Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Becky, version.2013

In the New Year, thoughts turn very introspective. Our hearts settle into our chests (much as we ourselves settle into our warm homes) for some contemplation on self. With the general clamoring around me to begin a new year with aspirations and goals, I find myself often trying to define the person who I want to be. I want to be healthier, I want to be better educated, a good mother, a "creative person", a dedicated Bible student, an all-around "good person". From this created image of the "perfect Becky", I craft resolutions for myself to lose weight, drink more water, read a Bible verse a day, smile more and snap less. Every year I yearn to grow into the Person I could be, the Person whom I was meant to be, the Person God wants me to be.

But I'm kind of full of myself, really.

In order to work towards the best Becky, I assume I can define "the best Becky". I assume know what she looks like, how she interacts with people, what she does to fill her days on Earth. I have defined her, using my own words, my own images of what a good person looks like. Healthy. Creative. Loving. Content. Faithful. (I could go on, I'm kind of on a roll....). I support my ideal with Biblical truth; God clearly wants us to seek Him. He quite obviously wants us to love one another. He even has an interest in my health, vested neatly in His unquestionable, all-encompassing love for me. So I dress my ideal Becky with the clothing found in the scriptures. I put on her the fruits of the spirit, and outfit her with the virtues that are outlined in God's giant love note to us, and I set her at the end of my path to be my goal; the Ultimate Becky.

But again. Kind of full of myself.

Because I don't have a clue who I can be. Who I will be. Who I even should be, really. I create a fictional character who looks, acts and talks the way I think a perfect, Godly woman should look, act and talk, and I seek her. Follow her. Set my footsteps on the path that leads to her door, so that I can knock on it, invite her out, parade her around for everyone to see. But in doing so, I ignore the truth that God already knows her. He has met the Becky of my future. He has loved up on her, held her, walked with her and gave her the strength to be who she has become. It's as if I'm trying to meet someone at a party, but am refusing to be introduced to her by her closest friend. Haven't I been told "seek first the Kingdom of God"? By seeking myself, even the best version of myself that I can possibly imagine, even the version of myself whose heart is solely focused on my Father, I am still indulging in a terrible kind of idolatry.

So, perhaps, I can start to get comfortable with the idea that I don't know who I can become. That even my most well-intended goals cannot define who I will become in Christ. Because only He can do that. Only He knows who I will be, and only He has the power to get me there. The nebulous vision I have of the perfect Becky is attractive, but that's only because I can't see the real, glorious picture of the Becky that I will be when I re-set my footsteps on the path that leads to Christ's door. And in His house, I have to believe that I will meet a Becky who will surpass this current Becky in all things, and with her I will walk continue to seek a Lord most powerful, good and loving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Image of my Father

I like to make things. I enjoy losing myself in the creation of something, impractical or practical, well-crafted or shoddy. I just want to make.

I sat down at the sewing machine yesterday and made a bag for my little one. The dishes were piled up, I was feeling under the weather, she has bags aplenty...the reasons why I shouldn't be sewing were sitting right there beside me, shaking their heads, their lips pressed thin with a justifiably disappointed air. But, in the midst of those unhappy reasons was sitting another character. He grinned at me. He clapped his hands with glee when I ripped up a sheet and sent it flying under the needle. He about lost his mind with mirth when I whipped around, triumphantly swinging this little bag from my hand to present it to my daughter. And when we went to the kitchen table, painted the bag and added her name, it was he alone who accompanied us.

I truly believe that my Maker delights in my crafting, that He thrills when I allow myself to be carried beyond this world on the wings of creation, and forget for a moment the earthly reasons why I shouldn't be crafting. While those unhappy reasons that keep me from making things all hours of the day are often valid, often just as important for my spiritual well-being, there is a piece of my soul that is only settled and content when something is being created by my own hands; be it frivolous or practical, edible or simply ornamental. 

The singer/songwriter, artist and author Andrew Peterson wrote something that caught my heart and held it for a moment, riveted with that sense of "Oh, you too?" that one gets when reading truly gifted storytellers. 

"I bear the Maker’s image, and one of the ways that plays out is that I delight in making."

While I had always recognized and even cultivated that facet of myself that delights in making, I had never properly understood that it was the slightest reflection of the God who made me, the God who has proven Himself time and time again to be a creative God, the God who is the ultimate source of all the wonder and beauty that anyone who dabbles in the arts tries to capture. In those tiny moments of creation, I am experiencing Him in me, and am exhilarated. 

So, I'll keep on makin'. It will be another way in which I can grow a little closer to my Father, one of the myriad windows He's given me to see into His perfection. 

Then perhaps I'll do the dishes. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fireflies and Songs

There is a song that I've been enjoying, "Fireflies and Songs" by Sara Groves. It's one of those that confound me, and I find that sometimes I like being "right merrily flummoxed" by things of beauty. However, in teasing out the meaning of the lyrics as they pertain to my life (because I can't begin to guess what Ms. Groves meant for her life...), some cool thoughts wound their way into my mind, and that, I believe, is truly a mark of a good song.

We're looking for the music
In the music box
Tearing it to pieces
Trying to find a song.

Cool, right?

One of the problems I've had at times with (some) Christians is their tendency to think rather poorly of their fellow humans. And not just "that person" or "that person", but the human race in general. There is a paradigm that sets man up as being stumbling, bumbling, ne'er do well buffoons, and it makes my heart ache when people subscribe to the idea that their fellow man is well and truly without any redemptive qualities. The biblical basis for this is sound; humans have been screwing it up from the beginning, and we needed our Father to sacrifice that which was most dear to Him in order to redeem us from our truly despicable ways.

But my struggling, troubled little heart still clings desperately to the idea that mankind is really good, that my fellow humans are truly beautiful. However, I am beginning to bridge that seemingly giant chasm between my desire to believe the best in people and the solid biblical truth that people are sinful. Hang on, follow me here...

I can appreciate the beauty of (most) sculpture. I can stand and look at the Pieta (or, since I'm not in Europe, I can look at a picture of it) and begin to barely guess at the care and love that went into forming its curves, and the knowledge it took to bring Mary's face to life from the marble. In a sense, I can feel thismuch closer to Michelangelo by seeing his creation, and that is what really makes the Pieta beautiful. It evokes emotion, it reminds us of the power of the moment of Christ's death, it moves us in a myriad of different ways, not the least being in awe of Michelangelo's gift. I daresay there are no arguments when I state that it is a masterpiece, beautifully wrought.

Humans are like that sculpture. No one would think to take a hammer and chisel to the statue, breaking it to pieces in order to find what makes it lovely. It's understood that the magic of the piece does not come from the stone out of which it was carved. It was created by an artist, a master of his craft, and only through his working did it become something worthwhile.

(Oh my lovely reader...do you see where we are going with this??) Human beings are the music boxes. We were made of common Earthly parts, quite un-extraordinary taken apart, but we were made by the Creator Himself (pffft, Michelangelo had nothin' on Him). We were made to create a music more beautiful than any other creature set on this Earth. But it is folly to think that we should expect a person to resonate that music without the working of the Artist. Our song is not something that comes from within us, just as the beauty of the Pieta is not something that came from the marble. Our Song is sung to us everyday from a magnificent Father, who calls us His most beloved creation. Like a broken music box, we wouldn't expect a person who is removed from God's love to play beautiful music. A heartening thing, however, is that the potential for beautiful music is always there.

A music box is a wondrous thing for its ability to play music, just as humans are astounding creatures in our ability to do truly glorious things. We can all think of examples of mankind's compassion, honor and love. History is full of people who wrought wondrous things (with His help, whether they realized it or not). So, fellow people-lovers, be confident in knowing that human beings are truly worth loving; and if people disappoint us, we should be certain we are not "looking for the music in the music box".


Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Merry CHRISTmas

I realize from my working title that this post could easily be read as one of a myriad of "Keep Christ in Christmas, for Heaven's sake..." rants that populate the 'net this time of year, but that is not truly my intent. My intention is to remind myself of the following truths; that I am blessed to live in this country, that Christ calls me to celebrate His birth regardless of how easy it is, and that I don't need to see His likeness plastered on every storefront to be able to hold in my heart the true, deeply joyful reason for this season.

Christmas is a celebration of Christ's birth, and no amount of political correctness can change its definition. It is what it is. Therefore, I celebrate Christmas. I celebrate the mystery of a child's birth that was foretold for centuries, the magic of a virgin's baby born in a manger, heralded by angels. Above all, I celebrate the power of that child to free me from my sins. That is what I celebrate. It is my joy to live in a nation in which so many other people celebrate with me, and by God's grace I am able to sit here, right now, and write about how amazing He is, how miraculous His birth, how glorious His story.

However, there is a danger in my situation, because I have become very comfortable with this arrangement, and being comfortable can all too often lead to a certain laziness of faith. It is easy to be a Christian in America. Yes, there are those who will attack the idea of Christianity, there are those who will protest the Church, and I may even find my own person slandered (who hasn't felt the deep-cutting sting of being called a "goody two-shoes"?). Of course there are moments where I may be a smidge uncomfortable as a direct result of my faith, but I am free to put a giant plastic light-up Mary and Child in my front yard (if that is my faith declaration of choice) with very little danger of repercussion. God has surely blessed me in my country.

My heart aches a little when some of my countrymen seem to be so deeply offended by the words "Merry Christmas". I like to believe that if I were to move to Israel and found myself being wished a "Happy Hanukkah" at every turn that I would not demand that I be wished Happy Holidays instead. But of course, that illustrates my point marvelously; here, we do, in fact, have the option to make just such a demand. We cannot accept that wonderful nature of our country only when it most suits our need and complain when others exercise their rights. It simply doesn't work.

A wonderful little mind-game I have been playing with myself is imagining what I would do in December if I didn't live somewhere where it was not only legal but status quo to celebrate Christmas. Would I dare to arrange a Nativity on my lawn? Would I light the candles on my Advent wreath with curtains drawn, whispering the Scripture? Would I walk the streets, gaily calling out "Happy Holidays", all the while permeating my words with a silent prayer that those who I was passing might find the light of Christ? I have no idea how the strength of my faith would stand against such a test, and again I say I am blessed to live in such a place as this, such a place that does not force me to choose between my life and my God.

So, because I can, I celebrate Christ's birth. And because other people can, they choose to celebrate different things. As a Christian, I am called to show them the love of Christ. Christ was not a petulant child who would throw a tantrum at the mall when He realized that on His birthday, some people didn't have signs up proclaiming His birth. Christ is love incarnate, a love that recognizes that not everyone has yet found their way. A love that can show us that the best way to help others find Christ is to simply keep on loving them, even when they prefer "Jingle Bells" to "Silent Night", and even if they would rather shop than worship in His house.

My joy as a Christian is to see Him everywhere; in the neon lights of Wal-Mart to the candle-lit church. This season, it isn't my holiday that will be less blessed because some people choose not to celebrate Christ's birth. It's theirs.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Change is Good. (Say it with me....change is goooood)

I like to think that my experiences bear some resemblance to those of my fellow humans. An author has garnered my respect when I can read his writings and think "Oh, you too?". There are, I feel, some patterns that resonate across humanity, and there is a gift to being able to adequately describe those thoughts, or feelings, or passions in such a way as to have other humans recognize them as their own.

Now, the problem facing me at the moment; do I have that gift? Or, perhaps even more vexing; do my experiences really bear any resemblance to those of my fellow world travellers?

Because if either of those parameters has not been met this day, than this shall be a most uninspiring post. However, seeing as how this post is really just fo' me, it doesn't much matter, does it?

I find myself in a most unusual state of mind as of late. A slight paradigm shift has occurred, a subtle movement in my perception that has left my world a bit off-kilter. To be clear, I don't consider this an evil - I'm actually quite content with the new wagon that my thoughts have hitched themselves to, and find myself looking forward to where my new perspective will take me. Quite exciting, really.

I hear a song on the radio. A simple, beautiful song that is somehow different than any song I have ever heard, and I make a note to look it up. And I do. I find myself in the possession of a new CD (I use that term loosely - I actually find myself in the possession of a few megabytes of digital music), which is, in a word, incredible. From this album comes an exploration into a world of Christian belief that I knew had always existed, because I was ever the devoted fan of C.S. Lewis, but had never really explored. The eye-opening, soul-awakening epiphanies that followed this seemingly tiny set of circumstances is a post for another day (or week, maybe?), and they are not my subject at the moment.

My subject is how this shift in my thinking, this refocusing on the state of my soul has both excited me and plunged me into (dare I say? I dare, I dare!) depression (I said it...). I've tried to put my finger on what it is that has changed. I can best describe what has happened as an inability to fit my life as I've lived it for, oh, 29 years, into this new perception. I feel almost as one does when they awaken from a truly fantastic dream and find themselves for a few moments trying to superimpose the contents of that dream onto the reality they are now faced with. It's disorienting, and requires that the dreamer simultaneously a) let go of some of his beliefs regarding what is true about his dream and b) let go of some of his beliefs regarding what is true about the world he is waking into.

Through music I didn't know existed, and people I didn't know shared this planet with me, powered by an amazing God, I have glimpsed Him in a way I have never been able to before. Therefore, I want to just sit and think. I want to just sit and read voraciously, and just listen to music, and just be still in the "magic hour" of Andrew Peterson's music and peacefully drift ever closer to this God that has allowed me to see a new dimension of His beauty. But ahh, there's the rub. I have to go to work, and wash dishes, and be me, and live my life.

So, I struggle, a bit, with reminding myself that the magic of my God should not be relegated to the moments in which is it easy to be in His peace, but those moments in which it feels downright impossible. I am slowly pulling my old self into this new thinking, and in so doing I am beginning to recognize that I will inevitably drag along with me my same old vices, my same old prejudices, and my same old tendencies to be downright despicable at times. That, perhaps, is what really bothers me. The possible story of my life as I can see it within the context of The Great Story of Christianity looks so, well, yummy, that I want to have it all, now. Frustration sets in when I am reminded that, while I can think all of the wonderful Christian thoughts I want, I'm still as messed up as ever, and can't quite get myself to act the way I should in order to embody some of these great Truths which have found their way into my thinking.

The wonder of my God, however, is that He is ever helping me shed my dragon-skin to make it that much easier to be with Him in all of my moments. His Grace is always at work, quietly whispering to me that I'm missing the point. I am messed up. My life is messed up. This world, folks, is messed up. But Wonder of Wonders, I can say that with conviction, and still love this life, this world, even myself, because God's Grace covers it all. He is in all things, therefore all things are holy, and beautiful, and redeemed.

I feel better. Maybe the act of working through my thoughts by writing them down has made me that much more convinced that there is hope for me yet. Or, maybe, the gentle reminder to myself that even though I just spent time at work typing this while I should have been grading papers is a perfect example of my screwed-up priorities, I am still called Beloved by a most Awesome God. And that is, like, way cool.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Creative Beginning

I'm sitting at work. (gasp). I'm watching some teenagers stick their tongues out to each other, and it delights me and moves me and for some (hereto unfathomable) reason reminds me of the joy that is found in creating. I want to write, and not for anyone else, but for myself. So, I think to myself "You have a blog!". I do? I do! And I had set this thing up in order to maybe share thoughts, enjoy community with people who might want to read what I wrote, perhaps pen a few lines as I work through a Sunday morning lesson and allow my young'uns to back feed (because feedback can be a verb, yes?).

But....as so often happens when in the grip of a creative fit, I start this idea and push the stone and get it rollin', and then I kinda let it go and (believe it or not) get disappointed when it stops rolling. So, I will just write this for me, and perhaps it will develop its own community, or perhaps not, but I can't let that be what determines whether or not I will begin. At the moment I'm reading George MacDonald's __At the Back of the North Wind__, and there's a great exchange between Diamond (the little boy) and the North Wind. Shall I share just a bit?

"But trying is not much."

"Yes it is -- a very great deal, for it is a beginning. And a beginning is the greatest thing of all."

It is, isn't it?


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Me? Not eat anything? As if...

I've been thinking lately about fasting. I won't claim that the idea was sparked by religious devotion - it was sparked by an article I read that claimed that fasting can offer relief from RA symptoms. So I've been doing some research, and inevitably the idea of fasting as a devotional practice surfaced.

Our God is magnificent, and sneaky. Not once had the idea of a fast ever taken root in my stubborn head, until He revealed its possible usefulness as a pain reliever. And then, not once but twice the idea was mentioned on a radio program I listen to in the morning. What had always been relegated in my mind into the "wayyyy too Pentecostal for me" category was now working its way into the forefront of my thinking. Fasting might be a viable devotional tool. So, what changed my mind?

It was a caller on the radio show. The discussion began when one of the deejays mentioned that her pastor had called for a "media" fast, where his parishioners should abstain from media for a week. Completely. The caller was offering her opinion on fasting of any kind. The crux of her discussion was that our earthly bodies get weighed down by earthly things. All the time. The routines of our life are often elemental for our survival (such as eating...), but more often than not those routines and day-to-day actions are merely a shovel that we use to dig ourselves right into a big ol' rut. I don't believe that any of us would say that while in our various ruts we are completely removed from God, but I think we can all agree that there comes a point that while we are walking the same path over and over again (maybe even the path back and forth from the refrigerator) our focus strays from God.

Therefore, the purpose of a fast is to drag us kicking and screaming away from those everyday paths. I think any fast can work; a media fast, a traditional can't-eat-anything fast, or any variation of either. When we find ourselves mindlessly walking towards the kitchen, we can pull ourselves up short and remind ourselves to be mindful of all of our actions. By forcing ourselves to become conscientious of our day-to-day routines, we can start to channel the energy we put into those routines into walking with God.

A note: In Matthew, Chapter 6, Christ tells us to be sure that we fast in secret. Men who "disfigure their faces" so that others know that they are fasting have "received their reward". Meaning, if you fast and go blabbin' it to others purely so that those around you will recognize how devout and pious you are, than you will receive your reward. That reward, of course, being that others will look at you and maybe think you are a fine and proper person. However, if you fast and don't feel the need to tell others what you are doing, than it will be obvious to your Father that your motivation is truly to seek him and reduce the "clutter" of everyday life. Once your motivation for fasting becomes appearing to be a devout person to those around you, than its effectiveness as a devotional practice drops.

For myself, I will continue to prayerfully consider the possibility of a fast in my journey of faith. I s'pose, in the end, it can be one of the myriad of tools that our Father describes for us in order to facilitate our growing closer to Him. And for that, it deserves some consideration.

Keep walkin'.