My Blog List

Friday, August 31, 2012

Thanksgiving All Year: 491-520

Wow. So much for staying caught up, eh? Well I've decided, since I've fallen so far behind on this for the past two months, that I am going to stop at 520 (which marks one year's worth of Thanks-giving) for the time being. I may revive the tradition at some point or alter it to a monthly list, but honestly my blog has been on the back burner for pretty much the entire summer (just in case you hadn't noticed, haha) and I have so much going on right now it just isn't a priority for me currently. This doesn't mean I'll stop posting, but I am going to relieve myself from my weekly (in theory) posts!

With that said, over the past few weeks, I have been thankful...

491. For solo coffee dates spent reading.

492. For good books (such as Donald Miller's Through Painted Deserts)...

493. ...and for great songs (such as U2's "With or Without You")...

494. ...and for delightful moments when I get to enjoy both simultaneously.

"With or Without You" came on the radio while I was reading at the
coffee shop. It was such a perfect moment I had to take a picture!

495. For surprise birthday parties and for friends with whom to celebrate. (Alina and Alona are twins, born on August 11, and Patricia and I were both born on August 18!)

Left: Birthday Girls (me, Patricia, Alona, and Alina)
Right: My winning teammates from the first game!

496. For a friend who shares my heart to get together and pray for our church each Sunday morning.

497. For our church family's willingness to step outside its comfort zone by holding Church in the Park.

worship team warming up at Wingfield Park in downtown Reno

498. That God sometimes provides great encouragement to me through people I barely even know.

499. For the new Mumford and Sons single, "I Will Wait."

500. For my recently reestablished weekly coffee dates with Jessie...

501. ...and that our favorite coffee shop recently reopened after being closed for almost three years!

It's in a different location now but we'll take it!

502. For my new lotion dispenser that says "Restore" on it ~ a memorial of how God has captured my heart in a whole new way this past year with the concept of Restoration.

503. For fun "blingy" jeans and "Life is Good" pajama pants purchased during my first thrift store excursion.

504. For Mimi's Cafe's chicken tenders.

505. For Sunday afternoons hanging out with the girls.

506. For a relaxing birthday celebration with my family, some of my best friends, my favorite pizza, and a good movie.

507. For laughing so hard I cried twice in one day watching Caleb bounce in his bouncy seat. SO. FUNNY.

You should see the video!

508. For the incredible beauty of God's creation at Yosemite National Park...

Yosemite Valley and Half Dome as seen from Glacier Point

509. ...and for the joy of being with people who are seeing it for the first time. (I think I tear up every time I hear someone's first expression of awe!)

At least half of our group had never been before!

510. For friends who I, as an introvert, am comfortable having in my "hamster ball" with me...

511. ...and that I got to spend the many hours of drive-time during our Yosemite trip surrounded by such friends.

Alex was in there, too, you just can't see him!

512. For a hike through a beautiful forest to see incredible views of Yosemite I'd never seen before.

513. For my ridiculously adorable nephew.

514. For the nearly perfect ending to my birthday: lying on the floor of Yosemite Valley, next to some of my best friends, spotting TWO shooting stars while star gazing. James 1:17

515. For the transforming work God has done in me since my last birthday.

516. For an evening with the beautiful (inside and out) Balkenbush, Steinhardt, and Bain girls.

517. For a deeper understanding of how God designed me through the Myers-Briggs personality assessment
(I'm an INFJ in case you're curious)...

518. ...and for the resulting increase in confidence to follow the direction I sense Him giving me.

519. For the discovery of great music. (Currently LOVING Amy Stroup, Josh Garrels, and The Autumn Film.)

Thanks for joining me in giving thanks for the many beautiful things God has done in my life over the past year! Rest assured the thankfulness will not stop even though the weekly list is going away! Have a great weekend and a lovely start to your September!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Gospel vs. The Chicken

A couple of months ago our young adults pastor shared a very simple truth one Sunday morning that had struck him while watching a television program about a group of people engaged in some really bizarre and ungodly practices: "The only thing standing between me and these people is the cross of Christ." It's a thought that has both stuck with me and been instrumental in transforming my thinking ever since.

If all this Chick-fil-A controversy had arisen but a few short months ago, it's highly likely you could have found me helping lead the charge to support a company that is near and dear to my heart not only because I love its food but also because I have treasured memories of working for it when I lived in Tennessee. However, because of what God has been showing me about the Gospel and Christianity over the past few months, this is not the case. (For the record, in saying this I'm not implying that I'm helping lead the charge against this company, either.)

It doesn't seem to me that all the uproar over this situation has been warranted; however, I don't think one unwarranted uproar makes another one right (especially when the latter is coming primarily from Christians), and I question whether the general Christian response to the backlash against Chick-fil-A has served the Kingdom of God very well...

Over the past few months I've finally come to understand, after many years as a Christian, that the heart of Christ's call to humanity is to find real life by dying to self. Not only does this mean dying to my blatant sin, it also means dying to my more subtle sin of self-righteousness, dying to whatever pride I cling to that makes me think my ability to be in a relationship with God has anything to do with my own behavior. 

At the end of March God started putting a whole slew of messages from various sources (thank you Donald Miller, Louie Giglio, and the apostle Paul in particular, haha) in my path that finally really awakened me to the truth that His grace is truly a free gift, made possible by the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit alone, not by anything I've done! (If you need convincing, check out Romans 5 where Paul describes justification and take note of every "by" and "through" phrase in the chapter... I promise you not one of them is followed by any work the reader has done!) Finally grasping these truths has opened the door for God to begin a level of transformation in my life that is far deeper than anything I've experienced in the past, because in the past there was still a lot of SELF getting in the way, both on the side of not recognizing the call to give up control and on the side of thinking my relationship with God was somehow made possible my good moral behavior.

At our fellowship group last night, someone very eloquently described how God spent the entire Old Testament showing us that we could NEVER fulfill His Law. That's precisely why we needed Christ's life, death, and resurrection ~ to provide the grace necessary for us to be in relationship with God again since we couldn't earn our way into that position... 

It's not that I find fault with Dan Cathy's stance on family relationships. My concern is that perhaps with the manner in which the general Christian public has taken up the banner of promoting traditional marriage in defense of Chick-fil-A, all we've effectually done is point to the Law, which we ourselves cannot fulfill, and pridefully elevated one tiny portion of it that isn't a struggle for us, as if this somehow makes us holier than the rest of the world. The truth is we've all broken some part (MANY parts, actually) of God's Law, and even as Christians most of us have strongholds that take us years to finally hand over to Christ, which means every last one of us is just as guilty as the next person.

The more I recognize just how filthy my own sin is, the less interested I am in calling any other person out on his or her sin. And the more I understand the Gospel of the Kingdom and recognize the fact that Jesus took me as I was and is being incredibly patient with the very slow process of my being transformed to reflect Him more clearly, the less I believe He expects anyone else to fulfill ANY portion of the Law before He is ready and willing to embrace and welcome them into His Kingdom. 

Granted, accepting the call to follow Christ and find real life by dying to self is going to produce fruit in our lives. As we learn to walk with Him and obey His commands, He begins to restore in us His original, good design. But without HIM guiding the process, whatever morality we possess is ultimately worthless because we will never fulfill God's whole Law by our own endeavors. 

I don't believe Jesus put us here to enforce God's Law. I believe He put us here to reflect what it looks like when we submit to His rule in our lives and to extend the invitation to others to taste and see that this is a good thing. I don't know if I would have agreed with this statement a few months ago, but I believe it now. I'm not saying we shouldn't hold to Biblical values, I'm just saying we're all broken and Jesus is the only One who can fix us ~ Dan Cathy and the LGBT community and the Christian community alike. I don't believe reminding a group of people of how they fail to measure up to God's design is going to help spread the Gospel (which for heaven's sake means good news) or further the Kingdom. I'd rather say "come just as you are" to all of the above and let Jesus take it from there.

Part of me doesn't want to post this at all because I don't really anticipate a particularly favorable reception from either side of the debate. And I hate controversy. But the more posts I see on Facebook the more compelled I am to say something, because almost every post is making me further question whether we are accurately representing the Gospel. And the Gospel is a lot more important than my popularity.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:12-17