August 26, 2014

Be Back Soon


I'm really trying to push my peddle to the metal for the month of September with my student teaching and portfolio, so over the next four weeks I'll be MIA here on the blog, but the blog will not be taking a hiatus. I've asked a handful of my blog friends to help me out, so starting next week, and every Tuesday for the upcoming month, one of them will be posting for the blog's upcoming series: "The God of ___________." All of these bloggers have become what I consider real friends now over the past couple of years as we've chatted over the phone, via snail mail, Skype, and more. If you're a long-time reader, you'll probably recognize them, since many of them have blogged here before. And I think they're going to really be an encouragement for you. 

I'll be back to posting come October, but until then, you're more than welcome to follow me along on Twitter. Sometimes people tell me I should post of my personal daily life, but my response is always, "Well... that's kind of what I use Twitter for." If that's what you're looking for, then join me there.

August 25, 2014

Heeding the Inner Prodding

A handful of weeks ago I found myself at our local library picking up orders and perusing shelves like I do nearly each week. But that day was different. The specific branch of our city library I tend to visit is located in what's considered a nice neighborhood, surrounded by houses the spell out middle to upper class families to onlookers clearly. I was totally caught off guard to see him sitting in the farthest corner of the children's section, hunched over, weeping, muttering to himself words in a foreign language I do not know. I spotted his bags at the end of an aisle a few feet away in a poor attempt to hide them I believe.

I didn't go over to him, but I hovered in a section of a library I normally don't visit, pretending to read the titles off of book spines. Nothing in me cared about Beatrix Potter in those moments though. All I could think about was him. He didn't appear to be that old, but his red eyes, and sweaty clothes (it was in the 90's outside) spoke of an exhaustion no man should know at such a young age. All I could think about was the wrecking the Holy Spirit was doing in me.

I ended up leaving after nearly a half hour of briefly scanning picture books. I left and wept in my car, and still have a hard time not crying when I see his face in my head weeks later. I've hated the feelings, the thoughts, the questions that God's been prodding me with since then, because people, I SHOULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING.

I should have called someone from church who'd be equipped to help him. I should have rummaged through my car for granola bars or gone up the street to buy him a meal. I should have given him the cash that I had sitting in my wallet at the bottom of my purse. I should have had the guts to look him in the eyes, smiled, and said good morning--I should have had  at the very least acknowledged his existence and presence in that moment, because there's no telling how many people have just overlooked and ignored him.

I should have known better. While I've never been homeless myself, I've found myself in some scary financial situations before, and they were just enough to give me a small taste of what others have to go through in a far greater weight and reality. (I'm not claiming I understand such a position fully, so don't read into that that I'm comparing my situations to theirs... but I do know a bit about the kind of fear and depression that descends over a person and their life in the midst of hardship. We're different, but alike too.)

And I should have heeded the Holy Spirit's voice telling me to do something in that half hour.

But I didn't, and it's made me physically ill every time I think of the scene. It's one of the worst feelings ever, and it's teaching me never to ignore that inner prodding again. I hope and pray--beg--I listen and act next time (as well as be better prepared). And I hope we all do this: Open our eyes, listen, and act. That we learn to be hands and feet of Jesus towards all.

August 23, 2014

Quotable


...sometimes God wants us to go through a process without ever achieving what we though was the goal. ~Shelene Bryan in Love, Skip, Jump
It is not your business to succeed, but to do right. When you have done so the rest lies with god. ~C.S. Lewis
We don't learn to love each other well in the easy moments. Anyone is good company at a cocktail party. But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right, when we cry in the kitchen, when we show up uninvited with magazines and granola bars, in an effort to say, I love you ~Shauna Niequist
The life that I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt. ~Frederick Buechner
There are two occasions when the sacred beauty of Creation becomes dazzlingly apparent, and they occur together. One is when we feel our mortal insufficiency to the world, and the other is when we feel the world's mortal insufficiency to us. ~Marilynn Robinson
Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: ‘Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want.’ But this blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper. ~Martin Luther

August 20, 2014

Our Neighbor's Worth & Our Call to Love


I've been thinking about what it really means to love others--to love my neighbor as it were--lately. 

My natural default position is to love those who I deem are worthy or deserving by an internal checklist my mind has conjured up. I'd be willing to bet you do the same thing. If someone doesn't cut it via the list, then I don't really go to a whole lot of trouble to affirm their value and purpose here on earth. Sounds horrible, right? It is. (Fess up--you do this as well too.) It's really horrible. It calls for repentance on my part. A repentance that leads to pro-action in the reverse of this apathetic, surface-y, polite, but not-really-caring type of courteousness. 

Loving people how Christ desires me to often doesn't look a thing like the scenes I've scripted and played in my head.

I've been finding it increasingly more and more disturbing to not be building relationships with non-believers--who are my neighbors... or at least they're supposed to be. There's a part of me that's really uncomfortable with being constantly surrounded by people who think and act and believe the same things I do. And then there's a part of me that's terrified to actually share my faith. 

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I remember back to those preschool days when my teacher taught us songs. Songs about Noah's ark, and Jesus love a-bubblin'-over (or something like that), and another on how others would know we are Christians by our love.

By our love. 

I don't think that's really what Christians at large are known for by those looking in on us. You know those outsiders.

These days it just seems that people know a person is a Christians by their politics, by their stances from the big to the infinitesimal, by their show-y success and celebrity status. But that's not how that simple, profoundly true children's song goes.

We've given up loving people to win arguments, to win points of debate, to win fame. We lost people in that though.

I'm tired of having to come up with reasons to justify loving a person though. Seriously, it's exhausting. I don't want to have to think too hard to extend a hand of graciousness, kindness, or sisterhood.

Here's a dose of truth: Every. Single. Person. Has. Worth. They just do. We cannot take away or give out worth, because that's God's business alone, and he's imprinted each and every human being with his image. People we find difficult or don't particularly like... maybe even hate--still have worth in their Maker's eye. God doesn't see you and I or any other human being as we do. He sees them as his children. It's not a perspective I stand in often when looking at others.

No. Worth is not something we give or take. But what you and I can--and as Christian should--do is affirm one another's immense value to the heavenly Father. That's loving our neighbor.

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Sometimes we have moments where we get that inner sense of God speaking to us so crystal clear: "Natalie, would you still love this person if you never got the opportunity to see them change... to know me? What if you're just a seed planter in their life, not the cultivator, nor the harvester? Would you still love them?"

Somewhere in me grace swells, and I find myself responding, "Yes. As you have loved me I will love them, regardless of the outcome." 

This is what it means to obligate ourselves to love. This is what loving our neighbor looks like. 

We get caught in our Christian bubbles though. We get comfortable. But we have to start somewhere. And I had to start with the question I now pose to you...

Do you actually know non-Christians?
If you don't then, why?

If we believe in a rich relationship with the Savior, shouldn't we be heeding his words to go out and make disciples? Go means action. Go means meeting, seeking, and relating to those who haven't yet heard the same sweetness you and I have in the Savior's voice. Go is not living in perpetual comfort in the church pew.
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age. ~Matthew 28:16-20 MSG

August 18, 2014

Kill This Idea of Love


"Tell me what happens the first time you see a woman naked."

       "The first time you see a woman naked will not be like you imagined. There will be no love, no trust, no intimacy. You won’t even be in the same room as her.
         You won’t get to smile as she undresses you and you undress her. You won’t get to calm her nerves with nerves of your own. You won’t get to kiss her, feeling her lips and the edge of her tongue. You won’t get to brush your fingers over the lace of her bra or count her ribs or feel her heartbeat.
       The first time you see a woman naked you will be sitting in front of a computer screen watching someone play at intimacy and perform at sex. She will contort her body to please everyone in the room but her. You will watch this woman who is not a woman, pixelated and filtered and customized. She will come ready-made, like an order at a restaurant. The man on the screen will be bigger than you, rougher than you. He will teach you how to talk to her. He will teach you where to put your hands and he will teach you what you’re supposed to like. He will teach you to take what is yours.
          You must unlearn this. You must unlearn this twisted sense of love. You must unlearn the definition of pleasure and intimacy you are being taught. Kill this idea of love, this idea of entitlement, this way of scarring one another."

~Unknown
Every once in a while I'll log into my account at Tumblr. It's usually a goldmine of quotes and poems. I scrolled through my feed and saw this small piece, I questioned sharing it here, because it is blunt, is it not? A bit uncomfortable for the conservative I imagine, but I admire and respect whoever wrote this.

Because they are dead on right. This pixelated "love" doesn't come even close to what real love is. It's wicked, twisted, and warped--A con man's advertising scheme of "love." There are a great deal of people who will say that sex is just physical. If there were ever a lie from the pit of h-e-double-l this would be one of them. 

It's evil because it wires humans to see and use one another as objects--play things that exist for self-gratification alone. God created man and woman as living, breathing poems formed in His likeness and image. He gave us hearts with the capacity to dream, desire, and truly love one another. He gave us minds to know one another--know each others fears, likes, dislikes, plans, passions, what makes us laugh, what makes us cry, what speaks to the deep crevices of our hearts. He gave us hands and feet not to take, manipulate, coerce, or abuse, but to give: "For God so LOVEd the world that He GAVE." Pornography degrades every aspect of that. It hurts literally EVERYONE on one level or another. 

This grieves God deeply; it's so wicked, twisted, and warped Jesus Christ died for it. You will never know the fullness of that woman on the screen--her thoughts, her heart, her dreams and passions, what she fears, what she prays, her family or friends, how she actually looks without all that makeup caked on, the tears she cries, or the things that make her deep belly laugh. You won't EVER know those things because those things come from a place of genuine love and intimacy. 

And you know what--she doesn't know anything about you other than what you take. She doesn't know you from Adam; she will never know the fullness of who you are either. She will never fill your hollowness or longing. Man was created to hold the glory of God, but there's nothing glorious about the man who steals and clutches what is not his. What a lousy legacy; those men are never honored in history. Do you seriously want to live your life leaving a wake of scarred women?

It's time to heed the whisper, "You were made for more."

Love is patient. It waits for the appointed time gladly. It practices self-control and never demands it's desires be met. Love is kind--not cruel, indifferent, or harsh. Love does not envy--it does not take what is not theirs--or boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, nor easily angered... this is the true definition of love, and this is the call: That love keep no record of wrongs. True love seeks and accepts forgiveness. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. True love repents--meaning to turn away from evil--then allows themselves to be transformed by truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

The twisted love on the computer screen is not love at all. Sex is not merely physical. God designed it to encompass every aspect of our image bearing of Him. Sex was designed to reflect "whole-life entrustment" (to steal a quote from my pastor), but you cannot and will not have that with the women on the screen. And you cannot see her as a valuable treasure, a daughter of God, to be protected and cherished.

For God so loved the world that He GAVE. 
Give. Don't take. If you want to know what love really is you must give of yourself. 
Lust is a sin against God because God cares deeply about women and wants them to be revered, cherished, and respected--not treated as objects of gratification. When men reduce women to sex objects even in our minds, we not only dehumanize women but we offend the God who made them in His image. He loves women and cherishes them much more than we realize.
~Darrin Patrick