Monday, July 1, 2013


Disclaimer: I am so guilty of the following, that I hope you see this not so much as a charge from a guiltless judge, but more of an inner-workings-out of what's going on in my heart right now.

It seems to me that there is a very peculiar inclination of the human heart. We have the tendency to allow place and our sense of home/belonging to rise up in our hearts to a seat of great prominence. We identify ourselves and others with where we are from - which, oddly, may not be where we are living currently. What's one of the first things we ask a new person, or tell someone we've just met - where we're from, where we live. It can be general - New Jersey; regional - North Jersey; or specific - county/town. It seems innocuous and just idle chatter, but why is that what we go for instead of other topics? Why do we care about where people are from?

It's not as if this is a modern phenomenon. All through the Bible, in fact, the general theme for much of it, people are searching for home. Thrown from the Garden of Eden, we are ever wanderers, looking for the place where we belong. We are aliens, not at home here on this earth, but always searching for a place to call our own despite that. Ruth got it right when she left Moab with Naomi because she knew Naomi was more a definition of home than Moab. 

But what happens when we become so attached to where we were that we find ourselves unable to truly live where we are? 

I am always quick to lament the loss of good food - bagels, pizza, Chinese food, and diners do not exist here. At least, not with the quality which I grew up accustomed to eating. (Though, thank the Lord, we have found a good pizza place in Lexington, so I know there may be hope yet.) (And that is not a sarcastic thanks be to God, it's genuine.) And not only food, but The City, the Adirondacks, the Shore. All things irreplaceable. All things I love dearly. All things that are wrapped up in my sense of self. Even things like weather and seasonal patterns of agriculture. Family and friends go without saying.

I become so busy lamenting what I've "lost", that I forget to find the joy in what I've gained. Comparison is the thief of joy, as Teddy so eloquently pointed out, and joy ought to be the desire of our hearts.

But it goes beyond robbing ourselves of joy. It's straight up disobedience. I find myself thinking of Jonah here. He was so determined to not go where God had appointed him to go, that he spent three days and nights in the belly of a great fish. His disobedience led to his suffering greatly. My disobedience and hardened heart has led to my suffering (needlessly, I'd add). By not trusting God that he has brought me to a good place, how my heart has suffered in the throes of self-inflicted sorrow, jealousy, anger, bitterness, and grumbling. When God led my husband to a job 800 miles away from where we were hoping to live, from where our families lived, I can tell you that I channeled my inner Jonah. I suppose it helped that we had no other job offer to persuade us one way or the other, our path was quite clear. But it didn't help. I still grumbled. I still do grumble. Jonah never did "get it" in the end, but I know there's hope for me yet.

The strangest part of this whole problem for me personally is that I am an Anthropology major. I love people and places. I love to travel. My heart has yearned for nearly 20 years to be in Kenya. And yet I hold on to New Jersey like some kind of anchor.

Do you know what anchors do? My five year old told me about an imaginary anchor that would float in the air. Then she started laughing hysterically and proclaimed how silly that would be! Do you know why? Because even a child knows that anchors do not float. Anchors sink, grab hold of the bottom, and stop the ship. Even a very great ship is held by an anchor properly placed. Anchors, however, can be hauled up and put down in new ports.

There should be no anchors in my life that keep me from moving forward. Forward in the direction I ought to go. Forward without grumbling or complaining. Forward to the far horizons.

New places do not mean that old places aren't important. But we can not physically live in two places at once, and our hearts shouldn't strive to either. 

Ebenezers are stones of remembrance, erected under the direction of the Lord, to ensure we don't forget His goodness and faithfulness. They are used to help us teach our children as we pass by them. The old places do not need to be forgotten, but Ebenezers are not meant to be idols.

The places we have come from have influenced us, formed our view of life and our place in it, but we should not confuse that with our inherent worth and self. By rejecting the new places, and honoring the old, we take the gift God has given us, and rob it of the joy with which it was given. Once again, our pride and disobedience declares that we know better, and that everything would be much better, if only He had let us stay right where we were before. For pete's sake, even the Israelites, after escaping from Egypt, declared it would have been better to remain slaves that be brought to die in the desert. But they didn't die then, they were saved.

By remaining obedient and faithful, trusting the Lord's wisdom and not our own, we can start to let go of the petty things that seem so important - food, fairs, cities, mountains, and beaches - and begin to appreciate the good things we have here and now. Wherever we may lay our head at night becomes home simply because we remember that our home isn't here anyway.

"For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling" 
2 Corinthians 5:1,2

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I headed into James 3 today. It seemed particularly relevant in light of the current cultural climate, right after the State of the Union and all that. (Amazing how the Bible seems to be for all people, for all times. But I digress...)

Generally, I hate politics. No, correction, I hate talking about politics. People who like to talk about politics are passionate. And you know what passion breeds? It breeds an air of pridefulness that begets rudeness, coarse language, and disrespect. This happens because, of course, we all believe that we are on the side of right, sometimes Right, and if we don't allow that we might be wrong, we aren't open to discussions that actually progress. When you enter a debate, you are hoping to win over your opponent, so naturally, you defend yourself as to be not allowed to be persuaded that they may, in any way at all, be right. That right there is some Grade A Pride. And it's not just politics, that just happens to be the area where I find it the most distasteful. It might be some other area for you - theology, parenting, sports, etc.

Well, this is to be somewhat expected from a large section of the population. We can not hold to account those who are not committed to living life in step with Christ. If someone doesn't sign a contract, you can't hold them to its terms. Though, I should say, that most people have a sense that we ought to be civil and polite - this is one of those culturally understood things. There's at least a pretense most of the time.

But I find myself both frustrated and saddened by the blatant disrespect I see at large in the Christian community. How are we to be salt and light when we have no distinguishing factors? How can we claim to be set apart when our actions and speech so closely resemble those around us? Many communities of faith hold to a standard of living in grace - there are certain non-negotiables in the tenets of Christian doctrine (although even this is sort of unclear and has led to all kinds of sects, cults, denominations, etc) - but there are areas where we allow one another to live in grace because there isn't any clear cut right or wrong answer. 

Should you buy a Toyota or a Ford - or must all Christians drive a Chrysler? Or should all Christians forego driving and use the money they save on gas and ownership to fund orphanages in third world nations? Yes, of course that's a silly one, but sometimes the things we hold one another to are silly things.

One area that is explicitly clear in the Bible is that we are to be in control of our tongues (and I'm sure that fingers would have been included had the Holy Spirit chosen to reveal the future nature of our communication). This means more than not swearing, lying, sharing dirty jokes, name-calling, or being rough and sarcastic.

It extends to the way that we treat others. And not only other believers. Anyone can be kind about people who agree with them.

Our speech should be such that it is gracious and kind. And I'm not saying we need to go around talking like we're a bunch of empty-headed shadows. What I'm saying is that every person you encounter, read about, or see is made in the image of God. That alone deserves respect. That alone should make them worthy of the time it takes to edit yourself whether in speaking to or about them in person or an online forum. 

Everyone knows you should never read the comments section on blogs or articles. If you really want to support the theory that the milk of human kindness has run dry, simply pop on over to any blog, however uncontroversial, and you're bound to find that some fight has broken out. And not just disagreements, but all out ugliness.

And we all tsk-tsk and shake our heads saying, "Wow, people, if you wouldn't say it in person, don't say it on the internet" or "I know I should never read the comments. What a bunch of wack-a-doos" or "Who are these people that post on the internet?".

Friends, they are us! We post on the internet. We get into fights on forums and in the comments sections of "news" articles and blog posts. We write either openly harsh or passive-aggressive status updates on Facebook. It's not just "them" - whoever "them" happens to be at the moment. (Oh, it is so hard not changing that to "they"... squirm.)

Pundits love to rail on and on about personal responsibility. Guess what? We are personally responsible to act in a manner that is befitting a child of God. That means our speech ought to show respect to those who are made in the likeness of God. That would be, let me see... Everyone!

The stubborn, backwards thinking super-conservative? Yes. The stubborn, backwards thinking super-liberal? Yes. The President of the United States and other political figures leading us? Yes. The teacher that didn't pass your child because your child failed to do the work required? Yes. The mom the does/does not cloth diaper/wear their baby/breastfeed/co-sleep/stay-at-home? Yes. A million times yes. No, nearly 7 billion times yes.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
James 3:17,18