Take chances. Abandon all the rules. Ditch the recipe. Color outside the lines.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Render Unto Caesar

     Well, the election is this year and politics are in full swing.  I’ve never been a very political person; I only involve myself in certain areas of politics, i.e. taking care of our homeless, equality for the minorities, taking care of our troops and veterans.  With the presidential elections growing near I am seeing a growing and disturbing trend spreading throughout certain church in the area. I see man churches using their influence in the community as a Segway to promoting their own political agenda.  It’s not a new trend by any means! I have heard multiple pastors using the pulpit to preach their politics but as of late the trend has grown into other more public ways of expressing their feelings about our government.  I see church signs with political jargon scrawled on them, churches going as a body to protest and picket certain political events not matching up to their own beliefs, churches ceasing to give money to needy organizations that they believe have different politics than them.  I have to be honest, these things frustrate me! I don’t understand how any organization of any kind can take such aggressive and judgment filled stands and claim to do it in the name of Christ.  My mind goes back to the story in Mark where the Pharisees came to Jesus trying to trap him and asked him a political question about whether or not to pay taxes.  Jesus  knew what they were up to and his answer was, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”  In that day it wasn’t uncommon to mix politics and religion especially with how much the Jews hated the Romans.  Despite the norm, Jesus kept his politics and religion separate.  Now you might argue, well in Bible times it was illegal to practice Christianity and they still did it! That is very true! That however, is a completely different issue.  Here in America, the government is not asking you to participate in the aspects you don’t agree with.  It doesn’t order you to have an abortion or support gay marriage or stop believing in what you believe.  I’m sure Jesus didn’t agree with all the politics in his day either.  There were many corrupt and evil things going on, he simply chose to teach love and grace and truth instead of opposition and aggression towards his government. I’m not saying you have to stop being involved and supportive of what u believe in politically; I’m simply saying not to use the pulpit and your church signs as political tools. I urge you, let’s focus on giving God what is God’s and stop trying to take from Caesar what is his.  Let’s try to avoid letting pictures like this one be seen of our church signs.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Same Kind of Different

     There’s a lot of things different about me lately.  Over the past year I have really grown and matured in many ways.  I find thing that I used to worry about to be silly and insignificant.  I have also found that now instead of messing up in what I would call “big things” I mess up in the little things.  Despite the great amounts of growth I have gone through as of late I am still by no means perfect.  As I go through life looking through a different set of lens I have now encountered a different set of snags.  I am in a new and amazing relationship with a man who I love very much!  For the first time in my life I feel as though I could see myself marrying this guy.  Our relationship is, shall we say, non-traditional.  He is quite a bit older than me and we live almost 9 hours apart.  Despite the age difference I discovered very early on that he was the same kind of different as me.  We started out as friends, best friends actually, and I loved and enjoyed every moment of his company.  He is one of the few, well really the only, person I have been able to be completely myself around and feel totally safe.  Recently our deep bounds of friendship developed into some more emotional ties and we started dating.  Let me say first of all…. I royally suck at relationships!  I love and care very deeply and I will give all I have all the time, but I can sometimes get snagged on silly things.  I have a tongue that, more often than not, is quicker than my head.  I say things and then go… really Jess?!  I am very lucky though because he is so patient with me and as quick as my tongue is, his forgiveness is always quicker.  I think that was one of the clues that God must have created him to be with me because He knew I would need someone extra special to put up with my silliness!  Our friendship and now relationship has taught me so much.  It has taught me how to have patience and how to have peace in the midst of the storms of life.  It has taught me how to be slow to anger.  That one is a new one for me and I’m really starting to get the hang of it!  It’s so funny because I get fired up about stuff and he will be like, “why are you mad about that it’s not even important.”  He’s right, of course, but I’d never admit that to him!  I feel so extremely blessed to have him in my life! He puts up with so much for me and because of me.  My dad always told me that when you find that one person you’re willing to sacrifice “my” dreams for “our” dreams.  I know he does sacrifice and will always sacrifice for me and us and I would give anything for him and his happiness.  Sometimes I just sit and try to figure out ways to tell him how much he means to me but I can never find anything quite right that expresses how I feel.   So here I am, writing, a sappy post for the world to see, which is, however unlike me, exactly how I feel.  I know that I’d be in a very dark place right now if God hadn’t brought this man into my life.  He ruined me, changed me, healed me, freed me, found me, taught me, embraced me, fixed me, understood me, forgave me, and most of all loved me.  He stole my heart and I feel that it will forever be his.  No matter the miles between us or the obstacles in front of us, us we will always be.

P.s. I love you.

Mercy Frees, Grace Heals

     Today’s topic: pairing mercy and grace and offering it to those who have deeply hurt you.  This is a SUPER hard topic for me! I’m one of those people that have a really difficult time trusting people and allowing them into my life.  I’m not sure where I get that from, probably from just being hurt in the past by people I trusted or from living such a judged life growing up in such a structured religious environment.  When people hurt me one of two things happen and how I react depends on how much I really have been impacted by that person;  I either shut down and shut them out of my life or I get very down on myself and blame myself, taking the blame for the hurt caused.  Both of these paths are equally destructive and not healthy in any way! When I talk about hurt I am talking about a deep hurt.  I’m not talking about, you know, someone I hung out with sometimes was gossiping about me to another girl or the guy I’m dating didn’t remember my birthday; I’m talking about deep hurt from people you love and care about deeply turning their back on you or walking out of your life.  I am no stranger to this kind of hurt.  I have been in emotionally abusive relationships, I have had family members walk out of my life for petty reasons, I have had people that I thought truly cared about me turn away from me in times of struggle. I can honestly say I have forgiven and do forgive those people for causing those hurts. I happily and sometimes easily offer mercy, sparing those from what they deserve.  Where I struggle is with the whole offering of grace part.  Especially in relationships where I feel like I’ve really tried to mend the hurts or rebuild the relationship that was lost, even in my innocence.  I tend to get this sort of entitlement about me saying to myself, “well, I tried!” ,“I don’t deserve to have to keep giving and not getting!”, “It’s their turn!”  How petty and silly of me.  Although those are warranted and honest feelings, how can I say that I have offered any manner of grace?  Grace by definition is the giving of what is undeserved.  That means I have to continually offer love and strive to mend these broken relationships.  I’m not saying to allow yourself to be continually hurt and abused.  I recently have come to believe that once you truly forgive someone and give them mercy they have no power to hurt you anymore.  What I am suggesting is that once you are healed it is then your opportunity to help heal those who have hurt you.  What an interesting concept! It’s a very Jesus-esk thing! I mean He was hanging up there on the cross, the ultimate betrayal had taken place, and he was still asking God to forgive those hurting him! I never really understood that… I guess I just had to grow a little before I could really understand the power that kind of love and grace has.  It’s funny now that I look back, I used to always think offering grace was weak; but really it’s taking power from those that have hurt you and using it to heal yourself and them! Mercy frees you, grace heals you.