Tying It Up Neatly with a Bow

Reading through short, sweet, to-the-point Christian books always makes me a little wary. To me, life can’t be explained in simple examples of scriptural wins created during conference breakout sessions or transcontinental flights. Stories in three or four paragraphs with sunshine-y endings don’t correlate the messy life I see around me. Or, in the starts and stops of a life God-changed.

 Real growth can and does happen with Christ, but for most of us it’s baby steps. We don’t get the illuminating light and angels’ music moment from the movies. We simply get nudged to the next phase.

Now, I get it. An author has only so many words to tell a story, and real-life tales accentuate the message. Blending people and altering facts to conceal identities is a noble gesture. Condensing the story helps the pace of the entire piece. It’s all good.

 But, that huge leap is allegory not necessarily a practical template for most of us. Growth can be slow and messy. We can backpedal. There are hills and valleys and twists and turns. When we look back over the course of our journey, we see progress, but we rarely see a sole experience that solves the deeper issues of our souls.

Now, that one illumination can prompt our movement, like a pebble starting an avalanche.  Real growth then happens over time through many instances and choices.

The stories are necessary, good fodder and explain the larger message. But, we need to remember that though they can and do happen, they are rare. It’s in our moment-by-moment choices and through our development over time that leads to a life changed by Christ.

I’m okay, you’re okay. Right?

See to it that no one falls short of the GRACE of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.  ~Hebrews 12:15

I learned recently that if you make the okay sign, you are a racist. It no longer means okay, it’s a symbol of white pride.

What the what?!?

I have been making the okay sign my ENTIRE life to mean “okay.” And, now it means something bad?

The idiocy of our society has gotten completely out of hand. One can’t just switch the meaning of something from something innocuous to horrific and then blast those of us who were not informed of your switch.

Buddhism still uses a swastika for their god Vishnu.  The thumbs up sign, which means “I’m good,” or “it’s good,” means “up yours” in some Middle eastern countries. The index finger curling up to call someone over means death in Singapore and Japan. And, etc…

We have to be a little more sane. We have to come back down to earth. We need to reach out and build bridges. We need to stop accusing people of being horrible when we don’t know them, and we don’t know their hearts.

We need to start seeking love and not finding hate everywhere.

We’re ALL human.  This is why we need God, because we DESPERATELY need grace.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this GRACE in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. ~Romans 5:1-2 

 

 

Hope Inside Me

I was on bedrest, lying on the couch. I had kissed hubby off to work, and my baby was kicking inside of me as I turned on the TV, which happened upon the WB. The screen showed a plane hitting the twin towers, and I thought, “What a stupid movie, that can’t happen in real life.” So, I switched stations. The same footage appeared on another channel, and another, and another…

We were on the West Coast. While we’d slept, the world had changed as we knew it, and we were waking up to the nightmare. Hope living inside me, in the form of a new life, while horror struck the nation.

We connected, because there was nothing else we could do, and we needed to hear our loved ones’ voices.  As thousands that day would never hear again.

Statue of Liberty and Twin Towers, World Trade Center at Sunset, New York City, New Jersey, New York

Phone calls to my sister, a few towns over. Updates from my husband in Silicon Valley. Word of my brother-in-law in San Francisco’s Union Square. Everyone told to go home. My dad in Iowa and mom in Arizona. Friends close by, and those scattered across the nation. We just needed to hear the voices. We needed to feel close.

Flights were landing with people stranded everywhere, and unimaginable death and pain in NYC, PA, and DC. Shock waves rippled through the states.

On the West Coast, we thought we were next. Who’s going to get it–Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco…? We didn’t know. It was the unknown that kept us on edge. The military scrambled fighter jets.

And, later, silence. No more traffic on the roads, no more planes in the air. It was eerily quiet.

That evening, the comforting words of our President, sitting in the Oval Office, speaking to the nation brought us calm and a reminder of our own resilience as a nation. We were raw, we were spent, and we were in disbelief. We grieved, but somehow, we knew we’d prevail.  We knew we were made of tougher stuff.

And, today? We’re softer. And, we’re angrier. And we’re divided into a thousand factions, like pieces of glass from a vase slipped onto a tile floor. No more vase. No more unity.

I think of those flag-lined streets and I grieve for a time when having pride in American principles was a good thing. I grieve for a people who hugged others more tightly that day; who spoke to their neighbors more willingly; who didn’t take your prayers as a slam against their atheism and let you pray.

I yearn for a people who didn’t barricade themselves inside social media prisons and feed on trumped up anger and resentment toward others. I ache for people who didn’t decimate the honor of strangers in 40-characters-or-less under the guise of activism and righteousness. I long for a people who fact-checked and didn’t propagate lies or half-truths for their own benefit. I miss a people who didn’t easily jump on board with hit-pieces designed to inflict pain and suffering on others.

And, while I see the fury boiling over today, and I see the gasoline people pour on it, I pray for people to stop. To lay down their keyboards of destruction. To seek out peace not war. To build bridges, to find common ground, and harvest love and forgiveness.

And, I think of those flags, waving proudly in the front of houses down my street in San Jose, California, and I wonder what happened to us as a nation? How did we go from the phoenix rising from the ashes of the World Trade Center and communing with our neighbors, to calling our neighbors horrific names using abhorrent language?

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And, I think, people must hate themselves in the way they treat others.

But, I hold out hope. There is always hope.

Seven days after 9/11, my hope was born. She came pink and screaming into the world. And, maybe that’s how we’ll find our way back to each other: through the babies’ cries and hope for their future.

And, while my baby turns 17 years old this year, I still have hope inside me.

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” ~ Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)