Monday, September 30, 2013

Quick Reflections: James Week One Day Two

A note from my Bible study (I'm revisiting James:  Mercy Triumphs.  It's a study I never finished, but I sense the timeliness of it in my life now.  I'm making an honest effort to get into the Word daily.):

"The power of the resurrection trumps the power of the past if we're willing to let it...When, like a laser, the call of Christ sears a hole through your self-protectiveness, you go wherever He leads whether or not you feel like you fit" (Moore 21).

I wonder if I've spent too long asking God to put someone in a leadership position who is willing to push boundaries and challenge mediocrity when He's continually asking me to do that very thing.  I'm not a fan of leadership, because, like John Proctor in The Crucible, "God knows how black my sins are."  Those positions should be relegated to those who don't taint Christianity any more than it already has been throughout history.

But my heart...My heart keeps asking for something more than showing up, reciting and declaring.  How much am I really living my supposed ideals?  Moore, anticipating James' thoughts after Peter's imprisonment, states, "We may lose our heads, but we cannot lose our souls.  The stakes are up.  The fire is lit.  It's time to live like those who cannot die.  Welcome to the lives of those called Christians" (22--emphasis, Moore).  Those thoughts?  They make me wonder where my life is reflecting these ideals.

Monday, September 23, 2013

When Enough is Enough

It's been a weird year.  So many good things have happened.  So many weird things have happened.  And many of them continue to culminate in the same thought for me:  oversharing.

This blog has been a public place--one I've been proud to update regularly in the hope I was encouraging others.  But the fact of the matter is I've become uncomfortable with the questions that surround social media.  How much should I share?  What should I share?  How safe are my pictures/thoughts?

Recent events (and a two week old conversation with BigBro) have lead me to one obvious conclusion:  I am no longer comfortable with the public nature of this blog. 

In a week, I intend to make this space private.  I am not against sharing with readers (mostly those I know, but also those for whom I've developed a great affinity--Pissed and Mindee in particular.  But there are more of you to consider).  Those who are interested will be required to email me so I can add their email addresses to a "safe" list.

This isn't a decision I've taken lightly or one I've made overnight.  Writing is a cathartic process for me, and I've been glad to encourage readers along the way.  It occurs to me, however, I've been willing to limit the people with whom I interact personally.  Why would I not embrace privacy with my own words?

Thank you for reading for the last few years.  It's been a ride.  I've been so thankful for the comments, encouragement and prayers along the way.  I covet them now.  But I also appreciate your understanding for this decision.

Sometimes, it's just time to say enough.

Friday, September 13, 2013

On Prayer: Asking the Questions

I've attended various versions of buy-from-home parties where I have increased my clothing accessories, slapped my monogram on various items and outfitted my kitchen for the culinary apocalypse.  Without fail, these sales ladies have employed one tactic to generate interest in their professional pursuits:  The Question Game.

I love the question game because I am essentially a four-year-old masquerading as a thirty-something woman.  I win every.single.time, and have a variety of spoils to show for my efforts. 

Really, though, it's not a skill I developed for those parties.  I just have a lot of questions. So when a pastor at my church starting asking congregants for questions about prayer, I thought, "The man has no idea what sort of Pandora's box he has opened." 

For me, prayer is a compulsory enigma.  I need it, but I understand very little about it.  For instance, does prayer change my heart?  Or does it change God's?  If the latter is true, under what conditions will God change His mind or is this a matter of waiting for the right time?  David interceded for his son, but that child was still lost due to sin.  But Abraham prayed on Lot's behalf and was granted his request (after what appears to be several rounds of negotiating) with no mention of sin or lack thereof in Lot's life. 

When, if ever, should I accept a "no" from God in prayer?  Do I continue to intercede for that want/need or do I call it a day and let it go?  We only see one instance of Jesus praying for his cup to pass while still relinquishing himself to God's will.  I wonder, though, if this wasn't the prayer of His life. 

But more than anything, I wonder why we seem to ignore the prayers of lament.

Throughout the Bible, I see examples of people simply crying out to God.  They aren't declaring how great He is.  They aren't asking for miracles or daily bread or even His kingdom.  They just want to know why.  Why do things happen when You are capable of stopping them.  Why is there so much grievous injury when you could heal it?  Why are there unfulfilled needs and empty pews and lifeless people?  Why, Lord?

Why do we as a church feel the need to answer these prayers?  To give a reason for God's permissiveness or His (seeming) lack of movement in some of these situations?  Why don't we allow him to be questioned in a way that really allows Him to be God?

To relegate these sorts of prayers to the closets of the individuals who pray them seems calloused and a far-reaching lack of knowledge about the types of prayer that exist in our own scripture.

Last year, I read Nichole Nordeman's book, Love Story.  In early July, before I even knew miracles could happen to me, I found myself stuck on the chapter about Job.  I was mesmerized that congregations could gather to collectively ask "Why, God?" without inserting the often expected "but." 

This form of crying out wasn't revolutionary to me.  I had done it in my living room.  On my bedroom floor.  In my bathtub.  In waiting rooms.  Exam rooms.  Classrooms.  On church pews and park benches.  Lament is what I did.  For a while, I'd venture to say it's who I was.

Maybe these types of prayers are meant to break our hearts open before the only One who really can deal with the unanswered questions.  I don't really know.  The only thing I really understood was the process of crying out.

What do these prayers demand of us?  What do they require of God?  What do they do for our hearts?  Or our relationship?  And my biggest question:  why don't we do more of it?  If these are the things modeled in scripture, the real-life scenarios we're facing, why don't we participate?

I wish I knew. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Emerson, Care and General Action

Favorite keeps asking me when I plan to post again (or if I ever plan to post Ryan's 5 month update).  Truthfully, I never intended to stop posting; it was just the natural consequence of several recent occurrences. 

But like Emma Stone will tell you, literature has a way of working itself into the crevices of daily life.  (Or she said something like that in Easy A--taking exception to Huckleberry Finn.  And honestly?  Who could blame her.  It's the one piece of literature I've purposely avoided in my classroom.)  So thirty-five Transcendental speeches later, I'm here to tell you that Ralph Waldo Emerson was on to something when he said, "What I must do is all that concerns me, not what people think."

Approximately thirty of my thirty-five juniors disagreed.  Most believed it necessary to acknowledge the thoughts and feelings of others.  And while I don't necessarily disagree with my students' assessments, I can say I'm not sure Emerson was advocating disregard for every person's feelings at all times.  Instead, his subsequent thoughts indicate his belief in making decisions for one's self instead of allowing the majority to rule:  "This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."

Maintaining a sense of perfect sweetness is a great deal harder when people continually try their cases in the court of public opinion--usually because public opinion requires a villain to vindicate the person claiming innocence.  To put it lightly, there's never a clear winner and there's almost always collateral damage.

I'm speaking from experience.  In the last few years, my reputation and the reputations of members of my family have been called into question because of one situation or another.  It didn't seem to matter if we had commented publicly on those situations.  (Mostly, we hadn't.)  Nor did past precedent play a part.  That statement is neither here nor there and you are welcome to completely disregard its validity.

Frankly, I just don't give a damn.  And that's the chair I've been sitting in for the last month or so.

Emerson's right.  All I must do is what concerns me, so here is a list of things that just don't concern me:

1.  Personal opinions about my general character:  Your thoughts are none of my business.  And you know what?  You are welcome to believe about me what you wish to believe.  Ardent belief can't turn a potato into a BMW.  Since I know that, believe away.

2.  General comments about Christian action on Facebook (or otherwise):  The most Godly people I know are doing their best to follow a Jesus they love.  It doesn't mean I always agree with their actions, but I certainly appreciate their sincere approach to the gospel of Christ.

3.  Gossip or slander about people I know or people I've never met:  Of course I have opinions.  But the past five years have been a wake-up call on the issue of personal comments about others.  Say what you need to say.  But don't expect a response.

I am not interested in defending myself.  In the past, I've always had a comment.  Always.  Largely, I think that's what is responsible for my silence about anything except for my son on the blogosphere.  Now, though?  I just don't care.  Think what you wish to think.  Disregard every part of what you've seen.  Believe absolutely everything you've heard.  Make up stuff if you want.


And you know what I've learned?

I'm lighter.  Less uptight.  A freer version of myself.

Maybe this is the last in a long line of lessons about confidence.

And maybe it's just the beginning.

More than likely, though, this space will change.  I feel less willing to share my personal thoughts these days.  I'm more protective of my internal workings.  I've felt embarrassed that I ever shared some of the things I did in such a public forum and even more red-faced to learn the number of people who read those thoughts.

But writing, especially public writing, is a process.  And I'm in the middle of the process--how it evolves, what it becomes and how that impacts my life.

So, where do I go from here?

I can tell you comfortably:  I have no idea.