People are messy. I don’t mean unhygienic or leaves-the-dishes-in-the-sink messy (though, yeah, there are those…). I’m talking personal messes, stuff that people do over and over again – hurting our feelings, frustrating us, driving us crazy – messes that we feel like we are constantly walking over or cleaning up or drowning in. Messes that make us wonder if the relationship is even worth all that work, all that clean-up, all that forgiveness.
So how do we deal with the messes people bring?
Before I answer that, let me show you a picture. My son, Thomas (age 10), was told to make his bed. About 30 seconds later, he announced that task was accomplished…
Yep – those lumps are the sheet and two blankets he sleeps under every night (I know we live in Florida, but Thomas can’t sleep without a fan in his face, causing him to freeze, thus requiring four layers). He just threw his comforter over the mess underneath and “done.” Back to the XBox.
My husband called me in to take this picture (“this would make for a great blog post,” he said), and laugh. Were we laughing at Thomas’ laziness or his rush-through-the-chore-so-I-can-play-Madden2013 attitude? No. We laughed because we love Thomas. We know him, we know where his areas of weakness are. We don’t think laziness is funny, and we don’t want Thomas to grow up thinking rushing through chores is acceptable, but even as we train him and teach him and discipline, we love him. He is ours.
But here’s the reality – I HATE that trait in others. When I interact with someone I didn’t give birth to who does this, I get angry! That student who wrote his essay the class before mine instead of taking it home and really working on it?? That is a huge pet peeve. And what about the coworker who leaves it to the rest of us to accomplish a “group” task? Annoying!!
But I am reminded of a couple things. 1) Things that annoy me about others are usually areas of “mess” in my own life: I can be quite lazy if a task doesn’t appeal to me. 2) God is constantly putting up with #1 and forgiving me, training, teaching, and disciplining me, all the while loving me unconditionally.
And God loves EVERYONE like that. Even the student who always procrastinates his work or the coworker who shirks her responsibilities. And what about the REALLY messy people? The ones who say terrible things about us, the ones who hurt us, the ones who hurt those we love? God loves them, too. They are his beloved children. God wants to help clean up their messes as much as he wants to help clean up ours.
So how do we deal with messy people? 1) Recognize we are one of them 2) Recognize God loves them as much as He loves us.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17b-19
“Why are my parents so overprotective?”
Teens I know (my own included) ask this all the time, with a roll of their eyes, arms folded across their chest. They are annoyed, frustrated, feel like their parents don’t trust them.
So why do parents today tend to “overprotect” their kids? Is is because we don’t trust you? We want to make your life miserable? We want to do all we can to make your teen years as dull as possible?
Believe it or not – no. None of the above.
Some of you reading this may babysit. When you do, are you careful with that child? Do you let her run around with scissors or hop up to the stove and fry up a burger? No way! you know you are responsible for her. And you know you won’t get paid – or asked to babysit again – if you’re irresponsible.
That’s how parents feel. But times a thousand. We are responsible before God for you. It’s scary! And we want to do a good job. Sometimes, we get carried away. Sometimes we drive you crazy. But it really is done out of love for you because you are precious and we don’t want anything bad to happen to you.
I know that when you’re a teenager, life sometimes seems to go in slow motion. But for your parents, it is in fast forward. Yesterday, you were a baby. A few hours ago, you were losing your first tooth. We know that, when we blink, you’ll be leaving for college. We want to hold on to you as long as we can because the 18 years we get with you are far too short.
So try to let the overprotectiveness be something that makes you smile instead of something that makes you cringe. We mean well. We really do.
Marriage has taken some pretty serious hits in the last few decades. With divorce rates rising and discontent rampant, I know many young people wonder if marriage is even worth the bother. Is it just an antiquated system that needs to be eliminated? Are we really designed to be “together forever?” Or should we date, live together as long as it is convenient, and move on? Wouldn’t that be easier on everyone?
The truth is one that we all see, even if we don’t all admit it: we crave “forever.” Look at romance movies and romance novels. What do we love about them? These stories are all about the “forever” love that overcomes obstacles, that brings two people together – through sometimes difficult, sometimes comical situations - and always ends with the “happily ever after.” Forever.
But here’s what many of those stories miss: love isn’t just a feeling. It isn’t something we “fall” into or “fall” out of. Love is patient, love is kind…the love God demonstrates and that Paul describes in I Corinthians 13 is the love that we should strive for. It is the love we crave because God has placed a desire for that love in us. And we will never be fully satisfied with anything less than the love God has for us. Single or married, the greatest love we will ever know is the love of God, demonstrated in Christ Jesus. Once we know that love, we are free to love the way we were created to love.
So my advice to those of you wondering about “forever”? You already have it. It has been given to you by our amazing God. And as for marriage? Make sure the guy/girl you choose knows that love and is committed to Him first and you second, committed to a “forever” love that will wade through the hard times and not give up.
Our school took grades 8-12 to see the “God’s Not Dead” movie on Friday. The film was terrific — GO SEE IT! (Pause while I get on my soapbox…The only way to encourage the production of more Christian films is to support the ones that are out. Don’t be cheap and wait until it comes out on Netflix! Save money somewhere else and spend it on a ticket THIS WEEK for this movie! Stepping off soapbox now…)
After the film, several of us teachers talked about our “God’s Not Dead” experiences – especially as it relates to college professors. So I thought I’d share my story with you:
It was my junior year of college, and I was taking a glorious amount of literature courses. While I loved getting to learn about great works from great teachers, I was getting tired of hearing EVERY professor say in EVERY course that the Bible, silly students, is just another work of literature and NO intelligent person would ever build their entire lives around its teachings.
One prof, in particular, made this argument repeatedly and passionately. He was in his 70s, brilliant, and claimed to have attended seminary as a young man. Having studied the Bible, he said, he knew it was full of contradictions and inaccuracies, and felt compelled to let us know that often. “Study it as a companion to great literature, even as great literature itself. But don’t follow its teachings.”
I have to admit – I didn’t have the strength of character the protagonist in “God’s Not Dead” has. Rather than standing up to this professor, I began to wonder if he was right. He, apparently, had spent a lifetime studying scriptures. I had attended a Bible college before going to USF, but that was just two years. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the Bible is just a book. Maybe Christianity really is just a crutch for people who don’t want to face reality.
Like Thomas, I was doubting. Big time. So I prayed and asked God, if he was really there, to show me. Give me a sign, something. I knew my faith should have been stronger, but it wasn’t. I was struggling.
Not long after I prayed that prayer, I sat in class, listening to that prof discuss a biblical allusion found in a Faulkner novel. It was an allusion to the story of David cutting a peice of fabric off Saul’s tunic while Saul was sleeping. I knew that story. I’d read it. As had he, apparently. Further comfirmation of how well he knew the scriptures.
“This story,” the professor said confidently, “can be found in the book of Second Daniel.”
There have been a few times in my life where I have felt the presence of God right next to me. This was one of them. It felt like a hug and a whisper in my ear that “I’m here. I’m real. This man has no idea what he is talking about.” If he doesn’t even know that Second Daniel isn’t in the Bible, he doesn’t know the Bible as well as he claimed. (The story is in I Samuel 24, btw.)
I walked out of that class feeling like a HUGE weight had been lifted, knowing that not only is God not dead, but he loves me and is incredibly gracious. I have served him without a doubt ever since.
This weekend only, the Thomas Nelson/Zondervan Fiction team is offering a “Start a Series” promotion with Barnes and Noble: lots of great books for a buck or two. Nice! ANOMALY is on there, if you haven’t read that. If you have, there are LOTS of other choices. It’s a delicious fiction smorgasbord. Grab a plate…er Nook (Kindle owners, don’t despair: Amazon usually matches B&N’s deals).
I just finished my second reading of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I can’t say that I enjoyed the book. Those of you who have read it understand. It isn’t enjoyable. But it is good. Ultimately, though, for me, the author’s hamartia is far more fatal than the characters’ disease.
The story itself is a tragedy, but the heroes’ tragic flaw is not fatal pride, like Oedipus; fatal passion, like Romeo; or fatal optimism, like Gatsby. Their flaw is in themselves – literally – the cancer that kills them IS them. Unlike the classic tragic heroes, Hazel and Augustus are fully aware of their tragic flaws. They are not in denial, not surprised by death. They know their days are numbered, that their “infinity” is shorter than others’. It is heartbreaking to become attached to characters who are dying. I like happily-ever-after. That’s not in there. Green doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that death is ugly and mean and can destroy the living as well as the dying.
Augustus loves metaphors, and the novel is full of them. The ones that stick out to me most, naturally, are those that reference faith. Support meetings take place in the “heart of Jesus” – the basement of a church. But those meetings are meaningless, full of empty repetition and one upmanship. They are led by a fool who can only offer mantras and the same story over and over again. That man is a modern-day eunech who has lost his manhood and has nothing lasting to offer to anyone. Nothing of value happens in the church, only talk of death and death itself. To Augustus, there is more life and hope in video games than there ever could be in “the heart of Jesus.”
“Why are we here” is the unspoken question each character asks, a question that is discussed, but never answered satisfactorily. The fictional book Hazel loves so much is, I believe, a metaphor for the pursuit of purpose. She is desperate to know how An Imperial Affliction ends, what happens to the characters after the narrator dies. She travels across the globe to find those answers only to discover, in a wizard-behind-the-curtain moment, that the author is a fool. She rejects him then, and she even rejects him when he pursues her. He is not worth knowing.
The only divinity hinted at in this novel is the divine Universe, a Universe that deserves to be recognized and appreciated while you can recognize and appreciate it. The Universe is powerless to stop evil or sickness or death, but it will live on. Man will eventually die out, the sun will eventually burn out, but life creates life, so the Universe will remain. The best we can do is to appreciate being part of it for however much time we have. Because we will all eventually be forgotten, whether we are Shakespeare or the person about whom he wrote Sonnet 55.
As a Christian, I read this book, and my heart breaks for the author and for the millions of people who think like him. To them, faith in God is an impotent belief system, good only to create sayings to be hung on walls and cross-stitched on pillows. Living in heaven is as fanciful an idea as living on a cloud. Intelligent people must reject that notion, they must stop trying to seek immortality and just embrace our own flawed mortality.
The ultimate irony is that the God who created John Green gave him that incredible mind – the mind that has the ability to write beautiful stories. The God Green rejects gave him the free will to reject him. The God who Green sees as, at best, helpless, and, at worst, abusive, created the Universe that we should enjoy.
As I finished this book, I prayed for John Green, that he comes to know the true God, that he sees Jesus isn’t Patrick the Support Group Leader or Van Houten the Author, or just an idea constructed to help people deal with the painful circumstances of life. He is so much more than that. Life is so much more than just these mortal bodies enjoying this immense universe. I prayed he would see that love DOES make life worth living, but true love, true purpose, cannot be found in another human, but in Christ Jesus. The fault, John Green, is not in our stars, it is in our hearts. And what we are all looking for is not Alaska, but the Savior.
Thanks to all of you who entered the REVOLUTIONARY giveaway. My TBR pile has grown by miles and miles…yay!! I love book recommendations from fellow readers. Even though the contest is over, keep them coming!
Since I am at school this morning, I asked one of my students to pick a number between Comments 1-24. He chose…
If you didn’t win, don’t worry — I’ll be giving more away. Keep checking back here for details on the next giveaway. And if you didn’t win, comb through the comments, you’ll find plenty of great books to fill your nightstand!
Look what came in the mail last week…!
I am dying to give this baby away because there’s stuff in here I’ve been keeping secret for WAY too long!
So here’s the deal: I am looking for some book recommendations – tell me about a great book you’ve read in the last few months, and your name will go in the “hat” to win this copy of REVOLUTIONARY. Pretty easy, right?
So go on…the winner will be announced Wednesday morning.
So I was thinking about Mix Tapes today.
Some of you “oldies” reading this know exactly what a Mix Tape is. You may still have one or two of those tapes locked away in your “memories box.” I was never organized enough to keep one of those. Except for the one in my skull. And that one doesn’t always hold memories so well.
But I digress.
For those of you who don’t know, let me explain:
First, you’d have to buy a blank cassette tape. The kids with lots of spending money got the fancy see-through kind that was supposed to record perfectly, making you wonder “Is it live…or is it Memorex?” For those of us whose budgets were more limited, we bought one that looked like this:
We then put it in the right side of a double cassette player. In left side, we put the tape of the song we wanted to record first. Then we recorded. I, for one, had a terrible cassette player that not only recorded the song on the left side, but also every other noise in the room. So if a sister came in, or a door slammed, or I sneezed, I’d have to start all over again.
And we agonized over the song choices. Paula Abdhul’s “Straight Up” was bold — telling that guy he needed to let you know where you stood. Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There for You” was only for those in serious, committed relationships. Like 6 month anniversary mix tapes. Christian kids put songs like “I Will Be Here” by Steven Curtis Chapman, and “Love of a Lifetime” by Michael W. Smith. Creative types pulled from their parents’ old music – songs like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross and “When I Saw Her Standing There” by the Beatles.
Every song meant something, and the length of the mix tape reflected the depth of your feelings . The full sixty minutes meant you were serious. Just one side…still not sure, maybe scared, maybe just really bad at making mix tapes.
Sadly, those days are gone. And what has replaced mix tapes? I don’t know. Folders on your iTunes accounts? Not the same. Special ring tones sent to that special someone? You tell me…how do you show your love through music in the 21st century?
And make it good.
I am not the best writer. I’m not the best teacher. I’m not the best wife or mom or friend, either, for that matter. As much as I love all of these roles, there are LOTS of other people who write, teach, wife, mom, and friend WAY better than I do.
Even though that is pretty obvious, I think sometimes we beat ourselves up over the fact that we’re not the best. Sometimes, we even refuse to try something new because there are so many others who do it better.
The Choir teacher at my school has a poster that says…
We are so quick to sing our failures: “I’m not a very good athlete – why bother trying out for the team?” “I can’t audition for the musical. There are SO many singers better than me.” “Why even apply for that college? They wouldn’t let me in.”
So we miss out on opportunities just because we aren’t “the best.”
Forget being “the” best. Focus instead on being YOUR best. Maybe you’re not the pitcher on your softball team. That’s all right. Be the best outfielder you can be! Maybe you get a part in the ensemble and not a lead in the musical — that can actually be more fun! Enjoy it! And write the best college application essay you can write. Even if you don’t get in every school you apply for, at least you know you gave your best in applying. Trust that God even works through our weaknesses to get us where He wants us.
Being “the best” is overrated, girls. Being YOUR best is much more satisfying and far more attainable.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” ~Col. 3:23