Friday, December 24, 2010

Me, Myself, and Christ

There are few activities more enjoyable to me than reading. I love it. Big books, small books, red books, blue books, as long as it's not a textbook I am just fine.

It's been a six month long stint of reading Mere Christianity. Slow going, but so so worth it. Mr. Lewis has given me so much to gnaw on lately. I know I say it every post, but at this point it's tradition so I will just say it again, these past few months have been so hard. It's been change after change, heartbreak after heartbreak, and it's left my mind destitute and my heart empty. The glue that's been holding me together is the fact that the Lord has been so faithful in it all. So true and tangible. So good. 

The constant ripping away of familiarity has left me a lot of space to question things. Space to ask about whether my way of life is Truth or is familiar. Not that familiar is bad, it's just familiar. But a lot of times we mistake familiarity for Truth. Maybe our way isn't always the only right. And if that's true then we need to shut up a lot more and grace others with the ability to find their own right way. C.S. Lewis says it this way, "You may say that we are washed in the blood of the Lamb. You may say that Christ has defeated death. You can say that Christ died for our sins. You may say that the Father has forgiven us because Christ has done for us what we ought to have done. They are all true. If any of them do not appeal to you, leave it alone and get on with the formula that does. And, whatever you do, do not start quarreling with other people because they use a different formula from yours."

God did not create us to create a cookie cutter Christianity based on one system of right. God created us to possess complete individuality. As I've written before, individuality is so hard for me. I tend to latch on to others individuality and wish it my own to the point where I am just a hodge podge of other people's interests. But that's where this season comes in. I know I'm no where near the edge of the woods yet, but I do believe the Lord has given me this season to shatter the facade I've created. It's a time for me to be completely my own and to learn to enjoy who that is, and to enjoy the own-ness of others. 

I love to read and learn. I love to know things. I love coffee. But....I'm not necessarily picky, I may not be similar to anyone I know, and I am afraid to try new things. I don't think I'm going to come out of this having a Do's and Don'ts list of things I like and don't, but I do think that when I find those things, I'm going to be a whole lot more likely to let that be me. 

The thing my sister and I talked about yesterday that has struck such a strong chord came from a conversation about our mother. My mom is wonderful. Gracious, gentle, a fantastic listener, and completely her own person. She is so comfortable with who she was created to be that she gladly invites you to join her in the activities she loves, but is not offended if you don't want to join her. She is satisfied in Christ. Her wholeness is there. And that's what it comes down to. My mother is Christ to me. She emanates who I would so see Him being here (with a fleshy side too, don't hear me say I think my mother is perfect). But the reason I know it's Christ in her is because I cannot for the life of me pinpoint a characteristic to be why I see that in her. I look at my mother and say, "wow, there must be something bigger that is changing her and making her this person. That isn't human." I KNOW it has to be God in her. 

And that's what I want. I want to be consumed with Christ in my individuality. I want Him to create in me a person who is not looking to be admired and loved, but who is looking for Christ. In 1 Samuel the people of Israel ask Samuel to appoint them a king so they can be like everyone else. They don't need a king, they have God to lead them. But they don't care that they have what is good, they want what is the norm. God ends up giving it to them and it screws them over. Their king ends up being an awful man totally bent on protecting his ego.  I think that's how I've been. The Lord is here, waiting for me to just admit that who I am is good enough because I was created by Him but I keep wanting what everyone else has. Instead of asking Christ to come in and work in the passions and desires He's given me, I keep asking for new ones, "better" one's. But in the end it's not better. It's just different, and not my own. And if I keep wanting what everyone else has then I'm going to screw myself out of the goodness of the relationship God has in mind for me and Him. That breaks my heart.

It's Christmas Eve. Tonight and tomorrow are going to be spent hearing about Christ being born. About the hope of knowing that sometimes the different, even seemingly ridiculous way, can be the best way. The way that brings about wonderful things. May the Lord consecrate this time to Him. I pray with deep desire that all of us experience that kind of hope and joy these next twenty-four hours. May the knowledge of God's willingness to work in everything draw us to Him. May He take away the fear of hard things and fill us with the knowledge of His nearness through them. May we understand God's goodness and loosen the expectations we have of Him to be a certain way. May the Lord keep coming in manger's, keep surprising us. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I just ate cauliflower, carrot, celery, onion soup. And I liked it...

Now for those who know me, you realize what a BIG deal this is. I am characteristically known for eating mac and cheese, brisket, and bread at Christmas Eve dinner, skip the ham, pass over the jello salad, skirt past the green bean casserole. Actually the Jackson children in general have been on numerous occasions dubbed "the pickiest children ever."

As I was eating this soup, the thought hit me, "what if I'm really not picky." Whoa. If I'm not picky then WHO AM I??? For 19 years I have been snubbing any food that is not fried, sugary, or shear carbs.

This may seem rather medial to you, but this thought was monumental to me. I've wondered about this a significant enough amount of time to warrant a sincere reflection of the idea. What are things I do because I enjoy or are really an unchangeable reality of myself, and what are things I do out of expectation or fear? I found a few months ago that with certain people I refine my tastes in activities to things they enjoy because we relate in them, so when I spent a significant amount of time with those people, I was losing some of the God-given passions I was created for. I got caught up in the shared experience rather than enjoyment of the activity.

Don't get me wrong, it is a lovely and restful thing to spend time doing things that are mutually enjoyed with a dear friend. But for me the excessiveness of it came to be obsession. I am by nature a people pleaser. The good side of it is that the Lord has instilled in me with an strong inclination towards sacrifice and compassion. The detrimental side of it is the incessant need to be enough and do enough so that people are always happy with me. The detrimental side and I have been wrestling a lot lately, and he's been winning.

But the wonderful part about this is that I am loved by a God who doesn't leave me to deal with this. I've been learning what it means to draw away from people (something VERY hard for me) and have been doing things I enjoy out of shear enjoyment. And you know what I found? I haven't even been enjoying God. My FAITH had even come to be subject to this excessively people centered nature of mine. I was challenged with this question this semester, "what are things that increase your affection for Christ?" And the antonym to this, "what are things that steal away your affection for Christ?" It was a question meant to avoid a "doing" mentality, not a list of Christian rights and wrongs of how to do our faith, but what stirs affection, desire, love. What makes me WANT to serve and love God in a deeper way? What steals that love, desire, and affection from me? And then what sacrifices am I willing to make to have that kind of affection?

Big Daddy Break is finally here. Nothing to do for five weeks. And after such an exhausting semester, I am beyond ready for this. I pray for this to be a time to experience the happy medium between asking God how to become more affectionate for Him, and being able to stop and rest in the great desire and affection He already has for me. I am excited for this. A time to be away from it all. To be drawn to Christ. As Clive Staples said in Mere Christianity:

"Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a fountain of energy, and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality."

May this be a season for us to grow our affection for Jesus. For God with us who began as a fetus. May the affection He has for us give us hope in the midst of reality. May we come to know God as bigger, stronger, and all the more loving than we have believed Him to be. May He surpass expectations and meet us in our desperate humanity.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Thrill of Hope

Come this time of year, every sermon, every blog post, every Christian radio station begin talking about the "real" meaning of Christmas, and I'm going to be one of them.

Peace, joy, love, three terms assimilated with Christmas. But when Jesus was born, people weren't experiencing peace. There world was a mess. It was filled with pious religious leaders, vicious political leaders, and a corrupt, legalistic system of life rooted in self-righteousness and money. Not a whole lot of joy either, they had nothing to really be joyful in, they were living under the rule of a king who was known for his brutality and willingness to do whatever it took to protect himself, even murdering all the boy babies in Bethlehem. The culture wasn't really known for their wonderful, loving nature either. I mean, how loving is it to send a woman in labor to a barn. Give her your own bed for Pete's sake, she's PREGNANT.

I've been rereading the "Christmas story" lately, and what I see is hope. It wasn't the addition to a great society to have Jesus born. It was the hope to see salvation from the depravity they had been stuck in. Salvation. Deliverance. Hope for a better life than what they had had. Jesus was the symbol from God that they weren't alone, when I bet many of them felt it. This meant God was coming. He hadn't forgotten them, and He was giving them someone to prove it.

Jesus' birth was a time to separate the boys from the men so to speak. More like the Believers from the Jews. Upon Jesus' birth people now had to decide whether they were going to jump from the faith that had become traditional, comfortable, and safe, to following a newborn who was only able to spit-up and cry. A lot of people didn't have the imagination to see beyond circumstance, and the faith to follow down a new path. But those who did, man it was beautiful.

People like the wise men, and the shepherds. The didn't confine God to a box of conventionality and were willing to let Him be God and not make sense of His plans. I bet it was a little easier when they had an angel of the Lord coming with some intense special effects to give them the low down. But still, they didn't have to follow the star. They left everything for a baby.

I wonder if people saw hope in Jesus' face. I wonder if upon seeing Him they just new. I bet they had to have. It was God incarnate. They were looking into the face of the God that had been hidden behind a curtain in a temple for 500 years. They hadn't experienced hope in a long time. It must have been a thrill, a heart-stirring, emotion-bringing, booty-shaking thrill to know that they weren't alone. God was here to save them and change everything. And He was going to do it through the unexpected.

I pray hope over this season, whether it be a season of joy, or a season of hurt, that you would closely know the hope of a God who doesn't give up, who empathizes and understands the depth of what you  feel, but is not debilitated by it. Immanuel. God with us. God. With. You.

May we all experience the thrill of hope despite our circumstances. May we fall richly in love with the God who knows what we need most. May we never put God in a box and may we invite Him to use His imagination with us. May the hope of Christ inspire us to love greatly, and live honorably. May we believe in such a way that people want what we have. And may we never forget from where we came.

Keep seeking God.