Archive

Tag Archives: God

I hope there will be cake and puppy hats in heaven.

I hope there will be cake and puppy hats in heaven.

Throughout my life I’ve often felt like an outsider, as if I could never be part of the in-crowd. Maybe you can relate to that, and then again maybe you can’t. Since we’ve just moved to a new town, we’re outsiders now because we don’t know many people. At our last church, even though we’d been a part of it for years, I felt like an outsider after my daughter was born because the church was mostly made up of younger people without children. In grad school, I was one of the few married people. In college, I didn’t feel like I quite fit in with the Christians because I was too liberal, and I didn’t quite fit in with anyone else because I was too Christian. Likewise, when I worked at Christian schools, I always felt I had to keep my liberal political leanings under wraps, so I couldn’t really be myself. As a kid, I didn’t know how to make friends, had uneven bangs and snaggle teeth, and was occasionally ostracized by the popular girls.

I assume that everyone feels like this at one time or another, that the sense of not quite fitting in is part of the human condition. Though maybe there are some attractive, outgoing, charismatic people who truly have never felt this way. There have been times in my life when I have fit in and it felt pretty great. In fourth grade, I attended a spring break sports camp where I somehow managed to be extremely popular — everyone wanted to be my friend. (I guess because I used to be good at sports? Or maybe I dressed well that week?). In high school, although not part of the “popular” clique, I did have a big group of nice and fun friends. And most shockingly in college my future husband (who when I’d met, I’d immediately dismissed as too good-looking and popular for me), wanted to date me. Thanks, but I don’t want to be a part of any club that would accept me as a member….(ha!)

The good news for those of us who don’t quite fit in is that Jesus didn’t fit in either. Jesus hung out with social outcasts and as a result was ostracized by the religious leaders of his day. Basically, if Jesus had gone to your high school, he would have been a friend to all those kids who didn’t have friends. He wouldn’t have worn the cool clothes or listened to the cool music. The popular kids would have teased him mercilessly and never invited him to their parties. And yet, Jesus forgives again and again.

The moments in my life when I do fit in and feel well loved are small glimpses of heaven. When my daughter wants to “nuggle,” when my husband asks me about my day, when we share dinner and laughs with friends we’ve known for years. In my mind, heaven is like a huge dinner party with all our best friends, and everyone is invited. And that’s good news.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

What about you? Can you relate to being an outsider? And what’s your idea of heaven?

The girl who dances with shadows.

The girl who dances with shadows.

My senior year of high school began with the attack on the Twin Towers. Images of the flaming towers were fresh in all our minds that fall. This was an act of war, and even though I lived 3,000 miles away in Oregon, it still felt much too close to home. Who could do something like this? Is this the beginning of World War 3? I wondered.

That year I was part of a group called the Young Women’s Theater Collective. We wrote and performed original shows. We decided to name our fall show “Dancing with Shadows.” It was a declaration that in spite of the darkness in life, we could still find joy. Our show included comedic sketches, dancing, singing, and more somber pieces dealing with issues like substance abuse and depression. We performed to sold-out shows at the WOW Hall, and yes, even shared a promotional poster with Slick Rick.

A few years later, I found myself in Ghana, West Africa, on a study abroad program with the UO Journalism School. Wandering through an open-air market in Kumasi, I stopped at a woodcarver’s stall to browse for souvenirs. My eye was drawn to a carving of a woman, one hand balancing a jug of water on her head, her other hand resting on her hip. The carver looked at me. “That’s the girl who dances with shadows,” he said. “There are always shadows, but she is just dancing.”

My heart leapt into my throat in surprise. I had to have that carving. “How much?” I asked cautiously, fearing he might be eager to rip off an obroni. He quoted a reasonable price, so I paid him the few dollars and bought the carving.

The girl who dances with shadows now sits atop my tall bookshelf in our living room. Was this an interesting coincidence, or was it a purposeful message from God to me? I can’t say for sure, but it’s a reminder to me that in spite of whatever may come — I will dance.

“There is only the dance…” – T.S. Eliot (The Four Quartets)

At the new church we’ve been going to, the pastor has been doing a sermon series on the book of Jonah. It’s a pretty interesting story. As a kid, you just think it’s a silly story — Jonah was swallowed by a whale. But this tiny, 4 chapter book of the Bible actually has some pretty interesting lessons in it.

I’ll give the abridged Jonah story:

God appears to Jonah and asks him to go to Nineveh and preach. Jonah refuses to obey God. Jonah gets on a boat to run away from God and then is swallowed by a whale as a punishment for disobeying God. Jonah repents. God again tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach. Jonah, not wanting to return to the belly of the whale, agrees. He goes to Nineveh and tells them that God will destroy the city in 40 days. The people of Nineveh repent and God saves the city.

Today the pastor spoke about preaching the gospel. He talked about how Jonah preached God’s message to the city of Nineveh even though he didn’t know the people there. He said today we feel like we need to earn the right to preach the gospel to people; we need to become their best friend before we might feel comfortable broaching the subject with them. He said that this is very different than when he was a college student in the 70’s and it was normal for evangelicals to hand out gospel tracts to strangers. He was not suggesting that we should go back to that but just noting that there has been an extreme shift towards Christians basically not sharing the gospel at all.

I do find it interesting because people seem to think that it’s completely inappropriate for Christians to talk about their beliefs yet it’s fine for everyone else to do so. People seem to think it’s fine for an atheist or a Buddhist or a pagan to talk about their beliefs, yet it’s totally offensive for a Christian. I don’t really get it.

But if you’ve read this far, I will share the gospel with you here: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. That’s the simple version.

Now it’s time to deal with a fussy toddler. I am so hoping we get some sleep tonight, last night was awful.

 

 

Image

 

After 7 years of marriage and almost 10 years of being in a relationship with my husband, I think I can articulate our main source of conflict: Household chores. Basically I am a Type A, Carpe Diem, task-oriented person. I often view life as a to-do list and I like to accomplish as much as possible. My husband is more laid back and likes to put off tasks that he finds unpleasant.

I think it is great that God brought us together because we can help balance each other out. I mean, who really wants to hang out with someone who always thinks of life a to-do list? It could be kind of annoying…which is probably why I don’t have that many friends (Haha, well actually I am blessed to have some very wonderful friends in spite of my character flaws). He can help me relax and I can help him focus and get things done. But it often becomes a source of conflict because I get stressed out when tasks are not completed. For the last four or so years my husband has often worked on weekend mornings, and I typically use Saturday mornings to do a lot of chores. I like getting things done at the beginning of the weekend so that I have the rest of the weekend free to have fun.

When my husband does have a weekend off, he usually likes to relax on Saturday mornings. This is understandable since his job is very physically demanding and he works a lot of hours. But it conflicts with my preferred way of doing things, so I often end up arguing with him tasks that need to be accomplished. Clearly getting into an argument is unproductive for various reasons. So, I’ve decided that if it’s important to my happiness to clean on Saturday morning, then I will clean on Saturday morning. My husband can and should relax if that’s what he wants to do. He does contribute around the house and I know he will continue to do so…it just may not always be on the exact time schedule that I prefer. That is okay. After 7 years I’ve realized, I would rather let it go than waste time and energy arguing about it. So perhaps I am a slow learner.

This is part of living in community. You don’t always get things done exactly the way you’d like them to be. If I lived alone, my mess would be my own and I could clean it when I wanted. I wouldn’t be wakened in the night by my daughter and I wouldn’t have to share my space with my husband’s golf clubs, wine collection and pool cue. (And he wouldn’t have to share his space with my book collection). But I would be lonely. Living in community is messy and complicated but I strongly believe that God’s intention for us is to live in community. I’m blessed to have my husband and our little daughter to live with. And now we also have my grandmother and my parents living within 5 minutes of us. Four generations of family. It goes so against the “I can do it myself” American spirit of individualism. But it seems just right. So as little Marie would say, “Amen.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhenry/121508919/”>Liz Henry</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

 

Colors of fall.

Colors of fall.

It’s September, and I can feel the anticipation that autumn brings. It is time to wrap up old ways and make room for the new. Change is coming.

I have been praying and hoping for the past 2.5 years that God would open up new opportunities and bring us family wage jobs. Our living situation was fine when it was just the two of us. But it is far less than ideal with a little one. I won’t go into all of my complaints here, but I will just say that it is not working.

Yet, our income remains modest, and we can’t afford something nicer here in Portland. I have always loved living in the city, but in recent months I’ve started craving a more peaceful environment. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I’m growing weary of hearing drunks yelling outside my window at 2 a.m.

Portland no longer feels like home.

And that’s it – the gentle nudging of God’s still small voice. We secretly hope Jesus will call us up and ask to meet us for tea one day, at our favorite tea shop that used to be a bookstore and was a train car before that. We could sit across from Jesus and He would say in a kind voice, “Here, take this key to your new house in Sausalito. It’s an easy ferry ride across the bay to your new job as a magazine editor in downtown San Francisco. I called in a few favors from some old friends.”

But that doesn’t happen, does it? As much as we want Jesus to meet us for tea and tell us what to do next — life doesn’t work that way. God speaks to us in a quiet whisper, in the sense of unease that something isn’t quite right. And in the calm peace that comes when things are just as they should be.

So the subtle sense that I am no longer at home in the city tells me that we may be on the verge of a move. We may be getting close to an open door. And yet –

    “these are only hints and guesses,
                  hints followed by guesses; and the rest
                  is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action”
(T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets)

____________________________________________________________________________________________

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/31246066@N04/5115966185/”>Ian Sane</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Dream Big

When God lights you up,
pray big prayers.
Imagine what God can do,
as He illuminates the darkness
through your life.
God and His kingdom are here
and they’re breaking in.

 

This is a found poem, based on my notes from a sermon podcast I listened to this morning by Imago Dei’s Rick McKinley. I opened my journal to start working on today’s poem, and then I saw these notes and it seemed that the poem had written itself!

 

 

cross

I’m growing weary of rejection. I’ve been on unemployment since July, and have applied for quite a few jobs in that time. This afternoon I applied for a job that I thought would be a great fit for me and got an immediate response telling me that I did not meet the minimum requirements for the position. Fair enough — they wanted someone who has directed a day care center, and I have not done that. I do, however, have a Master’s in Teaching, and several years experience teaching elementary and middle school. I have also substituted in a daycare and spent the past year as the full-time care provider for my own child.

I think I’m also feeling bad about myself because I had to go the WorkSource center this week for an info session on unemployment. I was required to attend this session in order to continue receiving unemployment and I had hoped that it might be useful and that they might chat with me about my resume and job opportunities in my field. But it was just a Powerpoint presentation about how to properly claim my weekly unemployment benefits, something I already have been doing for awhile now. Also this week I started using LinkedIn, which makes me feel bad about myself because everyone I know on LinkedIn has a professional job.

Why is it that so much of my self-worth seems to rely on having a successful career? Why isn’t it enough to just be a good mom? I think our society seems to expect women to be everything — to be great mothers, wives, friends, and also have successful careers. These expectations set everyone up for disappointment.

I try to remind myself that my self-worth comes from God. One of my favorite Bible verses is Isaiah 43:1: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name, you are mine.” God is telling me that I belong to Him. It is for God, not the world, that I should live my life. It is God who determines my steps. I do not have a job right now, because God wants me to be at home with my beautiful daughter right now, who hasn’t even reached her first birthday yet. God will give me the right job at the right time. It is up to me to trust.

Why do we call it Good Friday? The crucifixion was a horrific event. It’s where we get our word “excruciating” — “from the cross.” But it was a good thing, an amazing thing, that God was willing to be sacrificed for us, that we might be redeemed.

Sometimes things that seem painful at first turn into blessings in the end.

________________________________________________________________________

Image: Crucifix by Cimabue