Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Word Becoming Flesh

My birthday was last week. I love birthdays...I mean, I LOVE THEM. Needless to say when I realized that my birthday fell during lent and I had already resolved to delete my facebook, I was devastated. NO ONE WILL REMEMBER MY BIRTHDAY!

For my birthday I ended up getting 3 cards, 1 email, 2 phone calls (This does not include immediate family which added a few more) and 10 text messages.

This is not to say that I had a bad birthday, it was very nice and those who contacted me made it very special, but I wanted to break that down because my last birthday I got 40+ birthday message on my facebook wall (with minimal phone calls no cards and no texts). This year, without facebook, there were 15 people who wished me a happy birthday and 75% of them still resorted to a text based communication. I find this so fascinating! And I also relate to it so well.

I used facebook as my primary means of communication. And now that I have given it up, I have to actually WORK in my relationships now. I have to make time to cultivate my friendships. Before lent I was completely satisfied with reading others facebook posts and commenting on them, almost as my sole means of communicating with them. See, I am a very busy person. I work 3 jobs and my husband is a youth pastor and I am highly involved with his ministry as well. It was easier and more efficient to send a text and a comment. But at what cost? I have lost the value of sitting together, sharing our hearts and lives with one another.

It really makes me think about how we choose to communicate and how that can impact the message of what we are saying (and how that communication deepens or widens our personal relationships).

The other night I was watching a video series at a Bible study and we heard the story about a man who had a hard time expressing his feelings of love to his son, so he wrote them in a letter. The commentator called this act "word becoming flesh" they did not just stay inside someone's head or heart, they were spoken. And the farther we get from internet/text based "words" the more precious those words are. The closer we get to real face to face communication, the more vulnerable we are, and the more vulnerable we are, the better we can be God's love to those around us, and receive that love back.

Note on my wall at facebook - Text message - Phone call - Letter in the mail - Going out for coffee.......I'd much rather give/receive the last 3 means of communication...but it seems like they have become an obsolete means of communication.

Shane Hipps, author of "Flickering Pixels" and teaching Pastor at Mars Hill Church says this about relationships and facebook:

"The narcissism created by these technologies [facebook] is unique. It encourages not just self-absorption, but, more accurately, self-consumption. We become creators and consumers of our own brand. We become enamored by a particular kind of self, a pseudo-self.....This heavily edited and carefully controlled self easily hides certain parts of ourselves we don’t want others to see. This is hardly new, of course. In any social situation, we seek to control the impression we give. The problem is that in real social settings, there are limits to what we can hide. At a certain point, people intuitively see through us. Eventually they get a sense of who we really are. And in this way, real friendships can function as a healthy mirror. They become an honest mirror that loves but doesn’t flatter us."

This kind of real face to face communication is so vital for us to grow and feel and live. So vitally important for us to become deeper followers of Jesus Christ.

Let us remember: God did not shout from the heavens "I love you my children, you are free from the curse." No, God sent Jesus. A real live man who loved his enemies, ate with the poor, physically died for us, and then miraculously rose from the dead. It's as real flesh and blood as you can get. God did not just speak it. He loved us too much for that. This is what we are celebrating on Easter: God became flesh and blood and died a flesh and blood kind of death and then defeated that death so that we could be face to face with God and His kingdom.

So as we continue through lent, may we act out our relationships in the fleshiest kind of ways.

John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Reflections on Community (2)

Focusing on community through the 40 days of community challenge has been a real blessing to me and a compliment to what I gave up for lent: facebook. It's funny really...the first few days without facebook were HORRIBLE. I felt disconnected from everyone, I felt left out of certain information (because no one remembers to tell you in person if they already put it on facebook!) was hard. But I decided to continue on.

I started calling people (most of my family and close friends don't live near me anymore so this is the communication I have right now) to see how things were going...and one conversation in particular stands out to me. I called my youngest brother Chris (I'm the oldest of 4 kids) who turned 18 not too long ago. We ended up talking for about an hour and a half. We talked about transitions, jobs, money, housing, music and relationships. I got to really open up about my hopes surrounding future employment and moving soon (oddly enough we are in the same boat with these two topics!)

By the end of our conversation, it felt so good to SHARE LIFE with him. To support each other and know that we would be there in the good and the bad. Before we hung up I said to him "Yeah I just called you to see what's going on now that I can't read it on facebook anymore" and he said "You know...all the things we talked about I haven't really shared with anyone, especially on facebook." I'm not missing anything on facebook, really. Sure I'm missing status' like "Out to dinner" or "Watching Tommy boy!" but I'd have to actually talk to people to share in the stories of their heart anyway. You know...I just might never go back to might have sufficed before lent to just read my brothers mundane status' and never call him...but boy...

...There's nothing better than the love of a brother.

Circa 1992 My sister Thea, My brother Jon, and myself holding my brother Chris

Friday, March 18, 2011

Community Feels

For the past few days I was hit hard with a personal issue. It wasn't one I wanted to share with fact only 3 people knew (besides my husband). When it happened, I just couldn't keep it inside of me. It scared me, it made me nervous...I couldn't do it alone. I told my 3 closest friends and their words flooded me with support. No matter what happened, no matter how it went, they were there for me. They FELT what I felt. They lavished me with good words. When I found that the outcome wasn't what I had expected, I was crushed. When I told them the results, they were sad too.

Community feels. In a true community, when one hurts, we all cry. When one feels joy, we all dance. Thank God for the love of friends.

When have you felt for others? When have others felt for you?

“A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons." - Bishop Desmond Tutu

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Words and Birds

My neighbors in the apartment next to me have this big beautiful parrot. I usually don't hear it very often but today the bird is out of the balcony while they are doing some cleaning inside.

I've always enjoyed birds. I've had love birds, cockatiels, and the last bird I had was a nanday conure named Jazz. He looked just like this:

I loved that bird but had to give him away when I went off to college. Jazz used to sing and whistle all the time, but he never talked. My neighbors parrot on the other hand...can't stop talking. It laughs, and says a new phrase every couple of minutes...I actually thought my neighbor was on the porch it imitates so well!

I could hear the bird say "Quit it!" "What is it now?!" "Get to bed!" several times...mostly "quit it" (Which I've heard the mom actually say to her kids quite frequently). It seemed very telling to me. What if you had something repeating the most common, most used phrases in your house? What would they be? What are the words you choose to say?

I'm sure if I had a talking bird in my house it would probably say at least these two common phrases (I'll let you guess which is the one my husband says and which one I say)

"Clean up the house!"
"Could you please get off the xbox?!"

What words are resonating in our home? What is our focus? How do our words reflect us?

I realized last night that my husband and I both have one of the same mechanisms in conflict: we say mean things. We both do it. And we both can say heart breaking things to one another. Not prime "building others up" kind of material here. At the end of a fight we say we don't mean what we said...but that damage has been done.

Last night I felt guilty about those words I had been saying. If you say things long enough, people believe they are true about themselves. I went up to my husband and grabbed his face (btw I have no concept of personal space so this happens a lot haha!) and said "I know I've said some hurtful things to you. I want you to know that I'm moving forward and I don't want to say those things to you anymore."I can't guarantee that I will suddenly stop this pattern we've gotten ourselves into, but at least I can try. And at least we can focus on other words.

I'd hope that if I had a bird in my home, it's most common phrase would be "I love you."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Meal With Theologians (and their wives)

This weekend my husband and I went to a potluck. For the past 6 months Wes has been meeting monthly with a group of youth pastors who all work at churches (from all kinds of denominations) about half an hour from our town. They decided last month that it would be fun to get their families all together to meet each other and share a meal.

To be honest I was kind of dreading it at first. I LOVE being with people but lately I've been so busy with church, work, youth group, marriage etc that all I want to do at the end of the day is be alone. This was a very important time for Wes so I bucked up and went along.

We arrived to meet with about 5 different youth pastors and their families and I couldn't have had a better night. We may all come from different theological backgrounds, different family types, but we were all youth pastors and youth pastors' wives, and there's no one who can understand you more than someone going through the same thing.

Wes and I live in a small town where there aren't many young couples or families and there are even less people who have a similar perspectives and passions. Most of the time we feel very alone. We have a small group at our church that we love, but there is a little something missing.

At first I just stayed next to Wes listening to the guys talk about ministry and theology and life. Then one of the kids came outside and wanted me to play with her (comfort zone!) so we walked upstairs and I found all the kids and their mom's. Now, I'm not a mom (been married just under a year) but with my background working with children and my love for people, it's pretty easy for me to join the group. We started by introducing ourselves but it quickly went to some real issues that resonated with all of us as wives of those in ministry. We talked about, time management, painful ministry hierarchy, marriage, about opening up our home for someone to live in, or humbling yourself to live with someone was just so good to be around a whole group of people that feel the same feelings and think the same things. We clicked.

It's funny...earlier that night one Youth Pastor was talking about how parents in his church were upset that there were "clicks" in the youth group....but you can't force people to be friends. Those "clicks" are a solid group of friends dedicated to each other. You can teach people to love each other and be kind to your enemies...but that doesn't mean they will always connect.

An important part of community is CONNECTION. Common interest. Similar personalities. You can't force people to connect. You can't force community. (But you can have meals together to discover those connections!)

I picked my best friends - the ones I share my heart with. I don't share that with everyone...and that's okay! At the end of the night our group had asked if we wanted to do this more regularly, hosting at differnet homes (and the possibility of starting a small group bible study). YES. YES PLEASE! We need a community of people dedicated to each other. Feeling along side us.

Let's just say...

I can't wait for our next meal together.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Reflections on Community (1)

I am joining in on a journey through lent over at Sorta Crunchy. Each day we are reading a devotion from "Common Prayer" (a book available online at ). I can't remember the last time I was doing consistent daily this has been such a good thing for me! Each week during the "4o Days of Community" I'm going to reflect on my readings from "Common Prayer". This first week was...convicting to say the least! Especially my reading on Wednesday. There was a quote from Basil of Caesarea that said this:

Are you not a robber, you who consider your own that which as been given you solely to distribute to others? This bread which you have set aside is the bread of the hungry; this garment you have locked away is the clothing of the naked; those shoes which you let rot are the shoes of him who is barefoot; those riches you have hoarded are the riches of the poor.

Wow. So straight forward. If you have excess, that excess is for the hoarding it, you have let the poor continue to be naked and hungry.

Now...a little back story on why this has hit me so hard. My husband and I are hoping to move into a place on our family's land in the next 6 months. This is a better choice all around for us...except for one thing: it's smaller than our 2 bedroom's 400 sq ft. And to be honest, we're a little freaked out sometimes when we talk about it...and it's not even for a good reason! We're freaked out because "How will we fit all our stuff in it?" I've talked about this before, but I come from a long line of family hoarders! We love to save any thing that has even a little meaning or that could maybe be used later. THIS IS GOING TO BE HARD.

I found a mom who lives in a small place too that has simplified her life. I LOVE THE WEBSITE! It has tips on how to do exactly what I desperately want to do....I have a lot of things to go through...but how can I not be compelled. It is only is only "stuff". What really matters in this life is how we love God and others.

Matthew 25:41-45 "I was hungry, but you did not give me anything to eat, and I was thirsty, but you did not give me anything to drink. I was a stranger, but you did not welcome me, and I was naked, but you did not give me any clothes to wear. I was sick and in jail, but you did not take care of me." Then the people will ask, "Lord, when did we fail to help you when you were hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in jail?"

The king will say to them, "Whenever you failed to help any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it for me."

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lent - Making Room for God

I realized today that this will be my first real participation in the season of lent. Growing up in an evangelical church, we were more interested in Good Friday and Easter than Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. And I'd never practiced the discipline of lent - never given or taken something up for those 40 days before Easter.

Now that Wes and I have been involved with a more traditional church for the past few years, I am learning more about this wonderful season. And with us being more theologically minded, I really wanted to take lent seriously. There's no giving up "candy" or "soda" for me. This needed to mean something. It needed to be something that makes room for God.

I was trying to explain lent to some 1st and 2nd grade kids in our church. Eventually I ended up saying "Lent is giving up (or taking up) something that you like to do, but if done too much, could be bad for you, and by giving it up it will bring you closer to God." And our kids actually came up with some cute ideas like, "I will stop shopping at "Justice"" , "I will stop riding in the car and walk more", "I will give up my video games" and "I will stop fighting with my sister" etc.

So I have been thinking long and hard about what to do for lent. Wes and I are following this guideline to help us:

1. What kind of person do you want to be?
2. What keeps you from being who you want to be?
3. How does giving this up, strengthen your relationship with God and others?

After thinking about it for some time, I finally realized this:

I want to be present in the lives of those around me. Instead, I feel myself very disconnected from those around me, even though I am connected to hundreds of people through social networks like facebook and twitter. In fact, those social network sites are hindering my ability to focus on those around me. I can know everything my cousin is doing everyday because of status updates...but when was the last time I actually talked to my cousin? Ate with my cousin? Laughed with my cousin? Facebook gives me (us?) a false sense of closeness - not to mention I spend an average of 4 hours a day on it. Giving up facebook will give me space to make room for God and others. It will force me to watch a movie with my husband, instead of sit on the computer while he plays video games. It will force me to call up a friend for coffee (because I've suddenly opened up a couple hours of my evening!). It will give me time to read, write and pray.

I recently discovered a blog that I totally dig called Sorta Crunchy written by a mom who's passions seem to be very similar to mine. She is starting a Lenten practice called "40 days of community". This community of bloggers and readers will be participating in a few "challenges" but one of my favorites is this: Once a week, share a meal with someone you've never shared a meal with before.


What a vulnerable but life-nourishing challenge! It is hard to eat with those you don't know well. It can be awkward! But what a great compliment to what I am desperately trying to do: spend quality time with those around me. We are also reading a book together called "Common Prayer" by Shane Claiborn (who I love tremendously) and we will be writing reflections on what we are reading. Please check out that post specially here.

Social Justice and The Church

Wes and I are taking a small group of high school students on a mission trip this summer. We are being very intentional about equipping them to really understand the poverty in our world, by having them meet once a week as a group, read assigned readings and write reflections and participate in team building activities (I'm in charge of that part). It has been a surprising journey...these kids are really exceeding my expectations!

We recently read a chapter called "Social Action" from the book "Adventures in Missing the Point" by Brian Mclaren and Tony Campolo, and since adult chaperons are required to do all the work the kids are, I've decided to blog my answers to the discussion questions at the end of the chapter.

1. How have you been involved in social action?

Wes and I recently took our young adult bible study group to Forest Home for their conference. The guest speaker was Tony's son, Bart (And boy did we enjoy him!). He spoke often of the difference between "social action/justice" and "compassion. He gave a great analogy to help us understand.

You are standing by a river and you start to see babies floating down the river. You rush to them, pulling as many as you can out of the water and tend to them. THIS IS COMPASSION. Social justice then is the act of waking up the river and finding out who is throwing babies in the river and stopping them.

And we need both. We need compassionate people, and we need people committed to social action. The closest I've come to social justice, in my mind, is through supporting a company I've blog about here before: Anti-Body. They realized that the system of trading in the world was messed up. So they fixed it. They stopped the cycle by only supporting and buying from small local co-ops in third world counties. But even further justice might be to go even higher in political situations to fight for the rights on those people as a whole. I'm good at compassion...I like that action is hard. And scary.

2. what do you think about partnership between government and religion?

I think it's tricky! I think money can be used for good...but when a religious organization relies heavily on government funding, the thought of losing it can be more important that the work you set out to do. I found this to be true for heavily funded government organization I worked for a couple years ago. It seemed like keeping up with government standards was more important than children and families. They were so paranoid about losing the money that they sacrificed quality care. I think religious organizations have the potential to fall into that money trap and lose the real meaning of why the were there in the first place. (This of course isn't to say that ALL religious organizations with government funding are bad/money driven...but there is only one King in the Kingdom of Heaven that has manifested itself on this earth, and it is not the government).

3. What place should questions about why the poor are poor have in the conversation within Christian communities?

I think it should take place everywhere until it doesn't need to be said anymore because people are actually talking to the poor.....what I mean is...talking about it is the first step, and I think it should really be talked about seriously in the Church. We are the body of Christ, we are the Kingdom come, and we need to KNOW THE POOR. I always tell the kids that you'll call them hobos until you actually know them...then you'll call them Chuck or Annie, or Bill. You'll know why the poor are poor when you start asking them. And I'm not all that great at this yet! I'm still working on knowing their names...

4. To what forms of social action, if any, might God be calling you?

Ahhhh good question. This is hard, since I feel like more of a compassion kinda girl...(cop out? I dunno, maybe...) I think the things I get most "angry" about are a good place to start. Like child rights/labor issues, and paying fair wages to workers around the world.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gadanke - Celebrate Your Story

I recently stumbled upon the blog of a wonderfully creative mom who has made it her passion to celebrate the stories we have inside of us through thoughtful handmade eco-friendly journals. These aren't just your average journal though...they contain little quotes, questions and prompts to help you tell your story. The journals range form little thankful books, to love letter books, to books about the place you call home. The are so cute and could really be treasured items for family members in decades to come. These are a few that are on my wish list and please visit her website here.