Shine

I’m super excited for the upcoming weekend. It’s Easter! Yay! But even though I love celebrating Jesus overcoming the grave every year, this year I’m especially excited.

The college/young professional ministry  that I’m a part of is going to make this weekend about serving the homeless.

Ever since we got the idea in our minds, I’ve kept thinking about the story of the Lost Son from Luke 15: 11-31.

Obviously the point that Jesus was trying to emphasize is that it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done, the Father is always ready to welcome you back into His kingdom.

We can also learn from the brother who stayed, who had a bad attitude when he saw his father welcomed back his brother without hesitation. Sometimes our humanness shows through more than Jesus when we start looking at what God is doing in the lives of others, when we aren’t seeing much going on in our own lives.

But while these are probably the most obvious lessons Jesus was teaching us, this isn’t the part of the story that has been playing over in my mind these past few weeks.

13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

In the New King James Version, it says in verse 13 that he spent his money on “prodigal living.” That’s why some people call this the story of the prodigal son… but Jesus never called him that. Jesus has a way of separating our actions from who we are. He sees us as we were created to be, not the mistakes we make on the way to finding out who that is.

Why can’t we as humans separate someone’s bad choices from who they are? I mean, there’s total denial of someone’s issues… like the mother who doesn’t want to believe her child has an addiction, so she just overlooks it… but then there are those rare people who can see the person inside that doesn’t want to be stuck in a perpetual mess. They don’t want to keep doing the wrong thing, but they don’t know how to escape the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.

That’s what I’ve been focusing on as I prepare to serve the homeless population this Easter weekend.

Did some of them make bad decisions to get in this situation? Yes.

But Jesus talks about how the man wasted his inheritance, but then a famine also hit the land. Maybe he would have been able to gain back some of what he lost, but then disaster struck, and he couldn’t get back on his feet.

How many times in our lives have we done something stupid, and then felt swallowed up by the waves that came as a result of that decision? I may not have made any mistakes that landed me on the streets, but I know what drowning feels like. I know what it  feels like to struggle against pride to solve a problem I’ve created myself…Don’t you?

And maybe I’m over-analyzing this portion of the story, but in verse 16, it seems like Jesus made it a point to mention that this man was hungry and no one did anything about it. Maybe the people in that country were just like us in their thinking:

It’s a recession, I can’t afford to spare anything.

They should’ve made better choices.

They could work or get another job, they just choose not to.

They’ll just waste what I give them on booze or drugs.

Not my problem…

We have so many reasons to remain indifferent to the suffering of those around us…To condemn them to remain in their situation.  But then should we really be surprised by the world around us growing darker? If we won’t be a light, who will?

So, this Easter, I hope you shine.

I hope you remember that Jesus died for you, not the “highlight reel you” that you show people on Facebook, but the real you. The one who struggles and falls short.

I hope you remember that He died for the people whose struggles and shortcomings are more public, and that right now they are just a little lost, but not beyond reach.

And I hope you remember that He overcame death so that we can overcome our sin.

Happy Easter!

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16: 33

 

 

 

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Scars.

For a girl who has had 8 surgeries in the past 9 years, I’ve accumulated a few scars.

I’m not  one of those people who are like “scars are beautiful and are the marks of survivors” blah…

They’re hideous and I wish I didn’t have them, but when I look at them, I am reminded that I’m not hurt or broken anymore. That pain is a part of my past that I no longer have to live with, and I’m thankful I get to just move on.

With Easter approaching, I started to think about Jesus’ scars. His scars mean more to me than any of the ones that mark my own body. The scars on Jesus’ body are kind of like a receipt of the transaction that occurred on the cross. His life paid for our sins. In an uneven exchange, we gave Him our worst, and God gave us His best.

As someone who is very logical, it was really hard for me to believe in Jesus… But then I encountered God in a way that left no room for a single doubt in my mind.

Kind of like Thomas… (some of  you may know him as “Doubting Thomas.”)

In John 20, he’s the one who was all “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Psh! Oh ye of little faith, Thomas! Shun the nonbeliever… shuuuuuunnnn

Oh… but that didn’t happen.  (Also, side note about Thomas: He might have doubted that Jesus was resurrected, but he was the first one to be ride or die for Jesus. Check out John 11:16 “Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” BOOM)

Instead, Jesus said, ““Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” So Thomas did and was all like “It really is You!”

First. Gross.

Second, Jesus didn’t want Thomas to remain unbelieving. He wasn’t offended by his skepticism. Jesus was happy to reveal Himself to Thomas, and gave him the proof he needed to believe. That’s what I love about God. He isn’t afraid of our questions or doubts, and He’s willing to reveal Himself to us when we need Him to.

One of my favorite Bethany Dillon songs is called “The Way I Come To You” and the bridge goes:

“You loved me when I was Your enemy, and You chose me when I didn’t believe.”

I love that line… because I wasn’t always so sure about Him, but God always knew and loved me.  And He has the scars to prove it.

 

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am.

Today, as I was driving to caregroup, I was talking to myself… like I always do when I drive. (what? it’s just thinking aloud, right?)

But today, I wasn’t being very nice.

I’m lazy.

I’m ungrateful.

I’m undisciplined.

I’m judgmental.

I’m too negative.

I’m a complainer.

I’m fat.

I’m dumb.

I’m not like this other person.

I’m just…not enough.

God calls Satan “the accuser.” The Accuser likes to tell us all the things we’ve done wrong to make us feel bad and keep us stuck in our sin. If we are convinced that we are “bad” we stop seeing the point in trying to do good. We don’t have a reason to struggle against our chains.

Just a warning, this isn’t going to be a very sophisticated blog post.

But isn’t that what we want? Something simple to fix all our problems? A lot of times when we think of encountering God, we have an expectation of discovering something deep and profound, instead of something that’s been staring us in the face all along. And tonight, simple was just the thing I needed to keep the accusations of the enemy from sinking into my heart and condemning me into feeling like less than I am.

Tonight, all we did was have prayer and worship. No fancy lesson with a profound message… just singing and talking to God who, despite everything, delights in me.

By the end of the night, when I got in the car to go home, the first thing that came out of my mouth was:

“Thank You, God.

Thank You that Your mercy is fresh every morning.

Thank You that You provide for me.

Thank You that You comfort me.

Thank You that You surround me.

Thank You that You love me, even when I’m bad, even when I’m angry, even when I don’t deserve it.

And thank You that Your love is enough to pull me out of wherever I have been.”

And that reminded me of Exodus 3:14, when Moses asks God who he should say sent him and God answers “I am.”

God could have been more specific… and yet He couldn’t have been more specific. He could have gone down the list of all that He is…

I am your Provider

I am your Healer

I am your Banner

I am your Creator

I am your Savior

I am your Redeemer

I am your Peace

But in an effort to save time, He just said, “I am.” Because He is everything. He is the giver of the very breath we breathe, and He created us with the intention of being involved every time we take a breath.

And isn’t it comforting to know that the same God who was with all those people throughout the Bible is the same God who is with us today?  He never changes and His promises are true. So on those days when you can’t seem to remember anything good about yourself, or you have someone reminding you of all the times you’ve failed… start remembering who God is, and He will remind you of who you are.

 I am praying to You because I know You will answer, O God.
    Bend down and listen as I pray.
Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways.
    By Your mighty power You rescue
    those who seek refuge from their enemies.

Psalm 17:6-7

Holier Than Thou

There are days when people are jerks.

Being human, I want to be a jerk back.

But I’m usually not.

I usually vent to a close friend (or 9), and move on.

I tell myself to be “the better person”, turn the other cheek, and forgive (that pesky F word!).

When it’s the same person doing the same thing over and over and over and over again… I remember that Jesus said to forgive someone 7 x 70 times (That’s 490 times)…

When I start keeping track, God tells me that I should love those who hate me…

And then I remember that verse in  1 Corinthians that says love keeps no record of wrongs…

And I’m back where I started telling myself to be “the better person.”

Maybe some would call this a “Holier Than Thou” attitude… except I’m not trying to be better than the person who is harassing me…  I’m trying to be better than myself.  I want to be “the better person” that God pulled me out of my sin to become. I am not self-righteous, but I was given the righteousness of Christ to walk upright, no longer a slave to sin. And while I’m still getting my bearings from being chained down for so long, God has grace enough to catch me every time I stumble.

So every time that I get upset and want to give to someone what I think they “deserve” I remind myself that I deserve hell. If God hadn’t pulled me out of my old life, I would still be headed in that direction. It is with that heavy conviction that the desire to pray for those who persecute me begins to stir in my heart. It is with that knowledge that I can willingly forgive any trespass against me, because I know that the same was done for me when I didn’t deserve it.

Sometimes I wish God wouldn’t give me the things I ask for in the moments when I’m feeling pretty strong in my faith… because it’s in those moments when I ask Him to make me more like Him… but God doesn’t just snap His fingers for requests like that. He will give opportunities to grow into those characteristics. And even though I don’t enjoy the opportunities themselves, I’m thankful that He loves me enough to refine me a little more each day, so that I can be a little more like Him.

But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” — 1 Peter 1:15-16

Cheap.

Valentine’s Day bothers me. Not because I’m terminally single, but because it feels cheap. It’s an opportunity for companies to make money by defining love as a transaction. And I’m not upset because people capitalize on our own willingness to sell ourselves for temporary enjoyment of fleeting pleasures…

It upsets me because that’s all people think love is.

Love is not a debt. We don’t owe it to anyone. It can’t be bought. It’s a gift that is freely given… without expectation of getting anything in return.

But who does that these days?

We’re all jaded and only looking out for Number One. That attitude turns “I love you” into “I love you because…” That is conditional love. It’s why we see more divorce in this generation than ever before.  I love you because you make me happy. I love you because you are beautiful. I love you because you make me feel safe… But once the conditions are no longer fulfilled, we decide we’re not in love anymore and are free to walk away.

The real problem is that we are trying to find fulfillment in another person. We all have deficits in our lives, holes that have been created by our past experiences that we desperately try to fill so that we can feel at peace. Peace meaning nothing is broken and nothing is missing. So we go to the junk pile of human solutions to try and complete ourselves. Ultimately, you can find something that will tide you over for a while, but it’s never enough and it never lasts. We seem to have a stupid cycle of settling for a while, then searching for the next thing as soon as we can’t stand settling any more. Like we believe that if we just wait long enough, that the love story from the movies will be played out in our own lives.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? The devil always plays the same trick on us… making us believe that we’re missing something… when we’ve had all we needed from the very beginning… And we buy it every time…

In this generation, people think of God and they think He’s all about rules and regulations… No drinking and partying, no sex until you’re married… and it has to be with the same person for the rest of your life! (gasp! the horror…the horror… (heart of darkness reference! +10 points from my 12th grade English teacher!))

But it’s  funny that Jesus boiled down all the “rules” into two commandments in Mark 12:30-31

  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.

And it’s also funny that God boiled down the sins of the world into two wrongs in Jeremiah 2:13

 “My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

God is love. He loved us first so that we might love one another. He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins… even the sin of forsaking Him. That doesn’t even make sense in my tiny human brain. He told Hosea to marry Gomer (what an unfortunate name) so that He could illustrate how He loves His people, though they continue to whore themselves out to other gods, false idols that cannot give life, and to show that He would take them back no matter where they have been…

Where have you been? Did you even know that you are dearly loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe? That there is no price He wouldn’t pay to have you back? And this love is given even without your reciprocation. It’s unconditional, no strings attached, you don’t even have to say “The Sinner’s Prayer” (though if you feel compelled to accept Christ, I highly encourage you to do so.)

So if you are so loved, why would you want the fake candy-coated version that eventually leaves you with wide hips and tear-stained cheeks?

That’s what this blog post is really about… our willingness to pay for a cheap imitation of love, when the real thing is free and waiting for us.

Another thing I feel like God has taught me a lot about His love is the chance to give it out. I work with kids with autism.  A lot of people would call my kids  “unlovable” because they break every nice thing you buy them, they throw disproportional temper tantrums when they don’t get their way, some kids will never speak or show any sign of affection towards you…

But it’s when I am forced to listen to all the faults of my kids, I start to look at myself… I’ve wasted countless blessings in my life, I complain to God when my “plan” for my life isn’t going the way I think it should, and if I’m really honest… I forget to pray more times than I remember… but God still loves me, even though I don’t deserve it. And it is because He loves me that I am able to give love to those who some would deem “undeserving” of love. And it’s not a love that can ever be repaid or reciprocated… it’s simply given because I have it to give.

So, based off of that knowledge, that is why I think Valentine’s day is cheap. It’s commercialized and done up to make you feel like you HAVE to do something… I’m not saying that you can’t buy your wife flowers or write down all the things you appreciate about your husband… but maybe ask yourself where that love is coming from… is it from a broken well? Or is it from the wellspring of life? Is it Living Water or radioactive water? All I’m saying is that if you need a “holiday” so that you can buy a greeting card with words someone else wrote to express how you feel about your significant other… you might want to check your heart… And if you think buying someone a Vermont Teddy Bear is a good idea… it’s not.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. — 1 John 4:7-8

The F Word.

Before I begin, I would like to just clarify that becoming a Christian has been the best decision I’ve ever made, or will ever make, in my entire life and I never want to go back to my old life…And this post is mostly me kicking myself in the butt…

But being a Christian is sometimes the worst.

Before I became a Christian, I thought a lot less about my behavior and feelings. Ignorance is bliss, like all clichés, was birthed out of truth. I was happy to hold grudges and feel justified when I was hurt or wronged. I wasn’t all that interested in forgiving people. If you messed up, it was “have a nice life” and I was done with you. I wasn’t heartless, I just liked feeling right. I didn’t care to see the hurt in others when my own ego was bruised. Who isn’t like that?

Then Jesus called me and was like “Hey, I’ll forgive you.” and I was all like “For what?”

…He had a pretty long list…

And so  I was so relieved He was willing to forgive me and that there was nothing that He could not forgive me for (unforgivable isn’t even in his vocabulary!)… but then I found out that His forgiveness was conditional.

Get ready for a buzz kill…

 Matthew 6:14-15: “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (emphasis added…obviously)

UGH!

Knowing that, it makes it really hard when someone wrongs you… because you have passages like “turn the other cheek” and “forgive or you won’t be forgiven” popping into your head. After going through the Bible, you find out that unforgiveness is the root of bitterness, and bitterness will eat you alive and keep your heart hardened so you can’t receive blessings… that’s the hardest part for me… knowing that I’m wrong, even when someone else was wrong first, and knowing that I’m standing in the way of the blessings God has for me.

But what about the big things? The horrendous, gross, malicious actions of others intentionally inflicted upon people for the hell of it? Are those so easily forgivable? How can that make for a just God?

I’m always amazed at stories of people who have gone through horrendous ordeals and can still willingly forgive the people who wronged them. Many people know Joyce Meyer’s background of sexual abuse at the hand of her father as a child. Another woman, Shelley Hundley, had a similar story of abuse as a child, but she was assaulted by a pastor while her parents were serving as missionaries in Colombia. She has an amazing book called A Cry for Justice: Overcome Anger, Reject Bitterness, and Trust in Jesus Who Will Fight For You. In the book, she talks about how every wrong will be made right. We can either say that it was paid for on the cross, or we can trust that Jesus will come back one day with one thing on His mind: Justice.

That sounds super intense… but if you’ve read Isaiah 63… it kind of IS intense… He comes back with His robe all stained with blood, and He’s all like, I didn’t have anything clean to wear… ALL my clothes are this stained because I’ve been too busy kicking ass and taking names to go to the dry cleaner’s. (I’m the worst Biblical paraphraser… go read it yourself!)

So it basically boils down to this: Forgiveness isn’t a feeling, it’s a decision. You can decide that Jesus died on the cross, not just for your sins, but also for the sins of others that have hurt you… or you can decide to hold on to it simply because you want to be “right.”  Sometimes making that decision is hard because your feelings are hurt and the person didn’t even apologize! I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve sat on the floor and just cried bitter tears waiting to “get over it” and thinking that there are so many worse things out there happening that it isn’t even a big deal…

That’s why I say being a Christian is sometimes the worst. Because you know what you SHOULD do… but it doesn’t make it any easier. That’s why I love this passage:

 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. — Romans 7:18-25

In it’s own little way, this verse is my justification when I’m feeling upset or angry and can’t really find the motivation to let it go just yet… Not that it’s OK, but that it’s not a struggle unique to me. If Paul, who is a million miles ahead of me in his walk with God, struggled to do what he knew he should do, maybe I’m not doing as bad as I feel I am in the moments when my feelings overtake me, and I’m not acting “very Christian.”

Anyway… I think only like 5 people even read anything I write, so I mostly only write things that I need to hear myself, and sometimes try to give you a little pep talk at the end, just in case you’re a lot like me…

So just get over it. And forgive, even if no one has said sorry yet, because it’s for your own benefit…and if that doesn’t help, just remember how much you have to be forgiven for…which is fun to think about…not (Can you tell I have some forgiving to do?).

Or remember that Jesus is coming again, and if you just pass that hurt along to Him, He will make it right, and maybe He’ll let you ride shotgun and you can pound your fist into your hand while saying “someone’s gonna get it…”

(I’m just kidding, you probably won’t be invited because Jesus says vengeance is His… but it’s fun to think about sometimes…)

The end.

 

 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.”  — Luke 6:37

Fit.

It’s that time of year again (it’s still January, right?), when we all look at our lives and get real about where we’re at. The gyms are filling up and the amount of sugar being consumed is going down. Last year, I decided that I wasn’t going to look at all the bad habits I needed to change, but rather would look at my good qualities and do what I could with them. I don’t know if that was a better way to go or not, because it’s always harder to think of our own good qualities (unless you have narcissistic tendencies). In fact, we did an exercise in one of my Bible studies, where we had to go around the room and name one good thing about someone else, one thing we’d like to change about ourselves, and one positive thing we see in ourselves already. The first two were easy and we went around the room in under 3 minutes. The last one took us about 15 minutes for everyone to say something. I don’t know if it’s a learned skill in our culture, that we can’t say nice things about ourselves. Maybe we think we look like we’re bragging or something. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to see good things in yourself, as long as they don’t keep you from examining areas where you need a little more work.

Anyway, I would say overall, the good outweighed the bad this past year. There were days when I woke up and wondered how it was that I was so blessed. There were days when I had to drag my butt out of bed. But lately, I’ve been feeling just a little bit off. For a while, I thought I was just in a bad mood or hormonal. I would look at things in my life and just feel… dissatisfied. Maybe someone would look at my situation and just say “first world problems” and roll their eyes. For a long time I thought I was just being ungrateful or uppity. Sometimes I would just tell myself that I was being tested by God, and that it would all go away if I just stuck it out… but I don’t think that’s what’s happening anymore… I think I just don’t fit into my life anymore.

That sounds weird, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I can fake a smile and pretend like I’m enjoying myself in the same surroundings with the same people I’ve known for years, but not for very long, and not without going home and nearly having a break down. Even when I’m with my family, I feel like I’m somehow on the outside. Not that I’m being excluded… just that I don’t really fit there anymore, either. I don’t understand how I can feel like this, even with my own family… but I do.

I think that because I made the decision to change my heart this year, rather than my habits or my body I outgrew the life that I had been living. The past 5 years have been a huge leap in my spiritual growth. I went from a crawl to a full-on sprint in my walk with God in a very short amount of time, and for the most part have kept that pace. I don’t feel like I’m tired… I just feel like I’m not going anywhere. Like I’m wasting time and energy on something that doesn’t change.

Nothing ever changes.

But I need more.

If God has promised me a hope and a future, and has plans for me beyond just plugging holes in the sinking ship I feel my life is becoming… I need more.

So how am I going to fix it?

I don’t know… but maybe I don’t need to know.

Stick with me.

When Abraham was still Abram, God called him to “go to the place I will show you (Gen 12:1).” God gave him such a big promise, to make him the father of many nations, if he would just start walking. I like this story for two reasons. 1: It reminds me that I don’t have to fully understand what God is doing in order to be fully obedient. And 2. that God reveals Himself when we are actively walking with Him, not standing around looking around for something to happen. Maybe I’m completely missing what He’s trying to show me… Maybe I feel like I’m walking in circles because a wall like the one around Jericho needs to come down around my heart. Maybe I’m on lap six, and I’ve just got one more to go before something happens… until I’m no longer a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

Ultimately, that’s what it means to have hope, to believe that what you are doing today will make a difference tomorrow. As Christians, we talk a lot about faith, but not so much about hope. I think sometimes we think if we have hope for something down the line, it means that we don’t have faith for today… but in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 the Bible says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

So whether you are hoping to fit into a new, smaller pair of jeans, or you’re like me, and trying to figure out where the heck you fit into your life anymore… don’t lose hope. Keep walking (both figuratively and on the treadmill). Lap 6 might be where you get tired, but Lap 7 is where God hands you the victory.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. –Galatians 6:9

Shields High

“I want to fight.”

The most beautiful words I’ve heard come out of Buck Sexton’s mouth (whoa, feels weird to not put an “@” in front of his name…). I want to fight, too. Almost 2 months ago, I wrote a post about King Josiah. I ended with the words, “I want to fight. And I want to win.” So when Buck said those magic words during his show, I felt like a match was struck. For so long I’ve been waiting to hear someone else, someone who has an actual voice, say those words. (You can listen and download Buck’s show from September 21st here.)

I think most of us are tired. We hear all that’s wrong, but we don’t hear solutions. We see the corruption, but we can’t see a clear answer. We’ve been driven to our knees, but we don’t know what to pray for anymore.

I tried to get involved during the primary process last year. Usually no candidates come to Washington state. I thought it was exciting that Rick Santorum made a trip out here. Too bad we got him the worst venue, right smack dab in the middle of the armpit of Washington (oh, hey Tacoma!). It also didn’t help that there were Occupiers camped out, either. Aside from my sister and I, the occupiers were the youngest people there. I made a comment about how embarrassed I was by my generation. A dude gave me a hug. It was kind of cool.

So then, even though I was slightly discouraged, I went to the caucus. It was held in a nursing home. I was the youngest person there by 40 years. I wasn’t upset that I was the youngest person, but I was upset that no one my own age cared enough to show up. So then things got started. We talked about this issues, went down the list and took a survey. When it came time to discuss the candidates, I was ready to leave. We had to pick 3 delegates, so we all had to talk about who we were going to throw our hat in for. Aside from a couple Ron Paul’s, the majority of people said Romney. I would be cool with that, if they thought he was the best candidate for the job, but here’s what they said, “Romney is going to be the frontrunner anyway, so we might as well vote for him now.”

Maybe I’m crazy, but I think that the primaries are where we fight for who we actually want, not just who we think is going to win. I’m not ok with merely winning seats for people with an “R” attached to their name. This is supposed to be a representative government, but I don’t think most Americans feel represented in the government. We like to complain about how it’s “politics as usual” but we keep doing the same voting as usual. We don’t look at all the candidates, just the top two. Why? Why do we keep letting these phony, career politicians buy the election because we are too lazy to actually do our own homework. We only scan the items listed on the ballot for things that tickle our ears, but we don’t read through the entire proposal to see if it’s actually a good or bad thing. That’s why politicians can capitalize on our ignorance and take away our freedoms and continue to rob us blind in the form of taxes.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being told that I need to compromise my principles to win elections. I hear people talk about how there is no in-fighting amongst the democrats and that’s why they keep winning… well good for them. They are dumb enough to not know that they aren’t actually being represented. But I am not dumb. I know what’s going on. I can see it.

Here’s what I’m going to do about it.

First, I’m going to keep praying. We’ve been so busy trying to not offend people that we’ve been taking God out of everything. We’re not supposed to mix religion and politics. Too bad. I’m getting God involved. This weekend we had a lesson on Nehemiah. When he saw that his country was being destroyed, he prayed this prayer:

“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” Nehemiah 1:6-11

It’s not fun to think about repentance. Even when we think about not being perfect, we like to think “well, it wasn’t THAT bad.” If you read further in the book of Nehemiah, you see that he kept getting God involved, in every step of the process. So, that’s what I’m going to do.

Then, I’m going to stop waiting to hear what the experts have to say and start doing my own homework. I’m still going to keep an ear out, but I’m not going to let their analysis hold more weight than my own conscience. I’m not going to apologize for the decisions I make on the ballot. I’m not going to feel that twinge of regret that comes when checking a box next to a candidate that doesn’t represent me, just because everyone thinks he’s going to win. I hated it when people said “A vote for anyone but Romney is a vote for Obama.” No, it wasn’t. Do I wish we had someone who isn’t Obama in office right now? Yes. But telling people that their votes don’t matter is wrong. It’s not wrong to vote for someone who represents you. If we don’t start being more selective, every election is going to be a “better of two evils” battle.

Also, I truly believe that thinking we know the outcome determines how hard we’re willing to fight, whether consciously or sub-consciously. I like the story of Elisha talking to King Jehoash. His enemies are closing in, so Elisha tells him to get an arrow and strike the ground. Jehoash struck the ground three times. Elisha then is like, you dummy, you shouldn’t have stopped, because for every strike, God would’ve handed you a victory. You can read 2 Kings 13 if you don’t love my retelling of the story. Basically, the point is that God does crazy things and we can never know how things are going to turn out. We’ve just gotta keep pounding the ground. Maybe we’re going to lose, but I say all the time that I’m #RideOrDie. I would rather come back on my shield, than be someone’s slave, but I have faith that if we stop doing what we’ve always done, we’re going to start winning.

#ShieldsHigh

My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.
–Psalm 7:10

Secrets.

“What’s the one thing you can’t say in church?”

Anne Jackson asked that to her bloggers, which exploded so much that she actually wrote a book called “Permission to Speak Freely” based on her own experience. Her story was especially interesting because she talked about how she battled a porn addiction after an unhealthy relationship. You don’t normally hear about women struggling with porn, maybe racy romance novels, but not pornography. It was really eye-opening for me to realize that there are no stereotypical struggles. We’re all vulnerable to the tricks of the enemy.

So many times we hear about how church isn’t a place for perfect people. It’s a “hospital for sinners”… but is it really? We all like  to put on a front at church. A “holier than thou” image that’s just as bad as any Pharisee in the Bible. I don’t think that church is the place where we hang our dirty laundry, but I don’t think it’s a place for judgment either. So where does the healing come? If we’re all just playing pretend, are our lives really being changed?

James talks about how we are to confess our sins to one another, to share the burden. Is this happening in the church today? Do you even know the people you go to church with? Do they know you enough to know when you’re spiraling out of control?  The early church in Acts met DAILY in people’s HOMES. It wasn’t the once a week drive-thru carwash service that we’ve come to expect every Sunday. 

Secret sins are the ones the enemy uses to keep us down. The whole idea of “suffering in silence” is a lie that we buy in to because we don’t want people to know how messed up we really are, how in need of a Savior we really are. When we look at people in church, often times we are comparing our blooper reel with their highlight reels. The person sitting next to you has their own struggle, even if you’re sitting next to the pastor. We need to just get over that fear and do what the Bible says and share our burdens and confess our sins. You know how the Bible says the truth shall set you free? Well,  sometimes, as Glenn Beck says, “It’ll make you miserable first.” But once you are free from that burden, you can start living in victory.

I am blessed to have a church family that does the whole “small group” thing well. I have close personal friends who keep me accountable, whether I ask them to or not. If your church doesn’t have this, I would suggest bringing it up to the leaders and let them know that it’s an area that could use improvement, or even finding another church. Or finding another small group in your area. We have had a few people come to our small group who don’t even attend our church, just because they needed to connect on a deeper level with other Christians. There are options.

I know it’s scary to put your trash out on the curb for all the neighbors to see, especially if it’s been piling up for a while in your house. My advice is: don’t be a hoarder, because their houses are the ones that get condemned. (Maybe it’s just me but I think this is a clever analogy…) God gives us grace when we fall, so we don’t have to worry about the landing, but maybe you aren’t aware that He also gives us His righteousness so that we can stand back up without being under the weight of our mistakes.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. — James 5:16

Two.

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with how much sadness there is in the world. It breaks my heart to see people so defeated and oppressed by the enemy. As Christians we’re called to care for people, but with entitlement programs, I think American Christians have decided that it’s not their mission field. Besides, it sounds better to say you went on a mission trip to Africa than it does to say you went downtown.

My campus ministry did a local mission a couple years ago. We provided five hundred meals for a women and children’s shelter in Seattle. We also went and did the “Everything Skit” along with shared our testimonies and did worship and prayer. I was so blessed to get to know those women and hear their stories. It’s so easy to judge people when you only take them at face value, but when you hear the pain in their voice and see the hopelessness in their eyes, you realize that there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes.

So what about the people we see on the street holding signs? How many times do we think “get a job!” or “you’re just going to use it to buy booze”? While I may agree that begging and boozing isn’t the way to live your life, I don’t think that treating these people less than human will make them want to rejoin the ranks of every day Americans, do you?

So what’s my plan?

Well, according to my research (Magic School Bus), there are about 330,000 churches in America. In 2009, it was estimated that there were 650,000 homeless people on a given night.  That means that if every church “adopted” just two homeless people, we could wipe out homelessness in America.  There are so many excuses people could use, like “Well, some people have been on the streets so long, they don’t want to come off” and to that I have to ask, how the hell did we let people stay on the streets for YEARS?

And what about hungry people? Is it possible to get America off food stamps? Well, forty-seven million people sounds like a lot, but if you break it down by churches, that’s about 142 people per church. I’m not saying it’s doable for every church, but there are megachurches that spend millions building state-of-the-art buildings, when really, what they’ve been called to do is to help the poor.

I don’t know all the logistics, and not everybody wants to be helped by the church. There’s a lot of cynicism, and some of it is well-deserved. I think American churches have really dropped the ball. It’s not too late to do something, but the problems have grown to be overwhelming in size, so it’s hard to know where to start. So start with breaking down the numbers. See what it is that you can do on a personal level, then talk to your church leaders and see what your church can do on a community level.

 

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” — Ezekiel 16:49