Friday, April 17, 2015

Ambition

I [capital air quotes] lead [close capital air quotes] a Bible study group on Wednesday nights.

Yeah, I do that too:  wed .. nez .. day.

It's been a pretty good run for me, personally.
I pretty much just compile a list of questions:


  • Hey, what's that mean?
  • Howdy, how's that applicable?
  • Etc.


Lately, the topic's been repeatedly, inescapably abiding.

Recently, a question was:

  • Do you have any personal ambitions that make it difficult to abide with Jesus?

and it's had me thinking ever since.

I probably should say, "thinking on purpose, thinking up front, thinking out loud," because the subject of personal ambition has been running in my background memory for some time now.

Now, I've never been one of those goal-oriented kinds of people or even the kind of person who wakes up with a plan for the day.  Just, whatever, okay?

Maybe I should have taken one of those skills or talents tests when I was still young enough to be taught new tricks.  Maybe knowing early on what I might be any good at would have goaded me to go.  I don't know.  Whatever.  Okay?

But there is a thing that I have known, 
a thing I've known is not my thing, 
not for me, 
not my forte.

If I've had any nameable ambition, it's been to not hang out with kids.

(Collective gasp, kid-lovers.  Get it out of your system.)

It's really not that I don't love them.  The Lord knows that I do love them ~ particularly my own.  I just don't understand them.  Don't know how to play with them, for sure.

Think I'm kidding?  I tried to play a game with a g'baby once, a game I'd seen the kids playing with her, some "pretend to bite the kid's hand" dog-jaw game.  I actually bit her.  We both cried.  It seemed obvious, then, that we'd both be safer if I just skipped the whole play thing.

What, then, but to aspire to empty-nesting?  It's a natural-seeming goal for a middle-aged woman, correct?  It's not wrong that I should aim to eat my food without sharing half of every single bite, watch what I very well want that isn't a cartoon, come and go and dress as I please without every decision hinging on the needs of a toddler, mop my floor just once per week ... right?

Never mind any true desires, if I'd had any.

And now that I've gotten all of that out my system, thank the Lord that I'm able-bodied and that our circumstances (humbly, prayerfully) allow for us to raise our two-year-old grandson. Thank you, Jesus, for every one of my kids and grandkids and for every child with whom You'll grant me the blessing to hang out.

No, I mean it.

Personal ambitions that make it difficult to abide with Jesus?  Well, I might have hoped to be a fairly average grandparent, one who just gets visited with some regularity, one who may or may not have special skills, one who gets to write complete sentences in one sitting.

But I don't usually get to write sentences without consequences:



I guess kids are just the task that's been assigned to me.
I guess I'll just aspire to play along.
Lord, just help me not to bite anybody!

When you obey me, you are abiding in my love, just as I obey my Father and abide in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your cup of joy will overflow! John 15:10-11

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Reflection

So, speaking of trash, I don't generally pay attention to the rubbish piles as I'm walking the 'hood; however, there was recently a particular mess that caught my eye.  As I passed, a hundred little slivers of a broken mirror were reflecting the rising sun and inviting me to do the same.

The first natural-seeming thing to do was to take this picture because, you know, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.

















As I walked and thought more about who I am, who I've been, and who I am becoming, I remembered that when I was young, I wanted very much to do something with photography; however, over the course of time, I've accepted that it's not going to be my number one something.  
But it can still be something.


Romans 1:20















Because I see created art from nearly every angle, and understand that it is mine to behold.  And mine to photograph, regardless of the outcome.

Maybe it's a simple-seeming conclusion, but for me this is fairly liberating.  It's as if a light's come on in the darkness.


Matthew 4:16

And that reminds me of the thing that counts the very most.  Like so many things I've tried, I probably won't be great to start.  Possibly, I'll never be great.  Possibly, I'll blunder, look the fool, maybe fail. However ~ and it's a mighty big however ~ I am in the process of transformation.



Because "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  
For we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."
2 Corinthians 3:17-18

From overcoming to overcoming, from triumph to triumph, from glory to glory, I am being transformed, thank the Lord.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Trash or Treasure

Dude, I have been a moody individual of late - have vacillated between March madness and menopause as possible explanations.  Seriously.

It's Lent and that's been a whole thing.  Possibly, that explains it.

I've found myself stirring up trouble, speaking out of turn, or against my inner compass at times - each time feeling very nearly out of control.

Then I saw Why am I not further along in my Christian walk? and decided to just take a walk.

I took some pictures.







These are not the high-quality, super appeal-to-the-masses kind of photos that generally accompany photo blogs.  These are, however, places that I see beauty and blessings.  I do, in fact, see it all around me and nearly all of the time when I'm making good choices about where I turn my gaze.

A friend just posted a picture where she sees the same.  It's a picture of her daughter, wearing a pink princess dress, hair all a'yonder, and holding a garden slug as if it were the tiniest, sweetest baby bird.  My friend says that when her girl realized she would get to hold the thing, she exclaimed ~ with much fervor ~ that she had waited her "WHOLE LIFE" for a garden slug.

I pray that young'un never loses her heart or her enthusiasm or her desire or her ability to see the beauty and blessing that God does deliver all around us.

I pray that you may see the same.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tap Out

I am finding fewer and fewer sound-seeming reasons for showing up, but it’s not for lack of looking, I promise.

It’s been a whole thing, this searching out, this attempting to reach the end of certain sentences.  Would that I could even start one of those here and now, but time ~ or lack of it ~ that’s a whole other thing.

So I’ll just tell you about the day that one of my favorite bloggers sinned in public.

See, she posted this video that was one of those horrible “you really shoulda known better” kind of things, set to music.  And she shared it with a note about how she'd watched it over and over again, and how she'd laughed so hard, and also how much she obviously needed Jesus because of it.  Folks, I made some time for that.  I watched it over and over again.  I laughed really hard.  I downloaded it.  Re-mastered it with better music.

Then I went back and started reading the comments on her post.

Folks, let me just say...













There were others like me (as I’m finding more and more to be true).  People who saw the humor.  People who needed a laugh.  A break, for durn sake.

But there were other people who tore this girl a new one.

“You are a Christian.”
“You are a leader.”
“You are a dignitary for Jesus.”1

In other words, your a** had durn sure better never make a mistake, or laugh, or let loose for a second, or fail to live precisely the life that Jesus led or you will have failed in front of all of us to do what we durn sure knew you couldn’t do anyway.  Which is to be perfect.

Now please, for all of our sakes, don’t think that I think that lets the leaders off the hook - this knowing that none of us will ever be perfect.  The leaders have a high call and a greater responsibility to do like they oughta.  I know that painfully well as one who serves in various leadership roles with my church.  I regularly review my own actions, and, often enough, I have regret.  Often enough, I know that were I to have the kind of attention that some of my favorite bloggers do, maybe regret would be an understatement.

So ever since that day, since the day that girl put herself out there to such chagrin (if mine), I've been asking myself if the public arena is someplace I even want to be.  Yeah, no, I'm not even in the ring yet...

So as I said, it's been a whole thing, and the thing that comes to mind now is this:

"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”" Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

Oh, God help me to be humble ~ at all times, in all situations, including those times that someone is calling me to a higher standard.  God, forgive me when I screw up and remind me to be merciful to others when they do the same, or worse, or even just meh.  God, thank you for getting me this far, for helping me to see as much as I do, and for all that I know you'll help me to eventually grasp.  Thank you, especially, that whatever I've done or will do tomorrow or the next day or the next, I don't have to hang my head in shame because I have Jesus.  I pray I never stand apart from that confidence.



1 Obviously, these are hardly new-one-tearing kinds of statements.  I'm totally summarizing the discussion that called her entire character into question.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Simple Sally Said

I’ve recently started realizing that I’m a little leftward-leaning toward the simple side of thinking.

Like, what I mean is that I don’t exactly have the deep thoughts I’ve been thinking myself to have all these years.  Or maybe I’m, like, halfway between here and there, but I don’t have the skill set and vernacular that enables other folks to 1)complete that journey; and/or,  2)take others along for the ride, journalistically speaking.

And sometimes, even, it’s not just that I can’t have, complete, or convey a thought.  Sometimes I really just don’t know what the heck is going on.

Here’s an example:

I read something the other day that referenced the “evangelical Christian” versus the “mainline Christian,”1 and I was like, what does that even mean?  I mean, I know what "evangelical" means because I just looked it up.  Seriously, just last week. Because simple, like I said.  And I was, like, oh, wow, I believe all of that so I guess it turns out I’m one of those!

But in order to say anything about any of this to any of you, I had to explore the "mainline" definition as well.  Well, let me tell you!  I definitely don’t know what the heck is going on.

And I could have spent some more time. I could have read some more stuff, referenced some more stuff.  And then I could have given you here an extrapolation based entirely on my own sagacity.  However, some of the first material that I read, well, it was sufficient for my intendment.

Let’s just say that guy #22 puts me in the mainline.

So I am essentially at odds with myself.

But I already knew that.

Daily now I’m struggling with things both inward and outward.  There are days when, honest-to-God, I wonder and wish that I should just go.  There are other days when I have no question about my place and means of service.  I’d be alright if somebody would just tell me plainly what to do.  I like the narration feature!

(I know, I know.  I oughta be off the narration by now.  Anyhow.)

This struggle ~ it’s breaking off bits of my heart, making me jaggedy, mean and difficult to be around sometimes.  I don’t like change, but I like even less the idea of staying the same.

This morning, Andy Stanley asked me, “What if we didn't...”  I don’t remember the rest of the question, but it wasn't lost on me.3

I wonder what kind of Christian he is.

This Christian versus that Christian thing...
What if we don’t get it together, come together, overcome?

What if we do?  What if we drop the versus and just be God’s people?
God, help us that it could be that simple!4

***

Here’s another example.  A friend recently told me that I can grow garlic from the cloves I buy at the grocery store.  I spent nearly one whole minute trying to figure out how on earth they’d grow after soaking in that jar of whatever that stuff is.

***

On the matter of Lent and the subject of quitting ... this article just kept coming up, and so I finally gave in, and as far as I could comprehend, I should just quit writing.  But I just quit reading the article instead.


Benediction By Katherine Willis Pershey; I quite like this piece.
2 Can't reference this material because, while it was helpful, it was quite biased, and some of it in ways that I'm not sure would offend more one way or the other.
3 Especially since I heard this at my own church two days ago.  To note, my church has recently changed its name.
4 To be as honest as I can muster, there's a voice in my head right now saying that some Christians need to be shaken or pinched.  I'm not sure if that makes me evangelical, mainline, or human. God, help us indeed.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Cure For Classic Narcissism

What I, personally, would have scripted to begin with the ushering in of the season, actually began with an episode of Backstrom (I’ll skip all the details, disclaimers, blah, blah, etc.) and ended with a letter from the pope.1,2

It was supposed to start with Ash Wednesday, my quitting.  

I just honestly didn’t know what it was I would quit. 

See, I think the last time I fasted for Lent, it was from coffee, but I wound up feeling so much better physically that there was no sense of sacrifice.  I’d only benefited from the process in such a way that it left me feeling more remorseful than clarified, and so I was pretty sure the practice just wasn’t for me, and the years have passed, and my observance of the season has become a lesser and lesser thing.

I can’t remember if last year I even remembered the start of Lent. 



There have probably been other little things iggling at my conscience, but it was after watching that one episode, at the very second that I thought, “who wrote this?” when I heard myself asking it with an air of elite-est ownership, as if I were the only person on the planet who knew anything at all about this kind of suffering or that or whatever ... that I knew.   I’ve turned way too deeply inward.




I’ve wallowed in this for three days now, trying to write every sentence perfectly.

I want to make sense.

I want to make a difference.

I want to do no harm.

I want to be different.

Pope Francis wrote a letter.

He told me to quit the indifference.

The rest is personal.3

For at least a season.



1 You know, if those two weren’t friends with each other ~ and I don’t know that they wouldn’t be ~  I do know, at the very least, the pope would wash the bad detective’s feet.  

2  It ain't "ended" till He says it's ended.

3. Epitome of sentence with which I've striven.  It hardly makes sense in context.  But I relinquish it now.









Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Musical Interlude

Got a thing I gotta write, but until I get the nerve to do it, it's like I've got this music in my mind sayin' it's gonna be alright.

So I've just recently discovered T-Swift, and when I say "recently" "discovered", I mean, did y'all know that girl used to sing country music?!  Yeah, see I didn't show up till shake it off.

Woah, hold up.

[elevator music]  (okay, all shook off)


So anyhow, in the interlude (and procrastination) I'm on this ponderation about the contrast/comparison of my musical interests to my Gospel devotions.  

photo swiped from the nets
Swifty's kinda sweet and maybe not much cause for pause; however, she's on the rather innocuous end of my spectrum, I reckon.  So, for the sake of a blog post, I'll do here what I will later - inevitably - refer to as art. And maybe, just maybe, by the end of it all, you'll have heard it the way I hear it.  

Ya' heard?




Everything's changing around me
And I wanna change too
It's one thing I know
It ain't cool being no fool
I feel different today
I don't know what else to say
But I'm-a get my $#!* together
It's now or never

This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out.

I'm sick, sick of waiting in vain
Tired of playing the game
Thinking of making a change
Finally breaking the chains
Every phase, every happening craze
When it's said and done
My head is right back in a haze
I'm ready for the next chapter and page

In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free.

People say the light shines once in a lifetime
Is this mid-life kind of crisis a little bit like mine?
I'm thinking not now, but right now
I need some kinda sign that the future is bright now
I [mess] around, do the right thing like Spike now
The quick and the dead--which is my look-a-like now
I'm moving ahead

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Yo, opportunities lost because I blew 'em
On the sunniest days of my life I cried through 'em
Mom's out the picture and Pops, I barely knew him
And I would pray to God, but I'm tired of lying to him
Tired of trying to run from the things inside of us
Got a lot of fam' and a lot of admirers
Who tell me that I should aspire to be changed
But when I think of changing, it's like why even try this $#!*?

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

My mind hazy and my thoughts they get distorted
I know my good and bad deeds both get recorded
You do right so your soul can last
But my role was cast before I even auditioned for it
So I don't really see an end to my vice
It's just false reformation, no end of my strife
Feel the evil overpowering
You can go ahead throw the towel in
'Cause, [homey], that's the end of the fight
When you can only see the tunnel at the end of the lights
Lights out, party's over, it's the end of your life

I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

When I look into the mirror and see my own image
It feels like there's something else far off in the distance

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Something I wanna see, but something that's resistant
And every day the haunting is growing more persistent

What your corrupt nature wants is contrary to what your spiritual nature wants, and what your spiritual nature wants is contrary to what your corrupt nature wants.

I never noticed it before, but now I can't miss it
And the constant pounding's driving me ballistic
I ran from it for years, but it's still next to me
And it's growing stronger taking even less of me
I can't fight it now; I know it's just destiny
And I just wonder what's gonna happen when it catches me
Will it leave me face down in the Chesapeake
Or will it just start bringing out the best of me?
But is the best of me really just the worst of me?
And if so yesterday could be my anniversary
In sinners' court, it's important to have church with me
I'm trying to get rid of these ghosts that's cursing me

I feel that change is an absolute certainty

'Cause what's going on is a state of emergency

Everything's changing around me
And I wanna change too
It's one thing I know
It ain't cool being no fool

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

I feel different today
I don't know what else to say
But I'm-a get my $#!* together
It's now or never

It's now or never

Indeed, the "right time" is now. Today is the day of salvation.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  

And the payment for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is everlasting life found in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved.  For it is by our faith that we are put right with God; it is by our confession that we are saved. 

"Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me." Jesus


Ya' heard?


Just in case it's not clear, I've cleverly combined Now or Never by The Roots and various Bible Truths.