriate. Jesus takes a moment to look at her. He sees her for who she is. He sees her sin and her emotion and her repentant heart and He honors her. In front of the arrogant, religious men, He esteems this woman for doing what they did not do, and being what they were not.

Then he turned toward the woman. He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?

Do you see this woman? Do you see her? Do I see her?

Look. Look at her. Look in her eyes. Don’t look at her sin, look at her soul.

Her sin after all, is not the point.

Jesus knew who she was. He knew what she had done. He acknowledged that this woman was a sinner, EVERYONE knew, especially her! But Jesus affirmed this woman, accepted her, SAW her in the midst of her sin and forgave her. Jesus loved her.

This is the Kingdom of God breaking through to earth. This is the Kingdom of God come to walk among us. This is the God who sees. This is the God who knows. This is the God who looks deep into your eyes and says, “I see you. Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

This unnamed woman gives us such a beautiful picture of faith, courage and love. She walks through the labels and oppression in order to throw herself at the feet of her savior, and in doing so is received with grace, love and acceptance. She faces her fear in order to learn that He is safe.

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.. Hebrews 12:1