Deep Wounds and Hello Kitty Bandaids

Hello Kitty bandaids work better than normal ones; this is scientific fact, indisputable. Ask my nieces. Given the choice between a plain beige bandaid and a Hello Kitty one, they will choose the Hello Kitty one 100 times out of 100. They’re medical miracles. They dry up tears, stop pain, and return a three-year-old to normal play mode as quick as a wink.

They also don’t work on a deep wound.

Everyone knows this when it comes to physical injuries. Your child slices her arm open, and you’re rushing for the car keys, not the bandaids, Hello Kitty or otherwise. Worse, your child is diagnosed with some chronic disease or illness, and you know that no amount of licenced products are going to help.

But reveal a struggle with depression, or anxiety, or panic attacks, or dark, spiraling despair, and suddenly the same people who would advise a 911 call and some prompt medical attention, or long-term medical treatment, are handing out bandaid answers like you just skinned your knee.

Today I read of a husband’s agony as he watched his wife struggle with post-partum depression. The comments section was character bandaids galore: make sure she’s getting enough B vitamins! one commenter insisted. Don’t forget to make confession of sin part of your daily life, said another. No, no, don’t use the Hulk bandaids, no one likes those. Have these bandaids instead!

All I can say to that is… don’t.

Just… don’t do that.

Friends, sin is not always, or predictably, the cause of suffering. Jesus rebuked the pharisees for thinking that a man’s blindness resulted from his sin or that of his parents. Suffering does not always seem to have a purpose; sometimes it doesn’t seem to have a cause, or a reason, or an origin. It’s not always taken away when we pray (2 Cor 12), or even when we treat it medically (Luke 8).

But for the Christian, suffering is always part of the hard providence of God, never escaping his notice or care, never catching him off guard. Satan himself must seek God’s permission to trouble us, and his power is always limited — how much more must the suffering we experience be controlled and limited by a loving and watchful Father!

True suffering defies and confounds tidy, pat answers. If the tools with which we approach it don’t go beyond a range of bandaids with superheros and cartoon characters splashed across them, we will have no comfort to offer those who desperately need it.

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Reasons/Excuses/Fear

So. I started and stopped and started and stopped writing a series last year about feminism and the church and Christians and how we’ve historically been so opposed to the negatives of feminism (and caricatures of feminism) that we’ve thrown out the stuff we could really stand to learn from feminists and ignored the beliefs we share with them. I would read something exciting, get pumped to write the series, do some research, and then freak out because… well, for the following reasons in no particular order.

  1. The Internet is not known for its ability to understand subtle, nuanced arguments; trolls are no fun to deal with.
  2. I don’t want people to think I’m some lefty wacko, or that my views on this subject mean I’ve abandoned historic Christian teaching on God’s will for human sexuality and gender.
  3. (REALTALK:) I don’t want dudes to read this and say, “Ew, I don’t want to marry some man-hating feminazi.”
  4. Not a lot of people want to read about things like sexual abuse, objectification, the male gaze, and other five-dollar terminology that tends to populate the syllabi of Women’s Studies classes at universities across the country… no matter how much I absolutely believe they need to believe rightly about those things.
  5. It’s easier to write about Downton Abbey and the Bible study Methods class I’m teaching and the fun stuff I do on a Friday night (HA!) than about deep, complex issues.

Are those reasons? Are they excuses? Are they nothing but manifestations of my own fear of man? Am I basically permanently walling myself off from marriage by writing about feminism? (No, seriously, am I?)

Anyway, I feel really strongly about this stuff, and I think I’m going to go for it. So I guess the alternate title of this post could be “In Which Laura Psychs Herself Up.”

My Thrilling Friday Night

image

I’m a homebody at heart. My dream weekend involves books and movies and records and cooking. But I too often spend most of my leisure time doing nothing — clicking around from one website to another, checking this or that blog, distractedly half-watching an episode of something while facebooking or instagramming on my phone. And that’s a huge part of why I love Lent. It’s a time when I give up some of my online distractions AND give more attention to things I’m often distracted from. Tonight I’m singing Psalms 7, 8, and 9.

Stewardship, Frugality, and Being In It for the Long Haul

True confessions time. Budgeting is not my strong suit. If you’ve known me for more than five minutes and/or you have any ability to observe or discern, you’ll have guessed that already, because structure in general is not my strong suit. I’m not into schedules or spreadsheets or files or anything like that. When talking about what I do every day, I like to use words like “rhythm” and “flow” and “pattern.” I don’t typically pay my bills the same day every month (although most of them are on auto-pay). And until recently, I didn’t have a good idea of how much I was spending a month on various things. Sure, my mortgage payment’s always the same, and my condo fees, but if you had asked me how much I spent per month on gas or groceries or necessities, I could have given you a vague ballpark range, but nothing specific.

Recently I decided that it was probably a good idea to cut that out. So I got a little free software (which I don’t like AT ALL; totally switching to something else if anyone has any suggestions) and downloaded a file from my bank and got a bit of a shock. I was spending at least a hundred dollars more a month on groceries and eating out than I’d thought, and a couple other categories were ten or fifteen percent more than I would have estimated.

Now, this might seem unrelated but it’s not. I’ve also been going over in my mind a saying about food that I love: You either spend money on food or you spend money on the doctor. I’m not really willing to cut back on groceries in the traditional way — buying cheaper meat, eating more white foods and grains, etc. — because I’m convinced that doing so is penny wise and pound foolish. What’s an extra fifty bucks a month for groceries compared to thousands of dollars in medical bills that could have been avoided if I’d been more careful about what I put in my body?

I think when we talk about stewardship we typically think of money first — and don’t get me wrong, it’s important! I certainly need to be more creative about adjusting my budget to enable me to be more generous, and I absolutely need to cultivate cheerful giving rather than giving out of duty or guilt. But giving generously is only part of the picture. I think stewardship is also about making sure that we can continue to be generous for many years to come, generous with our lives and work and ministry as well as with our money, and unfortunately too many Christians forget that. I forget it all the time. I forget that this body is the only one I get in this life, and how I care for it matters. I want to be an 80-year-old woman who can still take walks on a beautiful day, and who can counsel and encourage younger women, who can open her home to others and help them financially too, and who reads and writes and appreciates beauty and is still strong and healthy. I realize that I can’t control all the factors that play into that, but I can control some of them.

So I’m scheming. I’m figuring out how I can re-work my spending to enable me to be generous, and at the same time maintain a lifestyle that will allow me to keep on being generous for many decades to come, Lord willing.

Ugh, Ugh, Ugh.

I’m usually SO on top of things with scheduling posts and making sure there’s something interesting (-ish) on the blog six days a week, but I’ve been battling a cold and just haven’t had the mental energy to do the normal amount of blogging. So, to tide you over until DOWNTON ABBEY UPDATE tomorrow and a few really fun things coming up, here’s some stuff I’ve learned or done or observed in the last week or so, in no particular order:

Violins don’t just make notes, they make vowel sounds, and not just any vowel sounds — FRENCH ones. Thanks, Justin Shaffer. (If you know him, twenty bucks says you just laughed delightedly and/or said, “Aw, Justin Shaffer. Love that guy.”)

My students — NINTH GRADERS — have the capacity to be kind, gracious, and encouraging to one another. Just don’t tell them I said that, because they would be SOOOOOOO embarrassed.

Speaking of French vowel sounds, I love French and am both pumped and terrified to spend this year working to improve my French skills. As I said to a friend tonight, “I can make all the sounds, but I just don’t have enough words for them!”

I really miss my community group when we don’t meet. Due to holidays and weather and scheduling craziness, we literally have not had a normal community group time since early DECEMBER, which is NOT OK WITH ME.

Can you have a wedding dance without a wedding? Because wedding dances, especially Sojourn ones, are the biz, and I would like to go to one every weekend. OK, I lied, I’m an introvert, maybe every OTHER weekend.

I love it when people’s faces visibly light up when they’re talking about something they’re passionate about. It’s one of my favorite things ever.

OK, that’s all I’ve got. See you tomorrow for some Downton recapping, and later in the week for some more fun stuff!

I Started an Anonymous Blog

I don’t want to bore y’all with my navel-gazing (Lord knows there’s enough of that on this blog as it is) and I wanted a place where I could hit “publish” on a few introspection-in-process things, rather than edit and chew and remix ad nauseam. You can try to find it if you like but good luck! I’ve hidden it pretty well.

But anyway, some of those ruminations have got me wondering. What degree of introspection is actually helpful? I’ve never managed to get the balance right between living in my head and living in the world — I’ve gotten to the point where I actually do value my inner life and see it as a God-given respite from the craziness of reality rather than as procrastination or denial, but I tend to overthink, tend to play out hypotheticals and “what-ifs” forever. What level of “real-ifying” my thoughts onto a page or a screen is therapeutic, helps me work through things, causes me to love Jesus more? And what is damaging, causes me to dwell on my own vain imaginings, turns my mind away from my Savior?

If you understand any of the above blather, please share: your thoughts and experiences would be most helpful.

Some Thoughts and Questions on the Lord’s Supper, Ordination, and the Sacraments of the Church

A few days ago, I posted the following thought on Facebook: “You know what I miss about Sojourn when I’m away? Communion every week. I’d love to know why churches only do it once a month or even quarterly (!!!) — there has to be SOME rationale, right? Thoughts? Did I just sleep through that part of my church history classes?”

Twenty-five comments later (I only wish my blog posts could get so much traction!), the thing that stuck out the most to me wasn’t the reason for the infrequency of communion in some churches. It was a totally different — yet not completely unrelated — theological point. A friend from college mentioned Methodist circuit riders, who were often lay ministers and who, therefore, weren’t allowed to administer the Lord’s Supper, leading to the practice of monthly or quarterly communion. Another friend mentioned that his church couldn’t share the Meal on the rare occasions that their ordained teaching elder is out of town.

My immediate question was why? Why does a meal ordained by Jesus himself also need an ordained pastor/elder to make it legitimate? And then that question made me chuckle a bit as I reflected on the fact that, though some churches who partake only quarterly began doing so at least in part to avoid a Romanist ritualism, almost nothing, in my mind, is more Roman than requiring the presence of an ordained minister to “perform” the sacraments.

Now, for heaven’s sake don’t hear me accusing my dear Methodist or Presbyterian brethren of quasi-Popery! It just got me wondering. My own church doesn’t allow, for example, community groups to celebrate the Lord’s supper in their small weeknight gatherings. Many, many faithful, gospel-teaching churches would, I’m sure, have similar proscriptions. My question is: why? Do we have any indication that, in the apostolic church, someone “official” was required to be present at Christian gatherings to administer the sacraments? Isn’t the very name — the authority and command — of Jesus what makes them valid in the first place?

These questions aren’t merely rhetorical; I would genuinely love to hear the thoughts of those who are committed to these sorts of positions. Why should a group of covenanted believers be prevented from baptizing a new convert or celebrating the Lord’s supper as part of a celebratory meal without the presence of an ordained minister? Why does ordination matter, anyway? What purpose does it serve, and what justification does it have historically?

A Letter to Myself, Five Years Ago

Dear Me (or You? Salutations become rather complicated when reflexive),

Happy 25th birthday! I have good news, and bad news. Which would you like first? (I can answer that: bad news first. Always leave ’em laughing.)

The bad news is, you suck. You’re bitter, untrusting, jaded. You’re sarcastic. You’re burnt out. You can’t get a handle on your sin. You’re careless with giving your heart away. You’re jealous of those with the life you think you want. You think you know better than God.

The worse news is, you’ll still be many of those things in five years’ time, but — and here’s the good news — to a lesser degree. And even now (then?), in the midst of sin, bitterness, distrust, jealousy, and pride, God is working. He’s building sets and painting backdrops and auditioning walk-on roles. And not every scene that’s coming in the next five years will have “peace” and “contentment” written in the margins. Some of them will be titled and footnoted and outlined in pain and affliction; you’ll cry more and rage more and pound an impotent fist into your pillow more than you probably care to foresee.

But, Laura of five years ago, this is the important part: your heartbreak and frustration, your very sighs and tears, have a purpose to the plot of this grand comedy, and its Author knows how (and why) to create a little tension. And in the midst of the dark moments, He’ll write in a few scenes — more than He has to — of pleasure and joy and peace, laughter, delight. A darling girl with strawberry-blonde curls and big blue eyes who will steal your heart and mispronounce her esses and who wants to be wrapped up with you in a sling and go with you on the airplane when it’s time for you to leave. Four little serious-eyed, stair-stepped children who make your life happier every time you see them. Two trips halfway around the world to meet dear friends. An amazing church community. A job that brings you true satisfaction and contentment. A cozy home. A vintage record player bought for a song. The perfect teapot. Sunrises. Macarons. Good music. A hundred thousand daily blessings, joys, pleasures.

Brace yourself. It’s going to be hard, and beautiful, and at the end of it, you’re going to be more like the One who wrote this story to begin with. Keep going.

Sincerely,

Me (Today)

Dust

When I went to look at what had long been hidden,
A jewel laid long ago in a secret place,
I trembled, for I thought to see its dark deep fire—
But only a pinch of dust blew up in my face.

I almost gave my life long ago for a thing
That has gone to dust now, stinging my eyes—
It is strange how often a heart must be broken
Before the years can make it wise.
 
-- Sara Teasdale 
 
(HT: She's No Lady) 

No, I wouldn’t like to try online dating, but thanks for asking.

I’ve given some thought to just coming up with a brief little canned response when people ask me why I don’t try ReformedChristianSingles.com or eHarmony or whatever. Brief, because they do NOT want to hear the whole spiel, which goes a little something like this:

Marriage is good and I would like to be married. But it is not the goal of my life. The goal of my life is Christlikeness. Now, if I felt like there was some Christlikeness-obtaining value in me signing up for eHarmony and going on dates with strangers, then I would consider it. But all that would be accomplished if I personally signed up for a dating service would be for me to be more focused on marriage as a goal and a purpose for life, rather than more focused on Jesus. Online dating isn’t inherently evil or anything, and I know many happily married people who found their match online. But online dating is also definitely not for everyone, and I can tell you without the slightest hesitation or doubt that it is NOT. FOR. ME. 100%. End of story.

 

Here’s the thing: I think for some people, they can sign up for eHarmony or whatever, humbly submitting to God and feeling like He’s leading them through the whole process to the person He means for them to marry. But for ME, with my personality? It’s totally going to be me either saying A) “Look, Lord, you’re not doing things quick enough so I’m going to take it into my own hands, thanks,” or B) *siiiiighh* “Fine, I guess if I don’t want to be a pathetic spinster for the rest of my life, if I want my life to have any meaning, I’d better just resign myself to whatever loser I can find online…” And both of those things are founded on total lies, and completely stupid, and I’m not going to have anything to do with either of them. You dig?

See? People are not going to want to stand and listen through that whole thing.

OK, OK, OK

Earlier this week, I sent out an email to a few friends asking them to pray for me as we enter the winter months and as I approach the big 3-0. I’ve mentioned here before that I struggle with seasonal depression (side note: it wasn’t until I lived in Louisville that I found out Seasonal Affective Disorder was even a thing, and, prominent naysayers notwithstanding, just knowing it exists made me feel so much less crazy), and I wrote a bit of a whine to them, honestly. I felt really low, really sad about life and being single and childless and weeks away from my expiration date thirtieth birthday waaaah waaah waaah, and I was griping at the Lord a little bit.

But he didn’t smite me. Nope. Instead, within 24 hours of sending the email, not only did I get two incredibly supportive replies from two of my dearest friends, these items popped up in my blog reader:

This article by Paul Tripp, on 5 Reasons Why God Calls Us To Wait.

This sermon transcript on feeling like death, and this post on resentment, both by Kevin DeYoung.

This Boundless article on not wasting your disappointment in bitterness or frustration with God.

This profile of one of my favorite poets, William Cowper, who battled depression and schizophrenia but who also co-wrote an amazing collection of hymns for the church.

OK! Geez! I get it!

Looking for Jesus in my facebook notifications.

A few more moments and another click. Refresh. Close out the extra tabs, open one more. And then another click. Another record drops down the spindle and I keep watching the feed update, sending another email, checking through my reader.

And then I realize that I’m looking for Jesus. Until I find him, I’ll keep being dissatisfied even with a hundred notifications.

Fiction, Truth, and the Gospel

One of my students last year wrote her final paper on why Christians should exercise discernment in their media involvement.  We had a lot of loooooong conversations about discernment, and she really had to work hard to address a common objection about fiction in general — the “it’s just a story, it’s not real” objection. 

Just taking Twilight as a case study… one of my issues with Twilight is that young girls don’t need someone telling them that that’s how love is supposed to be — that there’s a guy out there who’s perfect in every way, who’s your soulmate without whom your life is utterly meaningless, and that its ok if that guy wants to hurt you as long as he has self control.  And that when a guy ignores you and barely speaks to you except with apparent hatred, it means that he’s just seething with lust.  And that it’s ok to string a decent guy along until you decide that you do want to be with your perfect sparkly soulmate after all. Teenage girls already are so prone to thinking all that.  It’s already programmed into their little texting, MTV (do kids even watch MTV anymore?), Jersey Shore, Bieber-obsessed worldview.  They don’t need an adult to confirm it, they need lots of adults to correct it!

I have some pretty big issues with the weirdo Mormon theology that’s EVERYWHERE in the books, but the relationship stuff is my major practical concern.  I don’t really have much of an issue with adults reading them, since they’re more experienced and discerning, and can tell the difference between fantasy and reality.  But girls who are 13, 14, 15, when they’re just left to read the books on their own with no one talking to them about the issues it brings up?  Not so much.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not the type to go, “ZOMG it haz teh witchez/magic/fantasy BURNNNNN IT!”  I mean, I did read all the Harry Potter books.  😉

But I do think as Christians we have a responsibility to ask questions.  And the question isn’t, “Does this movie/book/whatever depict a world without evil or darkness or moral complexity — a nice, shiny, clean, Precious Moments world where everything turns out just dandy?”

We need to ask questions like, “Does it portray evil as evil and good as good, or does it pretty up evil or trick us into thinking something evil is really not so bad?  Does it show the reality of the battle between good and evil?  Is it realistic that sometimes evil seems to triumph?  Does it show human character honestly — that we’re all messed up by sin and make mistakes, even the heroes of the story?”  Again, that’s worldview stuff we’re talking about here.  “How does the author view life? humanity? love? sex? relationships? purpose?”

For example: I think American Beauty is a absolutely brilliant movie, and that Christians ought to watch it (if their consciences permit, of course).  It’s rated R, it depicts adultery, drug use, deception, violence and lots of other truly evil stuff.  But it also shows, vividly and poignantly, the meaninglessness of a life apart from Christ.

Stories are powerful.  We’re shaped by them and they impact us in a way that just straight teaching might not.  So we have to be discerning, even about fiction — maybe even especially about fiction, because it can affect us without our even being aware of it.  I think about how I feel after I watch a movie — even the fluffiest, silliest, most blatantly unrealistic romantic comedy can change my mood.  It can make me feel dissatisfied with my life, frustrated that I’m still single, annoyed that some sexy leading man hasn’t come and swept me off my feet (well… yet… ;p).  Stuff like that affects our hearts.

I mentioned American Beauty.  It’s really good, but what keeps it from being “capital-G Good,” is that it offers a counterfeit solution to the problem it presents.  It says, “Life is ultimately meaningless.  If you can find meaning in the meaninglessness, you’re one of the lucky ones.”  We know as Christians that that’s not true, that true meaning and purpose and hope are available, and found in Christ.  But just like American Beauty, every story — from comic strips to epic novels to TV shows — offers some kind of “answer” to the life’s problems. 

Only Christians can offer the real solution, the Grand Story into which all of our little stories can be fitted by the Great Author of the universe.  But a book, a movie, a TV show, whatever — all these things are only good inasmuch as they can point their readers toward God’s truth.  Stories have the power to prime human hearts to see the emptiness of life apart from Christ, like American Beauty, or the reality of the battle between good and evil, like Harry Potter, or the brokenness of a fallen world and our often-futile attempts to fix it, like Sherlock Holmes, or the inherent beauty and preciousness of human life, like Children of Men

Ultimately, we have the freedom in Christ to read, watch, or listen to just about anything.  And we have a responsibility to use that freedom wisely.  So, read Twilight or watch Mad Men or listen to Katy Perry or whatever.  But do it with your eyes and ears wide open, and do it like a Christian.

I Do Not Have An Expiration Date

I’m twenty-eight.  One more birthday in my twenties and then, I will be thirty.  Thirty years old.  I have just realized that my value does not diminish as the Lord adds years to my life.  Each birthday signifies another year in which the Lord has been inconceivably gracious and kind to me, preserving my life and keeping my soul.  There will never come a day when I am less in God’s image, less saved, less a part of God’s family, less united with Christ, less who God made me.  I don’t expire like a carton of milk and become worthless after a certain point.  Never going to happen.

Imagine that.

Some Actual Thoughts For A Change

Currently on my bedside table are the following: alarm clock, lamp, water glass, and two books.  One book is Bridget Jones’s Diary and the other is John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin.  I fully expect to wake up some morning to find that the two have spontaneously combusted in the night.

I started reading The Mortification of Sin well over a year ago, before it got shuffled around somehow and pushed to the bottom of a pile and sadly neglected.  (Side note: I started reading it while sitting at an airport bar waiting for a flight.  Picture me with a beer in one hand and a Puritan Paperback in the other.  Classic experience.)  I picked it up again recently and have been amazed and blessed by Owen’s strongly-worded caution to those who bear the name of Christ not to deal lightly with our besetting sins.

Chapters 10 (“Seeing Sin For What It Is”) and 11 (“A Tender Conscience and a Watchful Heart”) are particularly rich and full of godly counsel.  Here, a segment from chapter 11 that merits being quoted at length:

Look on Him whom you have pierced, and let it trouble you.  Say to your soul, ‘What have I done?  What love, what mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on?  Is this how I pay back the Father for His love?  Is this how I thank the Son for His blood?  Is this how I respond to the Holy Spirit for His grace?  Have I defiled the heart that Christ died to wash, and the Holy Spirit has chosen to dwell in?  […] Do I count fellowship with Him of so little value that, for this vile [sin’s] sake, I have hardly left him any room in my heart?’

As is typical with those dear old Puritans, the counsel Owen urges on his readers is emotionally stirring, grounded in the Gospel, and intensely practical.  Incidentally, I find this to be a great weakness in a lot of modern devotional writing, which tends toward one or two of those three characteristics.  Consider this snippet:

Do you find corruption beginning to entangle your thoughts?  Rise up with all your strength against it, as if it had already started to overcome you!  Consider what an unclean thought desires: it desires to have you immerse yourself in folly and filth!  Ask envy what it aims at: murder and destruction are its natural conclusion!  Set yourself against it as if it had already surrounded you in wickedness!

Or this remarkable reflection on the transcendence of God:

Labour to limit your pride with these considerations: What do you know about God?  How little a portion of His majesty!  How immense He is in His nature!  Can you look without terror into the abyss of eternity?  Can you bear the rays of His glorious Being?  I consider these meditations of great value in our walking with God, so far as they are consistent with our filial boldness in seeking Him at the throne of grace through our Lord Jesus Christ. […] To Moses was revealed the most glorious attributes that He can reveal in the covenant of grace, but even these are but the ‘back parts’ of God!

It’s definitely kicking my butt.  And I’m just now over halfway through.  Eep!

Criticism

Some days I wish I lived in the pre-internet age.  Or was Amish.  Or something.  Days like today, when I see a beautiful quote from a respected, wise, older brother in Christ, and then I see someone else, someone who claims the name of Christ, making snap judgments and hateful accusations about that man’s character and doctrine.

Friends, we have to learn — I have to learn — to temper our words when we’re on the internet.  We must.  The commands of God not to entertain accusations against an elder without corroboration do not cease to apply online.  I’m convinced that a great many Christians are experiencing personal stagnation in their growth in Christlikeness because they constantly allow bitterness, anger, self-righteousness, lovelessness, and pride to gain a hold on them in the comments sections of Christian blogs.  How often do we see characteristics and actions  that belong to the realm of death in people who call themselves by the name of Christ?  Gossip.  Slander.  Malice. 

How foolish!  How our enemy must laugh with twisted delight when we use God’s language for the Devil’s purposes.

Without Facebook

OK, seriously, we have gotten into hugely lame territory with this one, I get it.  But I had a bit of an epiphany about this and I wanted to share, because I’m part of a generation that’s obsessed with that kind of feel-good, self-aggrandizing, narcissistic stuff, and this sentence has taken a weird turn, and SHUT UP YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE.

Anyhoodles.  Last night I was reading a review of Joanna Newsom’s latest album.  Incidentally, I cannot make up my mind whether I think Joanna Newsom is crazy, or a genius, or just so totally insufferable and pretentious and into herself that she gets her kicks inflicting her atonal wackitude on all us unsuspecting plebes, or what.   Reading the review made me think of my friend Shiloh, who was nice enough to let me stay with her for five whole weeks when I was in Australia two years (!!) ago, because she had “The Bear and the Unsuspecting Plebe” or whatever Joanna Newsom’s last album was called.

If I hadn’t given up Facebook for Lent, I would have posted the link to the article on her wall, and said I was thinking about her.  Instead, oh my gosh you guys, you know what I did?  I prayed for her instead.  I know, super holy, right?  Yeah, totally not about that at all.

Here’s the thing about social media and blogs and all that stuff.  What a distraction.  I mean, don’t get me wrong: instantaneous communication is really cool.  I think it’s kind of incredible that my friend Miranda told me that our friend Kate had given birth to baby Alex within hours of the event (on my birthday!), when that same communication would have taken weeks just a couple generations ago.  But because I can click over to google chat right now and talk to people on three continents the second they pop into my head, I often forget that God often gives us those moments of suddenly thinking of someone so we can learn to be faithful to pray.  I’m hoping that prayer — not sending links or “liking” or commenting on wall posts or whatever — will be my first impulse by the end of Lent.

The Last One Today, I Swear

A dear friend called me this afternoon to ask how I was doing.  See, I emailed her late last night to ask her to pray for me about something, and being a sweet and thoughtful sister in Christ, she called to check up on me.  I laughed and said I was fine, and that, honestly, I’d hardly thought about it.  Praise the Lord, right?  Right!

Well, let me tell you that it wasn’t because I’m some paragon of self-discipline and was able to overcome by the sheer force of my holiness.  (Side note: if I ever DO say anything like that, stand back, because there’s a ten-foot kill radius when the lightning strikes.)  It was because I’ve been seriously distracted by the grace of God today.  Woke up pumped to gather with God’s people, had my socks knocked RIGHT off by the word preached and applied, watched the Cardboard Stories video I just posted, read my best friend’s testimony, cried intermittently all day, praised God for Alfred Hitchcock movies while I watched Notorious, and hardly had a moment to focus on my “issues.”  It’s been a really, really good day.

And look, here’s the thing that I think I haven’t been getting lately: it’s not that my “issues” don’t matter.  They do.  They’re real.  They matter to me and they matter to my loving Heavenly Father.  And I don’t need to do some Buddhist and/or Hipster thing and detach or transcend or whatever.  I just need to see Christ more vividly than all that other stuff.  

Pain?  It’s not an illusion.  Frustration?  Disappointment?  Not always idols, like some well-meaning Christians like to insist.  But man, I keep thinking about the lyrics to that song — “the things of Earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

My stuff, my pain, my frustration and disappointment, I’m still working through it.  I’m still bringing it before the Lord.  But I was reminded today that my “to-think-about” list needs to include a whole bunch more of God and his grace and his Son and his provision and… and ALL that amazing, eternal stuff.  Everything else is still there, it just needs to move way down the list.

When My Plans Fall Through, or “A Little Bit of Oversharing”

This last week or so, dealing with a non-functioning computer and my subsequent inability to keep up with the new blog, has been an interesting microcosm of what my life often looks like.  I plan, and pat myself on the back for coming up with such a brilliant scheme to exalt myself, and imagine what it will be like when my perfectly-conceived plans come to fruition, and then the Lord in His grace kindly tears down my idol of being admired and respected.  Whereupon I typically scramble to rebuild, and the Lord and I go through the process until I finally get it through my thick skull that He will be worshipped alongside no one and nothing else.

I am twenty-eight.  If you think that ten years ago I thought my life would look like this, you probably need extensive counseling.  I figured I’d be living overseas, married, with a couple of kids, happily cooking meals for my growing family by now.  Instead, I have most of a Master’s degree in Theology, I own a little condo, I teach Humanities at a tiny Christian school, and I am, most definitely, still very single.

God is good.  He is teaching me to live a “quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and holiness,” knocking down my idolatrous and self-aggrandizing plans, reminding me of His grace and sufficiency.

I guess this is just a reminder to myself.