Tuesday, April 29, 2014

That frog story

You know that frog story...more of an analogy I guess, to what happens to you when you're not looking, or when you're not aware of what is actually happening. It's the story you heard probably from your wise old grandad or maybe your know-it-all youth group leader, who in hindsight was only twenty some years old- a kid himself! But regardless, a happy go lucky frog is put into a pot of water and put on the stove, the water only comes to a full boil in a slow gradient that the frog doesn't know it's getting cooked until he's dead. The once warm and cozy pool of water, clear and clean begins to turn a determined, fire-y boil, killing you in the moment you notice. I let this story sink in, and in the beginning stages of letting it marinade, I think to myself, this has to be some evil little boy up to no good, experimenting with his boyhood or some French person making himself a nice lunch midweek.

I thought about this analogy as I scrolled through my Facebook pictures late last night. I scrolled and scrolled all the way back to the first picture I was ever tagged in. It never really means all that much at the moment, when you're hanging out with the same group of friends you saw last week and someone snaps a random picture of you. In some mundane moment, you're captured smiling (or not smiling) and you "like" the picture that's been posted on your wall, because that's all the picture is worth at the time. Four years later, I see how much things have changed and I realize I was already at a happy place all the way back when. In the hundreds of mundane moments, I know I was having visions of grandeur and happier times a head when I was already there. One thought of discontent leads to another and some how, four years later, you find yourself looking through pictures of happier times wasted.

My grandad, or my youth group kid of a leader told me this cautionary tale to warn, if you are not aware of what kind of container you remain in and unaware of what kinds of people you let in, you will surely cook. (Somehow...the marinading took a lot longer than planned...maybe I was stuck on the French cooking too long. Regardless.) The people you surround yourself with, the small choices you make, are the same measure of how the heat goes up in your water. You give in to things because it's not really a big deal, you go with the flow because you're just that cool, you let things happen because it's not really a big deal, at the time. Then after awhile, the infinitely small amount of heat that's been amounting begins to form bubbles, although uncomfortable and maybe even painful, you don't quite know why. It's our pride that makes us prone to wonder, the kind of thinking that says "I have full control," "I would never do that," "that can never happen to me," takes us to exactly that place. The place where Youth leaders knock up youth group girls, pastors having affairs with congregational members, the frequency of drink creeps up from weekend to several times a week. No one ever plans to walk down that path, just like no little girl dreams of becoming a prostitute or stripper, no boy ever dreams of ending up in jail for murder, and no Chemistry teacher plans a career change from high school instruction to cooking methamphetamine and bringing down drug cartels. It's the foolish earthly wisdom to help you make to cope, instead of the kind of resolve Joseph had when he fled the scene naked with his seductress still holding his cloak. 

Looking through my pictures, I was the happiest when I worked along side close friends at Crossing Borders, brainstorming how to bring justice and awareness for the North Korean people. I was happiest when I was on the praise team for youth retreats, I was happiest with the people that I still see now and have drifted from because I thought I wasn't being appreciated or understood. I was happiest when I wasn't so aware of myself, aware of the things God wasn't giving me. I let one small seed of discontent grow into a full bloomed self indulgent way of thinking and living, letting my flesh rule. It's getting a little hot in here now...I think I'll jump while I still have my skin.

"Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one-the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts." C.S. Lewis

Monday, April 28, 2014

True self

Phew! These are just 4 lists (below) of characteristics from the Bible that describe the beautiful and righteous. Now, I want to forget every going to church or crack open my Bible App to read the Word. I love a good inspiring talk, any talk.  Lectures, Ted talks, sermons, when some mom writes an open letter to Miley Cyrus and makes a good point, when a gift friend gets on a soap box about some obscure issue she champions. It inspires me and I nod, and give an occasional, "yeah" "totally" or even a "mmhmm, amen" if it's really good. But this past Sunday, as I was taking notes on characteristics that shows you to be wise, and it jabbed at me that these characteristics, rightly and solely only belong to God and  seems daunting to achieve. I cannot measure up to the women in Proverbs 31 and that is a common and wide spread groaning among Christian girls every where (So, stop showing this verse to us, guys). Even if I weren't a Christian and I read this verse, I would be complete impressed with her-yes! but turn and slitter away from church in shame. I have a crippling disease called Perfectionism and any time I realize it would be impossible for me to win or achieve in full completion, I will scrap the whole project. That day, I wanted to scrap ever trying to do the difficult thing to be Christ-like and live my life to eat, drink and be merry.

Most Sundays, I sit at one of those round high school cafeteria tables, you know...the ones only Seniors (or cool juniors) get to sit at and wonder, what am I doing here? Better yet, what am I doing leading this congregation in praise on certain Sabbath days? They would barely be able to look at me let alone be led to song in my leading. As Pastor D expanded on each of the characteristics of someone with wisdom, I felt myself shrinking in my seat at every mention of it's beauty and righteousness. I imagine lots of people have felt this, as they try to keep their Christian poker face, their insides are bubbling with guilt and inadequacy. That feeling you get when you're sitting next to someone like Natalie Portman and you feel the physical and mental discrepancy between you. Completely ashamed and defeated from the impossibility of ever measuring up to her.

I love what the Bible says about who is beautiful and righteous, I love the God we worship because he wants his children to look just like him in character. When I read about great Kings with absolute power but with more grace to have mercy, instead of taking what he can with great constraint, I melt into compliance and obedience to God. When I read about women who wait in silence without one peep of complaint, fasting and praying to hear from God, to call for wisdom to possess her, then entering into the throne room of a testy king and speaks out for her people, I covet her tenacity and I want to be just like her. I think all of us are drawn to people like this and love to picture ourselves possessing all of the list below because we at the core, aren't suppose to be evil, unwise, selfish or wayward. We were created, at time's beginning, as beautiful creatures who were created in the image of God. We didn't lose the God given, heavenly core even at the fall of Adam, because through Christ, we regain what is lost and our true, real, authentic selves are to be stunning.

It's difficult to know and remember this when I am conducting out of my insecurities, my damaged soul and wounded heart, always trying to cover and protect myself in selfish ambition. It's difficult to remember that I am a new creation when I know Him, who calls me daughter before I ever prove myself worthy, especially when I am constantly proving to myself, and others, that I am exactly the monster I believe I am. I pray to shed my false self, which is made to protect, hide, boast, boost, and make up for my bankrupt part of me. I pray that I am nearer every day to my true core, which looks more like God's core and that is my hope.

Wisdom in James 3
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of 
all pure; 
then peace-loving
full of mercy  
good fruit  
18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Love in 1 Corinthians is 
love is kind
it does not envy
it does not boast, it is not proud
 It does not dishonor others
it is not self-seeking
it is not easily angered
it keeps no record of wrongs
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
It always protects
always trusts
always hopes
always perseveres
Love never fails
A good king (or a leader) in Proverbs 31 is not to
spend your strength[a] on women
 your vigor on those who ruin kings.
It is not for kings
it is not for kings to drink wine
 not for rulers to crave beer 
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
    and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
They are to
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute
Speak up and judge fairly
defend the rights of the poor and needy. 

A noble woman in Proverbs 31 on the other hand...
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

In 20 years

Someone recently asked me, "Do you think, in twenty years you would be more like Jesus than you are now?"  My answer was quick and curt. "I hope so." When I answered that questions I genuinely didn't know if I was slowly but surely moving in the direction of becoming more like Jesus or moving away from it, quickly. By looking twenty years back, when I was 16, I decided I wasn't moving toward becoming more like Jesus. When I look back to 16, I see a girl who is painfully naive, innocent, pure, happy, and stupidly confident in herself. Not because she was by any means the queen bee or had a future so bright you had to squint just looking into the distance of it. She was decidedly confident in her goodness, in her purity, innocence, and naivety, because she had nothing to fear and nothing to hide. 20 years later, seeing and realizing many pains, disappointments, let downs, stricken by others and after doing the striking herself, it's difficult to be confident in anything. No matter what she's accomplished or driven herself to build, it's all for naught when you are just not that nice, patient, or composed and on top of that, damaged.

I barely know that girl, who once was put on pedestals and seeing life through rose colored glasses. I can't seem to say, "that was once me." She seems so removed and I've lost her for good, even though I'm told she's still inside me struggling to survive, but I think I kill her ever single day with the lies swirling in my head about myself. Perhaps I've let my circumstances rule me and singe my heart with it's burn. Perhaps, I loved too hard, too much and given my heart away, exposed and it was given back to me in pieces. Whatever the case, somewhere along the way, I feel I've lost that girl.

Adults don't become reserved, humbled, and mature because they've come into their own skin of knowledge and wisdom, but they are less likely to dance, be free, double over in laughter because they are simply too tired, afraid and ashamed. They've seen too much of life, the side of life that has given them enough grief to fill their waking consciousness of doubt and compromise, that they are not free, they are not silly. When I see an adult, still willing to try things they are not perfect at, or see the newness in anything, I see that they are brave, they have not let life happen to their soul. Every day I am humbled, not in an awe stricken way of realizing how vast the universes, how bountiful the love of God, the power of Him who created heaven and earth, how amazing the human spirit that can accomplish great feats. I am humbled by my sin and it's consequences, how defeated I am by the fight of change and keeping it together.

At the end of our discussion, the same someone had asked me a second question; "Is Jesus more like Jesus when he dealing with prideful, blind people, who's hearts are so fickle, they are worshiping him one day and crucifying him the next? Suffering on the cross, weeping at a tomb, flipping a table out of righteous anger, or when he is seated in heaven, untouched, inaccessible, pure, and innocent? That answer was easy too...Jesus is more like Jesus when he is suffering in human flesh, feeling the emotions, the fears, the highs and the lows, than when there is nothing showing his character at all.  I still don't know if I'm more like Jesus today than when I was 16, untouched by life, but I sure do hope that I've lived, suffered, endured, and finally learned who I need to cling to when life is mean to me. When I'm mean to me.