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Archive for January, 2013

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The first part is to question nothing. When your teacher tells you that the world was originally one continent as you sit there in third period Biology, get offended. Don’t believe any of it, and instead of listening, come up with all these excuses in your head as to why you shouldn’t have to take Biology, because you really don’t want to talk about any other possible options as to how the world was created. You were born in the church, and it’s all you’ve ever known. You’re really not comfortable thinking about it any other way, because it makes you think about why you do what you do and why you think how you think, and you’re thinking that could be dangerous. Sometimes, it’s better just to believe. It’s better to believe that war is necessary and people must die, and the poor must be poor, and some people just “get it” and some people just don’t, and there’s really nothing you can do sometimes about anything, ever. When you hear of school shootings, and children being drugged and forced to kill their own parents, and a climate change, and new planets, go into your room and lock the door and fold your legs underneath your stomach and shiver. But do not worry, because tomorrow you will make yourself forget. You will cover the guilt with pretty words that disguise themselves as actions. You are an expert at believing what you want to.

The second part is to question everything, right? Because isn’t truth abstract, and an ultimate truth unattainable? Why can’t I be right, and you also be right, and he and she also be right, even though our stories are dramatically different? What is justice, and why do we fight wars? Justice is when the murderer is murdered, so find justice in murder, right? Don’t they deserve it? Shouldn’t people get what they deserve? What is forgiveness, and why do we forgive? Isn’t forgiveness for suckers, can’t it never truly be heartfelt? So why do we even try? Fairness is when I sacrifice and then you sacrifice, when I give and then you give, isn’t it? Isn’t it earned, just like grace? Grace must be earned; you must work for it, must be worthy of it, shouldn’t you? Won’t questioning help you to become aware of yourself like you have never become aware of yourself before? Oh yeah, and you, yeah you, don’t forget that you are self-righteous!? You pretend that you aren’t, but you are!? You are also ungrateful, because you don’t say thank you to God for waking you up every morning!? Why all these questions?? I am done with the questions???

Finally, when taking a stand after questioning, be cynical, always cynical. Be cynical of others, first. Focus on the important things, like how many swear words someone says, or the type of lighting that the sanctuary has (I think it’s a little darker in here; why does it always have to be dark; why can’t we just praise even if our makeup runs down our cheeks or we are seen weeping? This must be a church that is afraid of being real). Compare yourself to the person you’re making eye contact with, wherever you are at, and hope you turn out better than them in some way. Say you love someone even though you know you do not, because you wouldn’t ever invite them over for breakfast, or walk their dog, nor do you care to talk to them for a whole hour over coffee, even good coffee. Talk about how you ought to feed and clothe others, to others, but don’t do it. It’s too much of a burden, and you don’t even know if you can provide a meal for your own family, and you needn’t make the effort. Worry about how you will provide for yourself. Constantly worry about where you will live and eat and what you will do. A sparrow? You don’t even know what one looks like, to be honest. But you’re convinced right now that it’s prettier than you. This is when you become cynical of yourself. Go to Wednesday night Bible studies once a month (when you remember to stop watching shows on Hulu around 7pm) and cry to the small group leader, telling them that your life is falling apart; then on the drive home wipe your black eyes and feel okay, but also kind of stupid that you told them. Hate yourself, hate that you always think about yourself and always cater to yourself, and that you never sacrifice yourself. Be guilty and ashamed of any grace you are given, to the point where you do not believe that you are given it. At the end of the day, when you have defeated yourself, when you have come to the realization that Christianity will only ever mean throwing yourself under flying stones…. decide that you hate it, and blame it for making you hate it.

Decide who God is going to be based on who you are going to be. Forget about reading the Bible, as the words are too difficult to pronounce, and after a while it all sounds the same: regurgitated, repetitive, uneventful. Like a goal you wrote down as a child, but grew up to laugh at; it was beautiful but difficult.

Fall on your knees in your room and scream at the top of your lungs that you are done being apathetic, and that you are done being emotional, and that you are done being both.

Finally, question your cynicism. But note: this will bring you back to the first part—questioning nothing.

Whatever you do, do not think that there is hope in getting out of it. Do not find yourself uncurling from your infantile position on your bedroom floor, beginning to sing in the dark, an old hymn that has remained in your head from the days of pews and wooden crosses on display. O that old rugged crossed, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me. Do not turn on the lights and do not open your Bible. It will only lead you to disappointment again. Do you want the cycle to repeat? Do not read the words and for once, truly for the first time in your life, decide you are going to understand them rather than try to understand them. If you try, you have an excuse to fail. But if you are going to, you are going to. Do not fold your fingers into your palms and pray. Do not believe that grace is sufficient for you; that the prodigal son can be forgiven after he has run out again, then come back again, then run out again, then come back again, then run out again, then come back again, then run out again, then come back again….

No! Do not believe you can be wiped completely clean of your selfish life yet again, and definitely do not believe that this time, finally, something will be set into motion that will forevermore change the way you live and love and think, and it will be Christ, the truest picture of Christ you’ve ever seen.

You see, the key is to believe everything, anything, but the truth.

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One day I took off my shoes to feel what it is like not to have them. I burned my feet and cried and cried over them and over the feet of all those without shoes. I sat on the cement next to a man who smelled like street sewer and who strummed an out-of-tune, four-stringed guitar. I saw legs go by, some picking up their pace as they paraded by us, some slowing to stare. Maybe smile. I saw hands go by; hands that lifted up shoulders mechanically, attached to sounds like I’m sorry, No cash, Have a good day, Take care. I was low, so low onto the ground I could look into the eyes of the man next to me. Eventually I sweat like him and smelled like him and I understood him; he just wanted to be seen. By evening, I told him good-bye and to take care, but I meant it, truly meant those words like I had never meant them before, as I walked away. That same day I traveled to a third-world country, and held up a camera to a thin, crusty little face. I envisioned the photo in black and white, framed on one of the walls of my house—in  a spot that people will see right when they walk in so they know I know about the pain. The pain I thought I could see in the flash of light exposing the child’s flaking skin and faraway expression, in the blinking click of the camera’s eye. But when I had the photo printed, I saw my own reflection in it first, above the line of chapped lips, in the center of the pupil. I was a big smiling chin under camera eyes. Not what I expected, but maybe it can represent hope, I decide, because at least one of us is smiling. Yes, it will represent hope, there is hope. Life is beautiful because there is hope! Things can change! I hang the picture in my house to remember the child. After a long day, I walk on my sore feet to my bed; my shoes are lying next to it.

…….

This is a prose poem I wrote a year or so ago. James 2:26 had been haunting my daily thoughts, which includes the delightful reminder that “Faith without deeds is dead”. Dead. As in, not living. As in pretty much nonexistent, in this way of viewing the word “dead”.

After reading so many books (like Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love”, Kyle Idleman’s “Not a Fan”, and oh yeah, the Bible) I finally had a moment where I realized they all advocated for the same thing—don’t just read this book. Live it daily. Don’t just know what to say. Say it with love and courage. Don’t just think about what you’d like to do. Do it with boldness and prayer. After all, the Bible is called the living word of God, is it not? Isn’t that what makes it unique from any other book, and what will keep it unique forever? The fact that it is breathing life; that it is relevant, constant, eternal? (Hebrews 4:12 and Matthew 24:35, to see for yourself).

I was slightly terrified of James 2:26. It was usually easy for me to empathize with people, and usually easy for me to have faith that goodness would prevail—but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was usually just thinking about all of this, rather than doing something about doing something about it.

So, there I am yesterday afternoon, sitting on my living room couch, mid-sentence in Shane Claiborne’s “The Irresistible Revolution”, when I have the sudden impulse to drop the book and run. Literally run out to Mill Avenue, a street lined with bars and restaurants and quite a few homeless men and women.

(Sidenote: This was probably not too long after I read the line “Most good things have been said far too many times and just need to be lived”. FYI, the book “Irresistible Revolution” is a crazy-inspirational book about the crazy inspiring life of Claiborne, and his Simple Way ministry and lifestyle. It should be read by you who are reading this right now, if you haven’t already discovered it long before me.)

So, true story:

I do drop the book. I do run. (Although it sort-of turned into a jog 1/3 of the way in, as I was in ballet flats and haven’t ran for a month). I walked around trying to find somebody who was homeless and hungry.

Well, believe it or not, I only ran into one man. One man.  And he wasn’t even hungry. I asked if he wanted company, wanted somebody to tell his story to. He didn’t. His girlfriend was actually coming back to bring him coffee in t-2 minutes.

I felt a sudden sense of guilt while I was talking to him. So, we high-fived, exchanged street names (he’s “Monster”, and I’m just “Kaitlyn”, although I wish I would’ve said something cooler now that I think about it), and I walked away, thinking what was I expecting?

I was expecting to give money away, I guess. I was guilty because I had the same amount of cash in my pocket as when I set out. I was upset. Because, dangitt, I was willing! I was able! I wanted to have hands and feet that were led to feed. I had the resources to, had the heart to, the time to, and had the ability to physically move around in a free, open space. But the streets seemed emptier than ever before.

I was expecting to share the gospel. I guess there would be a moment where I would stare deep into Monster’s eyes and tell him that he was loved. Then, he would probably cry. And it would be the first time he’s ever cried in, like, five years. And he would tell me he wanted to know Jesus, too.

So, there I am, begrudgingly headed back home, streets still empty all along the way.

Then, it finally hits me. Laughter. I start laughing at myself, at all my moping, literally laughing out loud like a madman. I was frustrated with not being able to find a hungry homeless man or woman; not a rumbling stomach near the streets I was walking down. Why on earth was I frustrated about a thing like that?

Perhaps because I wanted to share the gospel, I told myself. But then, why did I not just stop and chat with one of the thirty students whom I had just passed?

Perhaps I’ll run into somebody when it is inconvenient for me to give. Actually, I know I will. It will be when my pockets are full with money I’d have liked to use for my own lunch, or for a book I want to read. When love requires sacrifice, I want to be able to give and give, just as much as I want to give right now, when it’s pretty convenient.

It is not bad to go out of one’s way to try to help another. Au contraire. It’s something that I realize I don’t do nearly enough, but something that has been on my mind more and more. When we finish reading a book that inspires us, or hear a sermon that makes us want to jump out of our seats and take action—well, let us take that action! Let us exit the doors and immediately give of ourselves in the form of money, of compassion, of helping hands and feet. But let it not be a fad, a sudden impulse; something that is fleeting and dependent upon our mood.

Let it remain with us long after the words we have read seem worn-out and repetitive. Let the desire to give selflessly remain in us when we are walking down the streets or sitting in a classroom, in a workplace, or eating out, or going to the movies, or……. (insert any scenario, ever, right here).

We cannot fully understand until we do. To admit but never change is to accept. Follow the “radical” desires to consistently love and give and rid of the self, but keep in mind that action can be something as simple as faithfully paying tithes on Sunday, or making time to get good conversation in with friends, and to meet and show hospitality to strangers on a regular basis (Hebrews 13:2)—rather than playing on our phones.

Do seek out the hungry, the hurting, but know they will appear to you in many different forms.

And keep in mind that sometimes the “simple”, done faithfully, is radical in itself.

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