Monday, January 18, 2010

I'm an Alien

Okay, so I'm beginning to think that this sobriety-from-the-distractions-of-the-world thing stinks. I'm not entirely there, mind you. It's near impossible to eliminate everything. But in being obedient to the Lord's calling in this, I'm really tearing away at myself. It's totally against the everything my head wants to do.

Not to mention people think I'm a freak.

(Which, I admit, is both fun and unsettling.)

It's weird how people react -- mostly my Christian friends -- when I tell them I'm not following American Idol this year. (I've never missed an episode before.) It's not like it's a bad show. Most people watch it with their kids, even. But it's the total dedication two hours a week for over four months. It's the setting aside of whatever else needs my attention, laundry housecleaning kids husband God, for this show that is about creating an Idol for America to worship. ... and now you hate me. But it's true. I, too, deceived myself into thinking it was about hearing beautiful singing. Sorry. It isn't. (Watch Celtic Women or listen to Carmina Burana instead.)

Or JJ Abram's "Lost". Oh, Lost. My abusive boyfriend. How you have toyed with me for five years. You have abused my patience, you have taken advantage of my intelligence, and you have drawn me back with lulling sweet promises year after year. And now you want me back for one more fling. You have promised me all the answers. You have given your word that this is the last time. But alas, my heart cannot take one more abusing. My nostrils refuse to inhale your intoxicating lure. I will not come back to you. My decision is firm. In fact, I should have left you long ago.

Okay, this is helping.

And those are the shows that I watch. Except for the righteously violent, heart-rate stomping, teeth gritting, adrenaline-packed "24". And the jury's still out on "24". I'm asking God to take away the desire. It's pretty deep, and He's working overtime.

And "Glee". But this one is packed with ridiculosity and inappropriate content. And it's wonderful. And I want Jane Lynch to be in my posse. I'm praying about this one, too.

Oh, and "House". But only because I have a major actor-crush on Hugh Laurie. He's a brilliant actor. Genius, even.

(Okay, so I'm only divulging a fraction here of what I actually end up watching.)

See, the more I dig, the more I realize how much time I have dedicated to this magic glowing box.

"'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless'... All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:2, 8-9

But now I'm an alien. Now I induce the blank stare. Now I'm the conversation killer. Now I am the party pooper, fer real y'all.

You: "Hey, did you see that..."
Me: "No. Sorry."
You: "Oh."

You: "Wasn't that hilarious when..."
Me: "Oh, I didn't see it."
You: "Oh."
(chirp chirp.)

Me: "But I was reading in Jeremiah and it's so cool, did you know..."
You: "Oh... Cool."
(eyes shifting, looking for the nearest exit.)

But whatever. It's cool. Because you know what? I'm praying for you, too. Because this is a good place to be. There's no flashing lights or enticing previews. But the rewards of this obedience are already starting to whisper into my ears.

The obedience has brought me to my knees in repentance over the slightest hint of anger, jealousy, selfishness, or laziness.

The obedience is changing the way I perceive holiness, purity, love.

The rewards have come in the form of crying, heartbroken for other people's pain and loss, instead of a forced sympathy.

Doesn't that sound fun?

Okay. I know. My face is green. It's a side-effect, too.

I'll retreat back to my home planet now.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


What a day, yesterday. I had three major cries.
One was for a joyous and emotional occasion.
One was for love and friendship even through difficult times.

And one was for the death of tens of thousands of Haitians and the confusion and chaos that remains.

I don't know what to say.

It's just... too much...

with Haiti...

They need help. And they need comfort. And I can't imagine the frustration and sadness and brokenness. And the loss.

Oh, Haiti. I am so so sorry.

"'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.' Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper." 1 Kings 19:11-12

Lord, now is your time. Send your breath of holiness to bring peace amidst the chaos. Send your spirit to comfort the loss. And send your servants to repair the broken. You are good and faithful.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Be Sober

I'm sure there's plenty of folks who are also thinking "be sober", especially after some pretty rowdy New Year's parties.

But that's not what I mean at all.

When I completed Pick Five, a spiritual exercise in simplicity, people would ask me what it is that I gained. It was hard to put my finger on it exactly, but it felt like sobriety. It felt like, in life, I had been drunk, fuzzy. And now I was seeing clearly the charade that had once been so entertaining. I saw the man behind the curtain. Things were... just clearer.

This is not an enviable position. It makes you the official party pooper. It causes anguish in your mind. It makes you fight with God (in vain) over the details.

But it didn't stop then. EVERY time I sit down and am still in the silence of the Lord, and I give him my attention, I hear it again. "Be sober."

The letters are full of this warning -- especially the Ts: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 Thessalonians. And most prominently 1 Peter.

"But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be sober and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins.' Be hospitable to one another without grumbling." 1 Peter 4:7-9

Sobriety in the bible carries the meaning of calmness, clarity of mind, and above all, watchfulness. In fact, the Greek word νήφω (nepho), appears in the New Testament six times. Twice as the word "watchful", and four times as the word "sober". Of the four "sober" verses, three of them also contain the word "watchful" in close proximity.

There are plenty of things in this world to which we can lose our sobriety. There are distractions beyond compare in the west. In fact, our distractions have become the norm. Prayer and time in the Word have become distractions to our otherwise busy life.

But the time for sobriety is at hand.

We cannot afford to drink the nectar of the gods any more. We cannot bow (read: sit on our couches) to the idols that pervade the world in which we live. We cannot cloud our minds and our vision with meaningless fodder. The party, my friends, is over. It's time to sober up.

I am the worst offender. I'll admit. But no matter how much I desire to see the ending season of Lost, or the next American Idol (um, hello?), or Jack Bauer take on New York City, I cannot get it out of my mind that I won't be able to afford the consequences. This is time that I won't give to God, but I'll give to the god of Hollywood.

And these are the details about which I fight with God. But I want to, I tell God. I mean, really? When sobriety strikes, it's easy to see these things as meaningless. Vanity. Wasteful. Ugh.

But let me tell you something. It really isn't a big price to pay to let them go. In fact, it's freedom.

No, really.

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 5:8-11

Lord, it is so stupid of me to think that I need the things of this world. You have given me eyes to see and ears to hear. Help me not to waste them on meaningless things. Help me to be watchful, and sober. That I might hear you and see you clearly.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Discipleship and Discipline

So, it's the first day of a New Year. And it's a fresh start. We've all got the "Starting Monday" syndrome, which is to say that we've suddenly taken on the desire to do more, be more, mean more. We've denied all our weaknesses, forgotten all our shortcomings, and are filled with hope and surety for a new direction.

When Jesus chose his disciples, it was a fresh start for them, too. Jesus was a rabbi, and he took on disciples just as any rabbi would. Except His method of choosing was, well, unconventional at best. Most rabbis chose their disciples according to the pupil's religious fervor, or purity, or dedication to the teachings of the Torah. But Jesus chose those who didn't even know they wanted to be a rabbi's disciple. He simply said, "Follow me." And they did.

But the story doesn't end there. Read through the gospels. Dang, did those disciples mess stuff up. If they had the illusion of a new life free from mistakes and dedicated to perfection, they would have banged their heads against walls for a good three or four chapters.

But the "follow me" part of their journey is what kept them going. Discipleship isn't perfection, it's growth. It is following Jesus' teaching, and dealing with consequences when we mess up. It's asking for forgiveness, and continuing to sit at His feet.

One of my Facebook "friends" (for what that's worth) spoke of his new positivity. He said he woke up on this first morning of 2010 singing a new song -- literally. He walked over to the mirror to perform his morning groom, and realized he was singing. He said that this year, he'll be "a whole new me". That's great, and I hope his year is filled with joy, but it's important to remember that the positively-charged "Starting Monday" syndrome is temporary. After all the talk of resolutions, and new beginnings, we've got to put one foot in front of the other. We've got to actually live life, and deal with unpleasant people and situations. We've got to love our neighbor and try to promote justice.

Being a disciple of Jesus is a clean slate. Don't get me wrong. But it's a clean slate that requires discipline, and forgiveness. It's asking for a clean slate every morning, not just once a year. And it's following Him daily, but never actually arriving. It's a process.

So, as I make my resolutions for the year, instead of doing my normal thing -- deciding what I'm going to do, what I'm going to be better at -- I'll ask Him what He would have me do, and I'll ask Him to make me better for His kingdom's sake. I realize that asking for God's discipline is a dangerous thing. But I also know it will make me a better disciple.

God, allow me the privilege to sit at Your feet, that I might learn more. Allow me also the privilege to get up and walk in Your footsteps, so that the work might be done.