Bible

Imperfect Love

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

I have reflected on this verse often over the course of the past six months. I hear its refrain as I ponder on those whom I love and those who love me. I know imperfect love. It looms. I know it’s imperfect. It is fear-inducing and creates unnecessary risk. Fear-inducing love is not loving at all. Imperfect love is an oxymoron as it does not exist; love can only exist in complete perfection.

I got a glimpse of perfect love today. I saw it over breakfast and a coffee two hours afternoon. It was not a fear-inducing love, but one that feels freeing. One that assists in letting go. I pray for more of that love.

I pray I find it in the Lord.

I pray I find it in friends.

I pray it is found in me.

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Life

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ embodies the conquering of death by the Source of Life. I believe this as truth. I believe that death has been conquered for me. So, that when my physical bodies withers, I am brought to real eternal life with God.

So, what do I do here? Suspended in a real (yet quasi) life experience that is riddled with death and all his friends. Where in the middle of loneliness there is a real sorrow. Where in the middle of sickness there is a real pain. Where in the middle of hatred there is a real violence. I don’t know. I don’t know. I take the cues of Christ and move towards the mess. Where there is sorrow, I mourn like Jesus with Mary. Where there is pain, I acknowledge someone is reaching out for a touch like Jesus and the woman with the issue of blood. Where there is violence, I bend down to the ground writing mysteries in the sand like Jesus on the Mount of Olives.

Last year around this time, I was very invested in modern liturgical practices. I came across meditative tracks, by a group called the Liturgists. There is a track on their Garden album titled Sunday. In this track, Rob Bell discusses the Resurrection how ultimately the moments of joy and life and laughter in this life point to the immense beauty and worship that will occur in eternal life. And that the sorrows and pain and violence are temporary.

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt the Resurrection and the Life. Hula hooping and eating chili with popsicle wine and bubbles reminds me of life. It was worshipful and beautiful. It was children running around throwing pillows. It was laughter and naps. The Resurrection allows me to take a simple meal on a simple weekend and call it holy. It allows me to reclaim something that feels secular and find how God can make it sacred.

Resurrection is Life, not only eternal life. Resurrection is the embracing life in the way Christ embraced life now and eternally.

Happy Holy Life Friends.

Lenten Prayer #7: Good in the World

God’s goodness has always been displayed most in the people involved in my life. For many seasons, my life was filled with dinners, coffee dates, ice creams and such. In this current season, there are few people. I welcome it. The depth of these relationships is significant. I have never been more challenged by people. While also remaining well-loved. The goodness of God, displayed through people, is frightening. I have come to expect badness in most things, but it’s the goodness that leaves me unprepared. It is the goodness that frightens me. It is the goodness that I have no idea how to respond to. I don’t know what I am doing but the goodness continues to come. I am glad for people who are good to me. You are also good for me.

Father, 

There are evils in this world. I have come to expect them. I am prepared for them. Your goodness catches me off guard. Thank you for the good people in my life. Thank you for being the source of all goodness. My friends are Your Voice whispering, “It is very good”. I hear You, through their wisdom. I see Your Grace, through their patience. I feel Your Heart, through their love. I know Your Goodness, through theirs. Bless them. Bless them wildly. 

Through the Good Name of Christ, by the Way of the Holy Spirit, 

Amen

The Confusing and Frustrating State of the Evangelical Vote

Before you read this, these are some observations I have made of the Bible and evangelicals. If you end up being offended, thoughtfully pray about it, lament to me, and handle your business like an adult.

The first five books of the Bible highlight the foundation of Israel. In the two books focused on the Law (Leviticus and Deuteronomy) God gives clear instruction about practices to keep Israel both morally and ceremonially pure. He also gives instruction on how Israel is meant to be radically different from other nations. No child sacrifices. No pagan sex worship. No oppression of people, especially women, children, and foreigners. In fact God tells Israel since you were oppressed (in Egypt) care for women and children and foreigners as a testimony of how God cares for them. This is a repeated instruction in both the Old Testament and New Testament.

When God gives Israel the Law, He tells them practices to serve those who have little.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do no go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 19:9-10

In this repeated instruction, Christians learn how to care for the disenfranchised in a manner that does not rob them of their imago dei dignity. This is what matters most to me: poverty and immigrants. I care about those in need not having the resources to succeed and being placed in systems (created by people) where it only helps the symptoms.

I wrote this first portion (the part above this one) about two weeks ago post election. I didn’t vote for Trump. So, I was not enthused about his victory. Greater than my lack of support for President-elect Trump was my growing anger at the evangelical voting population. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how they could support someone so vile. Someone who just screams anti-Christ values in the manner he speaks of humans. I mean even the Old Testament speaks of Gentile leaders who ruled over Israel with greater levels of compassion (Cyrus and Artaxerxes in Ezra).

What I have come to understand in the past two weeks is this: what matters to me as a Christian is not the same thing that matters to other Christians. And that’s okay(ish). Some Christians don’t care about poverty and immigrants. However, I don’t care about being pro-life and America’s relationship with Israel as much as I probably should. (Personally, I am pro-contraceptives. Free condoms and birth control and Plan B for everybody)! I just don’t have the capacity to care about all the things I need to care about.

I guess what frustrates me ultimately, is not knowing, what should we value the most? Because, the poor matter a lot to the Lord, as do immigrants. However, God was not pleased with the slaughtering of children in Canaan, which led to their demise. What would God’s stance on education be and gun laws?

I dunno? I dunno? I don’t think I am bringing any new content about this stuff to the table. If anything, I believe this election just points to a problem with the Church. We rely too heavily on the government to do what we have been asked to do. Would it be great to have a government that sided with us on everything: totally! However, if we choose to impose our values as believers from a place of dominance and control, then we completely lose sight of the Biblical story of humility, sacrifice, and people’s right to choose. God’s raising of Israel and Abraham was to show all the nations that there was a better way. A way where we take care of those who suffer and not oppress them. A way where we care about children and immigrants and the impoverished.

The church is called to nationalism, but the nation we represent is a kingdom. Our King is Christ; we are simply ambassadors charged with the task of living by kingdom principles in a broken world.

I end with this small note to Christians:

My Brothers and Sisters,

We failed. We all have opinions and beliefs about what matters most. However, we should be mindful about the lengths of support we offer a candidate. Pastors it is not your place to endorse candidates to your congregation, either passively or aggressively. Teach them how to be attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Believers, it is not own place to hungrily pursue positions of authority over all people. Choose humility; it’s always the best option. Finally, it is not a sign of disrespect to support a policy and question the man or woman behind it. It is wisdom and discernment. I will do my best to respect President-elect Trump. However, my potential, future support of any of his potential, future policies don’t indicate my support of him. Neither my faith as a Christian nor my nationalism as an American will allow it. My prayers go first to the church and then the nation as we enter into this season.

Poustinia

poustinia (Russian: пустынь) is a small sparsely furnished cabin or room where one goes to pray and fast alone in the presence of God. The word poustinia has its origin in the Russian word for desert (пустыня)

It was Holy Saturday, on my nightstand sat Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. I turned to the chapter titled, Solitude. Hours before, my home was filled with people and laughter and divine contemplation. How did I get here so quickly? Where do these messages come of depression and isolation and ostracization? Why don’t I feel like fighting them?

Perhaps, the shortest chapter in Foster’s book, solitude introduced me to this simple word: poustinia. I googled it; I hoped to find that I had landed on a Greek word. I didn’t. It is Russian. I did stumble upon was poustinias all over the United States. I scrolled down the results page, The Potter’s Inn at Aspen’s Ridge was one of the first hits. As I browsed, three words beamed at me, Soul Care Day.

There. There was what I needed. I needed a day, where care was given to my soul. I needed a day where I was alone with God. I needed a day where silence was the norm. I needed a day where I could mourn and be consoled by the Father. I needed a day where no man could reach me. I needed a day in the desert. The desert just happened to be the mountains of Divide, Colorado. What happened there could be explained in a million paragraphs; I will only write one.

Upon arrival, I sat still next to a blazing fireplace. I began reading John’s account of Christ’s last discourse with His disciples before He was crucified. What could I do, but weep. His words were to me. He spoke them to me. He spoke them over me. I read the same 5 chapter over and over again. Each time with increasing conviction of God’s Presence with me. We gathered for group meditation. There, we read a passage, I have become too familiar with. The humanity of the story captivated me. Finally, my day culminated with a prayer walk. I journeyed two miles with twelve stops. With each and every stop, God handling me with great encouragement, care, rebuke, discipline, and grace.

Why write about this 3 months later? Because, solitude is this. Solitude is creating an inner silence in oneself where at anytime you can hear the sweet whisper or the violent thunderclap of the voice of God. The beauty of this solitude is that it can be done in the presence of the multitude or alone. As, God draws me back in to solitude, I feel myself backing out. However, this time there is no sorrow or isolation, but only the pleasant expectation to hear His Voice and be with the Holy One.

Click this link for some photos of my time in Colorado.

Single, but not Incomplete.

Confession, I have never seen Jerry Maguire. I was six when it came out. Twenty years later, I can’t get past the fact that I don’t like the three main actors (Tom Cruise, Renée Zellweger, Cuba Gooding Jr.). Even with never seeing this film, I know the most popular line:

“You complete me.” 

Intro romantic music, smoke, and cherubs. C’mon, what single person does not want to hear those three little words? I mean the only other phrase a single person might be interested in is “I brought pizza”. Just kidding. We all know it’s, “I love you”. 

However, there are millions of spiritual and emotional problems with that phrase. Because, I don’t get paid to write (nor do I have the energy), I will focus on one massive issue.

People who are not in a relationship (single, divorced, widowed) are not complete people. 

Men and women experience brokenness. This is a universal truth, even if externally your world is perfect, there has been a time of where internally things were askew. Additionally, we are born with normal healthy longings. We long for companionship. We long for someone to spend our lives with and love. We long for a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, lips to kiss, a partner in crime, a person to embrace, someone to romance us. We long. It is normal and healthy. God placed this desire in me.

However, at some point we got our wires crossed. Two healthy separate desires (completion and companionship) morphed into one obsessive unattainable unrealistic goal.

Of the two desires completion is for more important, and MUST take priority over companionship. There is too great of a risk when incomplete people look for companionship before completion or wholeness. See any friend or person who has gotten their identity from the person they are dating. If, we are to be made whole, What must be done? How do we become whole? Because again, we all agree that we are broken people living in a broken world with broken ideas working in broken systems and structures that will not save us from our demise.

I will give you my answer. I have found my completion and wholeness in Christ. Paul writes about being made complete, “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” I am full. I lack nothing. I have longings, but longings are not lack. Believing this truth and living in it are difficult. It is frightening. I have lived longer as a broken and incomplete person. So, wholeness is still sometimes unfamiliar to me.

I, as a single young adult, get to live in completion singularly. The benefit to this is that my completion before companionship, will make companionship much more fulfilling. Mark dictates the words of Jesus, “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” There is no discussion about two halves becoming a whole. It is about two wholes becoming one. It is about peanut butter being completely peanut better and jelly being completely jelly and placing them together to make one sandwich. Not half a key lime pie and half and apple pie coming together to a nasty pie. In Christ, I am not a half. I am a complete one. 

In my oneness, I am able to do much. I am able to serve my teens with vigor. I work long hours often, but with joy. I travel on a whim, but how wonderful to simply get away. I dream and do life BIG and with unbridled intensity! I empty myself as often as I can, because in Christ even when I am running on empty, His eternal nature makes me full again. I do everything I do with joy because one day, when I am married, I will be divided. My attention will be filled with fulfilling my role as a wife and mother.

Even as I write this, I can feel my longing for companionship. Yet it is one I feel with joy because I know I am whole.

Music Monday: It’s Not Enough by the Modern Post

I love God. I love music. I love that I serve God who loves music. I love that there is music about God. Unfortunately, in a world where Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and Gospel dominate, it is hard to find all other artists who express a love for God in a manner that elevates musicality and deep pensiveness on the things of God.

With this, I have decided for the month of April to host something called “Music Mondays”. Each Monday in April, I will post 2-3 songs every Monday that have pushed me to contemplate and ask questions about God, myself, and what I believe.
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