Tuesday, April 18, 2006

it's official

It's official: my 20s are over! I'm excited about this new decade and look forward to old age when my mind goes and any memory of the first half of my 20s fades into nothing. That'll be sweet! Or will it? Maybe I won't remember. That'll be ok too.

Ben got me 'the irresistible revolution' by Shane Claiborne for my birthday. I can't put it down. It's one of those books where if you highlighted all the essential stuff, it would glow! I am thrilled to finally hear a voice that is boldly confronting the things I've noticed but had gotten nasty looks for mentioning. I've always considered myself an extremist - always taking things WAY farther than any of my friends. In particular - drugs, sex, and rock n roll. But now I'm doing the same thing with Christianity. Which would be nice if my Christian friends didn't get uncomfortable when I spoke? Especially in the church, I have been told that God 'wants' us to enjoy His blessings (which is true) and that buying a big screen TV is a-ok with Him. I just can't justify spending money on something so extravagant and unnecessary when mothers around the world can't provide their children with clean drinking water and regular meals or shelter. Why are we given those blessings? For our own pleasure? Or are they to equip us to further His plan? I like buying the latest fashions just like the next lady, but when I think about the people who have only one outfit or none to speak of; I find it very difficult to splurge like that. I know God wants us to enjoy our life and not take it so seriously all the time, but I think our church life is way too laidback and unapologetic about the excess they 'enjoy.' I spend a lot of my time trying to figure out a way to earn money for our family so Ben won't be so stressed, and we can finally get into a house. But I struggle inwardly with it. I hope that I will find a way to reconcile my desire for the American dream with the awareness of all the NEED in the world. I want to use God's blessings to me to show the world how good God is and why they need Him. I have such a desire to be on the front lines - immersed in the daily struggles they endure - helping them through it - offering good news of hope and restoration. I've lived homeless among the poor. Granted for only a small time, but it was the most wonderful opportunity to see that I AM needed and CAN help the helpless.

I love being a mommy and a wife, but fear my children will never know need. I don't want them to suffer, but I do want them to see that there's more to life than who will be the next American Idol and whether to wear black or blue jeans on Friday! I want them to see that their existence isn't just about them. It's about being available and ready for God's call on their life.

A lot of the comments I hear from my discussions with Christians about God reveals to me that they only know about the New Testament God, as if when the new covenant was introduced, God softened, loved more, changed. I believe that the God of the Old Testament is the same God of today and has the same desires for the world and its people. All of the rules He established so long ago are still His desire, His ideal and His will. When Jesus died and rose again, we were given the opportunity to be free of the consequences of disobeying the old law if we believed in Him and in the fact that His suffering and death on the cross paid those consequences for us. It's as if we stole from the store, and Jesus stepped up and said 'Take me to jail instead.' It's as if we killed our brother and Jesus stepped up and said 'I will pay the death penalty for him/her instead.' He didn't commit the crime, but He paid for it out of love and obedience to His Father. He paid for all of our crimes, our sins, and He definitely didn't deserve it. For the most part, we have rejected His payment. We have rejected His love, His gift. Or at the very least, we have from time to time taken it for granted and allowed self-absorption to dictate our lives rather than devote our lives to Him as a thank you. How can you not want to thank Him? We love (action - not ooey gooey feelings) because He first loved us.

That's why the current society and some of the church's standards leave me so unsatisfied. I just want to do more. Jesus has given me such an opportunity to live for Him. He came to the earth as flesh and not only taught us what to do; He showed us what to do. And He died so that we could do it. Why wouldn't we? What's standing in our way? Our own lives? They're not even ours. Christ paid for them. They are HIS! And we are standing in His way. He can't use us the way He wants if we're too busy driving kids to soccer practice and dance recitals and scarfing frappaccinos and being blinded by the culture.

I am desperate to die to myself and make my life available to Jesus - for Him to use me to accomplish His Father's will. I am tired of pretending that my shallow version of Christianity which allows for so much ME time is what Jesus really wants. Jesus said that when He died and rose into heaven and the Holy Spirit came into our lives, that we would do the same things as He did and even greater things. I don't know many people who are doing 'greater things' or even any opportunities in the church for us to do these kinds of things. Sure we can give Christmas presents to families that don't have enough money for gifts for their kiddos, but is that really solving their money problems? Sure we can donate clothes to goodwill or the Salvation Army, but the poorest of the poor can't afford to go to goodwill and buy those clothes. And I don't feel right donating money to World Vision (although I still do) in order for 10-20 African children to have a meal or two while I continue to sit in my air conditioned house with a pantry filled to the brim with food I will likely have to throw out when the expiration date comes and goes. All of these things are wonderful and needed, but how effective are they at changing these people's lives?

I don't want to change the whole world. Well, I do, but I know that I can't and that I'm not expected to. But just like that little boy that threw beached starfish back into the ocean as thousands kept washing onto shore, at least it would make a difference to those few I could help. God doesn't ask us to succeed, but He does ask us to try.

I'm tired of good intentions with no action. Good intentions don't make me an effective Christian. I'm tired of being on fire for the Lord one moment and then falling back into my self-absorbed routines the next. And what kind of action could I take that would have a lasting effect with a husband and two small children? I don't think I can just run off to Calcutta or Africa or China or Israel with a family. Do I really even have to leave the States in order to have a lasting effect? How can I think smaller than 'world peace' and retain my passion? Instead of giving a few people fish, I want to teach them to make their own way. Who could I do this for? What would they need essentially to thrive for generations? How could I teach them to continually gain this need for themselves?

any thoughts?

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