Reclaiming My Soul

                When I graduated from Multnomah University, I had a small house party. My closest friends came and we all played a bunch of group games. I wanted to go around and tell everyone how much I appreciated them, but of course they all objected and said they wanted to do the reverse. Two themes stood out to me.

The first was several of my friends mentioning in different words, that they felt like they were the person they were the person they were supposed to be when I was engaged in their lives. I had always tried to build a habit of seeing people as they could become, and not just where they were at. Apparently I succeeded.

The second was a story that I had completely forgotten about, was retold to me by Tamara. At church one Sunday morning we had a homeless man come in. After speaking with him for a while I led him in to have a seat. Partway through the sermon (apparently) I noticed that he could not keep from salivating on himself. So I rose, quietly went to the bathroom and brought him some paper towels to clean himself up with.

I am very grateful to Ray and Tamara for all of their input into my life. I must give much of my educational credit to Ray for all of his teaching. Most of all I am appreciative of him teaching compassion, which is best represented by Tamara’s retelling of this story. Even after all the study and education to acquire my degree, the part of college that really matters is the lives that I have touched. All the people whose futures I have believed in.

Unfortunately in the year or so after graduating that part of me that looked out for even the smallest or most outcast of people has fallen asleep. But Christ is in the process of healing the scars that have hardened my heart.

                It has been a very long time since I have written any stories. As my heart is coming alive again I wish to share the compassion for the world through stories. I hope you enjoy.

Life Worth Living: Purple vs Green part ii

Life Worth Living: Purple vs. Green part ii
Purple. Green. Yellow. Purple. Or green. Why should I like purple or green? Or purple instead of green. I often wonder why people like anything. If I was an evolutionary naturalist, it would make sense for me to question such things.
After all, according to evolution, every aspect of a person is the sum total of all of the random chance that came before me. My emotions are merely the sum total of my biochemistry, (genealogical input) plus the stimulus I receive. If I like purple, it is because I have been condition that way. If I believe that it is better to work hard than be lazy, it is because of my upbringing. A romantic evening is all random chance and physics.
However, I am not an evolutionary naturalist, I believe in a living Holy God who deeply loves his people. He has given them the whole expanse of creation to enjoy, and has given His only Son in order to draw us into a perfect relationship with Him. But I get hung up on the eternal focus. Why bother with the imperfect when the holy awaits? After all, we already established that the wicked will prosper and the righteous will perish. Children will cry, and lovers will be broken.
But here is the catch, here is what I cannot escape even though I feel that I am often running. Christ’s love finds us, his creation, in our sin and imperfection. God did not wait to love us until we were made perfect. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were imperfect. He is also continuing a good work in us until its completion in the day of Christ.
Even though the world is broken, as the tears of a single child make it that way, it is still meant to be loved. God knew his creation would fail, and become imperfect. Yet he made it anyway. He also knew that his creation would cause him deep pain, as to love deeply is to be hurt deeply. And he still chose to create us, and love us.
I feel a call to love everything God has made. To run in the wind and enjoy the sun. To climb, (or kiss) trees and enjoy the sunset. To laugh at nothing like a little child simply because Christ has chosen to love, and one of his gifts is the world around us. Imperfect, but enjoyable because he is working redemption despite the brokenness.
And yet. As I look at a beautiful morning sunrise, that slowly changes the clouds from pink, to purple, I am afraid of that love. The love that I have no control of. It is there because it desires to be there. I cannot earn it. I cannot make a claim on some higher principle that it should always love me. But I must rely on the Love of God Himself. Just as God swore by himself to Abraham, and Abraham trusted him, I must make the leap of faith that his love will not leave. And in that peace, I can enjoy his creation.

Life Worth Living: Mischievous Love

On an Excellent Life

                We as Christians are given two commandments, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and to love your neighbor. This is the standard that we have of a life well lived, how well we love God and love other people. Loving God includes, loving other people, and obeying his commands. For, “Those who love me, obey my commandments.”

                The simple part is often understanding God’s commandments. Do not let improper speech come from your mouth, be kind, keep no record of wrong, and others. But applying these is difficult. Seeing the connection between a good blessed life and obeying God’s commands is more difficult, that will be the topic for my next blog post.

                The second piece is loving other people. My encouragement for living a life worth living is learning to love creatively, intently, and fiercely.

                Loving creatively could be hiding surprises all over some ones house, like army men, chocolates, or flowers, for someone to find. It could be leaving a recording of a love message for them to find. You could: draw their favorite activity (even if it is stick figures), compliment something no one gets complimented on, like their elbows, or make them some food. Most importantly, you should do something that points them towards Christ, because the greatest good for everyone is Christ. You can do nothing greater for a fellow person than to bring them one step closer to the creator.

                Love intently. Even if you don’t feel like it. Just do it. Be intentional. Plan. Base the idea upon who the person is. Think of their struggles and their joys, connect the act of love to that. God is pleased with water for a child, and he is also pleased with a gift in love.

                Love fiercely. Here I have the pleasure of a story. It would be better titled love stubbornly, but it works here.

I was hanging out with a group of friends one day and we decided to get yogurt. As the eight of us crowded into the yogurt shop, one of our friends, who we saw rarely, mentioned he would like something but had no money. When Ashley offered to pay for it, Jeremy was quick to deny the offer. The banter went back and forward for some time. “Well what if we split something?” she pushed. He finally agreed. Then the bantering continued as she tried to pick out flavors he would like. They were last in line, and when they came and sat down at our table, she took the first sweet bite. “Yum.” Then put her spoon down. “I am done”

“What?” Came Jeremy’s reply.

“Yeah, there I had a bite. We shared. You can have the rest.”

So love fiercely, stubbornly, and as I learned from one of my favorite people, sometimes with just a bit of mischievousness. 

Challenging Questions of The Heart: “Are People Worth It?” part i

                Over the last several years I have been asking myself the question, “Are People Worth It?” Are they worth the time I put into them? Are they even worth having relationships with? I don’t ask this question in relation to specific individuals. Most of my close trusted friends are most definitely worth it. I have relationships with them that I trust and have patiently put time into being trustworthy and trusting them. I ask this question about humanity in general.

                When I was growing up, I never asked this question. I loved and had faith in everyone I met. When I was in college I had several friends that I gave many late hours, and several letter grades in two classes for that all told me, “No one has done or cared for me.” I remember the exact conversation, where I was standing, where my friend was sitting. Several days after that conversation, I began to question whether it was all worth it. I know other people who have large communities around them trying to help them, and they make seemingly no progress. Are they worth it? For several years I have been answering that question, no. I lost faith in people.

                I often hear current ‘wisdom’ telling us that we need to have boundaries with these people.  We need to keep our time because we are not being responsible with our time if it is not showing fruit. That is a really nice way of saying some people just aren’t worth your time. Are their times when some people literally are using you for their needs? Yes. But we should keep boundaries with them not because they are not worth our time, but because “helping them” is not helping them.

                The act of judging whether or not people are “worth” our time is fairly arrogant. We don’t know the depths of the human heart, or what even goes on in others heads. We will never know on this side of eternity weather or not our actions saved someone from depression, gave them hope, or prevented suicide—even if we don’t see growth.

                As someone only human, I am exasperated when I do not see fruit from my labor of love. (Though I must be careful that I love the person, not the labor itself). I want to see people grow and become better people. I want to know that I helped them through rough times. But I must resist letting that desire become the goal. I must love people regardless of how they respond. How much has Christ loved us and done for us without us growing in fruit for long periods of time? Christ says that others are worth it, even when I can’t see it.