Friday, April 30, 2010

Who loves you, baby?

In the vein of acceptance and love and grace and all of that, I've been thinking about the following phrase a lot, and wondering about it.

"God loves you just the way you are. But He loves you too much to let you stay that way."

I would have always said that I agree with the above. And to some degree, I think I still do. But I'm not sure that I think it's completely accurate.

First, I will readily admit, I'm definitely more of a carrot than a stick person. I don't like being threatened and really don't respond well to intimidation or fear tactics. So my perspective is no doubt colored by the way that I am personally motivated. And to be clear, I absolutely believe that God loves us where we're at. I think the Scripture is full of examples of Jesus meeting people in places that are gross and messy and unpleasant. And it's clear to me that his interactions with people in that place were absolutely loving. So I have no qualms accepting the first part of the axiom.

But I've been rethinking the second part a bit. I remember reading Messy Spirituality a year or so ago and not really liking some of what Mike Yaconelli had to say. The whole thing felt a little too "grace-y" for me. Why weren't people being "better"? Why don't these people care about excellence or holiness? Why isn't God "fixing" people?

Now I'm wondering if that's what God does. Is He (through the Holy Spirit) a "fixer"? If we "stay that way" does that mean that He doesn't really love us as much as we thought? Or that we don't really love Him? Or (in some of my darker moments) that He's not even there?

I've been thinking about my own life and what tends to motivate me the most and ultimately, I really do not like to be fixed. When someone comes to me with an obvious idea of how I should be, the likelihood of me becoming that is minuscule. Now, that could simply be a character flaw on my part; some kind of rebellion that I'm not recognizing. I get that.

But I don't think that I'm incapable of change. I think what I find is that when someone approaches me in the context of a loving, safe relationship, I am better able to see what needs to be changed. Or even to have them tell me what could use improvement. When I know that this person has a strong track record (understanding that no one is perfect) of loving me right where I'm at, I WANT to change for them.

So does Jesus love me and refuse to "let me" stay where I am? I guess I see the statement as being more controlling than I see my relationship with Him. My hope is that as I choose to invest in that relationship with Him, I am wooed into making changes that are a blessing to me and to others. So maybe not that He won't let me stay there, but rather that His love is so irresistible that I don't WANT to stay there.

What do you think? What motivates you to change? Are you a carrot or a stick person? Do you think the phrase is right just as it is, or does it need to be tweaked?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Makeover Time

Well, not for me, but for my blog anyway! I've had the previous look for a while now, and was starting to feel a little itchy for a new style. Spent the better part of last night sorting through blog templates and finally settled on this one. I always have that brief tinge of regret when I move to a new look, but ultimately, I tend to feel pretty good once I get used to it.  Plus, there have been a lot of changes going on around here lately, so a new look (particularly one with a butterfly) felt like a good move.

Anyway, shoot me a message and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shame & Insignificance

I posted here the other day about shame and insignificance. I've also been commenting over at the Evolving In Monkey Town blog about fear (which plays into shame). And so my best friend sent me a text right now and said, "How do you handle your shame and insignificance moments? What are your answers?" (Then she invited me to give the gift of going first -- thanks hon!)

So here we go. Nothing like a little confessional before lunch!

I'll start with my less healthy ways of dealing with those things. When I feel like I'm not measuring up, one of the most destructive things that I do is to immediately shut down. If I can't do something well, I'd rather not do it at all. Because at least if I'm not doing it, I can't be criticized. Of course, when I'm not doing something, I'm not getting any better at it, so it turns into this self-fulfilling prophecy kind of deal.

The other thing I do is to go full-in with whatever controversial topic. Even if it's something that I feel passionately about, I'll probably "dig in" more and be less reasonable about other views. I'll worry that someone won't like me because I support universal health care or accept evolution, so I'll get really in-your-face about these things and just drive people away.

Both are just avoidance tactics. I fear rejection, so I make it easy to reject me. Then I don't have to worry about it.

In my healthier moments, I try to get inspired. I have huge, massive hang-ups about creative stuff, particularly music and writing. Like, HUGE hang-ups. I stress about measuring up there big time. Having family that excels in those areas is really fantastic, but it's also unbelievably intimidating. So I have to make a choice to be inspired rather than intimidated. Lately, I've been trying to seek out music that feeds my soul. I'm reading blogs and books that move me and that inspire me to write more. And I'm finding that when I approach it from the "inspired" angle, I tend to work harder and improve, which gives me a bit more confidence to put myself out there. And instead of a negative cycle, I find myself in this positive feedback loop that is far more productive.

Additionally, I find that who I surround myself with matters a whole lot. When I'm around primarily judgmental or critical people, I tend to find myself becoming more adamant and negative so as to protect myself from scrutiny. But when I spend time with thoughtful, loving, gracious people, I find that I have a lot more grace for others and also for myself. I can be honest with them without fear, so I can be more honest with myself as well. And when I'm with these people, I'm more open to direction because I know that it comes from someone who doesn't need to fix me, but rather from someone who genuinely loves me even if nothing about me ever changes. And in that safety net, I am so much more able to make positive changes.

I think that if people really want to live like Jesus, they have to really love people. Not love them in order to fix them, but just plain old love them. When we allow people to be who they are, they can see themselves more clearly. If that clear view is in the context of loving acceptance, that might lead to change. If it's in the context of someone wanting to "help" it's probably not going to be as productive. Granted, the helping version might bring about change more quickly, but I think the loving version will bring about more permanent change.

Okay, so there you have it. Now, what about you? What or who has helped you overcome feelings of insignificance or shame?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Musical Monday

I need to listen to my brother-in-law more often. I've never really got into Michael Gungor, but he's been raving about the newest album for some time. I finally downloaded it and yes, it's awesome. He manages to cover a lot of musical ground in this, and it's really quite good. I look forward to listening to it more. (Let me lament again at my lack of available recreational listening time right now. Waaaah! Okay, I'm done.)

Anyway, Justin posted an older song on his Facebook page about a week ago and I knew it had to go up as a Musical Monday post.

On Saturday, after our gig at the elimination dinner, Rich and I were talking about the Church and some of the ways that we Christians have screwed up God. Rich commented that it's really just easy -- we've made God just about anything other than love and that really, that's about all we need to focus on. How true. When we have rules or lists or boxes that we place God into, we have an easier time ranking ourselves next to the other people we know. Anyone who has kids or knows someone who has kids knows that ranking them is totally wrong and playing favorites is a sure-fire way to cause endless heartache. But we do seem to like to think that God values one kind of person over another. I love this song, because it cuts right to the heart of the issue, that being that God is love. And that's it.

God is not a man
God is not a white man
God is not a man sitting on a cloud

God cannot be bought
God will not be boxed in
God will not be owned by religion

But God is love, God is love, and He loves everyone
God is love, God is love, and He loves everyone

God is not a man
God is not an old man
God does not belong to Republicans
God is not a flag
Not even American
And God does not depend on a government

But God is good, God is good, and He loves everyone
God is good, God is good, and He loves everyone

Atheists and Charlatans and Communists and Lesbians
And even old Pat Robertson, oh God He loves us all
Catholic or Protestant, Terrorist or President
Everybody, everybody, love, love, love, love, love

Oh, la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
Yeah, I say God is love, God is love, and He loves everyone
La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
Stop the hating, please just stop the hating now cause God is love
Oh, whoa, la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Can't get enough

A few weeks ago I downloaded Jon Acuff's audio book (you can still get it for free from -- Click here and download it NOW!). If you've been in the church for more than 6 months, this will absolutely tickle your funny bone. He writes an amazing blog, but getting to hear him read his essays is just wonderful. He had me laughing out loud for about a week straight in my car. I feel like I can't stop talking about this book, and one post in particular.

The last chapter of the book is the Saturday Night Cryfest. And I have to admit, it was very aptly named. I got to the essay titled "Thinking You're Naked" and just lost it. If the "Seven People You Meet in a Prayer Circle" or "Understanding How Metrosexual Your Worship Leader Is" essays didn't do it for you, this one would. He speaks right to the heart of shame & worthlessness that we all occasionally feel.

I know that significance is something that I struggle with pretty frequently. I joke around with my friends about how awesome I am, but honestly, I'm just terrified that they'll find out that I'm a total poser. I think I have longer periods of time now where I can see my value in the context of my relationship with Christ, but it's still something that I struggle with. I'm so thankful for people in my life who live out God's love and who allow Christ to shine through them. When you do this, I find it easier to find my significance in Christ. And hopefully in so doing, I can better reflect Christ's love to others.

I have been pushing this book on everyone that I talk to (and honestly, I'd recommend grabbing the print book for the cartoons alone -- plus, Acuff apparently likes shoes. Or Fergie. Either way, he clearly needs the support of other Christians so he can get on the right path!) and the two who have taken my suggestion to download it (for free people, for free!) have been entertained. And I hope we've all encountered a little food for thought.

Do you struggle with feelings of shame or insignificance? Where do you look to find significance?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

This is one of the areas of being a liberal where I suck big time. I know that it's my responsibility to be more conscious of caring for the earth that I am blessed to live on, but sadly, my own convenience so often wins out. Fortunately, I am also blessed with a child who absolutely loves teh earth and is completely concerned with environmental issues. Faith Jubilee is great about reminding us to turn off lights. She was the biggest reason we finally started recycling in earnest, not just our cans, but just about everything. She pushes more than anyone else in our family for "no electricity" days where we shut off everything and unplug a bit. If I'm heading to the store, she's the one to remind me that I need to take my reusable bags.

I think that sometimes as a Christian I fall into the mindset that because I believe there is an afterlife, there is less need to care for things in this current life. What a mistake! I have been given a wonderful opportunity right now to live every day in this body on this planet. When I wrap myself in consumerism, I devalue the gift that I have been given.

Anyway, today I thought I'd go ahead and post one of my favorite old hymns. Though the lyrics are more than 100 years old, I think they still speak well today, and especially on a day like Earth Day. I know it's not a Musical Monday, but I need to share a little music today anyway! Enjoy "This Is My Father's World."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tony Campolo on "Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin"

Dr. Campolo has been one of my favorite ministers since the mid to late 80's. He's an amazing storyteller and since I can remember, he's been kind of a Christian hero of mine.

Today, my friend Carol Boltz posted a recent video on her blog that he did about bridging the gap between the LGBT community and the Christian community at large. The video is really wonderful (and only five minutes long). I particularly liked this line:

The gays and lesbians in Christendom say, "Would you please get to know us beyond the label? Would you just get to know us and you may find the same Christ that you love is waiting to be encountered in me."

With Jennifer Knapp coming out, this issue has been stirred up again for many in the Church. How do we respond to someone who is in the "Christian limelight" when it comes to this issue? I think that the above statement pretty much sums it up for me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Musical Monday

Lately, most of what I've been listening to has been music either for church or for Under Shelter. My kids know all of the lyrics to "Shake, Shake, Shake" by KC & the Sunshine Band (my oldest is picking out the horn part on the piano -- maybe she can fill in for me if I'm busy?). Don't get me wrong, there's some good, fun music that's been played, but it's been a pretty limited pool lately.

My husband had put Mutemath's Armistice in my van a few weeks ago, but I hadn't really had much opportunity to listen. I popped it on this morning for a brief moment of non-band related music, and happened upon a great song for today's Musical Monday.

First, this song has a super tasty groove going on. Very minimalist, but it builds really well. The keys part is just sweet.

Beyond that, the lyrics are just really amazing. I know I just wrote about enjoying things just for the joy of it, and don't get me wrong. I think that's an important part of life. But I'm not about to discount how great it is when a piece of art happens to have meaning as well.

In my quest to be more honest (and I hope to see that play out here over the coming weeks), this song is really just dead on. Enjoy "Pins & Needles" by Mutemath.

Paper thin conviction,
Turning another page,
Plotting how to build myself to be
Everything that I am not at all.

Sometimes I get tired of pins and needles,
Facades are a fire on the skin.
And I'm growing fond of broken people,
As I see that I am one of them.

I'm one of them.

Oh, why must I work so hard,
Just so I can feel like the nobles ones?
Obligations to my heart are gone,
Superficial lines explain it all.

Sometimes I get tired of pins and needles,
Facades are a fire on the skin.
Oh, I'm growing fond of broken people,
As I see that I am one of them.

Sometimes I get tired of pins and needles,
Facades are a fire on the skin.
Oh, and I'm growing fond of broken people,
As I see that I am one of them.

I'm one of them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

For the joy of it

We've entered the gigging season with Under Shelter. We've got a number of gigs set up for the coming weeks, which is exciting. After lots of rehearsals, it's great to get out and actually play for other people. I mean, we're all very appreciative of one another, but it's nice to have someone else enjoy what you're doing!

We played a job last night. It wasn't the most exciting crowd, but we had a lot of fun nonetheless. We did a bit of improv for dinner music and it so reminded me of a chapter in one of my favorite books (Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent). In it, the author is talking about experiencing a miscarriage. She has decided that she doesn't want to try to have another baby, but her son continues to pester her to try again to have a third. And when she asks him why she should do this, his response is, "For the joy of it!"

While there are many stories shared in that book that are memorable to me, that particular phrase has stuck with me the most. So much of what we do has to have a practical purpose. And really, that's not an all bad thing. We need to be productive. We need to make a living. We need to take care of things that need to be done. But we also need to do things just for the joy of it.

I get paid to play with the band. With any luck, we're providing an enjoyable entertainment experience for our clients. We're helping to make memories. Those are good things. But there were a couple of moments last night when I wasn't thinking about the client or the money or anything like that. I didn't care if what I played was very interesting or even very good. I was just playing for the joy of it.

What do you like to do just for the joy of it?

Friday, April 16, 2010

What I'm learning

Since Jason came out to me about seven months ago, and then out to the world a few weeks ago, I've had lots of opportunities to learn things. I've also had some things that I've "known" prove out in my own life. I thought I'd go ahead and share some of those here.

1. People are way more gracious than I give them credit. I was absolutely terrified for Jason to admit that he was an atheist. I expected tons of judgment, condemnation, rejection. I assumed that the need to "fix" him would be absolutely overwhelming and that the only conversations we would be able to have would be about religion/faith. I am overwhelmed by the acceptance (even in the midst of disappointment/sadness) that we have experienced. People have been living out John 13:35 in my life and I am profoundly thankful for that outpouring.

2. People are more than their religious beliefs. I know that probably bothers some of my Christian friends, but it's just true. It is very easy to paint non-believers as the cause of all of the world's ills, but that is not the case. We can slip into the notion that because someone doesn't have faith or leaves their faith that they have no moral guidance, but again, this is just not true. There may be different motivation for actions, but we need to let go of our assumptions about atheists. The difference between my husband then and now is almost indistinguishable. We can discuss if that means he was a crappy Christian or a super-nice atheist, but ultimately, people choose to act honorably or they don't. Jason has continued, all through the past year to be an amazing provider for our family, a devoted father to our kids and a faithful, loving husband to me. His belief or lack of belief has had no impact on his love for us and for those we interact with regularly.

3. Doubt is okay. Modern Christianity has all but destroyed the room for doubt. "Doubting Thomas" might as well be "Murderous, Evil, Satanist Thomas" at this point. Somewhere along the line, we have completely adopted the "the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it" mentality and anyone who dares to question that is treated with suspicion. Unfortunately, I think this tends to drive people away. While I believe that Jesus is The Answer, I don't think that there are many places where we have "the answers." When we pretend that there is a monolithic view of any subject, I think we risk turning people from the One answer that matters. Jesus distilled things pretty simply -- love God, love your neighbor. Just focusing on how to do those things can take us a lifetime. Maybe we can let people have doubts about some of the less clear stuff without putting the whole weight of their salvation on it.

4. Listening is more important than talking. I love to talk. Obvious. I mean, I've got a pretty mediocre blog that I still share all over the place because people need to know what I have to say. But let me just say, this has taught me again that sometimes I need to shut up and listen. My brain constructs conversations that are almost always significantly worse than real life, so I'll just talk and talk and talk to avoid getting to the horrible thing that I've built up in my mind. And in the midst of that, I'll say something remarkably stupid or hurtful. The past 7 months have taught me that I need to listen more. And if I'm talking, maybe ask more questions instead of pontificating. People want to be heard. When I'm running at the mouth, that can't happen. Also, I'm probably not doing much of the "loving your neighbor" thing if I never let them talk. My next lesson became much more clear after I learned this one.

5. We're more the same than we are different. Okay, so I've known this for a long time, but it's proven out once again. When Jason told me he no longer believed in God, I'm not sure what I thought it would mean for our relationship, but I admit that I had a couple of weeks where I was sure that it would be the end. I thought this would be a difference that would absolutely crush us and our thirteen years of marriage. But nope. We're still the same people. We still both have the same weird sense of humor. We still like going out for dessert with friends. We still enjoy talking about what we're reading or thinking. We still have of the same joys and pride and concerns about our kids and how to make the world better for them and to make them better for the world. We still love to cuddle up on the couch and have him give me a foot rub (okay, maybe I like that a little more than he does!). Yes, we do have a difference with our thoughts about salvation and afterlife, but in the day to day living, we're still the same.

What kind of things have you learned from difficult situations that you've been placed in? Have you been in what you thought was a difficult situation that actually turned out to be really okay and maybe even better than before?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Yeah, evolution again

A week and a bit ago I posted a video from BioLogos on my facebook page. In it, Dr. Bruce Waltke, a renowned Old Testament scholar stated that Christianity needed to accept evolution, and that continuing to deny it was a death sentence for evangelical Christianity. While the video has been removed (more on that in a minute), the commentary is still up here. In it, Dr. Waltke states:

“if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult…some odd group that is not really interacting with the world. And rightly so, because we are not using our gifts and trusting God’s Providence that brought us to this point of our awareness.”

He has added some clarifying comments, but ultimately, stood by most of what he said.

And a few weeks later, he was handing in his resignation.

Now, before I go on, I want to make my own clarifying statements. In no way do I believe what followed was untoward. Reformed Theological Seminary is not unique in its statements about what is acceptable for its professors to believe with regard to evolution. There's no question that Dr. Waltke knew the rules and made a decision to break them. So I'm not saying there is anything about this resignation that in any way violates any kind of rules.

That said, I still find this incredibly disturbing.

We have someone here who has dedicated years to studying the Old Testament. This isn't some fly-by-night, part-time theologian who hasn't actually studied the original languages or the history or the context -- this is an expert. And while he still holds that Adam and Eve are historical people and that Adam is the head of the human race, AND that the Bible is infallible & inerrant, his view that science may have the process right is not okay.

Which basically boils down, once again, to an us vs. them mentality.

I see people post that God could have done it either way. But as soon as someone says that that evidence points to evolution rather than a literal young-earth creation story, it's clear that this is not what many believe. The students at his school and, in my opinion, the world at large have been told again that one cannot be a Christian and believe in evolution. Well, perhaps a Christian, but not the right kind, and certainly not one that "real" Christians would want to associate with on any kind of professional level.

I've seen this play out in my own family. Trust me, this really, really, really matters. It absolutely baffles me that 150 years after Origin, that 85 years after Scopes, that 20 years after Hubble, we're still allowing this to be such a divisive issue in the Church. I'm sad to see Dr. Waltke's predictions being proven so quickly.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Musical Monday

Sorry for the mini-hiatus there. The kids were on spring break last week, which makes it difficult to sit down and compose much in the way of coherent posts for the ol' blog. Hoping to get back into this week.

Tomorrow Jason and a friend and I are going to see Pat Metheny up at WVU. Jason and I got to see him a few years ago in Pittsburgh and absolutely loved the concert. He is an amazing guitarist, and definitely one of the most creative musicians I've ever seen. I included a picture of the guitar that he invented. When we saw him a few years ago, he played that and it was absolutely amazing the amount of sound a single person could elicit from one instrument (though as you can see, it looks more like about 5 instruments!). His most recent project is called Orchestrion and what he has done is to basically create a full band that is controlled by him. Jason and I are calling it "robot jazz." The previews are absolutely amazing, and the recording is out of this world. I am tremendously excited to see it live. Seeing an entire stage filled with instruments playing and a single musician should be absolutely incredible.

Since graduating from college, I admit that I listen to far less music simply for the aesthetics of it. I've been trying to get back into listening to music just for the sake of it every now and again, and this is an artist who definitely makes that easy for me.

I've included a video today that shows Metheny talking about how he came up with the idea for Orchestrion. Enjoy!

ETA: Here is a Wall Street Journal article about Metheny's new project. Fascinating stuff!

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I'm a wife to an amazing man, and mom to four incredible kids. I'm a Christian woman who sometimes struggles with doubt. I'm a musician and a writer who is sometimes afraid to play and write. I'm trying to be more authentic every day.
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