Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Paradox #1: "I love Jesus, but...."

Confession: I love Ellen DeGeneres.

Not only do I think Ellen is pretty stinkin hilarious, I also think that she tends to be a generally kind person. She’s always doing something nice – like giving everyone in her audience random presents, just because it’s Tuesday (for anyone out there who is wondering – presents for no apparent reason: always a hit with me).  I think it would be fantastic to be Ellen’s friend.

It seems that Ellen has a lot of friends, but… one in particular might be my absolute favorite. Her name is Gladys. Oh Gladys.

If you aren’t familiar with the Ellen show, and have never been introduced to Gladys, then… you need to watch this clip. (At least watch the first two and half minutes, or the rest of this excessively long post will make NO sense.)

Maybe it’s wrong of me, but I think that Gladys is a funny gal. Lately it’s been rolling around in my head, though, that Gladys may have more to offer me than a few good laughs.

Gladys’s comment to Ellen, seemingly innocent enough, can quickly become a commentary on my life. Gladys says, “I love Jesus, BUT….”

When Gladys made her little quip, she was referring to a specific action (this is not meant to be an indictment of alcohol or homosexuality). My bigger concern is how easy it is for me to make the same quip. Only when I say, “I love Jesus, but…”, I am usually making a statement about much more than my actions. Rather, I end up making a statement about the overall condition of my heart.

Maybe it’s just me, but…  I often find myself to be the queen of qualifiers. I’m hesitant to make any absolute statements, and instead want to follow up everything I say with a qualifying remark. Rather than fully committing, I want to leave myself a loophole.

It’s pretty sobering how much I want to “qualify” my love for Jesus.

“I love Jesus, but…”

I can be so quick to try to establish a loophole to my absolute commitment to loving Christ.

“I love Jesus, but because I don’t understand what He’s doing in my life right now, I’m gonna take that as my cue to try to figure it out on my own, and fix the mess He’s made.”

“I love Jesus, but because He’s not giving me what I want right now, I’m just gonna ignore Him until He blesses me again.”

“I love Jesus, but *insert willful disobedience here* sounds like more fun/less work/more likely to gain me acceptance, etc. right now, and… I’ll just ask for forgiveness later anyway.”

“I love Jesus, but I don’t feel close to Him right now, so I’m gonna spend all my time and energy on *insert idol here* and see if that makes things better.”

I want to lay down my crown as the queen of qualifiers.

I want to be able to say, “I love Jesus.” Period. 

I love Jesus when what He is doing in my life makes sense. And, I love Jesus when what He’s doing in my life seems completely nonsensical.

I love Jesus when He gives me the desire of my heart. And, I love Jesus when He asks me to wait while He purifies those desires.

I love Jesus when I am enjoying my liberties in Him. And, I love Jesus when His Spirit convicts me of making more of my liberties than of the One who liberates.

I love Jesus when He causes me to recognize that there is nothing in this world that can satisfy me apart from Him. And, I love Jesus when He calls me to repentance because I’ve gone looking for satisfaction elsewhere anyway.

I love Jesus.

No ifs, ands, or buts about it…. (Cliché # 4?).

I love Jesus when He causes me to recognize the places where my own heart is divided, and gently woos me back to Him.

I love Jesus when His undeserved devotion for me not only calls for, but also makes possible, a wholehearted, absolute, no-loopholes, commitment to Him. 

I love Jesus when He rescues me (over and over and over again) from trying to figure out how to love Him better in my own power, reminds me that I cannot do enough, try enough, or even be enough apart from Him, and then redeems me because I am His beloved (not the other way around).

I love Jesus, but… not as much as He loves me. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cliche #3: Jesus is the Reason for the Season

* I originally wrote this on Christmas Eve a few years ago. It's always been one of my favorite posts from my xanga (yeah - kickin it old school), and this year it's been coming to mind a lot. Since it fits in with the theme, I thought I would share it again. I made some minor tweaks, as this is a cliche/lesson that I need reminded of every year.

Christmas is a funny thing. It's so easy to get wrapped up in all of it... to get caught up in the commercialism. It used to make me so mad when people would say that... because Christmas has always been more than commercialism for me. I guess I never realized until a few years ago, however, how much my Christmas is about traditionalism. My family has been doing Christmas the same way for as long as I can remember (with a few exceptions for ski trips and such), but seriously... we have had the same family members over every Christmas Eve to eat the same snacky foods and play the same card games. We always read the Christmas story and open our new Christmas ornaments and Nativity pieces. I think we may even sit in the same spots on the couch when we do this. Then... we go to bed... only to wake up to a traditional Christmas morning. I wake up and hear everyone moving around in the kitchen and the living room, but I wait until my cousin Chris runs into my room and hurls himself on top of me. He lays there just long enough to make me not able to breathe, then he pulls me out of bed, makes fun of my hair (even my hair is tradional... I have the same bed head style every year)and we go out into the living room. We open presents, then eat homemade doughnuts and breakfast casserole. Then we play more of the same games before we make the same Christmas dinner.

Now... don't get me wrong... I love all of this tradition. I love my family and the stuff that we do together. I even love that it is all totally predictable. The problem is, though, that sometimes things just don't work out. Cousins grow up and get married, then visit the in-laws for Christmas. Moms get anuerysms and don't have the energy for everything they usually do. A few years ago was the first year when things just didn't work out. There was no possibility to continue the traditions, because the people that we have the traditions with weren't there. We tried to make the same Christmas cookies and play the same Christmas games, but... it just felt... empty. And... all of a sudden... Christmas started feeling empty too. This is when I realized that maybe my traditionalism is a problem. Maybe Christmas isn't about doing the same things, with the same people year after year after year. Maybe its about finding new ways to celebrate something much more miraculous.

I don't want to be one of those people that espouses the cliche line "Jesus is the reason for the season" all the time, but... here it seem appropriate. How quickly I forget that my Savior is the reason for this holiday, not my family, food, presents, or traditions. When my little sister was reading the Christmas story that Christmas, it just kind of hit me... Jesus is so amazing. He came as a baby. Not a King, moving in and reclaiming the world as you would expect Him too... no... just as a humble child. His parents were probably poor, definitely not popular (I mean... they had a kid out of wedlock in Bible times... come on). He started out just as small and helpless as me. How incredible is that. His sacrifice started with His birth, not with His death. His grace began at Christmas, not at Easter. That semester God had been teaching me that Christ was humiliated before He was exalted... and that Christmas I got it. His life was not the life of a great man. He didn't come in on a golden horse and impress anyone. Instead, He came as a little baby. He was a child, and in those times children were lower even than servants. He grew into a man, and still... He lived a life of humble service. What an incredible gift Jesus is. What an incredible sacrifice He made... and it all started on Christmas day. He could have showed up as anything, but He chose to be wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. He chose to live a full life of sacrifice... for me. 

This Christmas may be very different from our usual, traditional Christmas, but... it definitely isn't empty. Of course, it helps no small amount that my mom is home, doing wonderfully, and planning on baking with me all day tomorrow. Merry Christmas almost doesn't seem to cover it.

"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn[d] of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,the oath he swore to our father Abraham:to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days." Luke 1:68-75

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cliche # 2: "Don't Panic"

Have you ever noticed that people typically say "don't panic," right before they give you something to panic about? Think about it, how often is the phrase "don't panic" followed by good news. Not all that often... Usually, in fact, hearing "don't panic" is more upsetting that the news itself. "Don't panic" causes panic. (Does that mean it should be paradox #1, instead of cliche #2... eh.... either way...). "Don't panic" is counterproductive. It's the "we need to talk" phrase of life outside of break ups. Basically, it should just be avoided at all costs.

Sometimes... and hopefully those times are few and far between... something that really seems panic-worthy is going on. Something that feels so big and terrifying that, despite your best efforts to pray, panicking is just easier. Stress cleaning and being cranky and withdrawn and crying over the stupidest things and eating A LOT  somehow becomes the more viable option to trusting Jesus.

That's where I am today.... going home for Thanksgiving was great, but it also opened the floodgates of fear. 5 solid days with my mom made it all the more real that in less than a week, surgery will be happening. As much as I try to convince myself that one week from now, it will all be over and my mom will be fine and the aneurysms will be gone and everything will be okay.... it's starting to become harder and harder to block out the other side of things.... the side that taunts me with fears that I will never again get to argue with my mom over how the Nativity pieces should be placed, or that I won't have a mom to tease about the ridiculous amount of food she buys/prepares/immediately cleans up whenever company is around, or that I won't have a mom to make me breakfast casserole, or.... you get the point.

I am panicking. The breakdown has begun. My mom and I stood in her bathroom this weekend and just sobbed. She kept saying all of these wonderful things, and I just couldn't say anything back. She just has to be ok. There IS no other alternative right now. I can't face that, and yet... it's always there... lurking. It feels like panic is my current and constant companion.

But, the thing of it is... I KNOW Jesus is bigger than this. I know that He is bigger than the anuerysm, than the surgery, even than the potential loss of my mom. Jesus is bigger than the reason for the panic and than the panic itself. I just don't know how to cling to that right now. I don't know how to live in that reality moment by moment.  

I keep thinking that in about 10 days I am going to read back through this and kick myself for being such an idiot and making such a big deal out of this when everything turned out just fine. I'm really ok with that - really, really ok with that. In fact, I'm praying for it. I'm praying that, once again, God reminds me that He is in control, that He is trustworthy, and that, in the end, panicking is just another way of blocking Him out of my life so I can continue my futile efforts to maintain control (of myself and everyone around me). Would you pray that with me? Would you pray that I would look every bit the fool when my mom wakes up, just fine, and my family is a part of another gracious act from a God who can do miracles?

The What's Going On Update:

Mom goes up to St. Louis tomorrow for pre-testing. Not really sure what all that entails, but I think they'll select the artery to graft (either from her arm or her leg) and some of that kind of stuff. Then, on Wednesday, she will have a microscopic angiogram. Apparently, there is an artery coming out of the aneurysm that has an unknown destination. Not a good thing when you are about to cut off blood flow, since the artery could be important. The docs are going to take a look at it to see where it goes, and then they will determine their approach to the surgery from there. It's all a bit scary, as this throws a new dynamic into the mix. I am trying to focus on my mom's point that it's good that the docs caught it and want to check it out to be cautious. In the meantime, though, it means that she has to spend the night in St. Louis and that she has to have general anesthesia again. Boo.

Things to pray for for tomorrow and Wednsday:
- That testing would go well and the docs would have a clear understanding of what to do/how to approach the aneurysm
- That the angiogram (anesthesia, etc.) will go well with no vasovagal reactions, they will be able to use a plug so mom doesn't have to lie still for 6 hours and potentially spend another night in St. Louis so close to the surgery, and that the docs will find what they are looking for
-Peace. Just loads and loads of peace for my family.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cliche #1: Starting A Blog

I have never considered myself "trendy." I am usually behind the times, and don't realize something is cool until it's not all that cool anymore. It took me years (and yes, I mean years) to start a xanga (oh yes, remember those), and by the time I had mine up and going, everyone else was deleting their account. Story of my life.

I like to think of myself as "classic." It sounds way better than "lame."

But... as behind the times as I may usually be, I am trying to jump on this bandwagon sooner rather than later. I have decided that I, like many of my dear friends, need an outlet. I need a place where I can write down things that matter, things that don't, thoughts that I have, feelings that I am struggling with.... so, thus... a blog.

Here's the thing: I am starting this blog primarily because my mom has to have pretty major surgery in a couple of weeks. And, the truth is... I need to find a balance between being honest about how I'm feeling (I'm freaking out) and emotionally vomiting on all of the wonderful, supportive people who ask how I am.

So... this blog, at least for a while, will be my emotional vomit. If you want to know what's REALLY going on, please feel free to read it. But, understand - I am going to try not to "edit" myself on here. I go through the day saying, "I'm doing okay" and only partially meaning it, so I need a place to say "I'm terrified, and I'm hurting, and I don't know what to do with all of the conflicting thoughts rolling around in my head." And, I need a place to say "surgery went _______, next steps" are, so that everyone who cares to know, can know.

Well, that's my caviat.

It is my hope and my constant prayer than in about two months, my mom will be back to being the amazingly energetic and overly committed lady that she is, so that I can get down to writing about things like "already/not yet," and "I don't meant to be rude, but *insert insult here*," (hence the title).

Until then, thanks for caring enough to figuratively "hold back my hair." I honestly couldn't ask for a better support system.