Redirecting…

Faith posts continue to (hopefully) supply you with insight over at Geeks Under Grace. See my latest one here!

…What, are you looking for something more on this post? I ain’t got that kinda time! *goes to play Breath of the Wild for…uh…blog ideas. Yeah. That’s it.*

Definitely Not Finding Excuses to Write Less

Well, sheesh, my writing schedule remains a little hit and miss. But there will always be articles on GUG! Click to read last month’s piece, and check out all their other nifty stuff!

As for my nexth VGS article, here’s hoping for next Friday. 😉

Happy reading, y’all!

Your Faith Post Has Moved!

Hellooo, FAITHful readers.

(See what I did there?)

More changes as I figure out my time constraints and capabilities: For the time being, I’ll no longer be writing Faith posts on this blog, but instead linking you to the “Christian Living” posts I write for Geeks Under Grace. These sorts of writings just take a little more meditation than I can muster twice a month. (Just listen to me whine.)

Please enjoy last month’s work on the site here, and be sure to check out anything else they have that might interest you!

Until next week’s post, y’all!

The Righteous Scuffle

I am least-resistance material. Dodge rather than duel. It’s not so much rooted in cowardice as it is in convenience: a fight takes work, and I’d rather acquiesce. The less energy wasted, the better.

And I thought I was so ahead of the game, spiritually-speaking. A perfectly willing soul, ready to go along with anything. Isn’t a subservient follower of Christ the best follower of Christ? I wouldn’t dare be contrary to what I suppose is God’s plan for my life.

(Emphasis on “suppose”.)

My change of mind happened in a small moment, as brief as it takes to conjure a thought. I’d scanned through my task list at work and settled on what needed immediate attention. Meanwhile, dozens more synapses went wild in the background with other “to-do’s” for the day: Did I need any groceries? Would I go clothes shopping this evening or on the weekend? Get some writing done after work like a good girl? Or…hang responsibility and work my thumbs on the 3DS? (These moral dilemmas…)

In the middle of it all, some future-oriented thought wandered its way through the internal noise. I honestly couldn’t tell you now what it was, but I remember it arrested my attention. In knee-jerk fashion, I gave it a pious: “Yea, verily, do as thou wilt with mine life, Father.” That should’ve been the end of it, I figured – when clear as I can explain it to you I heard the words, “Wrestle with me.”

Now, there are certain Biblical stories I don’t necessarily forget; I just assume they’ll never apply to my life. Take Jacob, for example. That heel-grabber wrestled for his name, for a blessing, and for a future (Genesis 32:22-32); but he seemed a persistent sort anyway. I didn’t relate. That sort of supernatural tussle was meant for the aggressive only.

And yet here God had told me: wrestle. Over this small detail I’d rather brush off than face. It caused me at least to wonder if there was more to the fight than just petulance. Could such a brawl really change the mind of Almighty God?

In Jacob’s case, he gained what he insisted be his. Whether God would have given it with or without a fight I can’t say, but here’s the other thing I notice: the scuffle altered Jacob. He was given a physical keepsake to remember that powerfully relational moment. In grappling with another person, we often come away with a deeper understanding of both their character and ours. We’re left with a lasting impression; sometimes a bond grows stronger.

I’d never assumed a holy fight could be God’s work to shape me nearer to Him. Was it really more obedient, in some instances, to wrestle than it was to comply? As it turns out, I may not be as ahead of the game as I suspected.

So, new goal: Enter the ring more often – a type of exercise I never knew I needed. Let it bring changes in both life and soul.

Remembering Your Worth

I wonder if it’s wise to rely on mirrors.

They’re everywhere, aren’t they? Giant strips of them in public bathrooms; magnifying discs in beauty shops that show every pore; ones on cabinets and walls in our own bathrooms – easily accessible for five, six, twenty-three checks on our appearance per day.

There’s value to knowing your face, and I’m definitely not advocating going ungroomed to interviews, important social events, dates, yada yada. But check too frequently in the mirror, and you train yourself to allow value of appearance to outweigh value of person.

And what happens when appearance fails you?

Last month I completed a healing process for an illness that couldn’t be concealed – right smack on my face. (You can read more about it here.) I was asked if I had skin cancer; I was accosted with “miracle” treatments from the well-meaning; I was told it looked like I’d been in a fight. Make-up couldn’t conceal it and often made it worse.

For half a year I didn’t look in a mirror if I didn’t have to. You can’t preen over inflammation or admire painful cysts. Even now, as the scars heal, I see my reflection and wonder if there are ways my face will never look the same. And is that okay? Could I come to accept these marks as “the new me”?

Maybe a new me isn’t such a bad thing.

In Christ, I’m already a new creation; whatever happens from here is strictly superficial. Sure, the rough patches and residual scars may suck, but my worth won’t be found in nicks and pinched skin. No person’s worth can be so easily wrecked.

See, we never really know what we look like, I think – no matter how many times we scrutinize our reflection. We can’t see our genuine laughter, or the way we hug a friend, or our passion when we talk about what’s important to us. These are where true beauty radiates  – in the impromptu moments where you don’t have a chance to fret over appearance.

Even the Man worthiest of admiration wasn’t appealing by human-imposed physical standards. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2) Yet by his life and death he demonstrated not only his great worth as a sacrifice, but how overwhelmingly he values us in return.

“Old me” or “new me”, Christ has declared my value is never bankrupt. (What a timely reminder so close to Resurrection Sunday.)

Troubles won’t end just because I’m past this hurdle. I may even have to leap it again down the road. But I notice now, when I check my reflection, my scars disappear when I smile. A testament to joy in the face of pain?

Unclenching the Heart

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. – 1 Kings 19:11-12

The Holy Spirit has been a puzzle to me, despite how I know he’s a living presence of God in my heart. I want him to make grand announcements and lead me in absolute certainty through life’s twisty choices. I want him to point his finger and say, “There” when I ask for any answer. But he doesn’t do that.

I wouldn’t begin to box up the Spirit and say he can’t speak in those ways. God moves all things for His glory, and if it takes a loud shout to accomplish that, He will shout. It’s just that me, when I expect His obvious direction, it’s typically for the sake of my glory and to give me an easy out. Tell me where to go, Lord, so I get what I want and don’t have to make choices – the sooner the better.

Turns out the Spirit isn’t in the business of easy outs. In fact, you can find these verses in close proximity: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16-17) Then, two chapters later: “In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33) Well. So much for personal convenience.

But as Jesus promised, the Spirit IS a help, and he IS constant. His help just isn’t always what we expect. I’m sure there are ways to theologically or Biblically prove this point in an intellectual manner… But all I have for you is this story:

It’d been a long day at work. Walking into church that Wednesday evening, I hadn’t quite sluffed the cantankerous attitude I’d been building the last few hours, and I wasn’t particularly willing to release my sour temper. Still, I’d recently determined to let God work through circumstances in spite of my mood, so on my way across the parking lot I said a prayer that went something like:

“Okay, Lord, fine, I’m going in with a ‘tude, but that doesn’t mean You can’t use this time to change me. I’ll give it over and trust how You manage the evening. Just…gimmefivemoreminutestogrouseokay?”

I actually expected to walk in on a sermon preaching gratefulness not-so-subtly to my reticent heart – again, supposing holy intervention on a grand scale. Instead, as I sat down, two cohorts I knew through volunteer service stepped out of their way to greet me. That’s it. Two people, two quick hellos. But suddenly my mood flipped around. They were simple gestures, yet I knew they’d served the Spirit’s purpose to me.

The Holy Spirit, I believe, is the unclenching of the heart. He’s a chance encounter with churchmates, the prompt that tells me to sing praises when I’m uncertain, the communion with a fellow believer that changes my perspective. He nudges me to step out in faith, even when I don’t know the outcome. These are small, almost imperceptible ways in which he works. A whisper instead of a megaphone.

I’m learning to change my expectations for how God chooses to speak to me. One day He very well may take the direct approach, if that’s what it takes to grow our relationship. But it seems at the moment I’m better-shaped by the subtle nature of detailed adjustments.

A Bachelorette Reflects on Growth

I endeavor not to post frequently about my singleness, because it’s only a slice on the pie chart of who I am. Still, it IS the month of romance, and I’ve recently had some thoughts brewing related to my current “relationship status”.

There are many who use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to be thankful for all forms of love: not just eros, but also phileo, agape, and storge. This is a beautiful treatment of the holiday, but I confess I’m not one of those types. Nor am I the type who mopes by a vase of wilted roses on Feb. 14th, mourning like my love life needs a vigil. I typically celebrate friends and family at random (I’m even bad at birthdays…); and if I get lonely, it can’t be pegged to a predictable day.

To me, Valentine’s is just a holiday I can’t observe. I don’t mean that pitiably, but only in the sense that it doesn’t mean a great deal to me. It’s off the table, in a sense. I haven’t ever been in a mutually romantic relationship; I don’t think I could tell you what it looks like. I could tell you how I’ve seen married friends behave, but me personally? A solid blank.

can tell you that in the years I’ve been single, I certainly haven’t missed out on God’s intention to shape me closer to His image. I’ve had to surrender expectations to Him out of white-knuckled hands; I’ve ground my teeth in anxious trials of patience; I’ve been bowed out of my stubbornness to accept a new attitude of humility.

So, basically, a lot of the same character growth married people have probably had to experience. Just without, you know, the bedroom benefits.

*remembers that her parents are reading this*

ANYWAY, MY POINT BEING – It’s God’s design to mold us through our circumstances, be that in a relationship with a spouse, or adapting to a life lived solo. We are humans living in imperfect flesh; it’s our choice to be made holy by our Creator or not, wherever we happen to find ourselves.

In the past years, I’ve already seen MUCH change in my own perspective. Where I used to rail at God for circumstances, thinking He should snap his fingers and change them, I now approach Him as my Comforter. If I go through a time feeling lonely, I’ve learned to say, “God, I’m grieving right now. I miss someone I don’t even know. You are steady, though. Please lead me through this.”

I’ve come to concede that this time living single has raised my level of trust in Jehovah and made me seek Him as a very real presence in my life. Would I have experienced that if marriage had been thrown my way? I’m not one to assume the outcome of alternate realities. I only know that ten years ago, I knew God on a mostly head level, and now He completely fills my heart.

I still learn. Everyday, whatever I miss or don’t miss in relationships. Even this Valentine’s, I’m sure Christ will use the time to pull on my soul. His love is the point no matter how you celebrate, right?

Through Darkness to the Light

At my work, I sometimes host a StarLab program, at the start of which I make a speech on the etiquette expected from attendees while they huddle inside the dome. It’s a great big inflatable semi-circle of synthetic fabric, easily torn by rough-housing or a careless shoe. Also key: the dome must stay inflated through a constantly-running fan, and if the entrance tube is held open too long, the air rapidly escapes.

The littler children frequently freeze on first entering the tube. It’s pitch black for the first few feet, and that’s a long way for tiny legs to crawl without light. The problem here is, when you hold up the line, you hold the entrance open, which causes the dome to deflate. So I give the wee ones (and their parents) a pep talk before we head in:

“Now, it’s going to be a little dark when you get inside the tunnel, but I need you to keep going so others can come inside, too. As soon as you round the corner, you’ll see the light of the projector and be in the nice open space of the dome.”

After doing this spiel roughly four times in a row, the symbolism dawned on me. It probably helped that during this particular hosting of the StarLab, I was in the throes of medical trouble and about to start a somewhat worrying rehabilitation process. I thought about that dark tube and couldn’t fault the children for crying while they were led through it. I’d had my own share of fits when faced with personal darkness.

But God gives His own reassurance: “The dark part is brief. I need you to keep going, because in time you’ll see My light is up ahead.” My own corny interpretation, I’ll grant you – and maybe clichéd. But I will add that it’s never quite what we think when we round the corner and emerge on the other side.

In the StarLab dome, there’s only enough illumination to find your seat. Just two pinprick lightbulbs on either side of the projector. No blinding flash, no angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus in assurance that you’ve finally made it out all right. (That’d probably frighten the little ones even more, come to think.) All that greets you is a glimmer – not striking but steady. Enough to bring comfort after a frightening journey.

The children always forget the darkness as soon as the stars spread around the dome. How funny that it takes so little to reassure them. I suppose that’s the sort of appreciation time spent in pitch black will teach you. I’d like to have that sort of faith, too.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:5

The Christmas Miracle

christmas

Eric Metaxas, in his book Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life, describes a miracle as “when something outside time and space enters time and space, whether just to…poke at us briefly, or to come in and dwell among us for three decades.”

Something about this time of year makes society think more about miracles. At my library alone, there are over 70 items with the words “Christmas” and “miracle” somewhere in their title or description. There’s of course Miracle on 34th Street, a festive picture book titled A Christmas Spider’s Miracle, and Thomas Kinkade’s on-the-nose DVD release – Christmas Miracle. No beating around the bush on that one.

Of course, this holiday passion for the miraculous is very likely rooted in the original “Christmas” miracle we now celebrate every December 25th: when an omnipotence and omniscience far beyond our comprehension stepped into the world with a mission of hope.

Me personally, I’m not sure I’ve experienced a miracle. I believe I’ve been protected from harm in several instances, but a full on miracle? Visions of angels, sudden and incomprehensible healing, come-to-Jesus moments? I’ve lived a fairly steady (if medically interesting) life of faith. Complete with all the ups and downs.

The songs and lights and nativities have got me thinking, though: even if I never experience the miraculous in my own life, wouldn’t the miracle of “God with us” be enough? We seek quick fixes for life, microwave solutions for slow-cooker problems. We want the easy out when difficulties loom. Isn’t that the appeal of miracles?

But Jesus stepped into time. He aged and suffered for us to bring a lasting fix for every hurt and sickness. The feel-good books and movies of the season could never supply something so whole. Our brief difficulties – so brief, in the light of where our souls belong – may not end in this life, but one thing is guaranteed: Jesus among us has given meaning to what we endure.

Even true miracles, though they show us the power and character of God, can’t save us in and of themselves. Only a holy babe, born in lowly status, could fulfill that sort of promise.

Merry, miraculous Christmas, everyone.

Thanks in All Circumstances

cornucopia

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.

Have you ever practiced the advice to write 3 (or 5, or 10, or whatever) things you’re grateful for at the end of each day? It’s said to boost your attitude, change your thought patterns, and help you see the good in life instead of everything that might go wrong.

I’m no pessimist, but even so I’ve never really gotten into it. Oh, I’ve tried before, but after about a week I begin to think: “I could be writing something so much more interesting right now. Where’s that character sheet I was working on…?” So in a hodgepodge of journals I have these intermittent lists of thankfulness mingled with scraps of character development and fiction snippets. (I pity anyone who tries to make sense of my notebooks after I’m dead.)

I also believe that these lists, while helpful, never brought me to meditate on the goodness of God. They were two separate worlds to me: life’s pleasant surprises didn’t mean God was good. They just meant I’d had a nice day. I also tended to watch for the other shoe to drop – not necessarily in the vein of karmic balance, but more the belief that God was always ready to teach me a hard lesson through pain or grief. And that certainly never felt “good”.

I’ve since left that philosophy behind, but in its place I’ve needed to instill a new way of thinking. What does it mean to be thankful to the Lord, beyond everyday circumstances? (And does it require more lists? ‘Cause I don’t know if I can take that kind of commitment.)

Paul said to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18), and he had the credentials to make such a command. Stoned, imprisoned, mocked, ship-wrecked – I could go on. Circumstantially, he had days where you’d laugh to hear him be grateful. And yet, he was.

He already knew what’s only recently been my personal lesson: you can always be thankful, because God’s got this. He is who He says He is. He is good. His love endures forever. Have you ever stopped to consider this love that sticks to you through everything? It blows my mind after giving it just two minutes’ thought.

And you know what? I stand by my creed: life’s pleasant surprises don’t mean that God is good. God’s character means that God is good. What does that mean when our years are a mix of happiness and difficulties? That kind of theology is still too deep for me to comprehend.

But until I figure it out, I’ll keep saying thank you, no matter what happens.