Saturday, October 30, 2010

Some thoughts on Christianity using Harry Potter Similies

Describing Christianity using Harry Potter? Bear with me, because if you've read Harry Potter, what I'm about to say will totally make sense. I was reading some Harry Potter, and all of a sudden these comparisons popped into my head.

Harry was 11 years old when he found out about magic. When he entered into Diagon Alley/the wizarding world for the first time, he was amazed. He was constantly in awe of things that most wizards took for granted. His friend Ron grew up in a wizard house, and magic was old hat for him. Ron knew how daily life works in the magic world. What Harry saw as amazing, Ron just took for granted as business as usual. People who have just become Christians are like Harry. God is new to them, and they're often super excited about church and the Bible and God in general. People who grew up in a Christian home, or who have been saved for years tend to lose that initial spark. They take a lot for granted. I take for granted all the Bible verses I learned as a kid. Because I grew up in the church, I have lots of general Bible knowledge that new Christians don't know yet.

Christians can be like Harry Potter in another way. Wizards who grew up in the wizarding world constantly stand out like a sore thumb in the muggle/nonmagical world. They don't know how to dress, they don't know how muggle money works, and things like electricity and telephones are complete mysteries. Once muggle born wizards (wizards with non-magical parents) are in the wizarding world for awhile, they can move easily between worlds. There are people who are so immersed in Christian culture, who are so separate from the world, that they stick out. They can't navigate in the secular world, and sometimes they look like freaks. I've known people like this, and as a kid I was terrified of being one of those outsiders. New Christians can have the opposite problem, where they don't understand the Christianese lingo and have not yet completely shed all of their sinful ways.

We hear all the time that we are to be IN the world, but not OF the world. It's a tough balance. We don't want to be indistinguishable from people who are not Christians, but we don't want to be so different as to be unapproachable. I haven't figured out where I draw the line for myself. It would almost be easier to just seclude myself from all media and limit my social interactions with non-Christians. Maybe some people are called to a life that strict, but I know I'm not. I think too many Christians think they've figured out the one-size-fits-all solution to this. I don't think there is such a solution. I think we need to use common sense, listen to Christians we trust, pray about it, and listen to your own convictions. I have a hard time not judging people that I think are unnecessarily stricter than I am, or who are less strict than I am. I tend to want people to be just like me, but that's wrong. Everyone is different, and I think it's really important that we try to respect people's choices about things on which the Bible is not specific.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

God's Goodness

God is good. Today I got offered a job that I really wanted, and after 5+ months of unemployment it feels so amazing. It's really easy to say that God is good after I get news like this. So I emailed my friends and family about the job, I told them that God is good, and I prayed and thanked God.

As I was praying, I realized that God is always good. I prayed, "God, you are so good. Thank you so much for this job. But you would be good even if I hadn't gotten it." God is good no matter what our circumstances are. It's easier for me to believe in his goodness when I feel good, when I get good news. It's a lot harder for me to see God's goodness when I'm feeling depressed, lonely, and hopeless. God isn't fickle. He doesn't choose to be good some times and other times choose not to be. Yes, his goodness runs alongside his justice and mercy, so it's hard to understand sometimes why bad things happen in life, but he is still good.

God is good. God is love. And he will always be those things no matter what your life looks like.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two Questions

Do you see me? Do you like what you see?

Someone told me today that those are two questions we keep asking people throughout our lives. I definitely agree. From the kid who constantly yells, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" to the teenager trying on outfits who asks, "How do I look?" to the employee who works really hard on a presentation that the boss will see.

We want to matter. We want people to like us, to treat us as if we have worth. We want people to appreciate who we are.

Feeling invisible is a pretty awful thing. Just as awful is having people notice you, but only because they have negative things to say about you. That's why the silent treatment and getting bullied feel awful. It's terrible to not have people care how you're feeling. "How's it going?" has become just another way to say "Hello." That really bothers me. So much so that I make a concentrated effort not to use that phrase unless I want a real answer and am prepared to really listen. There have been numerous times in my life when I was feeling horrible inside, and as people passed me by, my answer was always, "I'm fine" because I knew they didn't want a real answer.

Let's try to pay some attention to the people around us. Practice your listening skills. Or maybe it's your turn to be heard. Open up to someone you trust about how you're really doing. Find someone who sees you, who appreciates who you are and loves you for it. I read today that we don't love people for how we feel about them; we love them for how they make us feel about ourselves. I love to be around people who tell me I'm worth something, who show it by their actions. I think if we all tried to be more aware of the people around us and how they're feeling, there would be fewer people hurting in our homes, in the church, in our schools, in the world.

When You Can't Forget the Bad

How do you acknowledge life-changing events? If they're good, it's great to celebrate. We celebrate birthdays every year. We celebrate marriage anniversaries. We enjoy annual things, like Christmas, and the last day of school (or first, if you're so inclined). Holidays can be great.

So what do you do when the anniversary of something bad comes up? People acknowledge anniversaries of the death of loved ones in different ways. For something like that, I have spent time by myself in quiet reflection. There have also been times when I am with people and we share memories of the people we love. Remembering those people is important.

I am, however, upon a week of bad memories for which there is no precedent on handling. Life-changing bad memories. I've taken time to think about all the good changes that have happened since then, to appreciate the good things in my life right now. But it still hurts. I don't just forget the way people treated me, spoke to me, how I felt, what happened. I still feel those things when I think about it.

The thing is, I don't want to forget. Not really. It's a significant time in my life. For better or for worse, it's shaped who I am.

I just wish it didn't hurt or make me doubt myself.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Strange Prayers

I have a mouse loose in my apartment. It's the second time I've have a mouse show up, although the first time it either just went away or died somewhere else, because it never got caught in my glue traps. About two weeks ago I did a more thorough than usual cleaning of my apartment, and I threw out the glue traps I had been provided. Of course as soon as I got rid of them I get a mouse. Sigh.

I bought some basic, old school mouse traps today (the nicer ones are ridiculously expensive), and I set all four of them up with peanut butter. I was pretty sure there was a mouse in my apartment, because late at night I would see a shadow move out of the corner of my eye. Tonight I have seen the mouse for sure run from under the oven to my shoe closet to under my fridge and back. I think right now it ran into my bathroom. I have watched it run towards one of the mousetraps and then veer away at the last second. Grrrr.

And so I find myself praying that the mouse would take the bait and get caught in one of my traps. I find it kind of odd that I'm praying for the death of a creature that God created. Of course, I remind God that this is my house and I did not invite a mouse to live here.

Right now I have one light on, right next to my bed. The mouse tried to make a break for it from under the fridge twice, but as soon as I waved my arm it got scared and ran back. I also threw a small lotion bottle at it, and I have a highlighter in my lap, ready to throw upon another sighting.

I'm not super bothered by a mouse in my apartment. Sure, I wish it wasn't here because I only have a studio apartment so any mouse is pretty close to where I sleep, but I'm assuming it will stay pretty close to the kitchen area. I'm hoping, anyway.

Usually my prayers revolve around asking God to let my life go in a certain direction, or just praying for a closer relationship with God. I certainly pray for my unsaved friends, and I pray for the needs of my family, like a job for my sister. So it feels kind of weird to pray about a mouse. Good thing I pray to a God who cares about me, who loves me, who listens to my prayers, even when it's just about a mouse.

Yes, I miss my cat a lot right now. In addition to being a constant companion and a super friendly cat, he definitely earned his keep when it came to mouse control.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Night Sounds

I love having my window open at night. In addition to having my apartment cool off, I love the night sounds that come through.

I can tell the different types of vehicles that go by just from the sound. I can tell when a fire truck is headed somewhere, and I can tell when one whooshes past without its sirens on. I love the sound after it has rained, because the car tires make a different sound.

I love hearing a train rumble by, or hearing the church bells toll at the hour. Right now I can tell when someone is walking across the yard because the leaves are crunchy.

I love that I can learn so much by using just one of my senses. If only I was better at listening in other situations...:)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Forgiveness and Consequences

Last night I read the story of David and Bathsheba (side note: spell check knows I spelled Bathsheba correctly, surprise surprise!). I've heard so many different sermons highlighting different aspects of that story. There really are so many things we can learn from this part of David's story.

When I read it this time, I saw something I had overlooked before. David and Bathsheba have sinned together, and David has sinned additionally by having Bathsheba's husband killed. Their son is born, and then Nathan confronts David about David's sin. David repents, and Nathan says that God forgives David.

OK. This is huge. David fasts and prays while his son is sick. He begs God to spare his son. But the baby dies. And as soon as this happens, David gets up, washes himself, puts on clean clothes, and goes and worships God. Woah. How often do we get really angry at God when tragedy happens in our lives? I've done it a lot. It sounds like David was not bitter at all. I think he realized the consequence of his sin, and he didn't hold it against God.

The other thing is that although God forgave David completely, that didn't remove the consequence. That point is made a lot, that God's forgiveness doesn't take away consequences. We hear it all the time. But I think it's also really important to note that God did not punish David continually; God didn't hold David's sin against him later. David and Bathsheba have another son. You might have heard of him--Solomon? And it says that God loved Solomon. God doesn't withhold love after we sin. He doesn't sit up in heaven, waiting to blast us for that sin we did three years ago. That's majorly comforting to me, to see so clearly in the Bible (the Old Testament, to boot!) about God's forgiveness, redemption, and restoration.

On Feeling Entitled

I feel entitled to a wonderful fall. I grew up in WI, and I live in MN now (that's Wisconsin and Minnesota, in case you're not up to date on your state abbreviations). Upper midwest, four distinct seasons. Tons of snow in the winter, hot days in the summer, cool wet days in the spring, and cool, crisp days in fall.

Except I am not getting my coveted cool, crisp days of fall. It's 82 degrees right now, and we're supposed to hit a record today. My apartment feels nice and cool because I've been sleeping with my window open and closing it before it warms up in the morning. I walked outside to run to the post office and library (places I go at least twice a week), and it was so disappointing to feel how hot it was outside. I drove by some gorgeous trees that I want to photograph, that I've actually been wanting to capture since I saw them last fall, but I just don't have the energy to go back there and take photos because it's so warm. Yes, it feels much cooler than it did in July or August because it's way less humid, but it's still too warm for me.

Why do I feel so entitled to my version of a perfect fall? Is it realistic? Why do I think it's not fair if it's warmer than usual? Sigh. I don't like being really crabby about the weather, especially when so many of my friends are thrilled about the weather, according to their Facebook status updates. I think I need to suck it up and do my best to enjoy the color, even if I feel too warm doing it.

But I still can't see myself going to an apple orchard tomorrow when it's 80 degrees. Gotta draw the line somewhere, hm? :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

God in our Culture

I watch a lot of TV. I've always watched a lot of TV. As a kid who was homeschooled, I had a LOT of free time, which I filled with books and TV. Same thing now. I'm unemployed, and I have a lot of free time. So I read a lot and watch a lot of TV.

I've been watching Glee since it started. I wasn't sure at first if I wanted to continue watching it because I didn't like how the show handled some characters' choices, but I decided to keep watching and see where it went. I am really proud about how they presented the subject matter of last night's show. Talking about faith and spirituality in such a public way can go really badly. It's not hard to really offend someone when it comes to talking about God.

I think what I appreciated the most is that Glee showed a very real look at how a lot of people feel about God. I have a lot of friends who don't believe in God for a lot of the same reasons the characters in Glee questioned God's existence. I have gay friends who don't understand how a loving God could create a human being with a same-sex attraction and then say it's a sin. I've prayed really hard for people that have then passed away. It's true that "the big questions are big for a reason."

I don't have all the answers, and I respect people's right to believe whatever they want. If they want to believe in a different god or none at all, I believe that they are perfectly within their rights to do so. I also believe that it's my right to believe that Jesus is the son of God and the only way to heaven.

When I pray for my friends (and I do pray for my friends, Christian or not), I don't pray for them to give up this sin or that. I have lots of my own sin problems, and who am I to impose Christian standards on someone who doesn't profess to be a Christian? I pray that my friends would have an encounter with God and his love that is life-changing. I think love is the key. I've struggled for a long time with how to love people who are different than me, who believe differently, who behave in ways I don't agree with. I am imperfect, and I love imperfectly. God's love isn't limited like mine is.

Yes, God is perfect and because he loves us there is a certain order in which he created the world to work, but he doesn't love only the perfect people. There wouldn't be anyone to love, if that were the case. Something I've been told by a lot of my friends at church (something I need to hear often) is that God loves us right where we're at. I've spent entire years of my life where my only communication with God was to either tell him how angry I was, how hurt I was, or how scared I was. Sometimes that's still how my prayers look.

I know what it is to hurt so badly you think the only answer might be to kill yourself. I've battled depression, and I've even had two hospital inpatient stays. I know pain. But I also know that there's hope. Maybe you don't understand, but there is so much hope in Jesus, in his love. It is my most sincere hope and prayer that if you're reading this, that you'll experience that love in the depths of your being.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

It's the Little Things

Sitting in my apartment on this gorgeous fall day, I realize that it's the little things that make me happy. Like the fall sunshine coming through the yellow leaves into my window. Like the fun new socks I bought for $1 each. Like eating string cheese while watching TV and putting together a puzzle.

My life isn't perfect. There are lots of things I wish were different. So I'm glad I can find joy in the small things. I'm feeling particularly content today, and I just wanted to make a note of it. :)