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Category: Introspect

Why It’s a Good Idea to Re-Write the Bible.

Why It’s a Good Idea to Re-Write the Bible.

By day, I write other people’s stories. I consult with startups, small businesses, and enterprise companies about what problem they’re solving in the world, and I help them tell a story that other people can see themselves in — because when people can see themselves in your story, they’re more invested in you.

This is what Jesus sent his followers out in the world to do – to tell the story of how God rescues us, so that no matter what we’ve done to ourselves or others, we can see ourselves in God’s rescue plan.

But sometimes I forget to tell myself this story.

Not too long ago I spent a few days wallowing (shocking!) about what a rotten person I am. I definitely said and did some things that were legitimately rotten, but I soon discovered I was also believing a very dangerous lie.

I believed I would always be rotten, that there was no point trying to NOT be rotten, so I moped and grouched about and snapped at everyone because OBVIOUSLY I’M A ROTTEN PERSON.

Then one night as I as wrote in my journal about the stinking decay of my rottenness, I started to gross myself out with all the whining.

So I opened my Bible (finally!).

I went straight for Romans 3:23

…”for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”

As a lifelong follower of Jesus, it’s easy for me to let his words fade into just… words. Even though I was tiring of my own despair, I still wasn’t able to see myself in God’s rescue story.

But God’s word is living and active, not stale and obsolete. If I couldn’t see myself in God’s story, I needed to re-tell it so I could:

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I made it to this version in three drafts, and the exercise pulled me out of the dark hole I was in.

This experience not only helped me, but it reminded me of how easy it is for Christians to alienate other people with our jargon and pat answers.

Oh, you did that really shitty thing? No worries! You’re justified in Christ!

Yes, it’s Truth, but if it’s so easy to disconnect ourselves from the Truth of the story, how much easier is it for those who don’t even know the story?

I’ve been struggling to find my way back into journaling. Maybe the best thing I can do is practice re-telling the story of God’s rescue plan to myself, my kids, and my friends.

Do You Journal?

Do You Journal?

journal

Last summer I tried to pick up journalling again.

It’s something I’ve done since childhood, but after I started blogging in 2005, I put more of my thoughts here than in a private little book.

Journalling allows me to be more raw; I can let the crazy out and not worry about lasting implications on the internet.

But even in that freedom, I still feel stuck.

Which brings me to you.

Do you journal? With paper and pen or an online app? Do you freeform your thoughts or follow a structure?

If you care to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Gospel Trust Fund Baby

Gospel Trust Fund Baby

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

warned about the dangers of what he called ‘cheap grace,’ the teaching that stresses only that grace is free, so it doesn’t really matter how we live. The solution, he said, was not to return to legalism, but to focus on how seriously God takes sin and on how he could only save us from it at infinite cost to himself. Understanding this must and will profoundly reshape our lives. We will not be able to live in a selfish, cowardly way. We will stand up for justice and sacrifice for our neighbor. And we won’t mind the cost of following after Christ when we compare it to the price he paid to rescue us.

This paragraph from Tim Keller’s Prodigal God struck me this evening. The way I live in light of christ’s sacrifice is based largely on what it does for me and on what I gain.

I think very little of the actual sacrifice and what it cost to make it.

The logical conclusion of this discrepancy manifests in my complaining spirit, my apathy, and my sense of entitlement, as if Christ owed me this life but came up short on his end of the deal.

Jesus gave me everything I didn’t deserve, and instead of being grateful, I whine like a Gospel trust fund baby.

I see this attitude in one of my kids and spend a lot of energy rolling my eyes because it’s so irritating to watch.

Now that I see it in myself, I’ll need one of you to come over and yank the log out of my eye.

2013: In like a…. what was I saying?

2013: In like a…. what was I saying?

2013-jen

I haven’t given much thought to the idea of setting goals or a theme for the new year. I’m disorganized to start with, but the last couple months have felt a bit chaotic. Instead of living with intentionality, I feel like I’ve been reacting to whatever urgent thing pops up in front of me.

It’s exhausting to feel so out of control all the time, and I haven’t had much mental room for reflection.

And then I read this on the Storyline Blog:

Goals like “lose weight” or “decrease debt” are vague and uninspiring. Goals work much better when they’re set within a narrative context. Frodo would not have gone on his journey unless the fate of Middle Earth depended on it.

It’s like that with us, too. Without a narrative context, we have little motivation to become different people than we are.

Somehow during the overwhelming months of packing, moving, unpacking, settling in, adjusting to new routines, and reacting to the general Stuff of Life, I started doing the next thing without really paying attention to my narrative context.

I miss my narrative context.

Good Read: Bread Crumbs | Storyline Blog

Good Read: Bread Crumbs | Storyline Blog

Last week I had a dream about my mom. In my dream, a space ship crashed into the woods at the end of street where I grew up, and from the crash site emerged a robot that walked through the neighborhood.

Of course I took video of all this. But as I did, I noticed my neighbor was also taking video, and then was abruptly whisked away in a black Escalade. When I saw this, I ran through the neighborhood to my house, turned off all the lights, and hid under a side table.

(Clearly a subconscious mashup of E.T., The Iron Giant, and Super 8.)

But then my mother entered. In my dream, I was viewing all this as a third party observer, and there she was… feisty, flummoxed, and wondering what I was up to.

She was wearing pantyhose with slippers, a skirt, and only a bra on top. She carried a round brush, and I could see her hair was flat on one side, and fluffed to curly perfection on the other.

This was how my mother looked every Sunday morning as she got ready for church.

She demanded to know what was going on, but all I kept saying was “TELL THEM I’M NOT HOME.”

I could see the stress in my mother’s face – the pursed lips and the furrowed brow. She was unsure of what to do with me, which I’m sure was a common feeling she had when I was young.

The scene ended abruptly when I woke up, but the essence of my mom lingered, and I held on to her as reality pushed its way in like daylight breaking through the cracks of a treeline.

And that’s when it hit me how much I missed my mom.

Dementia and Alzheimers are cruel deseases. At times it feels like psychological torture because you’re not grieving someone who is dead, but someone who is right in front of you that you love dearly but is not always “in there.”

For a moment, I was Adam dreaming of Eden.  Adam, on the outside of the garden, suddenly getting a whiff of something in the old garden that he’d left long ago.  And that whiff brought it all back, remembering what once was.  And for a minute I enjoyed it, and then a sadness moved in.

via Bread Crumbs | Storyline Blog.

I read the above essay on Friday, my birthday, an occasion that felt sad for the first time in my life.

The essay goes on to suggest that perhaps our memories of Eden-times hint at the eternity that is “written on our hearts,” the eternity we’ve already experienced with Adam and will one day return to with Jesus.

And just like that, my wallowing transformed to worship, because I’m reminded that I’m not alone in my longing for Eden, and that a rescue plan for returning is already in place.

The {New} New Year

The {New} New Year

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5 ESV).

This is the verse I keep coming back to after a long, emotionally stressful and physically demanding summer.

Over the last few months I learned that adrenaline is effective only as long as I don’t sit down, that the iPad is a less than ideal but functional babysitter, and that emotions are amplified a thousand times when expressed or interpreted under pressure.

I’m so glad it’s over!

The other day I read a post – I wish I could remember where – by a guy who thought of Fall as the real New Year’s Day, the launch of all things new and possible.

I whole heartedly embrace this idea and officially declare a new beginning!

I never again want to experience a season like I did this summer. Not because of the circumstances – because I’m sure those will come up again – but because of how I walked through it. Reflecting back on the summer, I see how my heart was directed toward so many things other than toward the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ.

Instead, my heart was directed toward formulating the perfectly worded email, making the budget work despite all our expenses, and relying on my lists and calendar to keep me sane. These things are important for good stewardship, but none of it will bring me peace and rest like a heart directed toward the steadfastness of Christ.

Fall brings back a natural rhythm to our lives and provides an opportunity to reset priorities. I’ve never been more excited to see 6am than I was this week when I sat down in my favorite chair to read my Bible, alone in a quiet apartment, watching the sun rise.

Thank you, Jesus, for new beginnings.

Restful Worship

Restful Worship

Sunrise through trees

“Before long, the king made himself at home and God gave him peace from all his enemies” (2 Samuel 7:1, The Message).

This is the verse that stared back at me this morning when I opened my Bible after a long hiatus of being “too busy” to read the Bible.

The king referred to here is David. He’d just spent the previous few years running from a mad man who tried to kill him, and fighting wars to defend God’s people.

No doubt he was tired – bone weary as well as emotionally spent. His best friend was killed, he watched another man become so consumed by his own lust for power that he eventually fell on his own sword, and he struggled to understand God’s presence in his circumstances through years of war, conflict, and strained relationships.

In the end, God’s promises all came to pass, as they always do. And when they came to pass, God gave David a season of rest.

Three things come to mind when reading this story:

David faced circumstances outside of his control, as we often do.

He couldn’t change Saul’s maniacal behavior or bring Jonathan back to life or go back to the way things were when he was a simple shepherd boy on his father’s ranch. I’m sure that would have been a nice alternative to years of war – sitting in an open field, playing the harp and watching the sheep eat grass.

If it were me who was uprooted from my blissful life and plopped into the middle of David’s plot, I would’ve spent valuable energy writing blog posts about how sad I was to leave my awesome, introverted, non-conflicting life behind.

Most of the time we can’t control what’s happening to us, but we can control how we respond.

David was all in, as they say.

Sure, he had doubts. Sometimes he wondered where God was in the midst of his circumstances, and sometimes he wished he was dead. But according to the many Psalms he wrote during that time in his life, God was the primary target of his worship and his pain.

When God gave David a season of rest, he worshipped.

I’ve noticed this about all the patriarchs of the Old Testament: God sustains his people through some really tough shit, then he provides a season of rest. And while his people are resting he re-tells the story of everything they just experienced, play by play, while reminding them of every instance that he provided for them.

God is a delicate documentarian. In these playbacks he captures the heart, the spirit, and the accurate facts because he knows his people will forget, lose heart, and try to do things on their own (like build golden calves to worship, for instance). But like a loving parent, he reminds his people that he is always with them, that he’s always been with them.

While David rested, God spoke through his prophet, Nathan, and recounted everything David experienced from the time he was a shepherd in his father’s fields. As per usual, he reminded David of all the times he provided. David responded in worship through adoration, thankfulness, and action…and then he went back to war.

Whatever circumstances I find myself in – whether emotional turmoil, financial hardship, or even just a busy schedule – God will not only sustain me in the midst of it, but he will provide a season of peace.

But it’s not the sort of peace where I catch up on laundry, sleep, and 30Rock episodes, but a peace that’s intended to remind me of who God is and how he sustained me through the day (or week, or month, or however long I’ve been slogging along).

He provides an opportunity for restful worship.

This kind of worship is what I’ve been missing, because no matter how much I “take it easy” in the midst of my current busy season, I can feel myself drying up like a leaf in October.

God doesn’t provide a season of rest so I can focus on myself, but on Him.

A Few Thoughts About My Day…

A Few Thoughts About My Day…

  • God created the law.
  • I cannot keep to the law in my own power.
  • “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
  • Jesus paid the debt for my sin.
  • He paid the entire debt.
  • I owe him nothing.
  • He expects nothing from me.
  • It was a free gift.
  • I don’t have the means to pay it back even if I wanted to.
  • This is why I follow Jesus.
  • Sometimes I do things for other people
  • like buy them a drink, or babysit their kids, or pay off their financial debt.
  • The smaller the act, the less I really think about it.
  • But sometimes, like for the really big things, I expect something in return,
  • when maybe I should just do that Thing and say, Blessed Be the Name of the Lord.
exactly how this grace thing works

exactly how this grace thing works

The guideMap

I’ve noticed a repeated theme in Christian lingo – a metaphorical cliche. It’s the idea of a journey, or path, or roadmap. We follow a path to salvation, we’re on a journey as believers, the Bible offers a roadmap for how we are to live.

I don’t find this metaphor very interesting anymore. I think there’s a better, more compelling story to be told.

Mumford & Sons touches on this in one of their songs, and this lyric in particular stood out to me the other day:

It seems as if all my bridges have been burned,
You say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive at the restart

At the heart of the gospel is this idea that even if we blow everything up and burn down all our bridges, Jesus still says, “Please come home. I’m waiting for you. The BBQ is ready!”

Every minute of every day provides me with the opportunity for a new start.

As someone who struggles with losing her temper, this is amazing. No matter how quick I am to rage, I can always stop, repent to God and my kids, and start over.

As someone with a husband, two feisty children, and a heart open to community, this is sobering. The responsibility of receiving others at their restart is heavy. I like to wallow in my bitterness and stew in my justification, but Jesus calls me to welcome those who repent, and he calls me to shepherd my children into a lifestyle of repentance.

This is far more compelling to me than the journey itself. Anybody can get from Point A to Point B, and a lot of people do it without Jesus. But Jesus is the miracle behind a heart of repentance and forgiveness, the power behind our ability to give and receive a new start.

Happy Mother’s Day, Bitches.

Happy Mother’s Day, Bitches.

Happy mom happy kids

May you enjoy the bounty of mimosas, hand crafted cards of love, and a day filled with no whining.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!

*wipes tear*

Just kidding about that last part. Can you IMAGINE?

But seriously. Sometimes I feel like Nancy Botwin, shrouded in a haze of smoke in the corner of a motel room, shouting at the musically enhanced sit-n-spin: “SOMEBODY TURN THAT THING OFF – IT MAKES MY ASS TWITCH.”

By contrast, a sweet young thing I know birthed a brand new sweeter thing and posted this to her Facebook page:

I think unconditional love is being HAPPY when your baby wakes you up in the middle of the night over, and over again until the sun comes up. With all my heart I say I love it and its the most joyous time… Thank you god for blessing me with my baby

By God’s grace I did not laugh or roll my eyes or otherwise poop on a new mother’s joy when I read it. (Normally I would, because obviously she’s so sleep deprived she has no idea what she’s in for) but instead I melted into a goo of love for both the new mama and my own children.

She reminds me that even if my children are trying to kill me with one drippy whine after another, they are lovely and perfect and mine – and a gift from Jesus, not a burden.

So maybe I haven’t gone all Nancy Botwin after all. Maybe I’m not shrouded in smoke with a twitchy ass, but do have smooth(ish) skin and (kinda) look a little bit cool, and smile every now and then…

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Well that’s probably a bad example…

Remarks by the President at Easter Prayer Breakfast | The White House

Remarks by the President at Easter Prayer Breakfast | The White House

“Because in the middle of critical national debates, in the middle of our busy lives, we must always make sure that we are keeping things in perspective.” – President Obama

I’m a very task-oriented person, even if I’m not that organized about it. Disciplining myself to slow down and reflect on anything is always a challenge, because most of the time it’s much easier to just keep moving.

The clearest picture I have of this is when my day approaches the dinner hour. If I’m organized, the crockpot will be doing its thing, the kids will be (quietly!) getting an hour of screen time, and I’ll sit in my comfy chair for the first time in 12 hours, waiting for Bryan to get home.

As soon as I do this, I feel every cell in my body breathe a sigh of relief, and suddenly I’m limp like a wet towel on the bathroom floor. I push myself so hard during the day that even when I do stop to rest and reflect, I’m too exhausted.

Every year on the day after Easter, I promise myself that I’ll be more organized during Holy Week, more reflective, more of whatever box I feel I should check. And yet, every year around Thursday I’m still like OH MAH GAH TOMORROW IS GOOD FRIDAY QUICK EVERYONE LETS TALK ABOUT THE DEATH OF OUR LORD!

I’m over feeling guilty about it (did you hear? My 40’s is the guilt-free decade!), and have completely embraced that Christ continues to sanctify my tendency to Doing rather than Being.

He continues to love me and pursue me and tell me to STFU and listen for once (my paraphrase), and I accept his grace with the dignity of a short, squishy, frazzled, middle-aged child of the 80’s by repenting through prayer, really loud music, and dancing – sans the Legend of Billie Jean / Love Is A Battlefield drama.

And no, it’s not lost on me that it takes a poke from the leader of the free world to remind me that “we all live in the hustle and bustle of our work. And everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities….”

So yes, Mr. President, my trip to the DMV can be bumped to next week. Thanks for reminding me to stop and reflect on the humility of Christ as we approach Easter weekend.

via Remarks by the President at Easter Prayer Breakfast | The White House.

What’s Wrong With Religious People?

What’s Wrong With Religious People?

Occasionally I get associated with being religious. Non-churchy people hear that I’m a churchy person and they say things like, “Oh, so you must be very religious,” or “I’ve never been that religious myself.”

I get their intended meaning. They don’t use the word religion the same way I do, they’re simply differentiating churchy from non-churchy. But hearing someone call me religious still makes me cringe.

To me, “religious” is something institutional, not relational. It’s filled with rules & expectations, not compassion or understanding; hard lines instead of soft edges.

I like Jesus, and Jesus is not religious. He’s relational.

The topic of religion came up at my church, recently, in a passage where all the religious leaders yelled at Jesus for healing someone on the Sabbath. On a day intended for rest from our work, Jesus, the God of the universe who created the sabbath, touched a crippled woman and she was healed.

I’m pretty sure if Louis C. K. were present he would have been all, THAT’S AMAZING! But the religious leaders were outraged. They scolded Jesus and told the people to come back on Thursday if they wanted to get healed.

There’s a lot of religious people in the world – both individuals and groups. When I hear religious people quoted in the media, it makes my teeth hurt. When I see religious comments and articles posted on facebook, I obsess over trying really hard to not obsess about it.

But when I heard my pastor talk about the religious Pharisees, I couldn’t help but see myself in the story.

I felt especially convicted that I’m a religious parent. I make up rules on the fly to suit my own needs, and change them up all the time depending on my mood; I pay more attention to their behavior than the condition of their character; and I’d love it ever so much if they could just know their place.

As a mother, I’m basically the gateway drug to Jesus. My children learn to follow Jesus by following me as I follow Him, so as far as they know, Jesus is in a really crappy mood all day until he gets some wine.

Below is a 20 minute excerpt from the sermon about religion. Or you could watch the 4 minute Louis C. K. clip. They pretty much say the same thing.

Inspired by Jose Cuervo and Florence & the Machine

Inspired by Jose Cuervo and Florence & the Machine

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I’m a little crazed these days. I think I’ve had something on the calendar every night since the beginning of December, and that never goes over well with Introverts like me.

I’ve definitely hit a wall.

For me this looks like oversleeping, over eating, over drinking, and writing blog posts when I should be working or making dinner. These are the days you find me working in my pajamas and starting happy hour around 2pm.

Klassy.

Ironically, this is the first December in six years that I haven’t been depressed. Despite the work stress (good stress! busy! lots of clients!) and heavy social schedule, I don’t have a dark cloud following me around.

If I’m moping, it’s because I’m mopey, not because life has no meaning.

Hilariously, busy + stress + no depression = no Christmas planning*guiltless to the power of infinity.

Translation: have not sent Christmas cards and have not bought presents and have barely decorated my house and I am 100% okay with this. I am truly living in the moment, not embittered by failed expectations, and enjoying what the day bring IN THAT MOMENT.

And if you know me in person, you’ll know THIS IS NOTHING LIKE ME.

Hallelujah.

Living a Better Story

Living a Better Story

The other day I slipped and fell in my basement. The whole area is carpeted except for, like, three feet at the bottom of the stairs, but that’s all the space I needed to fall on my ass.

I slipped on a dog bone. One foot flew out in front of me, and the other bent under me. The fall looked a little like this, only with less guitar and more angst. I can’t say for sure how the swearing measured up.

The entire one hundred and *cough* pounds of my body weight landed on my left knee and ankle. Now, some might think one would lie there on the floor for a period of recovery – whether it be of body or ego. But no. I instantly flew through the air several times like this, still with less guitar but for certain with more swearing.

In that moment I created more derivatives of the word “fuck” than ever existed before.

After floundering like this for a few moments, I finally collapsed on the floor again and cried. Not only was I in pain, but because of the history of my back and neck problems, I knew I was in for a long, full-body recovery and several visits to the chiropractor I didn’t have time for.

This is how I deal with conflict.

I get Uma Thurman mad, swear a lot, and kick a few things. There is much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth.

Sometimes this happens outwardly, and I flail about or throw something; sometimes when faced with conflict this happens inwardly, and I seethe in my own bitterness.

Either way, something’s not going the way I want it to, and woe to the obstacle blocking my path.

Telling a different story.

I’ve struggled with anger for as long as I can remember, and there’s not much you can tell me about how I’m supposed to act when facing conflict that I don’t already know. It’s not for lack of information that I lash out in rage, but for lack of character.

And this is what finally clicked for me while attending Don Miller’s Storyline Conference last weekend – in many ways, I tell a really shitty story with my life.

In the way I respond to conflict – or anything that doesn’t happen the way I expect it to – I tell the story of a God who criticizes, who is inflexible, withholding, and loves only when his expectations are met. I tell the story of a God who isn’t very much fun.

You may not see it this way from where you stand, but this is primarily the story I tell my kids. And when it comes to stories my kids will remember after I’m gone, I know I can tell better ones.

So going forward, when faced with conflict I will attempt to do less floundering and more reflecting; less swearing and more praying; less Eeyore-ing and more praising.

I want my kids to know the story of a God who loves unconditionally and walks us through our darkest moments with compassion.