Embracing the Awkward

February2016-1 copy_embracing_the_awkward Two years ago, I was exploring the great city of London with some good friends. We couldn’t have imagined a more perfect day. The sun was shining (a rarity for bleak British weather), and we were blissfully happy after crossing Tower Bridge and touring underground an eight-hundred-year-old church. That’s when the video camera came out, and amidst bursts of laughter and shaking sides, we broke into giddy – albeit uncoordinated and clumsy – dancing, right there on a crowded London street. And to this day, it is one of my favourite memories (and the video footage still makes me laugh).

Why is this memory so special to me? Well, if you know me, you know I am not a person who takes myself very seriously. I laugh at myself when I trip over words, pull ridiculous faces, and joke around with strangers. So dancing on the streets of London was not a stretch. But there was a time I never would have dreamed of doing such an embarrassing thing. And I know a fair amount of people who would find the mere thought mortifying.

I used to be so aware of how I looked to other people. I didn’t like acting goofy or publicly doing anything that could be considered awkward. If I ever blurted out the wrong thing or got a weird look from someone, I would kick myself about it for days. I always wanted my hair to look decent, I would never go out makeup-free, and I was strategic about what I posted online. After all, I wouldn’t want to ruin the illusion that I never stuck my foot in my mouth or had a bad hair day, right?

Thankfully, through an adventurous season of growing and God placing some important people in my life, I realized how this obsession was a form of selfishness, vanity, and pride. Ouch. I gradually learned how to get over myself and stop taking myself so seriously. If you think this sounds pretty trite, just hang on, because oddly enough, not taking myself seriously has been one of the most humbling and liberating lessons I’ve ever embraced.

As I stopped worrying about what other people thought of me, I realized I was thinking of myself much less. Since I wasn’t as consumed with keeping up my own appearances, my thoughts naturally began to shift towards others. I wasn’t so anxious all the time, always concerned about my own wants and my pride. This was a very humbling process, but through it the Lord showed me my pettiness. So I accidentally said or did something a little embarrassing. So what? It’s not the end of the world. I shouldn’t think so much of myself that a little slip-up has the power to ruin my day. But more importantly, I stopped focusing on trying to please people, and rather focused on how my actions pleased the Lord.

On a bit of a deeper level, before He left this earth, Jesus commanded His followers to go and make disciples, to shine His light to all the world. It is nearly impossible to fulfill this commandment if we are scared of what people think of us. Jesus even warned us that we would be mocked and taunted. So if we live according to what people might think, we will be timid about being the light of Christ. But that isn’t an option! Light must shine, and it must shine boldly. Life is not about us and how perfect we look or how comfortable we feel. It is about loving people and loving Jesus and living fully and joyfully. We shouldn’t be so caught up in ourselves that we throw away opportunities to shine our light or bring joy to others. And instead of worrying about pleasing people, we should only be concerned about honoring Jesus in how we live and love.

I’ve learned to embrace my awkward moments and laugh at myself. After all, those moments can turn into some of the most treasured memories, just like that day in London. Our dancing was a little odd, a little awkward, and certainly very public. But I don’t even remember those aspects. What stands out to me is the laughter and fun I was having with my friends. Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone is totally worth it just to make someone else smile. We shouldn’t cheat ourselves or others out of some fantastic memories just because we can’t swallow our vanity and loosen up a little.

From time to time, we all do stupid things or find ourselves in awkward situations, and sometimes our sentences don’t come out quite as witty as we intended. And that’s okay! Just laugh at your imperfections and move on. If you can do that, then what other people think won’t bother you anymore, and you can spend your time and energy dwelling on much more important things. I challenge you, friends, to kiss vanity goodbye and turn your focus where it should be: on Christ and on people. Do something out of your ordinary and make people smile. Dance on the street with your best friend. Relax and laugh and don’t be afraid to look a little silly. The joy and memories you make will be well worth every second.

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Why We Just Can’t Seem to Have Enough Time for Everything & How to Fix it

2016-7 copy

I woke up at 10. It’s now 1, and yet I have very little to show for my morning. I have an enormous amount on my to-do list, and more on my goals list, and yet I keep wasting time.

Recently, I read an article on the nightly routines of famous, successful women. They varied, but what-do-you-know…they were all filled with intentionality.

I realized that despite my massive goals of being electronic-free before bed, reading my Bible every night, journaling for myself, writing for others, praying, and maybe even sitting in a candle-lit bath while listening to Fleet Foxes, I was doing none of it.

I had been wise enough to come up with an awesome nightly routine and yet I had spent zero of my will power in making sure it happened.

I imagine so many of us are wasting time on Facebook every morning only to notice time flying by (or worse- notice that time has flown by in seemingly no time at all!)

Why is it so hard to actually have time for everything we want to do?

What would it look like to channel the discipline of self-control into how we spend our time? True, we usually associate the idea of self control with partying and sex, but our time is a very valuable aspect of our lives that does benefit from intentionality.

Avoiding temptation shows tremendous self control. We can rejoice when our time isn’t poorly-spent… but my question is- was our time well-spent?

Are we spending our time on things that give us life? Are we participating in activities we know give us peace and joy? And if not, how can we use our self-control to change the course of our lives?

Being on Facebook, watching tv, playing video games- these things are not bad in essence. Sometimes, they are exactly what we need to relax. But, often we use them as fillers because they are easy, familiar, and enjoyable. We go through our days lacking the intentionality to go after the things that make our lives greater.

Good is the enemy of great…And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that become great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in a large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” -James C. Collins

I don’t want this quote ^ to be the mantra of our lives. I don’t want us to float by- settling for the good. I want us to be intentional about rejecting good in order to chase after great.

So, in being intentional, we are defying the concept of ‘good enough.’ We are refusing to be spectators of our own lives. We are deciding to do the things that bring us life…which may mean putting aside the ‘good’ in exchange for the ‘great.’

For me, this looks like using my self-control to pick up my Bible in the morning instead of my phone. It looks like picking movies that add to our lives instead of take away from them. Perhaps it even looks like exchanging the quick shower for the calming bath (while listening to Fleet Foxes).

We have the self-control to choose how our lives go. Here’s an idea for you. After I set down this laptop, I am going to make 3 lists.
-1 list of the activities that give me life
-1 list of the activities I need to do in the day (example: work)
-1 list of the activities I am going to cut down on in order to give myself more time.

I’m going to hang these three lists up on my fridge as a reminder to be intentional with my time every day. There are some activities that I need to do. But I think I will be amazed at how much time I have when I ditch the activities that are neither necessary nor life-giving.

This process of avoiding the good in order to reach after the great may take more self-control than we expect… but these great lives are the lives worth reaching for.

We are far too easily pleased” – C.S Lewis

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Promise of Salvation

The Promise of Salvation

I honestly could’ve written about a lot of things this month. When I look back over the year since January, it seems that so much in my life has changed. Amazing things have happened, sad things have happened. And yet I don’t really feel that different. Not because I’ve closed myself off from change, as we often tend to do when things start going in directions that are new and uncharted. Not because I haven’t been ‘in the moment’ to think on what each experience means for my journey with God. I guess I just don’t feel that different because I feel like I am who and where I’m supposed to be. All of the things that have changed since the beginning of the year, from me questioning my place in ministry, to getting married, to losing a family member. All of these things have put me in a place to be even more closely aligned to the plan God has. The wide expanse of change that I’ve gone through since the beginning of the year has made me recognize His presence in every day of our lives, and the unfolding of his plans through every moment.

It may seem strange for me to begin with a reflection to the beginning of the year when it doesn’t seem that far into 2016 at all. But I suppose that Easter, for me, this year, was a moment to pause and reflect. Much like a benchmark. I suppose it is appropriate, since the Jewish calendar observes the celebration of Passover during the ‘first month’ of their year. During the first month of the year, we’re usually reflecting on the past and making plans for the future. The months of March and April, for me, were definitely all about that. A time to observe and meditate on the promise He has carried out through the lives of us all: salvation and grace.

For four hundred years, they waited on a promise. Through all that time, and ten disgusting and terrifying plagues not even meant for their people, they held on to just a promise. A promise that could’ve very well been discounted as insanity or naivety. This is true faith: your perseverance in it can never be insane or naïve, by the simple fact that God’s promises do not fail and are not void. We can’t call silly that which has foundation, how ever complex and distant that foundation can seem to us while we wait.

It is even more amazing to look at the Exodus story as a documentation of history. This stuff actually happened! Its interesting that removing ourselves from the past far enough—and removing ourselves from the future, for that matter—can make it seem like a fantasy. But both our past and future are solidified in God. These people were the fathers of our faith, and walking after them is a big deal. We not only stand with God, we stand with generations of those who have seen heartbreak and violence and felt abandoned. Yet every one of them was redeemed by a God who could’ve turned away and never did. And never will.

The Passover and the Exodus story are rife with symbolism proving God’s plan for redemption, like hints given to the Israelites themselves to continue their trust and complete their journey into something greater. Something greater for all people.

The lamb’s blood marked their doorposts as a mark of the redemption to come, not just for them but for the entire world. And though a wrath was brought only to the Egyptians this time, a warning was issued to darkness itself.

And now we stand so far removed from these events, still witnessing the outcome. Still witnessing the movement of God in our lives, and still awed by the sacrifice of Jesus to complete what had begun in Egypt. Still today, we receive the rescue of the Israelites by inheritance. When we are faced with a decision, with a roadblock, with a challenge to grow, reminding ourselves of this promise that a community of people took as truth should serve to remind us of exactly who we are. We are God’s children, part of the family. Fostered in by the promise to never be left alone, to not have to wait in darkness for good to come to us. We are great, and we must know that there is something great within us. Otherwise why would God have set plans in motion from the very start to bring us back to Him?

He had issued reminders then, he will issue reminders now. We just have to let go of ourselves enough to see them, and let go enough to hold onto them. How ever long that takes.

Posted in Life, Writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Christian Passover Seder

Getty_4:10_passover

The recollection of suffering, persecution, and deliverance. A holiday of holiness. Matzah bread and glasses of wine. . . What is it to you?

Growing up in American culture my knowledge of the Passover was next to zilch. I knew a number of things about my church’s Easter celebrations and simply always thought “Passover is just like an extension of Easter right? Same-ish thing?” It was mentioned in passing here and there but it was quickly forgotten. It seemed like something that everyone was very nonchalant about in my childhood church. As a kid and as a young adult I was never really able to look around and see revered ancient Christian culture practices or people with great purity and focus for this time of remembrance and celebration. It was obviously kind of important since the crucifixion and salvation seemed to be related but that didn’t say much about it. You can easily guess that this lead to absolutely no curiosity in me about the Passover.

As time went on I continued in ignorance mostly because I had no idea there was anymore to it, but in my late teen years there was something in me that didn’t feel right about how lightly this time of year seemed to be taken by churches around me. I became passionate and started pushing myself towards reverence for what God did. My knowledge was still next to none and yet it seemed my spirit was restless and hungry for knowledge I did not know was out there. I wanted to see God taken seriously. It was about 2 years later in the Blue-ridge mountains of North Carolina that I got my first glimpse of what Christians were like in Bible times at Passover. My brother Benjamin lived there with his wife and they brought me to their friend’s home AKA their church. We all gathered in the living room praying and studying the Bible together. There was great joy and great reverence all at once. Inside this home church is where I began to learn the root history of Christianity, the purpose of fellowship, the purpose of having a pastor, and the reason for celebrations. They were the first to teach me about the precious things that Passover is all about. I believe this knowledge is extremely valuable and little known. . . So, if you will let me I am going to take you into a true Christian Passover Seder with me…
You are just coming from a prayer service that commenced at sunset. By the end of this you should have come to see yourself as if you are going out of Egypt alongside Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Feel their suffering and rejoice in their freedom as the Red Sea parted before them. Ok, your mindset is good. Not a cell phone in sight, the purity of focus is very real. Now it is time for you to make a proclamation and take a cup of wine. The wine symbolizes joy and happiness. What are you to proclaim? The holiness of this time. So take your cup and(if you’ve not memorized it) your copy of the kiddush and recline as you recite it. Recline to accentuate the fact that we are free people, in ancient times only free people had the luxury of reclining while eating. Now you might not want to fill you glass too full because there will be four cups of wine to be taken throughout this time for the four expressions of deliverance and freedom in Exodus chapter 6. Once finished with that it will be time for urchatz, karpas, and yachatz! Shall we?! The children are suddenly very interested! Some of the young ladies are likely walking around with a pitcher of water, a bowl and a towel ready. They are making rounds for the cleansing of hands. Karpas are dipped into saltwater as an act of pleasure and freedom. The saltwater represents the tears of our brothers and sisters in Egypt. The children grow even more curious as not only is it time for a bite of food but there is meaning and stories! And finally the first step of the matzah bread! The middle matzah on the plate is broken in two. The larger part is put aside. This unusual action recalls God’s splitting of the Sea to allow the Children of Israel to cross. The smaller part of the middle matzah symbolizes humility, and will be eaten later as the “bread of poverty.” What’s next? The poor are invited to join the Seder, a second cup of wine is poured, and the children finally get there time to ask the honored question: “Mah nishtanah ha-lailah hazeh mikol ha-leilot? Why is this night different from all other nights?” Why only matzah? Why the dipping? Why the bitter herbs? Why are we relaxing and leaning on cushions as if we were kings? This leads to my favorite part of the Passover ceder and it is what some Jewish people consider to be the most important commandment and inclusion in Passover. The Haggadah!, telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Everyone gathers around and the appointed storytellers begin!……
I can hear some of you now, “Wait a minute I thought this was a magazine article not a history lesson!”, others of you might be wanting to walk through the rest of it with me, but let me stop there. In a nutshell the ceremony continues with meaningful eating and drinking and it all comes to an end with Hallel and Nirtzah(praise and acceptance) and a last proclamation : “Leshanah haba’ah bee-rushalayim—Next year in Jerusalem.”
The reason I risk a whole section of my article for explaining the nuts and bolts of the Passover is because they are much more then just mundane details. Look deeper. I believe these ancient practices are not just to be loved and honored by Jewish people but by all of God’s people. They are not to be a thing of the past. The reason for that ending statement “Next year in Jerusalem” is to represent that the Seder never actually ends. Each and every day we leave behind Egypt and we leave behind our sufferings by continuously dwelling on and pursuing holiness. Christianity should create its own culture rather then having it’s surroundings culturize it. Seriously consider allowing the Passover to live and breathe in your home this month. If we bring things back to life off the pages of the Bible there will be a richness of color and flavor returning to the fellowship of our souls, minds and hearts. Everyday I see many beautiful, new things God is showing His children for the first time here on earth, as missionaries to the 21st century world. But let us truly bathe in the richness of the culture of Christianity by keeping very alive the old holiness as we encounter the new.

Posted in Culture, Faith, Family, Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Comments Off on A Christian Passover Seder

Broken Pieces Made Whole

brokenpieces

My character is flawed with a perception of my own incompetence. Every day I struggle to fight against the level of my own humanity which fights against God’s thoughts.

“You’re not enough.”
“You can’t trust your heart.”
“You have no steady anchor, everything around you falls apart. My mind is plagued by this.

My mind is plagued by this, sometimes it’s more often than others. Usually, it’s a quiet bugging at the back of my head which isn’t too hard to silence with a reminder to myself of who my King is and who I serve. But sometimes, every so often, the voice screams and soon my own words can’t drown it out, and even the truth I know in my heart feels shallow against the things I know are lies.

That’s been my week. Or rather, the last few months.

I’m good at hiding it. I put a big smile on my face, I hold eye contact and listen to people’s stories. And inside I’ve been falling apart. Maybe it’s the layers of activities I participate in. Maybe it’s the hearts I listen to and cry with. Maybe it’s the hours I spend in my books and the tests I work so hard on and can’t seem to pass. Whatever it is, it has been building up in me until this weekend when it finally burst in a steady stream of brokeness into the pages of my journal and tears into my pillowcase.

My struggle with depression and anxiety is circular. I worry about my anxeity which causes more anxiety which causes me to worry about it. I push it down, I share the struggles I’m working through with the few people who ask. I tone them down, I say I’m probably not doing something right with my diet, I act like it’s not as bad as it seems. In the same way King David cried out to the Lord in struggles and searched for God’s heart, it is in times of brokenness when I am often closest to God. But I’ve never felt so far from Him in this time. It’s hard being honest, but it’s true. And I don’t think it’s wrong, because I’m not aftraid to have a little hurt if it makes me stronger.

Today I broke in ways I haven’t broken before. I sobbed long and finally let someone I care about listen to my brokeness. And when I was finished crying and my eyes were rimmed red and leaky, I felt a genuine smile once again light my face. I know who my Jesus is, I know He loves me and a silence is not forever. It’s hard to understand, but maybe I don’t always have to understand what God’s plan is.

Posted in Faith, Life | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments