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.

 

That Time Kanye West Taught Me About Jesus

The other day in my car, Kanye West taught me a little bit about Jesus. I’m not even kidding. Now, I am not one of those people for whom celebrity news holds much appeal. In fact, celebrity news holds about as much appeal for me as politics, which equals approximately less than zero. So when the song started playing through my car stereo, I had no idea who was singing it. Initially I liked it, because I like pretty much any music that makes me feel like I want to dance. As I started paying attention to the words, however, my mind changed very quickly. Let’s just allow the lyrics to speak for themselves. Please excuse the language:

“Stronger”

Na-na-na that that don’t kill me

Can only make me stronger

I need you to hurry up now

‘Cause I can’t wait much longer

I know I got to be right now

‘Cause I can’t get much wronger

Man I’ve been waitin’ all night now

That’s how long I’ve been on you

 

I need you right now

I need you right now

 

Let’s get lost tonight

You could be my black Kate Moss tonight

Play secretary, I’m the boss tonight

And you don’t give a f*#k what they all say right?

Awesome, the Christian and Christian Dior

Damn, they don’t make ’em like this anymore

I ask ’cause I’m not sure

Do anybody make real s@$t anymore?

Bow in the presence of greatness

’cause right now thou hast forsaken us

You should be honored by my lateness

That I would even show up to this fake s#&t

So go ahead go nuts go ape s*&t

Especially in my pastel on my bape s#*t

Act like you can’t tell who made this

New gospel homie, take six, and take this, haters

 

[Chorus]

 

I need you right now

I need you right now

 

Me likey

 

I don’t know if you got a man or not,

If you made plans or not

If God put me in your plans or not

I’m trippin’ this drink got me sayin’ a lot

But I know that God put you in front of me

 

So how the hell could you front on me?

There’s a thousand you’s, there’s only one of me

I’m trippin’, I’m caught up in the moment right?

Cause it’s Louis Vuitton Don night

So we gon’ do everything that Kan like

Heard they’d do anything for a Klondike

Well, I’d do anything for a blonde-dike

And she’ll do anything for the limelight

And we’ll do anything when the time’s right

Ugh, baby, you’re makin’ it (harder, better, faster, stronger)

Charming, isn’t it?

One does not have to dig too far to understand the ‘deep’ meaning of Kanye’s song. It is clear. Kanye is the king. And as the king, Kanye gets have anything he wants, whenever he wants it and has the ‘right’ to treat women (or whomever) any way he damn well pleases. Because he is the king.

Let me just be clear. Kanye- God has nothing to do with any of this. Kindly leave Him out of your lyrics.

There’s something about this that is deeply disturbing to me. It’s not that Kanye has this attitude, because let’s be honest.. We ALL have this attitude about some things, sometimes. And I bet most of us would act on it more often if given the opportunity. Kanye’s language is not disturbing to me either. They’re just words after all. What is disturbing to me is this; Kanye (I presume) is a pretty popular, well-known guy. His songs are (I presume) pretty popular and well-known as well. It disturbs me greatly that this is the message that our young men are getting about how they should behave as “men”. And equally, or perhaps even MORE disturbing, is the fact that women are submitting to this nonsense.

We live in a strange society. On one hand, we and the women coming before us have fought hard to have equal rights to vote, to own property, for equal pay and treatment in the workplace, etc. In a lot of ways, women are more “liberated” than we have ever been in the past.

On the other hand, songs like this are wildly popular. And not only are the songs and lyrics popular, but the performers of these songs are worshipped like gods. This song belittles, objectifies and devalues women, and yet, HOW MANY WOMEN WISH THEY WERE THIS GIRL? How many women would give their right arm to sleep with the man who wrote this song?

There is something DREADFULLY wrong with this.

My own heart both rages against this and understands it. A strange dichotomy. I truly understand that desire. To be beautiful. To be important. To be valued, and honored, and cherished. Those are good desires. And I understand how easy it is to long for someone to show me and tell me that they think these things about me. I get it. I’ve been there. I will probably be there again. I understand. But listen..

THIS IS SLAVERY

Beauty, importance, value and honor are already yours through Jesus. We no longer have to be a slave to the opinions, the words or the attitudes of others; men or women. We no longer have to fight for it. We no longer have to feel self-righteous when we ‘earn’ it. We no longer have to feel crushed when we do not. We are no longer slaves.

We have been set free.

Galations 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Christ has set us free. Stand firm. Do not submit to slavery.

Let us be FREE.

Thank you for the reminder, Kanye.

 

Of Clinging and Faith

faith

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 10:39-11:1

There is a tension that resides inside of me. During some seasons of life I feel it a little every day, some seasons when I feel it weekly, and other seasons when I feel it every moment of every day. The season I currently find myself in is the latter, and I tell you what.. I am tired. I am tired of trying to figure it all out.

The tension is made up of the ‘already and not yet’ place we live; in the redemption and sanctification cycle, and yet it’s more than that. It’s a tension between God’s will for my life and my own plans; of wanting my life to matter, wanting to get it right, and resting in God’s sovereignty in the midst of it all.

Some days, in some moments I feel as though my paths are laid out for me in a straight shot; I can clearly see where I’m going and what I need to do to get there. Other days, the path is overgrown and bends around corners and I can only see one step at a time. Sometimes I am walking my path in pitch darkness which causes me to trip and fall because I have no idea where I am or where I am going. The worst though is when I can see more than one path in front of me, and not everyone agrees with me on which to take.

Recently, I read a fiction book where God speaks to a quiet, unassuming church-going lady and tells her to do some crazy things she would have never considered on her own. Reluctantly, she follows these Holy Spirit leadings and her life turns upside down. Unfortunately, most of her church community does not understand and tries to talk her out of doing these things, but she chooses to do them anyway on her own. Have you ever had moments like that?  I have definitely heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me to go in a specific direction, or do a specific thing, and when I have followed, sometimes people don’t understand, or they don’t support the choice.

It’s hard to know what to do in that situation. On one hand, I believe strongly that God places community around us and those people speak for him at times. That’s part of being a Christian, and I have definitely benefitted from other people’s wisdom. But I also know that community doesn’t always get it right. Sometimes they respond out of misunderstanding, or their own fears. They do not always speak on behalf of God.

How does one know the difference? I wrestle with that. Ultimately I suppose, the answer is in the quiet voice who is faithful to answer when I ask, comfort when I cry, and give courage when I am weak. That quiet voice is enough.. But I wish for more sometimes.

When Jesus came, the Jewish leaders had been watching and waiting for him to come. They had longed for him for years. They expected a warrior, but instead they got a peacemaker. They expected someone to come and annihilate their enemies, but instead they got someone who showed them their enemy was the sin inside themselves. Their expectations caused them to miss Jesus because He wasn’t what they were looking for.

I don’t want to miss Jesus. I want my eyes to be open, so I see Him. I want my ears to be open, so I hear him. And I want my heart to be open, so I can feel him. It doesn’t always look like what I want. But it is always what I need.

It is that small, quiet voice inside that I cling to. That’s where Jesus is. He is often not what I expect, and if I’m honest not always what I want. But I cling to Him, because He is good. I cling to Him because He loves me so. I cling to Him because I know He will not drop me or let me go. I cling to Him because I trust Him. I cling to Him because my faith grows in the clinging.