Monthly Archives: September 2013

God is really terrifying

In my continuing effort to be real… can I admit that thinking about thinking about God is much easier than just thinking about Him?

He’s so absolute. You start reading the gospels and -wham- you slam up against Jesus’ Godness. I can’t wrap my mind around Him.* I can’t wrap my mind around the bright-white intensity of His goodness and love and justice. You know how God said that seeing even a tiny bit of Him would kill Moses? That’s kind of how I feel. Overwhelmed.

I’m working on it. 🙂 I’ve asked… He’s answered. So lovingly, so gently. Honestly even His gracious answer blows my mind. -shakes head- CrazyPants.

The intensity of His light is sometimes why I run away from Him. But it’s also why I respect** Him.

When we reflect God’s light, sometimes people run away from us. Oh well. Shouldn’t darken the lantern because it blinds eyes used to the darkness. Just wait, and eventually their eyes will adjust and they’ll be able to look at the true Light for themselves. Grow some curiosity. Learn to crave goodness and joy. Just wait. Everyone is shocked at first.

But. As I said. God is scary and awesome and I have a hard time thinking about Him. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write about Him. I feel like sitting on the rug, jaw-dropped and whimpering quietly, just edging around. But. But. I think I need to spend some time thinking about Him, even if I can’t bring it to y’all. Because… that’s what we were all ultimately created for – to be with Him.

Mindblowing. Absolutely Mind.Blowing.

It *is* easier to concentrate on ourselves, and our failures. Sometimes it’s appropriate. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes, we just need to sit and stare.

*DUH. Wasn’t it CS Lewis who said that if we could understand God, He wouldn’t *be* God? The temporal can’t understand the infinite.

** Soooo not an adequate word.

The Illusion – and Idol – of Competency

Another day, another introspection…

We talk about idols and what we idolize as Christians rather a lot. Wasn’t my last post on just that? Our tendency to idolize? If it’s not another god, it’s something in our lives that becomes a functional savior. It seems like life becomes one continual witch hunt.

I’ve started to be confronted with the fact that I need to spend less time trying to perfect myself, and more time looking to – and at – my Savior. The epistles are straightforward letters, telling us all about the dos and don’ts of Christian life. Good stuff. I’m so very comfortable in them. The gospels, on the other hand… they run me up against my Lord and Master, and they are anything but simple. I need to marinate. Not just read through, but read and sit and just be. Examine and study my Lord. NOT my to-do list, and the myriad ways that I fail. Him. I need to study Him. Focus on Him.

It was a hard emotional day today. I’ve been feeling like a failure on a few fronts. The fronts themselves aren’t important. The fact that it seems like my new idea of “just okay” is “spinning a thousand plates and not breaking a sweat”. Competence becomes my idol. You’d think that an idol would get praise, but all *my* idol gets is blame when things go wrong. “Self, you’re failing me! Why are you not perfect? Failure!” It takes a constant input of praise to keep my idol going … I tend to disbelieve about 95% of it, so tell me I’m wonderful and I will decide that *maybe* you shouldn’t throw me out with the old magazines.

I could entertain myself by psychoanalyzing myself. But that’s not a solution. The solution isn’t in this flesh. The solution is to give over. To ask for my daily bread – and to MEAN IT. The paradox of dependence and checking off the to-do list has to tip one way or the other. It’s time to chop the to-do list to bits and leave it on the altar.

No, I’m not going to take up eating bon-bons and sleeping until noon. Not *once* when I’ve asked Jesus to organize my day have I gotten less done than I hoped. Not once. Usually I get *more* done.

I’m killing myself, hating myself… and it’s all because I’ve decided to focus on myself. I never wanted to be my own savior, my own god.

Give us this day, our daily bread… I must rest in Him. Focus on Him. Study Him.

I don’t have to beat myself up. I don’t have to prop myself up. I don’t have to make something of myself. I don’t have to do anything with myself at all. That’s His job.

All praise, all focus, to Jesus. To God be the glory, great things He has done.

Heroes Pt. 2 – See that thou doest it not!

Revelation 22:8-9 And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

1 Corintians 10:11-14 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

Do you know what keeps me up nights? The parable of the talents. I started life with a fairly healthy body, parents who loved me, a good brain, and religious education. I was given a *very great deal*, and I don’t want to be found less than faithful in my stewardship. I know people whose parents didn’t love them, who have terrible illnesses, who have had frightful things happen to them at every turn, and they struggle along… do you think I should compare where I am with where they are? I don’t. I don’t think it’s useful to compare myself to other humans *at all* (and if you haven’t read Jess’ excellent piece on comparisons go do it now – link at bottom of page). If I compare myself to other humans, I open myself up to worshipping them or raising myself as an object of worship *for* them.

We’re supposed to use other humans as examples. Not to compare ourselves against, but to use for problem solving. “What did X do in this situation? Did it work? Why or why not? What were the long-term results?” That’s why our Bibles are so important. That’s why biographies are useful to read. ** That’s why it’s important to look at the entirety of someone’s life, not a moment in time. That’s why, when someone asked me about a very young Christian celebrity, and wanted to know if I thought he was the real thing, I said, “ask me in 10 years”. No human is perfect. We’re going to make mistakes. The idea is, as much as possible, to learn from the mistakes of others so that we don’t have to make the same mistakes. Saves time if nothing else.

We’re not supposed to worship other parts of God’s creation. We are only supposed to worship our Creator. People, plants, angels, stars, planets, moon, earth, rocks… we’re not supposed to worship *any* of it. That’s how you tell when the angel you’re talking to is on God’s team or the enemy’s. Only the enemy allows worship. We aren’t to hold ourselves up as the perfect in any way – first, because it’s not true, and second because it’s slightly blasphemous. No one is perfect except God, and therefore none of us is a perfect *anything*. Let’s remember Whose team we’re playing for, and act like it.

How can we disallow worship and still shine as lights? Well, that’s the point of *being real*. To be real is to be known. To be known is to be known for your good attributes and your failings. The point of showing your failings is not so that people can say, “she has it all together and *she* fails to dislodge her spiders!” so that they can excuse their own spidery corners. No, it’s just to remind them that you’re a person like they are. What we ought to be saying sounds more like, “Betty is a great cook. I should go learn how she makes meatloaf. Susan sure keeps her kids well-disciplined! I’ll run over and pick her brains about kids. Alice’s garden is a wonder! However does she get peonies to grow without a frost?”

And if your name is Betty and your cooking is amazing but you can’t grow a geranium – hopefully you can make friends with Alice and find out what you’re doing wrong! Take her a meatloaf. Since we’re repeatedly referred to as the “body of Christ”, I take it that we’re supposed to work together, supporting each other in our weak spots, and helping one another grow stronger.

It’s not enough to have weak spots and admit them. Because we’re supposed to increase in perfection, and that means we’re supposed to work on our weak spots while we help other folks with theirs. My business and my strength are in one area – but does that mean that it’s okay to blow off other areas? No, not forever. We can’t do everything simultaneously, and the Holy Spirit is faithful to convict, but we must keep our ears open. In other words, do the things you do well, well. Learn to do the things you do poorly, better. Don’t drive yourself insane trying to be perfect when you wake up tomorrow, but attend to the business at hand and don’t get complacent.

Get your hands dirty, keep your heart clean. Remember – a good light has clean windows.


** I will admit to a personal distaste for history of any stripe, except in tidbits. The tides of history are very depressing. That doesn’t mean I *shouldn’t* read it. It means that I don’t. Oh dear, now I have something to improve on. Bother!

Heroes and Role Models

(Sorry for the silence, had a houseguest).

Humans have a need to worship. In the absence of “ordo amoris” (order of affections), a relationship with God, and an understanding of fallen man, humans look to other humans for heroes. Even *with* God, we find ourselves desiring human role models. (That’s part of what the Bible is for – to show whole human lives and point out the admirable parts along with the not-so-admirable parts). This is normal human behavior, and it can be expected from humans.

In this time that we find ourselves in, we are continually bombarded with the heroes of the moment. I’m not sure why I even use the word “hero”, because they are nearly invariably entertainers of some stripe rather than people who are famous for having done something of benefit to the community. We rarely look up to anyone because of their strength of character, and even when we note the character, it is incidental to the performance.

Character takes too long to develop, too long to prove. We like instant.

This state of affairs leads to an endless succession of “heroes” who fall on their faces, who are found not merely wanting, but to not meet any of the characteristics to which we ascribe them. They are humans, fallen humans, and they are tempted far more effectively than you or I – and they are tempted in the spotlight. It is no wonder at all that they collapse under the pressure.

How does this intersect with the goal of becoming more real? First – we need to be out there, doing our business as lights. Second, it makes it public that real people have problems *and* they have greatness. I think that we hear too much about the problems and we don’t hear about the greatness. So we start thinking that normal people are fallen, but the sparkly people have it all together. Instead – we can see that each person around us has something to bring to the table, and some of those people have a talent or fruit of the spirit that is truly awe inspiring – without forgetting that they also aren’t very good at other things. Example: I can sew and cook and write… but please don’t ask me to do car maintenance. Actually, if you can skip asking me to maintain anything, that’s better. Have me set it up and do the dirty work, but get someone else to keep it running.

I don’t have to be good at every thing to be good at some things. Neither do you, and neither does that person on TV… or at the pulpit. What we are called to do is our best, and to develop the talents and skills that God gave us.

Let’s be *real* – great, flawed, and God’s creations, humbled before our Creator.

Real Ambassadors

How does being an ambassador of Christ intersect with being real?

If we’re not real, we can’t be known. If we cannot be known, neither can our Lord. How can we call out others with the scent of the far country, if we never let people get close enough to smell?

People these days have gotten pretty sensitive to hypocrisy. They know when they’re being left out, and they’re just waiting for you to act out of character. That makes being any kind of witness hard. But if we are trying to be witnesses, to show what’s different about Christians, to show the Love, Truth and Beauty that exist only in God… we *have* to allow ourselves to be known.

I’m not talking about blogging or about cyberlife. Yes, you can be something of a witness here in cyberland… but honestly people reading Christian blogs are likely mostly Christians. And there are risks to letting too much of yourself be known online. (Anonymity can make cruel whims into cruel realities). I’m talking about day-to-day, the people who see your face and *know* when you’re having a sucky week, because your coloring isn’t on.

I’m talking about the people who see you get mad – and see what you do with that. The ones who know exactly how you were provoked, because they were standing right next to you. The people who give you a hug when chips are down. The people who see how high you bounce, and what makes you sing.

Does your life match your words? It better. James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

People in this world deal with hardship, they have tears. They don’t need to be held away from your heart so that you can make it look like you have everything all together. Do know you know what that is? That’s *pride*. We’re supposed to be lamps on the hilltops – but the light doesn’t come from us, it comes from God. And if we’re going to shine more light, what we need to do is get less of us in the way.

Be real. Talk about the stuff that’s really on your mind. Ask for a hug when you need one. Take a deep breath and say you’re going to pray about it. Don’t worry about offending man – and don’t speak Christianese if you can avoid it! (I should talk, I think in KJV half the time). Let people see you fall, and let them see that when you fall down, what you do is look to Jesus – and that doing that changes things. Let them see you lean on Him for the source of the faith you show. The love, the kindness, the charity. All us Christians know that it’s not us that powers those good things, those are the fruits of the spirit. But the Worldlings? They think that we’re just nice people. Hah. Show the way prayer changes you. Let them see the joy coming off of you after a worship session.

It’s not just bad things you show to be real – that’s false humility. Show good stuff. Show real stuff. Don’t hold yourself back, just be who you were made, and be in love with Jesus.

Love changes everything.

The Cost of the Real

I have been called out to be more transparent, more real, more true. It’s not only my own eyes that ache with the hunger for true interaction, I can see it in the eyes around me. I know how badly I want to be known, how fascinated I am with others… and yet.

And yet the real has costs. To be real, one must allow transparency. One must allow oneself to be known in truth. Not to simply tell out the things that we like best about ourselves, not to simply write our own narrative and be done, but to allow others to know the good days and the bad. To see us not as the stars of our own show, but as the fools and failures. To see where we are not only weak, but where we are in dire need of improvement. To be real, to be transparent, is to invite questioning. Questions not just about one’s past, but about one’s present. About motivations, about goals and abilities. To be real, to be transparent – it is to invite correction. If I am transparent, does that not allow you to see the blot in my life and call me out? To poke your fingers where it hurts most?

It is obvious that we cannot be without defense to everyone we come across. The man I encounter while I buy my eggs and milk – he does not need to know how well I slept the night before. We keep our eyes and our hearts separate, with the “How do you do?” “Fine, and yourself?” interactions. These are the lubricants of society. I do not live in a small town. I’m unlikely to interact with people twice in a month – there are limits.

But those limits, if I allow myself to become used to them, wander over into my other interactions. The “I’m fine” wall comes between me and those who do have a call on my transparency. It is all too easy to make oneself into someone who only offers solace, never needs it. The woman I see at church who has known me – if only somewhat – for years… when she asks after my well being in the hallway… what answer shall I give *her*? On the one hand, we are both on our way to somewhere else, it’s not tea and tears we’re sitting down for. On the other, she deserves better than “just fine, thank you for asking”. I deserve better.

Transparency has a cost. Not only must one allow oneself to be known, and thus lower a substantial portion of one’s defenses, one must also invest time. You *cannot* get to know every person on the planet, certainly not in passing. And so, you must make time to be with people for extended periods of time. Not fluttering by in the hallways, not dropping messages on social media, not exchanging social hugs when you meet at church. You must spend hours. It’s not like you can have interactive counseling appointments in order to get to know one another – oh sure, a life review will save you a good bit of time, but to get to *know* one another, you have to cry and laugh and work shoulder to shoulder. You must invest a part of your life in that other person.

There is no better investment than other people – people are forever, stuff is transitory. But let us not forget, an investment is exactly what being real is! The word “investment” implies that it has a cost, and not all investments repay themselves, at least not to our eyes. If I’m real with someone who chooses to stab me in the back, use what I’ve revealed to harm me – what then?

We must have discernment. There are people in my life who I know perfectly well are not trustworthy with the precious jewels of my heart. There are a multitude of others who most certainly are worthy, and I only wish we all had time enough to share everything. (I look forward to many a long conversation in Heaven – and dear blogging friends, you have no idea how much I’d like to get to know you better. C’est la vie…. we are blessed to have eternity ahead of us).

But for the rest, for those I’m not warned off of by common sense? What then? Shall I wall up my heart lest the time I take with them be too costly, lest I risk pain or conflict?

That may be the Worldly thing to do – to constantly, constantly test those around us before revealing the least truths of our hearts, but I do not believe that it is the Christian thing to do. We are commanded to love our neighbors. If I don’t know my neighbor, how am I supposed to love them? If they don’t know *me*, how are they supposed to love me back? If I don’t open myself up – at least a little bit – to those around me, how can I glorify God in my life and in my actions? If you don’t have any interest or insight in my life, how can you see God in it?

This is terrifying – and convicting. I am called out of the land of plastic people… called to start being real.