Archives for September 2010

Why Christian kids rebel…

 

Tim Kimmel, in his book, “Why Christian Kids Rebel,” explains the number one reason that children walk away from the faith is that they never see it make a real difference in the lives of their parents.

This inspires me to use my life as a curriculum…  tracing the hand of God in my past stories, but also constantly looking for ways to exemplify Jesus today in both my triumphs and failures. I point out answers to things we’ve prayed about. I show them the many ways God provides and make sure they know where credit is due. I live my faith out loud and up front so they cannot miss that Christ is at the center of our home. He has to become too real to deny.

Where I am challenged is in making sure my attitude doesn’t discredit the reality of Christ. Not that I feel the pressure to be perfect, but I do have to be on guard when I’m tired, drained, hormonal, or frustrated by something or dare I say someone? I must press into God, ask for His strength, and allow Him to fill my emotional gaps.  Oh yeah…and get enough rest (not so easy with three kids). Otherwise, it’s easy to respond in the flesh, leaving a wake of tears behind me. But even when I fail, the reality of Jesus can be seen in how I handle my failure. Oh here it comes…my favorite catch phrase, “It’s all about the rebound!” If I am quick to humble myself, ask for forgiveness and model redemption, it speaks volumes to my kids.

I hope that someday, the things my children remember – their stories – will resemble a parable reflecting God’s hand in their lives; the reality of Christ’s presence that can be shared with their own children in the years to come.

  • Speak (anointedplace.wordpress.com)

Resurrection

"Crux simplex", a simple wooden tort...

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I passed on to you what was most important…Christ died for our sins, just as the scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the scriptures said. 1 Cor 15:3-5

And on the third day…

the illusion shattered.
torment, horror, defeat;
a man crucified.

I stagger under the weight of your sacrifice, my sin for your blood.

Red drops of shame pour out of my eyes.

I hear a whisper,
sshh…
it is finished.

O death, where is your sting?

Can you hear the dawn weeping in joy?
The light is dancing
creation speaks…

He is risen…

Resurrection

Hi Da Da!

My baby decided to start talking.  After almost nine months of love, care and devotion, my little princess took her “first step” in verbal communication and moved beyond baby babble to string two words together.

I should be happy about this momentous developmental milestone but I find myself struggling.  This is the sweet little baby girl who nursed at my bosom, took 22 hours to deliver, and who watches the 4:30am early show with me each day over a bottle and coffee(while daddy sleeps).

After endless rounds of poopy diapers and my shoes covered in spit up, mama thought she might get some love. But to my dismay, the little angel that I dress in Carters with matching bows, play endless rounds of peek-a-boo with, and carry around in a sling like a kangaroo… shouted across a football field for all to hear, “Hi Da Da!”

My baby is a traitor.

When I try to get her to say “Hi Mama,” she smiles a big gummy grin, her one baby tooth poking through, and enunciates very carefully…”Hi Da Da.”

My husband loves every minute of Baby Benedict Arnold.

He proudly announced to our friends tonight that the baby prefers him, and then he chortled and winked at me.  We both know who does the heavy lifting for our little bundle of joy and his delight in the baby’s recognition of him is both genuine and tongue in cheek. He is careful to remind me of our deep connection and though his words are reassuring, baby’s first sentence has touched on something deeper than a daddy vs. mommy competition…my baby is growing up.

Despite his incessant goading, I can understand why my husband is so jazzed. The bond between a mother and baby is formidable and all too often daddy’s feel left out.  The baby cries when mommy leaves and daddy begins to both anticipate and dread time alone with her.  And though some dad’s are the primary caregiver and nurturer, most dad’s are just biding their time with baby until they are strong enough to be launched in the air and can play catch with.  As baby made a move towards him, he felt validated as a father and respected for his contribution.

So baby’s shout out to dad was as much a developmental milestone for her as it was for mom and dad.  For mom it represents the first in a long line of moments of baby separating and becoming independent. Baby chooses what she wants to say and asserts her burgeoning sense of self.  For dad, her words represent the promise of a deeper relationship as she moves out of infancy and becomes a little person capable of interaction.

And though I am still waiting for “Hi mama,” I can look into her innocent little eyes and delight at her achievement, while subtlety ignoring my husband’s heckling.

The Unicorn

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I have a large mole on my head.  My son calls it the unicorn.  It’s not too obvious because my bangs cover it.  It sits dead center on my head at my hairline.  Like a hairy mole on a witch, individual follicles have actually begun to sprout through it.

At best, this puppy is ugly and at worst possibly cancerous.  I do my best to hide it and maintain a façade of attractiveness, but I know if the wind blows the wrong way or I am having a bad hair day, the repugnant sucker will make an appearance.  Generally, I am confident about the way I look, so I like to think of it as an anomaly.

This mole is the yin to my yang.  It’s like my dirty little secret. I have mixed feelings about it.  I hate it and yet I love it.

Today I have a momentous appointment at the dermatologist.  The unicorn is going to be biopsied and will be removed.  Now I will just have a large hole in my head and possibly less hair.  I am happy to not have an eraser sized object to catch my comb on.  I am sad that my outer ugly will be leaving me.  As a teen or even in my twenties, this mole would have derailed me.  I was so self-conscious and bent on image management.  It’s a good thing it appeared in my thirties.

Now approaching 40 (38 to be exact), it represents a massive paradigm shift.  It is the embracement of my entire self, the good, the bad and the hideous.  Alas, my vanity has begun to fade with the acceptance of age, gravity and the scars of a life well lived.

So goodbye Mr. Unicorn!  I will miss you.  But, I am confident that the large crater in my head will be a good replacement for you. Come to think of it, now I will have a secret place to store my loose change and skittles!

Note***  (Three years later)  It actually healed very well.  No crater, no gaping hole, and I like my being able to pull my hair back.  Why didn’t I do it earlier?

Thoughts on Beauty

images

The world defines beauty as a visually appealing attribute or quality that elicits a response such as a feeling of attraction, desire, or envy.  Men and women want to experience it, attain it, and hold onto it.

We capture its fleeting essence in pictures, art, and stories.  There is a yearning to slow down the moment or image, as if to milk every last drop out of it.  We glorify it, idolize it and elevate beauty beyond the ordinary.  This is beauty defined by societal norms.

Behind this yearning, there is I believe, a conviction that somehow in the attainment of this “beauty” one shall be set free from further pursuit of it and find fulfillment. But, as with other vain pursuits, this too, is a mere chasing after the wind.  The grass withers…and the flower falls, and we are no more exempt from the grass and the flower than from the inevitable withering of our physical bodies.

But because we perceive beauty as a thing to be captured, we try to hold onto it.  We Botox it, cut it up and distort the very process of ageing, that which is, in itself, a beautiful thing.

And yet even knowing the truth and acknowledging the lie, I still can not escape the deep desire in my heart to be beautiful.  Is that yearning bad?  Or is it the memory of paradise, deeply distorted by the world, manifesting in an ache to be accepted, loved and affirmed through an outward emphasis on appearance?

I think our definition of beauty is wrong.  We yearn for a perfect world and try to recreate it through distorted illusions.  Because of sin we have forgotten the source of all that is beautiful.

Psalm 90:17 Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us and establish the work of our hands.’

Beauty is therefore an attribute of God.  It glories not in itself but its profit to others.  Beauty is giving not taking.

Psalm 27:4 King David says, “…one thing I ask of the Lord, that I will seek after, to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.”

Beauty brings life, healing and wholeness.  It is justice, truth, righteousness, peace and strength.  It is the ultimate desire to see and experience.  It is tangible and eternal. It is that which touches the soul.  Beauty is an encounter with the Creator.

Therefore, beauty is not a perfect body, complexion or fleshy form.  Beauty is not a man or a woman, or a kitten or a sunset.  Beauty is found in the artist and designer of all things-Jesus Christ.  My desire to be beautiful, if seen from this perspective, is really a cry for relationship and connection to God, to be naked and not be ashamed, to walk hand in hand with him in the Garden, and ultimately to behold his beauty with my very own eyes.

Confession Un-ritual

Confession is a nebulous buzzword in the Christian community.   Is it personal or public, ritualistic or spontaneous?  If I confess to an intermediary, do I hold back the groans that only the Holy Spirit can translate?  It may be a private moment alone kneeling before the Father, a hidden practice behind a curtain with a priest, or a corporate movement as one voice laments the separation of God from His people.

No matter what approach we take, Scripture considers confession as an acknowledgment of our sin to God.  [1] This idea of owning ones crime and seeking restitution to receive absolution seems to be hardwired in humanity by the Lord, as a way to draw us back into a closer relationship with him.  Our conscience becomes heavy under the weight of sin and we feel compelled to disclose our faults and be free from the burden of carrying them.

But how we approach confession has become controversial.  Because many of our parent’s generation vehemently rejected denominational tradition and strict Catholic practice, the children of these anti-ritual Christians are left void of any context for communal confession.

While the doctrine of imputed righteousness in the reformed tradition has alleviated the insecurity of assurance of salvation, it has not addressed our basic human need to cleanse our conscience. There have been many times where my own confession to the Lord in private prayer time has not been enough to fully remove the stain of “felt” sin and guilt.  I know consciously that I am forgiven, but the effects of sin may linger through memories and shame.  Luther may call this “faulty faith” and “terrors of doubt” that are common to man. [2]

While a ceremonial rite of penance has little appeal, memory verses said over and over by rote repetition also fall short to ease my troubled conscience. These are the times I crave a trusted advisor or a safe person to share my sin with, affirm my right standing with the Lord as forgiven through the blood of Jesus, and pray over me and with me.  James 5:16 tells us to…“confess our sins to one another and pray for one another for healing.” This verse must not be taken out of the context of a passage on healing, but I would argue that there are certain types of sins that wound the spirit, and physical illness can often be linked to emotional trauma. Through Jesus we are offered forgiveness, but a part of our healing seems to come from group intervention.

This context for group confession and prayer extends to a larger group as well.  When I am with a group of people who are authentic and share their own temptations, I am brought into community from the isolation of feeling alone and overwhelmed by my sin.  There is comfort in the recognition that “all have fallen short of the glory of God” and the sweet reminder that even my sin is not unpardonable. This leads me to believe that the corporate structure of confession in conjunction with a private declaration provides the structure and guidance to forgiveness that I crave.

In the Protestant or Reformed church, “confession” has often been reduced to accountability groups and pastoral counseling, leaving it almost entirely out of the main church service.  If it is included, it may be a very autonomous or personal moment before communion or as a ‘quiet” moment in prayer.  In the anti-ritual movement away from meaningless and routine acts to a detached congregation, we have robbed ourselves of the beauty of communal expression.

Not long ago, I was standing in worship, singing and offering praise to God, when it hit me that what I really wanted to do was throw myself on the ground and plea for God’s mercy.  I hadn’t done anything major or committed any crimes, but standing before a Holy God, I am overwhelmed by my sinful nature.  Like Ezra, I bemoan my blemished state, “I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God and prayed:  “O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.” [3] 

But here comes the rub…in a mainly Caucasian upper middle class suburban neighborhood, charismatic displays of emotion are a sign of instability not remorseSome churches are now offering more creative methods of confession in a corporate manner, but still private enough to not intimidate those uncomfortable with a more traditional confession.  My church Mariners, opened a chapel which is apart from the main worship center. Inside the chapel are different experiential methods to worship.  There is a prayer wall to deposit prayers and have elders or a prayer team intercede, a candle lighting station, an opportunity to take communion during each service and a much longer time of reflection during worship.  At Good Friday each year, large crosses are strewn across the floor and sins are penned on small pieces of paper and then physically nailed to a large cross. Another demonstrative approach is to write down the sins and then watch them disappear in blood stained water (who knew ministry workers were chemists too?). These simple acts give a tangible symbol to an intangible imputation.  I appreciate these physical demonstrations of confession and absolution because I am reminded through the experience of God’s mercy.

Some may consider my desire for visual symbols and experiences as a lack of faith …but I disagree. I do confess a consistent and constant duality to my faith journey.  While I believe that Jesus has already paid the penalty for my sin with his life and blood, I also yearn for assurance.  Like the father confronted with his doubts, I cry out to God, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief![4]

It is this hope in the unseen and that of what is yet to come, despite my doubt, which best describes my faith walk.  If, our faith on this side of eternity will always be left wanting, and is often inadequate and faulty in its exercise, than an expression of repentance through a group seems less of a ritual and more of an approach to God.


[1] Easton’s Bible Dictionary

[2] The Dublin Review, Volumes 17-18, Nicholas Patrick Wiseman

[3] Ezra 9:5-6 (New International Version)

[4] Mark 9:24, New International Version(1984)

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