Whose Job Is It To Change?

I’ll admit, it’s been painful, very painful to get up every morning and read the headlines in my news feed. Some stories have been heart wrenching-constant war, bombings, children being abducted, raped, killed. Others have been encouraging such as people giving back, new governmental policies to help people displaced from war and people showing more intentionality in helping those around them.

And then there are the stories that leave me speechless. Stories of celebrities upset about hairstyles drawing national attention and wanna be leaders of nations stoop to name calling and childish spats with each other. It’s hard to read and not feel sad or feel angry. Or even feel shame for my nationality, race or even my fellow followers of Christ. From the outside looking in, it looks like it’s getting ugly in there. It really does.

I know people desire change. Most people I talk to from the States are thankful for a system in which we elect leaders because it gives us a voice even if it’s 1 in 318,000,000, it’s still a voice. It seems that no matter what party you declare to be from, of the myriads we actually have, no one is happy. No one. Everyone wants change.

What I’ve also noticed is that many people are looking to those elected leaders for change. Once they are elected in, change will magically happen even, hopefully, overnight. Somehow this country will completely turn around in four years with this one person elected in and we get to go about our daily lives without giving it another thought. What’s odd is that if you were to open a business, the average turn around for that business to turn a profit and be back in the black is usually no sooner than four years. And that’s having all your employees on board…not 318 million different opinions.

But the Christian life isn’t dependent on others changing. It isn’t dependent on others changing for us. Christ calls us to Himself and as we grow closer to Him, we are left with a choice to change ourselves or not change. Not changing means we lose out on understanding God’s love for us, His beauty and how He has truly made us. Choosing to change means we have a relationship with someone who knows us more deeply and intimately than anyone ever has, does or will. A relationship with a Creator who not only knows you but made you….astounding.

Organizational change cannot occur unless we accept the pain of personal change,” writes Robert Quinn in his book “Deep Change: Discovering the Leader within.” We can’t expect anything or anyone else to change for us.  Whether elected to office or born into our family, we cannot change in place of someone else and they can’t in place of us. The only one that we can change is ourselves. And by doing so, we may have the opportunity to see the world around us change for the better as they watch us and our relationship with Christ.

AJ Swoboda in his new book “The Dusty Ones,” writes “Perhaps the greatest commentary any of us has for preaching the good news is our own textbook of mistakes, which helps us exegete our own failures that quietly whisper the eternal mysteries of grace. Maybe the best preaching advice I’ve ever received is this: if we preach to the perfect, nobody will listen; if we preach to the imperfect, we won’t be able to keep folks away.

Personal change is painful. Stripping away the hurts, addictions, making amends-it’s all painful. But, through the pain comes peace and freedom. If we want to see country wide or world wide change, we need to be willing to walk down the painful road of change ourselves, not simply expect others to do it for us. And then be open and honest with those around us about the transformation we are going through. May it be so with us all.

What are your thoughts on personal change? how do you feel by changing you could really change the world?

be blessed today

Photo Credit: http://dtphorum.com/pr4/showthread.php?221-Th%C6%B0-Cho-B%E1%BA%A1n/page285

We Really Are Worthless…But…

We really are worthless, you and I.

Recently, my family spent two weeks in an all Hindu culture. We were there for a bit of rest and family time, it just happened that the culture was Hindu. Watching even the most nominal in their beliefs, be so pious just in case what they believed was true, they might be spared some sort of punishment both presently and eternally. Though the architecture was beautiful and the smell of incense was pleasant, the underlying idea that these acts must be done in some sort of feeble attempt to atone for any possible wrong doing, both known or unknown, was sad and heart breaking.

Iris and I’s first encounter with such piety was when we traveled to Nepal and India for two months, it seems like forever ago. That trip in 2000 was a life changing event for the both of us. Part of that was seeing the complete and utter despair and uncertainty of never knowing what side of their god they were on. It confirmed in our hearts that we were to live overseas and share about this loving Savior we know and have complete certainty in.

We really are worthless, you and I. If we look at all the world religions, there really is absolutely no reason any of these gods would want anything to do with us. All are based on acts of piety, sacrifice and fear. Lots of fear. We make lots of mistakes, hurt people, are constantly at war, even with each other in the same religion, we have little compassion for one another, even the unborn. Other than simply toying with us, why would any god want us at all?

Especially the Living God, the Creator of the universe with the power of His simple spoken word. Born into this fallen world, we see the beauty of the Creator in His creation. We continue to experience His power, His love, His compassion and His wrath. In comparison to Him, we are nothing. We will never be greater than He is. We can never do anything remotely close to what He can do. We can die in an instant and even though revived, our days in this very tangible world are numbered. He is eternal.

I read a verse this morning that was incredibly profound to me.

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”-Ephesian 5:14

There are people who love themselves. There has been much teaching in the Church that loving yourself is bad. It is un-Christ like, it is selfish, it is prideful, it is unloving. I remember hearing this growing up. People who loved themselves didn’t understand Christ nor the sacrifice that He made for us. To love yourself was a sin. I think there is some truth to this, but I don’t think it is all true. Yes, I do believe there are people who love themselves in a way were they don’t care about others, they are trying to get as much out of life for themselves as they possibly can-fame, fortune, sex, attention, good feelings, power, etc. Perhaps it’s not even a love of self, it may be more of an insatiable greed.

But I also believe there are people who love themselves exactly how God desires us to. What do I mean? When we love ourselves because of Christ, we are honoring who we are in Him and honoring the humanity in which He has made us. If we don’t love ourselves because of Him, we do not honor the gifts He has given us, abilities He has given us, our history, past, relationships….pain. All of those things He has given us become pointless.

My journey of recovery started about three years ago. I am a big proponent of recovery ministries, the 12 Steps and other recovery resources. I personally think every follower of Jesus should start down the road of recovery because I have seen more honest, raw, healthy, growing people in their relationships with Christ because they realized their need for recovery, than I have in churches full of “healthy” people.  But that’s just my opinion and experience. In the Step groups and breakout groups I’ve been a part of, I have seen people who have had no love for themselves at all. It seems they are only going through he motions of living because they fear dying, or they want to be their for their kids or spouse. But in regards to having any self love or self respect, they lost it all to their various addictions, hurts, habits and hang-ups. I shouldn’t say “their” but “our” as I am one of those who believed the same.

But coming to a point where you have nothing and realizing how little and insignificant you are, you begin to realize how incredible it is that Christ does first love us. When we realize this and begin to more fully understand (because I don’t think we will ever fully understand), we begin to have a love for ourselves and everything that makes us us, because of Christ. When we come to a point where we can love ourselves, be thankful for what has happened before, what’s happening now, be honest with how we are feeling about all of that with a God who can handle us and our emotions, I believe is when we are at a place of the greatest understanding of God’s love for us and communion with Him.

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

What hit me about this verse today was that yes, the Creator is telling us to wake up from our sleep. Wake up from the idea that we are to deny ourselves to the extreme, wake up to the falsity that how we were made, everything about us is bad. To wake up and rise from this death speak into the truth that Christ loves us. To rise up and see what freedom their can be if we love ourselves because He first loved us. What life giving truth is that. My prayer is that because He first loved us, we love ourselves today even if it’s the the very first time we ever have. Honoring Christ and honoring ourselves, how incredible.

Have you found this to be true? Have you gone from despair to a love of yourself becaseu of Christ? What was your journey like?

be blessed today

Photo Credit: http://www.worthless.co/

Are You Keepin’ It Classy?

Funny how the things you did when you were younger come back to you in the form of your kids. Not funny in a “ha ha” kind of way, but more in a “Oh, this is what I was like” kind of way.  Our oldest is on the verge of the teen years, almost halfway through the tweens, and already the attitude that we all know and despise is in full force. Yes I’ve heard myself say the exact words and phrases I told myself I would never use. Hearing them as they come out, making me more frustrated. But, apparently, this is parenthood, or at least one very small poriton of it. Our youngest learned to swim completely on her own in the wavy ocean last week and read her very first word to us the other day. That is another part of parenthood. Both come together.
In conversations the past month or so, I’ve used the phrase “please act your age” more times than I count. Then there are the other variations of it, “I expect you to act like a 10 year old, not a six year old,” or “you are not an adult, however, if you’d like to be I can give you all of my responsibilities-paying the bills, working, cooking, cleaning,” etc. Oh, the trials and joys of parenting (and teaching :).
It’s amazing how often there are situations with our kids that are a result of someone acting not the age they are, or behaving in a way in which they know is appropriate, just because they are jealous, angry or prideful. What’s more interesting, or sad perhaps, is when we as adults do the same thing. I can only really speak for myself, but I have been known to act childish when I haven’t gotten my way or when I’m angry. Bickering, name calling, or simply that small satisfactory grin when someone else “really gets what they had coming to them.” We can view the world very much like survival of the fittest when we are in the depths of our envy and pride. I know I am when I go there which I pray happens less and less as I get older.
The other day, I was reading one of the writings of Brenard of Clarivaux, a Christian mystic of the Cistercian Order (1090-1153). I enjoy reading the mystics, able to tell the truths of Christ usually from far different perspectives than my own. I also resonate with their ability to find the sacred things of God in the secular world, something almost foreign today in Western Society.

“For man, being in honor, if he know not his own honor, may fitly be compared, because of such ignorance, to the beasts that perish. Not knowing himself as the creature that is distinguished form the irrational brutes by the possession of reason, he commences to be confounded with them because, ignorant of his own true glory which is within, he is led captive by his curiosity, and concerns himself with external, sensual things.” (his book “On Loving God”) He goes on to write that the glory we have within, Christ Jesus, is unlike anything else in this world or cosmos.

I sat on that for a while, reflecting on it and trying to think, what really does set us apart from the animal beasts he mentions. Ya, we have reason, ok, that’s true. But what else do we have, what else makes us different. Given the state of politics and “debates” if we can even still call them that, I really do wonder what is it that make humans different than animals. Do we have honor as Brenard stated so many centuries ago?

Are we different?

As I was sitting after another bout of “please act your age” conversations, 1 Peter 2:9 came to mind “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”

I cannot expect, nor should I, that all of humankind will act in such a way that they are a chosen, holy people, because they aren’t. Only those who have come to understand how humble we really are and entered into formative relationship with Christ can be considered a chosen people. Not for our glory to become bigger in mans eyes, but to proclaim the praises of a God who could do things we cannot begin to understand. If I remembered this daily, maybe I wouldn’t become so childish when I don’t get my way, get what I believe is entitled to me or throw my pride around like nobody’s business. I don’t think, this side of heaven, we will fully understand how much of a great privilege it is to be called holy even though we are not.  No matter what happens in the future or even just today, we I simply need to remember that I am chosen. If I can do that, perhaps I can help others understand that they are chosen as well. Giving grace, not judgement. I pray the same for all of us this day, fellow priests.

Have you had an experience similar to this? What was the result? What did you do when who you really are in Christ’s eyes came to your mind?

be blessed today

photo credit: http://www.livestrong.com/article/23238-stop-being-immature/