A Christmas thought

•November 17, 2012 • 2 Comments

Every year it happens.  Soon after Thanksgiving, emails begin circulating and facebook posts begin popping up about reclaiming our rights as Christians.  We will see demands for Christmas trees in school.  We’ll be admonished not to shop at stores that don’t display Christmas decorations.  We’ll be encouraged to pointedly respond “Merry Christmas” to the cashiers who wish us “Happy Holidays.”  I think this is born from an honorable desire.  We want to defend our rights as Christians, because we feel that by doing so we are somehow defending Christ Himself.

And yet, I wonder – is that what Christ wants?  When I think about Christ, I am struck by how little He cared for His rights.  The creator of the universe didn’t enter Jerusalem with legions of angels announcing His presence.  When He was on trial, He didn’t demand acknowledgement of His glory.  When challenged, He didn’t throw back angry retorts.

What blows me away is that God….God Almighty…set aside every right, every recognition due Him, and  became nothing. When His feet were dirty, He washed others’.  When He was mocked, He was simply quiet.  When He died, He died for sins that were not His own.

How does that translate to our modern-day Christmas celebrations?  Well, what if we truly put Christ in Christmas?  What if we were more concerned with loving that cashier than with how he greets us?  What if we worried more about how we can serve the families of our children’s classmates than we are about whether or not there is a tree in their classroom?  What if we focussed less on what Christmas should look like and more on how we can look like Christ?

My faith journey

•November 11, 2012 • 3 Comments

My husband and friend have been exchanging emails about various people’s experiences with God and religion.  Stories were shared from various views – some from atheists, some from Christians.  It made me think about my own story and made me want to write it down!

I was blessed to have parents who took me to church from birth and instilled in me the values and beliefs that I still draw on today.  The church tradition I grew up in is known for children with deep Bible knowledge, and I am thankful for the hours I spent in Sunday school learning Bible stories.  My understanding of God for the first few decades of my life was very black and white.  I believed the Bible provided clear answers to all of life’s tough questions.  My main concern was “doing” — doing the right things and not doing the bad things.  

In college I first experienced a true relationship with God.  I began attending church and studying the Bible because I wanted to and not just because I was supposed to.  My new passion for God combined with my legalistic church history, and I became concerned with what others were doing – explaining to them what they were doing wrong and trying to convince them to do what was right.  (I still cringe when I think about that!)

My thirties have been marked by refinement, both of me and of my beliefs.  I’m finding that refinement is a rewarding but painful process!  God is working on me in many different areas.  It’s hard to sum them all up, so I’ll just bullet point a few.

First and most importantly, God is teaching me to be more concerned with loving and less with doing.  This will be a lesson I am forced to learn and relearn until I die.  I really stink at this, and I feel like I’ve barely begun to learn what this means.  He’s teaching me that He sees me as loved and forgiven even when I make wrong choices.  He’s teaching me to love people instead of trying to evangelize them.  All of this is so hard for me, because “doing” is deeply ingrained in who I am.  

Second, God is giving me glimpses of Heaven.  More and more I long to be there.  I want to be in perfect relationship with God.  I want to experience Him without the barrier of sin in the way.  I love the thought of being in a place where I will never sin again!  I’m looking forward to the exploration and learning and teaching that will happen there.  I’m excited about the jobs I will be given and the roles I will play.  No pain.  No sadness.  No death.  I.  Can’t.  Wait.

Bizarrely, God has given made me into an advocate for science.  I grew up with a young-Earth view of the universe (the view that the Earth is only 6,000 years old), so science often made me uncomfortable, because it demonstrates over and over that the Earth is actually much older.  After a long and painful process, I let go of that belief, and the end result has been incredibly rewarding.  I have discovered how perfectly science upholds what the Bible says about the universe.  I’ve learned about the mind-boggling fine-tuning of the universe and the care that was taken to make it inhabitable by humans.  I’ve also become increasingly frustrated with how the young-Earth view serves as a barrier that can keep the scientifically-minded from considering the Bible.  

Most recently, God is awakening in me the desire to serve the poor and the orphaned.  I lived much of my life in comfortable middle-class oblivion, never realizing how different my life experience is from the majority of the world’s population.  As I learn about the suffering that occurs every day all over the world, I am being forced to reexamine my views on money, possessions, and how I spend my time.

That, in a nutshell, is how God is working on me right now.  I’m excited to see how He changes and teaches me in the next decade!

Ice cores

•September 28, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I used to be terrified by ice cores.  Do you know ice cores? Each year a new layer of snow and ice is laid down in Antarctica, and scientists have been able to bore down and remove cores of this ice that are 3 km long.  The ice is in layers, and the layers mark years.

The cores are very accurate gauges of time.  For example, we know in which years certain major volcano eruptions occurred.  Find the ice core layer that matches that year, and you’ll find volcanic ash specific to that volcano.  Also, we know how the Earth’s orbit has changed over the years and how those changes alter the Earth’s climate.  These climactic changes are evidenced in the ice cores.

Doesn’t sound too scary, right?  The problem was, I believed whole-heartedly that the Earth was 6,000 years old.  The ice cores give us a climactic record for over 700,000 years.  I could never resolve the discrepancy.  I’d chalk it up to “appearance of age” (The idea that God created the earth 6,000 years ago, but He made it appear to be much older.) and push it under my mental rug.
It was so freeing to me when I discovered that the Bible does not say that the Earth is 6,000 years old.  I learned that the word translated “day” in the Genesis creation account can also mean “a long, but finite period of time,” so God did not create the Earth in 6 24-hour days, but in 6 long eras.  Examining what I had been taught about the age of the Earth was a painful process, to be honest, but it was also liberating.  For the first time, I was able to reconcile the picture of creation God gives us in the Bible with the picture of creation he reveals in the natural world — even in ice cores.

Fun on the farm

•August 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Hay rides

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Giant slip-n-slide

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and of course…cows

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Saying Goodbye to Jen

•July 18, 2012 • 4 Comments

I’m learning something about myself and the books I read.  I am easily affected by books that tell me I just need to sacrifice more, say more of the right things, or live fearlessly and I’ll end up being an amazing force for God.  They tug at the deep part of me that never feels like it measures up.  I’m one who fees like I’ve been blessed by God because I’ve made right choices and because I toe the line.  Going hand-in-hand with that belief is the feeling that I’m always in danger of making a mistake and making God angry at me.  Those types of books feed that impression, because they focus on my actions. 

I call this the rabid/frenetic genre.  Its hallmark is the question “Do you REALLY believe Jesus meant what he said?”  The reader is left feeling that she certainly doesn’t believe what Jesus said if she isn’t doing X,Y,or Z.  X, Y and Z vary, based on the author, but they typically involve extreme monetary sacrifice, bucking the traditions of the church, or adoption.  This genre grabs my attention and pulls me in, because it involves something I can DO. 

Yet at the end of the books, I’m left feeling unsettled, inadequate and confused. I’m left with an intense desire to do SOMETHING for SOMEONE, but I can’t put my finger on what or whom.

I’ve decided to say goodbye to Francis Chan, David Platt, and Jen Hatmaker.  For many their words have been inspiring, even life-changing.  In me, however, they awake desires and actions that are based far too much on what I can do for the Kingdom, what I need to say, what I need to give.  They make me forget that the work of evangelism is the work of the Spirit.  They turn my focus from “Whom can I LOVE?” to “Whom can _I_ love?”  They feed my pride.

Today I began reading a book by Beth Moore.  I am always struck by the amount of scripture she includes in her studies.  I feel that what she says to me is deeply rooted in the Word.  Instead of awaking a frenetic energy in me, her words inspire me to turn more often to the word, to hear what God is saying to me, and to abide in God.  Abiding is such a beautiful picture.  I don’t have to feel the pressure to manufacture conversations or events that will allow me to share about God.  I rest in Him, trusting that He will provide opportunities where I can love those He places in my life. 

Goodbye, frantic.  Hello, peace.

The Great Gluten Experiment

•June 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

You go through life happily eating Cheerios and drinking orange juice.  You make sure to drink water and get your fruits and veggies each day.  Sure, you have dessert a few times a week, and so what if the Cheerios are most often of the “Honey Nut” variety.  No one in the family is on prescription medication, no one is overweight.  You’re a healthy family.  Right?

And yet, there are the small issues.  The kids’ digestive problems.  Your skin problems.  A subtle dearth of energy.  Your husband takes your evening tiredness in stride, joking with the first yawn at 8:00 that it is right on time.  But you wonder if maybe he’d like to have an evening conversation with someone who’s  mouth is…you know…closed.

So after multiple testimonies from those who’ve gone gluten-free and feel “GREAT!”  “NEVER BETTER!” you jump on the hated band-wagon and try a gluten-free family experiment. 

The biggest struggle is lunch.  Breakfast is cake.  (not really)  Dinner isn’t too hard, either.  But lunch.  How does one live without macaroni and cheese?  Without the ubiquitous PBJ?  Without wheat thins, for crying out loud?  So you plan ahead and get creative.  You decide to serve casserole for lunch tomorrow. 

The organic chicken happily bubbles on the stove all afternoon.  The brown rice flour sits ready on the counter.  And you, who have always eschewed all things boxed, pre-mixed, and pre-packaged, take joy in mixing up a healthy meal for your family.

But at 9:45 at night when the casserole is still in the oven and the dishes are only half-way done, you think to yourself, “Maybe we could just switch to Wheaties.”

My people are growing up!

•June 10, 2012 • 2 Comments

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Nothing screams “take my picture” like a chicken on your lap.

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Look at those eyes!  (Not the cow’s, silly!)

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She was one happy little lady.

 
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