The World … Worthy Cause or Waste of Time?

I have always loved getting lost in the creative process. I like to imagine this hobby of mine as a common interest I hold with my Abba Father. In the last few months though, I have focused on a specific creative outlet … I have become obsessed with upcycling. I take something someone thought of as garbage, or something that was recycled, and I transform it into something useful or possibly beautiful.

Each time I dive into a new creation. I’m reminded it is God who is the ultimate “upcycler.” We are ourselves an upcycled product, after all. At some point while wandering His newly designed planet, He took notice of the dust. He pondered how it could be better used … used again. He thought up something beautiful and then breathed life into it. What joy I get out of taking a lame attempt to mimic His wonderful process.

As much joy as it gives, it also saddens me at times. My soul increasingly becomes aware of the waste I contribute to the earth, by mishandling or ignorance. My mind has been tuned into the amount of recyclable items I throw away, either out of laziness or simple lack of education. The following is a reflection I wrote in regards to the culmination of these very things. It is something I wrote in an effort to speak into my own heart and my own shortcomings–not from a place of judgement.  

Grace and Peace

The World: A Worthy Cause or a Waste of Time?

 I was sitting in Caribou studying for my Environmental Science test.  I was reading about nuclear waste, refuse treatment plants, and landfills. My hand was resting gently around my perfectly chilled coffee cooler. This wasn’t a moment, like others I’ve experienced, when I was expecting the presence of God. The topic of common garbage dump contents seemed a little dark for the source of all light. My expectations, however, were wrong.

I stopped a moment to give my eyes a rest and sip from my cup. As I did, I noticed the skyline just outside my window and became utterly awestruck by the sight.  I began to give thanks to God for all His wondrous creation, and as I prayed, I began to feel Him stirring my heart.  Here I was, in the middle of thoughts on pollution and destruction, and I knew Christ had something to say. Jesus was grieved.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1)

Creator is the first word we are given in the Bible to describe God’s character. We read that His creations are good, very good.  We then learn He takes pleasure in this very good work of His. He creates. He calls it good. He enjoys it.  Then He turns it over to us to be cared for.

God’s good creation is crumbling, and as His children shouldn’t it be Christians leading the fight to protect God’s gift for us? We fight for other good things He has designed and gifted to us.  Marriage between a man and woman, for example, is a fight we see as worthy of our time, money, and effort. In fact, we have fought with such passion for God’s design of marriage that the term ‘anti-homosexual’ is now the first word used to describe Christians by 91% of all non-believers under the age of 29. (Kinnaman 2007) Personally, I would prefer to be called a tree-hugger.  Truthfully speaking, it’s easy for me to fight for marriage as God designed it, since that already fits my life. It’s fighting for the things that would require change in my own life that really seem hard.

This change could be letting our lawns go without watering them and not caring what the neighbors might think.  It could be committing to purchasing only second hand items or spending more to ensure proper manufacturing care was taken in its production. It means learning to recycle better, reuse more often, and upcycle things we thought were garbage. It means buying organic, even if the grocery bill goes up. It means speaking out, and standing behind, those who already fighting the fight.

As I left Caribou, I kept my plastic cup in hand while I walked through the doors.  It was the first time I had ever noticed, that despite the thousands of plastic cups that are distributed and discarded there each day, recycling wasn’t even an option.

Kinnaman, David. UnChristian. Ventura CA: The Barna Group, 2007. pg. 27

It’s not a theological debate

I was recently told a favorite Bible teacher, from my past, had begun podcasting new sermons and I felt a surge of excitement.  As I dug into these new sermons I realized something; this particular pastor fed me spiritual at a time when I was broken, when I was in need of the type of healing only Jesus can bring, and at a place where I felt too unworthy to accept His love.  I am no longer in that place spiritual (Praise God).  I was also made acutely aware of how just two years has drastically changed the lens in which I choose to see – and live out – my faith in Christ.

This teacher is a conservative evangelical pastor, and something he said struck me while listening, a comment regarding the emerging church.  This is not an exact quote, but the comment was along the lines of this: that people today (those involved in the emerging church) are being led astray, being caught up in theological debates, and forgetting what we are here to do … which is love.  This irritated me so much because part of the reason I’m so drawn to ideals of the emerging church is precisely because of the way they love.  But as I thought on this some more I realized every conversation I become involved in, when positioning myself across from mainstream evangelical beliefs, I inevitably end up in a theological debate  …

Women in the church, homosexuality, the existence of hell, denominational divides, Biblical inerrancy, creation vs science, and on and on and on.

This is because [part of] what the emerging church would like to do is set aside ‘core beliefs’ and replace it with ‘love your neighbor’.  And, of course, the conservative/orthodox/ modern-era believer insists, ‘I do love my neighbor, but I would rather be honest then be the reason someone goes to hell’ (Or some other crap reason like that).  The opposing side would then remind that person what love tangibly looks like, and – in fact – their ‘core beliefs’ are exactly what is separating people from the Jesus we know and love.  But just at this moment a specific issue is thrown on the table, a challenge is made to take a stance/defend the issue, and a theological conversation has begun.

I believe God wants us to turn to Him when these conflicts arise, either within ourselves or with others.  And here is the reason I believe this to be true … The more I challenge what I’ve been taught to believe, the closer God draws me to Him.  The more I question who and what is ‘accepted’ by our earthly idea of ‘church’ the more God reveals truth to me.  The more I doubt, not God – but my assumptions about God (a thought taken from Pete Rollins), the more He brings me peace and teaches me what true grace is.

There is a saying they make you learn in rehab that goes like this, “If you always do, what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get, what you’ve always gotten.”  This reminds me of the Christians frozen in fear of the wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Maybe the wolf isn’t the post-modern idea that church should be whole, loving, and available to ALL, but actually is the box that Satan has you trapped inside … the box that takes you only so far in your relationship with God.  The box that keeps some from loving all in the same way Christ would if He were still walking this earth.

My heart condition, discernment, core beliefs, determination of what is [or isn’t] sin, and doctrine is between the Holy Spirit that dwells in me and no one else.  This doesn’t mean I don’t hold to a certain doctrine or take a side on a theological issue, it means it holds no weight in what my Christian calling is on this earth.  I have been called to love people.  People who feel too ashamed, too unworthy, too messed up.  In my life … I was ashamed.  I was unworthy.  I was [really] messed up.  But the God that I serve was a God of love, grace, and forgiveness.  He wanted me then – just as I was.  And He wants me now.  The same as He does each hurting person.

So today, I pray God will give me the heart to love others in the same way He has loved me and give me eyes to see when my love for others is not truly love at all.

I Am No Longer A Machine

I realized something today as I was standing in front of my oven, carefully placing eight dinosaur chicken nuggets in a row on a pan.   Both my children were at the kitchen table, happily playing with crayons and blocks.  It was almost noon on a Monday.  It was at this moment it dawned on me that I am no longer a machine.

See as I was standing there, joy in my heart, gazing over their work – encouraging them, helping them, laughing with them – I felt a pang in my stomach.  A knot of anxiety jabbed me deep in my gut.  I knew what it was telling me, why it had graced me with it’s disgusting presence.  I wasn’t producing anything for it.  I wasn’t doing anything that could be formulated into a spreadsheet to display my progress or lack thereof.

At a previous corporate position I held, we had “Our Numbers”.  Or at least, that is what we called them in our department.  I’m certain this report had an official name, something like quarterly summery progress report, I suppose.  To the people in my department though, it was the still small voice in the part of our brains – not stemming from the Spirit – but stemming from Corporate America.  It was the voice that reminded us time is money.  It reminded us that we were nothing more than the production we put out.  It reminded us that in order to get a raise, which on a good year would equal half of the cost of living increase, was determined by the outcome of “Our Numbers”.

There is joy in hard work, company loyalty, and work ethic – all of which I like to think I possess.  There is also a time for simply living in the moment.  We were not built to be machines.  We were built to create, procreate, and honor the earth we were given.

I spent almost 45 minutes with Isaac this morning doing two things; trying to get him to say “shoe” and playfully helping him pull his shoe on his foot.  I spent 45 minutes with my child in which the worth of my time could not be determined.  I spent 45 minutes in which I did not produce and no client could be billed for my time.  Isaac will likely not be putting shoes on by himself anytime soon. And when he does say “shoe”, it could have been the exact same day he would have learned this word if I had not spent those 45 minutes working with him on it.

My worth is no longer determined by my production.  It is not determined by numbers, graphs, or progress reports.  My worth, in my home, with my children, is the level at which I am able to love them … a worth that cannot be broken down and analyzed.  The deep longing I have always had to stay at home with my children, is to be given the opportunity to simply love on them more hours of the day.  I am here to love them.  Nothing I do, or don’t do, short of loving them is going to change that.

I am no longer a machine … and this will take some getting used to.

The Ugly Spring

Minnesota, March, and 70 degree weather are not usually found in the same sentence.  Tomorrow the forecast is predicted at 78.  Today the ugly spring crushed me with it’s full power.  It felt great.

I lost spring last year to grief.  I don’t recall one memory of the overwhelming joy or hope that spring usually holds.  I think this lack of last year’s season is what made today so intense.  It was this intensity which brought to my attention the ugliness in spring.  Spring, in the very beginning moments, isn’t beautiful through sight.  Dog messes hidden by snow are now beginning to beg attention.  Trees still completely bare, without the frost of winter to give them sparkle.  Lawns are brown and matted down.  Yards are littered.  Roads are covered with sand and salt.  Today didn’t look beautiful … today felt beautiful.

The beauty of Spring is the power it holds in our experience of it, and it is not all found through the lens of our vision.  I praise a God who can make ugly and create one of the most treasured experiences of living on Earth.  The cycle of new life.  Now that is a reason to be thankful.

The beauty is in the smell of spring.  It’s in the hope it congers up inside us.  It’s the sounds of kids playing in their driveways.  The chatter of the neighbors who haven’t seen one another in months.  The birds returning to their nests.  It is the wind and the sun beckoning us with their warmth and playfulness.  It’s all of these things that call to us; they tell us that we have survived.  Survived another cycle of death and rebirth.  We have done it and summer is going to return.

Beauty isn’t just about what we see, it is about what we experience.  God doesn’t only give us hope in the expected, but in the unexpected.  Spring is proof that childlike joy still exists in every heart.  Beauty, hope, and joy … all found at the beginning of the ugly spring.

Kony 2012: Conversation, Concern, and Controversy

So it is the question of the week … do you now know who Joesph Kony is? I’m sad to admit that I did not before this week.  If you have not taken the thirty minutes to watch the video I would strongly encourage you to do so; if not to learn about Kony, to learn about the campaign.  I was in bed sick this week, for a solid 48 hours, so I suppose I’m a little behind on the initial wave of conversation.  Being a little late to the game, however, puts me right alongside the controversy that has welled up in the aftermath of the storm.

I cannot explain the amount of disgust I have in my core for those people looking to disarm Invisible Children through criticism and controversy.  It doesn’t bring me disgust because I don’t think charities shouldn’t have to answer to those people who have given to the cause.  It doesn’t bring me disgust because each claim brought to the surface of the Kony ‘controversy’ is utterly without some nugget of truth.  It brings me disgust because we have taken our deep seeded need to bring the negative and are trying to slow down this revolution.  This youthful revolution; with the ability to teach humans about atrocities happening around the world.  A campaign that uses social media for good.  A chance to give our youth a feeling that they MAY actually be able to DO something in this God forsaken place in which we brought them to.

I honestly can’t think of many scenarios, and I have been thinking, that would cause me to look down upon this campaign.  If the staff of Invisible Children are living well on their salaries, I extend nothing but grace and peace to each and every one of them.  I hope and pray after they see Kony put in jail they use the resources and blessings given to them by God to move on to someone else.  It says in the Bible eight times that we should pay a man his worth … has the term priceless ever seemed more appropriate than at this possible place of justice?  Because someone who is burnt out, worn out, and maxed out will not be able to continue to do their good works.  I know personally, the hope I see in this campaign, is a good work I could certainly stand to see more of.

Let this campaign thrive.  Let it breathe.  Get excited about it.  Share the hope surrounding it with others.  Do not let ugliness inside.  If there are people determined to expose ‘truths’, behind the masks of what we are shown, they have a sea of choices here in the United States; our politicians, our propaganda, our food, our farmers, our corporations, our stores, our consumerist greed, our materialism, our idolization, and on and on and on.  My gut tells me though, that the people ‘exposing’ Kony 2012 are doing so for the exact reasons they are using against the campaign … namely, greed.

Let the people without a voice make a difference.  My God, at least let them try.  Don’t be the reason justice isn’t brought … better yet, be part of the reason it is!