Saturday, April 26, 2014

On Vulnerability

Our culture is obsessed with exalting the self.  We seek to feel valuable through our appearance, our careers, our hobbies...and the list goes on.  The irony is that we live in an age that tells us that we have inherent, intrinsic value, just by being human.  Yet, we strive to prove our worth on a daily basis.  There is a part of our psyche that seems to testify to the need to have something outside of ourselves demonstrate our worth.  

The great oxymoron of life is that we try to imbue an eternal human spirit with meaning from temporal things, things that ever fail and disappoint.  And so we keep striving and we keep hiding.
Over the past month, several people told me that they were encouraged by my decision to go without makeup.  They spoke of feeling the desire to do the same, feeling bound by the world paradigm that demands, "Prove yourself."  But fear is a thief.  Fear convinces us that the trade-off won't be worth it.  That, if there is any hope of achieving true value, we must keep striving.  And so the cycle continues.  

The thing that struck me most over the past month is how the world so desperately needs authenticity.  A vulnerability that says, "Although I strive, I am not enough."  And neither are you.  But, admitting vulnerability is not enough.  If vulnerability was an end in itself, the human condition would be a shivering clot of insecurity. There is more to the story.  Worthiness and value are a reality for the human spirit, but the eternal can only derive meaning from the Eternal. 

Such confidence we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.  (2 Corinthians 3:4-5).

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Going Nude

I have never participated in Lent before as this isn’t something that is emphasized in my particular denomination.  I had no plans of doing so this year either.  To be honest, it always felt a bit legalistic and forced.  While I believe the concept is a fantastic one, many of the people that I knew who practiced Lent did so because of a sense of tradition, obligation, or some sort of health conscious reason such as giving up soda or sugar.  In learning more about the season of Lent, I have come to understand what it is and what it is not.  It is not to prove our worthiness or earn God’s favor.  If you are a Christian, this has already been accomplished at the cross.  The purpose of Lent is to increase our depth of communion with the Lord.  It is about recognizing an area in our life that habitually prevents us from experiencing God deeply and, instead, encourages us to settle for a lukewarm faith and mediocrity. 

At 6:00 this morning, I had no intention of taking part in Lent.  At 7:30, I had an abrupt conviction about something that has increasingly prevented me from finding my worth and value completely in Christ and not in the temporal things of the world.  The world’s obsession with perfection, of a particular standard of beauty, has seeped into my spirit and worn away at how I see myself and how I see God in relation to me.  It is a slow, insidious disease that disguises itself in “messy braids,” “smokey eyes,” and primers.  In light of all of these lies that society and commercialism sell us, I increasingly find myself doubting myself and finding confidence in the way I look, particularly with the help of makeup.  I convince myself that it’s no big deal…“Everyone does it!”, “I’m so young…it helps me look more professional!”  But, if I’m honest, I want to make sure I measure up.  Makeup has been one way to try to accomplish this goal…although it’s never lasting and always comes up short.

This is why I’m giving up makeup for Lent.  I think the vulnerability that comes with going bare-faced will provide plenty of opportunities to immerse myself in Truth and remind myself of the only thing that can give something value: God.  I also want to use the opportunity to notice all of those aspects that make me unique, the good along with the flaws.  Perhaps you'll join me?

"The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in GOD protects you from that." (Proverbs 29:25, The Message)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

God With Us

Matthew 1:23-- "“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[a] (which means “God with us”).

Matthew 28:20--"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The heart of a God that values a deeply personal relationship with us.  From the first pages of this gospel, to its last words...Emmanuel.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Truth about Tragedy

The events in Newtown, Connecticut are tragic and unimaginable.  The reality that things like this can and do happen right next door is terrifying and sobering.

The unfortunate truth is that tragic events like these happen, on a smaller scale, on a regular basis.  Whether they are deaths caused by health related issues, child abuse, or drunk driving, there is a sense that, on some level, we can control it or stop it from happening.  If we take care of our bodies with a vegan diet and P90X, we can ward off insidious illness.  If we are good parents, we'll do everything we know to do to protect our children when they are in our care.  If we choose to go out and drink, we can catch a ride home with a sober friend.  However, when tragedies such as those at Sandy Hook Elementary occur, we lose any sense of control.  We fear that, if this could happen at an elementary school in a small, New England suburb, it can happen to me.  And with each new event that gains mass media attention, we become more and more aware that, to some degree, life is a gamble.  It is risky, at best, and devastating, at worst.

The truth is, control is an illusion.  Sometimes, no matter what we do, illness overtakes our bodies; loved ones are killed in a car accident; and evil seeks to destroy not only their own lives, but the lives of others as well.  Small or large scale, our lives are fragile and temporary.  It's a reality that often isn't brought to our awareness until something like this happens.  However, the Bible tells us that we shouldn't be surprised when there is darkness in the world, as though something unexpected were happening (1 Peter 4:12).  The truth is that evil is in the world, seeking to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).

The good news is that that isn't the end of the story.  Because of the redemption of Christ, we have a future hope.  For this world, in its present form, is passing away (1 Cor. 7:31) soon to be replaced with a new heaven and earth.  It is my hope that those suffering through this tragedy right now, would understand how all consuming is the peace of Christ and how his heart breaks for those effected by this event.  It is also my hope that those reflecting on this event would realize the futility and brokenness of man to ever find a "cure" for evil apart from God.  There is no greater security, in the midst of joy or heartache, than knowing Christ and the power of His love.

My prayers go out to those families affected by this tragic event.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Ache of Loneliness

"It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely."--Albert Einstein

"The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence."--Thomas Wolfe

"We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone.  Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone."--Orson Welles.

The meaning of life is a topic that has plagued mankind for generations...The notion that we are but one life in the vastness of the universe, among millions that have come before us and those that will follow after.  A fading shadow in eternity.  I believe that one of the primary concerns that relates to this issue and gnaws at the soul of man is this feeling of loneliness.  As Welles suggested, life and love create only a brief illusion that we are not alone.  In the end, death is laid bare (Job 26:6) and we return to dust.  Alone.

It is an unfortunate reality that, being bound to the earth means experiencing the heartache of loneliness.  It is a terrifying truth that any human being should ever utter the words of Einstein or Wolfe.  I believe this deep ache is further amplified for Americans, in particular.  Known for our fierce loyalty to independence and individualism, our entire culture is designed to eliminate the need for other people.  We pride ourselves on our ability to live independently from anyone else and often find it degrading and pitiful to rely on others for help.  Similarly, we look down on people that can't "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" and give little more than a box of canned goods to help those in need.  The youth of the generation have all but lost the ability to communicate verbally or maintain intimate, in-person relationships.  It seems a tragic irony.

But, if you stop to think about it, it makes sense.  It is all part of that attempt to build a momentary refuge from the reality that we are utterly alone.  All the busyness and activity, the faux relationships built on gossip, media, and "tweeting" is a last ditch effort to distract ourselves from loneliness.  This can be felt when we run out of things to do or have a moment of quietness and anxiety hits. 

Christians are some of the worst offenders.  Rather than having real, authentic community, we contribute to the cultural norm by our scurrying about.  We often care little about anyone but ourselves, though we attempt a similar facade of "togetherness."  This comes in the form of giving money, donating to a food drive, and going out for Sunday lunch or praying for our grandma's neighbor's back surgery.  Rather than giving our time and emotional energy to invest in other people's lives, we often "do" Christianity for our own benefit.  Rather than being vulnerable and humble with other believers, we maintain our comfort by sharing only superficial things about our lives.  Similarly, we refrain from learning too much about anyone else, because it could be uncomfortable, or they may need something from us.  Rather than supporting other believers and building them up, we gossip.  We give the minimum amount of money, time, and effort...just enough to "feel good" about ourselves.  We, who should be a reflection of Christ, a refreshment away from the loneliness of our culture.  

I have been saddened to see believers divorce from infidelity and, throughout the whole process, never feel the ability to seek guidance and support from fellow believers.  My heart breaks for those that are turned away from the Living Water because they view Christians as hypocritical.  I have seen spirits crushed from the condemnation that comes from blaming people for the bad things in their life because they were not "good enough."  I have personally felt the loneliness that comes from being in a room of Christians that are too fearful or self-absorbed to reach out to others.  I hurt to think that I have ever made anyone else feel this way.  

I long to see the Church return to what it was meant to be, to have the deep, rich community that was experienced by the early Church:
"All the believers were together and had everything in common.  they sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts." (Acts 2:22-26)

May it never be that, because of us, anyone fails to experience the love of Christ.  May we look different than the culture and be a place of refuge from loneliness.  May we experience a righteous indignation that prompts us to share our hope of life.

"Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:  'Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting" (1 Cor. 15:54).

"...Surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age." (Matt. 28:20).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Living the Single Life

Mr. G has been working, out of the city, for several days at a time.  Honestly, I feel a little lost.  In comparison with military families, I feel a little guilty complaining...but not enough to stop me.  I have come to the realization that I am a terrible single person.  Yesterday I spent about 30 minutes on Pinterest and another unmentionable amount of time looking at dogs on the Humane Society website....with no intention to adopt.  Other days I may or may not have wasted part of my morning reading about dwarfs and giants.  

Today was a little better.  After a bit of coaching, I decided to make the most of my singleness with chocolate chip cookies and Sex and the City.  Intentional time wasting is lightyears better than accidentally looking up from your computer after 30 minutes of dwarfism research (which again...may or may not have happened). 

Honestly, when I am with Mr. G, I don't even think to spend time on myself.  I need to make it a priority to mindfully enjoy this time.  Now, if you will excuse me the Kate and Pippa True Hollywood Story is about to start.  

Friday, September 23, 2011

Grace Through Transition

With all the changes that have been happening recently, it has been easy to allow myself to indulge in the self-absorption and complaining that comes with the stress of transition.  A quote a love is from George Bernard Shaw:

 "This is the true joy of life: the being used up for a purpose, recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clot of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."  

I must confess that I have felt a bit like a "feverish, selfish little clot" lately.  As I continue to pursue work in the "helping field" and in developing into the person I want to be, my hope is to be a light and comfort to those around me rather than insisting on believing the illusion that the world can bring me lasting happiness.

"For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf."- 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

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