Thursday, November 14, 2013

Life without Lane Lines

A large intersection down the street from the Seminary has been under construction for a few weeks. Last week they poured new asphalt and the street is nice and smooth. But there are no lane lines yet and suddenly a street with previously three lanes now has four! The first time I approached the intersection I almost ran a red light. I had no idea where to stop and, like a typical mother, my right hand instantly stretched out to protect my purse, as I just missed the traffic coming from the other direction. After I had calmed down and crossed the intersection safely I started thinking about how much I really like rules. I want to know where on the road I am supposed to drive and where the other people on the road are supposed to be.

This spills over to the rest of my life. I want to know what I am expected to do and when I am expected to do it. I want to know that others will follow the same rules I am trying to follow. In my mind this creates order and predictability, which I am very comfortable with. As a matter of fact, the people who really seem to not bother about rules, or make them up as they go, scare me a bit. I never know what they are going to do next.

However, the step from liking rules to being legalistic is very small. When I start measuring my success in how well I have kept the rules I have taken that step. Or, worse, when I start judging people according to how well they keep the rules I have come up with, I have really succumbed to full on legalism. Rules, in and of themselves, are benign. As a matter of fact they are there to provide guidance for us to live in society together. How I respond to my, or anybody else's ability to keep them is not.

Dr. Fred Chay from Phoenix Seminary has compiled a legalism self test. Here are a few highlights from his list of "You might be a legalist if...(condensed)

  • You feel you have to meet everyone's expectations and win the approval of others
  • God's love depends on what you do
  • You think you fall short because you didn't have enough faith, it's not strong enough, you haven't prayed enough, or you need to be a better person
  • You are convinced that God is predisposed to be angry with you, and that your goal in life is to keep Him happy by doing things that will impress Him
  • You worry that people might take advantage of grace if it is preached too much
  • You feel that your "superior commitment" to follow Christ allows you to be above others in your church

Scripture has the antidote: Live by the Spirit; walk by the Spirit; follow the Spirit; listen to the Spirit. Galatians 5:18 actually says, "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." Paul is referring to the Mosaic Law, but the point is that if we become so in tune to the Spirit that we don't need to worry about whether or not we are following the rules. The Spirit leads us in every circumstance to do the right thing.

One of my favorite verses has been Isaiah 30:2, "And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' when you turn (deviate) to the right or when you turn (deviate) to the left." I want to learn how to live like that. Even when there are no lane lines.

Monday, October 14, 2013

On Why Being Called a Strong Woman Sometimes Bothers Me…

I get called a strong woman a lot. At first, I took it as a compliment. And I usually still do.  I am a strong and assertive female who knows what I want with my life. I take care of things. I put coolant in my car and change my furnace filters. I do on-the-fly plumbing and plan birthday parties and work and go to graduate school. I am a strong woman, but sometimes I feel like by using that is just a label that keeps people from knowing the true complexity of who I am.

First of all. All women who rely on the strength of the Lord do to whatever work God calls them to are strong. I am not strong simply because I choose to operate in a male dominated field. The stay at home mom is not weak because she doesn’t. That choice requires a level of strength I will never understand until I have children of my own. While it is true that my personality can be strong and my dreams are strong and my God is strong, I don’t want strong to be a new badge women use to start organizing ourselves into greater thans and less thans.

Another issue I have with being called a strong woman? The assumption that I am always strong. Coupled with the fact that I am an introvert who is unlikely to share lots of personal information, I often feel left dangling on the edge of a cliff. People assume that I am ok because I am strong and I clearly must have it figured out. I am strong, but sometimes I am also weak. Sometimes I am at a loss and I don’t know what to do but because I am “strong,” I don’t know how to ask for help.

A lot of that is on me. I am continually reminded how I need to be more open and vulnerable with people. I can’t really expect people to know when I am struggling if they don’t know me. But some of that is on other people, particularly women. In our desire to be strong (whatever that means for that particular woman), let us not allows our strength to keep us from having support when we are weak.

Let us not allow strength to become another label we hide behind. You can be strong but you are so much more than that. If you are strong, you can also feel free to be weak. Because we serve a God who is always strong and it doesn't get much better than that. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Babble on in Babylon

This is the second time I have bumped into the following poem by a participant at a Beth Moore Daniel study. Hits me every time. It was worth sharing.

Babble on in Babylon

Brimming closets, shoe racks bulge,
one in every color, I’ll just indulge.
My wildest whim will oft be met, bigger, faster, give me, get.
Travel on in Babylon.

May I go first? Knew you’d not care,
for my time’s precious. You’ve lots to spare.
I’ll slip in front and off I’ll go.
See, I’m quite fast and well, you’re quite slow.
I and me fast friends, life-long.
Prattle on in Babylon.

Nip it here, just there a lift.
I just turned forty, it was a gift.
The eyes, the lips, the bosoms do,
sculptured, lasered, injected, too.
No wrinkles left, the tummy’s gone.
Journey on in Babylon.

Enough of me, how do you view me?
You get one, but give me three.
I couldn’t bare to just say no,
it’s my desire and rightly so.
Add another and on and on.
Shuffle on in Babylon.

No end in sight that I can see,
today is blocked by the mirror in front of me.
A wreck, a death, tsunami tide,
it mildly stirs me, I must confide.
TV claims tens of thousands gone.
Oh well, let’s see what else is on.
Numb to the stunning sight of each new dawn,
Sinking fast in Babylon.

Like a lobster in a pot
who begins to like the water hot,
I’ve been duped, been tricked, been had,
convinced that truth was somehow bad.
Evil, coddled and cooed and purred,
and beckoned me and called and lured.
Now in a place with the lights turned on,
I’m racing home from Babylon.
I’m racing home from Babylon.

--Lynn Parker

Taken from the video series in the study of Daniel. Thank you Beth Moore for speaking the truth and your study of God's word. Praying God's abundant blessing and protection on you, your family and ministry.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Post-Africa Reflections

The Congo Team
One of the things that I most enjoy about life is how in each season I often find myself drastically different than I was just previously. Sometimes the change is hard and sometimes the change is obvious, but more often than not, I suddenly look up and find that somewhere along the way I changed and I am not even sure how. There was no big moment or life crisis (although I have had plenty of those too). There are just slight changes of course and interactions with people both pleasant and troubling. Sometimes there are decisions you make without much thought. It is just a culmination of everyday things, some barely discernible.

While God has certainly worked in my life in big ways, I find that He tends to work in the minutiae of my life, changing my heart a little bit each day. As I sit and write this nearly a week after I have returned from Africa, I ponder His work in my life. I went into the trip expecting for my life to just implode. I expected that I would have some crisis of conscience where I would need to choose between academics and mission work. In spite of my best attempts to not have expectations of the trip, I found that I had certain ideas of how it would affect my life.

I thought I would put my feet on African soil and fall in love immediately. That didn’t happen. I thought I would spend a fair amount of time crying. I cried only once. I thought my life would be changed. But it didn’t really feel like it had. I worried that I wasn’t connecting to people like I should. I was worried that I was protecting my heart. I was worried that I hadn’t had some type of crisis where I evaluated every aspect of my life.

I returned to the U.S. and began to process. People asked me what the highlight was and I couldn’t answer. I hadn’t thought about it enough yet. Experiences don’t mean much to me until I figure out how they fit into my world. I had to think. I had to process.

I still have no highlight of the trip to offer people. There were certainly funny moments and overwhelming moments. There were moments of sadness and ones of joy. But that is life isn’t it? At the end of the day, there was nothing that special about the trip. I simply entered, thanks to God’s planning, into the daily life of my African brothers and sisters. The bombs and fighting are nothing special to them, it is just their life.

I remained perplexed about my reaction to the trip, but I also knew that I just had to let myself process. And yesterday, I had this moment where I looked up and realized that I am vastly different than the person I was a month ago. I have absolutely no idea how it happened, but per usual, God has slowly molded my heart in the small ways. It was likely each conversation, each prayer, and each story that made a small alteration in my heart. Before I knew it, those small changes had made a big difference. For me, it wasn’t one big moment that impacted me; it was a million small ones.

I don’t even know how to explain in tangible ways how I am different, I just know that I am. I feel like I am more myself than I have ever been. I feel more centered, I feel bolder, I feel closer to Jesus.

There is still so much processing to be done. I spend a fair amount of time processing in my own daily life and evaluating this trip will likely continue for months to come. I don’t even pretend to know what God is up to and what this trip will mean for my future.

But for now, I remain content to continue on, thinking and processing, and allowing God to continue to break my heart for what breaks His.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013

God's Plans Are Bigger than My Pain

Talking with two friends at school one day, I heard myself say, "God's plans are bigger than my pain." It was a startling realization in the midst of an intense discussion about being confronted, challenged, and hurt by someone I hadn't expected to hurt me.

What this person said almost doesn't matter. What matters is that it felt like someone took a cheese grater to my heart. They said things that weren't true and made assumptions about the person I am. I was bewildered, wondering who I really was. If I wasn't a caring, emphatic, safe person... then who was I?

I talked to close friends and said, "Is this true?" And the overwhelming response was that it wasn't. Did the person have some good points about ways I could grow? Definitely. Did they articulate them well? No. And then I got smacked across the head when somebody else I respect, but who doesn't know well basically said they have concerns about my ability to connect with people on an upcoming missions trip. (By the way, the best way for you to ever get proven wrong is tell me you don't think I can do something.)

So, I am sitting in the student lounge with my heart shredded and before I know it, I am spilling my guts. And in the process of this discussion, I shared how much I wanted to pull away and build up walls to protect my heart. Yet, I knew that wasn't really a possibility. It hurts to live with my heart in the open, but it is something I have to do. God's plans are bigger than my pain.

The reason why I closely guard my heart is that I am easily hurt. I might never tell you that you have hurt me, but I am a deeply sensitive person. I feel like I am always offering my heart to people on a platter and saying, "Please, treat me with care." And people often don't. And I turn inward out of self-preservation.

But I don't want to live like that anymore. I want to experience things that I am usually too afraid to because I know that I will get hurt. I want to make new friends and have new adventures. I want to learn how to live with a shredded heart because that is how I feel right now. Like I am sitting here, with a heart that honestly physically feels bruised. I feel vulnerable and I feel scared. That heart that I offer up? People won' t treat it with care. They will bruise it more. They will make me cry and doubt myself. But if I want people to know me better than I have to be willing to show them more of who I really am. Will there be pain in that? Obviously, but there is also great joy.

And ultimately, I love the person I am and the person God is shaping me to be. I love the plan that God has for my life. And if I have to spend my days laying out my shredded heart for people to stomp on in order to live His plan out, then I that is what I need to do.

Because God's plans are bigger than my pain.

P.S. Shout out to those two people in the Seminary Student Lounge. Your words that day mean more than I can ever express.
Monday, March 18, 2013

Being Just A Little Too Much

Side note: I have had all these things I have wanted to write about and share lately, but things have been hectic and I am adapting to a new schedule so blogging had to go for a bit, but this post is something that really hit home for me today and I felt I had to share it.

For many, they struggling with not being enough. Not smart enough, not pretty enough, not cool enough. Just not enough in some way or another.

I struggle in this area, especially related to school. I didn't study enough, I am not smart enough, I didn't work hard enough, I am just not enough to succeed in this. I actually struggled with this today.

But lately, I have noticed I also struggle with the other extreme; feeling like I am just a little too much.

Too Talkative
Too Smart
Too Female
Too Messy
Too Introspective
Too Demanding
Too Ridiculous

You know, just all around too much.

This is one of the reasons, in addition to my introspective nature, that I tend to keep to myself and hold back. I didn't ask questions in school because I didn't want to seem too... I don't know... too ridiculous. I didn't get to know professors well or ask them for help because I didn't want to seem to needy. I was afraid that if I opened myself up to people they would see how crazy my mind works sometimes, how obsessive I can be, how sometimes I just need to ramble the same thing over and over to people. I was afraid that if I opened up so people could see how my mind worked they would misunderstand my musings as complaining (which happens a lot actually). Some people don't realize that I have a big personality and when it comes out, it seems to be too much for some people.

But somewhere along the line, I just got tired of not being myself. The truth is that I am a messy and complicated person. I am obsessive and passionate. I am determined and searching. I have my flaws, definitely, but I should be ok with who I am. I will always be growing and changing, but I should not have to apologize for where and who I am at this moment in life. Not everyone has to love my personality, but I should at least give them the opportunity to get to know the real me.

And even as I type this, I think of my word of the year: HONOR.

I am God's creature. Just like I cannot believe the lie that I am not enough, I can't believe the lie that I am too much. I am made in His image and He knew me before I was born. He knows me; the messy, complicated, overwhelmed, slightly obsessive, perfectionist that I am. He knows me; the passionate, loving, continually searching and growing me. I do Him absolutely no honor when I hide who I am and who He fashioned me to be. I do Him no honor when I hide the person He is molding me into.

Maybe in 5 years, I won't be as obsessive or ridiculous, but maybe I will be.

And I am ok with that. Because while I might be just a little too much for the world, I am not too much for my God.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Photo: Trees

7“At least there is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.
8Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump die in the soil,
9yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth shoots like a plant.
-- Job 14:7-9