Tag Archives: grace

And all God’s people said…

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And all God’s people said…

This week has been awful for our country. Facebook makes it worse – we only see portions of people, and we forget that they are people. We find something they said to be absolutely horrible, or unforgivable, or we think that they aren’t the people we thought they were because they have some heinous opinion about something. This seems to be especially prevalent among my church peeps. I have seen many people this week who I respect as Christians posting things that I so strongly disagree with. And I know I ruffled a few feathers and caused some pearl clutching with my #blacklivesmatter post.

Some of these issues stream from the skewed versions of ourselves that we present on Facebook, a place where we can readily share opinions with our audience without quite as much of the accountability that takes place when you say something right to someone’s face. I always try to say things on Facebook that I would be willing to say in real life, but it’s hard to convey tone, too, so even those things can be misinterpreted.

And then I can go back in time in my mind, to the world before Facebook, or even texting for that matter, when my church, my Christian brothers and sisters, treated my family in a way that was undoubtedly anti-God. When I felt cast aside by the very people who were supposed to unconditionally love me, and I wasn’t supported even though the issue was completely unrelated to me. I was 15, and my church broke my heart. For the longest time, I couldn’t understand how Christians could be like this. And I didn’t want to be grouped with them. (Sometimes I still don’t.) But I loved my Jesus. It’s honestly a miracle to me – when I look back on sophomore year of high school – that I’m still a Christian. I’ve never denounced my God, somehow, by his grace, even though I hated his church, and his people. Clearly, this division in the church is not only related to Facebook or social media, because it was present even in 2002.

I expect division between non-Christians and Christians – we disagree on basic life things, so it makes sense that the tension there is palpable. Interestingly, though, we Christians have so much tension, too, because even though we agree on the most basic life thing, we can somehow still manage to disagree on, like, everything else. [Our sermon was about that this morning in church – finding the way of love when there are disagreements about the non-essentials of Christian life, learning how to love other Christians even when you disagree with them, and finding a place of unity with our love for Christ and for each other. It was a super good sermon, and totally applicable right now (as always, love my pastors!).]

Along this topic line, I find myself every week looking at my church family. Yes, I still go to church. I had to keep going as a high school kid since my dad was the Music Minister, and I mostly kept going in college (although I took a “finding-myself break” for a while there as most college kids do). I go to a big church now (a big, amazing, beautiful, wonderful church), and I probably know like 15% of the people who go there. I know all the people on the worship arts team, because that’s my place and home (hashtagworshiparts hashtagworshipchoir). And I know my similarly-aged pals with similarly-aged kiddos and similarly-aged lifestyles. But for the most part, I don’t really know the people. This could make it easy for them to just be “its” to me instead of people. There’s a disconnect there because there aren’t relationships. And part of me wants to fight that and try to get to know literally everyone who attends my church, but I know that’s unrealistic. I’m just not in a phase of life where that’s possible, and also you can honestly only cultivate so many meaningful relationships before everyone is just a casual acquaintance because you don’t have the time to deepen any of those friendships. The more realistic part of me knows to be loving and friendly and servant-minded, and the closer friendships will develop with the people God puts in my life over time.

It’s easier to love people when you don’t know them, I think. Once you have a chance to see how imperfect they are, it’s easier to dismiss them or find them disappointing. But when you haven’t met them yet, there’s an imaginary version of each person that you meet that you expect them to be like. I find myself looking at all the people and wondering about their stories and lives and families, and finding it so magical that we love the same Jesus and we’ll know each other someday for sure even though we’re adjacent strangers worshipping right now.

And that’s the magic of it all. That magic is so easy to forget when we get to know actual people – when we realize that the romanticized version of them that we made up in our own heads just isn’t true, or when we see how sinful they are (just like us). But the magic is still there – adjacent strangers worshipping are totally broken and messed up sinners who have recognized their all-powerful, ever-loving, wonderfully gracious God and stand together before him and worship.

Sometimes, I’m on the worship team, and I wear in-ear monitors so I can get a good mix of the band and voices. These are awesome, and a super cool piece of technology that I’m really grateful for. But with my ears in, I can’t hear the congregation. And then there are the weeks where I’m off – that was this week. And I get to sit in the congregation and look around. And again, we’re broken, sinful, adjacent strangers worshipping the same God. In the same family, brothers and sisters not even knowing each others’ names.

I love this.

I love it! I can’t get enough of this magic. There are billions of people who have lived and are living. There are billions who have known and know Jesus. Who come together across the entire globe to live for Him and worship Him and love Him. Who disagree on all kinds of theology and have different kinds of families and different problem sin areas and different strengths and different stories. And we all sing together, “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord” or “in Christ alone, my hope is found.” And we all have the most important thing in common. It moves me to tears when I see the people around me worshipping our God. Like every week.

In our individualistic America, I think we forget that magic sometimes. There are a whole world of people who love the same Jesus I love, and have been moved by his message the same way I have. We are so different, yet so alike. He saved us all. We are broken and beautiful and we do the wrong things and we’re forgiven. We can embrace and accept and show compassion and love and tenderness and accountability because that’s what was shown to us by Christ. There is so much power in our ability to forgive, our magic to love people who we don’t even know.

So I encourage you, when you are feeling bitter and angry toward God’s church, who probably broke you in half like it did to me when I was 15, to come to church anyway and sing with them. Listen to the people next to you worshipping the same God, and know that He is doing for them what He is doing for you. Feel joyful and connected and at peace about this ugly, imperfect, broken church who is trying to figure out this whole Jesus-love magic.

This is how the world is supposed to know that we are His. We are one group, one body and we serve one King. And it seems like a whole lot of the time, in order to serve our King, we have to put aside our differences and focus on our similarity.

Bring us together, God! Help us to accept and love and forgive each other and hold each other accountable. Help us to show the world that we are yours because of how we love one another.

And all God’s people said, “Amen.”

 

Guerilla Grace

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Guerilla Grace

All right guys, I’m weighing in. God give me grace in my words. Yes, I meant to spell “guerilla” like that, because this kind of grace is rough and tough and unkempt and difficult, but beautifully successful when done well.
If you’re mad at that mom for her kid falling into the gorilla enclosure, I get it. She should have been watching him more carefully. There are a million tiny things that could have gone differently that would have yielded better results, or at least less heartbreaking results than a beloved gorilla’s death. But you really need to understand that the mom most certainly feels enough guilt on her own. We fret and freak and worry and blame ourselves for everything that ever happens to our kids, and we don’t need the entire world’s blame added to that. We spend some much time completely petrified, and that fear is often justified when our kids get into dangerous situations or don’t make the best choices. Trust me, her guilt is punishment enough, and there is no need to crucify her.

I’m very sad that anyone was put in a position where they felt the need to kill the gorilla Harambe. It is so, so sad, and infuriating, and sickening. But the situation was also an accident. Kids are sneaky and unpredictable and honestly very stupid at that age. Their brains haven’t developed enough to understand how to keep themselves out of danger. And moms get judged when kids that old are in strollers and when kids that old are on leashes or being worn. Or if they are on leashes or being worn or in strollers and are screaming, we get judged that we aren’t a good enough parent to keep our kid happy, so yeah, she was already going to be judged anyway. You can’t say “I would never have let that happen” because you can’t control everything and terrible accidents do happen. If nothing like this ever happened to your kid, it was your lucky stars, or the grace of God, or however you want to think of it. It wasn’t because you are a superior parent.

I am saddened by our society’s constant need to find someone to blame when something goes wrong. This was an accident. A million tiny things could have prevented it, but it happened. It still happened. And there is no point getting all worked up about what “should have been,” because what “should have been” isn’t what happened. What happened is what happened. And now let’s please extend some grace to a person who I’m sure is feeling worse by herself than even the whole world is trying to make her feel.

When Ellie was 10 months old, she fell down our entire flight of basement stairs because I left the door open when I went to change out laundry. It was horrifying – she completely flipped over 3 times like a rag doll and landed hard on her back. I held her and cried my eyes out for 30 minutes after I made sure she was okay. There was no gorilla to drag her around (whether playfully or violently) at the bottom, and there was no one watching to tell me a million times how horrible of a mom I was being. And I’m still sick to my stomach when I think about it. I could’ve, I should’ve, I would’ve – it doesn’t matter because it happened. 

We have to learn how to call an accident an accident, or a terrible dilemma a terrible dilemma, instead of finding the need to place the blame on someone. It wasn’t her fault, it wasn’t the zoo’s fault, it wasn’t Harambe’s fault. It happened.

Now Christians, remember how I said “crucify her” above? You know where that phrase comes from. Someone was already crucified, someone who never did anything wrong or worth crucifying. He did it for me – so that I don’t have to be blamed for all the terrible things that I do – not the accidents even, but the terrible things I do on purpose. The times when I choose myself over the needs of others. The times when I do or say the nasty thing instead of the kind thing. He died for me, and he died for you, and he died for that mom. So these words are especially for you if you are a Christian, because you’ve already come face to face with your sin and shame and chosen to accept the grace extended to you for no good reason other than love. So please consider choosing to extend that same grace to this woman that was freely lavished upon you. We can choose kindness and grace and love even in our sorrow. Kind of like what God did for us.

Dealing with Depression/Anxiety: Part 2

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Dealing with Depression/Anxiety: Part 2

So yesterday I posted about what it feels like to have depression and anxiety. Today, I’m going to continue talking about depression and anxiety by discussing what HAS and HAS NOT worked in my treatment.

I noted at the bottom of my post yesterday that I’m a bit of a naturalist, and I don’t like the idea of chemicals entering my body if I can possibly avoid it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-medicine, and medicine really works for some people. I went on an anti-anxiety medicine about 6 years ago, and it made me act INSANE. So I decided to pursue other natural methods when I realized that I had postpartum depression about 2 months after Ellie was born last year. This is a discussion of some of those other methods I’ve used and how they have worked for me.

What Didn’t Work

The first thing that I always go to in dealing with emotional problems is television. You guys, seriously, I love television. I love it so, so much. I love studying the characters of shows, I love giggling at the ridiculous things they get themselves into, and most of all, I love escaping the pain or numbness of my actual world by delving wholeheartedly into their fictional ones. Some of my favorite TV shows, all of which I’ve watched entire series (or acceptable portions of the series, hello, One Tree Hill seasons 7-9 no thanks) multiple times, all have interesting characters with way worse problems than mine. Or way sillier problems. Which, you know, I think is the whole point of TV. The problem is this, though: I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I am addicted to television because it fills the void and gives me feelings when I have none. It is an actual addiction. I looked up symptoms of addiction, and I fit them.

Most of the symptoms of addiction that I found are related to substance abuse, but let’s assume that the substance is television instead of a drug or alcohol or medication. Some symptoms are:

-patient is unable to control the use of the substance, cannot stop taking it
-patient has physical and/or mood swings from withdrawal when not taking the substance, including cravings toward it, moodiness, bad temper, inability to focus on other tasks, feeling empty without it, frustrated about other things, angry, bitter, and resentful of anything that takes the patient away from the substance
-even if the patient knows that the substance is harming him or herself and/or his or her relationships, he or she still takes the substance
-patient makes social and/or recreational sacrifices in favor of using the substance
-patient feels the need for the substance in order to deal with problems
-an obsession with obtaining the substance
-the patient often knows that others notice and is embarrassed about the addiction, which results in secrecy and solitude while using the substance

I regularly do all of these things with TV shows. I sacrifice social and recreational time to secretly watch TV. I can’t stop myself from starting a new episode when one is over. I have mood swings and feel irritated when I want to watch the TV show but can’t because of other responsibilities. I find ways to watch the show while doing other tasks so that I don’t have to stop. I feel like I can’t deal with issues, so I escape by watching TV. I feel anxious when I don’t have Netflix available to me while waiting to do something. I know that I’m addicted to TV and I’m embarrassed at how bad it is, so I secretly watch the show when I’m away from others so they don’t know how often I’m watching it.

Fortunately, TV isn’t quite as damaging of an obsession as drugs and alcohol could be, and it is very unlikely that I’ll reach the point where I could overdose and literally die from watching too much TV, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not truly addicted to it. I read an article recently that discussed some research that points to the possibility that people with depression will often look for something to fill the emptiness they feel, so they are more likely to become addicted to things. While I’m not proud of my TV habit, I’m at least thankful that I didn’t look toward drugs and alcohol to fill that void (thanks, all those years of Red Ribbon Week!).

While it is a problem to sacrifice social relationships and time that needs to be spent on other things to binge watch a fictional television show, the real problem is that it doesn’t solve my depression issues. I escape for a while and feel better, but as soon as I stop watching TV and go on with my life, the empty weight comes back, and then I feel the need to watch TV to escape it again. It is a never ending cycle, and it doesn’t solve the problem.

If you are fighting depression and anxiety, is there something in your life that you are using to escape? It is probably not working. Consider that you might not be addicted to drugs or alcohol or an actual substance, but instead you might be addicted to something else. A game on your phone? TV, like me? Know from my experience that the false idols (that’s right, they are idols, because you are valuing them more than you value God’s calling for your life) are never going to fulfill you, and they are never going to make your depression and anxiety go away.

What Does Work

It’s going to sound super cliche, but God is what works. And that probably seems like a cop-out. And it probably seems really un-relatable and impractical. But seriously, a relationship with Christ is the answer. I’m going to talk about these in more detail in the final portion of my blog mini series, but I’m going to highlight them quickly here.

The answer to my depression – the tools and armor and weapons that have worked to fight my symptoms – are TRUTH and GRACE.

Truth

The best answer that I’ve found in dealing with depression has been getting down to the root of what is giving me the symptoms. For example, about 2 years ago, a friend of mine really upset me. I was very angry about what had happened, but I didn’t want to damage the relationship. My counselor and I talked about what had happened, and it was revealed to me that the root of the issue was that I felt disrespected by what had gone on. The truth was that I was upset because I felt like that friend didn’t value me or my ability to make responsible, adult decisions and valued herself more than me. Another time, I was having feelings of anxiety, and I couldn’t figure out why, but everything seemed overwhelming and my heart was nonstop racing. I traced back my train of thought until I remembered that I had briefly remembered a very scary and difficult thing that Husband and I had gone through several years before. When I figured out the truth of why I was having my anxiety, I was able to take control of it.

Again, I’m going to dive into this more tomorrow, but the biggest thing that helps in the Truth category is Scripture. Scripture is truth, and replacing whatever anxious or hopeless thoughts I’m having with Scripture works amazingly well. I’ll outline my train of Scripture thought tomorrow.

Grace

One of the big problems with my depression is that I feel unworthy, ugly, useless, pointless, and just not enough. And the truth is that I am those things. I am not worthy of all the blessings I have. I am proud and arrogant and full of myself. I think of myself first to the detriment of others. I can be hateful and rude. I think nasty, selfish, jealous things about other people all the time. I am truly depraved. This is called sin. And we all do it. And we’re all unworthy.

A lot of times I hear people say, “Don’t feel unworthy. You are enough.” This always frustrated me. I would think, But the whole point is that I am NOT enough! So saying that doesn’t help! Then I realized the truth of grace (oh snap, that’s putting both my weapons together!). The truth is that I really am unworthy. But God is the King of Grace. He loves me anyway. He wants to be with me even though I can be so nasty and selfish and proud and sinful and depraved. So he found a way for justice to be served by sacrificing his perfect, sinless, totally worthy Son in my place. Grace is that I got the gift that Jesus actually deserved. So the truth is not that I am enough. The truth is that Christ is enough. And that’s what Grace is. Oh boy, how beautiful. How incredibly, wonderfully, terribly beautiful.

When the Holy Spirit helps me to pair the truth of Scripture – the reality of who I am and the beauty of who God sees when he looks at me (that’s Jesus, y’all! He sees me like I’m his perfect, spotless Son!) with the amazing Grace that I just don’t deserve, my emptiness is filled with hope. And that renews my mind.

“Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

I think we so often look at this verse and think about changing from being bad, sinful Christians to good, doing-the-right-thing Christians. But I think this verse is so much more than that! The pattern of this world is emptiness and self-service. When my mind is renewed in God’s truth and grace, I can see what God has for me – I can see his good, pleasing, and perfect will in my life. I can see the good in my depression. I can see that going through this has given me a unique opportunity to share the experience with others and help them find His solution, too. And if I have to go through fire and get really burned in order to help other burn victims, then so be it.

Glory be to God.