Continuation

In case you couldn’t tell from the title, this is a short continuation of my previous post.

So I talked about how Jesus hung out with the people who weren’t good enough – the people who would have today’s Christians shaking their heads. Today, I want to apply that to our relationships.

I have a friend. Originally, he is a friend of a friend. And while I’m not super close to him, I would still call him a friend. However, he is gay. And today, I had my roommate (who is not religious) ask about whether or not it was okay for my friend (who is a strong Christian who I admire) to be friends with him. After all, isn’t being gay something the bible tells us not to do (I’d like to point out briefly that the Bible NEVER associates being gay with…well…being. It never refers to it as an identity, only an action)? And yes, it does. And this friend is also “religious” (I only use that term because I’m not entirely sure where he stands in the “religious field”, if you will). I don’t know how he resolves the two, but that’s a discussion for another time. But if Jesus hung out with people like the apostles, what excuse could I possibly give for not hanging out with people we would refer to as “better”? None. The answer is none.

I recently read “The Lipstick Gospel”. And I encourage you to read it as well. But one of the things she talks about is how she thought Christianity was about “old grannies and ugly shoes”…-and how she found out that is isn’t. That it isn’t sterile and clean, but rather messy and dirty. At one point, she used smell references – that she thought Christianity was “boring, plain vanilla” and she was more interested in something “eukelyptic-y” (excuse my spelling). I think that maybe I have been thinking too in line with “boring, plain vanilla”. I was raised in a Christian home, I’ve been a Christian since I was four, and I’m finding out that we are rather conservative. Not that that’s bad – for example, I believe in one-piece bathing suits rather than two pieces, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But sometimes, being raised in a Christian environment, you come to expect the sterile. So meeting the messy – someone who struggles with cursing, or crude jokes, or anger, or anything else – can be a bit of a shock. If you’ve never encountered it before, you might not know how to respond. Or maybe you automatically respond with a judgement about their faith. And by you I mean me. And so we forget that a foundation of Christianity is love and grace. We forget that judgement is not ours to give (James 4:11,12). We forget that God’s love is not sterile and boxed up, but unconditional and without bounds. Something that the writer of “The Lipstick Gospel” wrote struck me: she wrote that “I didn’t even have to give up having sex for God to love me”. She did – because she saw a hint of God’s plan for her life and “wanted in on it”, which is what I believe happens when you’re trying to seek God – but God would love her anyway. Rahab in Joshua 2 comes to mind.

Maybe this thought will be radical for you, but God loves the prostitutes. God loves the drunkards. God loves the unfaithful. God loves the thieves. God loves the criminals. God loves the murderers. God loves the abusers. God loves the rapists. God loves the perverts. God loves everyone. Unconditionally. He loves everyone unconditionally.

Those same people who all too often we hate? The people we look down on? The people we despise? God loves them. Even when what they do makes us sick to our stomachs, He loves them. And we are called to Love them too. Love, with a capital L. Because it isn’t dependent on our feelings, or on them. The love we are supposed to have is supposed to transcend any circumstances, and go straight to the deep, neverending, unconditional love that God has. We are supposed to love like Him.

So to wrap up, just remember. Our faith, as Christians, is not supposed to be sterile. It isn’t supposed to be squeaky clean. It’s supposed to be messy, because we are messy. We are not perfect, so neither should our faith be.

You should read “The Lipstick Gospel”. It’s interesting and has some good thoughts. You can find it at http://stephaniemaywilson.com/lipstickgospeldownload

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Hidden Gem

I get really frustrated with myself sometimes. I was supposed to post this Sunday, and I even knew what to post! Argghh! But it’s getting posted today. So.

How many of you have ever had a moment reading the Bible when you just stumble across a whole random section of it that you can’t remember EVER really reading before? Like, maybe never ever ever? And then it’s like, woah! And of those of you that have, who found a passage that was just a little gem with double the woah factor? Yeah, that was me Sunday. And I was pretty surprised. I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember (I was four when I became a Christian; I’m 16 now) and I’m a reader. I’m also smart. So between the reading, smarts, and lifetime of Bible, I’m usually sitting in class thinking I know this story, and I’ve heard these points before (Side Note: that’s pride, people. The “I know the Bible” thing, not the smarts. Stop pride before it starts). But then, I found this little nugget! And it has a name. It’s James. Yes, as in the book of James. (I’m going to smack myself for this, but James the Gem people. James the Gem. Okay, I’m gonna go sit in the corner now. Not really, ’cause I’m writing this.)

Really, you should just go read James for yourself. The whole thing is amazing. But let me highlight a few things that popped out at me.

  • Favoritism is a Sin – Yep. James 2 starts out with calling favoritism a sin. It uses the example of showing favoritism to a rich man over a beggar, but it applies everywhere. Christ’s love does not show favoritism. Neither should we.
  • Warning Against the Tongue – Not as new, sure, but still a valuable piece of advice. Even when it feels like you’re about to explode and you can’t help but think how unfair it is  (especially if they’re being mean to you), hold your tongue. It doesn’t matter who it is, do NOT let something unkind and/or venomous come out of your mouth.
  • Submit Yourselves to God – Seems obvious, but I realized I’ve been kinda prideful lately…instead of submitting. I did a post about rebellion a while ago. That and this are cousins or siblings, who knows. They’re related. I found verses 11 and 12 especially interesting. I’ll give you verse 12: “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?”
  • Warning to Rich Oppressors – Yep, this is in here too. God doesn’t ignore those who are suffering under others. He tells them to bear with it. He tells their oppressors, Watch out. Your judgement is coming. Verse 3: “Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.”
  • Other Notes – I was not kidding when I said you should read this book yourselves. It’s extremely powerful. I just wanted to point out a couple other things that popped out to me but didn’t have a whole section. I’m just going to type the verses, since they speak for themselves.
    • James 2:26 – “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
    • James 1:26-27 – “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
    • James 2:8 – “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.”
    • James 4: 5 – “Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?”
    • James 5:12 – “Above all, my brothers, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.”
    • James 5:20 – “remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

Aaarghh! There were so many more good verses! Seriously, read this book. I love it. Anyways. One of my favorite verses in this book is James 2:26. I have this sneaking suspicion that my spiritual gift is serving – I love being able to help people, especially elderly people and anything to do with children or (ohh, yes) babies (don’t get me started on those cute little bundles). However, there is a problem with that: I am very, very, VERY socially challenged. I’m shy. I’m an introvert. I’m socially awkward. The worst thing in the world for me is having to start a conversation (I can order for myself at a restaurant now without too much discomfort, and just last month I called several places to get myself an internship for school, so I’m slowly improving!). Getting involved with peopleInitiating that? Umm…no. Oh, wait. James 2:6. Wow, okay, I just got sucker punched. There’s also a verse in James that says something along the lines of, If anyone knows what he’s supposed to do and doesn’t do it, he’s gonna get judged. I am caught between a rock and a hard place. But really…there’s also a verse in the Bible that basically says If you have not received, it is because you have not asked! (John 16:24 might be it, I don’t quite remember). Not too long ago I was thinking about how I would definitely join a club that would provide me with the opportunities to help people, that’d be great! Guess what happened. Yep, such a club appeared! (Side Note: While I encourage you to do it, I’m always terrified to offer myself to God to use because I know he’ll challenge me and say, are you really willing? And that usually involves social interaction. He knows where to hit *gulps*. He will absolutely put me between a million different rocks and hard places, and it’s SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO uncomfortable. But I know it’s good for me so I do it anyway. Every once in a while (I should do it everyday. If you need something to pray for, pray that I gain the strength to do that)). So yeah, now I need to follow up on that club. But the thing is, God provides. If you want a service opportunity, ask him. If you want personal growth in Him, ask him (But be prepared to work yourself. He changes willing hearts, but your heart should be willing first). Ask, and you shall receive. Even when it’s uncomfortable and feels like a slow, torturous death, God will help you complete his commands. I know I’m supposed to be serving. I also know I’m not going to lack service opportunities anytime soon.

Anyway! Thanks for putting up with my rambling. Read James for yourself. Let God speak to you. It’s so much more effective than when I do it. Ciao!

Transparency is Protection

This post is about transparency, and in order to write about it requires me to be real with you guys. I refuse to write about something I’m not willing to put into practice. So I’ll put it out there now: I struggle with masturbation. Obviously I struggle with other things too, but the one I keep failing in without seeming to make any significant progress is masturbation. I don’t remember when I started. I remember reading things I wasn’t supposed to in seventh grade. Maybe it started in ninth grade; I know I was sinning in that area through tenth. But when I first started, I told a close friend about it – close enough that we call each other sisters. I was trying to gain an accountability partner in order to stop. It didn’t work out quite like that, but that’s not the point of this story. A while later – in tenth grade – I told another close friend who isn’t a Christian. It came up in an indirect manner. I had refused to do something or said something and my friend asked why. I chose to be real – to be transparent – with her. I told my mentor. Shortly after that my parents found out, which I still kinda wish they hadn’t.This year, I’ve told two more people – a Christian who was falling away from the faith and a strong Christian friend (a.k.a my friend with the nonprofit). And now I’m writing it here, on my blog.  I told the first person this year because they told me they admired my “strong” faith; I wanted them to realize I was human. People I identify as having a strong faith have always seemed like superhumans to me, like they’re at a height I could never reach. I never want someone to look at me and see me as better than them or more christian-like. Obviously I have my share of struggles. I’m human, nothing more. The second person I told as a conscious attempt to open myself up. But what I want to get at I just realized recently, in talking with that very first friend I told.

She told me she hadn’t understood why I had told the second friend. It took me a while to tell her, and it seemed like I told the second friend so quickly, even though I hadn’t yet known her for two full years. My explanation was a thought that had been half-forming in the back of my mind for several days. So I told her I was trying to be transparent. In telling all these people, my goal at the time may have been to be real and human and approachable (I’ve said I have trouble making friends, right?) but now it’s about transparency. I read a lot of books, and in so many of them trouble arises because of secrets. I generally have a very limited enjoyment of these books because I know what’s going to happen and I know it’s going to cause problems (with a few exceptions, like Tamora Pierce’s books Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen). It’s hard for authors to write a timeline like that well. And it’s hard because it’s so predictable. That secret will get them in trouble. How do they not realize this!? Yet for some reason, they keep it. The most enjoyable books are the ones where the character is actively striving to destroy whatever is making them keep this secret; the ones that refuse to be blackmailed. I know it happens in real life, too. As I tell the people close to me, I am making this secret less and less of a weapon as it becomes less and less of a secret. Proverbs 2:12-15 says “Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.” Is telling people wisdom? I don’t know. But if it helps keep the men described in this passage from being able to manipulate me even once, then it works, right? Luke 8:17 says “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” By telling people now of my own volition, I’m saving myself a lot of pain and embarrassment later. One more thing.

Luke 8:17 is in the section of passage that compares believers to lamps on a stand.. The full passage reads “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.” We are supposed to be lamps on a stand. We are supposed to be the lights of the world. That is done most effectively not when we’re perfect (’cause we’re not; it’s a lie and people know it) but when we are real about our sin. It isn’t when we say we have no sin, but when we admit we have sin and say it has no real power over us because we are in Christ Jesus. It’s when we admit that we’re human and show people that we are different because of Christ. Maybe telling people has been easier for me because I have an awesome support group that’s willing to help me and not judge me. But you know what? So often sin has power because it’s a secret. How much more would the church open up if they started sharing the burden of their sin instead of shouldering it alone? Every person you tell takes a little bit of power away from that sin and makes it more and more unwieldy for the devil until he can’t use it against you. Being transparent protects us. And what shines brighter – a flame with a colored cover or a flame with a clear cover?

 

Okay. So maybe this post scares people off. Being transparent does that sometimes. It lets God shine through a little more and draws them in a little more and weirds them out a little more. It’s another way of being different. Secrets are a burden on people. Some people are like “No secrets? Oooh, shiny! Me want!” and others are like “What is that disgusting creature get it away from me why is it so fascinating” but either way it makes us stand out. Sorry if you think it’s too forward, but that’s what this blog is. But please don’t think it’s too forward because I already told my dad-mentor (new name for him. I like it) that I had one follower (hi!). And this post may have rambled a little bit, and I am sorry for that. Welp, that’s all! Bye!