Monday, April 20, 2015

Dining with God

"writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." - A quote from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, quoting E.L. Doctorow.

I've always wondered how one would quote an excerpt from a book that involves a quote but until now, I never needed to do it. The above quote took me 10 minutes to write out and I'm still unsure if it is the proper way to quote a quote with a quote (I do not know if there actually is a proper way to do so) but by the tenth minute, I came to the realization of - I don't think it matters how I write it, I'm sure people will get the point.

I've always been afraid of critics when the real oppressor is perfectionism. I spend so much of my time trying to make my writings perfect, my art perfect, anything I do perfect in worry that people won't like it but in reality, I'm thinking more about me than others. In the world of art, there will always be people who like what you create and people who don't. I have freedom in choosing what I prefer so I shouldn't expect everyone else not to have the same freedom.

There will be people who like what you do in life because they like what you do. And there will be people who like what you do in life because they like you. People will like what I create because they like me, support me, care about me, and all that other mushy jazz. If I choose to be a writer, than they will want to see me write and not necessarily write perfection. I'm sure my friends and family would prefer that I actually do something and be "unsuccessful" than be stuck in trying-to-do-something-but-never-completing-anything-because-I'm-trying-to-make-it-perfect limbo and not have the opportunity to be "unsuccessful" or "successful".

I think this is what Anne Lamott was getting at. When it comes to writing, we just have to do. We know we are writing *insert project here* and we may not be able to see what the 500th page will say but focus on the couple of sheets before you. One by one.

Well what if this applies to life too.

I'm always trying to perfect my life. I always feel like I shouldn't do anything unless God "calls" me to do it. God is perfect and I want a perfect life so yes, I would like for God to make my life perfect. I want God to tell me what to do before I do it because I'm afraid of making the "wrong" decision. I know I'm on a journey and at the end of the road is what God wants me to do but I feel like I'm driving at night only seeing a few feet ahead.

What does God want me to do?
What career does God want me to choose?
What church should I go to?
Who should I date?
Where should I live?
What college should I go to?
What degree should I get?
Where should I do ministry?

Questions we all think about and we see them as big decisions and we only want to make a choice if God is behind them all. I'm not sure if people will agree with this but hear me out.

What if God doesn't care?

Not in the "Do whatever you want because I honestly do not care" kind of way but in the "I'm with you no matter what you choose" kind of way. I believe God cares about me as a person, as His adopted son, more than what I do for a paycheck. What if God is saying "I just want to be with you. I just want to get to know you."

Every year for our birthdays, my parents would take my siblings and I to dinner at any restaurant we wanted. I went to Red Lobster almost every year. Every now and then I would change it up. I remember the first year we moved to Albuquerque, I chose Sonic because in California, they didn't have them where I lived. I thought Sonic was the greatest thing ever. Present Josh knows past Josh is a fool but in that moment, it was the best birthday food. My parents were surprised but they didn't mind, they took me there and paid for our meals and enjoyed my birthday dinner. They didn't care where we ate cause that wasn't the point. The point was to make the birthday child special and spend time with them.

I understand that there are callings in life. There are times where we feel, "Yes. This is what God wants me to do." There are also times where we don't hear anything. What if those are the times God is saying, "Hey. I want to go to dinner with you, wherever you want." And the point isn't the restaurant but who you are eating with and who you're spending time with. Maybe you go and pick God up in your 2001 silver Hyundai Elantra and still don't know where you will end up but He's with you. Maybe God isn't so concerned with going to the perfect restaurant to eat the perfect type of food but concerned about who you are as a person. 

In His grip,


Monday, April 13, 2015

Be You

"You do you, Boo Boo." - Kevin Hart

"You're amazing just the way you are." - Bruno Mars

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

"Be YOU." - Everyone (basically)

I am sure you have heard one or more (or all) of these phrases in some variation or another at some point in your life.  You'd have to be living under a rock to be unaware of the plethora of messages in movies, books, music, politics, self-help seminars, etc. on how to embrace yourself and your unique gifts/talents/skills.  Today, we are all about being totally and unabashedly YOU...or so we say.  I could get on my soap box and talk about the way we've changed the meaning of tolerance, but that's not want I want to focus on here.

Let's operate off the premise that, as a general rule, the majority of our society encourages each of us to pursue our unique interests and be just the way we are.

But I want to talk about one person who always seems to get the short end of the stick. A guy who is consistently placed in a mold of our own creation. A man who rarely hears the words, "You're amazing just the way You are."

He hears a lot of:

"Well, actually, I think You should probably go about that situation in my this way."

"So I get that You ask me to trust You, but I think I've actually got this under control so I'll just take care of it because I don't really like the direction You're going."

"I mean I get where You're coming from, but my idea makes a lot more sense."

Or maybe that's just a lot of what He hears from me.

"He" is Jesus, by the way.  And sadly, the above statements really are relatively accurate accounts of the conversations I have with Jesus on a regular basis.

I don't know about you, but it's easy for me to accept all of this "be you" talk floating around.  I think it's great - I love being me! I love embracing my nerdy obsession for Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.  I love talking about literature and education.  I love wearing Young Life shirts every day of my life. I love eating cookies, and I'm not sorry that I eat way too much ice cream.  When I listen to Bruno Mars sing "You're amazing just the way you are," I think, "You know, Bruno, you're right, I am!"

I'm relatively quick to extend this same courtesy to the people around me, but I very rarely allow Jesus a place in the "be you" movement.  He is the guy that I constantly think, "Ugh, the way You are is not always amazing because You ask hard things of me.  You say hard things in the Bible.  You don't give me easy ways out."

Sunday at church, my pastor talked about how in Jesus' time, His people's prayers were far too often about "Rome"...what he meant is that Jesus' people were far too wrapped up in situation, in circumstance, in trial.  Instead of focusing on the Messiah literally walking amongst them and the amazing work He was doing, they focused on what they wanted their Messiah to do and be: a Rome-concquering, Russell Crowe-esque hero (I'm elaborating slightly...haha).  Jesus was not encouraged to be Himself when He walked in Palestine.  Jesus - in my opinion, the most attractive personality to ever exist, possessor of the most incredible gifts to ever exist - was NOT encouraged to be who He was and say what He felt.

So here we are, thousands of years later, and I know I - at least - am guilty of precisely the same thing.  I want Jesus to be who I want Him to be - not who He actually is.  I want Him to follow the plan I have for my life rather than work through the tough - but beneficial - issues that following His plan so often includes.

Here's the most ironic part of it all, though.  I think getting to know the genuine nature of a person - the nature that often doesn't reveal itself at first blush - is one of the greatest pleasures of life.  I love knowing my friends' eccentricities. I love guessing the way they will react to certain situations. I love their real and vulnerable opinions about life.

I guess my point here is actually a question for myself - and for you too, if you'd like to join me:  what if I let Jesus be Jesus in my life?  What if I actually took Him at His word?  What if I allowed Him to be all of the things He's said He is in my life?






So here I am: just a girl, standing in front of her Lord, asking Jesus to be Jesus - He's amazing just the way He is.  I don't know about you, but my life looks totally different if I strive to know Jesus for who He has said He is and who He has proven Himself to be.  The box I too often force Him into confines His true nature - an abundantly good, just, creative, and beautiful nature.

Please be YOU in my life, Jesus, today and always.



Monday, April 6, 2015

Stealing the Headline

There are usually a quite a few more people that go to church on Christmas and Easter. I respect these people because I am the exact opposite; I do not like going to church on Easter and Christmas. There's tons of traffic and if you know me, you'll know I really don't like driving so driving when there are thousands of people going to the same place is not for me. The people that choose to go to church on the busiest days of the year, my hat's off to you.

It's not that I don't like the service, in fact, I love to hear about these two days very much. It's the beginning and the (not really but some people thought so) ending to the greatest love story ever told and if you know me, you'll know I really don't like driving and that I'm sucker for love stories.

I joined my brother and sister-in-law for Easter this year, and the pastor said something that hit me.

"As Christians, we like to say it was my sin that sent Jesus to the cross and He had to die for me. We like to steal the spot light from God and put our own name as the headline. Jesus died on the cross because God loves us, that's the headline."

He probably said it a lot more poetic and epic than I just did but the heart of his message is the same, I think.

I do say that. I do say because of MY sin, Jesus had to die for ME. I enter a religious mindset about what Jesus did without even realizing it. I think there are rules, I think that I tried really heard to be "good" enough, but I'm a sinner and my sin sent Jesus to the cross. God isn't about religion, He's about relationship. God's unending love and desire to be in a relationship with Him is what sent Jesus to the cross, not us.

In high school, my parents set curfews and wanted me to spend time with them, and I thought it was annoying, but I tried pleasing them for a while. Up until my junior year of high school, I was doing pretty good but I soon became exhausted from always feeling like I wasn't good enough no matter how hard I tried to obey them. I rebelled and things got crazy for a bit. I went to college and the rules and curfews were uplifted and I was free! I started finding myself not wanting to stay out late every night and would come home at a reasonable hour. I started spending more time with my family and not because I really wanted to but because I knew they wanted to. When it was about rules, I failed my parents. When it was about relationship, I pleased them.

I like to make my life about me.

I wanted to please my parents according to my standards. When I didn't reach them, I gave up. I didn't want to be controlled so I broke curfew.

I felt.
I want.
I say.
I do.

I never once thought it was because my parents wanted to spend time with me, to have a relationship. I never once thought they wanted the best for me.
I never once thought that they provided for me, and I had the most outrageous childhood because my dad wanted to give us everything we wanted.

In the same way, I made what Jesus did for me about me. I thought I was being about God by admitting my sin and saying Jesus died for me. Like a modern day Pharisee, standing on street corners preaching the word of God so people can think I'm holy. The intentions of the Pharisee were probably good, but soon enough they made it about them and not about God. They were about religion, not about relationship.

God's love for us sent Jesus to the cross, not my sin. He wanted to be in a relationship with us so bad, He sent His son to die for us. I've been reading John 17 a lot lately. John 17 is Jesus praying right before He was betrayed and sent to the cross. In the face of the most excruciating death, this is some of what He prayed:

 "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. "

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world."

God wants to know you. God loves you. Jesus wasn't sent because of my sin but because God wants to be with us, to know us. 

in His grip,