Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Placing yokes

Something I read in My Utmost For His Highest

Always measure your life solely by the standards of Jesus. Submit yourself to His yoke, and His alone; and always be careful never to place a yoke on others that is not of Jesus Christ. It takes God a long time to get us to stop thinking that unless everyone sees things exactly as we do, they must be wrong.........Don't get impatient with others. Remember how God dealt with you--with patience and with gentleness.....Jesus said "Go...and make disciples..." (Matt. 28:19), not "Make converts to your own thoughts and opinions."

Sunday, May 4, 2008

White Knuckles

Ever held on to something so tightly that your knuckles turn white? We've all almost peed our pants on a roller coaster only to be so thankful for the bar onto which we can grab to secure our life (as if our grip on a small rod is going to save us when the coaster breaks down mid upside down loop). You probably know of the card game Spoons in which you grab a spoon and don't let go. Even if someone is dragging you across the table, down the stairs, and through a hallway, you don't let go. Ever gotten the last piece of your favorite desert? You definitely aren't letting that one go.
Why, oh why do we hold on to things so tightly? Is it because we need them? Is it because without them our lives would cease to exist? Are these things a part of who we are? Usually, the answer to all of these questions is no. No, I don't need a lot of the things I hold on to. Yes, my life will still continue if I give up many things it. No, these things should not be a part of who I am.
Yet, while I sit and think about my answers to these questions, the blood flow to my knuckles seems to be growing thinner and the joints on my hand appear to take on more and more of the white color. I don't understand it. These things seem so irrelevant to my everyday life. I can logically conclude that I really don't need them, yet I continue to hold on. Death Grip. No one can take them away. The only way I am getting rid of these things is to let them go. Conscious decision--release the grip and things go away. It seems so simple.
I am female so I can really only see things from one perspective. I'm sure both sexes are guilty of the white knuckles, but I am only aware of and understand those things which plague us--the humans having the two X chromosomes. Why is it that we feel the need to hold on to relationships that are obviously getting us nowhere? What holds us in the pit of having a negative self image? Why do we binge and purge? What makes us have to constantly measure up to the next girl on the sidewalk or in the classroom? Who decided that expensive jeans, lots of makeup, and perfect hair are they ways in which we "look good"? Why is it easier to berate one another than to accept each other as individuals and show love? When did it become acceptable to use our bodies in order to promote lusting males? Why do we love that attention? What draws us to hold on to the struggles we battle? How have these things crept in?
I am just as guilty as the next, and this is speaking to me just as much as the next person. I do not think God wants us to hold on to these things so tightly that they become a part of who we are. I do not think he wants our baggage to become the thing that holds us back. I do, however, think God wants us to have white knuckles, as long as we are gripped onto the correct thing, which, if you hadn't already guessed it, is Christ. Jesus Christ is the absolute best thing we can hope to get our hands on. To be like him, to be obsessed with him, to focus constantly on how we can have more of him in our lives is an ok, in fact, an absolutely great thing to be centered on.

The thing is, we only have two hands. We can only have that death grip on one, maybe two things at most. So, in order to Grab on to Jesus, we gotta let go of something.

What needs to be let go?

What happens when let go and Jesus fills that space in our grip?

What does it take to reach the point of letting go?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Reading Glasses

When I was in seventh grade, I failed the school vision test. It was the simple test in which one would place his face up to a plastic thing with two lenses and tell the school nurse what he saw inside. The problem for me was not in telling her which direction the "E's" were facing. My problem was figuring out which box held the red dot. There were two boxes--a large box A and a smaller box B. The red dot was supposed to appear in one of the two and one had to simply announce where the dot fell. For me, the dot was not a box. No, sadly, my red dot appeared way to the left of box A. There was no way this was actually correct, and I was too naive to take my 50:50 chance and guess a box. I made the mistake of being honest and admitting that my dot was not even close to being inside either box.
My stupid left-wing red dot caused me to fail the vision test, so I then had to go to an optometrist. He informed me that I could focus fine. The problem was that the muscles in my eye would sometimes strain, causing headaches. It was decision time. The only thing I needed corrective lenses for was to read. So, I could choose reading glasses, or, I could go with contacts. My eye doctor and the nurses strongly promoted the glasses. Since I technically didn't need the lenses all the time, glasses would be much easier. However, being the super trendy junior high kid I was, I wanted the contacts. Oh, and maybe I forgot to mention I am fairly stubborn and a know-it-all. So, amidst the urging of not only my mother, but also the nurses and doctor, I held steadfast to my decision and was fitted for contact lenses.
The lenses arrived at the office a week later and I returned to pick up my exciting new accessory. I had ordered a year's supply of the lenses simply because buying in bulk offered a discount. The nurses instructed me in proper wear and care of my lenses, and I was off. Back home to explore the new world in which I would be seeing through my new contacts. For the first week, I felt super cool and wanted to tell everyone about my new lenses. However, one day upon returning from school, I tried taking out my right lens, only to discover it would not budge. I tried for a while, poking, prodding, and rubbing my eye to no avail. Finally, I called in the reinforcements--my dad. I laid down on the couch and he attacked my eye. He tried really hard until we finally decided there was nothing we could do. At this point, my eye resembled the color of a tomato and I was not too fond of my stupid contacts.
Just when we thought all hope was lost, I noticed something in the inner corner of my eye (you know, the pink area in which your nighttime gunk collects). I moved closer to the mirror and felt for whatever treasure awaited my discovery. Low and behold, the treasure proved to be my contact. It had folded into a little wad and lodged in the corner tissue of my eye. What the heck? I was so hacked. I swore that day to never again wear the blasted contacts. A year's supply or not, I was done.
Lenses. Pretty much everyone I know has previously worn or currently wears some type of corrective lenses. They range from contacts, Glasses, Bifocals, or even the infamous Rec Specs. Yes, you know what I'm talking about. The thing about lenses is they give you a different perspective of the world around you. Lenses are used to refocus light in order that you may be able to better see objects in your world. The funny thing is that the objects may or may not be where you think they are. The light may show the image to be above, below, behind, infront, smaller, or larger than whatever you are actually viewing. It's pretty crazy physics.
Every so often we will discuss what we think Jesus would be like were he in human form today. I like to think of him as a khaki shorts, t-shirt, chaco wearing guy that's just here to do help and love everyone he can. I think he would have a normal hair cut and more than likely might wear corrective lenses. Jesus might wear the cool plastic fashionable frames or just simply those that don't have a frame. Who knows?
The important thing is to realize Jesus would have his own perspective of the world around him. Jesus' would still see us all doing crazy things. He could not avoid seeing all that happens: the way we treat ourselves, the way we treat others, and the way we spend our time, thoughts, money, and energy. Those things would still be there. However, I know that were I to look through Jesus' lenses and see his perspective, I would see people that need help. I would see people that need love. I would see people that not only need to receive love, but also need to learn how to give love. I would see people that deserve love no matter where they are or what they do. I would see things differently. My "lenses" would be off and I would realize how I probably need to chunk mine out the window and permanently adopt the lenses of Jesus.
I think were I able to put on the lenses of Jesus, I would not get so upset when someone steps right in front of me at a concert. I would not get so mad when someone cuts me off on the road. I would not even get so pissy when someone tells me I'm wrong. I would better be able to deal with other people and their moods, and I would also have more patience when the drive thru line takes longer than I think it should.
Putting on the lenses of Jesus is something we can all strive to do. It's not easy. It's not permanent. Just as contacts should be taken out each night and put back in each day, (notice I said should b/c really, who does this?)..we have to wake up each day with the motivation to view the world around through the eyes of Jesus. We can start looking to show love to others rather than seeing their faults. We can start experiencing joy at the fact that we have been given another opportunity to experience this gift of life. More importantly, we can get off our glutes and start doing something to make this world a better place.

What lenses are we looking through?

Where do we find the lenses of Christ?

What does it take to truly put them on?

Friday, May 2, 2008

What Sarah Said

I've had the Deathcab For Cutie album "Plans" for quite a while, but I have only recently began to truly appreciate it. This is probably my favorite album of all time. Well, maybe not favorite, but it definitely makes the top ten. The album is packed full of great piano rock, crazy good lyrics, and a singer with a phenomenal voice. It's just real good.
I'm really bad about finding one or two songs that I like on an album and forgetting about the rest. Big mistake. So, in trying to change the habit, not too long ago on my three hour ride home, I popped in some deathcab. Now, my car is beginning to fall apart and the cd player has a mind of its own, so I probably had to take the cd out, give it some love, and then put it back in. But we got it to work. Anyway, I listened through Marching Bands of Manhattan, Soul Meets Body, and some other stuff, but then this chill piano song came on of which I knew not the lyrics. So, in the spirit of accomplishing my goal, I repressed my urge hit the next button. Luckily, the song was amazing. Good idea to listen to the song.
One line of the song stuck out--"Love is watching someone die". Now, this is the culmination of the whole song entitled What Sarah Said, because well, this quote is what Sarah said. The guy in the song in is the hospital watching his lover die. I'm not sure how many people have been a part of this in their life: in the hospital watching a loved one die, but well it sucks. That's a pretty obvious thing.
This line made my mind go crazy. Love is watching someone die. I started thinking about who would watch me die? Now, I'm not saying I want someone to come kill me today just to watch me meet my creator. However, there's a lot more to watching someone die than just watching them on their death bed.
My grandpa went in for routine gallbladder surgery only to find out he had terminal lung cancer which would take his life in less than two weeks. My grandma stayed right there, only leaving his side to get some occasional food and to take a bathroom break. For about a week, grandpa knew nothing of what was going on around him. He was very weak and in a fragile state of mind. Did my grandma leave? No. She showed some of the greatest love I can remember. Love is watching someone die.
My father was the epitome of bad health. He had suffered through 4 heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, chronic migraines, seizures, and enough daily medicines for an entire nursing home population. After all that crap, you'd think one would decide "Hm....eat right, don't smoke, exercise = longer life, treat myself like crap = death" Well....he chose the second option. Ok, idiotic I know. It's really hard to show love to someone who doesn't show love to themself. Why would you try and help someone who won't help themself? Well, because it's what we're supposed to do. In saying that, this is the reason for my belief in my mother being right up there with Mother Theresa....ok, at least she's the Mother Theresa in our family. Mom watched my dad die. She watched him take horrible care of himself, watched him go through depression, watched him sneak cigarettes. Many things happened of which no one could have blamed my mom for throwing up the deuces and heading out. Why would anyone want to stay in such a situation? My mom chose to stay and watch him die. My step dad had a heart of gold, but he had been dealt some pretty sucky cards. I remember getting so pissed at him for doing the things he did. Mom just watched him die.
My dad spent many holidays and weekends in the hospital. When mom was off from work, her thanksgiving dinner sometimes consisted of hospital food. Love is watching someone die. My father passed away on Jan 7, 2007....so it's been about a year and a half. Mom is doing well. She's a tough lady and chooses to be on the bright side of the road...(thanks Van Morrison). However, for about 10 years of her marriage, she loved someone enough to watch them die.
I have to think that had Jesus been walking around my house, he probably would have told my dad several stories, hoping he would get the point and change his life. Maybe, he would have even healed my dad of all the crap wrong with his body. In either case, I don't think he would have ever stopped loving my dad, and I don't think he would have ever given up. Jesus has more love than we can ever imagine. Jesus, God, The Holy Spirit, however you wanna look at it, watches us "die" all the time. All the stupid, selfish, inconsiderate, ignorant things we do are ways in which we kill ourselves each and every day. Now, I'm not saying Jesus watches us go to eternal death. That's for another day and time. I am however saying Jesus sticks it out with us through all our junk. He might get confused, might wonder why we do this, but in the end, He loves us. He doesn't leave. He came for those who don't love themselves. The worst of the worst. Jesus watches us die.

Love is watching someone die.

Who do you watch die?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Stripper

What do you want to be when you grow up? That's probably one of the most asked questions in all of humanity. Where do babies come from, why can't I do whatever I want, and what do you want to be when you grow up....probably three of the top ten. When I was in first grade, I said I wanted to be a lawyer. My reasoning was simply that I liked to argue. I mean, shouldn't that be enough? Fondness for argument = lawyer...or at least that's what my first grade brain told me.
I'm now 21, graduating college, and I still don't know exactly what I want to do with my life. Now, I know the basics: I need to work, I would like to make enough money to feed myself and those dependent on me, and I would probably enjoy doing something that helps other people. I need interaction with the public, and I need a job that is constantly requiring me to do new things. Other than that, I'm not sure.
Right now, I say I hope to be a family physician. For the past year and a half, that's what's been my motivation for finishing this part of my life called college--the desire to go to medical school. The crummy thing about this is that I have absolutely no idea if this wish will come true. I would love to be certain about this, but well, I'm not. Things must happen and it's going to take time. The thing I have discovered (and it took me a while to realize this), is that I will still have friends and family if I do not get accepted. I will still be Shana B., and life will still go on. So, that was a nice thing to realize....that sometimes, failure is okay. You learn, move on, and kick more tail.
Now that I'm older, I get to ask those younger than me the question of what they want to become as an adult. I hear lots of fun things: professional baseball player, doctor, lawyer (because, of course, they like to argue), and maybe even teacher. Last Monday, while leading a small group on Courage, I asked my girls what they wanted to be when they grew up. The girls ranged from 7th to 12th grade students, and they gave the typical responses one might expect. (One girl said she wanted to be a doctor...more specifically, a female doctor, you know, a gonorrheaologist---I almost peed my pants). Anyway, it was all going great until one girl said she wanted to be a stripper. I kind of chuckled and told her to stop playing, and tell me for real what she wanted to be. She said she was telling the truth. Apparently, this was a well known fact in her circle, because all the other girls around knodded and said she wasn't lying. The girl explained to me that her aunt was a stripper and the girl had also explained to her father that this was what she wanted to do. Oh, but when she told him she changed stripper to exotic dancer so it would sound better. Maybe she fooled him....but probaly not.
Anyway, I'm not bashing strippers or anyone who does this to pay the rent. That's not where this is going. However, I will say this. It broke my heart to hear a 13 year old, sweet, beautiful girl say her goal in life was to one day take off her clothes for money. I mean seriously, I think something is wrong with that picture.

How have we gotten to the point that for the junior high girls sitting around her that day, this was no big deal....nothing new. It hurt me real bad...and I don't even know where....but I know it hurt.

What will it take to stop this?

How can we help these kids realize they can break the vicious cycle and do whatever they want to do?

How do we motivate them?

More importantly, how can we motivate ourselves to show enough love so that Jesus shines through, things fall into place, lives are changed, and the rest doesn't even matter?

What can we do?