Crazy Stupid Christians- When blessings just plain get us down.

 

crazy daisy christians

Christians can be crazy stupid.

There are many examples. Trust me. I could talk about old people like me all day and never run out of material. But, I think I’ll pick on college students, Bible School students in particular. They’re young and I love them. They can handle it. And, if they can’t, well, they have a lifetime to work through it in Bible-based therapy.

Case in point – I’m employed at a Bible college in British Columbia. Young adults sign up of their own free will to learn more about God. Theology. Homiletics, Hermeneutics and stuff like that.

The Bible school part, that ‘s not crazy. No way. It’s deep and rich. Sacred and profound.

What’s crazy are the attitudes that break out about half way through each semester. Here’s a list for your perusal.

  1. This assignment is stupid. I’m not going to do it. – No you are stupid for making payments for courses that you refuse to make the most of.  You ARE the one who signed up, you know.
  2. People just don’t understand how hard it is for me to  follow the rules. I need to everyone just to lighten up.  – No, you need to go back to kindergarten and let your teacher tell you how to behave every minute of every day. Sure, it’s a little boring at your age, but you’ll not get into so much trouble and the assignments are much easier.
  3. I don’t have time for homework because I have to minister to so many needy classmates– Sounds like somebody’s majoring in burn-out and possibly suffering from I’ve-got-the-whole-world-in-my-hand (and I sure hope I don’t drop it) syndrome. Like God couldn’t quite keep it all together until you came along.

I know what you’re thinking. How did I manage to be such an expert of the petulant theological guru. I’m certainly no one’s theological superior. My own siblings had to be bribed to sit at my feet while I shared all I knew about life.

It was a short session.

But, I do know how to be petulant. Whining and complaining about the blessings I have. The hard work. The time commitment. The uncertainty. The burden that great privileges turn out to be.

A famous superhero once said “With great power comes great responsibility”. It was a quote from his uncle Ben. Yeah, I know they are fictional characters. But, truth is truth.

Privilege also comes with great responsibility.

I’m not just talking about the lifestyles of the rich and famous. I’m talking about

  • growing up in a loving home where parents sacrifice for their children’s futures.
  • being in a marriage where there is respect and honor.
  • being part of a community of believers who care for each other.
  • waking up each morning to the overwhelming realization that your loving Father has given you one more day on planet earth.

These are blessings that sometimes end up being perceived as hardship.

Now, that’s crazy.

When life gets tough, instead of rolling your eyes, roll up your sleeves. Get a hold of the good in your own life -not the life you wished you had. Face opportunity head on and don’t back off just because you work up a sweat or shed some tears.

Your life – it’s God’s gift to you.

Open up that gift. Every. Single. Day.

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Disappointment, Disneyland and the California Sun- Walking through our pain is the only way to go.

 

Disneyland-in-Los-Angeles

When I was in my thirties, I went to a family wedding in California. The next day my husband, our three little kids and I headed to Disneyland. Guess who was most excited on the drive down the coast.

Me.

Never been before. Couldn’t wait to go.

The Disneyland in my mind glowed with all the colors of the rainbow. Bottom line, I had no concept of the power of the California sun.

What was the first thing I noticed when we walked through the gate?

All those rainbow colors looked as if they needed some kind of pigment transfusion.  I pushed the baby stroller past the muted greens, yellows, reds and blues and headed to the “It’s a Small world After All” ride. That’s when I almost broke down and cried. The music sounded like it had been recorded in a seedy Burger King restroom. The characters spinning in and out of the castle wall just plain creeped me out.

Maybe if I had been a little younger – like four or five years old – my experience would have been different.

Truth is, I fell about halfway between postpartum and premenopausal. Sort of  like living in the eye of the storm. If I was going to enjoy Disneyland, now was the time.

So, I pushed the baby stroller even faster as I

  • dragged my family
  • deeper into the happiest place on earth
  • in hopes of finding the magic I had imagined all my growing up years.

When we found Snow White, Cinderella and Prince Charming, everything just fell apart.  My middle son, who barely  talked to strangers, followed these creatures around like they were oversized kittens. My oldest son was absolutely terrified.

“They’re gonna to kidnap my brother,” he screamed over and over,  “They’ll take him away.”

Maybe he knew something I didn’t know about the seedy underbelly of the Greatest Place on Earth.  Who knows? At the moment, “Away” was the operative word. My husband and I herded our kids away from the Disney characters while happy families from every corner of civilization stared at us in pity.

Talk about disappointment.

There. I said it.

I was disappointed in Disneyland. I know, I know. It’s like being unimpressed with the Grand Canyon or bored with the Northern lights. But, I had expected more out of this land of amusement and wonder.

And I got nothing.

That is until we discovered  Toad’s wild ride. My oldest son and I climbed into one of  Toad’s funky little motorcars. We held on while the vehicle twisted and turned through the parlor and the library. Somewhere in between the fireplace and the dining room everything changed. My stranger-danger obsessed son laughed and giggled. I couldn’t help but muster up a grin myself.

We were having fun.

Obviously, I got over my disappointment that day. If  only the rest of life were so easy. But, life is full of disappointments. Most of them are far more profound than the dashed hopes of a middle-aged wide-eyed Disneyland groupie wanna-be.

We all have

  • goals.
  • Hopes.
  • dreams.
  • expectations for our future that include some type of happiness.

When things fall apart, it’s painful. Sometimes it’s so painful we wonder if allowing ourselves to feel it could ultimately destroy us.

So we avoid the pain by

  1. medicating our way to oblivion,
  2. working ourselves into a mindless existence,
  3. or entertaining ourselves into a frenzy.

Not exactly the topic of polite conversation. Disappointment. Pain. Wanting to just disappear.

But, it’s a part of life, this pain. Settling into it’s reality can be horrible and surreal at the same time. The ups and downs of our grief  can take us on a ride much wilder than Mr. Toad ever imagined.

But’s also a breathtaking revelation of truth found in unexpected places. It’s a slow walk through the land of the broken. A sacred place.

God is there.

Loving Other People’s Children-what my Dad taught me about ministry and lasting change in the lives of annoying human beings.

brats

I had just graduated from high school and was trying to figure out what to do with my life.

Dad already had plans. Not long range exactly. But, oh, he had plans. Most of it involved church. Maybe being a pastor had something to do with such an obsession. I remember him dangling car keys front of me about 45 minutes before church was to start.

“I want you and your brother to pick up you-know-who for church,” he would say as if we were being commissioned to spend a fun-crazed day at Six Flags over Texas in Houston. In reality it was more like Mission Impossible – without the cute guy and the cool cars.

You see, we knew what he meant when he said you-know-who. And, we knew exactly what to do.

Our task was to

  • jump in an aging Kermit-green Toyota,
  • pick up three of the most annoying kids in Southeast Texas
  • and bring them back to church
  • so they could spend the remaining pre-service time
  • running through the sanctuary
  • pulling each other’s hair
  • and yelling nasty things

as loudly as possible.

Think that was a long sentence? Not long enough. Not for these kids.

Fact is, they were more than annoying.  According to my fresh-out-of-high-school  perspective, Dad was making a big mistake to let these kids hang around.   They were not exactly an advertisement that yelled “Come join us on Sunday morning. Bring your precious little darlings with you so that they can go to Sunday school.”  And what? Sit by these scrawny brats?

Imagine dingy hair and runny noses. Crooked teeth and dirty fingernails. Just a couple of ignorant kids from the sandy back roads that ran through the swamps outside of town. Who wanted the likes of them around?

My Dad.

He loved those kids just about as much as he loved his own. I didn’t understand it. They had their own parents, I figured, people who obviously needed to get their kids under control. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt if said parents  had their chromosomes checked out before further procreation.

I know what you’re thinking. For eighteen, I was kind of a brat myself. Shortsighted and self absorbed. Judgmental and intolerant.

Then, Dad explained the story behind his concern for these children.

“When these children were just toddlers,” he told me one day, “they were abandoned beside a tree on a country road. How those babies  managed to survive until  the sheriff found them a few days later, I’ll never know.”

That sure stopped my whining. For a while. But, those kids still drove me crazy.

The neediness in their voices. The hungry look in their eyes. The outbursts of anger and inappropriate behavior.

I didn’t have the spiritual maturity to see what my Dad saw -three hurting human beings who needed a place to belong. A community to call their own. An anchor in a world that had already been defined by far too much uncertainty.

Dad made sure that these kids always had a ride to church and a hug when they arrived.

Always.

Maybe that’s not so huge compared to the work of some mega ministries with  T.V. shows, vibrant children’s programs and achingly beautiful facilities.

But, I think we underestimate the power of opening our lives to other people on a daily basis, of living our faith up close and personal.

That’s what my dad taught me- to look past the runny noses and the rude behavior and open up my heart.  It’s irritating at times and humbling. But, it’s profound in a way that mass ministry will never be.

Loving other people’s children -day after day after day.

Happy Birthday to me–Messy love in an uptight world

dirty kid

Yikes!

I’m blogging and it’s not Monday. Somebody help me find my meds.

Just kidding.  Usually, I only blog once a week but today is a momentous occasion.  I’m not talking about 

  • the 4th of July (the 1st of July for all us Canadians. We  have an independence day too, you know.  Go Canucks!)
  • my parole hearing- I’ve never been to jail because lame humor is NOT a crime. So there.   
  • the first day of the rest of my life. Well, it is, I guess. But, that saying is so old it’s just lame. And, not really very humorous. Should be illegal. Seriously. 

Sorry, my slightly clever self is just getting carried away because…it’s my BIRTHDAY!

Yes, the momentous occasion of which I speak  is the celebration

  • of the fifty-fifth year
  • of my existence on planet Earth.

On this day I reserve the right to be corny and lame when it comes to humor.

Bottom line,  I’m glad to be here.

On Earth.

Good thing because oxygen is my drug of choice. Unlike the declaration made by a former United States president, I inhale. All the time. Take that, Mr. C.   ( I know, lame. But, it’s my birthday.)

Guess what?

I have a gift for you. Yes, you. 

It’s a bit of wisdom.

Alright, I can feel it already. Resentment and disappointment. What did you think I was going to shell out? A cruise? Dinner for five at Denny’s?

Get a grip. It’s MY birthday, after all. And, I’ve been thinking about this for like an hour. Yes, sixty entire minutes. What to say. How to say it.

After much pondering, I came up with a short list.

  1. Be the best you can be.
  2. Live like there is no tomorrow.
  3. Eat your vegetables.
  4. Always leave your car running when you go into the bank.

Great advice, except for the car running-bank thing. It wastes gas and  makes you look mighty suspicious especially if you really rock the sunglasses and bandana over nose and mouth look. (I know, ha. ha. funny. funny. But, hey, it’s my B-day.)

Seriously, here it is. A nugget of wisdom rolling down from the mountain of old age.   

Go ahead and get dirty.

No, I’m not talking raunchy or vulgar. I’m talking crazy messy. I’m  talking about freefalling into dark and dingy places that haven’t seen the light of day in a long time.

Bottom line –loving people who are hurt and broken is very messy business. 

You can’t put them on a schedule or run them through some kind of relational carwash when things get muddy. There’s no money back guarantee for disappointment or heartache.

If you open up your heart, you are going to get dirty.

Enough said.

Life is short. Oxygen is sweet. Keep breathing and go get dirty. 

Beauty, worship and Martin Luther King–finding substance beneath the bling.

 

bling 3

 

It really sucks you know, society’s emphasis on beauty. I’m not talking about being healthy and brushing your teeth. I’m talking about worshiping the idea of a perfect body, the symmetry of facial features and perfect teeth.

It’s obsessive,

Disturbing

And dangerous.

We are a nation of fools when it comes to worship.  The object of our adoration is often petty and self-indulgent.

And yet, we were created to worship. Our focus of adoration was meant to be grand and glorious, beyond our scope of comprehension.

Worship was meant to expand our soul, not harden our heart.

Problem is, most of us have a difficult time resisting bling.

  1. The bling of looking fab, more fab than anyone else in the room.
  2. The bling of  appearing magnificently successful and profoundly powerful.

Now, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to look good.

Keep brushing your teeth and washing your face. Buy clothes that fit and change your underwear everyday.  Get a job. Work hard and take responsibility. Feed your mind. Practice your please and thank you’s.

Just don’t get so overwhelmed with bling.

It shines and it dazzles.  I’m ok with that. What bothers me is what we expect from bling. Respect. Satisfaction. Relationship. Compassion.

Seriously, when will we learn?

On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King stood  in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and declared,

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Content.  Character. The stuff beneath the tint of our skin. The substance of our being.

It doesn’t matter where you are-

  • In the grocery store.
  • At school.
  • Sitting in a corporate board meeting.
  • On the front row of a church service, preaching from the pulpit or leading the singing.

We all get tempted to “show bling” so that people will see that we have value. In all of us is an overwhelming desire to say “Hey, look at me. I’m important, too.”

So, how do we find depth and meaning beyond the bling?

It all comes back to worship.

When we worship God, his His spirit begins to transform us. The silly games we play to get attention are soon forgotten. Instead,

  • love,
  • joy,
  • peace,
  • forbearance,
  • kindness,
  • goodness,
  • faithfulness,
  • gentleness
  • and self-control.

spill like sunshine out of our flawed and fragile lives into a dark and  troubled world.

Now, THAT is beautiful.