Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Way to mess me up, Francis...

Are You a Good Christ?
By Francis Chan

I think it's time we stop asking ourselves the question: "Am I a good Christian?" We live in a time when the term "Christian" has been so diluted that millions of immoral but nice people genuinely consider themselves "good Christians." We have reduced the idea of a good Christian to someone who believes in Jesus, loves his or her family, and attends church regularly. Others will label you a good Christian even though your life has no semblance to the way Christ spent His days on earth. Perhaps we should start asking the question: "Am I a good Christ?" In other words, do I look anything like Jesus? This question never even entered my mind until a friend of mine made a passing comment to me one day.

Dan is a long time friend of mine. In fact, he's the pastor who performed my wedding. He was talking to me about a pastor named Von. Von has been working with youth in the San Diego area for decades. Many of his students have gone on to become amazing missionaries and powerful servants of God. Dan described a trip to Tijuana, Mexico with Pastor Von. (Von has been ministering to the poor in the dumps of Tijuana for years). Dan didn't speak of the awful living conditions of those who made their homes amidst the rubbish. What impacted Dan the most was the relationship he saw between Von and the people of this community. He spoke of the compassion, sacrifice, and love that he witnessed in Von's words and actions as he held these malnourished and un-bathed children. Then he made the statement that sent me reeling:

"The day I spent with Von was the closest thing I've ever experienced to walking with Jesus."

Dan explained that the whole experience was so eerie because he kept thinking to himself: "If Jesus were still walking on earth in the flesh, this is what it would feel like to walk alongside of Him!" After that discussion, I kept wondering if anyone had ever said that about me-"The day I spent with Francis was the closest thing I've ever experienced to walking with Jesus." The answer was an obvious "no." Would any honest person say that about you?

What bothered me was not that I hadn't "arrived," but that I wasn't even heading in the right direction. I hadn't made it my goal to resemble Christ. I wasn't striving to become the kind of person who could be mistaken for Jesus Christ. Isn't it ironic that a man can be known as a successful pastor, speaker, and CHRISTian even if his life doesn't resemble Christ's?

1 John 2:6 "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."

When John made that statement, he wasn't speaking about how to be a church leader or even how to be a "good" Christian. He merely stated that anyone who calls himself Christian must live like Jesus did. So how did Jesus live? You could make a list of character traits to compare yourself to, but it would be far more beneficial to simply read through one of the Gospels. After you get a bird's-eye view of the life of Christ, do the same with your own. Are you comfortable with the similarities and differences?

It's easy to get caught up in the pursuit of "success" as American church-goers define it. The thought of being well-known and respected is alluring. There have been times when I've been caught up in the fun of popularity. I've even mistaken it for success. Biblically, however, success is when our lives parallel Christ's. Truth is, there are many good Christs that you'll never read about in a magazine. They are walking as Jesus walked, but they are too focused and humble to pursue their own recognition.

May we make it our goal to someday have someone say of us: "The day/hour/15 minutes I spent with ______ was the closest thing I've ever experienced to walking with Jesus."

As Christians in America, we often complain about how antagonistic people are toward Christ. Personally, I'm not sure that Americans are really rejecting Christ. Maybe they just haven't seen Him.

Try to be COMPLETELY honest with yourself right now. Is the following true of you?

You passionately love Jesus, but you don't really want to be like Him. You admire His humility, but you don't want to be THAT humble. You think it's beautiful that He washed the feet of the disciples, but that's not exactly the direction your life is headed. You're thankful He was spit upon and abused, but you would never let that happen to you. You praise Him for loving you enough to suffer during His whole time on earth, but you're going to do everything within your power to make sure you enjoy your time down here.

In short: You think He's a great Savior, but not a great role model.

The American church has abandoned the most simple and obvious truth of what it means to follow Jesus: You actually follow His pattern of life. I pray for those who read this article- that we don't become cynical or negative toward the church. Instead, let's make a personal decision to stop talking so much and begin living like Jesus. Then we can say as the apostle Paul, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). My guess is that you've never had someone say that to you, and you've never said it to anyone else. Why Not?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Things that really burn my biscuits

Mouth to mouth resuscitation attempts that fail...so frustrating when you go through all that and it's in vain.

(CNN) -- A Pennsylvania man attempted to resuscitate "a road-killed opossum," state police say.

But this was one possum who wasn't playing possum -- the ugly creature remained dead.

Troopers responding to the scene in Oliver Township on Thursday determined that Donald J. Wolfe, 55, of Brookville, was drunk, according to the police report.

Several witnesses observed Wolfe's failed resurrection of the flattened marsupial, police said. It was not immediately clear how he endeavored to restore the possum's life.

The arresting officer in the incident was unavailable for comment Friday. Attempts to reach Wolfe were also unsuccessful.

Wolfe will be charged with one charge of public drunkenness, police said.

Alice Cooper...on faith.


Tough Pill to Swallow

There was a period of time a couple of years ago where I got really bad migraines. I don't know why. Maybe allergies. Maybe stress. Maybe just growing pains. But they were really bad. The kind that make your vision go fuzzy and your stomach churn.

For awhile, I would dope myself up with advil or excedrin or tylenol or whatever I could get to the fastest. I would take two little pills and lay down for awhile. Inevitably, it wouldn't be enough so I would pop a couple more little pills. And then I would sleep.

By the time I woke up, I would feel better. I could at least function. But there was always the threat of the headache coming back. For those who have never experienced a migraine, it's hard to explain...but while I wasn't in crippling pain, I still had a lingering feeling in my skull that warned me not to look at any bright lights or move too fast or it was going to come back with a vengeance. It could stay that way for hours, sometimes days, but often the headache would in fact be triggered again and come back full force.

I finally broke down and went to the doctor. After lots of tests to determine it wasn't anything more than just migraines, I was given a prescription for a GIANT painkiller. I was to take one any time a headache was coming on. Better than my 6 little guys, but one of those pills was bigger than my thumbnail. It made me nervous just to look at it.

And the first time I attempted to swallow one...holy hotdogs. It made me gag. The pill was so big I could barely get it down my throat. Tough to swallow would be the understatement of the century. It was painful going down.

But it worked. And it usually worked fairly quickly. It got to the root of the headache and I wasn't left with any lingering feelings. I felt healed.

Sometimes when we experience struggles or frustrations or anger and bitterness, people can say things that help, at least as far as our emotions are concerned. Things that validate us, that affirm our feelings and make us feel fuzzier or more justified on the inside.

"No, you were right. She was wrong."

"You have every right to be angry at her."

"You have every right to be angry at God."

"You need some chocolate and a chick flick."

"You deserve to be treated better."

Those are the little pills...the ones that after 6 or 7 make you think you're doing better.

But something is leftover. The anger or sadness has not been healed, but simply band-aided and maybe in hours, maybe in days, it will come back and probably bigger and worse than the first time around.

Then there's truth. The truth that hurts on the way down. The kind that makes you anxious to just think about having to deal with it.

"You aren't trusting God."

"You are trying to play God."

"It's not your job to fix it and you're trying to make it your job."

"Jen...you are holding on. And you have to let it go."

When you're already in pain, already hurting, the last thing you want is something that causes more hurt on the way down.

But that's what Truth does.

It battles with our humanity and kills some sin that is alive in us.

Killing anything that's alive never goes without some kind of pain.

Truth is a tough pill to swallow...but it works.

Edit:: After writing this post I went to my google desktop and this was my quote of the day.

Truth does not changed based on our ability to stomach it.

~Flannery O'Connor

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Why is it, that the more I find myself hurting for someone else, heavy-hearted for the things we do to our children, and broken for the sin of this life, that I feel God's power, love, grace and forgiveness more than ever before.

Today has been a day. The kind that had little to do with me and everything to do with God. Somehow I felt shattered and full of joy at the same exact time.


Nothing else.

There's nothing else it could be.

"God knows quite well how hard we find it to love Him more than anyone or anything else, and He won’t be angry with us as long as we are trying. And He will help us."
~Excerpt from a letter from C.S. Lewis to the mother of a child who was concerned that her young child was idolizing the character Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Urban Camping 101

When pitching a tent in a 350 square foot apartment, there are a couple of steps you should probably follow...

1. Find somebody who is just crazy enough to be willing to help you take on such a great feat. Someone who can find their "inner 6 year old" and jump into the land where magic forts are the best thing since sliced bread, lollipops are your secret weapon and sunglasses make you invisible.

2. Pull out the necessary equipment and look a tiny bit stupid while realizing this might be a tad more confusing than previously thought.
3. Move coffee table and unroll tent.
4. Unfold tent and realize there ain't no way it's going to fit in the spot you alloted for it. Put on your magic pink "thinking" pants (jammies) and stare at it for awhile.
5. Put it up anyway. Or...let your amigo do it.
6. Realize that tent has filled up every last inch of free floor space you had, which wasn't much to begin with. Make mental note to not wait until the last second to go to the bathroom, should the need arise, because you're going to have to be creative about how you actually get to the toilet.
7. Realize that the door to the tent is shoved up against the couch. Aka: Have to climb on the couch in order to get down into tent. Unleash inner 6 year old and pretend that the floor is covered in lava and hop from one piece of furniture to the other, trying not to get "burned." (This step is optional.)
8. Turn out all the lights, open the window, put a lantern inside the tent, and proceed with Camping Simulation Station.
9. Figure out all the different ways a snake could get into your tent, talk about what causes bears to approach humans, discuss the pros and cons of bringing hot dog buns.
10. Get REAL excited about upcoming camping trip.

P.S. For anyone who wants to come visit...I now have a "guest house." Y'all are welcome to it anytime.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hold Us Together

This is one of those songs that I don't even have words for. Like, when I listen to it I just sigh. I was on my way to work this morning and the sun was shining and I had my windows down and I just blared it through the city. This is one of those songs that isn't just good, but is God. Completely from the Lord.

"I'll be my brother's keeper so the whole world will know we're not alone."

...that's what I'm talkin' about.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Picture Day: Kite Festivals and Ginormous Hot Dogs

Char and I both totally got whacked by that human kite when it did a dive bomb to the ground. Pretty much amazing.

That kid right there gets the genius costume award of the day...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Listening in a Major Key

A few posts ago I talked about how sometimes something comes up over and over and over again in my life which is usually my indication that I need to slow down and pay attention to what God is trying to teach me with it.

Lately, that theme has been listening. The first time it came up I was like, "Okay great." The second time I was like, "Oh hey God. Yeah, what was that? I'm sorry I was distracted." The third time I was like, "La la la...I'm not LISTENING." And He was like, "Obviously." But today, I finally said, "What...I'm all ears."

If I do this to God, how often do I do it to the people around me? Getting off facebook has made me very in tune to the distractions I allow to be a part of my life. To how often my cell phone rings when I'm spending time with someone. To how often I answer a text message while someone is talking to me. To how often my brain has moved on to what I'm going to say while I simply wait for the other person to finish what they're saying. To how often I listen to music while I'm reading my Bible. I surround myself with distractions and I'm quickly learning all the ways this hinders me as a person, as a coworker, as a friend, as a family member and as a daughter to the King.

So here are a few of the messages that have come to me in the past 2 days...

The first was an article in a student ministry magazine I read that talked about how teenagers talk in a "minor key." They don't really tell you everything that's going on in their lives or what they're dealing with, they just give you little clues. And it's up to you to be listening in a "major key" to hear those things and to ask the right questions.

But isn't that all of us? It's a rare person that will just say, "Here's what's on my heart. Here's what I'm dealing with. I need help." So...the question that begs to be asked...Am I listening in a major key? Or am I hearing the words coming out and moving on with life.

The second time came from a book I'm reading called Lessons from San Quentin. It's a sweet, sweet book about a man who spent time in San Quentin for a white collar crime, the relationship that he developed with Jesus while he was there, and the lessons he learned from the "lifers," the men whose lives were shaped by a slow pace, the value they place on every day they have, and seeming to have all the time in the world. One of his lessons is this:

"Listen when others speak. People who give respect listen intently and completely to what others have to say. They do not interrupt. The Lifers somehow had learned this behavior, perhaps because they realized that every word spoken has value and deserves consideration. Interrupting someone who is speaking is rude and a show of disrespect. Often we do so because we are rushed and feel we don't have time to allow someone to offer a full argument. That simply underscores the benefit of leading a simpler, less frantic life. Eliminating the time pressure seems to facilitate the patience that allows us to be fully respectful of others. Respect is one of those areas where you can test yourself pretty easily. Take a day this week and train yourself to review each conversation after it has been completed. Evaluate how many times you interrupted the other person, for whatever reason. Could you do better? Or maybe try this: reflect on each conversation you had and count the times when you were only half listening-just enough to get by. Again, could you improve how often you fully devote your attention to the person you are speaking with?"

And then my last, "Hey Jen, You're not listening. Love, God" message came this morning from one of my favorite thinkers, Henri Nouwen...

Listening as Spiritual Hospitality

To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.

Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Best Out of Context Quote of the Day

"There's only room for one white girl in these parts and what do we have here? It would seem that spot has already been filled."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

Jesus' Eyes

Every now and then there's a theme in my life. Whether it's an idea, a person, a word or a Scripture passage, it comes up, over and over and over again until I learn what I need to learn from it. And then it disappears as quick as it came, leaving just the wisdom or the feeling I gained from it.

These days, it's Luke 5. The paralytic man whose friends drop him through a roof to get him to Jesus. Well, maybe not "drop" but gently lower him down in front of the only man they know who can heal him. Just when I thought I'd gotten what was to be had out of it, it came back up again and I have no choice but to go back through it, wondering, "What am I missing?"

On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, "Man, your sins are forgiven you." And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, "Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—he said to the man who was paralyzed—"I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home." And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home,glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, "We have seen extraordinary things today."

Yesterday, someone posed this question.

"What did Jesus' eyes look like when He told the man to rise?"

Heart. Stopping.

That's all I could think.

After all this man has been through in his life and on his journey to get to Jesus, living completely dependent on what others could do for him, not experiencing much, trying not to be a burden to everyone in his life...

Then along comes a guy who he believes with some amount of faith can and will heal him.

I have to think this poor man was physically tired and uncomfortable after taking this journey. And I can't help but think of the view as he looked up at his friends, straining to carry him however far they had to. The stress in their eyes as they realized the house was too crowded. The twinkle of the idea to lower him down through the roof. The sweat that dripped down from their eyebrows as they tried to lift dead weight up onto the top of a house.

And oh the shock on the Pharisees' faces as he was lowered down from above. The hint of judgement as they looked at one another. The snickering from skeptics and the condemnation from those who don't believe unclean belongs in the presence of holy.

And the pain in this man's eyes as he questioned it all. The realization that maybe Jesus would laugh too. And the fear that maybe Jesus wasn't actually real. That all of this was in vain.

Then...in a moment, Jesus says, "Your sins are forgiven." I have to wonder if this guy wasn't a little disappointed. He wanted to walk. In my own life, I know that forgiveness is the greatest gift I could ever hope for, but I'm short-sighted. And some days...I just want to feel better.

It takes a lifetime to experience and understand forgiveness. But it would only take a moment to know you could walk when you'd never been able to before.

The Pharisees in the room begin to question Jesus, wondering how he thought he had the right to forgive sins, for they knew only God had that power.

Jesus didn't laugh at them or tell them they were stupid. He didn't throw a lightning bolt and kill them (although that would be kinda sweet). He basically said, "Fair enough...let me show you that I have the power of God."

And then something that I imagine was really beautiful happened...He shifted His attention from these men, from their thoughts and concerns, and looked right into the eyes of the paralyzed man.

I think it must be like those moments in the movies when all chaos around you fades and it's like it's just you and Jesus in the room and the only voice you hear is His as He says, "Rise. Pick up your bed and go home." He's got such confidence, not in your ability to walk but in His ability to heal. There's an inkling of wondering somewhere in the back of your mind that maybe, just maybe, it's not gonna work. But there's just so much strength in the way that He looks at you, in the tone of His voice, the gentleness of His smile, and the hope in His eyes that you're willing to risk the disappointment just for having had this encounter.

The man gets up and walks away. He goes home to glorify God while the rest of the room stands in awe.

I wonder...

There are so many little whisperings that we hear from our Savior, so many thoughts that we trust in, but are afraid of, so many things that He calls us to.

Would it make a difference if we took the time to imagine what it would be like for Jesus to look us in the eye and tell us to do the same thing. Would it be different if we had to look back at Him face-to-face to give our response.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

I think I just peed my pants.

Is this for real?

(All you Wicked lovers out there...make sure you get at least to the 4:30 mark)