Sunday, June 26, 2011

I'm not right, you're not right, they're not right.

I’m beginning to realize that I’m not right very often. While this is humbling, it’s probably a good place to be in, especially when delving into the heart of God, His people, and the Church. I have opinions (ok, very strong opinions sometimes) and convictions, but winning arguments and “being right” has begun to have less and less appeal. Granted, there are some people who are very adept in helping me rise to the occasion and argue to be right… but I’m growing into the shoes that walk away and let the unimportant things go.

All of this said, rather than building a case for what I believe about the way people function in God’s world and His church, I’ve been observing it. For the last year, I’ve been observing—attending a different church almost every Sunday for the last six months (not to say I’ve been to 24 different churches…but that going to the same church two weeks in a row has not been the norm). Some of this has been influenced by travel, which always offers a rich opportunity to see how others worship in different states, cities, or countries. An early thesis for this writing today is: We’re not right. You’re not right. They’re not right. In fact, being right is not the point.

(an important note: I’m speaking of churches, styles of worship and denominations, not faiths of the world, in this writing entry).

Another reason for, what the naysayers would call “church hopping,” comes from trying to find a church for two people, in a committed relationship, that come from very different faith backgrounds. In the process, you come to the conclusion that you’d already reached, but have now proved: there is no perfect church. There is a perfect God and maybe even a great niche for you in a church, but not a perfect church. If it were perfect, there would be no need for it.

A frequent argument against the Christian church in America (I’m not creating a new denomination, just speaking of people who believe in Christianity), is that it is full of hypocrites. I agree. True believers in Jesus, who become true worshippers of Him (not perfect believers or perfect worshippers, but heart-committed ones), fail—they lie, envy, hurt others, say terrible things, and are dishonest, inconsistent, and discontent. (Those were just a few of the things that I could think of off the top of my head about myself).

The difference between these believers and the rest of the world is that they acknowledge how awful they are and how short they fall of being like the One who has given them life, and rescued them from sure, well-deserved eternal death. They see their sin (I hesitate to use those words that sound so Christian-y, but some of them are hard to substitute and God Himself calls it that)…and they hate their sin and they ask for forgiveness from their sin and they turn away from their sin (they repent)…often they fall back into the same sin and God gives them the grace to repeat this holy cycle, until they become more and more like He is (He calls it “being transformed from glory unto glory” in 2 Corinthians). What a privilege to be changed from glory unto glory, in the midst of the seemingly irreversible mess I’ve made of my life!

So am I a hypocrite? Yes. Are other Christians hypocrites? Yes! They simply, yet deeply, recognize their need for someone to rescue them out of their self-made pit AND they accept the Rescue and the Rescuer. Then they allow the Rescuer into their hearts and into a relationship with them—a very soulful, penetrating, all-consuming love relationship—the relationship that we’ve all been waiting for…the “One,” the Ultimate One.

To you intellectual, theological types (having been all different types myself), it may seem like too simple of an explanation. I could complicate it with issues and discussions and arguments of election, reform theology, infant baptism, or predestination… I find all of these things very interesting and very important to think through, hash out, discuss… and ultimately conclude that we’ll spend a lifetime trying to figure them out. I find these discussions helpful, as long as they call us to a greater examination of God, who He is, and what He says and NOT a greater examination of ourselves and our ability to reason. It should be so rich and deeply humbling to delve into these and other issues, as we realize the magnitude of our God and all He has done, His intricacies and innumerable facets. Just because we’ll never fully grasp all of these things on this side of heaven, does not excuse us from trying! It should be our life’s ambition to soak up the wonder of creation, fill up on the Bread of Life, and let our cups overflow to water and nourish life around us. We should also “be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have, but do this with gentleness and respect.” -1 Peter 3:15

And I have gotten off track and yet am still on track…but that was a mouthful and a read-ful…so stay tuned for the rest of the skinny on “being right is not the point."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Maybelline and Maybe Not

Maybe I like storms because I don’t have frizzy hair…or an old basketball injury. Nothing about me serves as a weathervane for their entrance, so I’m often found running through mud-puddled parking lots, dodging the drops and the puddles I wish I could play in. Somehow adulthood frowns upon showing up muddy for work.

Either way, anyway, whatever way, I love storms, especially the hours before they come. I love the rustling leaves that whisper, “here comes life,” and the wind that teases at the hemline of my skirt, beckoning me to twirl, asking me for this dance.

Something in me yearns to write when the rustling starts. I’m sitting in a beach chair in the front doorway of my house, ankles on the front porch, body just inside the doorframe. There’s nothing quite like watching the earth prepare to take a shower….sometimes it seems like a petulant child, kicking and screaming while being thrown over someone’s shoulder and dragged into the house for the dreaded nightly bath….forgetting that while the bath may clean him, he can still make another mess with the waterproof crayons on the bathtub walls. Other times, like a woman bottling up her cry for months, planning to auction it off, unopened, at the next charity event… but it explodes before she can put on her pearls and go.

I can’t tell which flavor storm is arriving…the frogs and crickets seem excited, but my parents’ dog has been huffing for an hour, something he does before a storm starts. We’re told the animal hospital sells an anti-anxiety jacket for dogs to combat this. I’m not even sure what to say about that.

Tonight I experienced beauty, not just in the sky and its’ sound, but in a story…a story of beauty, of great loss, confusion, denial, pain, and redemption. To me, it was an echo of Eden…even though Eden was the absence of many of these things, redemption always takes me back to Eden. Eden echoes in those moments of stillness and wonder found in an unexpected compliment that changes your day…a lingering “I’m not letting go for anything” hug…a porch swing and a masterpiece sunset…a groom’s face when the church doors open and reveal his bride…

I wish I could capture that beauty, hold it hostage, and take it in every hour. I wish I could share it and The One who created it with the world. But the world has taken this beauty hostage before I could. It has taken her and redressed her and dyed her hair some awful color and made her up to be something she’s not…and yet, she’s the standard now. Even if I don’t like her, I try to be her…or at least, try to be like her—bad eyeliner and all! I see what the world says is beautiful and I buy into it. I’m a shareholder and I’m holding out that the market’s going to rise again…

While I know what’s true, that I’m made in the image of God, (which makes me beautiful, like He is) I live like I’m having to invent beauty and constantly improve on it. Ironically, one of the greatest things about God is that He alone is unchanging, so His beauty is unchanging…and if I’m His reflection, that says everything I need to know about me.

Beauty can’t be redefined; it was perfect and didn’t require revision…

Yet tomorrow morning I will reach for my lip gloss, my running shoes, my extra-whitening toothpaste, my diet/fat-free/calorie-free something-or-other, trying to increase my beauty and ultimately my self-worth. Haven’t I figured out yet that it doesn’t work? There’s always 5 pounds left to lose, always a new cardio class, always a new mascara promising “5 times bolder, longer, luscious lashes.”

If only I could rest in who I was created to be and believe Psalm 45: “The king is enthralled with your beauty; honor Him, for He is your Lord.” Dang! I think the King’s opinion matters more than anyone’s, mine included. So I’m going to try it out, believing in beauty, studying His beauty, owning my beauty, and honoring Your’s and yours’. I think there is much freedom to be gained by this, much healing to be known through this, and much beauty to be shared.

Maybe Maybelline had it right after all…

“Maybe she’s born with it…”

“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful; I know this fully well.” –Psalm 139

Monday, April 18, 2011

Unkempt, Unruly, Untamed...

I've never blogged before. The fact that I almost chose "Unkempt" as the font for this blog, should hopefully indicate that this is going to be a crazy adventure. Writing was one of my biggest passions from probably age 4 through college. I went to writing camps, was published in a National Anthology of poetry (even though it was one where you had to order a copy for $24.99 to see your work, I'll trust my "Windows to the Soul" made it in:), and even lived on a Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico for a Jan-term, taking an Open Range Writing class where we wrote 8-12 hours per day. It was FANTASTIC!

Grammar used to be my specialty...but I'm finding as I trek from 30 to 40 that perfect grammar seems to impede my ability to get all my crazy thoughts on the page, before old age memory deletes them. So I'll apologize to you teachers in advance:) I write like I talk, so this may be a little William Faulker stream of consciousness-esque, minus the sound and the fury.

So why write? Why read this Jen'scapades, other than for ridiculous, "only Jen could have ended up in that situation!" stories?

I'd like to learn FROM you and share with you about what I'm learning about FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, and JOY....along with those beautiful things, inevitably come some cynicism, hurt, dislike-tred, faint-of-heartedness, and disappointment.

I have a zillion thoughts running through my head...11 years worth, since that Ghost Ranch, to be stay tuned, expect something raw, untamed, unruly, and possibly even unkempt. I find that so much beauty can be found in the unexpected, the unplanned, and the uncontrolled.

My seatbelt's off, hands in the air, hair blowing, and "Unwritten" blaring on the radio...

"I am unwritten, can't read my mind, I'm undefined
I'm just beginning, the pen's in my hand, ending unplanned...
Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find...
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten..."

Wishing you dirty windows to open and see the world anew,