Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Turn or Burn, Sinners!

I just want to preface this post by saying that I had no intention of it being this long. I simply couldn't stop rambling... my mind was racing & I was just putting it all out there.

I don't really feel that I relate much to the Religious Right & some of the self-righteous pomp that goes with it, but.... On second thought, let me start over.... I feel that maybe I still relate too much & would love nothing more than to be free of such attitudes. I like to believe that I'm not a judgmental, holier-than-thou person but sometimes I say & do things that prove just the opposite. It actually makes me sick to my stomach to think about it. Blah (that's the sound of me barfing).

I started this post on the 16th & only completed the preceding paragraph before calling it quits; I thought my head was going to explode from thinking about this so much & trying to articulate what exactly it is I wanted to say. I tell you this because I want you to know that the issue was already heavy on my heart when I got an 850 Words of RELEVANT article tonight. God might as well have been yelling in my face. I know He is using it to confirm my thoughts & through that mold me; you know, "Break me down & build me back up again." (I <3 Denison Marrs.) Charles tells me I'm too dependent on Relevant mag, but I'm OK with that so here it is (I totally would've preferred linking it rather than copying & pasting it -- it makes my blog too long -- but I couldn't locate it on Relevant's site. I highlighted the parts where God was yelling at me.):

A Treaty To End Culture Wars
By RELEVANT (no single author listed)

We’ve been known for boycotting Disney, decrying the Teletubbies and rallying behind pet legislation. Christianity and the culture wars have been synonymous now for a long time. When it comes to media attention, Christians most often seem to get it for something we’re against. The last few decades of the Church seem to be ones in which we’ve taken an adversarial relationship to the culture around us. We’ve spearheaded protests, boycotts and letter-writing campaigns. If Christians are against it, we’ve done a decidedly good job of making the public aware of it. It seems we have made it our mission to loudly denounce those things in society that don’t match our worldview, and find ways to pressure the culture into rejecting them. As such, evangelical Christianity has developed a reputation in society for being angry, boorish and self-righteous.

Yet, should Christianity be engaged in these culture wars? Is it our lot to remake the world in God’s image? The answer is, of course, a resounding yes. It is absolutely our role to stand against the tide of culture and to be a clarion voice for God in the midst of darkness. The problem is, we often go about it all wrong.

Without a doubt, we are called to stand apart from culture. Paul admonishes us, “Do not conform 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). The life Christ calls us to is one of being countercultural, and of spreading the Kingdom of God throughout the culture around us.

What does it mean, though, to be countercultural? Does it mean that we organize protests or pen invective letters to the FCC for some sitcom’s latest grievous offense? If we follow the standard Christ set, it is a much deeper calling than that. When Christ speaks of being countercultural, it looks so much more revolutionary and bizarre than merely fighting for legalistic ideals. The picture Christ paints is of a peculiar people who confuse the culture around them by being so utterly different. Whereas our society worships status, we are to be servants to all. When the culture tells us we have to seek fortune, we hold material goods lightly and give all we have to the poor. If prevailing public opinion says that we should lie to get ahead, we cherish honesty and keep any oath we take. Where cynicism and pessimism pervade those around us, we are agents of constant hope and tireless faith.

Ultimately, though, the absolute most countercultural role a Christian can take is that of truly loving our enemies rather than treating them to our usual show of angry saber-rattling. This is hard for a people who have spent so much time viewing those who would tear down God’s Kingdom with such vitriol. But Jesus did not suggest this—He commanded it. He told us: "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42).

This is a revolution born not of anger or discord, but of unmitigated love. It is one that confounds culture by showing resilient mercy and charity at times when it makes the least sense to do so. How would society be impacted if, instead of staging counter-protests when we disagree with a group of pro-abortion demonstrators, we showed up and served them in humility and love? What kind of reputation would we gain if we quietly showed love to our homosexual neighbors instead of putting signs in our yard touting our political views on their relationship?

Are we at war with the culture? Yes. But we’ve been fighting the wrong battle. Ours is not a war of taking shots at things we deem offensive to the public sensibility. It is one of standing against the tide of selfishness, wrath, vainglory and cynicism that surrounds us. It is a battle of refusing to be swept up in the idea of consumerism. Of fighting the concept that we should avenge every wrong done to us. Of taking up arms against our culture’s mindset that the rich, famous and powerful are to be admired and the poor despised. This is a war of loving our enemies, praying for those who persecute us and speaking God’s abiding truth with genuine compassion for those whose ears it falls upon. Now is not the time to back away from a fight. It’s time to actually engage the true enemy.

I guess I started hearing God on this matter, more clearly anyway, when He rebuked me for some angry words I recently said to a complete stranger. I hate hearing "those" Christians get all high-n-mighty on others. I'm one of "those" Christians! BLAH!!!! (me, barfing again.) I remember a trip to San Antonio with my dad when I was really young, preteen years I think. And there was this street preacher across the street from the Alamo screaming at people as they walked by, "You're going the wrong way! Jesus is the way!" & some other crazy things. Of course, no one was paying him any mind. He looked & sounded like a lunatic. Even at such a young age I recognized this guy was going about it all the wrong way. I felt so strongly about this that I actually aproached him to tell him what I thought! I told him that he was just scaring people away from Jesus! He brushed me off & used Philip (the Evangelist, not the Apostle) to validate his actions, saying that Philip was a street preacher. I said I doubted Philip yelled at people like he was doing. I was just a kid so he didn't really care what I had to say. (On a lighter note, Jason does an awesome street preacher impersonation, which is where I got this post's title -- it's hysterical!)

Anyway, so I'm baffled myself that I realized the dangers of harshly pointing out specks in others eyes as a child, yet I continue to do it today. I am no better than people who use the LORD's name in vain. I am no better than murderers or child molesters. I have hate in my heart, just like the next guy. I'm so quick to cry out, "Sinners!" to others, all the while forgetting that I'm in the same boat.

I once heard a pastor say that Christians often take the victim stance. The world is persecuting us; poor us. Boo, hoo, hoo. We should, however, remember that we are on the winning side. I mean, like Paul says in Romans 8, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (v31) Back in '95 Audio Adrenaline told the world that they can't take God away from us. We shouldn't feel threatened, therefore we shouldn't retaliate in anger to stupid things (i.e. using the LORD's name in vain). There are better ways to go about it than spewing angry, hateful words to the people we are supposed to be trying to win over for Christ in the first place. Hate is certainly not going to accomplish that.

I hate that I am judgmental. I hate that I am hateful. I so badly want to be a loving person toward every person I come into contact with. I want people to want Christ because of me. I don't want to give them more reasons to turn away from Him. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Romans 7:7-25:
7What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet." 8But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 9Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.

11For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. 13Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Thank you, Paul! That is exactly what I've been trying to say all night!

To my Brothers & Sisters reading this: please, please, PLEASE pray for me in this matter. Pray that the LORD will continue to work on this problem in me & free me from its bondage. Pray that my character will be a more accurate reflection of Christ's character. Pray that His Love overcomes my hate.

(I am so tired right now, I'm not even sure this all makes sense. I'll probably wake up tomorrow, reread this entry & realize that I'm a blabbering idiot. Oh well, at least I got it off my chest! If you've read to this point, thanks for hanging in there :P )

Friday, November 07, 2008


On August 22, 2004 we welcomed you & Lucy into our family. You didn't really like us at first & kept your distance. But over time you started to grow fond of us & with that the distance between you & us began to shrink. First you would at least be in the same room as us, then you would want to be within reach & eventually you loved to cuddle.... a little :) You were an awesome, laid back kitty & everyone favored you over Lucy (because, as we all know, she is an attention whore which gets really annoying after about 5 minutes). We affectionately called you "fat ass" because, well, you were. A 16lb purring fur ball, you outweighed Solomon for at least the first 3, maybe 4 months of his life! Solomon loved to play with you & you were amazingly patient with his batting & fur-pulling & attempts at riding you like a horse. It was probably mostly due to your laziness & refusal to run away from him, but either way you were very tolerant of him! Any time we scratched your back, at the base of your tail, you geeked out & gnawed on your front paw (or Lucy if she was close enough). It seemed to irritate you but we thought it was funny, hehe :)

I am sorry we didn't realize you were so sick sooner.... I hope you weren't suffering for too long before we noticed. It was a difficult decision to put you down but we knew it had to be done as we didn't want you to continue to be in pain. You lived a long, good life & you were loved greatly. I will miss feeling your sandpaper-y tongue on my ankles when I get out of the shower. I will miss your big, green owl-like eyes & your deep, manly purr. Every cat should be as cool as you were. We love you & will miss you. So long, friend.

Our Beloved Gabers
1994 - 11/6/08

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Obama Llama Song

A friend sent this video to me. I couldn't stop laughing. Or replaying it. Solomon couldn't stop gleefully dancing -- "Again, agian!" he shouted.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The FLYing Isn't Going So Well

I've been trying to FLY since September but I haven't been able to really start. I keep finding things to successfully interfere with it. Seriously though, how hard can doing ONE task for only FIFTEEN MINUTES be?? I ordered a feather duster & rubba scrubba yesterday. I've read so many fantastic things about each & am hoping they will help motivate me. I always feel so overwhelmed thinking about housework which causes me to stay put in the place where I am. Then there's the kids issue..... it's hard to accomplish things with a toddler getting in to everything while you aren't closely watching or demanding your undivided attention! I do sit in front of the computer a lot so I could easily walk away & do something else, but at least I can keep an eye on Solomon from here better than I could if I were in the kitchen or bathroom. Also, when I am working on something, i.e. paper clutter, he tries to help & ends up making bigger messes. It's just easier for me to NOT do anything. I tell myself I'll do it during nap time or after he's in bed for the night, but I'm too tired myself at those times. Maybe I should cut myself some slack since I DO have a two month old, but I still feel like I'm making excuses. I also kinda don't care about this stupid apartment we're in. It's crappy student housing (don't get me wrong -- I definitely appreciate the cheapness of it!) & we'll only be here for 8 more months. They'll replace the carpet & repaint after we leave. Another problem is we've outgrown this apartment & lack storage space. Jason thinks that if I haven't used it the past 4 or 5 years then it's safe to say I don't need it anymore & I should just get rid of it. But I think that maybe I will find places or uses for things when we have more room. I think we should keep it until we move into a bigger place & if I find I'm still not using certain items, then yes, I'll trash it or give it away. My poor time management skill doesn't help either. If I could stick to the schedule in my Control Journal, then everything would be peachy keen. Well, let's see what happens when my tools come in. I'll let you know how it turns out....

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Last Word On Voting, By Adam Smith [850 Words of RELEVANT]

I get weekly emails from Relevant magazine, 850 Words of RELEVANT, & tonight it was about voting. I highlighted bits & pieces that really stood out to me or that I found particularly meaningful. It's a great article:

Politics is a sticky business. Every four years, the American public is given rhetoric from both sides of the spectrum, each painting an idealistic view of a hopeful future, an America that represents the light of the world. Each party claims their platform has a monopoly on attaining this goal. Tomorrow’s presidential election, in particular, has deeply divided Americans.

It’s not just the candidates that give Christians pause. Indeed, the entire political process has become so polarized and vitriolic that some have begun to question its very foundation [emphasis mine]. Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, authors of Jesus for President, were so disturbed by the way they saw Christians drawing political battle lines that they embarked on a cross-country tour to tell people about a different vision for political engagement."

It started around the last election,” Claiborne says. “To vote or not to vote—that was the question. How do we engage the political conversation? We wanted to think deeply and theologically about it as Christians—how to engage or disengage, or appropriately engage. There was an inherent—and I think, healthy—suspicion about putting all of our hope in one day, or one vote, or one candidate or party[emphasis mine].”

The very nature of the campaign process, Haw believes, should give Christians pause. “The current state of voting involves a very serious hurdle that Christians must see as a red flag, which is the whole question of coercion,” he says. “You have this idea of a tug of war going on publicly. It appears very hard for me as a Christian, with the precepts of Jesus and the way He views His enemies and friends, to jump in on one side of the tug of war and then be happy if you’ve pulled your tug of war in one direction and say, ‘We’re glad we beat you other guys.’” [emphasis mine]

Claiborne and Haw are very clear that they would not unequivocally encourage Christians to abstain from voting, merely to prayerfully consider the best course of action for them and to follow their conviction. “We’re very careful not to say, ‘Don’t vote,’” Claiborne says. “Think very critically. Pray. Study Scripture. Whatever you do, do it with fear and trembling, with our neighbors in mind, with the poor in mind, with kids in Iraq in mind.” [emphasis mine]

Claiborne feels that Christians who do choose to vote can embody the ideals of both parties. “One of the things I love about Jesus is that He’s never telling people exactly what to do—or if He does, it’s different for two different people,” he says. “There are a lot of different ways people are going to respond. I think one of the mistakes the Religious Right made was telling people exactly what to do.” [emphasis mine]

Ultimately, how can we chart a new course? How can we see society transformed when we have to be wary of involvement in the system? Claiborne and Haw believe that the importance lies in keeping our perspective. “There are a lot of models in Scripture,” Claiborne says. “There are prophets who are on the margins. There are prophets in the royal court. One of the tricky things is to maintain the peculiarity and the distinctiveness of being a Christian.”

This peculiarity can indeed be difficult to maintain when we thrust ourselves into being active participants in a two-party system, when neither party fully upholds the ethics of Christ. However, Claiborne believes Christians can work within the system as long as they remain unwilling to sacrifice certain principles.“ [emphasis mine]

For those of us working legislatively, we can’t compromise on things like, ‘We’re going to beat our swords into plowshares,’” he says. “That’s what we’re called to, and to bless the poor and meek. If we don’t hear any of these parties saying something that embodies that, then we don’t put our hand in with it [emphasis mine]. There are a number of ways you can call that. You can work for the Kingdom of God and align yourself with whatever seems to move us closer to that. It’s possible to say we’re also going to interrupt with grace and humility whatever seems to be standing in the way of the reign of God.”

Part of that perspective is not canonizing one candidate while vilifying the other. [emphasis mine] “You can quote both Republicans and Democrats who have had that triumphalism and messiah complex,” Claiborne says. “We’re ultimately not thinking that this person is our savior or the source of real change for the world.”

In fact, much of Claiborne and Haw’s mission has been to deflate the idea that one candidate or party symbolizes hope for society [emphasis mine]. What people do with that message, Claiborne believes, is up to them and their convictions. “We’re inviting people to think,” he says. “Some folks go out and organize for one of the candidates. Others say, ‘We’re going to write in Jesus.’ Ultimately, [we hope] whatever they do is seeking first the Kingdom of God and embodying their politics with their lives rather than just trusting in a single candidate or a single politician to change the world for them. We vote every day with our lives. We vote every day with our feet, our hands, our lips and our wallets. Ultimate change does not just happen one day every four years." [emphasis mine]

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I Voted

Did my vote-by-mail ballot today. My opinion has been shared; my voice has been heard. Please stop leaving your automated voice messages on my answering machine asking me to vote for so-and-so or against that Prop or for that Measure. Don't bother me again for another 4 years.