Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hats Off

This morning in adult class (yes! I'm actually in adult class right now--not teaching any kids classes. It's a new and strange thing!), we broke up into groups and discussed with each other the things in our lives that are keeping us from God or the things that are distracting us from Him. This has been a topic that has been on my heart a lot in the past few weeks. So I thought that since I am still meandering through my thoughts on the subject, I would share some of them with you.

Our group basically came to the conclusion this morning that the greatest thing that keeps us from God is ourselves--our mindset, our paradigm, our own general selfishness. For me the greatest form of this that I have been aware of is all the various roles I play. I am a church member, a daughter, a neighbor, a program director, a friend, an individual--and I could continue to ramble those off for a while. I feel like I am consistently taking off one hat to put on another hat, scrambling to have the right hat and the right priority at the right time. But the more I look at God and what He created us for, I don't believe that this role-playing bit lines up with Him.

Go way back to creation. What were the commands that God gave Adam? To be fruitful and multiply and to cultivate the earth. Right? But I can't find anywhere that God says, "cultivate the earth from 8 to 5 and be fruitful and multiply outside of that time." I can't find anywhere that God says, "put on this hat for a while and then put on this hat." This troubles me. Because it seems that Jesus called us to follow him and that everything in our life is to be lived out of that following. So every role I have must be an extension of who I am in Christ. And right now, that's just not the case. Right now, my role as "child of God", "follower of Christ", Christian is just another hat I put on. It's not the role out of which all other roles flow.

So my question is, how do we in a modern world full of all sorts of hats--cowboy hats, derbies, baseball caps--stop putting hats on and just live out the one role that we have been called to? I would enjoy your thoughts on this one. I want to simplify my life and just know Jesus. How do we really simplify in today's modern/post-modern world?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Making a Life Change

I have made a huge first step in my life! As of today, I have officially been an L.A. Weight Loss member for one week! It's time to be proactive and make a positive change in my life!

This for me is not about loosing weight. It's not about reaching a goal weight or fitting into a certain pair of jeans. This is not about dissatisfaction with my physical appearance.

In the last week, I have had many people tell me "you don't need it" or "you look great as is." And those folks are right. From a weight loss stand point, I don't need it. But this for me is about creating new habits, making a life change. For so long food has been an idol in my life. I began using it for comfort when I was young and that became habit in my life. This is not healthy.

Okay, the next few sentences may sound like a commercial: The reason I chose L.A. Weight Loss is that they are really about making a life change. After I loose the weight I would like to loose, they will stick with me for an entire year, helping me to not make it another yo-yo diet but to truly make it a lifestyle change.

It was about this time last year that I began counseling. I was in counseling for six months dissecting feelings of depression, self-hatred, and regret. In those six months, God worked hard to change the way that I perceive myself--He's still working on it. This is another part of the process. He's shown me that in order to love others well, I have to love myself well. This is another step toward loving myself well. Even more, this is tearing down an idol in my life, food, which has been sitting on God's throne in my heart!

Please pray for me as I'm making this change in my life. I'm also praying that if any of you have idols in your life, you will begin to tear them down. I just want Jesus! It's that simple. So I'm removing anything in my life that is keeping me from Him! I pray that I will continue to have courage to tear down the idols in my life!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Challenge of Community

Tonight, Emily and I had our neighbors Anna and Franklin over for dinner. This was my first time to spend any quality time with them, and it is an experience I will never forget...

Franklin is from Cameroon. For those of you who are geographically challenged like I am, Cameroon is basically in the armpit of Africa. I'll be honest that I knew very little about Cameroon before meeting Franklin beyond that it was a French providence at one time. I still know very little, but Lord willing I will learn more as the journey with our new friends and neighbors progresses.

Anna met Franklin while she was in the Peace Corp. He lived next door to her and began watching out for her. Franklin moved to the States about three years ago, and they were married six months later. They are incredible people, and a great joy to be around. Something wonderful just flows out of their mannerisms. Something very genuine and appealing.

It was amazing to listen to Franklin talk of Cameroon and his experiences of life--from playing world class soccer to walking to school. His experiences in life are so different from mine. This is an athlete who literally had no shoes to play in until his team was sponsored when they went to a major tournament. He and his teammates literally slept with those shoes because they were so precious to them. Franklin and Anna talked a lot about the schools in Cameroon--mud brick buildings with 60-70 students crammed into one class. Two or three textbooks to share between all of them. Anna told of a grant she had received in order to by textbooks for one of her classes. The school sold over half of the thirty texts (one per two students) in order to make money for other necessities. Franklin joked about the t-shirts they wore for jerseys, so faded and worn that you could see straight through them. These shirts were passed back in forth between the various athletic teams at their school--soccer, girls volleyball, handball, etc.

The stories and conversation we shared tonight were wonderful, but what amazed me the most tonight was Franklin's attitude toward the lot that life has handed him. As I listened to him, I found myself thinking of us spoiled, selfish Americans caught up in our greed and materialism when $10 could send a child to school in Cameroon for a full year. But Franklin only saw the different burdens that we suffer from. He said that he never felt impoverished growing up because that was just life--you don't realize it until you step out of it for a minute. He recognized that Cameroon is physically impoverished, but America's poverty is a poverty of community and relationship. We aren't in each others lives and homes the way Franklin's culture is. As he described it, in Cameroon everyday is Friday. On Friday we look forward to the weekend ahead and are excited that the work week is ending. In Cameroon, every day has that feeling.

I couldn't help feeling as I was listening to Franklin describe the community of Cameroon that this non-Christian man was describing what Jesus meant for the church to be. A body of people who were deep in each others lives, just walking into peoples homes without knocking, stopping to talk with someone because that someone was more important than whatever task they were working on. That what is most important is always the people. It's enjoying life. It's knowing Jesus, and making disciples.

I wish I had the courage in our individual and independent prioritized culture to just walk into my neighbors home. I wish I had the courage to just walk into my neighbors life. I wish I had the courage to live in community the way that Jesus called us to.

Lord, give me the courage!

Friday, September 16, 2005


Back in Portland after a too sweet trip to my hometown. Mostly too sweet due to my sweet nephew! To see pictures from my trip, click on my Flickr badge.

It's strange to be a single twenty-something. There is a rift in you between a family who loves you and the independent life you now lead. Somehow, it is this in between time in which you are anticipating the next thing to come--whether that be a family of your own, the next career change, the next move, or whatever--and haven't really let go of the things behind--whether that be school, family, an ex, or a hometown. Jamie Cullum describes being a twenty-something in his song appropriately titled "Twenty-Something." The song very adequately describes us.

What exactly am I "supposed" to be doing? Discovering myself, right? Discovering the world? Adding to the gross national product? Putting my hard earned degree to valuable use? Finding a spouse? There is a long, long list that society has for me--just as there was a long list as a high school and then college student and I'm sure there will be for being a thirty-something and a sixty-something. The thing is, I'm not really buying into that list anymore. Somehow the lists are missing truth. They are missing beauty. They miss the essence of what we were created for.

What were we created for? To know God, to love Him and to love people. Jesus said love your God and make disciples. He didn't demand of the Samaritan woman to marry the man she was living with. He didn't tell the healed cripple go get a job now that he could earn his keep. He didn't insist that the rich young man keep climbing the ladder in order to get even more to give to the poor. All he said to these people was give what you have. Thank God, love Him!

Life is about Jesus--knowing him, loving him, following him. That's it! Out of knowing, loving, and following, we make disciples and are ourselves transformed in the image of Christ. I just want Jesus. And as a twenty-something that leaves me just where we all should be--in the midst of a loving God!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Meeting Benjamin

Greetings from Lubbock, Texas! Yes, I made it here safely and last night, I met my nephew for the very first time. My sister cried, I nearly did, and Benjamin let out a few wails of, in my opinion, pure delight at meeting his Aunt!

I have now changed two diapers and rocked him to sleep once. I've changed lots of diapers over the years, but I had more fun changing those two than I know I ever have had before. It could be the diaper rash remedy my sister's pediatritian gave them--one part butt paste, one part Mylanta. Yes, that's right Mylanta. I don't know if it actually works, but in case any of you mom's out there want to give it a try...

So, Benjamin has my sister's nose and dimples (at least we think he has dimples, it's hard to tell yet) and the rest of him is all Jake. He has this great, little mad face when he gets upset that looks exactly like his father. He's also done a few things that remind me of my grandfather. My favorite thing is that when he smiles he kind of smirks like Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones. I'll post more pictures to Flickr when I get the chance. I'm sure I will take a lot over the next few days!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Sad as it is...

Sad as it is, what am I doing right now? I'm watching Toy Story--yes, the 10th anniversary DVD came out today. I now own it, and am watching it. Can I just say that I am not old enough for Toy Story to have come out 10 years ago! I am way too young for things such as this to be having 10th anniversaries! Really, I was in college a minute ago, high school a minute before that, and junior high the minute before that. I was thirteen years old when PIXAR hit the big screen! Yes, that makes me only 23 now, but I need to have a "wow, I'm old moment!" I recognize that I am still quite young and naive and that I will have many of these moments over the coming years, but really, I need to express it right now.

Toy Story will always be one of my favorite movies. It's just a great flick with a great story line. Toy Story 2, also a great flick, is another favorite. I don't think I realized I was thirteen when it came out until I saw the advertisement for it and subtracted. (Good advice: If you like thinking that you have always been as young as you are now, never subtract!) Honestly, I don't remember much about being thirteen. I'm sure I had the same struggles and difficulties of any adolescent, and I'm sure that my parents were in charge of most major decisions for my life. My decisions included what clothes to put on in the morning and whether or not to do the responsible thing and make my bed.

Not so anymore! Now I have to choose to make my bed, what to wear, what to fix for dinner, what time to get up in the morning, to get up in the morning, what expenditures are important, what ones aren't, how to set up the monthly budget, etc., etc., etc. I kind of liked the simplicity of it all, but then I kind of like the complexity of it all now. At least I always get to pick which movie to watch! And tonight, it's Toy Story!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Donald Miller

Last night Emily and I went to a reading by Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, at a Christian bookstore up in Vancouver. Blue Like Jazz has been producing a subtle undercurrent through Christian circles and some non-Christian circles. The book is not mainstream, religious-right, Christianity--and has received much flack for it--but the book has impacted me in ways that I cannot even begin to tell you. If you haven't picked it up yet, do. Even if you don't agree with Don and his impressions of Christianity and Jesus, it will impact how you see Jesus and give you a great understanding of Portland and the Northwest. (Don lives in Portland, and the culture of Portland is all over the pages of the book.) Not to mention, he's a fabulous writer!

It was an awesome evening! Don's amazingly down to earth, and it was almost like sitting down in his living room to have a fireside chat. He read excerts from his new book Through Painted Deserts, which journals his journey from Houston, TX (where he grew up) to Portland, OR--a tale which Emily and I could certainly identify with. As I sat and listened to Don last night, God continued to work in me the good work He is working in me. This is what God is currently teaching me:

It's all about Jesus! Nothing else matters. All of our religiousity, all of our 1, 2, 3 steps to absolute happiness or deeper faith or to the godly man of our dreams are fabricated elements of modern society's need to categorize and organize everything into neat, pretty packages. Jesus isn't a neat and pretty package! He gives us a hard call to pick up our cross! He's dangerous and bold! He doesn't fit in the boxes that we put Him in! I just want to believe Jesus! I just want to know that who I am is wrapped up in Him, and I want to share that with a few people along the way. I want people in my life who are making a disciple out of me, and I want people in my life to make disciples out of. I want to love the Lord, love my neighbor, and go make disciples. That's what Jesus asked me to do. That's what He asked all of us to do. I'm done with religion that gives me three major points and three major steps to having a greater whatever. All I need to have a greater whatever is Jesus. All I need is Jesus, and if He's not at the center of everything in my life, then what in the world am I doing it for!

As I look back at scripture, I don't see a complex, complicated Jesus. He was pretty straight forward with people. He didn't need to beat around the bush. He never said, here's three steps to not judging your neighbor--he just said don't judge. He never said if you follow these basic principles, you won't committ adultery--he just said don't do it. He spent a lot of time tearing down the rules, regulations, and legalities that the Pharisees had set up, and spent even more time just making it simple--the Sabbath was made for man, love the Lord, love your neighor, believe, believe, believe. Didn't Jesus say Himself that His yoke was easy and His burden was light? Why do we then have to make it heavy and complicated to get to Jesus? Why can't we just go to Jesus and be with Jesus?

I guess what I'm saying is that I just want a simpler faith. I don't have to understand the ends and outs of every scripture. I just have to believe the Word as true and seek for the words to be written on my heart. I don't have to understand why and how the Spirit is living in me. I just have to know that He is. Jesus made it simple for people to believe in Him--I want it to be that simple for me!

Praying for a simpler faith...