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Watching: ‘Livin’ A Lie’ (My dance company)

Reading: I survived a year at this school…and signed that “code of conduct”.

Thinking: Thank God for my friends. 🙂

How to Annoy Me: Be so pestful that 5 minutes into it, I’m telling you to fold your own damn papers and stuff your own damn envelops. YOU DON’T PAY ME ENOUGH!

How to Charm Me: Surround me with love and support when I need you most.

Quote of the Day: “…if God can bring new creation from a cross, God can bring new life into our circumstances, no matter how dark or dismal.” – Rich Vincent

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What does it mean to love someone? I’m not talking about the mushy romantic love that Hollywood would have us believe is real life. Rather the day to day, through the drudge of life, “yes, you sometimes piss me off but I still choose to love you” kind of love. What does that look like? Are we capable of loving accurately, as God intended?

I went to a prayer meeting last Wednesday where pastors and ministry workers from all over the city gather together to pray and encourage one another. I prayed with an amazing man named Geoff. I asked for prayer for wisdom in how to love and heal certain relationships in my life. Geoff believes that we aren’t capable of loving accurately. We can’t. We might be able to come close. But to truly love another person, to be fully patient, kind, not easily angered, never giving up, we don’t have that in us. Only Christ can do that. Only Papa knows when to love someone by holding them and when to use “tough love”. Because we can’t see everything and we don’t know everything. There are multiple sides to every story, which is why I always hesitate to rush in and only believe one side.

In the Bible, we read of a woman who had committed many sexual sins with many different men. The Pharisees dragged her out in front of the crowd and the crowd was prepared to stone her. I always found it interesting that the man whom she must have been caught with was nowhere to be found. They didn’t care about her side. They only wanted to make an example of her, to cause Jesus to lose His good standing in the eyes of the people. Instead of rebuking her or stoning her or guilting her or demanding that she be punished more, Jesus simply said “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she replied. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

I have been in many circles and many settings where people are ostracized for their mistakes. The second that someone doesn’t fit into the box that a group has created, the second they screw up, the second they show that they are human, they are kicked out. There is no forgiveness. No mercy. No second chance. No “Today, I start”. People make mistakes. It’s a part of life. Our job, as Christians, is to walk beside them the best we can. Christ calls us to first love God and then to love others as we love ourselves. But I know too many people who call themselves Christians who only love as long as the other person meets their needs or fits their profile. Christ also called us to forgive our enemies. “What gain is there in loving those who love you?” Loving people whom you get along with, who love you, who you agree with most of the time, that’s easy. Loving the people who drive you crazy? Loving the people who you wish weren’t part of your group/church? Loving the people who hurt you? That is hard. It’s as hard as forgiving those people for the wrongs they commit against you.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” – Gandhi

I would argue that the same can be said for love. Loving people is hard. It’s a choice. It takes courage and strength. It takes a willingness to be hurt. It takes patience. But can we really call ourselves Christians if we aren’t willing to do this? If there is a fault that I could live with having, I would want people to say “She loves too much.”

Loving someone doesn’t mean you have to hang out with them all the time. There is such a thing as a toxic relationship and I do believe that some people need to be kept separated. I don’t go looking to spend time with the man who abused me. But I forgive him. And I don’t wish him ill. I try to pray that God blesses his life. It’s hard and I don’t always succeed. But I try. Because otherwise I have no business saying “Forgive us our tresspasses as we also forgive those who tresspass against us.” Because being a Christian doesn’t just mean “Oh, I get to go to heaven when I die and screw the rest of you!” Being a Christian means you are an image-bearer of Christ. He was crucified on a cross because he loved people who spit on him and hated him and whipped him and called him names. In light of that, does loving your ex sound quite so hard? Does loving the person who doesn’t quite fit into the mold that your church/group has formed sound like the biggest challenge? It’s still hard. But we are not alone. If we believe the Bible, then the Holy Spirit is alive and at work in each of us and that means that we have His help. “Be holy as I am holy.” Love as He loves. Forgive as He forgives. Because nothing can separate us from the love of our Papa. And if we are His children, we should strive to imitate Him.

I’m not really one for making New Year’s resolutions. I used to be and like everyone else, I’d keep it up for a month….a week….a day. I’d be excited about it at first but eventually the excitement would wear off. To me, resolutions are kinda like praying the sinner’s prayer at a revival (or what have you). You do it because in that moment you know it’s the right thing to do and you’re excited and you’ve been pumped up for it! But then reality hits. This wasn’t just a one time thing.

If you truly want to follow through on that resolution to quit smoking, to go to the gym, the commitment to follow Christ, that means day after day, putting one foot in front of the other. Dragging yourself through when the excitement has worn off and your friends that were rallying around you at first have returned to their regularly scheduled programing. Picking yourself up and dusting yourself off when you stumble.

Now I’m not saying resolutions or revivals or the sinner’s prayer are bad. Not at all. They truly do work for some people. Some people make a resolution to lose 20 pounds and they do it! Some people never pick up a cigarette again. And some people are serious about their commitment that they make at revivals. But it doesn’t work for me. I can’t live from spiritual high to spiritual high. I can’t go from resolution to resolution. I can’t get swept up in the emotion of the crowd.

Following Jesus is hard. But it’s so worth it. Sticking to New Year’s resolutions is hard too. Which is why the only things I resolve anymore are this: love God and love others as myself. If I can be a blessing to those I touch, then my 24 years will have counted for something.

Listening: ‘Dreamers’ by Jack Savoretti

Reading: Finally finishing ‘Simply Christian’ by N. T. Wright. Wonderful book.

Feeling Guilty: For still not having mailed redwinegums’ Christmas present.

Thinking: Is this my punishment?

How to Annoy Me: Be obstreperous.

How to Charm Me: Inform me that “cumbersome” is a big word for heavy and “booky”. (She meant bulky.)

Quote of the Day: When we see ourselves in the light of Jesus’s type of kingdom, and realize the extent to which we have been living by a different code altogether, we realize, perhaps for the first time, how far we have fallen short of what we were made to be. This realization is what we call “repentance”, a serious turning away from patterns of life which deface and distort our genuine humanness. It isn’t just a matter of feeling sorry for particular failing, though that will often be truse as well. It is the recognition that the living God has made us humans to reflect his image into his world, and that we haven’t done so….Once again, the gospel itself, the very message which announce that Jesus is Lord and calls us to obedience, contains the remedy: forgiveness, unearned and freely given, because of his cross. All we can say is, “Thank you.” – N. T. Wright, ‘Simply Christian’ (Empahsis mine)

Listening: ‘Dance With My Father’ by Nuttin’ But Stringz

Enjoying: I want this ring!

Thinking: Well, I lost that 15 pounds at the right time. No fat to show in the skin tight dress I have to wear this weekend. 😛

How to Charm Me: Have faith in me to be like Jesus, even when I lack faith in myself.

Quote of the Day: Never cease loving a person, and never give up hope for him, for even the prodigal son who had fallen most low, could still be saved; the bitterest enemy and also he who was your friend could again be your friend; love that has grown cold can kindle. – Soren Kierkegaard

Listening: ‘Lucky’ by Jason Mraz featuring Colbie Caillet

Reading: “Well excuse me for not examining the duality of human nature in just a few short pages of effortless prose.”

Thinking: The women in my group of friends put mules to shame with our stubbornness.

Enjoying: ‘Jesus loves the fundies almost as much as He loves you’ 😉

How to Annoy Me: Try to make me think at 1 in the morning. “Fire bad, tree pretty” is all you’re gonna get.

How to Charm Me: “Make it easier when life gets hard.”

Quote of the Day: There’s a way to do it better – find it. – Thomas Edison

Yesterday one of my random thoughts was “Does following Jesus ever make anyone else feel bi-polar?” Then today, Rich came and spoke in our church about what I was trying to get at with that statement. (To hear Rich’s sermon, go here. Highly recommend it.)

As Christians, we live with constant paradoxes. We believe in a triune God but we are monotheistic. We believe that Jesus is both fully God but also fully human. We believe that we are saved by grace but we work out our salvation in fear and trembling. The Beatitudes are filled with paradoxes. And these only make sense in light of the Kingdom. To the world peeking in, we look crazy and like we are contradicting ourselves all over the place.

Not only are we called to live with these paradoxes, we are also battling our sin nature. (As Luther said, both sinner and saint…) So on the one hand, we know the good we should do, but we don’t do it. And we do the evil that we know we shouldn’t do. (Romans 7) I know that I need to love my enemies. I know that I should pray for them. And sure, the occasional imprecatory prayer may slip out. But praying that they will be blessed in their lives, even giving them a second thought, is so very hard. Which is what I was struggling with last night. Two sets of people had been brought to mind and as I felt myself getting angry all over again, I knew I needed to pray for them instead. (Though through gritted teeth those prayers may have been.)

The funny thing is, you can’t even be certain about your faith. “Do you know for certain that you’re going to Heaven when you die?” Well…no. If I’m completely honest, I don’t know that for certain. And there are days when I don’t know that all of the questions and living in this paradoxical state are worth it. Is loving my enemy going to be worth it when what I really want to do is drive over there, pound on their door, and tell them exactly what I think of them? It’s tough to walk down the middle of the road. It’s hard to keep that tension. It’s hard to balance being both sinner and saint. Which is why, at the end of the day, I keep it simple:

I believe. Help my unbelief.

The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring: these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings. If we refuse to hold them, in hopes of living without doubt, despair, and pain, we also find ourselves living without faith, hope, and love. – Parker Palmer

When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty for not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. – Brennan Manning

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