Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Dating, Relating....

Can it really be over a month since I last blogged?  I guess so!  A lot has happened and I'll try to blog later about some details. Meanwhile, I read this article by Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church. While I don't always agree with him, sometimes he hits the nail right on the head.  This article is one.

http://pastormark.tv/2011/10/26/dating-relating-and-fornicating

I thought it was genius.

Erin

Friday, September 30, 2011

Let's Run the Race Together

I have some good news to report on the financial front.  Things are still tight, but I have managed to have a few blessings along the way! 

I called the alarm company to come out and fix my alarm.  It took a total of 15 minutes.  Rather than charge me the $130+, the service guy was gracious and only charged me for half that amount.  Whew! 


I have managed to get rid of the ants (so far) by using Raid on the inside of the house where they were coming in.  I also managed to figure out where they were entering the house from the outside and sprayed there too.  Voila, no ants!

My car is also fixed. I took it to Auto Zone where they diagnosed it for FREE.  They also sold me the parts I needed to fix it. Then, I gave the parts to a guy from church who repaired it for a mere fraction of the cost it would have been anywhere else. 

I was able to order a knob for my dryer off the Internet for about $10 and repaired it myself.

And, finally, I am borrowing a vacuum cleaner from a friend until I can repair my old one or buy a new one. 

So, this leaves my cat litter box, ceiling fan and medical bill left to take care of.  I purchased a cheap, covered litter box that will do for now, and with summer over, the ceiling fan can wait.  The medical bill is another story all-together, but I am working with the hospital to figure a payment plan out.

In other news, my current foray into online dating is coming to an end.  I have always had a hard time with online dating for many reasons and I think I have partially figured out why this is.  It has felt like this has been my only option to meet people, however, and I am pretty sure this won't be my last venture into the online dating world.  Right now I can't afford it, so my current season of this is coming to an end.

My success, or lack-there-of, is only partially why I am frustrated with online dating.  My most recent dip into the online dating pool didn't produce the "sharks" that I have talked about before.  But, the passivity I encountered with the men on there has just astounded me.  I have talked about this before, but sometimes I wonder whether men in the online dating world really want to find someone at all.

This time around, I was encouraged, initially, by the quality of men on paper that I was "meeting." Several of them were very promising and things got off to an amazing start.  I had no less than three dates lined up within a two-week span.  How many of them did I go on?  Exactly zero.

This is not from any kind of hesitation or lack of trying on my part.  Two of the three, when it came down to actually nailing down a day/time to meet, just kind of fell off the planet not to be heard from again.  One of the three at least continued to communicate with me, but kept coming up with one excuse after another: my car broke down, I have a friend in town from Germany for the week, etc.  Can you see what I mean?

So, as this latest venture winds to a close I was challenged recently by a couple of friends to actually write down what I am praying for in a husband.  I am not going to get into the full details of my list, but I realized, as I was writing it, just how important someone who is an initiator is to me.  I used to think *I* was the one who was passive...wanting so desperately to be pursued, or that I was fearful of stepping out and being vulnerable/putting myself out there. 

I am realizing, however, that really this is a deep heart-cry of mine.  Maybe it is rooted in fear or passivity on my part a little, because what of anything is ever 100% pure?  But, I think it's OK for me to say that I want someone who is a leader and an initiator.  I am those things, but I don't want to be the leader nor initiator in my relationship.  So, I think that is partially what bothers me about online dating....in a lot of ways I feel like it is too easy for the men on there to be passive, as evidenced by my latest round of online dating.  It feels like I am doing most of the work.

I know it only takes "one." I do have a few friends that have met their partners online and I know that it does happen, but I just sometimes really pray, deep deep down that I would just love to meet someone someday the "old fashioned way" and look at that person and realize that we are running the same race, in the same direction and that we'd be better running the race together than apart.  And, that he'd be the one to grab my hand and say "Let's run together."

Blessings,
Erin

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

When it Rains, It Pours (AKA the blog in which I complain about finances)

In the last month or so I have taken one financial hit after another.  It is strange how everything seems to happen all at the same time.  Am I the only one who feels this way or is there some sort of generational curse I'm living under?

Here is the run-down of my financial woes since the middle of August.

1.  My alarm system has a monitor that is malfunctioning.  Normally you'd just call the company and have 'em come out and slide a new monitor, right? Except for the fact that I don't have a maintenance agreement with my alarm company.  They are going to charge me $135 for the first half hour and then $35 for every fifteen minutes after that.

2. My vacuum cleaner died.  This vacuum cleaner was a hand-me-down from my grandmother and we figure it is at least 20 years old.  This vacuum clearly is from an era when they actually made things to last rather than breakable.

3.  I have a *very* fancy cat litter box.  This is because in such a small house the smell of dirty cat litter is about the grossest thing ever.  As a result, I invested in a very fancy litter box that keeps my house nice and odor-free.  However, like current vacuum cleaners, this has not been designed to last as long as I would like.  It broke recently too.

4.  The knob on my dryer to turn it to the correct setting broke recently.

5.  The ceiling fan/light fixture on my ceiling in my living room died.  Not sure why, just died.

6.  At the end of August, I had an infection that morphed into a full-blow allergic reaction to the antibiotic that they put me on.  This resulted in hives all over my body as well as a spike temperature of 103.5 and a trip to the ER.  I just got the bill for my visit and it's going to cost me over $2500.

7.  I have an ant infestation in my house.  I am trying to fight it without calling an exterminator, but if I can't get rid of the, I'll have to fork out $200 for an exterminator.

8.  The "check engine" light is on in my car.  I'm not sure what's wrong, but I'll have to put it in to the dealership to have it looked at.

Anyone have any creative ideas for earning some extra money??

Erin

Friday, September 02, 2011

Hiatus Over

I have, as you may have noticed, been on a loooong hiatus from blogging.  It isn't that I haven't had things going on to blog about...it's been that I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off for the summer.

Here is what I have been up to:

1. Catalyst.  This is my church's summer program for college students.  I volunteered with this program last summer, in a very limited capacity.  This summer, my involvement was ramped up a notch.  Last summer I wrote and edited the devotional and just generally hung out with the students. This summer, I rewrote a part of the devotional, was also in charge of all the finances, and was the state-side communications liason for the month that the group was in Asia.  All of this plus working full time, plus all of the "social" thing that happen during the week left me pretty much busy from morning til evening most days of the week. Today is the last day of the school.  I love being involved with this, but it definitely is something I can only imagine doing for a couple of months at a time. I am not sure I can handle a schedule like I have had this summer all the time.  I know my house, yard, other friends and everything else that got neglected in the last few months certainly can't handle it!

2.  Family.  Back in June, my brother, sister-in-law and two nephews moved into town for good!  My brother has felt a call to church plant for a number of years and my parent's church feels called to plant churches....so it's been a great fit.  There is a need and my brother desires to fill that need.  So, they packed everything up and headed out here.  It has been maybe the best thing ever!!!  I have been spending tons of time over at my parents.  Brady, my three-year-old nephew got to come to summer camp at the zoo.  He and I went on a nephew/aunt date after one day at camp to McDonalds and then my house to play with my cats.  I also got to babysit Kason, the one-year-old while my brother and sister-in-law took Brady out.  It has been such a treasure having them here.  I love them all so, so much.

3.  Sickness.  In the middle of August I went to the Dr. to have a abscess looked at. They initially put me on antibiotics to try to take care of it that way. When those didn't work, they  lanced and drained it.  They also put me on a second antibiotic.  I had a severe reaction to the second antibiotic and ended up COVERED in hives from head to foot and running a 103.5 degree temperature.  Needless to say I was miserable.  I ended up at the doctor's office several times and even a took a trip to the Emergency Room one day.  It took me out for about a week.  I am all better now, but I won't be taking that antibiotic ever again!

4. Work.  I ran this year's summer camp program again, just as I have the last two summers.  This is summer was the best of all of the summers I have been a part of so far. The crew we had instructing was fabulous and it just went very, very well. 

What is coming up?
Honestly, I am not really sure.  Last year at this time I was going through one of the hardest times of the last four years.  The truth that it is always darkest right before dawn proved to be true yet again.  Starting in about November or December, things really turned around and have been great for the rest of the year.  But, I'll be honest, there is a real part of me that is scared that this fall will be like last fall.  If for no other reason than it is hard to not have a bit of a "let down" after being so busy.  And truthfully, many of the same circumstances are in play this year as were there last year.  I mean, in my head I know that no year is exactly  like the others, but it is still a fear, however irrational it may be.

Here are a few tidbits of what I DO know:
Possible involvement with PLU's campus ministry called "Ignite." 
Possible involvement in my church's women's ministry. 
A week-long trip to LA and then Phoenix for two weddings.
Postponement of my Africa trip until February or March.
Possible foray into online dating (this involves a whole other post, but suffice to say it has become clearer and clearer that this is probably the only feasible option for meeting someone, though in my heart of hearts, I despise and loathe online dating for many reasons).

I think that's all for now!
Blessings,
Erin

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Guard Your Heart

Right before I stared my freshman year of college, I began dating my first "real" boyfriend.  I mean that I fell for him *big time.* I tend not to do much half-way, and so I gave my heart to him about as fully as an 18-year-old can.  Without getting into the sordid details of the story, suffice to say my heart was broken pretty *big time* as well.

The result of this relationship is that I lost my ability to trust my discernment on the character of men, and so all men became unsafe.  I grabbed onto a verse and made it mine: "Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23)."  I heard lots of messages about guarding my heart, but never really did hear how I was to do this in a practical way, nor did I hear any wisdom on how long I should do this.  So, what was my interpretation? Lock my heart up like a dungeon.

As I am navigating my world of singleness, though, I am coming to a new revelation....I'm not so sure that I've been interpreting this verse correctly.

I recently looked up the whole 4th chapter of Proverbs.  It has a lot to say about wisdom, but the section that contains the verse about guarding our hearts is actually a section on a call to righteousness! You see, back in biblical times, much as it is now, the "heart" was a catch-all word for thoughts, emotions, and soul.  What this verse, in context with the other verses around it, is saying is not to keep our hearts apart from others, but instead to keep our hearts apart from evil and instead preserved for righteousness.

Obviously, a lot of unrighteous things happen in the context of both romantic as well as platonic relationships, and in that sense, we need to be careful to put some things in place to keep those relationships from evil.  For example having accountability is a huge way to keep relationships pure.  I also think that determining in your heart the character traits of what a godly person looks like so you can recognize them in another is a huge help too (for example, teachability). But I think more than anything, prayer is key.  Prayer for wisdom and discernment are exactly what Phil 4:6-7 tells us is the best way to guard our hearts.

My revelation, however, has been that guarding my heart is not an all-or-nothing situation. I really believe that instead of being black and white, there is much more of a gradient scale with a lot of gray in between.  I'm not advocating giving our hearts away fully to anyone and everyone who comes along, but I am also not advocating for locking it away like it doesn't exist.

CS Lewis has a great quote: To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

So, I am trying a new thing.  I am trying to figure out how to allow myself to be vulnerable and open, especially with the opposite sex.  I realize that this might mean I could get hurt....but that's the beauty of freedom...that you forgive, you heal, and you move on.  I find that a lot of women my age have become so discouraged by life that they have lost their youthful optimism and spirit.  That is the last thing I want to be.

Blessings,
Erin



Thursday, June 16, 2011

Goodness

I never question whether the Lord has His best in mind for me when His best aligns with my ideas of what is best.  It is in those moments when His best doesn't line up with my idea of best that I question.  If I could agree that His best is always best, regardless of what it looks like, I could save myself a lot of heartache.  However, I think this is a large part of the human condition...agreeing with God that His best is best all the time. 

Sunday, June 05, 2011

You Can't Turn a Chihuahua into a German Shepherd

A Chihuahua is a small little dog.  They are considered a bit of a pocket pet, which means that have been breed specifically to be a companion animal.  They provide little else in the way of what other dogs might provide....not much of a guard dog (other than the fact that some of them bark), you can't really take them running, and you certainly wouldn't use them as a "working dog" (think herding dogs on a farm).  Their one and only purpose as a dog is to just hang out with their humans.

Now let's look at German Shepherds...now there is a dog with a lot of purpose.  They are great guard dogs, many of them are used as K9 dogs, you can take them running with you, and so on.  But certainly, if you wanted to put one in your purse and carry it around with you, like you would a Chihuahua, you would not be able to do that.  Paris Hilton, for example, would probably never chose a German Shepherd as a dog to own.

If you bought a Chihuahua you would never expect it to do or behave the way a German Shepherd does and vice verse.  They were designed to do very different things.  It would be ridiculous.

Yet, I regularly find myself admiring certain traits or personality characteristics of people around me, wishing I was more like them.  By this I don't mean traits that I should be admiring like patience, kindness, gentleness etc.  In fact, those ARE traits that I should be seeking to become more like in my own life.  Instead, I am talking about the traits in others that are things that you can't always, nor should you, become like.

For example, I have a friend who has several tattoos. In fact, she regularly says: I'm bored, I think I'll go get a tattoo today.  I, on the other hand, don't have a single one. I have thought about getting one for quite a while, but just have never done it.  At this point, I think it would be a surprise to me if I ever even got one.  I have yet another friend who is super into music.  All kinds of music.  She can carry on a conversation about music producers and albums and all sorts of things that I don't have a clue about.  I love music, I play the violin and a little guitar, and I have a decent singing voice, but I am not passionate about music like she is.

What I am finding, generally, is that those traits I admire are usually traits that I am jealous of, or jealous of what they "get" that person.  My friend with the tattoos....she connects with teens like no body's business.  She is amazing with them.  I on the other hand am seen as a bit of a fuddy duddy.  My other friend who is so into music....she had a lengthy conversation with someone tonight about music that was way over my head. 

I am learning more and more each day to stand confident and firm in who *I* am created to be.  I am probably never going to be the tattooed rocker chick (though I secretly love good rock music; especially with a good guitarist).  However, there are things about me that make me amazing and great.  There are things that my tattooed friend and my music friend don't have that I do.

Who I am is amazing and great and awesome and wonderful.....I can't become someone I am not and the sooner I stop trying to be...the sooner I will be at a greater level of peace.
Blessings,
Erin

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Remembering to be Thankful

When I was in college my grandmother suffered a stroke.  This first stroke was just one of many she suffered over the course of about three years until she finally died from one.  These strokes affected her in a progressively negative way.  The first one she had affected her ability to raise her right arm and also her speech.  She also fell and tore her rotator cuff in her left arm, rendering her virtually unable to use either of her arms.  As the strokes progressed in severity, her ability to take care of herself was also affected.  About a year after her first stroke, we decided to put her in an assisted living facility.  As she deteriorated, we moved her to an increasing level of care until finally, right at the end, she was in a fully assisted nursing home.

I remember my aunt coming up to visit my grandmother while she was still in a section of the facility that was for folks who were still fairly independent, but needed some extra help.  In this section of the facility she was served a couple of meals a day and got some help cleaning her apartment. 

During my aunt's visit, we ended up having lunch over at my grandmother's apartment.  After lunch, my aunt and I were washing dishes by hand and my aunt casually looked over at my grandmother and said, "Boy, I sure bet you don't miss washing dishes!"  Suddenly without warning, my grandmother burst into tears.  My aunt and I stood there shocked for a moment before we could register that my grandmother was crying over not being able to do the dishes.

I was pretty young when all of this was happening...maybe 20 or 21, but the memory of this day is etched with me.  You see, my grandmother wasn't sad because she liked doing dishes....she was sad because even if she had wanted to...she was physically incapable of helping.  It wasn't the dishes, it was what the dishes represented.  My grandmother was a feisty, strong and capable woman.  I don't know how she couldn't have been, growing up in the depression, raising a family of four and then in her later years nursing my invalid grandfather until his passing.  This woman, who'd served her family and others for her whole life was now almost completely dependent on other people. 

I had an epiphany at that moment....the epiphany was just how thankful and grateful I should be over the things I had...at any moment they could be taken away.  I resolved to try my best to complain less about the things in life that were really not worth my time or energy to complain about.

I was reminded of this truth again this past week.  I just got done reading a book called "90 Minutes in Heaven."  This book is about a man who died in a car accident.  He was so dead that the paramedics who arrived did not even bother doing CPR on him.  His dead body sat in his car for 90 minutes until a man happened to come along and asked to pray for him.  After being declared dead for 90 minutes, this man, named Don Piper, came back to life.  Of course an accident as traumatic as he was in had a lasting impact on him physically.  Much of the book is about his road to recovery after this accident.  He lives in almost constant pain, he has no use of one of his arms, his leg is missing a whole piece of bone and is shorter than his other leg, twisting his body and causing arthritis among many other physical ailments.

In one chapter of this book, Don describes the emotional trauma of realizing he is unable to throw a football with his boys again, and cannot take the youth group skiing like he used to.  I was struck anew with all that I take for granted in life.  I am relatively healthy.  All my arms, legs, fingers and toes work exactly the way they were designed to.  My brain is fully functional, I can communicate with others and take care of myself. 

I am resolved yet again to be grateful and thankful for what I have....even when it means I am mowing the lawn for the second time in a week, or doing laundry yet again, or any of the things in life that seem to be my least favorite things to do.  I am going to remember to be thankful I have the ability to do them. 

Blessings,
Erin

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Smart Cookie

I'm a pretty smart cookie.  I mean this with as much humility as I can muster.  I have two bachelor's degrees, one of which is a BS in biology.  I am an incessant learner and thinker.  One of the ways the Lord created me is with wisdom and "brilliance."  However, in the words of Voltaire: with great power comes great responsibility. Everything good about how we are created has a flip side.  Taken too far or twisted in the wrong way, our strengths can also be our biggest stumbling blocks. 

One of the ways this works with me is that because I am right about most things much of the time, I have a tendancy to think I am right about all things all of the time.  In other words, I can come across as condescending or patronizing or even an outright know-it-all.  My pride rears its ugly head because I love sharing all of my knowledge and wisdom with others.  This is one of the reasons I am a great teacher, but it can also be hurtful to other people.  Not just because I have corrected them, pointed out that they are wrong, or in the tone of my voice but also because there is a real part of my heart that just likes being right.

This week has turned out to be a series of me having to apologize and say I am sorry.  First at work when I was told I had been condescending to a little boy who reached for something I was holding without asking, then to a friend who was offended at a facebook status I posted after a conversation with her, and then to another friend who roots for a different baseball team than I do after a comment he made about the Mariners.  Sigh. 

And, I will tell you...nothing shows you just how much pride you have when you have to swallow it and admit you're wrong and apologize.  Thus, I march on, swallowing my pride and learning how to live in the fullness of being me but in all humility considering others better than myself (Phil 2:3).   This is a lesson I have needed to learn this week. 

Blessings,
Erin

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Not Defined by My Past

I have have a friend who likes to talk about her past by using phrase such as: "When I used to do ____ (fill in negative term)." Or, "When _______ (fill in past event described in horrific terms) happened to me." In perusing my own blog posts, I have come to realized that I also talk at times about things in my past this way.  I am sure a lot of us do this.  It is probably a natural tendancy when we have memories of something negative to describe it in negative terms.  The difference is that my friend talks about these things all the time.  And, she cannot use any other description for these things except in boarderline hostile words.  She is, in essence, defined by her past.

I am finding, however, that whenever I use negativity to describe things from my past, it brings up negative emotions within me.  This gives my past a measure of power over me.  If I allow things from my past to continue to affect me negatively, then I am still in some ways defined and controled by those things.  It makes me a victim.

I am not a victim.  My friend who continues to describe her past in negative terms is not a victim either, if she choses not to be so.  She has a decision to make.  Is she going to let these things define her today and control her today? Or, is she going to move on from her past?

I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about negative things that we've been involved with or bad things that have happened to us.  In fact I think it is good to talk about those things and understand how those events have affected us. What I am talking about is the power we give those things when we allow them to define us. 

Blessings,
Erin

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hope

President Obama wrote a book about three years ago called "The Audacity of Hope."  I have not read this book, but the title intrigues me a lot.  Specifically, why is hope audacious?

A week or so ago I was sitting in our church's prayer room when I felt in my spirit the Lord stirring me to hope again.  If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you  know that since about September, life has been overflowing with peace and calm.  There are so many lessons I have learned in the last seven months.  One thing that seems to have eluded me, however, is the desire to hope again.  It isn't that I have been in a full-on hopeless state, but it has felt like I have come to accept the mundane and perpetually mediocre as normal for me.

When I felt this stirring in my guts to hope again, it came as a bit of a shock: how had I gotten to a place where hope was NOT normal?  In light of this, I realized that while I had moved past the idea that the Lord had nothing but pain and turmoil for me, I had NOT moved on to fully expecting abundant life, though that is my inheritance.  As a daughter of the King of Kings, I should live hoping for and expecting abundance.  I don't mean this in the prosperity gospel, materialistic kind of way.  I mean abundance of life on the inside, in my heart, in the fruit of the spirit, and yes, even sometimes in my circumstances too.

I wrote in my journal on that night a long entry about hope....that this year would be a year of jubilee, that this would be a year of blessing, of joy, of outrageous outpouring of amazingly wonderful LIFE.  I don't believe in New Year's resolutions, because I feel like I have the power to make changes in my life at any time, and so I have decided to hope extravagantly yet again.

This brings me back to my first paragraph about the "audacity of hope."  Barack Obama describes hope as audacious.  The definition of this word is: fearlessly, recklessly bold, daring, disregard of normal restraint."  I find it fascinating that the president of our country would describe hope as audacious. 

The reality is that hope should be NORMAL.....not fearless, not reckless, not restrained, but NORMAL. I mean, I've got the God of the universe on my side, working on my behalf.  I know how my story ends.  I know that all things work together for my good.  I know too much to live a life of not expecting the worst, but also not expecting the best.

This is what the Lord is asking of me: to make hope normal again.

Blessings,
Erin

Friday, May 06, 2011

Community

A number of months ago Steve Fry, pastor of The Gate and president of Messenger Fellowship spoke at our young adult gathering.  He spoke on the Trinity and really shifted some of my paradigms about how the Trinity functions. Specifically I was intrigued by a new thought: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit live in community and fellowship with one another, each equally important, and in interdependence with one another and in mutual submission to one other.  (I am paraphrasing an hour-long message into a short sentence, so suffice to say that there was a lot more depth and detail, which I won't get into now.) He spoke about how this model of community really shapes how we see each and interact with one another. 


This community existed before time, and we are drawn into this relationship because we are invited to be a part of this same relationship.  Not that the Lord needs us in the same way He needs the other members of the Trinity, but we are adopted and grafted into His family and He does chose to use us to accomplish all He wants accomplished.  I find this concept intriguing.


I think most people are longing for community.  We are designed in the image of God, we are bearers of His likeness in spirit.  If He longs for relationship, it makes sense that we would be too.  One of the very definitions of the word community is: "A group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat."  I love that this definition is applicable to so many different scenarios.  It can apply to a group of people simply living in the same town, it can apply to a group of people growing in knowledge of something (like a class in college) or growing in a common interest (like a group of people who all play softball) and it can apply to a group of people who happen to work together.


I have found that there can be a lot of power in community.  I believe that there is a direct correlation to the amount of investment each individual is willing to give and how interdependent each person really is, to the amount of power within that community.  If there are members of a community that feel superior to the others, the power breaks down.  If there are members who are holding back and not fully investing in community, the power breaks down too.

This is why people respond so positively to people who are willing to invest in other's lives in every way.  You want to speak into my life on an issue?? Great! But the authority to do so will be increased if you also celebrate with me or cry with me or just be silly with me too.  We are so much more than our sanctification needs. This is why kindness leads to repentance....not frustration, or a desire to fix, or to make people a project.

This is also why people don't respond to superiority.  You want me to come to your Bible study?  Wonderful!  I love coming to Bible studies where there is an atmosphere of interdependence and sharing.  How do I know when this is in place?  When anyone, regardless of marital status, ministry status, or age could be up in front sharing.  Or, even better, when the person sharing is sharing out of their own brokenness and realness...this is when real transformational power occurs. 

No community outside of the trinity is perfect, but I am praying for full investment and true interdependence in the communities I am already a part of, including myself.
Blessings,
Erin

Monday, April 25, 2011

I Bless the Rain Down in Africa....

I want to go to Africa.  I actually have been dreaming of this continent since I was a little girl.

You see, I grew up going to a Christian and Missionary Alliance church.  While our church's focus was unreached people in Southeast Asia, for some reason I always had Africa in my head.  I remember in high school a friend went on a mission with Youth With a Mission to an island somewhere in South America.  In that moment I knew I had a call to the nations, but because I was so scared about what it meant, I denied it for years.  I would think about what it would mean to be a missionary and inevitably my  mind would turn toward Africa. I just thought about the worst case scenario, and to me that meant a place that was most unlike the place I live....and I don't think you can get much further from Western Washington than Africa.

Fast forward a number of years and a restored Erin starts to emerge.  I actually start to embrace my love for the nations and I am excited about the what it means to GO....and I do "go" a little.  Africa is still hovering on the edges of my mind.  This is fueled by a blog I read about a 20-something woman in Africa who adopts orphaned and sick babies in Africa.  You can see her blog to the left of my blog titled "The Journey."

The good news is that this dream is looking more and more like a reality.  The bad news is that a lot of stuff has to fall into place to make it happen.

Here are the details:
The powers that be with the governing body that runs the zoo finally realized that they were losing people in my job classification right and left. To give a little background, my position classification had been listed as "part time temporary" which meant that I did not have benefits and sick leave and that I could be let go at a moment's notice.  Others in my similar classification would get hired and leave once a better paying or benefited job came along.  In the two+ years I have worked at the zoo I have seen this happen with three people.  This is a pretty high turnover rate for a job that really takes a decent amount of time to figure out.  So....this winter it was decided that we would officially be reclassified as "career" employees and be given benefits and a raise.  So, as of April 1, I now have benefits and sick leave leave.

This is not the end of the good news.  While I am not a "full time" employee, I am a 0.9 employee.  This is where I have a choice: I can chose to either work 36 hours per week (which is actually four more than I was working) or I can work 40 hours per week and take five weeks of unpaid leave throughout the year. 

Since I have to take time off, my plan is to take the five weeks all at the same time in the fall, which is my least busy time of the year.  Since I can do this all at the same time, this will enable me to GO somewhere.  Specifically, somewhere in Africa.

I'm looking into orphanages, AIDS houses, a hospital, halfway house for women getting out of prostitution/sex trafficking or something like that.  I am exploring my options right now.  I have lots of contacts within the continent of Africa, specifically in Malawi, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. 


The hard part of this is going to be raising money to go.  I won't be getting a paycheck for those five weeks, but I'll still have bills at home to pay.  Additionally, I'll have expenses in Africa to attend to such as flight and maybe even transportation and housing costs while I am there.

However, the thought of going makes me really excited.  Just the possibility encourages me in a way I haven't been in a long time, even more than the trip to Turkey last year.

So, stay tuned for updates on all of this!  We'll see how it goes!
Blessings,
Erin

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jane Eyre and other Romantic notions

I have been accused before of spending too much time thinking/blogging about my singleness, and I realize that lots of my posts are about this particular subject.  As a result I have been thinking about this post for a long time before finally deciding to post about.   If I was a mom and I posted about mom stuff a lot, no one would blink an eye.  If I was a police officer and I posted about crime a lot no one would blink an eye...This is where I am at in life right now, it's what is on my mind, so I am going to quit feeling like I need to apologize for blogging about what is happening in my world.

I made a mistake this weekend.  The mistake was thinking I could see a romantic movie and not have it stir up within me longings I do a really good job of suppressing most of the time. 

The movie was Jane Eyre, which I think is a widely enough read book and movie that I don't think I'll spoil any of the plot by talking about the movie.  The movie, set in the 1840s, is about a girl who goes to be a governess in a house after growing up under some pretty horrible circumstances.  Jane is a character I can relate to a lot.  She is described as "plain, and a thinking and passionate young woman who is both individualistic, desiring for a full life, while also highly moral."  She moves into the home of wealthy Mr. Rochester to teach his ward.  Rochester and Jane fall in love, as he is smitten with her straightforwardness, her lack of simpering towards him and her ability to stand her ground in conversations with him.  In short, he falls in love with her intellect and character. 

Now, Rochester is a capricious character, at best.  He fights his feelings for Jane by openly courting another woman in front of her, and he baits her into arguments.  However, the thing that strikes me most about this character, and the thing that makes this movie linger with me several days after seeing it is this: he is relentless in his pursuit of her in spite of convention.  He falls in love with her as his intellectual equal and does not seem to care about her plainness, lack of wealth or status.

I think in the heart of every women is an intense longing to be pursued.  I know that this is true of me.  The scenes that run through my head and pierce my heart are the ones in which Rochester cannot seem to help himself and runs after Jane, or the things he says to her, "You transfix me, quite."  There is a decided ache in my soul to be pursued in this way. 

I had a conversation with a good friend about a gentleman she had been seeing who was not pursuing her.  In fact, he was decidedly passive towards her in this area and she had decided to end things with him.  In this conversation she told me about a male friend of hers who had said that a "spirit of pursuit comes upon a man when he finds the one he is going to marry."  I feel as though I have observed this in many men around me who are now married....they saw and they pursued.

But, I'll be honest.  I struggle with knowing how much "being out there" is my responsibility too.  I wrestle with questions about what it looks like to put myself out there or how much I am supposed to initiate.  I certainly don't feel like I am a hermit, but I also know that I generally wait for guys to start conversations with me. 

I read a book called Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye (and as a side-note, I HIGHLY recommend this book for older, single, Christian women.  Other than some interpretations of "singleness being a gift," it is a book I would have written on this subject if I was able!), and in it she has a quote: "Therefore, if you are in a room full of people and your eyeballs land on some guy who you think is awfully cute, you just need to keep that comment to yourself and keep right on stepping if he doesn't approach you.  Why? Because if he doesn't approach you, he wasn't moved enough by what he saw when he looked at you.  "Well, maybe he didn't notice me," you say.  Well, if he didn't notice you, all the more reason to leave him right where you found him!  If you have to make him notice you, you are starting off on the wrong foot already."

I get what the author is saying, and I have even myself written about how I feel like when a new guy comes around we single women can act like vultures hovering over some fresh road kill, but I still struggle with knowing how much of my longing to be pursued is wrapped up in some romantic notion a la Jane Eyre, how much of it is the Lord's heart for me, and what exactly my role is in the whole thing.  Clearly being some princess sitting on her tuffet waiting around for a knight in shining armor on a white horse to ride up and sweep her away, which so many movies and books portray, is not truth.  I also don't want to be some bra-burning "Sex and the City" have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too gal.  I am finding that there is a LOT of gray area to navigate in between these extremes, and I am finding it really hard to land on truth somewhere in there.

If only there were some "Dating for Dummies" book out there.  Maybe I should write one some day.
Blessings,
Erin

Friday, April 15, 2011

Known for...

My prayer is that it would be said of me after I have died, no matter what I accomplish in this life or no matter what circumstances I have faced, that I leave this world more passionately in love with Jesus than the day before I depart.  I would rather be remembered for that than for anything I accomplish or for anything I have overcome.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Forgiveness

Because I am not Jesus, forgiveness is more like a journey than a destination for me.  I know I am getting close to the end of the journey when I can see someone whom I feel has wronged me and genuinely greet them with joy or rejoice in their good news.  After the pain of these last few years and all of the friendships I have lost, I am finally arriving at this place.  I am so grateful for all of the teaching I have had on this, over the years.  I could easily become a bitter and hard woman if not for the power of forgiveness. 

Injustices and evil happen every day, sometimes even to me.  I chose to forgive not because it absolves the person of what they've done, or sets them free but because it sets *me* free.  In the same way I am the main one affected by unforgiveness and bitterness, I am the main one affected by my decision to forgive.

Blessings,
Erin

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Do I Have Something on my Face?

Do you ever wonder how people see you?  I mean, not in a morbidly introspective kind of way, but really wonder if how people perceive  you matches with how you perceive yourself. 

When I was  growing up, I went to elementary school with a girl who was sort of socially awkward.  I mean, she just didn't "fit in" and what seemed to make it worse was that she was seemingly oblivious to this fact.  It seems to be a trend with socially awkward folks...they are almost always the last to know.  She was kind of always the fifth wheel and because my school was so small (a total of 10 girls in my whole grade) options for friendship were pretty limited.  To top it off, when someone had a party it was pretty easy to know who did or did not get invited.  Every once in a while one of the girls would have a party and invite everyone....even "awkward girl." 

Ever since then I have always been keenly aware of NOT wanting to be the pity invite or the awkward girl in a group....but sometimes I wonder if I am.  I sometimes get this irrational fear that I am saying or doing something that is actually weird and strange.  I wonder if I have some sort of booger on my face that no one is telling me about. 

In my mind I have this idea about who I am, what I am gifted at, and the plans the Lord has for me....but when I am treated a certain way, or NOT treated a certain way....I sometimes wonder if I'm really the "socially awkward girl"...you know, the one who doesn't even realize that she's not actually who she perceives she is.

I hear a lot that I am real, and genuine, and nice and sweet and warm and caring. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE those things about me, and I see do them too.  But, there are other aspects of me that I wonder if I am the only one who sees them.  I wonder if they just aren't as great and if I'm not as gifted as I think I am.

I'm hoping I don't have a proverbial piece of spinach between my teeth.
Blessings,
Erin

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kicking Fear to the Curb

This week I dyed my hair brown.  I also pierced my nose.  Interestingly, the main response from people who know me has been, "Are you having a mid-life crisis?"

The answer is, "No!"  I am not going out and buying a BMW (or any other car) that I can't afford. I'm not running off to Vegas hoping that what happens there stays there.  I'm not quitting my job and running off to join an acrobat troupe, nor am I trading in my wardrobe for some goth or emo style.  I am still me.  Just with a little more bling and a little less blond.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am always up for adventure....I have in the past quit my job and started a preschool, quit my job and traveled for three months in Europe, bought a house at the age of 28 when no one else I knew owned one, traveled to and from various countries alone (China, Turkey, and the UK to name a few) and so many other things.

Once I set my mind to something, there is very often little to dissuade me.  I wanted a pond in my back yard, so I grabbed my shovel and started digging. I wanted a deck, so a friend and I built one.  I wanted to learn how to ski, so I went up with friends and taught myself how to ski (I did this as a little girl with riding a bicycle too).  I bought a new car that was a manual transmission, even though I didn't know how to drive one, I just figured I could learn. Once the decision was made to dye my hair and pierce my nose, I just did it.

Often, the main thing that stops me from doing something is fear.  So, when I find myself contemplating something for a long time, and the only reason I'm not doing it is fear...well, sometimes I just find myself pulling the trigger and going for it.  Once I recognize that fear is the only thing stopping me, I usually just act.  I think this often appears to be a sudden decision, when in actuality the decision has been brewing for sometime.

This week has been that for me.  I have been thinking of going brunette for quite a while.  I have been thinking of getting my nose pierced at minimum since this summer.  Fear of what others would think, fear of change, fear of the unknown, and fear of making a mistake were the only things stopping me from going forward.  Rather than being bound by fear, I acted.

I find that sometimes the only way to kick fear in the face is to just go and do the very thing you are afraid of.  Very often I have realized that what I had actually been afraid of wasn't that big of a deal to begin with.  Fear puffs itself up to worst-case scenario, keeps you paralyzed and stuck.

Joyce Meyers has a quote about courage not being the absence of fear, but being afraid of something and doing it anyway.  I love that quote.

Besides, hair dye grows out or can be re-dyed, and if I don't like the nose ring, I can always pull it out and let it heal.  So, mid-life crisis? Nope. Now if I go and run off and become a rock band groupie...THEN you can start to worry.

Blessings,
Erin

(PS In NO way am I saying that getting my hair dyed and a nose ring are things truly worthy of some healthy fear....like say being deployed or having a child or moving...they're just my example in this post.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Best Fruit of All

When I was in High School, I was very active in Young Life.  I so loved this organization, that I volunteered with them when I was in college.  The leaders in my YL club quite literally saved my life.  They took me under their wings and helped me through some pretty rough times in high school like the foreclosure of my parent's house and their near divorce, my best friend's decision to have an abortion, and some heartache with school and sports.  They saw something in me and invested in me like no one had before.

I remember the wife of this team, Cheryl, telling me the story of how she and her husband met, fell in love and got married.  She told me that she and her husband, Dave, had met in February, were engaged by May and married by August.  The speed of their courtship shocked me, but the thing that was most surprising to me was what she said next.  She told me that right after she and Dave got engaged she prayed that the Lord would give them some sort of trial to go through together.  She told me that the relationship had been so blessed up until that point, she felt like she needed to know how they would handle trials and hardships together. 

This was such a surprising thing for me to hear as a teen.  I'd never before thought of relationships in the light she was presenting them before.  I had never considered that relationships might benefit if not outright need to go through testing together and that this could be a good thing for a relationship.

As I have gotten older, the truth of her story has proven itself to me over and over again.  Some of the best friends I have are friends that I have had this experience with.  I remember a particular tension spot I had with a friend whose wedding I actually ended up being Maid of Honor for.  I was terrified that this friction between the two of us would mean the end of our friendship.  (I think for relationships that are not on a true, solid foundation, this can and does happen frequently.)  Instead, after working through the issue that was causing the conflict between us, our friendship actually ended up being even stronger and more solid than it was before.  It was almost as though going through this confrontation drew us even closer together.

I am finding this same principal is the true with our relationship with the Lord.

As I am emerging out of my long season of suffering, I am having continually deeper revelation about the Lord's purposes in allowing us to go through messy seasons. 

In my previous view, the sole purpose of these rough seasons was that the Lord allowed them for the sole purpose of character development and to prepare the His chosen ones for greater things.  I still believe that those things are true.  After all, Job was restored more than was taken, Joseph became second in command of all of Egypt, Ruth gave birth to a man who would be in the lineage of Jesus, and I could go on and on. 

However, this is only part of the story!  Just like in our human relationships, our times of affliction are more primarily meant to draw us closer, but in this case to the Lord.  If our distress breaks our relationship with the Lord, it was never a true relationship to begin with.

I've been taking a closer look at the book of Job...even before the Lord restores Job and gives him back more than was taken, the Lord spends chapter after chapter revealing Himself to Job, He tells Job who He is, and He opens Job's eyes to all that He is and has done.

This is the same lesson I am learning too.  As I submit to the Lord's leading and work in my life and focus on Him again, I am entering in to a sweet fellowship and intimacy with Him like I have not had before.  I am learning all about Him all over again, and He is revealing Himself to me.  My relationship with Him is strengthened and intensified.

If I limit my revelation about seasons of distress only being for character development, then I begin to have a lopsided view of the Lord.  Seasons seasons of adversity WILL continue to happen to us over and over. There is no escaping them. We keep repeating these seasons, like a cycle, we repeat them over and over.  The difference is that we are meant to go deeper and deeper and deeper; not into a pit of despair but deeper into a well of living water.

The problem with a lopsided view of God's reasons for these seasons is that it paints Him as a hard-driven task master who is only interested in refining our character and making us more like Him.  While He IS interested in those things, He is infinitely more interested in developing our relationship with Him. If I only view my trials through this lens, I begin to strive and strain to figure out what's wrong with me or what I'm doing wrong so that I can put an end to this season.  If I instead view the ultimate goal of these times as something to draw me closer to the Lord....well, then I can rest more firmly in Christ's arms, abiding in Him, and cooperating with Him in all He wants to do in me.
 
This, I believe, is the source of peace I am now experiencing....I have realized that my relationship with the Lord has been strengthened and renewed by the last three years even stronger and deeper than it was before.  This is even sweeter tasting fruit than any character trait I've developed or any blessing the Lord might have prepared for me.
 
Blessings,
Erin

Friday, February 11, 2011

Love

Valentine's Day is quickly approaching and as the date comes nearer and nearer, I have been meditating on the love of Christ.  He loves me.  He loves every part of me, after all, He made me!  He loves the awkward, geeky, and gawky sides of me as much as the gifted, "with it," and mature parts of me.

Often when it comes to romantic relationships, when I am interested and hopeful for something to develop with someone, I find myself becoming morbidly introspective: "Did I say the wrong thing?"  "Did I do the wrong thing?"  "What is the right thing to say or do?"  "What if he doesn't like this part of my personality?"  "I am too XYZ or too little ABC for him." 

Sometimes these thoughts can be good....we can learn about blind spots or things that need to be brought under control of the Holy Spirit when we take a good look at ourselves.  For me, though, I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time dissecting and worrying about how I am coming across or who I am. 

I have realized, though, that whomever I marry....the very things I am afraid of not being loved are the very things he will love about me.  My brain: he'll love that I am smart and have ideas and thoughts....I won't have to hide or downplay this part of me!  My passion: he'll love that I am not afraid to be stirred by things and to be emotional about the things that move me.  My determination: he'll love that I am not easily dissuaded and that I remain loyal and committed.  My communication style: he'll love that I am a teacher in all I say and love to share all I am learning.  You see, there are so many things about me that I have felt are, well, wrong...yet, those are the very things that make me, me! 

The great news is, the Lord feels that way about me right now.  He feels that way about you right now too.  What are those things that aren't wrong or sinful that make you the unique person you are that you have felt overlooked or discounted?  What are those things that you have felt misperceived in who you are or you felt like you've had to hide?  We are uniquely designed, and each of us functioning in our gifting is how we make everyone better.

I am learning to embrace and love the very things about me that I can't (and shouldn't) want to change, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  I am learning to see myself the way the Lord sees me.  And, that is a good thing.

I love my laugh lines, they mean I have laughed and smiled a lot.
I love my worry lines, they have been earned in concern for others.
I love my gray hairs, they represent wisdom I have gained through experience.
I love my stretch marks, they mean I am mature and no longer a child.
I love my callouses, they have come through hard work and labor.
I love that I forget things sometimes, there are a lot of good memories to fill up my brain.
I love my soft hug, it is a great place to snuggle with my nephews.
I love everything about me that the Lord calls good, it means that He made me that way for a reason and purpose.

Blessings,
Erin

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Center

Almost three years ago, I quit my job, raised support and left all of my "world" behind to go to Europe for three months.  The "mission" was to travel to Youth with a Mission bases across the continent and do some teaching and praying for base leaders.

Even before I left for this trip, I was struggling, though I didn't realize just how deeply until much later.  The three months in Europe were perhaps some of the hardest months of my life.  The issues I was struggling with before I left, I took right with me....leaving was not the answer.  In fact, in my opinion, it very rarely IS the answer, though many people seek a change in circumstance when what we really need is a change in our hearts.

Before I left, I was confident that this trip was the "next step" in my calling.  How right I was, but how different it looked from what I thought.

I thought that this time in Europe would offer me opportunities to teach.  This was and continues to be my "sweet spot" in ministry.  I had visions and hopes of being able to do this while I was there.

Not only did I get to do VERY little of this, in the other roles I had on the team I often felt the "least" member of the team.  I regularly wondered "what am I doing here?" or felt that just about any other person from our body could be there doing what I was doing.  I can hardly remember a more lonely time, or a time I felt more insignificant than I did during those three months.  I got to practice multiple times a day forgiveness of others (especially members of the team), dying to my own needs and serving almost 24-hours a day.

By the end of the trip, I was absolutely shattered.  Well, I was shattered even before I left, and I came back in absolute pieces.  I was tired from three months of non-stop praying, traveling, continual serving, living out of my suitcase, and eating really bad food. All of this was compounded by the fact that I was still dealing with every issue that had been brewing even before I left.

During the last week of the trip, I finally lost it.  I was offended at a team member and I simultaneously was dealing with the realization that not only did I not get to do any of what I thought I was going abroad to do, I had actually felt as though what I WAS doing there was not good enough.  I remember crying in another team member's room after he kindly told me that we probably couldn't pray if I was struggling.

I remember saying to him at that moment that I needed to learn that "scraping gum off of chairs" was good enough for  me if it meant that Kingdom work was being done."  I really meant it at the time.  It was a hard lesson to learn: here I was on the other side of the world doing ministry that looked nothing like I had hoped it would be, yet victories were being tallied....I should have been thrilled.

To this day I feel like this is a lesson I am continually learning.  How do I be content sitting on the sidelines as long as Jesus is winning?  How do I care more about the kingdom and the King receiving glory than getting any glory myself?  How do I learn to put the 'team's' needs above my own?  How do I put the Lord in the center of my heart instead of myself?

This is a lesson I am stil to this day learning.  Because, just when I think I have it down, something will come along and knock me off of the throne in my own heart and the pain of it shakes me awake and makes me realize just where I've placed myself.  It is a humbling thing to realize that you've once again taken the King's place in your own heart.

This is where I find myself today....realizing just how easy it is to let selfish ambition and personal promotion and "my" calling take over my life. 

Oh, Lord, that I would get to the place of needing nothing else but YOU glorified in my life.

Erin

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Revelations about Tacoma

I live in Tacoma.  This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's taken the time to read my blog's URL.  And, as many of you know, I have been desperate itching to get out of here for a number of years now.  I have been in an extended holding pattern to do this, though, which has left me wondering at times, if I'll ever get my chance to see the mission field like I so hope to do.  This feeling of being trapped here has been compounded by the fact that over the last few years, many (I can count eight families off the top of my head without even trying that hard) notable families and some singles in my church have left for the mission field.  I have felt, as I have bitter-sweetly seen each of them off, whether somehow I had missed out on my chance to go.

Fast forward to Wednesday night at my church's mid-week service.  Towards that end of the service, one of our staff members got up to the front and was talking about an encounter he'd had with a notable prophetic voice in the American church and some words this man had to say about Tacoma....having never stepped foot here before in his life.  Our staff member reminded us of several words spoken over Tacoma and encouraged us to remember all that the Lord has said about this city over the years.  He also urged us to continue to believe...that it is never too late for the Lord to do what He said He would do and asked us to repent of any unbelief we had over this city.

Suddenly, I was struck by this fact: I feel about the words spoken over Tacoma the same way I feel about the words spoken over my own life: distrusting and unsure that the Lord ever will really do what He has said He will do.  In that moment, I had a revelation of just how deep this goes with me.  I could tell you with all head knowledge "Of course the Lord can and will do what He says He will do" but the truth of the matter, that in my deepest heart, I don't fully believe it.  In the same way I don't believe the Lord will fulfill words in my life, I don't believe He'll do it for this city either.  I had a connect-the-dots moment at how pervasive this distrust really is.  I have felt that Tacoma, like me, is the overlooked and forgotten one and this has been reflected in my actions in so many ways.

My heart broke over just what this has done.  Though I am here, I have not invested nor had eyes to see this city the way that I would want people to invest and have eyes to see me.  I have treated this city the same way I have been treated: with contempt, pride, and disdain. 

Obviously Tacoma is not a person, but it is FULL of people.....and I have neglected the ones right in front of my face.  I have not miraculously been transformed into deciding to stay, but I will say this: I have renewed vigor for praying and commitment to the people of this city while I am still here.

Blessings,
Erin

Friday, January 28, 2011

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun?


The other day I was sick at home and was flipping through the channels looking for a good movie on TV.  I happened to stop on a channel I normally avoid at all costs.  On this day a particular TV show was on that is very popular with young adults and teens right now.  It is a show about a group of friends living together for a summer at a beach for a summer.   The TV show was one I'd heard a lot about, and because the stars of this show are famous within pop culture, my curiosity got the best of me and I watched an episode. 

The content of this show disturbed me so much that I almost didn't know what to do with myself.  In the course of one episode, one of the guys brought home a stranger he'd just met and slept with her, two of the other housemates slept with each other, and one of the girls brought another stranger home to sleep with him.  This show was a glorification of partying, sleeping around and I almost felt like I needed to take a shower after watching just a little bit of it, it was that disgusting.  THIS is what our youth are idolizing and looking up to.  THIS is what is considered normal and fun to them.  I about barfed.

I had a former friend, in her "breakup" email to me this fall tell me that I was too hard on myself (probably true) and that I "took life too seriously." She said that I could have a "normal and fun life."  She went on to mention several other things that I was doing wrong with my life and criticized several of the choices I had made, what I was doing with my life and some of the things I believed as reasons for not wanting to be my friend any more.

I was, of course, saddened by this email, as this person had been a housemate of mine briefly, and was someone who had kept in touch and encouraged me through a large portion of the fiery season I just came out of.  What saddened me as much as her decision to dump me as a friend, was her line about life and the implication that I should, as a Christian, be out there looking and acting like the rest of "normal" society and the implication that I was somehow existing in a bubble of a world in which I did not engage with culture at all.

What I do question is this idea that anyone who is a follower of Jesus can both follow Him to the fullest AND follow the world to the fullest as well.  We should not view culture passively, as entertainment, but rather actively engage with it, as it provides insight into world view.  We should be innocent, but not naive, because when we are naive become unprepared for how to deal with culture when we do encounter it. There also should be parts of culture that we should have nothing to do with as well as parts of culture we deliberately and thoughtfully engage with.

Do I think life should be devoid of fun?  Of course not.  But, the truth of the matter is that there are many aspects of life, many seasons of life, many things we are asked to do that are the complete opposite of fun. We do them because they are the right thing to do and because of the maturity and character that they develop.

Do I think life should be nothing but fun?  Of course not. But I do take issue with secular humanism infecting our churches. I do take issue with the idea that the sole purpose in life is for this one thing: having fun.



My decision to live without many aspects of culture in my life, and her decision to live with them is one example of why most people are so incredibly confused when it comes to post-modern Christianity.....in most ways we do not look different from culture at all.  What need is there, then for people to find Jesus if those who follow Him are not being redeemed themselves and redeeming the culture around them? 

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, recently wrote a blog about this subject and he articulates this much better than I.  It's a long read, but well worth it. Here is what he said:

"Historically, and biblically, there are two erroneous extremes that Christians swing between: syncretism or sectarianism.
Syncretists go too far into culture, abandoning or diluting the gospel in the name of relevance. Liberals in the early twentieth century did this by pandering to the high culture of academic modernity and abandoning belief in the inerrancy of Scripture, the supernatural, and the divine nature of Christ. The shells of mainline churches are their legacy. Most recently, the Emergent Church did much of the same as they chased after the postmodern mood of our culture by questioning the virgin birth of Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture, the exclusivity of Christ for salvation, and God’s design for heterosexual marriage.
Sectarians are better known as fundamentalists who impose man-made rules on people in the name of achieving holiness by avoiding sinners and hiding out in a “Christian” culture. They are prone to seeing others sin more easily than their own sins of hypocrisy and religious pride, while arguing about morality when they should be explaining how to be redeemed. Whereas syncretists go too far, sectarians don’t go far enough. Neither follows the entire example of Jesus, though both would disagree passionately.
The general concern of sectarians is that to be in culture is to be in sin. All Christians are commanded by God to avoid universal sins—offenses the Bible condemns for all people in all cultures—as well as particular sins, or offenses that are sinful for some people under some circumstances but not for all people under all circumstances. Christians are to do so without unfairly condemning or restricting the freedoms of fellow Christians who involve themselves differently in controversial cultural matters.....This is, in part, what Paul means throughout the New Testament when he speaks of weak and strong Christians. In truth, every Christian is both weak and strong. We all have some areas in which we need to restrict our freedoms because of our weaknesses, while we are able to use our Christian liberty in areas in which we are strong.
I recognize that Christians will have different personal convictions in matters of culture and I welcome those differences that are not sinful, because what pleases God is unity, not uniformity. Uniformity undermines mission and often is promoted by erroneous restrictive and permissive theologies. Restrictive Christians go too far and name everything a universal sin, forbidding some cultural activities that the Bible does not, such as listening to certain musical styles, getting tattoos, watching movies, smoking cigarettes, consuming alcohol moderately, enjoying some sexual pleasures within marriage, and body piercing. Conversely, permissive Christians tend to name everything a particular sin and bless activities that the Bible forbids, such as drug use, fornication, homosexuality, and cohabitation before marriage.
I’m not advocating either a permissive or a restrictive approach to debatable cultural issues. Rather, I am encouraging Christians to involve themselves in culture not merely for the purpose of entertainment but primarily for the purpose of education. As a missionary, you will need to watch television shows and movies, listen to music, read books, peruse magazines, attend events, join organizations, surf websites, and befriend people that you might not like to better understand people whom Jesus loves. For example, I often read magazines intended for teenage girls, not because I need to take tests to discover if I am compatible with my boyfriend or because I need leg-waxing tips, but because I want to see young women meet Jesus, so I want to understand them and their culture better.
Sadly, a theology of “garbage in, garbage out” remains quite popular but has numerous flaws. First, there is no such thing as a pure culture untainted by sin and sinners, including Christian entertainment, which has had its share of scandalous behavior. One such example is the fact that as I’m writing this blog, the leader of a major Christian television network has publicly confessed to adultery. Second, it is uncertain what distinguishes clean “Christian” and unclean “secular” entertainment forms and why Bibleman is so much better than Spiderman.
Engaging culture requires discernment by God’s people to filter all of the cultures they encounter, Christian and non-Christian, through a biblical and theological grid in order to cling to that which is good and reject that which is evil. As we engage culture (watching films and television, listening to music, reading books, shopping at stores, and so on), we must do so as theologians and missionaries filled with wisdom and discernment, seeking to better grasp life in our culture. We do this so we can begin the transforming work of the gospel in our culture by contextualizing the good news of Jesus. Not compromising. Not changing. Contextualizing. Practically, this means doing what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22–23, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” The truth is that every ministry is contextualized, the only difference is to which culture and which year of that culture. Everything from pews to chairs, sound systems, projectors, suits, and a printed Bible in the English language are very recent missiogical contextualizations in light of the two thousand years of Christianity....
One helpful taxonomy I have used for years to help teach on missiology is as follows:

· Receive – There are things in culture that are part of God’s common grace to all people that a Christian can simply receive. This is why, for example, I am typing on a Mac and am going to post this blog on the Internet without searching for an expressly Christian computer or communication format.
· Reject – There are things in culture that are sinful and not beneficial. One example is pornography, which has no redeeming value and must be rejected by a Christian.
· Redeem – There are things in culture that are not bad in and of themselves, but can be used in a sinful manner and therefore need to be redeemed by God’s people. An example that has resulted in a great deal of media attention is sexual pleasure. God made our bodies for, among other purposes, sexual pleasure. And, although many have sinned sexually, as Christians we should redeem this great gift and all its joys in the context of marriage.
As you can see, each issue requires discernment. Liberal syncretists tend to receive too much. Fundamental separatists tend to reject too much. So, while I would reject yoga because it is a Hindu worship act, it is possible for the Christian to redeem some of the exercise principles, as my friend, Rose, extols. Likewise, it’s not a sin to watch a film such as Avatar, enjoy the technological mastery, and learn about how to tell a great story. But, it is imperative for a Christian to not embrace the blatant pagan worldview that does not distinguish between Creator and creation, upon which the entire storyline of the film is constructed.
That said, is it possible to appreciate the musical and entrepreneurial talent of Jay-Z without praising his character or beliefs? Yes. Is it possible to watch and listen to Jay-Z to learn about culture, what people are valuing, and why some men have much larger audiences than any preacher because of how they present their message? Yes. Should Christians agree with the every message he and other artists present? No. Should Christians who like rap check out guys I have enjoyed getting to know a bit, such as Lecrae? Yes. Should all Christians listen to Jay-Z? No. Should Jay-Z sit down and talk to me about Jesus? Yes. Jay-Z, whenever works for you is good for me, and if need be I’d even watch a Nets game."

AMEN!

I read a friend's facebook post today of a translation of Galatians 5:13-26.  This translation was from "The Message."  This translation is not the most accurate of translations on a good day, but sometimes when you just want a nice, big-picture idea, "The Message" can't be beat.  Here's the translation:

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?


My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.

But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
 
Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.


Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.\

Blessings,
Erin

Monday, January 03, 2011

The Lord was Pleased to Bruise Him

The last few years have been the crushing of me.

If you are a follower of Jesus, it is His pleasure to crush you too.

This fact is a part of following Jesus that I balk and buck at.  I am not equipped to understand a loving father who allows His sons and daughters to be bruised.

Yet, it is clear that if I am to be made into the likeness of Jesus, I must go through the same things He did. 

Isaiah 53:10 states: "The Lord was pleased to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand."

If I look throught the Bible, it is filled with saints who have gone before me who were also crushed.  I can be crushed in a firey furnace like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  I can be crushed in a jail cell like Daniel and Joseph.  I can be crushed in the desert like Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Elijah.  Or I can be crushed in the valley like David. Then there's Jonah, Job, Ruth.....

Everyone's journey to being broken looks different.  There are no two ways exactly the same for the Lord to get me to the spot He wants me.  He allows me to have a journey uniquely crafted just for me to get me right where He wants me.

And, just why would it be his pleasure to do this?  It is because I must have my selfish ambition crushed.  I must have my pride, my idolatry, my rebellion, my people-pleasing, my insecurities, and my flesh purged.  This is the only way he can take me and remake me.  When I get to the spot of pure broken-ness, that is when I am truly and fully sumbitted and ready to be recreated in His image.

He desires a spotless bride.  He desires for me to have Godly character and holiness.  He cannot entrust His kingdom to untested people.  Just like no one would leave their child with a selfish, thoughtless, or rebellious babysitter, there is no way the Lord will entrust His people to those who don't have proven character.

I cannot do this on my own, though.  There is nothing in me that wants to give things up; especially if it involves pain or suffering to do so.  If I am completely honest, I only want the easy parts of following the Lord.  Don't get me wrong, there is joy and peace and celebration and love and kindess and provision and blessing to following the Lord!  However, it is necessary to see that sometimes the GOOD plan of the Lord is to allow trial, pain, and suffering.  If I seek to avoid this, I completely miss out on a whole portion of the Lord's character.  I do not have a full understanding of the Lord until I have walked with Him through a time of being pressed.

To "pick up my cross" means that I, like Jesus, submit to the will of the Father and allow Him to nail to that tree everything in me that is dark and vile.  The cross represents the fullness of life that I gain by allowing the Lord to do this.  The cross represents everything that is good and the opposite of my wicked and deceitful heart.  The very definition of being a Christian is that I admit that I am a sinner in need of a savior.  I cannot say I needed a savior only that one time.  I need a savior every day.  And so, I nail to the cross daily my will and sin.  Some things are harder and more painful to do this to.....this is why it can take a chastisement for me to be willing to give them up.

It was God's pleasure to crush Jesus.  This is the way of the Lord: to crush His saints in order to rebuild them.  Jesus had to go through this in order to identify with us in this way, though this is not the only reason for it.  It helps me to understand that even God in human flesh understood what it means to suffer.  (Please understand that I know there was an even greater reason for this....but it cannot be overlooked that the Lord allows this to happen to all those who are called.)

When I count it pure joy to face trials....I am not rejoicing in the trial itself.  I am rejoicing in what it is PRODUCING within me. I am becoming more like Christ, and if I suffer like Him, I will be resurrected like Him. I rejoice because I am being qualified for MORE.  I rejoice because there is fruit in my life from suffering.  I rejoice because I am gaining a greater understanding of who the Lord is.  It is in these things that I rejoice.

"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." Philippians 3:7-12.

The last few years have been the crushing of me.  This is not the end of the story though.  And while my season of crushing is over, I am eternally grateful for the deep lessons learned and would not trade back anything lost in that season for all that I have gained.  I pray it would be His pleasure to crush you too.

Blessings,
Erin