Monday, February 22, 2010

Lent Blog: Day 2

Lent, day two. My head hurts and I would love some bread right now. But that’s not what matters. It’s not about how well I ‘sacrifice’ or how righteous I can get by how much I give up, all in the name of God. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be getting anywhere. In The Great Exchange it says “One cannot earn a gift; otherwise it can no longer be called a gift. Instead, it becomes a wage deserved.”

Anyone who has been around any human longer than about two seconds realized pretty instantly, we do not deserve the gift of grace, righteousness and life. So this season of lent has to be about me accepting that gift and living in it rather than doing what I can to feel like I’ve earned it or I deserve it. Living in that allows me to live less carefully (as I heard it phrased recently). I can bask in the beauty of God and the security that I can do nothing to earn what He’s given me.

Today at school I realized that very few people know who I am or even acknowledge my presence. In each of my classes there are a few people who I would consider friends that know me. But in comparison to the rest of the student body, I’m widely unknown. Normally I would go to sin over that. Throw myself a pity-part and wonder why nobody likes me. But not today. I realized that I don’t need people to see me or say hi to me to validate my worth. These people don’t matter. I’ll probably never see them again, and it’s not like what they think will ever affect me. I don’t have to worry about them.

Also, it gives me freedom to just be still. I don’t have to throw up walls or fa├žades or try and figure out who they want me to be. Which I shouldn’t do anyway, but that’s something I’m really working on. If these random people I see don’t care, why should I? I can just learn to rest in the knowledge that God has me. God sees me. God loves me and really, why should I care about anyone else?

Granted, I do. I do a lot, actually. But I shouldn’t. More and more I’m starting to understand why I shouldn’t care. How can anyone else’s opinion of me matter or define me more than the opinion God has of me? It can’t matter. That’s a really beautiful thing.

Reading Genesis is easy. Even reading Exodus is pretty simple. It’s loaded with stuff, for sure. But I can get through it pretty quick. It’s Leviticus I can’t get through. That book creates this block that extends through Numbers and into Deuteronomy. These come around day 11. I know that because I tried this last year. I couldn’t do it. I got discouraged because I wanted to read those books, but I couldn’t do the 26 pages in a day and I didn’t want to skip. Can you believe it? I couldn’t read 26 pages. In one day. It’s a joke.

It’s a joke because I’ve read every single Harry Potter book, most of them in a single day. I didn’t just read them, but I absorbed them. I can still recall very menial details even years later. So why should those books be so easy to read, when the Bible isn’t? Because I’ve made it that way. I’ve chosen to make it hard on myself by my attitude and perception of the content I was reading. So, if that’s the only thing in my way, I’ll change it. Ask God to give me the courage to examine my heart and change it toward Bible reading. Once at that place of being willing to change and desiring to see where your heart is, it’s so easy.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lent Blog: Day 1

Lent could not have come at a better time this year. Just in the past week I’ve been forced to confront my darkness and call out the evil that lies there. It was an ugly process. I severely dislike a) being vulnerable and b) not having all the answers. Both of which were the case. But, even though it was ugly and hard, I learned (or, rediscovered rather) some really important truths.

1) I am not my mistakes. Praise God for that. I am not the filth and darkness I choose to live in. What I am is a daughter of Christ who sometimes insists on taking the wheel. And He lets me, for a minute. Just to show me who much better life is when I’m not in control of it.
2) There is no consequence to sin. Of all the truths, this one was easiest to grasp. In all of history and in all of the future, there has been one consequence: the murder of Jesus. That’s for every sin ever committed. So why would one of my sins have more of a consequence than the bloody, horrific slaughter of the perfect, spotless Christ? It can’t. The ‘consequence’ to my sin is a better understanding of the God who loves me and closer relationship with Him, and in recent cases, the same with my parents. How is that bad? After my sin, that is hardly what I deserve, but that’s what I get. It is grace and it’s enough to make me weep.
3) I need to name my enemy. I have been tormented by darkness for much of the last year. Darkness that I have refused to acknowledge. Darkness that I have named Mak. That isn’t its name though. Through my refusal to properly address it, Mak has become a life-consuming darkness. But no more. The name of the darkness is:

-Abaddon (Revelation 9:11)
-Accuser (Revelation 12:10)
-Adversary (1 Peter 5:8)
-Apollyon (Revelation 9:11)
-Beelzebul (Matthew 12:24)
-Belial (2 Corinthians 6:15)
-Deceiver (Revelation 12:9)
-Devil (Luke: 4:13)
-Enemy (Matthew 13:28, 39)
-Father of Lies (John 8:44)

These are a few of the names. The name in and of itself isn’t important. What’s important is naming and calling out that darkness with the authority of Jesus. The end result is freedom. Pure, unadulterated light. And now that I’ve experienced that, I want it for everyone.

During the season of lent, there is quite a bit that I am doing. Some giving up, some adding to my routine. All for the glory of God. The biggest thing is Diet Coke. I’m giving up artificial sweeteners in general, but it is Diet Coke in particular. In thinking about it, I’ve come to realize that Diet Coke isn’t just a comfort (though that does play a huge part in it) but it’s also become part of my identity. I am well known for my love of Diet Coke. But how distorted and far from God have I become when a soda becomes a bigger part of my identity? That also doesn’t begin to cover the affects it’s had and is having on my body.

Also for the benefit of my body is giving up all forms of sugar, carbs and dairy. Plus the addition of actually taking my vitamins and working out six times a week. This is part cleaning out my ‘innards, and part getting rid of comfort.

Along with taking care of my body this season is taking care of my spirit. Giving up internet as much as possible (excluding school and this blog), TV (American Idol and 24 excluded, those are family shows) which basically means giving up NCIS, Star Trek and Criminal Minds, and cell phone (except for when I really need it, which probably wont be often). This is born partially out of being sacrificial, partially in order to clear away some of the noise and partially for time. I have a lot of reading to be doing. As a family, we are going through The Great Exchange (six pages a day) and personally I’m reading the Bible (26 pages a day). So today, that’s six pages of chapter 5 and Genesis 1:1-31:55. Oh, and I’m also 71 pages behind in The Great Exchange. But I’m excited because I know that it is this closeness to God that I need right now.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

War on Apathy

I know a few people who have come back from Iraq or Afghanistan. I know people who are currently somewhere in the desert. I’m taking a class where the majority of the population is Arab, including the teacher. We watch videos about the Iraq-Iran war, the negotiations between Palestine and Israel. I’ve studied how we, the US, have intervened for good, and for bad.

In another class, we talk about the global efforts for one group or another. Social justice and being critical in how we receive information.

In yet another class, we focus heavily on the civil rights, women’s rights and Vietnam War.

That’s all very nice. I look around the classes and I see glazed over expressions and people doing other classes homework. All this information is being thrown at us, but not sinking in. We’ve become desensitized to school. This isn’t such a shock, really. But school isn’t the only thing we’ve become desensitized to. We’ve also become highly desensitized to war.

War is ugly. It’s revolting. It’s sickening. I’ve seen video footage from Al-Jazeera and from Vietnam. Blood everywhere. Sobbing mothers hunched over the bodies of innocent children. Bloody mobs with political lynching’s. Bombs drooped on tanks, people, and buildings. Not to mention the ruthless justification of the generals and presidents in charge.

Currently the United States is involved in war. Do you know how long it’s been going on? Seven years. For seven years we’ve been in the Middle East. I don’t care if you agree with the war or not, that’s not the point. The point is, we live in an economy where we can ignore the war we are in the very middle of. The people of Iraq can’t ignore it. They don’t get to sit around debating Jessica Simpson’s love life. They don’t even have the luxury of debating the war and whether it’s right or wrong. Frankly, who cares? The point is, we’re there.

Close your eyes and imagine it. Imagine going outside and seeing a military raid going on in the house across from you. Imagine walking to get water, and passing hordes of armed soldiers. Do you know what the rumble of a passing tank feels like? Can you hear the jets that daily pass your house? I have no idea what any of that is like. And that feels wrong to me.

I think the only American’s who feel the sting of war are the men and women who come back (obviously) and their families. I don’t have a solution and I can’t pinpoint the exact problem. But, I’m starting to see that we can not continue to live without feeling something for the people who do see the daily effects of war. It doesn’t matter if you agree that the war is necessary or not, what matters is being there for the people in the middle of it when they come home. And for their families if they don’t.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I am exhausted...

I am completely exhausted. It's now the fifth day in a row that I have had a 15 hour plus day. I’ve been up every day at 7 the latest and haven’t gotten to bed until 12 most nights. Not only have I been getting up at 7, but I’ve been getting up to four children who need help getting ready, getting fed and loaded up for camp. Then off to the park to set up for our VBS. Then singing the same two songs every morning (I’ll Fly Away and Victory Chant) and spending the next three hours with 15 four and five year olds during snack time, story time, game time and craft time. They were always fairly grumpy by craft time. Only then to come home with four (once five) children for a brief naptime then trying to figure out ways to entertain them until dinner time and then until bedtime. Which was always a fight in and of itself.

Between no sleep, singing two songs that I actually have grown to not like whatsoever, and spending time with very needy four year olds, I’ve learned a ton. Today, I was tired to the point of crying. I wanted to cry as I was singing the last time. I reached the end of my rope a long time ago. As in Monday night long time ago. So the fact that I’m still sane and have loved this week immensely really shows something to me. I ended my rope. . . so I started asking myself who’s rope I was using and who’s sanity I was borrowing momentarily.

Well, duh. That answer hit me hard. Who else could sustain me emotionally and spiritually? Who else could make it okay for me to get up at seven with a smile for a whole bunch of four year olds? Who has been trying to show me all the ways in which I sinfully hold on to my time with an iron grip? I started to realize this on Sunday and now. . . everything I was thinking then has just been even more confirmed. I’ve been fighting getting my AA lately. I haven’t wanted to give up that much more of my senior year. Plus a senior year of high school (which is crazy no matter what) as well as doing the DTP (a discipleship program for becoming a children’s counselor) I had no desire to give up more time to get my AA.

But why? Because I can’t handle it. I could never do all that. I get overly stressed super easily, I freak out and I would loose my mind. I can’t do all that. I probably wont even be able to do my junior year of high school, how could I do all that I want to in two years? I can’t. It’s a simple as that.

After I realized that, my first thought was thank Jesus I can’t do it. If I can’t do it, I can’t fail. Everything that I plan on taking on is going to have to take an incredible amount of strength. A hundred times more strength than I currently have. So, I’m going to have to find a source of strength somewhere. And I’m starting to see that only God can provide that for me. I’ve gotten a taste of what that will look like this week, and I can’t even begin to explain how much my inability to do this has filled me with hope.

It’s a crazy thing. Three weeks ago, I wouldn’t have even begun to imagine all that VBS could teach me. I was there to teach them, not the other way around. But thankfully, I learned from them. I learned a little from everyone who was at VBS, child and teacher alike. I have no idea how intense these next two school years will be. I have no idea how my resolve and my faith in God will be tested. All I know is that it will be. Also, that I am going to need all the strength God has to give me. Normally, the idea of leaning on someone else for strength when I’m so ready to prove my independence would just anger me. But in this instance, It’s the only thing that makes sense. If I think I’m exhausted now, I have no idea what’s coming to me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Passion

I recently had to write a paper on something that I want to do when I "grow up" (not that I really want to grow up in the traditional way). It took me forever to decide what to write about. That's always the case when I need to write a paper. I spend longer deciding what to write about then the actual writing. Then it hit me, much the same as it did at the WASL. Why not write about writing? Writing, reading, books and literacy are things I love and am very passionate about. But, as I did more and more research, I found I’m part of a minority in that respect.

A recent survey done by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy states that 50% of the adult population is not prepared to read any complicated or deep text. That is the result of a gross decline in adult reading. I always knew that teenagers were on a serious literacy decline. When I was in 7th grade there was more than one occasion when my English teacher and I would start talking about a book in class and we were both surprised when no one else had read it or even heard about it. As a class we read the classic “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and to my shock and sadness, I was the only student who had read it.

But when I found out that adult reading is also on the decline, I was equally shocked and saddened. My resolve to be a writer is even stronger now. I see evidence all over the place on times when a well written book has made all the difference in a person’s life. I write not just for myself, though that is a big part of why I write, but I write so that others will (hopefully) one day read it. I am constantly challenging my work and looking at it from new angles, not for myself, but for that one person who reads it and maybe it changes their life.

All avid readers, people who are truly passionate about the art of reading, have a read more than one book that spoke to them. That touched them in the deepest part of who they are and the words painted pictures in their minds that made them hunger. Made them strive for something more. I want to bring that feeling to everyone. I want everyone to feel that overpowering feeling of being touched by someone’s heart put on paper. Because that’s what writing is. It’s the authors heart being put on display. So this treasure, should not be forgotten. It should be cherished and relished for years to come. It also deserves to be shared and be seen by others.

So please help me in my quest to bring the joy and beauty of reading back. Find a favorite book, and give it away. Give it to someone who you think would appreciate it. To someone who could be touched by it. Someone who’s life could be touched by it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Essays About She: Mad World

A young woman sat alone on Thursday night, saver for her 6 year old son Conrad. She sat at her dinning table, eating a baked frozen pizza. Hers was a sparsly furnished house. The living room was small, yet intimate, with the focal point being a large white and black framed fireplace. It was a small house, but perfect for them. There was a bathroom across the hall from Conrads romm, and an office next door. Her room was neat with a fair size walk in closet. They finished dinner, which was conductud in an amiable silence, and moved into the living room to play Don't Break the Ice. After a few games, her phone rang. She left Conrad in the living room and went to the kitchen to answer it. It was a coworker, asking if she wouldn't mind covering the shift. I can't, she explained, I don't have a babysitter. Bring him here, the coworker suggest. No, Conrad needs to be in bed by 8, he has school in the morning. Any other time I'd be glad to she said. She hung up and went looking for Conrad. He had gone to his room and was playing with cars. She left him alone while she checked her email. She called Conrad out, gave him a peice of candy and turned on an episode of Tom & Jerry for him while she cleaned. After that was over, she helped him brush his teeth. He insisted on putting his pajamas on by himself. She smiled at his growing independance. She fed his fish, let him pick some toys to take to bed and read him a story. On her way out she said "good night Conrad." "Night mom. Love you" was his sleepy reply. In years to come he would learn to care about her, to worry after her. But for now he was content to let her worry after him. After making sure he had everything he needed, she cleaned up their game, drew all the blinds and went and got her own pajamas on. She went back to the living room to watch some TV before bed. Around 11, she turned the TV off and checked on Conrad. He was sound asleep. She went to her own bed, set her alarm for six and fell asleep too.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Geeking out....

Yeah, all geeks experience moments of geeking out. I'm just coming down off a week (maybe two?) of major geeking out. And chances are, I'm not done.

Really I can shift some of the blame onto my wonderful friend Em....she introduced me to a new show. Supposedly it's Sci-Fi, but the only thing really Sci-Fi about it is that it takes place in space on different plantes. Great show however....should never have been cancled. Around the same time I started watching the show, I got the chance to meet Wil Wheaton. On the outside I just looked like a sweet, geek-free fangirl, but internally I was having a major geek out moment. You know, like freak out, but geek out. I then promptly checked his books out from the library (hilarious, I highly recomend them) and decided to do the ulitmate geek thing: write a Star Trek series. I'm really not a big fan of DS9 or Enterprise (I adore Voyager despite it's lack of Gene Roddenbury) and would love to bring it around.

Geeking out is actually quite fun. Yesterday I spent most of the morning watching episodes from ST: TNG (season 1) and had tons of fun talking to the TV screen and...well...geeking out in major ways. I've named my car B'Ellana, my iPod Beverly Crusher and am writing a Sci-Fi novel based off my love for Star Trek.

I am a geek, I proudly admit it. I provide endless entertainment to my friend (who also has her geeking out moments, but she's actually a Twerd instead of a Trekkie)and I love ComiCon, I can't wait for more. Embrace the geek...cause frankly, we're cool.