What you are going to find on this blog: my thoughts (sometimes raw), my heart (spilling out), my honesty (maybe shocking), my ramblings (sometimes quite rambly!), my Jesus...especially that last one.

What you are not going to find: Platitudes (yuck), quick fixes (they don't exist), someone who acts like she has it all together...because I definitely DON'T!

I started this blog because I know the depths of muck in my own heart and the twistedness of my own thinking...and as I talked through my struggles with others I realized that I am not alone. So I promise to be honest with you, even if I think you aren't going to like me any more if I reveal the "real me." So if you want to keep thinking that I am a "nice" person, don't read my blog because I am not a nice person. But I am a redeemed person, saved by grace, for which I am eternally grateful.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I wish
I could shield you from this pain
Spread my arms out and take the blows myself

I wish
That this world had more joy
and less sorrow

I wish 
I had an answer
to the questions asked and unasked

I will 
hurt with you
love you
pray for you

I will 
cling fiercely to every joy

I will
probably never stop questioning
but I still have peace in the midst of mystery

I will.

January 19, 2011

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Least of These...

This is such a familiar passage that I'd be insulting your intelligence and Bible knowledge if I quote it, but I'll risk it and go ahead and insult you.  I've got some vinegar in me today :).

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  (Matthew 25:34-40)

Who are "the least of these" anyway?  The obvious answer is right in the passage...it is those who are hungry, those who are thirsty, those who are strangers, those who need clothes, those who are sick or in prison.  It is  easy to see "the least of these" as the people who are marginalized by our society...the homeless, the drug addicts, the prostitutes...those who would be considered the dregs of society.  Yep, these are "the least of these," and we are called to serve them. In serving them, we are serving Jesus.

But we dig a little deeper.  If we are honest, many of us would also include the maid who cleans our hotel room, the chauffeur who takes our keys and parks our car, the people on the "People of Wal Mart" website.  While we might be polite to them to their faces (though sadly, not always), we ridicule and poke fun at them (and take pictures of them with our iPhones and post them online so the whole world can make fun of them too) the second they have their backs turned.  Yep, these are "the least of these" as well, and we are called to serve them.  In serving them, we are serving Jesus.

I consider those above pretty obvious.  But what about the CEO of the big company whose marriage is falling apart because of the long hours he's working?  What about that nice family at church that is struggling to pay their house payment and is in danger of losing their home?  What about the people who confess to struggling with secret sins?  We might be good at hiding our judgmental attitudes, but when it comes down to it we consider ourselves better, more enlightened, good Christian examples.  I think that these fall into the category of "the least of these" as well, and we are called to serve them.  In serving them, we are serving Jesus.

And what about those who are just really good at putting on a cheerful face while they mask the pain and hurt and sin they are struggling with?  What about those who go to church week after week but don't know who Jesus is?  What about those who are truly desiring to serve God and know they don't have it all together?  What about them?  Are they "the least of these" as well?  You know that they are, and we are called to serve them.  In serving them, we are serving Jesus.

What about those who live in developing countries?  Yep.  AIDS orphans?  Yep.  Politicians?  Ummm...yep.  What about ______________?  Yep, them too!  Again, in serving them, we are serving Jesus.

But what about me?  Me?  Well, this me is the one called to go and serve "the least of these," right?  I mean, that makes me something other than "the least of these," right?  Nope.  That puts me smack-dab in the middle of "the least of these."  Why do I think that I somehow am not included when everyone else is?  My best answer is that my own disgusting pride places values on people.  I place people into categories... those who were dealt a raw hand in life, those who made bad choices to get them where they are, those who don't have life figured out yet, those who look different/act different...and I place myself above every single category.  They are the least of these.  I am more than these.  Just seeing these words on the screen make me feel sick to my stomach at my own backward thinking.  But I can't erase them because they are true.

So I have come up with a new definition to "the least of these:  "those whom Jesus has died for."  Did He die for the crack-addict?  Yep.  The prostitute?  Yep.  The "People of Wal Mart?"  An emphatic yep.  The maid?  The CEO?  The cheerful-face people?  Yep, yep, yep.  Me?  Yes, He died for me.   That means that I don't have any right to put myself above anyone else.  I don't have any right to consider ANYONE as lesser than myself.  I don't have any right to make fun of people that Jesus died for, for in making fun of them, I am making fun of Jesus.  And of course, I would never knowingly do that.  But I have.  And I am sorry to say that I still do.  

But I will say it one last time, lest I have been unclear.  My value to Jesus is EXACTLY the same as the value of the crack addict.  EXACTLY the same as the prostitute, the people of Wal Mart. EXACTLY the same.  We are all souls that Jesus died for, loves, and longs to draw to Himself.  

Joy, get over yourself:  I am the least of the least of these.  


I suppose I've always felt a mixture of excitement and trepidation at that number, because it is historically believed that Jesus went to the cross at age thirty-three. I don't make a big deal out of numbers, but for some reason I've always felt like this age should mean something. After all, by this age Jesus had fed tens of thousands of people, healed hundreds (if not thousands), preached to massive crowds, and brought many, many people to repentance. I feel like something significant should happen in my life during this year. But this year has been a year shaped by struggle, defined by discontent. My own heart has been in a bad place. I have been anything but Jesus-like.

Today in the shower I was mulling this past year over. I have two days left of being 33. And while I haven't had any Elijah-and-the-prophets-of-Baal moments this year, nor any Moses-seeing-God's-glory moments, I have just begun to grasp something completely fresh and new during this year. This one thing has amazingly rejuvenated (and continues to rejuvenate) my stony heart. It has brought about (and continues to bring about) a new hunger and desire for more of God. It has single-handedly destroyed (and continues to destroy) all of the smug self-righteousness that has made me “feel good” about myself for as long as I can remember. And it is awakening in me (and continues to awaken in me) the beginnings of a soft contentment.

What is this miraculous new revelation that is bringing about so many changes in me? Two words. The Gospel. The Gospel? You mean, the same Gospel that saved me as a young child? You mean the same Gospel that drew me to Christ in college? The same Gospel I profess to share with others? You mean the same Gospel that I have taught about numerous times? That Gospel? Yes, that Gospel.

Does this surprise you at all? Because it sure surprised me. In my usual self-righteous, know-it-all way, I have always understood the Gospel. The Gospel, in a nutshell, is that God created man to be perfect and to be in perfect relationship with Him. Man messed up and sinned and broke that perfect relationship. In order to restore that perfect relationship God sent His perfect son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins, MY sins. After three days He rose from the dead to prove His power over Satan and death. If I believe in all of this, I will be saved and live for all eternity in the presence of God!

I've always understood this. I've believed it. I still do believe it. But I've always left the Gospel right there, at the moment of my salvation. That is what the Gospel is for, right? The Gospel just sort-of “happens” to you and you get saved and then you live the Christian life. The good Christian life. The sort of Christian life that means that you are involved in a good church, you read the Bible, you pray, you tell others about the Gospel. But the Gospel has always been past-tense to me. It is something that happened before. I just figured I had it down and I could move on with just continuing to pass it on to others.

I have been, to borrow a line from Paul, a Pharisee. If I were to write Philippians 3:4-6 about my own life, it would go something like this; “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh—I myself have more: Born into a Christian home, to zealous Christian parents, memorized hundreds of verses, went to church religiously, a Christian of Christians; as for zeal, leading many mission trips, working with kids, doing anything asked of me within the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” I've been a good influence. I've doled out lots of “good,” Christian advice. I have prayed for people. I have prayed with people. I have shared my faith often. I have had the label of “missionary.” And I have been self-righteous about it all, but I have always tempered that self-righteousness with a healthy dose of wannabe humility. I have served. I have done menial jobs. I have sacrificed. Yet even in my “humility” I have seen pride's ugly face. I have taught about the Gospel so often that I had reduced it to a formula.

This is NOT what the Gospel is. Yes, the Gospel happens at the moment of salvation. But it also happens before the moment of salvation, when God is drawing us to Himself. In fact, it happens before the foundations of the world. And it doesn't just reach backward into time, it reaches forward into time. The Gospel doesn't just save me, the Gospel defines me. It is who I am. The Gospel crushes my self-righteousness and my pitiful attempts to please God by my works. The Gospel annihilates my silly idea that the measure of grace that I need is somehow less than the measure of grace that someone else needs. I am shocked at the realization of just how dirty and disgusting my heart really is, and how good I have become at disguising its true state. I have put so much cover-up on my heart that even I truly didn't know how gross it was (is) under all the layers of “prettiness” I have caked on there. The Gospel is tearing all of that away from me and I am seeing for the first time that the measure of grace I need is enormous...exactly the same measure that you need. The same measure that the drug-abuser needs. The same measure that the child-abuser needs. Wow.

I am reminded of the scene in C.S. Lewis's beloved The Voyage of the Dawn Treader where Eustace has turned into a dragon because of his greed. Aslan comes to Eustace and tells him to tear off his own skin. Eustace claws at himself and tears off a layer of skin. And another. And another. After realizing that his own attempts to remove the dragon skin from himself are going to fail, Eustace allows Aslan to do it. Eustace retells it later: "The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know -- if you've ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy -- oh but it is such fun to see it coming away."

I am in this process right now, and God is tearing away so much ugliness from my heart right now. It is an uncomfortable process...actually, it is downright painful. But I am learning about what the Gospel really means. I am learning what it means that I am a daughter of the King. I am learning what it means that I am covered by Christ. I have not “arrived” and I will NEVER again make the mistake of thinking that I have. God is not done with me yet, so you had better believe that this story will be continued...