Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Devastation Hits the Home of Evangelicals

I've been following the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs since this past weekend, mostly due to my connection with The Navigators, the Christian organization that I formerly worked for. Between the organization itself and individuals who work for Navs, many buildings that I am connected to are at risk or have burned--homes, camps, offices, and Glen Eyrie (a historic castle that is now The Navigators conference and retreat center). 

The Navigators properties are pinned as Eagle Lake, Glen Eyrie, and HQ.  See the original file on Facebook with photos of the fire's borders on previous days in the same album.

Not only is my heart broken for the loss and threatened loss of these properties--properties in which I have slept, prayed, and played lots of games with dear friends--but the thought of seeing the beautiful scenery of Colorado Springs charred by these fires for decades to come is almost too difficult to fathom. I cannot imagine Colorado Springs without its beautiful western panorama. 

And while my thoughts on the matter are still largely undeveloped, I've been thinking a lot about how Evangelicals might respond differently to natural disasters now that one has hit them at home.

As many Christians know, Colorado Springs is jokingly called the Mecca of Evangelicals because of the numerous Christian organizations headquartered there. Speaking in generalities, Christians have often mishandled responding to natural disasters elsewhere (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, you name it), instantly jumping to explanations involving the judgment of God. 

This has never sat well with me, theologically or psychologically. To claim that God has directly caused every act of nature simply seems to ignore the fallen state of nature within creation. (And there is a big difference between God causing and God allowing tragedy. If you don't think there is, ask yourself if God caused Adam and Eve to sin or if He allowed it. The answer has huge ramifications.) Now that a natural disaster is hitting a city of prayer, service, and mission, I think Christians will have some big questions to ask about how we respond to natural disasters elsewhere, both theologically and practically. 

But, these questions are for later, for the months and years following this disaster. I do predict they will emerge, but I don't think they will do so immediately. My friends in the Springs speak only of being numb, shocked, and unable to think beyond one day at a time. Rebuilding will take years; regrowth will take decades. 

Can we all join in prayer for Colorado? Can we earnestly ask that God would intervene, bringing rain, calming winds, and preserving properties? He doesn't have to, but we can beg that He will.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Day of Angst at 30 Weeks

'Crying' photo (c) 2009, memekode - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/A little background for those who aren't in the loop via Facebook or Twitter: I finished up my first Summer class on Thursday and have a few weeks off until my next class (an intensive) begins July 9th. I start my job the week after that, on July 17th. So right now, I am in a season of nesting and tackling all of the projects that I did not get to do while I was focused on school. Now that you're all up to date...
______________

Yesterday was one of those horrible, emotional pregnancy days that gets portrayed in the movies. I don't feel like I have many, at least not since I've been free of my time spent on the bathroom floor. I certainly have my emotional moments--crying for no reason about little things, or crying very easily about important things. But most of the time, I think these are moments rather than characteristic of whole days.

Yesterday, however, was a beast. I think the lack of sleep was catching up with me, and I had a few unpleasant experiences while running errands, and I was just left despondent. The emotions were real and strong, and suddenly I was angsty about everything. After only 4 days off from school, I was already feeling a bit stir-crazy, even with all of the housecleaning and projects I've been tackling. I was crying last night about needing something to do, and Josh said, "But you've been doing so much!" and I replied with a super melodramatic, "But none of this is important!"

In part, yesterday has left me feeling excited about my job. It starts in a few weeks, and I know it will help keep me sane. I do have a need to be contributing to something bigger than my home. I know that contributing to my home benefits the world, but I simply have a need to be direct in my actions, rather than thinking, "Oh, well Josh will be more effective in his work with others when the home is taken care of well" or "I hope my children benefit and grow up to impact the world for God." I know that is enough for some people, but for me, I simply have a need to be directly engaged myself. Of course, I usually have middle school girls taking some of this focus, but our small group is mostly on break for the Summer, and I feel the lack of contribution at the moment.

On the other hand, I do need to realize that washing clothes is important work. Given, it's not the same, and pretending like it is simply does not work for me. But I need to see that while it is different, it is extremely important. Building a home here with Josh is important. Cooking and eating nutritious food is important. Making all of the phone calls necessary to stay on top of our medical coverage at the moment is important. But this kind of work is way less fulfilling to me than the work of engaging hearts and minds. I don't think it's less fulfilling for everyone, but for me, there is simply a big difference.

So, all of that to say, yesterday was a stinky, no-good day. Nothing made it better; I just had to go to sleep and let it end. Today, I'm feeling much better, and eager once-again to tackle the closets, dust-bunnies, and paperwork. I'm trying to embrace this season of "rest" and be grateful for it, and make the most of it, especially in terms of connecting with Josh. But I'd be lying if I said I'm not looking forward to my class in July and the start of work after that.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Redemptive Pursuit: Still I Declare

Still I Declare
By Laura Ziesel
June 18, 2012

Scripture:
"O God, you have taught me from my youth, and still I declare your marvelous deeds." -Psalm 71:17

Reflection:
I grew up in great churches and with great parents, but my faith was not wholly my own until I went to college. During my college years, I felt like I was growing in my relationship with God by leaps and bounds. I was constantly surrounded by challenging books, opportunities for service and prayer, and musicians and artists who led me deeply into worship. Those years almost feel magical when I look back upon them. 
 
Not everyone experiences this type of super-charged spiritual growth in college, but I have found that most adult Christians have experienced it at one point or another in their life: after joining a new church, after enlisting in the military, or upon becoming a parent. These months or years of super-charged growth shape us and train us for the rest of our lives.
 
However, as great as these periods of amazing growth are, they are rarely sustainable. Now that I am five years out from my college graduation, my day-to-day spiritual growth is not as impressive or exciting as it was during my college years. I continue to grow in my faith, but my growth is slower and markedly less magical.
 
But I don't think this is bad. In fact, I think this is normal and healthy in some ways. If I think about my relationship with the Lord like it is a real relationship, it only makes sense that sustaining it would be less exciting than discovering it. Like falling in love, my years of extreme growth in the Lord are something I will cherish forever; they were a honeymoon phase, so to speak. But by now, God and I have been married for a few years and I'm learning the dance of day-to-day faithfulness to him in the midst of paying bills, scrubbing dishes, and sorting through emails for work. And learning how to love him now is hard if I expect our love to be the same as it was during that honeymoon phase. 
 
I've heard it said that comparison is the thief of joy. I think we often view comparison to be a problem when we are comparing ourselves to others. But comparison can be the thief of joy even when we are comparing ourselves to a former version of ourselves. If I expect every devotional or church service to be life-altering, I'm setting myself up for disappointment. And if I expect every year of my life to result in super-charged spiritual growth, I am rejecting the reality of how relationships work. Relationships change; they go through intense periods of intimacy and periods of monotony. 
 
I don't know if I'll have another phase of super-charged growth like I had in college. I hope so. It would be great to honeymoon with God again. But right now, today, I need to stop comparing my daily walk with God to what it used to be, and I need to accept it for what it is. It is still an undeserved gift, and that should be enough to make me thankful for it.
 
Prayer:
Lord, I am so thankful to you for reaching out to me and rescuing me from myself. Thank you for giving me more to live for, for giving me hope and purpose. Thank you for each and every day that I've had the privilege of living for you. Help me to be thankful for today, even if it doesn't feel exciting or life-changing. I want to be faithful in the small things, so I ask for your help. Amen.

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I will be posting my devotionals from The Redemptive Pursuit once a month as they are published. Sign up to receive these weekly devotionals via email hereFollow The Redemptive Pursuit on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stories of Hope: Isaiah 65

'Sunrise' photo (c) 2010, Marilyn Peddle - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I've been thinking a lot about That Day recently. It all started when I read Isaiah 65 again for a Spring class. Since then, my heart has been orienting itself toward Heaven, especially the thought of Heaven reaching Earth. 

For my Story of Hope this month, I simply want to share Isaiah 65:17-25. I know it's easy to skip or skim Scripture, but I would encourage you to really read these verses and let them sink in. The images we have in them are images that truly give me hope, yet at the same time they make me sorrowful that things aren't now as they should be. 

Thy Kingdom Come!

17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.
18 “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing
And her people for gladness.
19 “I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people;
And there will no longer be heard in her
The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.
20 “No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,
Or an old man who does not live out his days;
For the youth will die at the age of one hundred
And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred
Will be thought accursed.
21 “They will build houses and inhabit them;
They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 “They will not build and another inhabit,
They will not plant and another eat;
For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people,
And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands.
23 “They will not labor in vain,
Or bear children for calamity;
For they are the offspring of those blessed by the Lord,
And their descendants with them.
24 It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the Lord.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why I Vowed To Obey

Photo by Ryan Patch Photo

Four years ago I walked down the aisle and said my vows to my husband. This morning, as we got ready for our separate days, I said, "I know it's only been four years, but wow, have we changed!" My husband agreed and we were both silent for a minute contemplating everything we've walked through together since June 6, 2008. Well, maybe that was just me; he was probably mentally prepping for work.

And then I said, "Yeah, remember that whole "obey" bit in my vows?!?" We both chuckled a bit and looked at each other with understanding. He said what we were both thinking, "Well, we were in a different world then." I nodded.

Indeed, we were simply in a different world. 

I reflect back upon it now and a bit shocked at how limited our resources were as we prepared for marriage. Don't get me wrong, we had great marriage resources in friends, mentors, and our church. We read marriage books and went to premarital counseling. But EVERY SINGLE RESOURCE we had as we prepared for marriage was complementarian. We were members of a complementarian denomination, had been discipled by a para-church ministry that was mostly complementarian. And as a reader, I thought I was reading a wide variety of marriage books, but it turns out that most of them said the same complementarian things. 

I've never been one to simply swallow gender expectations, but I was left with what felt like two options:

1) Have a great complementarian marriage.
2) Buck the teaching we were given and struggle to find our own way.

And so, as we wrote our marriage vows, using old vows from different traditions, we wrote vows that were not identical. Josh vowed to love and honor me, and I vowed to respect and obey him. We mutually agreed upon these words.

Fortunately, our marriage has been happy. I could create a dramatic story here of how our complementarian start pushed us to the brink of disaster, but it didn't. We were fine, I think in large part because Josh is one of the least power-hungry men I know. From what I recall, we weren't living a very complementarian day-to-day life, in fact we may have been practicing egalitarianism by default, but whatever happened, it was mostly a non-issue. I don't remember discussing our gender roles once in our early days of marriage. We just did life together, and we were pretty darn happy about it.

But as time went on, I began to question complementarianism, mostly because of things outside our marriage, things related to work and my calling in life. If anything, the safety and health of our marriage allowed me to ask questions that were seen as dangerous at the time. Slowly, we met older married couples who didn't preach complementarian views to us; they were a breath of fresh air. I read one non-complementarian (but neither egalitarian) marriage book that I was introduced to. And things slowly started to shift.

Now, on our four year anniversary, I think we can safely say that we've left the complementarian waters behind. While I still have a few unresolved issues with egalitarian interpretations of certain pieces of Scripture (those are posts for another day), we consider ourselves egalitarians. We attend graduate school at an egalitarian Evangelical university. We are members of an egalitarian (yet also largely conservative) Evangelical church. And if we wrote our vows again today, we both agree that my vows would not differ from his.

While I wouldn't include "to obey" in my vows today, I consider my vows holy, so I won't try to ignore, alter, or break them. 

But I'm also grateful that I'm married to a man who looked at me quite seriously this morning and said, "I'll obey you too, okay?" 

"Deal," I said, "and I'll cherish you."

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As a big fan of Rachel Held Evans, I share this post with her blogging community for One in Christ: A Week of Mutuality 2012. Head on over to her site to read some great posts "discussing an egalitarian view of gender—including relevant biblical texts and practical applications.  The goal is to show how scripture, tradition, reason, and experience all support a posture of equality toward women, one that favors mutuality rather than hierarchy, in the home, Church, and society." 

Here's one of my favorites of the series so far. You can read words from other bloggers who are participating in the synchroblog at the Twitter hashtag #mutuality2012


Monday, June 4, 2012

Examining My Motives and an Update

The past two weeks have included two cross-country trips for my new job--one for the interview and one for a staff summit. Things haven't necessarily been as busy as they have been tiring. These trips were both great and deeply confirming to me, but my mental energies are now being redirected to work. Even though I don't start my position in earnest for another two months, my mind is already at work. I can't make the wheels stop turning up there.

That being said, my "extra" mental energies are going to my classwork. I am taking a Paul class at the moment, which I'm actually enjoying a lot. Due to papers and presentations, I am spending a lot of my time looking at 1 Thess 4:13-5:10 and other Pauline passages related to eschatology. Other students in my class have been devoting their time to studying Paul's view of women, and I have purposely steered clear of that so as to broaden my horizons a bit. I certainly don't feel like an expert on Paul's view of women; I am simply trying to avoid tunnel vision. My next class, which I will take in July, is Women in the Bible, so I'm sure I'll get my fill then.

Because of my new set of priorities, I decided to stop checking my blog stats. I do make some money off of this blog, but it is so minimal that I don't view this blog as a business, I view it as a ministry to myself and to others. That might sound really egotistical, but I have found that I simply need to process my thoughts with others who will give a little pushback (and you do!), and I also need to avoid hoarding all of the awesome things that I'm learning or have learned. 

I have to fight the idea that life happens in my mind. The West has "I think, therefore I am" as a foundation, but I have learned that other cultures in the world live under the mantra "We are, therefore I am." This has helped reframe both education and spirituality tremendously for me. I can store up lots of awesome ideas, but until I participate in some sort of exchange with others, they're pretty much useless. And so, as someone who processes through writing, I remain committed to the value of blogging. 

However, not checking my blog stats has really made my motivation to blog plummet. I wish that weren't the case; I wish I could say that I was immune to the rush of stats. But I'm apparently not. And now that I'm not feeding the addiction, I'm a bit shocked by how much stats fed my motivation to blog. Of course, stats aren't exciting in themselves; what they represent is exciting. 

Without my stats, I find that all of my motivations for blogging are shifting. Stats took up way too large a percentage of my motivation, and without them, I am not without motivation, but I am motivated by different things. Adjusting to this new reality means that I will probably blog differently. I don't know what it'll look like, but I can sense that it will be changing.

Last week, around 27 weeks.
But enough about where I have landed. I think you get the picture: Things are changing. I'm loving every bit of this season, especially as I'm feeling great pregnancy-wise most days, and so I'm soaking it up, every bit of it:

Dates with the hubs.
Birthing classes.
Summer fruits. (Oh, sweet heavenly watermelon!)
Paul's eschatology.
Ideas for my thesis.
Exciting new job.
Preparing for Baby Boy.
Time with friends.
Writing.
Reading.
Eating.
Sleeping.
Nesting.

These are sweet, sweet days. Thanks for your prayers and support. 
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