Monday, May 28, 2012

To Break a Heart for What's Right

I saw something that disturbed me today, but it was the kind of thing so common that any other day I would hardly notice it. It was a simple little sign, a beautiful advertisement with pictures of rich, decadent chocolate cookies saying something to the effect of, "Give in to your cookie craving." That's it. Some of you are balking right now. Why is that disturbing? I'll tell you why.

Maybe it's the kind of thinking I've been doing about justice lately, maybe it's because I was in a particularly wealthy part of town, or maybe the Holy Spirit was at work, but the thought that struck me was, A life for a cookie? It suddenly struck me that here we are, running around carelessly eating cookies and buying coffee, stuffing our insatiable cravings for nothing of value...and on the other side of town I see the same homeless, the same working poor, the same people who are struggling day in and day out to get by. Why am I - how can I be - ok with this? And more pointedly, how can we? Why don't I know my poor neighbors, or better yet, how can I call them neighbors when I don't?

There is something deep and powerful stirring within me. I have a feeling that I'm going to start sounding like "that person" but I don't care. I understand that as Westerners in a relatively comfortable existence, we are constantly bombarded by those "save-the" messages. You know the ones I'm talking about. Save the whales! Save the earth! Save our education! Save Africa! We start to tune out. We can't do it all, so instead we don't do any of it. But, and I am implicating myself in this, when we can begin to tune out "save someone's life" then we are walking on very dangerous territory. Particularly when we can buy a $4 coffee right after doing so and think nothing of it.

I have been thinking a lot about gluttony and stewardship lately. With my finances, I should be asking God about every coffee I buy, about every purchase I make. My money is not mine for the spending, and it's a potent reminder that my resources could be much more powerful if I weren't so selfish with them. It's so easy for me to blithely say that I "need" something that I only halfway want. Or my need is based in something unnecessary like getting that extra foot cream I've never needed before because suddenly I can afford to be vain about my feet. Or fill in the blank. This, friends, is not just not ok. This is seriously dangerous, because it reflects a misunderstanding of myself and others in my heart. When I can honestly say that I have been sacrificially generous as a habit, not as a passing self-interested fancy, maybe then I can worry about silly foot creams and the like. But I suspect that allowing that much heart-change to take place - and it will if I am not too chicken to let it - will only extinguish the silly desires I have for things that I in no way need.

I want - I need - to begin to make friends with a whole class of people whom I have not known. Not reaching down, but reaching out, as an equal. I can read about how to help the poor, but what about talking to them? What about joining their struggle? What about knowing their families and sharing their dreams?

God, take hold of our hearts. Break our hearts for what breaks yours.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Unknown

"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work."
-John 4:34

What is your sustenance? What motivates you? What locks into place to allow you to persevere when things get gritty? I hope and pray that my whole hope is in Jesus; that nothing else can catch my eye, steal my heart, encourage my tenacity, or pick me up when I've fallen like He can. Because no one and nothing else can.

The ancient Greeks said, "Know thyself." I must have Greek in me somewhere then, because I feel like I have a constant thirst to better understand my own heart. It has occurred to me recently, however, that no amount of self-knowledge, insight into the past, or wisdom of any kind can take the place of what God has for me right now, in this moment. He has set beauty, joy, hope, love, and grace before me - the gracious experiences of a heart that communes with His. There is no need, so it seems, to dig through and understand what was. Could the blind articulate why their eyes didn't work before Jesus healed them? Rather, I can leave it, trusting Jesus for what is and what will be. Because of who God is, I know that both of those realities will be utterly beautiful, transformationally whole, and life-changingly full of His presence.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bugs and Perseverance

I am so going to cheese out on you guys today. Deal with it.

One of my current jobs is in a research lab, where the short answer to what I do is I study how things work, using beetles. I experiment on their embryos to discover how some developmental genes work, but I also do a fair amount of work maintaining the adults too. Until today, I had never seen any of these little guys "grow up." They are kind of like butterflies where they turn into these unmoving, mummy-like things until one day they emerge fully grown. (As a tangent, I thought about including a picture, but I decided that it's probably better to let you imagine beautiful butterflies rather than freak you out with magnified pictures of beetles.)

But I had never realized or thought through what a process it is to reach adulthood for these guys. There are a thousand cheesy-but-true metaphors about butterflies and how they have to fight to get out of their cocoon; that if they don't struggle they'll never be strong enough, etc. And I admit that I like those metaphors, but I had never seen it first-hand. When it's before your eyes, even such a "simple" life-form is so evidently giving everything it has, fighting with everything in its power, persevering, spending itself to go through an unavoidable right of passage. At first it looks like an alien (seriously, prometheus??). But slowly, surely, it works, it strives, it puts in the time. It gets more zealous as it goes, starting slow and eventually fighting full strength. When it finally succeeds, it stops, perhaps in exhaustion, and just breathes (breathes? I'm not sure). When it regains its strength, it goes about being a grown-up beetle. In something so small, you see an entire drama unfold. It's actually really neat. Life - life - is fascinating.

Anyway, it makes me think of perseverance. Tenacity has actually been one of my favorite words the last few months as I've been learning about leadership. Perhaps that's because I am easily a passionate person, but not so easily a tenacious person. It's not always my passion that designates how much something matters to me (I could potentially be passionate about a cupcake), but how enduring my effort.

When asked why courage was such a major theme in her novels, JK Rowling (author of Harry Potter) said essentially, "Because you can't fake it." Neither can you fake perseverance. It's humbling, but you either give up or you don't. So, what in life requires your tenacity? And are you giving it? What things are you willing to fight for? (And are they the right things? That's a whole other blog post...) What will you put your sweat and blood into? I encourage you, whoever you are and whatever you're up against, to step up today. Give it your all.

Yeah, and just kidding about the picture. ;) Try not to focus on the huge flesh-eating pincers. Ok fine, they're tiny and they eat flour.
Tribolium - image from http://myrmecos.net/2008/03/24/a-beetle-genome/

Till next time...
     Christy

Monday, May 7, 2012

Oops

Well, I was going to have some neo-clever coy blog post about having gone through and deleted several of my earliest posts from several years ago, complete with some sage-like wisdom regarding why I had done so. So maybe this is kind of that post. But the joke is on me, as I incidentally (and accidentally) deleted not just several posts, but a whole third of my blog that I meant to keep. And I can't seem to figure out how to get any of it back. Yeah...my bad. Haha.

I was tired of everybody reading my silly "Single Person's Thoughts on Dating" post anyway. Thank goodness.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Stray Thought

I was taking an evening drive tonight. Amidst the wonderful music (Civil Wars), long uninterrupted pavement before me, the cool evening air, and my generally serene attitude, I was struck by something: I am very grateful to be 23. I know I'm so young, and yet, I am so glad to have made it this far. For whatever is in front of me, whatever life has yet to hold, I am so very honored to have come as far as I have, to be in the place I'm in; driving my silly car that's in the shop every other week and disciplining myself to eat more simply, but being richly blessed with all I could ever want: God and people. I'm glad for what's behind me and blessed by what's ahead, whatever it so happens to be.

Goodnight. :)