Heavenly Minded, Patriotically Shifted

I’ve never told anyone who I’m voting for. Inasmuch as my Spiritual gifts call me to confrontation (attempting to do that always in love), I hate rocking the boat. Declaring I support one person over another hurts at least one side of my circle of friends. I wept in anxiety with people afraid of Hillary and I mourned just as bitterly the idea of Trump taking office. 

That’s not the point. I wish it was. As deeply troubling as both sides of the spectrum are, neither of those approaches are what takes up my mind’s time. 

I’ve known almost all my life that American Christianity is weak. I do not, whatsoever, believe that our chances at a relationship with Jesus Christ are any smaller or less important than any other nation’s. Once saved, always saved… no matter what your nationality. But we… we just don’t get it most days. 

In America, Christianity is a label that makes us feel good. It is not, on the other hand, always a sobering call to sacrifice and love for the betterment of others as it was meant to be. (John 15:13) Often times, we as protected American Christians decide christianity is best for us when we ask the question, “What’s in it for me?” and we like the answer for one reason or another. 

Wrong. 

So, just a thought: What if, now that we know Trump is taking office, these next four years are God’s way of purifying the American Church (nationally as a whole, not small affiliations)? Because some of his proposed policies will make us reevaluate what it means to love (protect?) our neighbor, Christianity may possibly be taken to the firing squad. 

Within our American Christian circles, we often use the phrase, “Go all in for Christ.” What if God’s sovereignty allowed Trump as president because God wants us to start putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak? We’ve become too comfortable in our concept of Christianity. What if we’re being called to so much more? 

But God Didn’t Do It

She had been widowed for over 20 years. *Connie was lonely. She wanted a relationship. In her old age, she felt as if that ship had sailed… Until she met him. 

*Daniel. She took such pride in talking about Daniel. He was kind, funny, intelligent and seemingly intentional on pursuing Connie. As I sat listening to her talk like a 13-year-old schoolgirl, I could tell she was at least infatuated with Daniel. I knew Daniel, though. He could make the wrong side of a mule feel like the queen of England. 

When I asked her how she knew Daniel loved her and wanted to marry her, she very matter-of-factly said, “I had a dream where I was Esther of the Bible. I looked out the window of my house and there he was. Daniel shouted my name three times: ‘Esther! Esther! Esther!’ Obviously, that was God’s way of promising me Daniel. Have faith, Darlin’! It’ll happen.”

Sadly, Daniel didn’t get the picture. He married someone else two years later and my friend Connie was, needless to say, heartbroken. I was convinced Connie would reconsider the hope she had placed on a very sketchy plan. However, when I asked her about it, she swatted away my concern and said, “You’re 17 and have yet to be in love. I’m just know God’ll make it happen. You’ll understand someday.”

I never got the chance to see it her way. Neither did Daniel. Connie’s relationship with God never went any deeper and the questions she could have asked God laid silently on my prayer journal, not hers. She tried to stay faithful in her walk with the Lord, but she felt betrayed, angry and as if God had lied to her. 

Connie refused to take to heart that the Bible states “…God is not a god of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33) or even that Titus 1:2 shares God “…does not lie.” She had dedicated her life to God giving her Daniel. When He didn’t, she was positive He would eventually…and sooner rather than later. 

Before you shake your head over Connie’s views, and though this example is extreme, don’t we all do this? Whether it’s the desire for a relationship, a child, healing from a disease or that perfect house on 32nd Street… If we’re fixated enough on something it’s dreadfully easy to stop listening for the real Someone of all someones. 

It’s good to have hopes and aspirations. It’s healthy to have dreams of the future. But we need to be careful that we are not weighing God’s character against what He does or doesn’t do in accordance to our plans. 

We were made for His glory; He was not made for ours. Our perception of His will may change. But that’s our perception; not His ability to come through as our faithful God. 

Not My Job 

I’m lonely. I need to talk. 

I hate hearing those words. They’re the two phrases that, once upon a time, immediately sent importance and purpose shooting up my spine; now, they send dread. Once upon a time, knowing that a guy was “lonely” meant I could fix something. I wasn’t sure what… but dang it, I was gonna fix it.

Age and experience (all 26 year of it <wink>) has taught me not to respond to inquiries from a man who openly declares his loneliness. It’s no one’s fault and he could very well be only lonely; but still, when I hear that declaration, I immediately look for another man to take over.

Here’s the problem: Outside my Christian-Bubble College surroundings, it feels impossible to find another man who is willing to step up to take care of a hurting/lonely brother. I get it. Women are busybodies (we really are) and men are ADD (sometimes). 

This is an incredibly vague plea to men who call themselves Believers in Jesus Christ. Step up for the men who are hurting. Though you may be able to turn the concern for a hurting brother off, it’s much harder for the women in your life to do the same. If you don’t take initiative, we will. Don’t make us do that. Let us lean on your ability to support each other. 

Multiple times I have found myself being confided in by a man over a situation that was none of my business. I found myself thrust into the confidence of a man over sexual, emotional and mental issues I still struggle with comprehending. Though God gave me the chance to walk away each time, it still bothered me. During my conversations with these  men, often times, older gentlemen walked within earshot, gave me an uncomfortable look and walked away.

Men, you do hundreds of things which I admire, cherish and adore. As a sister in Christ, though, I’m asking you to support each other more deeply in order to protect the hearts of the women in your lives. We need you to work us out of the job of supporting men we were never called to support in the first place. 

I Don’t Need You; Right?

My hip rolls in and out of joint more times than Taylor Swift rolls out of relationships. Usually, popping the rebellious joint back into place takes less than a minute. A few short stretches and my fragile body is back in tiptop shape and able to keep up with my not-so-fragile heart. Yesterday, that wasn’t the case at all.

When I bit back a scream after standing up, I knew I needed help putting my hip joint back into place. Out of desperation, I quickly filled my boyfriend in and threw together some random instructions on what he needed to do. As he started doing exactly what I told him to do (all of which was entirely made up on the fly) I had a terrifying thought:

What if I’m making him do the wrong thing? What if I actually break my hip? Was this a dumb idea? Maybe this was a dumb idea.

Mercifully, the exercise worked. The pain went from a piercing stab to a simple sore spot in no time at all. But that sore spot has been on my mind all day today. In a way only God can, He somehow drew a correlation between my need for help physically and my need for community spiritually.

There was nothing I wanted more than to hide my pain from my boyfriend. It had nothing to do with his character, ability or trustworthiness. I just didn’t want to look weak. But my need overrode my pride.

I wasn’t too sure he knew what he was doing because, let’s face it, he wasn’t getting fantastic instructions. He’s (obviously) stronger than I am, though, and I needed his help whether I understood the outcome or not. 

Often times, I treat my need for prayer – my need for Christian spiritual community – the same way. Being vulnerable and telling the gut wrenching truth to a trustworthy source doesn’t happen because what if they think I’m weak?

In the same way, I often times don’t let them help me heal spiritually because I’m unwilling to trust that maybe God can use their wisdom in my life much more than he can use my own.

There have been times I’ve reached out to a trusted friend about a struggle and walked away thinking, What if telling him/her was wrong? What if letting them know makes my life worse?  Am I trusting them too much? Was this a dumb idea? Yes, there have been times where I’ve made a mess telling someone my struggles. But as I became wiser in learning to look for what characteristics made someone trustworthy, those people I turn to now are often times my key to diving deeper Spiritually.

Just like correcting my hip, becoming more like Christ can hurt like the dickens. Sometimes, an unaddressed sin becomes all we can think about, growing so large we can’t see past it. It’s during those times that asking a fellow Christian to be a shoulder to lean on and an additional voice in the Throne Room of God is the most crucial.

The reality is, sometimes we don’t heal until we allow room for community.

The Detested & Invisible Man

Lord, if I’m supposed to risk something, make the guy look at me.

He never looked at me, but I recognized the rotten teeth, spastic eye movement and freaky paranoia. His prized possession seemed to be a stack of (what appeared to be) 100 copied missing person fliers. Something was seriously wrong in his life. 

I’ve been in Indiana too long. Once upon a time, my first move would have been to approach him and get his story, risking my safety simply because I know what it is to be hopeless and lonely. Now, though, all I found myself doing was running through statistics in my head for how long it would take him to get down off whatever high he was on. 

I seemed to be the only one watching him in the otherwise crowded market. For some reason, I felt anything but safe. I recognized his loneliness, though. His fear and hopelessness were old friends of mine as well. 

He bolted out of the room before I could get him to focus on me long enough to get his attention. I have no idea whether or not I missed a prime opportunity to love a stranger. I have no idea if I was intended to shed some light where, instead, I added to the noise of his confused brain. I just don’t know. 

Though I was later told my hesitation was wise, my heart broke for the man who seemed invisible. I wonder how differently he could have battled the war in his mind if anyone had been willing to identify with his emotions rather than judge his actions? 

I just wonder – What would happen if the redeemed of the Lord were willing to see sin and say, “I remember when” rather than, “Oh, but that was never me.”

There are those who have never been able to identify grace in their own lives. What if we made grace available by making our own stories of searching for grace relatable? What if we didn’t stop at simply dangling grace over their heads? 

What if we really did act like Jesus? 

Open Letter to a 501(c)3

Dear Noprofit Advocates,

This is not meant as a shaming letter. I love your passion for orphans, refugees, sex trafficked victims and any other type of mission you’ve shared with me. I love knowing God gave you that passion for a reason. I even love your boldness in standing in front of hundreds of college students and presenting your organization’s financial needs. That takes guts. Good job.

I agree with you. All you’re asking us to do is give up four coffees a month in order to support your passion-focus. You even go as far to point out that if we set a goal with a friend, we would give up less. (We’re going to ignore the fact that people like me would give up bread before we give up our coffee.) It’s a doable sacrifice for an overwhelming need. It helps that all of you are immaculate storytellers. Good job only focusing on the needs and not giving past successes. That makes it harder to say no.

Is it possible that’s what you wanted? Why can’t this be about joining you in praising God for what He’s already done and merely talking about how we’re called to support these group together? Maybe becase that’d make it easier to walk by your table with the darling kiddos’ faces staring at me without opening my wallet?

Before I go any further, please know I completely understand what it’s like raising support. My parents were missionaries and there were a few times as a kid I was confused that a pastor would invite us to speak and then no one joined the bandwagon. It’s hard not shaming people into supporting you or your passion when you know the need firsthand.

Can I share with you what I learned as I watched God provide despite what I didn’t see coming from those churches? The reality is, if every family in the pews spread their resources through every mission that walked through the door, none of the missions would feel helped. They would all feel like the people were merely doing it for the tax write off or spiritual pat on the back – not because they knew God wanted to use them financially to support something bigger than themselves. 

So, I humbly ask you to not cheapen the gifts you receive by shaming those who can’t or don’t give. Certainly, there are those who can give and don’t, but that’s none of your business. That’s between them and the Lord. But many of the God-fearing Believers in your audiences don’t give because they are already giving all they have toward something else. 

I’ll say it again, I love your passion for your organization. However, please work against playing the Judge over how many people you need to join your cause in order to get your yearly goal met. If everyone gave, if every college student sacrificed, I wonder how much less applause God would get simply because you could explain it away as good busines and financial stewardship?

You have your passions. I have mine. You can be guaranteed I have searched my heart to see if God wants me to join you in your passion. Some of your missions He has given me permission to give money to; others of you, I am that dejected college student that has learned to walk past your table with her head down.

Challenge us to pray. Challenge us to speak our questions. Challenge us to pray again, then watch God work miracles without your help.

No shame necessary.

I will join you on my side of the world proclaiming God’s faithfulness if you promise to do the same.

Sincerely,

A Pensively Challenged College Student

Check-listed Forgiveness

I idolize check-lists. I’m not a person who has to physically check off a task, but regardless, I need to know what I’m supposed to do next. You’ll get a blank stare and a few pointed questions if the extent of your offer is, “Come over whenever you want.” Mkay, great. What time is “whenever”? What do I bring? How long am I expected to be there? Is there a reason I’m coming over?

Are you expecting anything from me?

My “check-list mentality” makes Christianity intrinsically heartwrenching. It’s especially frustrating when I stand in front of the concept of forgiveness. I wronged you, you forgive me… Now, what do I do next? How many times do I need to bring it up again before it’s obsolete? Do you need me to do something before you purely love me as deeply as you did before I wronged you? 

Asking those questions towards another human being is called survival. I have learned with many that when they say, “I forgive you” what they mean is, “I’ll say something I don’t mean because I don’t want to be seen as a jerk.” Forgiveness doesn’t erase anger, but it should erase shame. Because humans are, well, humans, that doesn’t happen as often as it probably should.

But what about asking those questions when I’ve wronged my holy and righteous God and savior? Have I ever needed to ask God what His stipulations were for forgiving me? Have I ever had to look at that gift and then sheepishly ask God, “So, for how long is that mine this time? Two years? A week? What do I need to do to help you continue holding my ineptness over my head? What deals can I make with you so you won’t be angry any longer?”

No. I’ve never had to do that. He’ll listen to my train of thought, sure. But I can almost hear his heart break every time I try to add my own magic to His already perfect forgiveness.

When God sent His Son to die on the cross and Jesus’ death and resurrection paid the debt of my sin, my checklist was ripped to shreds. It’s as if He handed me a new list with only one entry:

1. You are Mine.