Posts by AwakeningSardis

Learning to live life fully awake. www.awakeningsardis.com Musician, artist, thinker, writer, dancer, theologian

Something is wrong with the Church when…

I am gravely concerned with large portions of the American church. Particularly the bits that make the news.

Whatever is driving the current climate: boastfulness, arrogance, bigotry, fear, self-righteous nationalism, pick-and-mix-handling-of-scripture, forgetting that entire cultures and regions of the world that we despise are made up of millions of people that are made in the image of God, forgetting that Christ loves and died for the Muslim, the agnostic and the secularist.

When a Christian university’s student body cheers over someone who is introduced as “the man who bombs the middle east.” I am ashamed. I am ashamed to call them my fellow believers. I also wonder how they can know the same Jesus that I have spent years telling my friends about.

One theory is that there is a shallowness to our understanding of Scripture, or maybe people aren’t reading it at all. We cannot read God’s word and not be convicted to our soul that this is ungodly to its core. Perhaps the issue is people are Christian in name but do not know the Christ they claim at all.

Jonathan Merritt responded to the articles about that cheering Christian university with this: “The English language is insufficient to explain how much damage this does to the cause of Christ.” 

rome-29.jpg

Good work environments:

“Research shows that people want someone to know what they are doing, they want to contribute to something that is moving forward or winning, and they want to know how they are doing.”

(Patrick Lencioni, The Truth about Employee Engagement).

 

Do you feel known, needed, and like you have a future with your workplace or ministry?

The Slippery Slope to Losing Our Free Press

“A free press was born when America was born. It was not handed down or inherited. The concept of press freedom was deliberately constructed by the framers of our Constitution to instill the spirit of independence as an absolute, crucial ingredient in the creation, existence, and survival of a free society.” – Jerry Friedheim Executive V.P of American Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation, 1986

press.jpgpress.jpgpress.jpgpress.jpg

Amendment 1:

“Congress shall make no law….abridging the freedom of speech; or of the press…” 

Do you know how important it is we have a free press?

Nations rise and fall on this.

A free press means the press can critique our leaders and hold them accountable without being discounted, censored, sent to jail or killed.

It is also really closely linked with free speech (a clause later) which has major effects on being able to share the gospel freely. I love to share the gospel freely. I love the rest of that amendment.

I am concerned.

Actually, I want to jump around and point and shout and do a little dance and say, “ARE YOU WATCHING?!!?!? THIS IS DANGEROUS!”

There are those in this country that are undermining our freedom of the press.

Right now.

Discounting it and censorship are the first steps.

Having people that only ask the questions you like or make you look good is BAD. Always. That is a type of censorship.

I don’t know if anything could be worse for democracy. What would be the result if there was no check on those in power by dissenting voices who could question, critique, and challenge them? You can see those governments around the world today. They exist in plain site.

I filled out a national survey last week. My background as an undergrad was communication, sociology, and comparative religion. The social science nature of the degrees I collected meant we had to take classes on research methods. I had to take classes on statistics (I am really bad at statistics). Those disciplines have an accountability to studying a subject or population and teach methods to gathering data well. They were the most boring classes but probably the most important.

Wording a question in a confusing way or disguising it will not help your data be accurate.

Playing on people’s’ prejudices with sweeping statements not backed up with fact is a bad way to write a question. It will sway data.

Leading questions are not good when creating surveys or trying to gather accurate data.

The survey I filled out, the national survey I filled out,  that came from the leaders of the land was about the press and it was almost entirely filled with leading questions.

There were some scary questions but one that disturbed me because I could almost say yes was this one: “Do you believe that people of faith have been unfairly characterized by the media?”

Well, yes. Christians are usually portrayed as idiots. (Though some that claim Christ totally are idiots.) But this question is asked to what end?  Do I want to force the press to conform to my worldview? That is not healthy. Do I want to cut off their voice of critique of my faith? It makes me sad when they don’t represent me well, however, free press means free press.

We need to remember history and that it never bodes well for the Church when we go to bed with power. There always is a watering down of the gospel, a syncretism as we become blind that we are adding any particular cultural views of the day to our Christianity and saying they are the same thing.

Power and Christianity are diametrically opposed.

Our King laid down his life for people. For his enemies.

I think I answered the question yes, but that I’d rather the press have the freedom to be unfair to me than to have its voice censored.

There is a difference between having a different opinion or worldview than me and being discounted as fake or censored out every time they say something that offends someone. We need to not mix the two up or we will make ourselves vulnerable to tyranny.

I am a Christian and know that many parts to my worldview are not popular in society. How do I respond to people’s criticism to a Christian worldview is more important that how they respond to mine. I can respond in light of the gospel that I believe is true, or I can respond with defensiveness. I can apply the Bible to every situation, for one, know that those who do not know Christ, should not be expected to filter their worldview through His. I can be kind. I can remember that Christians will be persecuted.

But should those who do not know Christ like I do conform to a Christian worldview? Why on earth would they? I expect journalists to think I am weird. I can faithfully love and follow Jesus and serve others and the most interesting stories will be me living out the gospel. I do not expect them to interpret the world from a Christian point of view.

 

If I am treated unfairly, I should remember Jesus SAID that would be the case.

 

We do not go after the press and try to limit their function. That is dangerous ground.

 

We NEED the press. It is common grace (that’s a Biblical idea). We need their difficult questions to be asked. We need them to not be written off because they do not have the same worldview as someone they are interviewing and questioning. We need to remember that the press is one form of a check in our country that helps safeguard us from the natural bent of humanity towards the sin of selfishness or even tyranny over others.

Critique is worthy and necessary for a free country.

“The press must be free; it has always been so and much evil has been corrected by it. If government finds itself annoyed by it, let it examine its own conduct and it will find the cause.” Thomas Erskine Scottish jurist [1750-1823]

press.jpg

 

 

Becoming British

Becoming British is not for the faint of heart. It requires a subtlety with words, humour, and nuance that I was not born possessing.

 

“Subtle as a brick” my friend and co-worker Ross would say of my direct and to-the-point nature.

 

After a few years in the UK, I came to believe that God sent me to England to torment British people.

 

I am direct, passionate, usually speak my mind (always), and cry at the drop of a hat. I possessed all the traits that could make anyone on the island profoundly uncomfortable. There is no such thing as emotional repression when it comes to my feelings towards anything. My fellow staff used to turn around at conferences with impish expressions on their faces when someone shared a personal story of coming to know Jesus or of someone else coming to faith. I would be a flood of tears within minutes.

 

I cry when I am happy, joyful, sad, confused, and angry.

 

After my first 7 months in my second assignment of Newcastle, a friend and future housemate decided I deserved a trip back to the States to see my family,  because “I had worked hard” according to her. She got forty students to chip in £10 each with her so they could give me a check large enough to fly home that summer. I burst into tears and made every Brit in the pub feel incredibly awkward as a giant card with signatures was handed to me and a check. I had to hug everyone on the card of course, with my snotty, crying self. Way too much emotion for that pub.

 

Did God send me to England to tell people about Jesus or help people with their emotional repression? Mmm, it could be a coin toss.

 

When I moved to the UK I knew it would be different from the US. I think expecting that difference helped me last much longer than most Americans who are whacked in the face by culture shock as soon as they step off the plane and discover Britain is not as we expect. “Different” turned out to be a good expectation.

 

I eventually became British, literally. (Yes, I still say liT-trally) I have the red passport. It is one of my proudest possessions.

img_0698

2017-02-01-PHOTO-00002332.jpg

However, I am discovering that despite the fact that I always stood out as an American in Britain, now that I am an American in America, I am actually feeling and experiencing a bit more of being a  Brit in America. 

 

I am not sure when exactly it happened, but somehow along the way, I became British. Kind of. A little bit.

 

Reverse culture shock stories to follow.

 

2017-02-03-PHOTO-00002359.jpg

Fact and Fear and Refugees

“As a Christian, I do not believe Jesus died for us so that we could live comfortable lives behind walls, indifferent to the suffering of others. In fact, he explicitly modeled through his life radical compassion for the poor, the vulnerable, the stranger, and even for his enemies.” – Tim Breene, World Relief

 

There is what is explicit in the Bible.

There is also the outright lies on refugees from those with platforms.

Both truth and obedience to God are lacking in the refugee conversation. Check some good words here from my friends at World Relief.

 

 

Singleness and Waiting

Filing your taxes isn’t the usual time to be moaning about a relationship status but here I am, early February and filling out Turbo Tax and suddenly that pang hits.

 

I blame the silly first page of questions.

 

Have you changed jobs?

Have you moved?

Have you changed relationship status?  

 

turbotax-screen-shot.png

 

There it is. Nope. Still single.

 

(That’s not my turbo tax page just FYI).

 

Pangs about singleness happen predictably and unpredictably. The turn of a new year, a new birthday, and oddly, tax time are predictably sad moments. I get them unpredictably throughout the year as well but milestone markers are hard.

 

It is a reminder that I am still single. I have been ready for marriage for a long time. Yet, the decisions I make in life, coupled with the decisions other people make, plus the mystery of Divine Providence have left marriage elusive.

 

Eighteen months ago as I moved to Ohio, I thought if work brought me to the States rather than Europe, one benefit would be meeting more people. I assumed moving back to Ohio where I am part of a semi-mega church would be a great place to meet someone. (You all know I am holding out for a guy who really loves Jesus, not a cultural Christian right? I think everyone knows that.. but just for the strangers on the internet who might read this. Hello, readers in Oman and Uruguay!)

 

I’ve maybe met 5 single guys in the last 18 months at a church of thousands and had zero ask me out even for a date. It’s my song in life. It’s really a bit disheartening. I had a similar experience at my church in the UK.

 

“Do you try online dating?” people ask. It’s 2017 and I am still single. Of course. Yes. Yes, I am there. I have been on most of the sites. (Not Tinder). I recommend people do it. If you meet no one, you might as well put a profile out there and try to meet someone.  However, for me, I hate it. I wish the people we meet in real life would just ask us on dates. It’s JUST coffee. I find the online thing to be HORRIBLE.

 

HORR-I-BLE.

 

I basically get bored really quickly. That’s my main problem. I also find the sifting to be way too frustrating. “Favourite” story from last years’ online attempts: start emailing with a guy: cute, loves Jesus, good conversation, was in full-time ministry for ten years so we had some things in common (and thought that would mean he was more serious about his faith). Just before we grab our first coffee, he emails to let me know, “just because of the kind of girl you are….”

 

He’s still in the middle of a divorce and it’s not final.

 

Some friends in England call me “pocket rocket.”

 

I was so mad I went back to find him online two weeks after I revoked my date acceptance to yell at him. “You are still married in the eyes of God AND THE STATE. You are not LEGALLY single. Sort yourself out. Deal with whatever broke up your marriage. And don’t put women like me in compromising situations!!”

What do you mean? The kind of girl I am?! The kind of girl that doesn’t date married men? I should hope so.

 

Then there was the guy who thought we’d be a great match who had answered a question:

“Do you think the life of 1 American is more valuable than 10 foreigners.”

He answered? “Yes.”

Eeessssshhh. There is somethin’ WRONG with your gospel dude. I don’t even want to be friends with someone with a mindset like that.

I’ll stop with the online stories.

 

 

Then there was the guy I met in another state. Really lovely. Instant chemistry. He asked for my number. Called me as soon as I returned to Ohio. We spent 12 weeks texting ridiculous amounts every day from dawn til dark and racking up maybe 3-4 phone calls a week. Swapped testimonies of coming to faith that first conversation and he told me he liked me before the end of the first week and wanted to come see me in Ohio. He’d call and sing songs onto my voicemail frequently. Cuuuute. I finally ask “what we should call this” after a few months and he feigns shock. “What do you mean?”

283aae955ab1c05ccea5d5f89b8e6199.jpg

I tried to grapple with the question a different way and he answers:

“I never planned on us being anything but friends.” 

 

Whaaaaaa?!?!? On what planet?! In our 30s?! You spend 8 hours a week on the phone with a girl telling her you like her regularly, but call that “just friends.” You must be joking.

 

Well, that was the end of that. He thought we could continue our regular communication with no change. Na uh. No way josé.

 

Honestly, dating is so hard. But it’s not even dating. It’s the non-dating. The non-dating process sucks.

 

The thing is I have had a fair amount of interest from guys over the year but never, never from guys interested in Jesus. I really want to date a guy who loves the Lord.

 

And you know, doesn’t fake date a girl and call it just friends. That would also be nice.

 

I have said no to some really lovely guys because of my desire to have this life centred on Christ. That has been hard. Sometimes I just want to date them. The Christians just do not ask. Or do not act in a way that is Godly. My worst experiences have been with Christian men. The older I get, it’s become one of the hardest parts about being a Christian. Saying no to a lot of guys who aren’t interested in Jesus but are really kind and cute and are forward enough to ask for the date and have great character is tough. That used to be an easy no because my faith is a really central part of my life but it is getting harder and harder. Every time I walk away from a great guy who has bothered to ask, I feel sad and a little tired. Sometimes, I really want to toss that value (of wanting a real Christian). It’s a real struggle.

So what does a girl do? I don’t have all the answers, I am in process, but here is where I am at the moment:

 

1.) Wrestle

I wrestle with God. I tell him how frustrated I am. I sometimes yell at him. I talk to close friends who feel safe and share the junk in my head I am wrestling around with. I am wrestling with Scripture.

2.) Be Honest 

There are sometimes really unhelpful caricatures that float around in church. “Christian men are somehow better, kinder, etc.” No. I have been in ministry for a long time and know horror stories of train wrecks. Common grace is alive and well in the world and sometimes unbelievers are kinder and resemble Jesus much more than believers do. I have been treated much better by guys who don’t claim to follow Christ and been treated terribly by those who do.

Sometimes it’s better to get rid of the caricatures, the cha chi pithy sayings: “Oh you’ll find someone when the time is right.” Says who!? People don’t always. Christian women certainly don’t always.

I am not waiting for a Christian man because I think he will be a better person. In fact, I know enough difficult marriage stories that I am a little afraid. Marriages blow up. Christian marriages blow up and people walk away from God.

I am waiting for a Christian because I want to be obedient to Jesus. I want Jesus to be Lord. I want to marry someone who wants Jesus to be Lord (read, in charge). But I find some days I just want to give up on that. I want to read the Bible with someone and have a husband that will pray with me. I want someone who thinks leadership looks like being a servant because that is what the gospel looks like rather than the way our world’s leadership looks like which is being the one who can control the conversation the most. I want someone who wants other people to hear about the good news of Jesus and doesn’t think I am nuts for sharing that with others.

But in the middle of that, honesty is needed and saying it’s hard and not glossing over anything is important.

3.) Hold on to Jesus. 

Jesus is really good news. I experience the unconditional love of God. He died to make me clean and right with God when I am not. The cross takes away shame. What else can take shame away from us? He loves me on days when it is lonely. He has not forgotten me. I never need to impress God. I don’t need to be good enough. Jesus has already done that for me. Jesus has lived perfectly in my place. I can stop striving and rest in him. That is really unlike the way we live in a world that always tells us we need to prove ourselves. To think I can rest that way with the God of the universe? Crazy. It gives my heart a rest and a desire to want to be more like Jesus because I don’t need to strive to prove myself. The gospel matters and is life changing. Who Jesus is has changed my life in really transformative life-giving ways. If I had not tasted that, waiting around and living differently in the realm of dating would just not be worth it at all. But, I have tasted the goodness of God and it’s hard to walk away from that…

4.) Apply the gospel everywhere

That means when I am exasperated, asking God to help me give people grace. I certainly don’t have it together and the guys I’d like to date don’t. We all need the grace of God for the way we don’t treat one another well. We need Jesus to change us and help us love more selflessly. It means when I go 18 months without hardly meeting single guys, I remember my hope is in Christ and not in my singleness or marital status. Applying the gospel means I try to remember people need the gospel like I need the gospel. Or reminding myself I need the gospel more than other people need it. It means, I share the gospel with potential dates when I’d sometimes like to just hide from Jesus a bit and make him less a big deal so I could date all the guys who pursue me. It means I end up saying no to some great guys sometimes because the desire for Jesus to reign over all of my life is a really big deal and I can’t walk away from that even when I try. The temptation to minimize my faith and just date someone is a real struggle some days.  I’ll be honest, however, I know in my heart we all need to get to know Jesus even more than we need to find a great person to date.

So, by God’s grace… I’ll keep praying and awkwardly talking about Jesus with guys who ask me out.

Maybe he has yet to come to know Jesus yet and soon will.

Or maybe, I’ll just fill out Turbo Tax next year with another “single” check mark.

Who knows what a year will bring?

 

 

Red-Drop-Heart-iPhone-.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Few Good Books

I am on my last semester of seminary and taking my lightest load of credits. Hence, reading like mad has opened up again.

Here are five on my already started or about to start list.

1.) Encountering the Book of Hebrews

One of the reads for my class on Hebrews. I am a ways in and loving the opportunity to dig deeper into one of my favourite books of the Bible on my last semester. Check out one of Trinity’s extension sites to grab some classes.

2.) In Defence of Food

My brother and sister in law’s love of Michael Pollan has rubbed off on me mostly because it makes more sense than anything else and I hate weird diets. His rules on food are only 1 in eight words. Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much. 

I started this AGES (read years) ago but am finally getting around to it. It’s really good. Also good is his Omnivore’s Dilemma.

3.) Margin 

I am back in a country that gives 2 weeks of holiday to people. It’s a shock to the system. The UK gave me 28 days. I have worked for the same organization for a long time and actually LOST holiday to move back to the US. One friend started a job last year and got zero days of holiday in his first year. THAT IS MENTAL.

Hence, why a book like this is needed everywhere, but definitely if you are living in the workaholic madhouse called America.

4.) Making Sense of God 

My life is talking to skeptical friends about Jesus. God does not make sense at all sometimes. I am a Christian and I have been baffled with many difficult faith questions myself. I am sympathetic of those who are honest about belief feeling too far from their grasp.  I love Tim Kellers’ writing. The book is good. If anyone wants to grab a copy and do a discussion, let me know.

5.) True Friendship 

I have always appreciated Vaughn Roberts’ mad skills teaching the Bible. I have really been moved by his honesty with same-sex attraction coupled with his commitment to Biblical faithfulness. I heard him speak about the role of friendship in the church and so grabbed this book to give him a chance to speak a bit more.

img_1252