Tuesday, February 17, 2009

simple pleasures

i am trying to find joy in the little things lately. as a friend's blog just reminded me, we are far too often waiting for the big, extravagant events in our lives to show us God's face and assure us of His Presence. so here are some things that make me happy and bring my joy, which i (and c.s. lewis) believe to be a gift from God used to connect us to Him.

food (especially meat)
basketball games
someone saying 'duties' or 'do do'
little kids telling stories
the scent of cucumber melon
watching a movie
finding french fries in the bottom of the bag when i thought they were all gone
an encouraging word from a friend
helping someone in need

i fear that julie andrews is going to start singing at any moment during this post...
-end sidenote-

sitting on the porch on a nice day
sunsets (great, now i sound like a scene from fiddler on the roof. maybe i should put musicals on the list...)
a nice cold glass of sweet tea
having a good laugh
hearing a favorite song on the radio
quality pens and pencils (for real, i love writing stuff)
riding in my car with the windows down
an unexpected gift
owning a mac
voice cracks
taking a good picture

feel free to comment and tell us the simple things that bring you pleasure and make you smile. and remember to recognize the blessings in your life every day.

are you for real, Jesus?

justification is a strange thing. through the magic of internal wordplay and mental gymnastics, we can get ourselves out of just about anything. for instance, i remember having chores as a kid and thinking stuff like "mom couldn't really mean i should do ALL the dishes," or "i'm sure she didn't mean to take out the garbage TONIGHT." i knew for a fact that she wanted all the dishes done and the garbage taken out immediately, but my laziness flipped a switch inside my brain. for just a few moments i became this lawyeresque creature, sifting through the sands of my mother's instructions with a fine-toothed comb, eagerly and desperately seeking the linguistic loophole that would release me from my immediate responsibilities. when i finally found the word or phrase that could spring me from the prison of my pending chores, my job was done and i returned to the mindless activities that awaited me. and the satisfaction of my work would overshadow the disappointment i should have felt in myself for weaseling my way out of chores.

oh, how grand it would be to say that this was in my past. but i really can't. in fact, there are a lot of us who do this every day. let me give you a few examples...

"Jesus couldn't have really been asking me to love God with ALL of my heart."
"surely Jesus didn't mean to imply that i should take up my cross and follow Him if it is difficult."
"no way can God expect me to remain pure sexually. this is a different day and age."
"pray for those who persecute me? i think that may be a metaphor..."
"i know Jesus tells us to confront someone directly if we have been offended, but it's way easier to just gossip about the person."

maybe i am the only one who does this in my spiritual life at times. if i am, i apologize for wasting your time. but this post is meant to wake up the excuse givers- the people who approach Christ's call in the same way i approached my mother's call to housework. stop coming up with reasons why you can't serve and do what you can. get rid of the contentment with what your life is now and replace it with a vision of what your life could be. stop letting sin rot away your life and embrace holiness. be honest about who you are, who you want to be, and what it will take you to get from one to the other. stop blaming your problems on everyone else- own up to your mistakes. the bottom line is that sin is easy and discipleship is hard. but often, the more difficult option is the best.

Monday, February 9, 2009

beam me up, scotty!

sunday i had the privilege of sitting next to scotty during our worship service. i had one interaction with scotty previous to this- the first time i met him i went to shake his hand, not realizing that scotty skips the pleasantries of the hand shake and goes right to bear hugs. before i knew it, i had a scotty scarf hanging around my neck in the church foyer. scotty is about to turn 40 and is mentally handicapped, so even though it was abnormal and uncomfortable to be hugged by a stranger, i let it slide. scotty doesn't know you aren't supposed to be that affectionate to people at church- a simple handshake or head nod would do. i then found during our second interaction on the front pew that there are actually a lot of things about church he doesn't know yet. scotty doesn't know you aren't supposed to sing so loud in church- you may be a distraction to those around you. scotty doesn't realize that you aren't supposed to wave to the guy leading prayer- it may distract him from his responsibilities. scotty doesn't know you're not supposed to talk to people during communion- it kills the somber mood of the moment. scotty doesn't know you aren't supposed to clap joyfully unless you can do it on the beat- it may annoy the musically gifted people around you. it is amazing how sitting next to someone that had so much he didn't know revealed exactly how much i really don't understand about what the church should be.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

waiting for the thaw

i took this picture last week. i just thought it was a beautiful way to capture something that shouldn't be... a frozen porch swing. this staple of the summer reduced to being a stagnant reminder of just how cold and icy it is outside... how far from the warmth and shorts and frisbees and backyard barbecues we really are. every time i looked at that swing as i left the house, it left me longing for change. i was left face to face with my desire for the newness that spring brings. and if i were to allow myself, it would have quickly turned into the bitterness and unhappiness that winter often brings. if i let myself dwell in that place of longing for what was to come, i could easily ignore the beauty of what was before me.

often i do the same in my walk with God. i see the possibilities in my life and in the church, and i get stuck daydreaming of what could be instead of doing all i can to bring what could be into the reality of the moment. often i read Jesus' words about the Kingdom of God and think of what a great day it will be when that Kingdom is in effect. when the poor are treated well and love reigns and prejudices die and God rules over all things. what i too quickly forget is that God's Kingdom is eternal, and eternity includes the here and now. so let's not wait for the thaw, and become frozen along with our scenery. let's feed the hungry today. let's clothe the naked today. let's allow love to rule over hatred, pride and prejudice today. let's allow God to take His place on the throne of our lives now, and do all that we can to bring the warmth of the Kingdom into reality in this moment.