To all my non-christian friends, I am sorry. . .

There are very few things that I believe are worth drawing a “line in the sand” for.  I believe in grace upon grace and I believe in margin for people to make up their own minds, space for people to have different opinions and that healthy debate can change the world for the better.  However, in light of recently voiced opinions and “manifestos,” here are a few things that I won’t waver on, a few things that I AFFIRM:

I AFFIRM that I am a sinner and I deserve to finish out this life and be gone forever (ie. Death) for the countless ways that I sin every single day.

I AFFIRM that the only way to change that and receive eternal life is through acceptance that Jesus, the son of God, came to die for me and for my sins.

I AFFIRM that Jesus doesn’t just want me to accept him, he wants a relationship with me, and through that PERSONAL relationship, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will convict me of my personal sins and guide me to a life lived more like he desires.

I AFFIRM that the path and journey that God has ME on is NOT THE SAME as everyone else’s.  The way that he will guide ME, convict ME, change ME, does not look the same as my husband, my neighbor, my kids, the man in the grocery store or on the other end of a telemarketing call, pretty much every one else in the world.  I’m not saying I’m special, my point here is that everyone’s path and journey with God looks different.

I DENY that a group of “leaders” can decide what additional items I or anyone else need to affirm or deny in order to be called a Christian.

I DENY that I or any human has all the answers to the mysteries of God and the bible or knows beyond question how to “live right” on this earth.

There are countless issues and stances out there today that we could spend a lifetime studying, arguing, debating, picking apart and agonizing over, but they aren’t issues of salvation.  And arguing, debating and throwing stones about some of these issues only drives people away from Jesus.  Away from the joy of knowing him, away the peace that only he can give, away from the love and acceptance that he provides, away from reaching out and receiving the gift of being saved.

I’ll be honest, that’s all I really care about most days:  saving people.   If someone is drowning, we don’t ask them to change their lives, admit to all the wrongs we think they’ve done, force them to believe everything it’s taken years of study and prayer for us to even somewhat understand, before we save them.  No, we throw them a rope or we swim out to them and we FREAKING SAVE THEM.

And later, after they are safe, we can talk about how we can avoid nearly drowning again in the future.  But chances are, they don’t really need us to tell them, because just being saved has changed something deep inside.

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus said: to love God with all your heart, soul and mind.  He told us the second commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus didn’t say, love God, and then go make sure everyone in the world feels judged.  Our job as Christians is to love.  It is someone else’s job altogether to convict people of the things God wants to change in their lives.

We, as believers, are told to be different from the world, to be set apart.  Be careful that you don’t confuse living what you believe is a spotless life as what is to be different from the world.  We aren’t different because we have it all figured out, we are different because we are supposed to live and love differently.  When people think of Christians, our goal is not for them to think of some standard I could never (and maybe never should, but that’s a different post) live up to.  Our goal should be that they think: wow, I may not believe what they do, but boy can they show love, do good, help people and make a positive difference.

It shouldn’t be, oh there is that group of people that is so fixated on one or two social, peripheral, non-salvation issues that they spent all their time speaking out against, writing manifestos or hypercritical tweets on that they forgot to tell me about that man that they believe saved them from certain death.

To all of my non-christian and Christian friends who have felt or feel judged, worthless, ignored and alienated by the Christian church, the “Christian Machine” or the “Christian Silent Majority,” I am so sorry.  I am deeply sorry if my personal silence on issues has hurt you or driven you away from exploring Christ.

Christianity is NOT supposed to be about finger pointing, judging, hierarchical, patronizing, misogynistic, self-righteous, fault-finding rebuking.

It is not supposed to be about legislative and regulative morality, because remember we have a whole Old Testament full of old laws and rules and limitations that was all about proving to us that we could try and try and try and NEVER be good enough on our own.

Christianity IS about love.

And love is patient and kind.

Love doesn’t give up.

Love doesn’t strut around with a big head.

Love doesn’t force itself and its beliefs on others.

Love doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, or keep a list of everything we’ve ever done wrong.

Love puts up with anything.

Love trusts God.

Love always looks for the best, never looks back

And Love never gives up.

 

I AFFIRM that without love, we are all bankrupt.

May there be more love out there today than yesterday. . .

Three thieves of joy

Some days I would give just about anything to be five again.  When joy was simple.  If I liked something and we got to do it, I was happy.  If I ate something and I liked it, I was happy.  If my mom gave me a hug or brought me home one of the silly decorative soaps in the shape of a heart or a duck, I was happy.  Life was simpler and joy was just an emotion that I went with, without overthinking it, missing it or twisting it into something else.

So why is it that joy as an adult is so much harder to find and hang onto? For me, I’ve discovered three joy thieves.  If I’m having a crappy day, I can almost always look back and see where I’ve let one of these three get in the way and steal my joy.  See if these hold true for you and what we might be able to do to protect ourselves:

  • Ridiculous expectations

When we spend our lives waiting for our children to skip in from school, with a backpack full of A+ papers and no spaghetti sauce stains on their clothes, we’re going to be disappointed when life looks a lot more like a whiny kid with crumpled papers, God knows what else in addition to spaghetti stains on their white polo shirt (why did I buy THAT??!) and monosyllables answers.

Reality doesn’t typically look like the Disney movie that we all grew up on.  Even if no one in your life was telling you that life was supposed to look like the happy ending to The Princess Bride, there is something inside all of us that thinks that unless things turn out the way exactly the way we planned, we did something wrong.

Being excited about and looking forward to something is fine, but the minute we close ourselves off to new possibilities or experiences because we have decided there is only way something can be for happiness to be achieved, that’s where we get into trouble.  Because life happens.  Right?

In hindsight, some of my absolute favorite memories are those where things went horribly wrong.  We took the bus an hour in the wrong direction in Italy and had to sprint through back alleys and up steep, steep steps, to make our non-refundable tour.  The car broke down and we were stranded at a smelly garage hours from home.  We overslept and missed appointments.  We argued. Someone got sick (again) and we had to stay home.  Our youngest left the house with no shoes (pants, shirt, underwear, you name it) and we didn’t notice until we got where we were going.

Those moments at times have been the source of fights and annoyances, but sometimes, we are smart enough to realize that some of these missed expectations are pretty funny.  And some of this stuff where things go nothing like they were planned are moments that we saw incredible growth in ourselves and in our kids.  Or we discovered that sometimes snuggle time with a sick kid is better than a fancy dinner out in uncomfortable shoes.  Because the things that matter in life aren’t perfect moments, they are the little, imperfect moments that add up to a story that no one else can have because it’s YOUR story.

Which leads me to number two:

  •  Constant Comparison

AKA: the I want that syndrome.  Now, maybe you’re more mature than I am, and maybe you say, “I don’t want to be anyone but me.”  Good for you! However, I’m willing to bet that every once in a while there is a “but” in there.  “I love my body, BUT wouldn’t it be great if I had long athletic legs like so and so” OR  “I love our house, BUT, have you seen the acreage that the smith’s got when they moved?” OR “my car is nice, but the new model has so many more bells and whistles.”

As women, we do this for literally anything and everything.  We compare ourselves and our accomplishments to other professionals, other moms, other wives, other women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, other strangers in the store, other everythings. And if we manage to stop ourselves from doing that, then we have to be careful to not get sucked into the marketing or the shiny object that promises a life just a little bit better than ours IF we go out and buy it.  Our family fell victim to this and it landed us in a boatload of debt with a boatload of things that really didn’t bring us joy the way we thought they would, but that’s a story for another day.

Galatians 6:4-5 “Each one should test their own actions.  Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else; for each one should carry their own load.”

Why would God give us all such unique interests, talents, shapes, sizes, desires, number of hairs on our heads, if all he wanted was a world full of copy-cats?

  • Out of control schedules

We were running late, yet again.  Not because we couldn’t get out the door on time, although that happens, but because we had committed to bringing dinner for the soccer team and I had a meeting that ended roughly 15 minutes before I was supposed to be at school with food 20 minutes away.

Each decision alone didn’t seem like too much, but I had over-committed us and we were just plain out of time.  These are the moments when I inevitably lose it and the voice of Shrek the Ogre comes out of my mouth, or the voice of some crazy person I don’t recognize, but who is in fact me, shrieks loudly for a kid to “sit down,” “stop bothering your sister” or “just shut your pie holes” while sitting in traffic and trying to look like a person who just hasn’t lost her mind.

What’s funny about this phenomenon of losing your mind from over-scheduling is that it stems from feeling like you aren’t in control when it was you who first said yes to too many things.   So often I try to remember to take Lysa Terkeurst’s advice, that the “Best Yes is sometimes a No” but I still find myself saying yes to something else.  There are so many incredible options for hanging with friends, clubs, classes, events, activities, etc. that hit us every single day and we just can’t say yes to them all.   When we do,  we’ve lost control of the whole thing and we’re just being pulled along for the ride.

According to a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology the number one indicator of happiness is autonomy- or the feeling that a person has control over his or her life.  For me, the number one way to feel out of control is to let my schedule take over.  To let the activities and the dinners and the meetings and the errands and the practices run our lives so that there is no margin for quiet time, for study, for reflection, for rest.

We’re do-ers, achievers, conquerors.  We’re driven.  Great.   I’m just finding that if I’m not intentional about what I’m saying yes to that I can be terribly busy, yet never really get anything accomplished. Except maybe a better Shrek impression than the week before.

 

So what about you? When you look back on your own Shrek moments, which thief was it? One of these or something else?  Here’s to more joy in the days to come for our family, and yours.