Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hallowed Be Thy Name

This is not a light task. For God's Name to be hallowed, we must cast aside who we want God to be and whatever idea we have of God and allow Him to be who He is, not the limited God we try to create Him to be.

There has been an overwhelming theme in my life lately. The theme is to get real. To stop hiding behind who we think we should be and who we think people will like and be the person we were created to be.

Sex sells. Ideas of money, fame, etc. all revolve around that same idea. Even before we became a culture that is oversexualized, people would brag about their sexual conquests, whether or not they were true. We also brag about money, we brag about status, we brag about anything that we think will make us cooler. What if being true to ourselves became cool? I believe that people hide now because they don't know how to be any other way. We do things we don't necessarily want to because we think it will bring us happiness and popularity. What would the world be like if we were happy with who we were and accepted others for who they were?

God doesn't feel the need to market Himself as anything other than who He is. God also made us to be His beautiful creation. So when we are true to ourselves, we can better see Him for who He is. Or maybe, for some, it must happen the other way around. Maybe we can only see our beauty when we truly see the beauty of our Lord. Either way, once we see and know Him and see and know ourselves, we can see and know others and see their beauty as well. In that way, we would come to live in a world of trust, instead of a world of lies and masks.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-45

Who is my neighbor? Who is my enemy? Can those who were once my neighbor become my enemy? Can someone be both my neighbor and my enemy?

Lately, I have felt very unvalued by my friends. Everyone is so focused on their life, or the lives of those they chose to be a part of, but my life is taken for granted. I feel this has been a constant way of my life. So, although these are friends who claim to love me, their disregard for my feelings make them an enemy to my life.

I've spent most of my life taking care of others, with no one to take care of me. Most of the time I'm ok with this, but at other times it gets overwhelming. I then withdraw until I realize I don't want to be alone and unused anymore. So I resume my role as helper, without addressing anything. I don't know if this is what it means to love our enemy. Loving our enemy doesn't make them any less of an enemy. By ignoring what's been done, we diminish our love for them. We say "I will forget about what you've done so I can love you" instead of "despite what you've done I will love you." The verses in Matthew prior to these talk about turning the other cheek.

There is an inherent problem with the phrase "forgive and forget." While we must forgive before we can love, and forgiveness means we don't hold things against others, to forget allows us to become vulnerable to the same thing happening, to us becoming part of a horrible cycle. Remembering allows us to put up necessary boundaries. We are not called to keep everyone close. Even Jesus had a few close friends among his many followers. It is necessary to know what role people play in our lives so we can love them for who they are, not resent them for not being who we created them in our mind to be.

"We must listen with our ears and our hearts or we will not get past the judgement of our eyes." - Malcolm Gladwell

Sunday, October 20, 2013

In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus tells us that when we are angry we are subject to judgement, and when we call each other names we are at risk of being subject to the fire of hell. Not all anger is sinful, but when we take our anger and place it in contempt of others, we insult God's creation and thus insult God Himself.

Raca = you idiot
You fool = you moron

Entertaining rage and bitterness allows it to take hold of your life. It overruns us and does not leave room for joy and love. For many people, it can completely demolish their lives. it can be difficult to turn around from such a state, and impossible to do without God.

Lashing out toward others places us on a fast track of isolation, which is our hell. God will always stand on the side of love. But what causes us to insult others? Fear. Pride. Pain. Things only He can take away. As humans, we fail and hurt others. But if we repent, we can be saved.

James talks about the power of the tongue. The tongue has the power to kill. Too often we hear of people who hurt themselves, and sometimes even kill themselves, because of bullies. I joke that my superpower is to make people feel the way I want them to. But it is true, not just of me but of everyone. In my last entry, I wrote about the Eccelsia sermon on words. Cory Monteith's death was a result of lack of good words. Whatever happened in his life, it was never enough. It is my desire that with everyone I encounter I let them know they are enough.

God is perfect, yet He finds it in Himself to forgive. And to love. So why do we think we are better than God, that we are too good to forgive and to love as He does?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

...because He first loved me.

I've written a lot about love. If you don't want to sort through all my old posts you can read my most verbal entry about love here. That entry is full of verses and truths. This entry will be filled with opinion. I try to shy away from doing that, but I feel it is founded opinion and I need to get it out.

When I was a kid, the pastor at my church often sang the song "Oh, How I Love Jesus." One day when she sang it she started with an intro of "Sandrene, do you love Jesus?" to which I had to sing back. She followed up with "Do you really love Jesus?" and "Tell me why you love Jesus." I listed off all my multitude of reasons, in true 7 or 8 year old fashion. She then did this with several other kids in our group, then asked us to ask her. When she got to "Tell me why you love Jesus?" she also listed several reasons, and then followed up with the last line of the chorus, "because He first loved me." At that moment, it breathed new life into the meaning of that song for me, and the depth of my relationship with God.

So many people see the New Testament as the love story and the Old Testament as the book about the tyrant Father. And while the OT tells more stories about the vengeful side of God, the Bible tells us that God is always the same. So the God of love if the NT is the same God of the OT. And John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world..." It's not that Jesus came and then God loved. God loved, so Jesus came. The sacrifice of the Son was a manifestation of the Father's love for us, not a conduit that allowed Him to love, as some would frame it to be.

This just proves to me that love is reciprocal. And I see it echoed in life. As a child, I obeyed my mother because she loved me and I loved her. As an adult, I now do things for her because of that love relationship. The same is true of my friends. I spend time with them, listen to them, help them, not because I feel obligated to, but because I love them. Even with God, I obey His commands with gladness because I love Him. And because I know He loves me and wants what's best for me. In none of these situations is it a chore or feels like a list of demands or requirements for a relationship. For the most part, it comes naturally.

So, what of those who I don't give to as easily? And, more relevant to my current situation, what of those who don't give to me? The ones who don't ask what's wrong because they're afraid of the answer, or just don't want to spend time listening to it? The ones who won't commit to doing something in case something better comes along? The ones who choose what is convenient for them over a commitment made to a friend? To me, this is not love. And anything outside of love is not beneficial.

God loves regardless of who loves Him back. So, no matter how difficult it may be sometimes, I need to do the same. But there is also a separation between God and those who choose not to love Him. Part of me feels like this should be true of us as well. Letting people who only receive love into my inner circle has brought nothing but heartache. So, at least for a little while, I will hold people who do not actively love me back at arm's length away. My life may become an island as a result of it, but at least my island won't be on fire.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

James 1:19 - every person should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Last night Tommy and I got back to my hostel a little after 3, after hanging out with KJ then getting food. There was a parking spot available, but as I pulled into it the person on duty came out and told me I couldn't park there. He didn't speak very well, not English anyway, and his way of conveying his message came across as a bit rude. I was pretty tired and responded in kind, which  made the situation unpleasant. After awhile I chose to soften my demeanor and respond more softly. Doing so caused Miguel to soften his demeanor as well and we were able to come to an understanding. He and the other guy with him were then willing to work with me, but not with Tommy.

Today at church, the pastor is speaking about words. His message is to read the Bible more. As we delve deeper into His word we learn more about Him and love Him more. As we love Him more, and spend more time with Him, we become more like Him. If I remain in God's Word, my words will be beneficial and I would not need to concentrate so hard to tame my tongue. Instead of backtracking to repair a bad situation, I would not allow myself to fall into such situations. Most people remember the negative, even when it is presented in the midst of good. As ridiculous as it is, this is human nature.

Yesterday, Cory Monteith was found dead, alone. He had been struggling with drugs since he was 13. That in itself is heartbreaking. He was apparently open about his struggles and checked into rehab at 19 and then again a few months ago. Whether or not his death was drug related, it doesn't make the story any less tragic. 18 years of struggling. There are people who have overcome addiction, but I have not heard of anyone who did so without support and hope. That Cory continued to struggle shows that he lacked one, maybe both. And while we can't control how another feels, we can help facilitate each other toward the positive, instead of the negative. Thinking about self-help techniques, most of them talk about daily affirmations. There is power in words. The words we say to ourselves guide our attitude. But is is easier to believe things when others tell us the same thing, confirming our thoughts. This works with the positive and negative. Maybe Cory was given more negative than positive. Maybe his negative just weighed more than the positive and a few more positive words would have tipped the scale. How much more support and hope did he need for this to become a success story of recovery instead of a tragedy?

This week I will be spending time with friends I only see once a year. I don't know any well enough to know what they may be struggling with. Some I don't know at all. It is my prayer that I don't let my insecurities prevent me from engaging. I also pray that my words are always uplifting, even in the midst of potential rumors and hostility. I want to be the light and support for people to see there is always hope.

1. Ask - ask God what He wants to teach us; everything that comes to mind
2. Answer - don't neglect looking for answers
3. Act - requires change and discomfort
* Don't stop at the asking!

"We love the warmth of doubt, because it doesn't feel like commitment." - Joseph @ Ecclesia

Sunday, July 7, 2013

When Jesus called Matthew, he got up and followed Him. This means that He knew who Jesus was. He knew that He was a teacher, a great man. Matthew also knew that he, as a tax collector, was hated among the Jews.

When Jesus walked by, Matthew probably felt a small tinge of guilt or shame. Here it is, a great man walking by, and Matthew knew the reputation that went along with his job. Matthew probably expected to be judged, despised and looked down upon. He most definitely didn't expect acceptance. Yet, not only did Jesus not criticize him, He told him He wanted him to be in His presence. Jesus wanted to spend time with the outcast.

I try to accept everyone. But sometimes my reaction is just tolerance. Saying "come hang out with me" is so easy. And although I am not great, we all see each other as better than ourselves. We are quick to notice others' good qualities and focus on our own flaws. I want to always be a person who looks beyond others' flaws and show a love of acceptance. Sometimes, that is the loudest type of love we can show.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

I generally live my life without expectation. Part of it is so that I won't be disappointed and some os so that I am genuinely pleased with whatever the outcome. For the latter, I'm not sure why I can only be glad when things turn out better than I'd hoped (or not hoped). Why is it difficult for me to be content when things go as I expect? Yet when my expectations are not met, I am devastated.

By not having expectations, am I setting myself up to be content with mediocre? If I don't think about what is possible to be achieved, I never know what the potential can be. With expectations, I must remember there is always the option to raise or lower them if needed. But, without them, I have no benchmark by which my standards are set.

In thinking about my hopes and desires - in career, in friendship, in family - am I pursuing things that are worth the risk?