There’s Beauty Here

I got to sneak out of the office for half of a day yesterday.  There was some paperwork I needed from our Ingham site and so I took advantage of the opportunity for a road trip.  I hadn’t been over to our Ingham site yet and its a slow week at the Okoboji site so the timing was perfect.

And since it was nearly 5 before I left and so I decided to take my time in coming back.  I wandered down a lesser used road, I let myself get lost nearly ending up in Minnesota, and I let myself enjoy a park we never seemed to have time to stop at on the way to my grandparent’s house when I was a kid.  It was a good day to take in some Iowa countryside.

“There’s beauty here,” my heart whispered.

I’ve been missing Scotland a bit more than usual lately.  The heat and humidity of summer has hit my corner of the world with fierceness the past couple of weeks.  To add insult to injury, Facebook memories reminds me almost daily of the sites and cooler temps of Scotland, of spending my days cozied up with books and orange kitkat bars, and of falling asleep to the sound of the ocean waves washing ashore just 100 steps away from my front door.  I’ll admit, I’ve looked around found rural Iowa lacking in comparison.   But as I drove around Ingham Lake, as I drove through the corn fields which seem to visibly grow in the hot humid weather, and as I passed by farm sites, each with its own unique character, I began to see the beauty in the landscape.  A quiet voice seemed to whisper in my ear….

“There’s beauty here.”

It’s different.  It’s not what I would have chosen.  But there is beauty here.  And not just in the landscape.  As I was pondering the beauty to be discovered in this part of the world, God was also speaking to me about the beauty to be discovered in this part of my life.  You see, part of my frustration in the past couple of weeks has not only been in the missing of a Scottish view, but also in missing various people who are part of my life but, because of time, distance, and money, I can’t just drop everything to go and see.    Part of my frustration in the last couple of weeks has been from attempting to enter into the dating world and finding out just how much it can have me over analyzing everything and obsessing over ever potential flaw in who I am.  Part of my frustration in the last couple of weeks is seeing injustice and the pain it causes while not being able to nothing tangible to fight against it at this stage and place in life.

So I needed to be challenged yesterday to look for the beauty not just in the cornfields and area lakes, but in the circumstances of life as well.  To be thankful that those people are in my life to miss, to learn what it is to cherish the time when I do get to see and/or talk with them, that is beauty.  To more deeply understand what love might be and the power it has to redeem what is viewed as ugly or undesirable, to heal what the world has declared broken beyond repair, that is beauty.  To be reminded that we are never alone in our struggles, that we aren’t the only one facing a particular battle, that there is always someone out there who can empathise and who is willing to fight alongside you if you are just open to looking for them, that is beauty.

Despite the things I wish I could change about life at the moment, there is beauty here.

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What Eternity Isn’t

I’ve been thinking a lot about eternity lately.  Not in a morbid, I think I’m about to die so I should get my affairs in order, sort of a way.  But much more in a trying to retrain my brain in how I think about and conceptualise it sort of way.

rethinkThe reality is that the vast majority of Christians, and yes, that include pastors, preachers, and teachers, don’t understand what eternity really is.  Then again, neither do I.  But I do know we need to radically rethink how we understand eternity and in so doing, there are some major implications for how we think about our theology.

So what do I believe needs to be changed about how we define eternity?  I think we need to stop trying to define it in terms of time.  All too often when I hear someone trying to explain eternity I hear them say that it is all of time from the very beginning to the very end and a little bit more beyond that in either direction.  Another popular approach is to talk about time which goes on forever.  timeWe do this because we are beings which are defined by time.  We have only known an existence in which time and the passing of time is inescapable.  It doesn’t matter if you watch the clock or never give it a second thought.  It doesn’t matter if you are always running late or always arrive early.  It doesn’t matter if you remember each moment in vivid detail or can’t remember what you ate for breakfast this morning.  Time plays a part in defining our lives.  We can’t escape it no matter how hard we may try.

But eternity isn’t defined by time.  It is a reality which exists outside of time.  Time has no control or sway or place in eternity.  It is beyond time.  All of time is contained within it and yet no time at all is contained within it.  It isn’t just all of time imaginable plus a little more, it is a reality where time ceases to exist.  We have a hard time even beginning to grasp this concept because we have never experienced a reality where time doesn’t exist. We have no frame of reference.

god exists outside

What does it really mean to say this?

However, this doesn’t stop us from talking about living for eternity in heaven with God.  It doesn’t stop us from talking about the eternal nature of God.

So what if we really stopped thinking about eternity in terms of an unimaginable length of time and started thinking about it as being outside of and undefined by time?  What might change in how we think about God and our faith?

overwhelmingFor me right now, I’m thinking about the implications it might have for how I talk about dwelling in the presence of God.  I know not everyone has had them, but I have been blessed with a fair number of intense worship or prayer experiences where I truly felt like I was in the presence of God in a special, unique and powerful way.  They remind me that entering God’s presence through prayer and worship is something we are called to do as Christians as often as possible.  And to be in the presence of God is to be, in some way, in eternity as God is always eternal.  It is a bit of God’s kingdom “here on earth as it is in heaven.”

If we allow it to, changing the way we define eternity, I believe, will radically change how we view our relationship with God put our life here on earth into a proper perspective.  Suddenly what is happening in politics isn’t so pivotal because some part of you dwells with an eternal God each time you pray.  Suddenly gathering for worship makes sense because, “where two or three are gathering in my name, there I am also” ensures that our eternal God is our midst.  Suddenly eternity doesn’t seem so big and overwhelming because time isn’t defining it, the presence of God is defining it.

 

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Must I Marry an Uber-Christian?

Must I marry an uber-Christian?  Dont’ know what that might be?  Allow me to explain.

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Not just Christian, VERY Christian.

An uber-Christian guy would be a guy who is either in the ministry right now, has been for some period of time in the past, or has at least seriously considered working in full time ministry.  They have read their Bible cover to cover at least once in their adult life.  They attend church every Sunday and are often found at church 1-3 additional days of the week volunteering in some capacity.  They have a bookshelf filled with books about theology and living the Christian life as a true man of God.  He goes on men’s retreats and likely gets up at some crazy hour once a week for a men’s breakfast Bible study.  He likely listens to podcasts of the currently popular preachers.  He is confident in his salvation.

While all of these things, in and of themselves are not bad, the uber-Christian man generally takes it a step farther.  They are not content with just being this guy, they have to make sure you know they are this guy.  And they generally believe that because they are doing all the right things that they will be rewarded – specifically with a wife.  Even more specificially…with a HOT wife.

I’m not looking to marry an uber-Christian.

Why?  Well, in large part, because I know I won’t measure up.

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I’ll just be over here gagging.

I have read the Bible cover to cover in my adult life – once.  I struggle with feeling like I belong in just about any church I attend at the moment.  I’m not actively volunteering at any church at the moment.  I did work in full time ministry for four years, but in a Catholic church and so, unless the person I happen to be talking to is Catholic, it generally doesn’t really count.  I have greatly culled the books on my bookshelf and what is left is generally considered a little more “out there” than what most would enjoy reading.  I don’t have a single book focusing on being a proper “woman of God” because I believe deeply we need to concentrate on being the people of God.  I rarely go to women’s ministry events or retreats because I am neither a wife nor a mother (nor do I find Beth Moore to be the greatest Bible study author and speaker who ever lived) so let’s be honest, I don’t really fit with the majority of that crowd very well.  And regardless, most women’s Bible studies are in the middle of the day….when I am working.  I don’t listen to podcasts regularly and I certainly don’t listen to the flavor of the week in Christian culture.  I have doubts about my faith and questions about who God is.  And I dare to be overweight and far from what 99% of guys would consider “hot.”

I don’t measure up.

perfect-and-real

Not looking for worldly perfection – I’m looking for something real.

So I don’t want to date an uber-Christian.  I want to date a real Christian.  One who truly looks at a woman’s character and heart and falls in love with that long before he notices her waistline.  One who loves God but is honest in their struggles to understand God and live according to His plan.  One who knows that reading Scripture is more about spending quality time with God rather than checking off your verses for the day.  One who isn’t trying to force me to fit into some cultural concept of what a “good Christian girl” should be but who celebrates me for who God has created me to be – opinionated leader and all.   One who listens critically to all he hears a preacher say, regardless of how many twitter followers a particular preacher might have.

I can live up to being real.  I can admire and respect a guy who is real.  Are there any left out there in the single world?

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My Current Cause of Confusion

I have to admit, my high school civics class, not my favorite.  I got an A because, well, that’s what all good, brown-nosing students do in high school.  But I don’t remember a ton of what I learned.  I know I don’t remember learning about executive orders.

And yet, it seems we hear a lot about them when it comes the office of the President of the United States in the last few years.  Republicans have been yelling for a long time that they are unconstitutional each time President Obama signed one.   “That’s not how it’s done.”  “You need to go through congress.”  “He is acting like a dictator.”  All you have to do is look back through the news feed on facebook or twitter of your favorite conservative Republican to see such comments, or blogs and articles containing such comments, posted.

Now Donald Trump has been officially in the oval office for just over 2 weeks.  Signing executive orders left and right it seems.  And suddenly they are being applauded by those same people.  Suddenly they are just what America needs.  I don’t get it.  How are executive orders signed by a Republican president consitutional and ones signed by a Democratic president not?   I’m really regretting not paying better attention in my 10th grade American Government class right now (sorry Mrs. Schultz) because I feel like I missed something really important the day that was taught.

Additionally confusing to me is why Trump would even need to consider them to get things done in Washington.  After all, he has a Republican majority in both the House and the Senate right now.  And the Senate Republicans just proved today that they will give him a blank check to do whatever he wants to do with their confirmation of the Secretary of Education being someone who hasn’t even been a parent of a public school child, let alone worked a day in the field of education in her entire life (incompetence at its finest folks).

A news commentator I heard recently asked someone in the Trump administration why they were doing executive orders when Mr. Trump was so opposed to the practice with Obama in office.  The response – that Mr. Trump was correcting the previous administrations mistakes.  But this answer doesn’t really help me.  Because my mom taught me that two wrongs don’t make a right.  Therefore, in my mind, two unconstitutional actions don’t make a constitutional one.

And for the record, I don’t automatically think everything contained in the orders is bad.  I think the one on building a wall is insane as well as the one concerning immigration from 7 specific, muslim majority nations.  But I’m ok with de-funding planned parenthood so long as those funds go towards programs which support women’s health and new mom’s being able to have the support they need to ensure their family is taken care of.  I acknowledge that Obamacare needs to be fixed but don’t just write it all off without proposing a viable alternative.

Anyways, it is all a bit confusing for me right now.  I just don’t understand how an action can be judged as right or wrong while also being so dependant on how much you agree or disagree with what is being accomplished by said action.  I didn’t know right and wrong could be so subjective.

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A Simple Man of Trade

‘Tis the season forholy-family the Christmas story.  For many in Christendom it is, honestly, about the only time they really think about the Holy Family.  And even then, it is all about this amazing thing that Mary did in giving birth to the Son of God.  To be fair, I don’t wish to diminish the amazingness of her act of faith in any way.  It truly is remarkable.  She took a HUGE leap of faith as a teenage girl in a culture where, to be pregnant before she was married, could easily have meant her life was literally ruined, or perhaps even ended.  Given those potential outcomes, I can’t say with confidence I would have said yes as she did.
But it has occurred to me that we don’t talk a lot about Joseph.  I’m wondering why that is.  After all, he was the one chosen to be the (technically) step-father to God’s Son.  It isn’t a job you exactly want to do a mediocre job on.  He was asked to take a huge leap of faith as well in the midst of all of this.  He was asked to undertake a huge responsibility.  He faced a lot of questions and possible judgement and rejection for taking on a wife who wasn’t, in the world’s eyes, pure.

joseph-and-jesusI was struck recently by a line in the Christmas song “A Strange Way to Save the World.”  It’s a song written from the perspective of Joseph and the chorus simply reflects on the oddity of the methods God used to send the Messiah into the world to redeem humanity.   And in his questions, Joseph asks: Why me?  I’m just a simple man of trade…..Now I’m not one to second guess what angels have to say.  But this is such a strange way, to save the world.

The Christmas storecharactery could have been vastly different.  The Jews were expecting it to be different and so they missed the arrival of the long awaited Messiah.  Ironically enough, Herod was probably paying more attention to the possibilities than the Jewish nation was as the Holy Family fled to Egypt to escape his hunt of the child to kill Jesus fearing his throne would be lost to him someday should the infant be allowed to live.  But God didn’t chose a ruler or earthy king to raise His Son.  He didn’t chose a rabbi or educated merchant.  He chose a carpenter.  A simple man of trade.   A man who knew the value of a day’s labor to take care of his family.  A man who could find work no matter where he went in the world.  A man who had to work with the public, who had to listen to people in order to make what they wanted, and who was willing to stand up and protect his family nbeing-valuedo matter the cost.

I don’t think we give Joseph enough credit.  If we did we would consider the character of a man first instead of his title or paycheck.  If we did we would be just as excited for our children to pursue trade school as we would be to see them pursue a 4 year degree.  If we did, the perception of wisdom wouldn’t be tied to earthly success.   I have a hunch that if Christ were to enter our world in a similar fashion today, far too many of us would, once again, miss the event because we are looking for someone we view as successful and powerful to save the world instead of someone God would view as successful and powerful.

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