Monday, December 31, 2012

Welcoming In the New Year

I was sitting on a plane recently when the older woman in the seat next to me wanted to strike up a conversation. Her husband was busied with something else at the window, and I suppose she wanted someone to talk to.

Usually, I am rather amenable to such spontaneous interactions, and at first was happy to oblige. Soon, however, my patience began to wear thin as it came out that I wasn't as happy to oblige as she was happy to keep talking. By the end of the flight, I found myself desperately wishing to get off the plane and run away. This expressed itself in frightfully threadbare responses to anything the woman found to say.

In another recent scene, the air was chilly but the excitements were warm. A small group of us were huddled outside REI, a favorite outdoor store, waiting for the doors to open in a few hours. We had been there for awhile, chatting to pass the time. "We are called to love people," said one, in response to my plane dilemma. "What does it matter if she has issues she needs to work out, is that a prerequisite to speaking with you?" The words pierced me, but they were the confirmation I needed for my suspicions.

How little I have truly understood loving people in 2012.

And how little I still do on the brink of 2013. You see, this poor sweet woman on the plane is just one example of the many people I have steamrolled in my own self-interest, even my dear friends - the awareness of which is uncomfortable in the deepest senses of who I've become. I sense the struggle of my stubborn sinfulness, my clinging pride, but my tired desire to be made right, whole, and good. It is a journey, isn't it? And it is far from over.

So with 2013 rapidly descending upon Tucson, rolling westward with astonishing speed, I have only one main option. New Years resolutions assume a posture of strength: of working harder, trying better, being "resolute" so to speak. But I'm writing today to say that I am coming into 2013 with quite the shocking opposite, a posture that knows finally that I can do nothing on my own. Strength is what I know, weakness what I have come to loath. Pride, after all, is only insecurity all gussied up. But it is God who saves my soul, and it is He that purifies my heart. The truth is that in my weakness, He is made known, not just to others but to me. So this year, I embrace the weakness that embodies all of who I am without Christ.

Paul writes, "What a wretched man I am! Who will save me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24). How I feel those words. Yet Paul knew how to follow them: "Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Happy New Year, friends.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Window Thoughts

The clouds ripple through the puddle on the balcony out my window. Seated in one of the family antique sitting-room chairs, my futon is low to the ground across from me and the window is overlooking the Hawthorne neighborhood through the steam of my tea. The view is idyllic, a snapshot of Portland. Across from the window is my suitcase, overflowing with scarves, fluffy socks, and other tributes to winter weather. The house has grown quiet, naps and reading ensuing after a morning of merry togetherness sharing in food and gift. Coming from sunny southern Arizona, somber grey mornings are my dearest favorite and I am at peace.

The joy of the Christmas season is full, but also full of hard questions for me. This year has changed my life, and I feel it to my bones. Nothing overly dramatic, but full, full of good lessons on every side. I scarcely believe that Christy who started 2012 is the same woman who is finishing it.

That is where the questions come.

The challenge is that I look around at my life and I see many deeply good things. My dad, brother and I sit around a Christmas dinner this year for the first time in at least six years. Our time together has been full of laughter, story-telling, and simply an easy restful joy. Back home I have friends upon friends whom I value and learn from, who influence my life just by being part of it. I have encountered a good job, a new car, a phone with more technology than I know how to use. At 23, the prospects look good.

But something is missing, and it makes me restless...Where in the world, where in my world, is Jesus Christ? The quiet omission of my heart is that if I lived my life exactly as I am living it today, I doubt there is much room for Jesus. Is there any more terrifying realization for the Christian? It has dawned slowly this season that the residence of my heart is much more inn-like than stable-like: closed, full, busy, wealthy - too many other important things to do. The oil in my lamp is burned low and I'm sure there are some debts I have not forgiven, no matter the debt forgiven me.

Simply, success has made me proud. Realizing that this is the truefaced attitude of my heart quite honestly terrifies me. I don't want Jesus in the margins, only to be called upon for a need, for an anxiety. I don't want Jesus to be an ornament that decorates my heart, just adding to something that is already there. No...no. He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30). And she who puts her hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for service (Luke 9:62). For the one-millionth time, either I am in this come what may, or I am not in it at all. Lord, wake us up.

All that to say, I need grace in 2013. I am desperate, but not desperate enough. I don't know what needs to happen to break me from the trance I am in, the pride I am in, the legalism. I recognize vaguely that there is nothing I can do - that would be legalism yet again. Only an offering can I make, of faith. Christ and Christ alone saves. Even rich young rulers and proud young women.

This Christmas is full of joy, but also full of the restlessness that comes with realizing that things must change. Risk awaits me if I go, a long slow death by pride awaits me if I stay. I don't want to make it sound heroic because it's not: it's the desperate cry of an ordinary sinner.

"A day without prayer is a day we foolishly believe we have under control."
-Lecrae


Friday, December 14, 2012

A Call

It is mornings like this morning, amidst the tragedy of 27 dead in an elementary school, when I am reminded of what we fight for.

I am reminded that our enemy is ruthless.

I am reminded that we stand for good, we pray, we fall on our knees, we learn about mercy, hope, love, and tenderness because we live in a world where those things are rapidly snuffed out. Can we...will we?

I am reminded that I live for a cause I am ready to die for, and soberly take into account the tremendous price over our heads. I wonder if we have all counted the cost.

Did I say already that our enemy is ruthless?

I implore you to think about evil for a minute. Go ahead and go there. Allow yourself to intake the depth of depravity that exists in the hearts of men and women, and realize that there is nothing casual or funny about our enemy. Realize whom we stand against - his lust, greed, anger, pride, and horror, his hate for mankind, that which is cultivated in ourselves as well - and let yourself be rightfully angry. Again, I ask that you count the cost and be ready for action.

I guess this is a call, from a beating heart, to take your life seriously. Take your ministry seriously. Take love seriously. Will we stop messing around? Please? Get on your knees for your city, for your neighbors, your loved ones. Do you believe in God? Then act like it. Do you believe that the gospel has something to offer the world? Then let your words match. Do you believe He is powerful? Then pray like it. Wake up and hear the cry of your hurting neighbors, hear the voice of someone outside yourself.

Maybe if the people who say they love Jesus were transformed by the renewing of their minds, and put away such things as malice, deceit, envy, slander, if we put on love above all things, we would begin to show hope to a bruised and hurting world. Maybe if we spoke the truth in love, gave a reason for our hope in gentleness and respect, and did not lose our saltiness to be culturally relevant, we would actually have something to say that's worth listening to.

Mourn with those who mourn today, and do not forget why you are here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Confessions

Sometimes I get tired of my blog.

For that matter, I have a confession about writing in general. Sometimes I shy away from it because I feel like I'm standing off to the side with a bullhorn. I feel like my thoughts are loud and invasive. I wonder if I have the right to share them. I screen them for things that may be uncomfortable. I worry about showboating my life or saying things to draw attention to myself. At other times I feel almost middle-school-ish about it, like the gangly kid going out for the team. Writing is consistently something I both love and get antsy about.  

Blogging is a funny concept. It has always felt a little bit to me like, "Here are my ideas that you should read because they're great." This is a thorn in my side about writing to "the public" because it just feels...awkward. Plus it's somewhat vulnerable. There are countless things I'm happy to share over coffee, to journey with my dear friends in life about, to exchange in stories and find encouragement in. And then there's this....where typeface tells you in completely uncertain terms what I am thinking, spared what I really feel or how I got there (do you really want to read 8 pages per entry?). Each blog is a manicured snapshot of my humanity, for better or for worse...and the private aspect of me cringes a little at that.

But still I write. I can't always say why, to be honest. I'm compelled? I love it? I express myself this way? I desire to encourage? To be fair, I don't really know why I write all the time. And it's another one of those seasons where I just don't write a ton. Frankly, I just don't feel that wise.

So bear with me. Maybe this blogging endeavor is slowly tapering to an intermission or a final act. Perhaps I'll get ballsier and start writing what I really think about things (careful what you wish for!). Or maybe I let the story of my life be told over dinners, drinks, and real-time adventures instead of cold and unbreathing text. All of the above?

I guess we'll find out.