Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Steerage and the Lamp

God’ll make it right when everything gets going wrong,
and we’ll wait on him in the morning, wait on the lawn.
We’ll dance on the lawn when it’s green and growing back
from a winter of tears and of breaking my back.
And you healed me one night when I laid and cried;
I reached out for your arm, caught your eye.

 The Grass After Winter - from one of my favorite songs by Zach Winters. 

I just love how he writes, "we'll dance on the lawn when it's green and growing back from a winter of tears and breaking my back."

that is a picture of my life, what should be a restful pasture is a crunchy brown smear of pitiful grass, soaked with my tears. Did you know that when sheep are left to their own devices, that is, without the guidance of a loving and watchful shepherd, they will eat the same grass over and over again until it is a muddy swamp and they are literally making themselves sick? They need a shepherd to move them from the muddy places they have destroyed with their incessant habitual eating. They don't know how or won't move on their own. They die there without a shepherd. 

I need a shepherd. I need a shepherd so badly. 

Transparency is hard. It's so much easier to hide. it's so much easier to pretend like I've got it all together, to tell myself that I've got it, when I really don't have it all together. I look at my finances, at my every day life, at my ridiculous defenses that say if I just meet every expectation and nothing else, I can't fail. someone can't point to me and say, you're not contributing enough - get out. It paralyzes me from being brave. It paralyzes me from growth and initiative and creativity and all of the things that bring glory to God. instead, following all the rules - whether someone told them to me or I made them up for myself - makes me safe and brings me glory because I did everything right. and I die there. I just die there. 

I've been feeling convicted lately about hiding my real convictions and going along with the flow. I've heard from many, many Sojourners that Brandon Barker called many of us out of hiding with grace on sunday, and I'm so excited to actually listen to it. But I wasn't even there on Sunday and I feel the conviction. Some part of me has been preaching to myself that I am a sellout, that I go along with things knowing they will eventually bother me when I am willing to pay attention to why, and it's so not true. Another part is trying to bring glory to myself in all things. Taking credit where I have no right. Another part slaps a smile and a shallow conversation on my outsides and just walks through life. Like those 80s movies with Anthony Michael Hall asleep in class with his sunglasses on, making it look like he's there, and he's not. Totally owning it. 

and then those lyrics up there take a hopeful swerve. right? we reach out and we're actually surprised He is there. We cry and lay down in defeat and He heals. Because that's who He is - he's a good Father. and He is devastated with love for us. He sees right through the mess, the tears and the broken backs from carrying all that junk around. And He calls me out of this darkness and into light. He calls me daughter. He takes me back to the promised land, to the places where my wild heart is captured by the mercy and grace of His love. He takes me to the green pastures and the still waters and He says, nowhere you can see or point to I don't have power over. 

Who is this person, who even the winds and sea obeys? (Matthew 8:27)

So, a few weeks ago, our parish took the time and challenge to write our own psalms. and to be honest, I did NOT want to write this psalm that I wrote that wrecked me beautifully in the end (because that is sometimes how Jesus works) I mean, I spend a significant chunk of my life writing - I write for a paycheck, I write a blog when I have too many thoughts, I write for extra money for freelance projects, I even regularly write (or blog) to process my own thoughts and heart. It's what I do. Writing is not hard for me. 

Confronting things I don't want to confront is hard for me. Going before God and saying, I'm not okay and I need help is hard. for. me. 

So I waited until the last minute to write it. Literally. I wrote it two days before I had to read it aloud to my parish, people who are like my second family and probably see me more clearly than I would like. I chalked it up initially to "writer's block" (okay) and said I would read it on the THIRD week we read psalms. Seriously. I was majorly hiding from this. 

I actually started out trying to write this in a coffeeshop, got absolutely nowhere, ripped it up, went home and laid in the bathtub for an hour sulking.

And finally I owned up to this whole thing: I do not feel this. I don't like it, I don't want to, I'm not sure God is listening, I'm a mess, He doesn't want me like this, I am not worthy, I CAN'T. 

and that was the place I started, faking it, and made myself write. I turned on Balmorhea (check em out if you don't know them or if you like Explosions in the Sky.) and by the time 30 minutes had passed, I am not ashamed to admit I was crying too hard to see my computer screen. The words just flowed out. Jesus met me in a very sacred place - that place that I thought I couldn't go because I wasn't good enough to be there with him. It was literally the most comforting, vulnerable, beautiful worship. and I was writing. but when writing becomes worship for me, I don't even realize I am writing. It just happens. 

By the way, the song I stuck on repeat after a while by Balmorhea was so divinely and aptly named "Steerage and the Lamp." ha. The slave in steerage, a slave to her own pride and stubborness and desire to stay in the dark and avoid things forever is confronted with, gently approached by, the Lamp - a kind and warm light that is freedom and mercy and grace and love. 

and so I read it and you know, for someone who is absolutely (like heart pounding, palm sweating) anxious about speaking in front of my parish, my voice didn't shake. I read it and it was real and it was true and I knew it. All the glory goes to God for that one. 

And now, in another uncharacteristic move, I'm putting it on here. Not so you can read it and think, man she has a gift with words. Nope. This is transparency living in freedom and in light. This is the glory of a King who RESCUES. This is a reminder to everyone who reads it that this is possible for every believer, every person on earth who sees a burning bush, a whole world aflame with the glory and goodness of God and chooses to take off their shoes and worship. 

this is a reminder to myself that I never, ever stop needing God. 

so. here ya go. 

Psalm 928 - Steerage and the Lamp 

It’s late afternoon. the wind picks up as sunlight filters through the spaces between the leaves. I am sitting under my favorite ancient tree, in a quiet space - this is literally and metaphorically - i am away from the noise of my life 

but i’m also away from the noise of my mind. 

I close my eyes. I know You are here. You meet me here. You meet me here when I ask You to. You meet me here when I try to hide from You. the pages flip and the sun warms my shoulders and I feel the wind pick up as I read…

who redeems me from this pit? 

who brings me out of my self imposed darkness? 

who takes off the thick cloak of shame draped around my shoulders? 

who crowns me with steadfast love and mercy? 

who satisfies me with good, putting a salve of grace over my eyes? 

who teaches me to spend my treasure not on the bread that doesn’t satisfy, but the riches of knowing who you are? 

who makes me lie down in green grasses, swaying with every breath you breathe out, next to still waters you have calmed with your voice? 

I stop for a moment, listening to the rustle of the wind in the leaves

I think it might be your voice. reminding me of these things. refining me. teaching me. 

just being with me. you are a KING, and yet you come to this place. to me. to be with me. 

my heart feels like it is about to beat out my chest. i sit very still, and in my mind I can see you, a gentle kindness in your eyes as you take off my heavy boots, putting my hand in yours. 

I protest.

But I am weak, I am so weak. I am small. I am not worthy. my heart is black with my sin. I see myself clearly for who I am, wrecked with sin, devastated by it, and I am humiliated. I am ashamed. I can’t stand for the weight of it. 

the only thing I can do is fall on my knees, my head bowed before you. 

but. amidst that…..still…..in loving-kindness, el Shaddai, Adonai, Abba, El Roi - the God who sees - has made me, knit me in my mother's womb, known me before time began as well as He knows every star in the sky. HE is not too busy to notice what a tiny sparrow is doing in His kingdom. 

I can talk to you. I can approach the throne you are sitting on boldly. you are here with me. you are here. with me. me. 

you are the shepherd who comes after me, a lost and panicking sheep. 

you are the father who takes me, his weeping daughter, into his arms. 

you are the father who welcomes me home when I have been so far away. when I have been running. trying to fix myself and the mess I’ve made by myself. and failing miserably at it. 

you are the bridegroom awaiting his bride, dressed in the affirmation, grace and confidence you have put in me. 

and you say to me, I am your shepherd, I am your father, i am your bridegroom. you do not have to want for anything. when your enemies confront you, I will stand in your place. when you walk through the deepest valley of anxiety and despair, i will never leave you. I have never left you. 

I am here, and you will not want for anything. 

when you ask for me to be here, I am here. When you cry out to me, I am here. When you lay all of these things at my feet, you don’t have to pick them back up. this is where you find rest. you can put down your protective defenses. 

and still, I protest.

sometimes the darkness is so thick I cannot see at all. but then you tell me to reach out my hands. I hesitate, I’m not sure. but when I finally do, I feel you there. and when it seems like I cannot take another step in blindness, you hold out a lantern, flickering in the night. you are the one who turns my darkness into light. Jesus I am so thankful. This time I fall to my face in gratefulness for who you are. midnight to dawn, minute after minute which turns to year after year, you are the same. you are so good. you are so good. you are more good than i can write. 

and so I take a deep breath. and I open my eyes. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices!

I read this once and I saved it as a draft and never published it. But, although it's not Christmas, as the season begins to turn, I feel my heart longing for something, and althought I'm not always exactly sure of what it is, but I get glimpses of it and little hints. The more I listen, the more I sit in quiet posture at the feet of Jesus, I understand Him more. I know Him more. And so, I love Him more.

"And as I thought about this tension, about the wide gap between what is and what we feel ought to be, I thought of how I learned that Advent is not just remembering how the world waited for the coming of the Messiah, but how we still wait for His coming. It is a time to embrace the ache of our lovesick hearts, to rejoice in our hunger pains, to survey the broken mess of our world and know that, because God fully entered into it, He will also fully redeem it.

As we sit in our suffering and know that the God of the universe decides to sit with us in it, we have a truth that is weighty enough to answer our heavy hearts, our loneliness and disillusionment that are intensified during the holidays. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that while God wants us happy as little children, it is the grown-up knowledge of God’s desire to always be with us, the fact that “we are no longer homeless; a bit of the eternal home itself has moved unto us,” that brings true joy. “Therefore we adults can rejoice deeply within our hearts under the Christmas tree,” he said, “perhaps much more than the children are able. We know that God’s goodness will once again draw near.”

Indeed, it is now that I am an adult with a broken and aching heart, but also with a storehouse of memories of His goodness, that I feel a shiver of joy as I sing, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”

I don't have very far to drive to work anymore, but I do have a bit of time in the mornings devoted to driving and it's a good time for me to think. I was thinking this morning about a few things, but I started on a trail about comparison....for me, comparison is such a thief of joy. It's such a distracting activity that preoccupies me that leaves me feeling more empty than I thought. and then I remembered from C.S. Lewis's "The Horse and His Boy" about when Aslan is talking to Shasta I think and he reminds him, "Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but their own." When I remember this, that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, because he put me there, for a reason, and not only that the reason is just because He loves me and that He is good....it's easier to be content. it's easier to set aside comparison and frustration and restlessness.

We were talking the other day about books and movies that have deeply resonated with our Christian identities. There's something so childlike and moving to me about Aslan - I also read somewhere that C.S. Lewis is explicit in his parallels to the gospel, in contrast to Tolkien who is implicit. I love that the Chronicles of Narnia start in the regular, normal world, full of brokenness, sin, darkness, and hopelessness that sometimes befalls humans and takes me to a world where Jesus is known and revered, where stories about him are passed along with knowing smiles and quiet understanding. where mercy and goodness reign... and then plants me back in my regular world with a completely different perspective of it. I do love Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, but I think I love Narnia more for this reason.

“It isn't Narnia, you know," sobbed Lucy. "It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?"
"But you shall meet me, dear one," said Aslan.
"Are -are you there too, Sir?" said Edmund.
"I am," said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” 

Some other books on my list were The Great Divorce (my favorite part is the processional with the shining lady, surrounded by children she had loved and animals she had shown kindness to, following her like a cape behind her) These Strange Ashes, and Redeeming Love. I'm working on Hinds Feet on High Places and Go Set a Watchman right now. those may very well end up on my list as well. I'm also reading Scary Close (so so good. totally a different post.) I have a habit of reading multiple books at once, which is fine if I have a lot of time. but that's not often. It's frustrating to me that while I love school and I loved college, the amount of incredibly dense reading I had to do then means I now do not read as much as I used to. I've heard this theory from several adults. For me, it takes discipline to read for pleasure. but then I also think about how it takes discipline in general for me to focus (or not) on certain things, or to teach myself to fill my free time with things that challenge me and push me to Jesus, instead of "mindless rest" (netflix, social media, etc.) I'd probably be a lot more satisfied if I didn't turn to those things when I have free time, because they are hiding more than they are resting, but that's part of the struggle Paul talks about - that I do what I don't want to do and I don't do what I do want to do. In a way, reading, even if it's not necessarily spiritual, helps me refocus my desires and intentions.

this is a really random mix of thoughts today....catching up on all my drafts. (;

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Every bitter thing is sweet.

This is not an easy post to write. Not because it is hard to write, because it has never been hard to write. Not because it is hard to see truth. Because truth has never been so evident to me. 

No, it is hard because sometimes I do not believe God. I do not believe, maybe in my heart but not in my mind, that He is who He says He is. and when I do not believe God, I cannot let that fundamental, vital, life-giving lens be the things I see all other things with. And so seasons like this become hard. dark. bitter. 

I am once again the girl-in-the-city, the girl I started my first year in Houston as, in my first weeks. The one without a job. The one without a clear vision for why I was here. I'm her again - jobless. confused. completely frustrated with automatic emails to job applications. (but seriously.) 

It's not someone I wanted to be again. 

I had given so much - straining against a workload too big for me, in a job I hadn't grown into yet, in a field and an industry I felt like I waded through with effort. And then one afternoon, it was done. I find often, so often that I am not exactly surprised anymore, that Jesus is graciously swift in dealing with me. Like He decides to make things crystal clear - either by His grace, or because I do not listen to Him close enough the first time. Maybe both. Either way, He closes the door neatly and pries my fingers off the doorknob, gently and with kindness, asking me to trust Him. 

But that's not what this post is about. I've had a lot of jobs. I've left jobs and I've lost jobs. This post is not about jobs. This post isn't even about what I'm going next. (nevermind that I don't know yet.) 

This post is about how every.bitter.thing.is.sweet. This post is about sanctification. About giving all, trusting all, believing all. This post is about eternal perspective. This post is about the sweetness of the knowing and loving Christ.  

Here's what Sara Hagerty writes in her book "Every Bitter Thing is Sweet": 

My figurative position of confidence before Him, as a daughter in whom He delighted, was one long exhalation of relief. I didn’t earn this position; I inherited it, and that made my safety all the more secure, no matter His response. The ability He gave me to ask started, first, with Him. From this angle, how could I not ask? Fear loses oxygen when every moment suspends itself under the purpose of bringing Him glory, of knowing His name and His nature. Sometimes, instead of leading us up and out of those very fears, big and small, He lets us live them. He gives us over to them. Because it’s in this giving over to our fears that we find the perfect love that frees us from them. Forever." 

To say I was terrified to go back to freelance and part-time and odd jobs and whatever else "losing your job" relegated me to was a major understatement. It's comfortable in my cubicle world.  And yet, I spent a significant amount of time at a job that frustrated me but yet bound me to it, afraid of what I might be without it, because it was something "I needed." After it was all gone, I found that I never needed it at all. Circumstance does not compose my identity. 

Fear is a bitter thing that becomes sweet. 

All the things I have been learning this past month have been so, so hard and yet so sweet. How is that possible that something incredibly hard could be so incredibly good? It is a mystery of God that I could spend my entire life figuring out. He is good. He is always good. He is always a good, good Father, providing for me and caring for me - as Psalm 23 reminds me, He is my shepherd and I shall not want. I will never want for anything, because He is everything. He makes me lie down in green pastures beside the still waters and it is there that He restores my soul. 

Oh, I still struggle with comparison and worry that turns into paralyzing anxiety, and I still pace about over finances. I still whine and cry about how surely He must have forgotten me, especially in the slowest moments that seem to drag on and on - how long must I wait for you, God? and kindly and gently, with what Catherine Marshall calls (the person of Christ when He comes to us) "warm hearted compassion and the light touch, yet unmistakable authority and kingliness, with a gentle humor in His eyes" - He reminds me that He does not change. He knows what He's doing. He created the earth, and orchestrated the rising and setting of the sun, which He's been doing since the beginning of time. He hasn't forgotten me - if I am a tiny sparrow in the kingdom of God, He is not too busy to take note of what I am doing. He knows every hair on my head just as well as He knows the stars in the sky. Elisabeth Elliott once wrote, "in our darkness, we suppose He has overlooked us. But He hasn't. It is God to whom and with whom we travel, and while He is at the end of our journey, He is also at every stopping place." 

I feel forgotten, a bitter feeling, and that becomes sweet when I realize it could not be true in the presence of a King. 

Yes, life as I know it sometimes feels like a big old mess. And yet....

"My mess wouldn’t forever be a curse. One day it would be my crown. One day it would tell the story that, yes, He is good . . . to me.” (Sara Hagerty, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet) 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Of clouds and hilltops

another installment in "things not written by me thursdays." 

"Faith by it’s very nature must be tested and tried. and the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character must be proven as trustworthy in our own minds. Faith, as the Bible teaches it, is faith in God coming against everything that contradicts Him - a faith that says, "I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do." The highest and greatest expression of faith in the whole Bible is - "though He may slay me, yet I will trust Him" [Job 13:15].
The Lord does not give me rules; He makes His standard very clear & if my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says without any hesitation. If I hesitate, it is because I love someone else in competition with Him (usually myself).

In the Bible, clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith. “The clouds are the dust of His feet” (Nahum 1:3). They are a sign that God is there. What a revelation it is to know that sorrow, bereavement, and suffering are actually the clouds that come along with God! God cannot come near us without clouds— He does not come in clear-shining brightness.

It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials. Through every cloud He brings our way, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child— a relationship simply between God and our own souls, and where other people are but shadows. Until other people become shadows to us, clouds and darkness will be ours every once in a while. Is our relationship with God becoming more simple than it has ever been?

There is a connection between the strange providential circumstances allowed by God and what we know of Him, and we have to learn to interpret the mysteries of life in the light of our knowledge of God. Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him.

[Oswald Chambers, selected passages from My Utmost for His Highest]

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What I've learned from middle schoolers about eternal perspectives

I'll admit here that I'm not exactly the first person you would call "silly" - I think (although some have disputed this) of myself as a person who isn't naturally a kid person. I've always been serious and my family gently teases me that I am the person who people ask to take care of their dogs and my sister takes care of their children. Not because I lack the skills, I just sometimes like to babysit things that I don't have to make conversation with. (which is such a strange statement because kids don't need conversation. they want silliness. but I'm not silly. so you see the problem.)

I've never been the camp counselor, or the teacher, or the babysitter. I am a bit more reserved and quiet, but also way conscious of how other people see me.

More than that, I also process things in my head - I get so deeply rooted in my thoughts that sometimes it's hard for me to speak up and say something.

And I say all this, knowing full well the perspective of myself I've lugged around for years - the perspective that I am not enough. That I missed something somehow. That no one would hear me anyways. And then that translates to - I'm not good enough. the value of things is lost in that fog.

The Lord doesn't hear me. 

and of course, this is all completely untrue. and yet, it follows me around. It keeps me continually catching myself in moments of genuinity, thinking, "did anyone see that?"

so for a long time, most of my life actually, I've sat in quiet reflection before Jesus asking Him to use me just as I am. and He did. He has. He is not too busy to notice what the tiniest sparrow is doing in His Kingdom. My (not related but might as well be) best friend is still my best friend from high school after close to 10 years of friendship. We talk one on one over the phone or over tea and sandwiches at Starbucks and we challenge each other. We look for ways to grow authenticity and accountability in each other. We met during leadership meetings for Students for Jesus when we were 16. it was a small setting and a small group that blessed me so much. but it was small. I still find myself with small groups of quality friends - but I'm not the person with a huge social circle. As Kathleen Kelly described it, I lead a small life. It's quiet but it is rich.

I thrive in settings like the Christian club in high school or Truth Christian Fellowship in college. I love having girls come to my house for intentionally gospel perspective and conversation and coffee and brunch on saturdays. I like cooking and inviting a girlfriend for dinner. I get to the heart of things when the only thing between me and truth and Jesus is an honest friend and a cup of tea.

I had a small group in college, which I led after I left a HUGE ministry and joined a much smaller ministry. I remember interviewing for leadership and knowing, this is exactly where I am supposed to be. It just worked. I followed Jesus where He led me and He used my personality to build the kingdom and sow seeds and I am so grateful for that when I look back on it.

and then I moved to Houston. and in case you didn't know, Houston is an enormously large city. I was a tiny guppy in an ocean of whales. that actually might be an understatement. and yet, I walked into my apartment in Montrose, I drove down Westheimer and wandered the side streets of the museum district and I fell in love with it. this was exactly where I was supposed to be. so again, I followed Jesus where he led me and He used me again, just like I knew He would.

then in February, He asked me to do something totally new. Which brings me to the point of this post: I recently joined the Heights Young Life chapter to volunteer as a leader with Wyldlife. Young Life and Wyldlife is all about hanging out with kids in high school and middle school, getting to know them, earning their friendship and showing them Jesus. it's so simple and so far, it's been the most enjoyable surprise challenge Jesus has ever asked of me. Middle school kid language is silly. high energy, running around, line dancing, crazy dancing, games where they end up laughing so hard they are literally laying on the floor......this is their language. It's completely foreign to me but I have had so much fun. It's teaching me discipline and patience and faithfulness to face each situation asking "what is the eternal perspective here?" does it matter how I feel or what I look like, or does it matter that they see Jesus in me in a way they can understand?

I chose Wyldlife specifically because I remember how difficult middle school was for me....On top of being the new girl in a state halfway across the country from what I still felt like was "home" - I was also an awkward preteen who felt things incredibly deeply. every preteen experience felt magnified and I remember it well. Although they are way embarrassing, I totally love that I have journals more than a decade old that show me just where and when I learned who Jesus was - in my head, the clearest picture of myself as "fearfully and wonderfully made" was from a time in my life when I was too tall, too awkward, full of braces and acne and desperately trying to make friends in a new town and a new state and in the face of all the cliques of middle school. how cool is that contrast?! I didn't know much theology, but I understood running to Jesus when He was the only thing that made sense. I remember that navigating those years is confusing and difficult and I want so much for the middle school girls I hang out with in Wyldlife to have that experience - the simple truth of the gospel and the unforgettable love and grace and acceptance of loving and trusting Jesus with childlike faith. They say in YL, "you were made for this." This is where they come to that understanding that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

and as I take a deep breath and squash down those old doubts with new strength I didn't know I had, my perspective is reshaped. Eternity is going to be full of laughter and joy and it won't matter how I see myself. Jesus sees me and He has put laughter and kindness on my lips, He has clothed me with a righteousness that He sewed Himself with grace and I hear him say, "this is exactly where you are supposed to be. you are my daughter, and I see you. keep going. be brave." 

Friday, January 2, 2015

counting the cost

first, it's 2015! happy new year! for me this means I get a fresh calendar and a new notebook and a pen that isn't running out of ink and in general, a do-over. a new leaf. a fresh perspective. it's good for my writing and it's good for my soul. 

secondly, with all of this in the front of my mind, I've been thinking about how most of the past year, I've spent writing and thinking and at times, sort of pushing myself towards the idea of being brave. it was my year's "phrase" - but as 2014 came to a close, it didn't feel finished yet. I wasn't quite ready to let go of it and I wasn't sure why until I read an article this morning, shared by a former favorite teacher - although I remember him as more than just a beloved teacher. he was an academic coach through four years of UIL (during which we responded with 4 back to back district championships under his guidance) and several other years of Students For Jesus, including my leadership during my senior year. 

Needless to say, when he posts something, I can trust that it will probably be thoughtful and faithful and perhaps challenging, and I might want to respond with an essay (ahem, blog post.) like so many of his in-class discussions prompted for the night's homework.the original article is here, but the gist of it is that we are not prepared to count the costs for what we say we desire. While this article was posted by an author with a masters in Theological Studies, and a faithful Christ-follower, the actual text of the article wasn't so explicitly gospel centered - it mostly developed around a thoughtful conviction to reexamine why we do the things we do and why we want the things we want, and how far we are willing to go to reconcile our lives and our desires when they don't match up. It's worth noting that the author is working on his phD in a thesis program involving technology and culture. so a lot of the discussion here is: here's something wrong/bad/immoral/fill in the blank with any number of good or bad things that has been brought to light by the use and permeation of technology in our world as we know it today. 

But what I like most about this blog is that it takes it far beyond the discussion of whether technology is good or bad and whether it ultimately has helped or irrevocably disabled society. no, the discussion goes straight to the heart of things. read from this excerpt: "I once heard David Kline tell of Protestant tourists sight-seeing in an Amish area. An Amishman is brought on the bus and asked how Amish differ from other Christians. First, he explained similarities: all had DNA, wear clothes (even if in different styles), and like to eat good food.Then the Amishman asked: “How many of you have a TV?”Most, if not all, the passengers raised their hands.“How many of you believe your children would be better off without TV?”Most, if not all, the passengers raised their hands.“How many of you, knowing this, will get rid of your TV when you go home?”No hands were raised.“That’s the difference between the Amish and others,” the man concluded." 

I love that. It's so simple and yet it's so convicting. the point he's making here is about counting the cost of things. How often do I realize that something I am doing or desiring has a consequence (as everything does) but continue to do it or want it even after I subconsciously come to the conclusion that perhaps a different direction would be better? I even think about my blog here, the very one I am writing - yes, it sounds great on paper, but in the moment, faced with this or this - whatever it may be - do I say I want the noble and good thing but desire the less noble and less good thing more? Luke (6:45) gently reminds - "from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." this is the crux, the heart of the issue. Why are we doing the things we are doing, and more importantly, who are we doing them for? 

there's another part that I really like, a paragraph quoted from sociologist James Hunter’s book "about varying approaches to moral education in American schools. 

“We say we want the renewal of character in our day,” Hunter writes,“but we do not really know what to ask for. To have a renewal of character is to have a renewal of a creedal order that constrains, limits, binds, obligates, and compels. This price is too high for us to pay. We want character without conviction; we want strong morality but without the emotional burden of guilt or shame; we want virtue but without particular moral justifications that invariably offend; we want good without having to name evil; we want decency without the authority to insist upon it; we want moral community without any limitations to personal freedom. In short, we want what we cannot possibly have on the terms that we want it.”

This is where, as I was reading, I started to read with gospel fluency. No, this article isn't specifically directed towards Christians and their walks with Jesus. but I read it that way and I started to see some real truth formulating for this year. It's more than intention here, you see - it's about first taking real time to think honestly about what the sacrifice of living a gospel fluent life looks like, really. and then, from that place, going forward, letting it color my words and my actions and my choices, and remembering that this thing I am doing? It's not easy. It's not supposed to be. there is a cost that comes with laying down my life for Christ. that perspective changes everything. and being brave? well, you know, it might be more than just being so. 

but once I have counted the cost - and seen, more clearly than I did before, that a far greater cost has already been counted and paid willingly and lovingly - the value (different than the cost) is nonignorable. Just because it isn't easy doesn't mean it isn't thrilling and hopeful and uncomfortable and unnatural and healing and so incredibly worth doing that the realization often leaves me breathless and speechless. 

I like the way the article ended, so I'm going to end this in a similar style - without a neat resolution wrapped up in brown paper and tied with string, without a joyful call to action. Nope, just going to let these words sit here for a while - to "simmer," as an editor once instructed. With the old year quietly falling behind a new year, it's my inherent penchant to drift towards how this new year might be lived better than the last (I like resolutions and journaling and all of that, I can't change this about myself (: ). what it might hold, I can't say. but what it will require of me, I want to be ready for that. I like the way a Chi Alpha pastor once said it:  “I can easily choose to hold my breath for the next break or event on the calendar but I don’t want to be rescued from something externally for something I lack internally.”