Friday, March 28, 2014

Sexual but not sexist

I am fascinated by this video by Ingrid Michaelson called "Girls Chase Boys". I think it is so delightful to witness how all the men and women in this video are shown pretty equally. "Pretty" is taken literally too. The dancers are all races and they are all equally sexualized but it isn't sexist. The movements are all sexy in nature but almost goofy in presentation. There is something awkward about it all but at the same time, it is pretty liberating. It is a level playing field. I can't help but wonder if those guys really felt pretty when they danced for this video. Either way, I am really interested in the message that this video is sending. It is cool to experience a music video that is sexual in nature but not objectifying. I also appreciate that line, "All the broken hearts in the world still beat..." 

Enjoy. It's a different way to look at sexuality and beauty this morning.



Thursday, March 27, 2014

All I want

Thanks to my Mama, Joni Mitchell's album "Blue" was the soundtrack in a very challenging season in my life. Joni sang me through my first serious relationship, she strummed me through college and into early adulthood, and she comforted by heart as my Daddy lay dying.

I remember the first time I heard this song, All I want. It was in high school on the way to our family cabin. Mama popped the album in CD player while we were riding in the mini van up highway 21. I was attracted to every word and they resonated with me in a way that I couldn't even describe. Joni was singing my heart. Then Mama said, "What could be better than hoping that your love will bring out the best in you and the person you love?" It is a worthy hope and it became a little seed that planted itself deep in my impressionable psyche. 

All I really, really want our love to do is to bring out the best in me and in you too.

Isn't this what all our efforts come down to? Don't we hope that our love, our time, our investments bring out the best in everyone? This is certainly what I prayed for in my marriage and indeed, I believe this has been part of God's plan.

So my hope for you today, is that in all that you do, your love brings out the best in you and the ones around you.




I am on a lonely road and I am traveling

Traveling, traveling, traveling
Looking for something, what can it be
Oh I hate you some, I hate you some, I love you some
Oh I love you when I forget about me



I want to be strong I want to laugh along
I want to belong to the living 
Alive, alive, I want to get up and jive
I want to wreck my stockings in some juke box dive
Do you want - do you want - do you want to dance with me baby
Do you want to take a chance
On maybe finding some sweet romance with me baby
Well, come on



All I really really want our love to do
Is to bring out the best in me and in you too
All I really really want our love to do
Is to bring out the best in me and in you
I want to talk to you, I want to shampoo you
I want to renew you again and again
Applause, applause - Life is our cause
When I think of your kisses my mind see-saws
Do you see - do you see - do you see how you hurt me baby
So I hurt you too
Then we both get so blue.



I am on a lonely road and I am traveling
Looking for the key to set me free
Oh the jealousy, the greed is the unraveling
It's the unraveling
And it undoes all the joy that could be
I want to have fun, I want to shine like the sun
I want to be the one that you want to see
I want to knit you a sweater
Want to write you a love letter
I want to make you feel better
I want to make you feel free
I want to make you feel free

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

New Soul

When life gets rough it is nice to remember that we are new souls. We still have plenty to learn and should have some grace with ourselves.God does. In remembering this, we often recover the magic we've been missing.

New Soul by Yael Naim


Monday, March 24, 2014

Suffocating

·       How many of you breathe? I mean, really breathe? Do you even know what I mean? How many of you are suddenly aware of your chest filling up with air right now? 

·      

Western People do not breathe, at least, we do not breathe well. We take more breaths than any other country in the world. Western cultures (i.e. North America) have adults that can average up to 20 breaths a minute. In Asia, an average adult would take a maxim of 8 breaths a minute. We are sucking in these shallow, short, hyperventilated breaths all the time.


     Take a minute to just become aware of how you are breathing. Listen to yourself inhaling in and out. How deep do those breaths sink into your lungs? Does your belly poke out when you do it? Now try to take some intentional breathes the way we were created to take them. Slowly inhale through your nose or mouth and feel your diaphragm filling up with air until it pokes out some. Now keep pulling in hair until you feel the pressure of your lungs fill up all the way to the top. Hold it a second and just feel the presence of that oxygen pushing into your body. Now release. 

   

Long deep breaths provide more oxygen to your body. This literally changes the ph level of your blood and can improve your overall health. Breathing deep slow breaths can improve your immune system, heart disease and even helps to fight cancer. 

   The key to this is probably tied to the fact that taking in long, deep breaths immediately is able to reduce stress and stress will kill you. Nothing will destroy you faster than stress. Breathing conquers stress. 

   When we are babies, before we've been nurtured or natured into our breathing sequence now, we laid there and inhaled and exhaled while our entire belly rose and fell. This is how we are meant to breathe. Don't be discouraged though. If you are a shallow, top of the lungs breather, there is hope. All behaviors can be changed with a little practice. The first step is becoming aware. So be aware of how you are breathing and take back that control.

   

Like all things created, I believe are bodies are deeply tied to our Creator. There is no mistake in my mind that God made breath of the utmost importance. I mean, in truth, without it we are dead not to mention all the other healthy stuff that comes with breathing. 
    
   It all started in the begging of our Bibles. God made Adam and Eve (man and woman) in Genesis 2: 6-7. It said this, "Then the Lord God formed the man of the dust from the ground and he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." 

   What connected us to the creator who created us in his over own image and gives us our very life is HIS BREATH. It is breath that connects us continually to our father and breath that gives us life.
  
   In the Old Testament the word for Holy Spirit is called "Ruach". English Bible translators stopped at that but in Hebrew the word Ruach also means "Breath", "Life", "air in motion". Passing God's spirit in the OT was the same as breathing into someone. There are stories of prophets healing people by breathing into their lungs. Breath is God.

   In the New Testament the word for "Spirit" is "Pneuma" ( pronounced "nooma"). Pneuma means "a current of air" and "breath." It says that when the Holy Spirit descended on the Disciples during Pentecost it was like a great wind was blowing among them. This breath of God filled them with his very Spirit.

   The Ancient Holy men of the Old Testament said that it was blasphemous to utter the name of the Lord. His name was "Yeweh". In Hebrew the syllables for Yeweh are Yod...Hey...Vav...Hey. Try to say those words over and over. You are literally breathing them in and out. The fact is that these syllables are not meant to be spoken at all because they are breaths. It was not just against the rules to say the name of God but you couldn't say it because you had to breathe it.

   With each breath that you take you are literally declaring the name of the Lord. Your very breath is a declaration of God!

   Awareness if the first step. Breathe.

I   
    If you'd like to learn more about God's breath in you, check out this Nooma Video by Rob Bell. It inspired this post. 



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Volunteer Burn Out

How many of you have ever been on a mission trip? How many of you have ever served someone or helped at a non-profit in your community?

This week Joel sat down and figured out how many services he volunteers for. He came up with 9 things that he helps with on a regular basis. This is on top of the fact that he runs a non-profit and his job is organizing groups to serve at non-profits all over our city. I started thinking about the areas where I volunteer outside of my job description (director of middle school youth) and I am also part of 9 volunteer activities/organizations on a regular basis and some of them are different from Joel’s.

Just thinking about this made me tired. We had a conversation about what we would do if we weren't volunteering our time. For one thing, I imagined myself blogging a lot more. I also felt really free just thinking about it all that time I could get back. Suddenly, I had this urge to quit everything and start fresh. Then Joel asked me something, “Do you think we volunteer because we think we are important?”

I don’t know that answer to that. We do think our time makes a difference in people’s lives and that is a big motivating factor, but we began to wonder if we both stepped out of these opportunities…would they just cease to happen? Probably not so then, why do we do them? Why do we want to quit them so often?

I mentioned this conversation to my friend and pastor, Petra. She didn't say much at the time, but taught me a great lesson a couple days later. Ministry of Education (one of the committees I serve on) was asked to serve Room in the Inn for a group of young adults who were simulating the experience of being homeless and then being provided food and shelter by the church for the night. I've served our real homeless neighbors like this a couple times already this year so I didn't think it would be a big deal to spend a couple hours helping to make this young adult’s mission trip effective.

From 5:30-8:00 we prepared dinner, served dinner, ate with our guests and cleaned up. Petra came in and announced to the group she would like to debrief with us before we go. All of us sort of groaned and made lots of comments about how it “better be de-BRIEF because we have been doing this all evening.”

When we sat down, Petra asked us to reflect on our experience. So we shared our observations and comparisons. Then she asked what we did before we came to Room in the Inn. After that she said she was going to play a song from our worship service and asked us to dedicate the length of the song to thinking about why we volunteered tonight and what we will take with us.

I admit that when she said we were going to listen to the song I was pouting inside. I was tired. I had worked all day and I had already volunteered at the middle school that morning at 7am. I wanted to go home. By the end of the song, the words finally broke through my train of thoughts that seemed almost glued to worrying, complaining and exhaustion. It was like something clicked, finally. It was genius. I needed to be captured there just long enough for my own barriers to fall down.

The song seemed to engulf us all and we were held there in this suspended moment in time. Then Petra explained that so often we serve without ever pausing to reflect on the experience. We don’t think about what we just did for someone, what was said, why it matters, or how it impacted their lives or ours. We just do and do and do and then we go and do the next thing. This is how we become a church of exhausted volunteers.

I was floored. Not only do I serve like this- get it done, move to the next thing- I teach the youth to do the same thing.

One woman in our group began tearing up and shared with us that she had returned just a week ago from a mission trip with our church at Appalachian Service Project. She said she experienced heaven when she worked hard all day with God’s people and then spent the evening reflecting on that gift. The group would end their nights in song, worshiping God. It was so hard to transition back to the busy and mindless speed of life in Charlotte. She longed for that intentionality and reminder of purpose; that all she did was part of something grand and wonderful in God’s created world. She is right. We should be able to experience this Kingdom living every day.

Without these moments of pause all our efforts can become things that we do and things that we do soon pile up into burdens that we carry.


Thank you, Petra for reminding me that each of these moments of service are gifts and if I take but a moment to reflect on that, I will experience the greatest gift of all- fulfillment. 

Are we human beings or human's doing?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Is marriage fun?


My co-worker had a guest speaker come in and lead a workshop with the high school youth last weekend. The speaker was Laura Sessions Stepp author of “Unhooked”. Stepp brought up many great points in her workshop with the youth but one point inparticular hit home with some of the leaders.

Stepp asked the youth to raise their hands if they ever wanted to get married. A few of our youthful romantics threw their hands high with confidence. A few waffled and several didn't attempt to answer. Some made it clear that they aren't sure marriage is for them. Stepp’s next question was, “How many of your parents make marriage look fun?” A long pause. “How many of you think marriage is fun?” A longer pause.

For years, Joel and I have been openly displaying our affection for one another because we experience affection as an authentic gesture of love. We think it is important for youth, for our peers, for anyone to see a married couple who is in love with one another. When we hug and kiss one another to say hello or goodbye and a youth is present, I have a hard time with the argument that this is “an inappropriate gesture” seeing as youth experience much more than this just watching TV commercials.


I've been a believer that PDA among healthy couples is a really beneficial thing for our society of sexually taboo practices.  It is especially good for kids and teens to see. What an amazing gift to see committed couples madly in love with one another especially when it seems all passionate attraction comes in the form of meaningless hook ups.


After hearing my co-worker relay her experience of their guest speaker last weekend, I am all the more convicted about the importance of PDA among married couples. Maybe your kids think it is really uncool or even gross if you kiss in front of them, but there is no question that the message you send them is “we love one another.” That gives a kid a lot of confidence and security whether they would admit it or not.

If we want kids to want to grow up and live into healthy marriage someday, we first have to give them examples of healthy marriages. And sometimes, guys, it’s ok to replace the world “healthy” with the word “FUN!” from time to time.

 Can you remember why you married your spouse?

You love them! You love being with them. You did amazing things together. You traveled, went on romantic dates, you danced all night, you created things together, and you loved those long talks or just enjoyed the simple pleasures of life in each other's company. It is good to be with that person and you have fun doing it.

No matter how crazy your schedules are or how much your kids need right now, please remember that your marriage is a gift from God and in fact you and your spouse are bound together IN God. The best part is that God designed marriage to be awesome and to be the closest thing we can get to his physical love. Yall, this is great stuff, why don't we share it like we believe it?! 


I hope this week you can experience the fun that made you enter into that covenant in the first place because remember...the kids are watching. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lewis and Clark and McKay Glasgow

Just imagine a guy with a heart of leaping, bounding, wide-open-laughing joy and you might get a little glimpse of our friend McKay. You always know when McKay is in the room because you can just feel the energy pouring off him. Joel and I think we live life on the edge of elation, well, we've got nothing on this guy. McKay has said "yes" to every adventure that has come his way. I've heard stories about him living in France and scraping barnacles off sail boats, photographing the very first shots after a major earthquake in Chile, dancing like a wild man at every wedding he is part of.  McKay shares the love of Jesus everywhere he goes by being entirely who is he. It's the most inspiring combination of faithfulness and self sacrificial love and dang is it contagious. McKay lives with his wide open heart on his sleeve and leaves behind him a trail of hope and positivity.


Photo from Nick and Sarah's Wedding


He is by passion and education a photo/video journalist and happens to be open for freelance work as we speak. He makes incredible films and shoots stories that pull forth emotion like you didn't know you had in you on a Tuesday morning. He has created fundraisers with his gifts to help friends, family and people in need that are changing lives as we speak. McKay is a cool dude and a loyal friend but this doesn't even scrape the surface.

What I'd like to share with you today is some of his music. He has started a band called Lewis and Clark and they are making magic happen (if you click the link you can listen to several of their songs). They spent last weekend at our family cabin in that holy creative space and this is a little taste of what came of those moments devoted to lyrics and tunes. I hope you enjoy this and check out McKay's beautiful work while you're at it. I guarantee that you'll feel a little brighter after you hear this song.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Tending my inner opposite


Riding in my mom's old red truck moving my grandfather for the second time, my uncle and I chatted about life. I was speaking definitively about myself. "I am extroverted," I said, "but sometimes I just need to be alone. There are times when I really do feel so drained by other people. Maybe I am turning into an introvert."

He looked at me very seriously and pointed his wisdom directly into my psyche. "Everyone has an inner extrovert and introvert. You let one of them become more dominate but it is extremely important to take care of them both. If you only tend to one and not the other then you will experience their outbursts as they claim your attention."

I've thought about that a lot. While people still chuckle ironically when I talk about my inner introvert, I still know when I have ignored her. I can go days or weeks with continual human interaction and it will sustain me for a long time. However, there will be a day when I cannot imagine being around anyone. Every now and then, I notice my introvert raising her head to catch my eye. When I ignore her for too long I feel tired when I am well rested. I start reflecting on the experiences of my life with negative energy. I start seeing people as creatures who are trying to take something from me and never leave me alone. When I leave my introvert uncared for she raises her will with anger and depression.

My uncle says it is similar for introverts who ignore their inner extrovert. Suddenly they find themselves yelling at someone in a moment of uncontrolled rage. They blurt out everything that has bothered them for months in one sitting. They say the one thing that would hurt someone most. He says that failing to give your inner extrovert time with people brings forth the negative side of it's potential just like it does with the ignored inner introvert.

Sensing that old familiar feeling bubble up inside me, I knew today had to be an introvert day. I turned down three exciting invitations, each of them right up my alley.The largest St. Patty's Day pub crawl (in the world), all day Irish music/beer festival that Joel played in, and a day at the White Water Center, all with great friends and family. I turned each of them down. Instead, I bought flowers and made a patio garden. I went for a long run and then I stretched for even longer. I listened to a meditation CD that I have been meaning to hear. I cooked vegetarian masala and took a long shower. It's been a wonderful day and my inner introvert feels so loved and tended to. 

Thank you, Uncle Will.




Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Little Mermaid Complex


If there is one song that I have sung more in my life than any other it would be "Part of your world" from The Little Mermaid. I have memories of sitting on the bus in 4 year old preschool and singing this tune at the top of my lungs with my BFF Abby. I remember singing it in my living room, imitating every waver of Ariel's voice with my little sister. I have sung this with my best friends in high school and in college. I even sang this with everything I had as I drove the church bus full of 13 year old girls singing it as loud as I was. This was a theme song of my youth.

No matter what the intended outcome this Disney classic was meant to have...it stuck with me. As a kid, I could not imagine anything more romantic than a girl leaving everything she knew to join the love of her life. A bit of a rebel myself, Ariel's actions made sense to me. Aren't you supposed to do anything in the name of love? Isn't it the only thing worth fighting for?

I grew into a teen that felt trapped by the small world that I knew. I always wanted more, longed for more and had a pretty good idea of what I was dreaming of. Even when I started liking boys I chose guys who didn't fit in the world that raised me. I made dating decision that I knew my dad wouldn't like and it just felt right. I was strangely satisfied by that rebellious attention. I felt exhilarated reaching further and further from the place that I called home, always humming this song in the back of my mind.

As my brain has fully developed and the sparkle of my Disney fascination has finally started to wane, I have realized what I learned from The Little Mermaid.

Here goes:

  • You should recklessly abandon everything for your emotions and you should feel a lot.
  • If you disobey your father he will eventually come around and do exactly what you want.
  • You can't find joy in the present moment because there is probably something better out there.
  • Living in fantasies is good.
  • Throwing yourself at the boy gets you the boy.
  • It's ok to marry someone you don't know if you feel like you love them.
Thanks, Ariel for the long list of painful life lessons.

I still love this story, the music and the familiar images from my childhood, but I will certainly think twice about letting my future daughter indulge my favorite Disney movie. I want to raise a child who is present to the blessings of the moment. A daughter who confidently spends time learning a boy's character before she throws herself at him, always aware of her strong sense of self-worth. I want to raise a girl who respects her father and knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has her best interests at heart before he has to sacrifice himself to save her from her own bad decisions.

If I had continued as my cartoon role model did, I'd be a piece of seaweed right about now. Fortunately, I held onto my voice. Once Ariel gave up her voice, she lost everything. That was one lesson that took me down a path that led to personal transformation. For this lesson, I'll say, "Thank you." For the rest, I'll still say, "Thank you." Ariel moved me out of my protected bubble of childhood support and I have learned so many valuable lessons because of it.

"The seaweed ain't always greener in somebody else's lake. You dream about going up there, honey, that is a big mistake. Just look at the world around you, right here on the ocean floor. Such wonderful things are around you. What more are you looking for?"
-Sabastian




Wednesday, March 12, 2014

When Strangers Kiss

I am a touchy person. I love reaching out and embracing a stranger, a new friend, a family member. I've been told I sit too close, talk too close, touch too much. Some people feel like me and some people cringe as I pat them on the back or reach out to hold a hand pulling them close. I love it. I love feeling close to people. I want to press my heart to everyone so that they can feel how much I love them even if I don't know them.

As I stumble across interesting projects out in the cyber world, I find myself continually amazed by the power of touch. This video was posted on Facebook and it just brightened my day. I am marveled by how acting out gestures of love and affection can transform your relationship with someone. It is miraculous how that affection can be transferred to a person you didn't know a moment before.

We are such wonderfully made creatures. We take on the motions of love and suddenly we find that warmth brimming up inside and a connection forms. I love how we are so woven together.

This project was a delightful reminder of that beauty. For better or worse.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Milford Sound

When I pictured New Zealand I thought of Milford Sound. To me this is the quintessential Kiwi attraction to visit. After we decided we would live into our lifetime travel bucket-list early in our marriage, NZ became our #1 country to visit. If I am really honest with myself, it was Milford Sound that I had in my head the entire time we planned the trip. I longed to stand right here:


Photo taken from mstecker.com

We saved 4 days in our two week journey to wander Fiordland National Park so that we could fully embrace the wondrous landscape that we ached with every fiber of our being to experience. This was the place we wanted to spend the bulk of our trip and we could not wait to get there.

However, when we arrived, this is what we saw:



It didn't just rain the entire time we were there, they had to close down the main road to get to Milford because they had gale force winds and flooding. Trees were down and rivers were raging. Camping was impossible so we slept in the car. Our kayak adventure was canceled because safety wasn't even on the table. We couldn't even hike in the rain because our shoes (though waterproof) could not hold back the surge of rainwater pouring off our gear and we had no place for them to dry. It was cold. It was wet and worst of all...we couldn't SEE anything because the fog wrapped the sound in a blanket of white.

Initially, there was really only one authentic reaction that I could muster and it was utter disappointment. This was my dream trip. It also turned out to be the all time most expensive trip, maybe even thing, I've ever paid for. I flew across the planet because I wanted to experience THIS sound and it was overwrought with a tropical storm.

This was the time, if there ever was one, to practice what I preach. I had to let go of my expectations. What was God providing in this moment? What could I be grateful for in this situation of bucket-list sorrow?

Here's what we discovered:

In the rain, Milford Sound is a rock face covered with THOUSANDS of waterfalls. I have seen nothing like it and probably will never see anything like it as long as I travel. Water washed over it's every curve and crevasse. It was marvelous and mystical. We were in the center of a watery world of falls and I felt the blessing of that natural magic.

I wanted sunshine and photos other people had taken before. Instead I got a thousand waterfalls.

Seaside Donkey



She took a donkey, her camping gear, a map, and wandered the nearly 1,000 miles of coastline around Wales for 6 months simply because it was there and she hadn't experienced it yet...

I can't help but be completely fascinated and totally inspired by what Hannah has taken on and done with this project. Her words are beautiful, her experiences intrigue my traveling heart. Even if you don't want to leave the world you know well, imagine what living with simplicity and intentionality in mind might do for you in the day to day walk of life.

This is being present in my book. This is being fully alive. What might it look like for you?

A Poem after an adventure by Hannah (Seaside Donkey):

IF, or maybe WHEN
If you can stand on Aber’s smashed-up seafront
Or hear about the freeze or the typhoon
And feel the boiling sea and not feel guilty
But be spurred on to dance to a good tune

If you can walk and camp right through two seasons
And move through dark and silence, slow and gentle
See that the ratio of carbon footprint
to best year ever is not coincidental

If you can look at travel not as milage
But marvel at the world right by your door
Dispense with jetlag, novelty and contrast
Swap the culture shock for culture awe

And when you lift your bundle of belongings
And load them on your back, or on your friend
You soon lose interest in shopping and acquiring
And choose not choice but things that meet an end

And on that note with only one detergent
For pans and clothes and hair, and then but rarely
No comb, no mirror, just one change of outfit
And yet I looked more well and tanned, and… hairy

An appetite that for the first time ever
Took food as fuel, delicious, simply cooked
I loved my body for what it’s doing for me,
Not constant finding fault in how it looked

Be entertained by hearing people’s stories
But not of horror, taught mistrust and fools
Learn to look for help and open kindness
Stop seeking proof of how the world is cruel

Take joy in the most valued things of living
The precious people, and the creatures too
And learn to recognise and love a treasure
And prize what oil and plastic do for you

Don’t be inspired by guilt, but fired by wonder
Wonder for the people, earth and water
Then there’ll be a world and life here for you
For you my future son, and future daughter




Monday, March 10, 2014

Whale


I continually struggle with a Jonah complex. Maybe you believe that Jonah was a real prophet who lived and was swallowed by a whale and eventually saved an entire culture of people from God's wrath. Maybe you think Jonah is a character in a story of life that all human beings can relate to and learn from. Either way you experience the book of Jonah, you probably walk away with a deep understanding of God's grace. At least, I hope you do.

When it comes to Jonah, I get his gut for the most part. He was a good law abiding Jew. He loved God with all he had. He loved being a chosen child of the most high. He loved being with his people. It is all too familiar when God calls Jonah to go to the city that he hated and spread a message of repentance that will enable them to become saved by God's grace. Jonah hated Nineveh and it wasn't just personal. The Ninevities were terrible to Israel and their cultures clashed as their mutual disrespect burned bright and fierce. Jonah had no interested in GOING there or TALKING to any of "those people", let alone being part of SAVING their lives.

This is ultimately what caused him to flee God. This is a good lesson for all of us no matter how old we are. You just cannot escape God's love. He even tried to kill himself in probably the worst way a Jew could think of at the time-leaping into the sea (Sheol=hell). Most of you know the story; he doesn't drown like he hopes. He is swallowed up by a whale and for three days is in continual conversation with God. He prayed like his life depended on it and it did.

Sometimes, I try to imagine what that was like. The smell must have been overpowering, the burning of stomach acid on your skin, the terrible lack of oxygen and the tightness of a contracting belly pressing on you. Hell. Sheol. The pit. Whatever you want to call it, that is where Jonah went.

What's interesting to me is that Jonah experienced hell because he tried to disconnect himself from God. It wasn't until he spoke to God and agreed he would do his will that he felt that life force well up inside him as the whale spat him on the shore.

There is a obvious parallel to the crucifixion story of Christ. Jesus was dead for three days and we tell it as he went to hell, separated from the Father and then was reunited on the third day. Jonah did this too.

I've never been in a tomb, or died, or lived in a whale belly while I contemplated God's call on my life, but I do sense that I can relate to Jonah's reaction. There have been plenty of times in my life that I wanted to flee a calling that did not reflect my values, my interests, the way I like to identity myself. I've tried to back out of opportunities to serve God in places where I am entirely uncomfortable or just feel like I could never fit in enough to make any sort of impact. I've had plans, even plans on what I thought God must be planning for my life.

The trouble with this way of thinking is that it is all about me. The story of Jonah is one that reveals that God's calls really aren't about us at all. While God knows the desires of our hearts and will answer our prayers, I believe he is also shaping our hearts to look more like his. His will and our will seem to mold together in perfect union when our answers are "yes" rather than "you've got the wrong guy." Suddenly, the line gets really thin between what He wants and what I want.

During this season of Lent, I'd like to challenge you to discern where your Jonah complex resides. Where can you let go and trust that God is a Father full of grace? How might your life change if you did so?

Of course, in the end, Jonah did live into God's will for his life and because of his "yes" there were THOUSANDS of people who became believers and were transformed forever. I would even venture to guess that Jonah felt pretty good about his part in God's plan in the end.

What about you? What is God creating for you to step into? Is it going to take a whale swallowing you to get you to be part of it?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Getting the Christian Way wrong...

In Greek the word "Christos" means "follower of Christ". When we say we are Christians we are actually making the statement, "I follow Christ." Simple enough.

salon.com
My journey of faith has been a roller-coaster of experiences and belief systems all deeply rooted in Christianity. I've heard hundreds of people talk about Jesus, describing the way of the Christ and letting me (and all listeners) know how we can live into following that way. However, there are some times when I hear that message and it seems like a cop out. It seems misinterpreted.

Occasionally, people will say "it's the Christian way" or "follow the Christian way" in a context that I have a hard time respecting. When it comes to conflict, we have to both follow what Jesus modeled AND listen to his words. There is a balance and we need to really try to understand not just the words from scripture but the context within which they were spoken.

Growing up in the faith I have been told to "turn the other cheek" when I have experienced cruelty or injustice. I have done it, a lot. More often than I can count, I have been a door mat to others because I thought this was "the Christian way." People have said terrible things, acted atrociously and lived with maleficence right in my presence and I have said and done nothing because I thought the right thing to do was to turn away. You know, the way Jesus did?


Except...he didn't do that. I got it wrong.

The  ancient laws of the Old Testament reveal statements like "eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth." This was the way of the tribes during that time and revenge was seen as justice. Jesus shocked his followers during his ministry with the idea that this way of thinking was bullshit and not at all what God intended for mankind. They were flabbergasted by the thought of turning their cheek when someone struck it so that they could strike the other one. How could they let someone steal their coat and then offer their shirt as well? This statement was actually a rebel's cry like none other and man, did it cause a rumble in the crowd. Not only did it teach the oppressed to outsmart their opponents it also gave them their freedom. It was and still is a most powerful tool for liberation.

Let's be clear, Jesus was not saying, "Let people walk all over you, drain you of all that is good, and treat you like crap in my name." He was not saying "when people do terrible things to other people you should just look away because I could never cause a conflict." "It's good to be a victim for the way of Jesus." Hell no. We are getting it all wrong.

The Jesus I follow got pissed about stuff. He told people off and called them on the carpet when they messed up. He wasn't only turning the other cheek all the time because there is a balance between speaking truth and giving generously. In fact, before Jesus was even living like this there were prophets before him whose main roles were to call people out and tell them they are not living into God's will for their lives. Look at John the Baptist, he was screaming at people saying "You brood of snakes! Change your lives!" This is no joke.


How can we think that our God of love does not love as fiercely as a mother lion? This same God who destroyed nation after nation in the old testament? This God that allowed his own flesh and blood, his human self, to be brutally tortured and murdered? This God who can be as violent as an earthquake and as tiny and penetrating as a whisper?

When someone is hurting someone else, hurting themselves, destroying an experience that could be life changing for the good, this is not the time to turn your cheek and just let them be. It certainly isn't the time to say you did this in the name of Jesus.

If Nathan had just decided it was too uncomfortable to confront King David when he had sinned, what would have happened to David's life? David was severing his connection to God with each lie he told and each time he denyed that he did something wrong. He was destroying people with his own desires. Nathan's honesty broke down the wall that David was building between himself and God which threw him at the feet of the Lord to repent. This saved his life.

Still, there is a time when turning the other cheek is transformational. It's a time when the most inconceivable action you could choose is to give more. Times when that act of vulnerable submission actually makes you immense in God's loving power. That power pervades and twists the heart of the person against you and suddenly it has nothing to do with you anymore and becomes a moment between God and your antagonizer. That is when Jesus's advice is insane awesome! It's the time when the attacker realizes they cannot hurt you anymore. However, there is also a cultural reason why Jesus explained that we have to turn the other cheek. The interpretation of this idea as an act of generosity is a simple one that we use in todays world. However, contextually it doesn't hit the mark. This is what Jesus was talking about in his cultural context. Check this out:



When someone is making demands on your life, time, gifts, for their own gain and you are fully aware that the fruits of their labors are rotten- don't turn your dang cheek the way you were taught in Sunday school, ok? The Jesus Way is not the way of a victim. It is not a way that allows for you to become hurt over and over. The Jesus way does not trap and enslave you to those who are corrupted. Jesus's way of living protects us from that. Why did God create laws at all? To protect us from pain. The Jesus Way of living doesn't imply that it is easy. In fact, Jesus swears it will be the hardest thing you are ever part of but it will be worth it. It is total freedom. It is fulfillment that cannot be taken from you.

Being a Christian sometimes requires you to speak truth,  to become a prophet! Jesus spoke the truth in love. He ripped people a new one and then shoved so much grace inside that they welled up in overwhelming submission to his love. He out smarted his enemies over and over. Our culture is stepping much too far away from lines of contact as we teach that the Jesus Way is one that avoids confrontation at all cost. It is a way that doesn't speak up. It is a way that thinks peace is not fighting for love.

The Christian way is living into the way of Jesus. There is a time to be silent and a time to cry out. In prayer, you will learn the difference in the moment and in time you will see that we continue to get it wrong...

Jesus says to love God with all that you are and love your neighbor was you love yourself. This is the key to his Way.

Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself.

Missing the last leg of that tripod will continue to tip over the stool we putting all our weight on. We cause pain with that fall when we forget that actually turning the other cheek was Jesus's answer for showing love for yourself.

Freeing yourself from bondage not making yourself a door mat.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Movement not Location

It is amazing to hear that people I worship with every Sunday still aren't sure why we are part of a church, a worshiping gathering of people. This day and age, it seems that people live into church by going TO a location to worship and then leaving to go back TO their real lives. This is strange to me as going to church, as we call it, really means visiting a gathering of believers for the purpose of REFUELING so that you can GO OUT into the world to be the living light of Christ's love. The church is really a Launchpad for people to go into the world they are already part of and live intentionally as Disciples right there where God has called them.

This understanding of church energizes me like little else and is the root of my joy in faith. For church to dissolve its identity as a location and people to live into Christ's Movement really is the core of why I believe I am here. It's action. It's motion, emotion. It's life. It's word and deed. It's really living. Who wouldn't want to be part of a movement like this? In fact, I would go as far to say that I can't see anything in Jesus's message that would not be attractive to people. What is so revolting to people in this culture and history is the pain that has been created by the location called "The church". The Pain that was created by people defining and confining God.

This video brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it. I hope you feel this joy and the flutter of spiritual knowing when you see it too. Move.