October 29, 2009

More Than Useless

I want to save the world. Really. I want to see massive change and transformation.

Most days, this is a huge burden for me to try to take on. Yet, I get on this high and feel like I can do anything - or at least be part of a movement. I really do want to see change, and I get really passionate about being a part of something bigger.

Then . . . for some reason or another, I find myself losing energy, momentum, vision. Maybe it's the day-to-day grind, the endless distractions or a fog of apathy.

As a result, I feel worthless, useless. Like nothing that I do or say matters or has impact on anything.

I was reading AP magazine and something said by Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman caught my eye:

"Every day you're alive you change the world. It's true. The things you do and say today will have lasting results. There is a part of you that lives on long after you die."

I stared at the page for a minute, and then sort of mulled over his statement this afternoon . . . and I might just have to agree with him.

Every person who has been in my life, or who I've crossed paths with, has made an impact on me. It's too easy to be unaware of the influence that people, actions and conversations ultimately have on us - no matter how insignificant or small they seem at the time.

I started to think about what kind of person I'd be if I had been an only child. I'm sure that I would be a little more self-centered, close-minded and uptight if my sister was never born. The way I was raised would have been totally different, and who knows if I would be as close to someone who is so different than me. So . . . it's fair to say that my sister has had significant influence on my life - the way I was raised, my character, and the way I see the world. Even if my sister never changes the world single-handedly, she has made a huge difference at least one life - mine.

Friends, enemies, family members, neighbors, classmates, teachers, bosses, coworkers, acquaintances . . . all have the ability to shape us, change us, challenge us. From my mother to the cashier at Target . . . each person, each interaction - makes a difference.

So this must mean that even if I can't change the world overnight . . . I still have the ability to make some sort of impact. Just something to contemplate.

October 14, 2009


God has drenched my heart in lighter fluid and handed me a flame.

Driving on 1-40 last friday with my sister, I had the privilege of seeing this billboard:

Needless to say, it sparked some good conversation between us . . . which continued throughout the weekend.

My sister was very honest with me about her frustrations with organized religion, churches, and people who call themselves Christians.

People who judge and condemn her without trying to get to know her. People who tell her that she's going to hell because she has tattoos. People telling her that she's going to hell because she has a pet snake. Because she believes in creation and evolution together. Because of the way she dresses.

People who take the Bible out of context and choose to use it as a weapon. People who shout hellfire and brimstone on anyone who doesn't fit the mold or agree with everything they say.

At a time in her life when she most needed the church, they recoiled from my sister, turned their back and withdrew any acceptance or support from her.

Her stories made me think of things my ex-boyfriend, who is agnostic, told me.

His experiences were not unlike hers. People judging him before they got to know him, encountering Christians who were fake-nice - perhaps with a hidden agenda.

He was in a church where he heard the pastor say - it's not enough to have faith, you have to make other people believe.

He was also frustrated with Christians who lived under the religious facade - people who thought they were better than him because they warmed up a pew on a Sunday morning and made themselves look beautiful on the outside.

These things not only enrage, but bring great sorrow to me.

How many people turn away from God because of churches and people who call themselves Christians? How many people are being fed lies and deception? People will give up on their search to know their creator because of experiences like my sister's and my ex's. How many people are scarred and burned the same way they have been?

These are the people that my heart is burdened for . . . that my soul is stirred for.

It's time for a change . . .

The church should be a place where the wounded and the weary can find rest. Where the lost and seeking can find refuge.

I want to be part of such a church - if she can exist.

A place that has open arms - calling to the abandoned, the beaten, the burned. A place that is non-judgemental and non-threatening. Welcomes you as you are. No hidden agenda.

A place where it's OK if you have questions and doubts (after all, I still have questions and doubts - and so did the people in the Bible - what kind of faith would we have if we never questioned?).

A place where you don't have to fit the mold, and you don't feel pressured to have it all together.

A place where people don't look at you funny for your blue hair, tattoos, strange clothes or current circumstance - they see your value as another human being. A place where you're not a project or a number - people genuinely care about you.

If you have a pet snake, if you like vampires and books by Steven King, who cares? If you're from a different socioeconomic status, different background, different ethnicity, that does not change things either.

We're all in the same boat, on the same playing field.

A place where we accept you as you are . . . and invite you to learn with us, to grow with us.

A place where atheists, agnostics and the searching feel comfortable. A place where your questions, fears, doubts are all welcomed. Where you are encouraged to be seeking.

We want to hear your stories, your journey and your frustrations.

I want to be part of a church that my sister, my ex, my old roommates and old co-workers would want to come to. A place where people who don't look like me or think like me want to come. And not only do they feel welcomed and accepted, but they feel like they belong.

So . . . what now? I want to see communities and lives changed, renewed, redeemed. I want to see cities transformed. I want to be a part of it.

It's not enough for me to sit here and dream, blog and read books by Donald Miller and Rob Bell. I want to take action. I want to move.

I want to see this become a reality. I want to look back in 10 years and say that 2009 was the year that God started a movement.

October 8, 2009

If You Believe Me

How easy is it for us to believe that we have to "have it all together" before God will look at us?

I don't know about you, but I find myself forgetting that God saved me before I even acknowledged Him.

God saved the Israelites from Egypt before they had their act together (wait, did they ever have it together, really?) He called Moses to lead a nation when he was just a sheperd (and a man who was "slow of speech and tongue" Exodus 4:10).

He radically transformed the life of Saul when he was persecuting and killing christians . . . did God wait for him to get his life on track before He saved him?

The law does still pertain to us, but it's in an outflow of thanksgiving and sacrifice to our Savior that we follow it . . . the law is not a means to attaining salvation or reaching God.

He loves us and rescues us right where we are.

It's so easy for me to go back to my legalistic tendencies . . . or to think that God will withdraw from me if I don't follow all the rules or do all the right things. That's when I need a healthy kick in the butt to remember that he loved me and saved me when I was dead . . . he intervened and rescued me when I was lost, deaf and blind.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
-Ephesians 2:4-5

For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
-Romans 5:10-11

October 2, 2009

Hot N Cold

I'm not even 1/4 of the way through the Old Testament, and it's breaking my heart.

When Joshua is reaching the end of his life, he calls the leaders of Israel and gives them final instructions/encouragement:

"Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left . . . you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now . . . The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the Lord your God . . . you know with all your heart and soul that not one of the good promises of the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed."
-Joshua 23:6,8-10,14

And yet, a generation or two later, they proceed to forget . . .

After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to his own inheritance. The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel . . .

. . . After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist . . .

Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the Lord's commands. Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
-Judges 2:6-7,10-14,16-19

Only this far in the Old Testament, I've seen story after story of God's people rebelling and rejecting Him, only for Him to have compassion on them and deliver them from whatever circumstances they have managed to get into. It brings me to tears to see this . . . and then I realize that I am just like the Israelites.

Time after time, people are driving themselves into destruction and the Lord is rescuing them, proving His love for them. And yet . . . what do we do? Spit in His face and turn to our own, short-sighted ways.

I don't get it. I keep on asking "why?" Why does God do this? Why is he so patient, forgiving and compassionate? It's like a tragic story of unrequited love - between a Creator and His creation.

He spoke everything into existence. He didn't just create our world and mankind, He created solar systems, galaxies and far more than we can even see or imagine. He could have vaporized our planet and started fresh, perhaps with a less rebellious race . . . and yet, He doesn't. He keeps calling us back to Himself, displaying His love over and over.

Out of all the universe . . . He chooses to dote His affections on a miniscule planet called Earth and the most stubborn, idiotic and rebellious of all creatures.

I don't think I'm ever going to get it . . . but that makes grace all the more amazing - the fact that I can't wrap my little brain around it. That's both humbling and comforting.

After all, He does say:

"my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." [Isaiah 55:8-9]
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