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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Simple Gifts

The other day, my favorite 4-year old was wearing (in the middle of winter) a tiny little skirt that she had when she was a baby. She’s tall and slender so it fit one way but not the other. And it was decided that this skirt wasn’t going to be worn again.

I was out and about today and I saw a skirt that screamed “MUNCHKIN!” at me. So I bought it. It’s blue with sparkles. I took it to her and I said I had a present for her. She was absolutely delighted when I showed it to her. She asked if she could try it on and then she asked me to hold her. She hugged me for several minutes and then I told her she should probably put her jammies on. She said, “But I want to sleep in this!”

I love little kids. It’s so much fun to bring them surprises because it makes them so happy and when they’re happy, I’m happy too.

I like to think God is like that too. He knows exactly what would delight us. He knows exactly how to make us smile and what will thrill us. He knows that doing things that delight us is going to make us draw closer to Him; make us want to sit with Him and hold Him tight.

The Bible says that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above. God gives us tons of gifts — the problem is that sometimes we are too busy to notice. Or we’re so consumed with the things we want that we don’t notice what He’s already given us. Most of the time, I’m so consumed with the longing to have someone to come home to that I forget that I have terrific friends across town that I can hang out with any time I want to. I’m so consumed with wishing I could live in a house with a garage that I forget that I have so many wonderful windows and a bathtub. I’m so focused on how cold it is this morning that I completely overlook the gorgeous sunrise.

Let’s not be so consumed with the things we don’t have that we lose sight of the beauty and the blessings around us. He has blessed us so much. And He does it because He wants to bring us delight. He wants to see us recognize His hand in it, and He longs for us to ask Him to hold us so we can rest in His goodness and grace.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Current Events

 

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My Mid-Faith Crisis: Why I don’t believe in Christianity Anymore

The title of this post is very provocative and I hope people take the time to read what I have to say rather than simply rejecting me because they believe I’ve turned heathen.

Because I haven’t turned heathen.

The fact that many Christian people will judge me as a heathen based on the title of this post is one reason I don’t believe in Christianity anymore.

Christianity has turned into a political agenda, a social class, a set of rules and regulations that frankly, don’t make much sense to the average Joe who hasn’t been schooled on the issue.

My personal understanding of Christianity has evolved throughout my life. My first understanding of Christianity was “God is right and everybody else is wrong.” Then it was, “We are right and everybody else is wrong.” Then it was “The Republican, Pro-Life, Homeschool, ‘Sweet 36, Never Been Kissed’, Pop Out 17 Babies crowd is right and everybody else is wrong.” After that, it was “My church is right and my friends are maybe right, but everybody else is wrong.”

Then I had what I like to refer to as my Mid-Faith Crisis.

And at that point, I began to question if anything about Christianity — especially church, pastors and people who call themselves Christians — is right at all.

*****

It’s been over 4 years since this all went down.

During the past 4 years, I went to church every Sunday. I went to every Bible study I could. I hung out with Christian people. I prayed. I read my Bible. I talked to people about Jesus. I wrote about Jesus. I taught small children about Jesus.

And tonight, even though I have officially stepped away from the line in the sand marked “Christianity,” I am going to church. I’m going to worship Jesus, pray, read the Bible and probably listen to a sermon. I’m going to hug my friends and kiss my friends’ sweet preschoolers on the way out the door.

Because, my experience has shown me that the further you run from religious labels, the closer you get to Jesus.

*****

Several years ago, I got caught up in the idea of ministry and discipleship. I put forth great effort to love the people the church wanted me to love. They did a great job showing me how to love. It was a really great experience. It transformed my life.

Six years ago, a guest minister at my church told the congregation that I would be an example to them of how to truly give up your life for the sake of the gospel. He told them that I would be a challenge to them, not because I had a challenging attitude, but because I would do something and they would have to decide if they were going to embrace me and what I was doing.

Just over a year later, it happened. Individuals in the church chose to ostracize me. Other churches in town started rumors about me and the ministries I was working with began to disclude me. Finally, I told my pastor that I wanted to move. He said, “I believe your time in this community has come to an end.”

That little paragraph doesn’t even begin to explain the hurt and frustration. By the time I left, I wasn’t sure if I even believed in God anymore. The only thing I knew was that I hated church and “Christian” people were the biggest crowd of back-stabbing, evil people there were.

But, I kept going to church. Church was normal. So I went. I read my Bible. I sorta prayed. Sorta.

*****

This past Sunday, my pastor spoke about discipleship and challenged the church to do discipleship relationships with people. He urged us to find someone to mentor and find someone to mentor us.

I love that idea.

But the problem is that my personal way of discipling people typically isn’t a method that Christian people can make peace with.

My way of discipling people is to get to know them and figure out what they need. I like to meet them where they are, talk to them, serve them, pray for and with them and just be a friend as much as I can.

Even if the person in question is a lesbian.

Or a prostitute.

Or a single mom.

*****

I don’t believe in Christianity anymore because the meaning of Christianity has morphed into a political and social concept that is void of reality, depth and life.

Jesus didn’t come to bring political agendas and social class.

Jesus came so that we can have LIFE (John 10:10) and because this is the case, everything we do in the name of Jesus ought to be something that brings life. If we are truly followers of Jesus (which I strive to be!!), then we should be doing the things Jesus did. We should be hanging out with the outcasts (how about those who are gender-confused?), the needy (single moms, anybody?) and the broken (what about the abused spouse?). We should be looking for ways to love and serve those who need it the most.

*****

When my personal Mid-Faith Crisis began, it was because I saw someone who had a need, and I felt compelled to stand by them through their crisis.

The church failed that day.

Christianity failed.

But Jesus didn’t. That is why I follow Jesus. And that is why I don’t put much faith in the concept of “Christianity” anymore.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Current Events, My Story

 

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Little White Lies

An anecdote from today:

Someone walked up to me today and said, “How’s your husband, Mari?”

Anybody who has been single forever (and those who have been single for nearly forever), hate having discussions like this. Because if you say that you don’t have a husband, approximately 37.4% of the time, the person will ask “Why not?”

Keep in mind that 90% of all statistics are made up.

I just stood there for a second, thinking about how to respond to this question. Yes, I know honesty is the best policy. But…. if you answer the question honestly…. Let’s just say it would lead to about 50 shades of embarrassment. (Sometimes, these discussions lead to unsolicited marriage proposals that you somehow have to politely refuse. Yes, this has happened to me.)

So I said, “Oh, he’s fine.”

I turned to walk away, telling myself that it wasn’t exactly a lie, because he’s gotta be out there…. somewhere…. and as far as I know, he’s not…. not fine.

Then I got to thinking about if he isn’t fine. If he’s not fine, then…. well, that would be absolutely horrible because there wouldn’t be much I could do about it. THAT is a depressing thought.

I was just about around the corner when the person in question said, “Hey, Mari- are you two still getting along?”

I guess this must be why we aren’t supposed to lie. Because when you tell one little lie, you end up having to tell another one.

I said, “Oh, yeah…. Of course.” And in my mind, I amended it with, “because it’s impossible to not get along with someone that you may or may not have ever met.”

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Current Events

 

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Stars and Such

When I was little, my family had a pair of binoculars. Sometimes, at night, I would look at the stars through them.

I didn’t do this very often because I had this irrational fear of being alone. I don’t know about you, but when I use binoculars, I feel like I’ve been removed from reality and have entered another world.

Or maybe that’s just when you’re looking at things that are several light years away.

At any rate, it freaked me out, so I didn’t do it very often.

That was before my friends Lena and Cathy took me to a concert in Minneapolis.

I had known Lena for a while and I had met Cathy several years previously. Cathy and I met when I was new in town and I was painfully shy. We met at a Bible study and during my time at that Bible study I think I might have said roughly 3 words and when it was over, I fled in terror. I didn’t flee because the Bible study was weird. I fled because in addition to having an irrational fear of being alone, at the time, I also had an irrational fear of being with people.

I was a very, very conflicted person.

During our drive to Minneapolis, Cathy asked me what on earth happened to me — because I had gone from being so painfully shy that I couldn’t be in the same room with strangers to being on the church worship team every Sunday and speaking in front of a crowd of people at church and actually doing a pretty decent job of it.

The transformation was completely astounding. And it happened, literally, overnight. Or, rather, in one afternoon. Sometime between 1 pm and 5 pm on a chilly December afternoon, while I was supposed to be studying for my Microbiology final.

To this day, I do not regret not studying for that final.

The results of the final were…. bad.

Maybe “bad” isn’t strong enough of a word. Maybe “horrific” might be better.

But, the things that happened to me that Sunday afternoon that I was “slacking off” were so life-changing that the horrific results paled in comparison. I experienced a complete turn-around in just about every area of my life that afternoon.

But- that is another story for another time.

Lena and Cathy and I went to see Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio at the How Great is Our God Tour in Minneapolis that night. I saw and heard this message in person that night.

After hearing about four stars that night, I’ve become mesmerized by stars.

Stars remind me of how big God is.

If God holds the universe in His hands, then God has to be a pretty big being.

Louie talks about how big the stars are in comparison to the earth. Seven quadrillion Earths could fit into the biggest star that has been discovered so far. And that’s just one star out of unknown numbers of stars. I understand there are hundreds of billions of galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of stars — and if just one of those stars is gigantic enough to swallow 7 quadrillion Earths, AND considering that new stars are being formed even as I type — God’s hands have to be pretty enormous.

And if God’s hands are that huge, the rest of God has got to be pretty enormous too. He’s so big that He exists outside of the universe. He’s so big that He has the hundreds of billions of galaxies each containing hundreds of billions of stars cupped in the palms of His hands.

And somewhere in the midst of all the galaxies and stars that are cupped in the protective, loving, merciful hands of God, there is a small ball consisting of several organic compounds that is home to 7 billion creatures called humans.

And somewhere in the midst of those 7 billion humans is a very special person- you.

In the scheme of things, we are about the size of a speck of dust.

But the amazing thing about it all is that it was created FOR us. God breathed out galaxies and stars and planets and moons and our home, Earth, with the intention of giving us dominion and authority over it. He loves us so much that even though we are but a speck of dust, He created the vastness of the universe and the beauty of the stars to bring us pleasure and to bring Him glory.

Today, I was looking at some photos from NASA. I do that sometimes because it reminds me of how little my problems are in comparison to the rest of the universe. If God’s big enough to deal with all of those things, then my problems are just a drop in the bucket. He can handle them.

*****

On a more scientific note: did you know that there’s a planet that orbits two stars? And that Saturn recently had a “storm” that affected almost as much surface area of Saturn as the entire Earth? Did you know that galaxies have star-forming regions where new stars are literally being “born”?

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2013 in Current Events

 

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Acting Your Age

I spent Christmas at my Grandma’s.

I love going to Grandma’s, which I’ve probably said about five million times.

One of the first things Grandma said to me once I got there was, “I don’t want to be in your blog.”

Sorry Grandma.

She said this right after she told me about making homemade wine when she was young and foolish, and then she asked me if I wanted to take her wine-making equipment home with me, and I said, “Grandma! I could make wine and then write a blog post entitled, “Making Wine with Grandma’s Recipe.”

So, Grandma, I will respect your wishes. No blog posts about making wine. But, you won’t be excluded from my blog entirely. You are too much a part of my life to be overlooked. You inspire me too much to not share your wit and wisdom. I love you.

The next thing Grandma said to me was this: “I have two New Year’s resolutions. One of them is to respond to e-mails more promptly. The other one is to start acting my age.”

She told me this right after she told me that she was retiring from her volunteer position as the church janitor.

When you’re in your 80s, acting your age means to cut back on responsibilities. It means you don’t get to get up on a ladder and scrape and repaint the gable over your front door. It means that when your grandkids come to visit, you get to supervise (teach) all things garden/landscape related. It means you get to accept help when you need it.

I got to thinking about how this applies to me — because what applies to an octogenarian grandmother, in some minute way, also applies to a 30 year old girl who is pretty much alone in the sense that she has no one to go home to.

The first thing I realized is that if a 30 year old girl is going to act her age, she’s got to stop seeing herself as a girl and start seeing herself as a woman. People who are 30 aren’t kids anymore.

If I’m not a kid anymore, this means that I should:
get up and go to work — on time — every day.
pay my bills — on time — all the time.
set goals.
clean my house on a regular basis.
do what I say I’m going to do.
bring a salad or something to potluck meals. Even though I hate cooking with a burning passion from deep within my soul.
stop whining about how my life isn’t what I want it to be.

Kids don’t have a lot of control over their lives. Adults don’t either. But, adults have the option to take control of what they can. They don’t have to ask Mom and Dad for permission. Adults can make choices that can help or hinder their goals.

The second thing I realized is that if I’m going to act my age, I have a lot of catching up to do.

Several years ago, I was consistently told by several people in several different contexts, in several different ways, that I couldn’t have male friends. It started out with a couple of female friends getting jealous that I had a completely platonic friendship with a male. They must have told him that I “liked” him, because shortly after I met these girls, he unceremoniously (relationally) dumped me by the side of the road and never really spoke to me again after that. (Um…. ok?) I was also told by several people who were several years older than me that I was “wet behind the ears” and I “shouldn’t go looking for a man” (or expect to find one any time soon) because…. Well, I wasn’t really given a reason why this was the case. I was also told by church leadership that I wasn’t allowed to speak to single men. (Note: I have never been one to “chase” men. I was essentially being told that I couldn’t even respond when men spoke to me.)

My life was going nowhere in that context, so I left.

But, while in the midst of all the chaos of trying to convince myself that it was ok to defy my “authority figures,” I called my grandma one day and told her about all the crap people were telling me, and her response was, “You’re 27 years old. By the time I was your age, I had been married for 8 years and was done having babies. It’s about time you got involved in a relationship.”

She wasn’t pushing me. She was telling me that it’s perfectly normal and acceptable for a woman who is 27 to talk with men, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for doing so. She was also saying that no one — absolutely no one — has the right to tell me what I can and can’t do when I’ve demonstrated to everyone by the way I live my life that I am a responsible grownup and I’m not prone to getting myself into trouble.

Thanks Grandma. I needed that.

Actually, I need to hear those things like 50 times a day — because when you’ve been told not to do something every day for 30 years, it’s kind of hard to adjust.

Lately — like, for the past 3 years or so — I’ve spent a fair amount of time wondering what it might be like to, well, act my age. To go up to a single man and have a conversation. To perhaps go on a date. Or maybe to be in a relationship that might lead to marriage and family.

Because, at this point, the only option I really have is to wonder.

I have absolutely no skills when it comes to doing relationships. I don’t have any idea how to talk to men and I don’t know what to say. I could tell several stories like this one from last night-

It was New Year’s Eve, and my friends all got together. We were playing Apples to Apples. It was several women and two men. I think my green card said “eternal.” Or maybe it was something else. Someone played the “boyfriends” card. I said, “I would have picked ‘boyfriends’ except that boyfriends don’t exist.”

The game continued after some discussion of whether boyfriends exist or not. The guys were strangely silent.

I went home and realized that I could have made the interaction much more funny by saying “Boyfriends exist — they’re located between the unicorn and the leprechaun, and they’re driving reliable Ford trucks.” Because we ALL know that none of those things are real.

But, I’m not very funny in person, so I missed a grand opportunity to make everybody giggle.

And now, my question is, how do I begin to act my age? How do I stop being a lost, alone person and start being a person that people notice and like to hang around, talk to, and maybe even might want to…. I don’t know…. go out with? And maybe, if we stretch it, marry? What do you have to do and be to be good enough to enter the elite club called “family”? How do I act my age?

P.S. I’m not trying to have a pity party. I have a feeling I’m not the only person in the world who asks these questions, and I wish I had some answers so I could help others.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Current Events

 

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