Posted in Random Thoughts

Five Things I Do Everyday to Make My Life Easier

  1. Empty the Dishwasher in the AM. We have minimal counter space and having an empty dishwasher prevents dishes from piling up all over the place.
  2. Run the dishwasher every evening. I don’t care how much (or little) is in it, it’s getting run! I have two small children, so it’s usually full anyway, but in my *attempt* to keep a reasonable amount of kid’s cups, those things need to get washed daily, so into the dishwasher they go so it can get unloaded in the morning for the kids to use the next day!
  3. Put my phone down several times a day for an hour (or more) at a time. I like to use the Forest app to help with this effort. Essentially, it’s a timer and while it’s counting down, a tree is growing. If you close out of the app before the timer is done, the tree dies and you feel like a horrible person (not really, but it is motivating enough for me to not use my phone).
  4. Set my coffee pot the night before. Seriously, having a coffee pot with a programmable timer makes getting out of bed so much easier. I’ve also started using a protein drink (I really like the Vanilla Fairlife Protein drink) as a creamer instead. One bottle typically lasts about 3-4 days and it doesn’t give me the stomach aches I normally get from regular creamer.
  5. Have a book in each room I frequent. I’m typically reading about 4-5 books concurrently, so I will put one in each room I hang out in so if I have a few minutes to sit, I will *sometimes* grab that instead of my phone.

I know none of these things are revolutionary or life changing, but I am learning that incorporating simple daily tasks over time has helped me manage my life much better than trying to be this ultra-organized, put together person in ways that do not feel natural to me.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Posted in Inspired, Random Thoughts

I Don’t Know How to Exist in Certainty

As of this writing in 2021, I exist in the most insufferable of political persuasions: THE CENTRIST. Everyone hates the centrist, even to the point of centrists hating fellow centrists most of the time because we often veer left or right on differing things, or are annoyed by the sheer centrality of it all. “DON’T YOU HAVE ANY CONVICTIONS?”

I think I fit most comfortably there because I exist in a frequent mode of feeling uncertain: “do I really know everything I need to know to make an informed decision?” (and yes, I exercise the right to make the best choice with information given) “Do I really want to grow in staunchness about a position so that I CAN’T change my mind without abandoning the whole system altogether?” I know people who have been republican all their life and fit into that annoying stereotype, and I also know people who grew up republican, “saw the light” and are just as annoying as democrats as they were republicans. I also know people who identify with both parties who are lovely people (heck, even the people I know who fit in the annoying stereotypes are still lovely) But THIS is why everyone hates the centrist…we’re so “above it all.” We’re so non-committal. We’re so eager to criticize, but our votes (or lack thereof), only contribute to perpetuating evil because we voted for the wrong person, or we wasted our vote (or lack of one) on the truly evil candidate meant to steal votes from the pure one.

It’s an exhausting place to hang out.

It’s exhausting to be so uncertain all of the time. Now I’m talking about a holistic uncertainty, the political application is just a small part of it.

One of my favorite musicians is George Ezra and in his song Pretty Shiny People, he sings these lyrics:

Me and Sam in the car, talking ’bout America

Heading to the wishing well, we’ve reached our last resort I turned to him said:

“Man help me out I fear I’m on an island in an ocean full of change

Can’t bring myself to dive in to an ocean full of change

Am I losing touch? Am I losing touch now?”

He said: “Why why, what a terrible time to be alive If you’re prone to over thinking and Why why, what a terrible time to be alive If you’re prone to second guessing”

I’m going to go ahead and share the lyric video because this one is a goody, of THAT I am certain.

But anyway, “why why, what a terrible time to be alive if you’re prone to overthinking.”

Terrible.

My sense of certainty and arrogance comes and goes, based on the day, just to point out that I’m not “above it all.” Just to prove that I struggle with the same things I don’t understand.

I settle into my certainty. My all knowingness. Just to consistently find my certainties crushed by experiences or relationships or sometimes even God himself.

“Nope, you’re wrong.”

I’m currently 31 sitting in the uncertainty and crazy that has been my life thus far.

September 6 is a day that confronts me with it with a force I can’t control.

My dad’s birthday. A celebrating day. But yet, he’s not here. He should be here. His death should have been the only stamp on my passport of suffering, but here I am, continually reckoning with my own errors, weakness, and the uncontrollable uncertainties of life.

What’s a 22 year old to think when her immersion into adult hood was spent grieving the sudden loss of her father followed by marriage and a move across the country followed by a job transfer that mostly sucked followed by an inability to get out of bed thinking I was dying followed by a diagnosis of celiac disease followed by another move followed by the crazy entrance into motherhood? This was my first 3 years out of college, plenty more crazy has happened since then. I didn’t have it the hardest, of that I am also certain, but guys, I also did not breathe. I kept pushing and going and working and proving and trying to cling onto certainty wherever I could find it and now I’m 31 and broken and confused and uncertain about a lot of things.

This makes me confused about others’ certainties around faith and God and RIGHTNESS, or really, self-righteousness.

I don’t know how some Christians get online and discuss God so flippantly, spouting Bible verses about whatever they are so certain about. So certain about rightness or wrongness or freedom or evil agendas.

In my experience, God doesn’t meet me in the midst of my uncertainty and give me confidence in my convictions or ideas or opinions. God gives me himself. He enters my weakness and gives me HIMSELF. I rarely walk away resolute and “awakened to truth.” I usually walk away certain that He is my only confidence. If there is any truth I reckon with, it’s that I have nothing to bring or offer or give. No self-assuredness. No course corrections. No clue how to manage or dictate what or how or why God should intervene. I just show up with all of my certainties and uncertainties and lay them down before him.

Here’s what I wish I could say to my dad today:

Happy Birthday, Dad. I am a way less “put together” version of myself than I tried to portray, but I know you always saw through that façade anyway. There are only a few things I cling onto with certainty, and one of them is my gratefulness in being your (and mom’s) daughter. Thank you for helping me see faith as an avenue to find peace in the midst of crazy and uncertainty. I will be eating ice cream and listening to The Cowsills in your honor today. I love and miss you every single day.

Posted in Inspired, Jesus Chats, Random Thoughts

Shameful Praying

Yesterday morning, I wrote a prayer in my journal specifically about my kids. As I was petitioning for a few specific needs/desires, I started to find myself drifting down the, “well, you know, our needs aren’t as great as others. Our suffering is not as extensive as what these people are enduring. So…” It becomes a completely different prayer altogether.

I’m not suggesting that the Spirit cannot or will not guide our minds and hearts to pray for specific people, but I am saying that God is satisfied when we bring our needs or tears or frustrations to him without feeling a need to qualify or belittle their existence.

Is God truly MY father? Then he cares about me!

Does God truly care? Then he wants me to lay my burdens down at the cross. My burdens. My burdens are worthy of his mercy and grace.

Of course, I am not advocating for a selfish life solely focused on me. I’m not saying that my issues matter more than anyone else’s. I’m simply saying that in those quiet moments, when I’m vulnerable and humbled by circumstances out of my control, God meets me there and doesn’t expect me to feel bad about my weakness. He doesn’t expect me to get it together because I don’t deserve to feel the way I do. He begs me to cling to him.

When I have someone who listens, I can loosen my grip a little bit.

When I have someone who cares, it enables me to care in deeper ways.

When I have someone who comes alongside me in my burdens, I am able to walk a little taller and come alongside others in their burdens.

When I can’t see clearly from the darkness in front of me, I have someone who brings light. Light enough for this day. Today.

When I lay down my preferences, frustrations, temper, struggles, addictions, anxieties, and fears at the cross, I can pray boldly and with faith, seeking his will and goodness. Those prayers don’t invoke shame.

We can lay down whatever we bring, in whatever circumstances or contexts we find ourselves. God cares.

Posted in Inspired, Random Thoughts

I Want This Blog (and ME) to be Irrelevant

When I was in business school, we talked a lot about proactive planning vs. reactive responses. The consensus was that organizations typically perform better if they get AHEAD of potential issues by proactively planning. What are potential risks? What solutions or preventative methods do we have in place to combat those risks? Reactive planning is, of course, just responding to problems as they arise. This exhausts time and resources because if you don’t have a plan in place, valuable resources must be utilized to solve the issues at hand. Proactive planning is a net win, even accounting for the fact that it is virtually impossible to predict ALL risks and things that could go wrong for any given project.

In my experience, I’ve seen this applied in a variety of ways. Is an employee ACTIVELY engaged, engaged, disengaged, or ACTIVELY disengaged? As a leader, you try to assess and find ways to promote or incentivize those in the first two groups and/or encourage/incentivize those in the latter two groups. We’re always assessing situations actively or reactively.

I’ve found a majority of my internet experience to involve reactive responses. I have little control (even with efforts to hide content, unfollow people, and do whatever I can to tell the algorithm “I’M NOT INTERESTED!”). At the end of the day, I cannot control what people choose to share. Heck, I can’t even always control how I react to that stuff.

Here’s what that means for me (and this blog). I don’t WANT to be a person constantly reacting/responding to the content paid for to get center spotlight. One thing I’ve realized about myself is that I can quickly lose ME in the engagement of what others say I should read, care about, and be discussing.

On August 24, 2021, I wrote this in my prayer journal:

“In a life of constant online consumption, it’s crazy how quickly the “me” I know gets blurred. Voices telling me what to think, what to care about, how to care, what matters, what’s good, what’s evil, what’s fun, enjoyable, worthwhile, buy this, be that, look, listen, learn, heal, stop, be quiet, speak up, self-care, sacrifice. Who am I? What do I actually want, like, desire? What do I care about? I then go to the store and see shelves curated for my consumption. Care about this label, the ease, the convenience. This is fun, that is delicious AND healthy, this will cleanse your house from germs, that will cleanse your brain from evil. So many people and machines working to form me. They buy my time, attention, and interests. My life feels curated and fake, but I can’t stop clicking. I scroll and stare, ignoring voices around me. I feel anxiety when this or that is brought up, reshared, and hashed out over and over, but can’t look away. I know that who I am can shift over time. I know that age and exposure have the ability to harden or soften convictions. I know that interests and passions can come and go based on time, resources, and new opportunities. Lord, I just feel as if all of that is on hyperspeed right now. I need you. I need quiet. I want who I am to be so entrenched in you that all other affiliations are obsolete by comparison.”

So, here’s the deal. Choosing not to publicly respond or react to everything current events is not a decision not to care. It’s a choice to exercise some pro-active methods I have in place: engage in relationships around me, pray, do what I can in the ways that I can. My blog is not the sum of current events. SEO and Google Analytics aren’t my friends, I guess :). My life is not the sum of current events. I am a person with a soul. With passions and gifting’s. Serving a God who transcends time but meets me in this moment. I care about suffering. I yearn for justice. All I’m saying is I can’t always contribute to the dialogue on an online capacity. This blog is meant to serve as a place to share a hodgepodge of what I’m thinking about or doing or want to say, and I’m a complex person also doing and learning and being stuff outside of what is curated for me. This does not mean I will never speak to current events, but I’m saying that if you’re looking for a commentator, it probably will not be me.

Photo by Thomas Renaud on Unsplash

Posted in Random Thoughts

What I’ve Been Up to Lately

How is tomorrow already the first day of September? This year, in large part, has felt like a blur so I’m excited to document what I’ve been up to lately.

  1. I am trying to go back to work. I graduated college almost 10 years ago (May 2012) and WOW, the workforce has changed a lot since then. I’m teetering between Project Management and Bookkeeping. Because this would be a shift from any previous experience I have, I’m taking advantage of a subscription to Udemy and taking various courses to obtain certifications needed. Ideally, I’d be able to do a little bit of each of these: Bookkeeping, client relationship management, and working on various projects/business objectives. I like to stretch my brain in different ways and work on various objectives concurrently. I’ve thought about documenting my experience trying to go get back into the workforce, especially as a military spouse and mom, but we’ll see. This process is just as time consuming and exhausting as I remember it after graduating, that’s the only thing that seems to be the same.
  2. I am conceding to a process I swore I would never do: calorie counting. I have been working out at Orangetheory 2-4 times a week for a year now and even though I am getting stronger, I’m struggling to lose weight. Calories in vs calories out is the only proven and effective way to lose weight, so I’ve been measuring and logging everything I eat. It’s not as bad as I expected. I also thought about documenting my efforts on losing weight/running/etc., but we’ll have to see about that as well. I am not sure I have anything interesting or new to add to the plethora of documented journeys out there already.
  3. I have been mostly staying off of social media. I’ve been in and out of some really dark places mentally for the past year or so and I’ve noticed the climb out is typically a little easier when I’m logged off. That, and with currently seeking a job, all of the curating I’m doing for resumes and cover letters makes me acutely aware of the curating necessary to be online. I don’t have enough margin to curate a professional AND personal life! I do have way more to say about this so I’ll keep you posted.
  4. I’ve been hanging out in the Psalms and writing a lot of prayers. God meets me in the moments I feel under/unqualified, unwanted, insecure, vulnerable, and sad. If God is light, I can see Him clearest in the darkest places. When the only thing I can cling onto is his faithfulness, I am humbled and made aware of my need for him. I’m thankful I don’t have to encounter any situation alone.

I read something yesterday that I’ve been chewing on a lot.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of–throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” -C.S. Lewis

I am aware of a lot of the outward sins that I’d like God to help me with, but the processes of sanctification and discipline from God are lifelong and reach into the core of who we are. As a believer, I can’t help but be continually humbled by the immense amount of work Christ has committed himself to on my behalf. It hurts to be uprooted and altered, but when we only associate discipline with shame, we forget what his ultimate purpose is in what he’s doing as he works in us. It hurts to know our strivings are often contrary to God’s purpose. Our desires often do not match his. Our will and plan and comfort do not align with his. We are formed by what we see, do, and say. Who do we listen to? How do we spend our time? Are we attempting to build castles out of ourselves? Castles that will eventually fall? Or are we enabling Christ to build a castle out of us, knowing his plans and work will build a sturdy foundation where he can dwell?

Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash

Posted in Inspired, Jesus Chats, Random Thoughts

The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually

One of my favorite Youtube channels is Off Camera with Sam Jones. He asks actors the questions I would want to ask if given the opportunity to sit and chat with any of these people. He is able to dig beyond tabloid fodder and grasp the humanity and experiences of the people he interviews.

A few years ago, I watched this interview with John Krasinski and thought he hit on a profound idea. At around the 2:14 mark, he says, “I don’t know how your brain accepts truths that are not acceptable unless you’ve had them dolled out to you along the way.” (Feel free to watch the whole 2:38 minutes if you’re interested in the grander context of the interview).

A few days ago, I was reading Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ by Eugene Peterson and he quoted a poem by Emily Dickenson titled “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”

The poem is as follows (Emphasis mine):

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —”

I thought of Paul who was literally blinded by his interaction with Truth and Christ and a light from heaven. (Emphasis mine in Scripture below)

“Now Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” Acts 9:1A

“As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul said. “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting,” he replied. “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:3-6

“Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink.” Acts 9: 8-9

How do our brains accept truths that are unacceptable?

How do we allow the truth to dazzle gradually?

What do we do if we are blinded by a sudden and life changing altercation with the truth?

At some point, accepting an unacceptable truth requires an accepting of error in previously accepted truths. Things we live by, rely on, or believe about the world that prove to be misleading, misunderstood, or flat out lies. Our naivete, lack of experience, or arrogant eagerness to make our way can blind us to truth. A slow seeing, or a slow stripping away of a different kind of blindness requires a confronting of error in one way or another.

In the video above, John Krasinski says this about “chasing box office success”:

“Now when I hear that, “this movie is going to be huge” “I’m like, really? because I have now seen enough examples of the biggest movie with the most perfect cast and the perfect director and the perfect producers didn’t even get seen. You know what I mean? So now that that conundrum has been broken for me, or that fact or that thing that people live by, now that that’s broken, this is all a lot more fun.”

He goes on to say that it was actually the experiences in the “less successful” movies with different actors (namely Robin Williams) that enabled him to accept different roles and his place in them. His experience and interaction with Robin Williams in License to Wed was worth more to him than “making his big break” from that particular movie.

We now live in a time when “truth” can be discovered by a few Google searches, an investigative report, or a documentary. We binge watch or click link after link, as if we cannot get enough.

“Look at this path that I am on!”

“I’m on an urgent mission to soak in as much as I can as quickly as I can.”

Quickly obtained truth can also lead to a different sort of blindness.

A self righteousness.

An arrogance.

I do believe there is a direct correlation between the time it takes to obtain truth and the amount of arrogance (and honestly, ignorance) a person possesses.

I have to catch myself on this all of the time. Most non-fiction books I read include a line similar to “this book is a result of ten years of research, twenty years in ministry, etc.” I am reading, watching, or listening to a highly edited conclusion that took years to master, learn, and communicate. I am not walking away with an all knowing understanding of the truth presented to me. I am again blinded by my own arrogance, ignorance, and opinions. I’m not done with my research from reading this books, instead, I am viewing them as small, dazzling truths. “This author is providing another piece of the puzzle. A different perspective. An opinion/idea/truth to consider.”

As we grapple with the sudden and hard truths we are unable to filter or slow down our exposure to topics such as injustice, racism, and maybe even a coming to or crisis of faith, what do we do?

When the truth does not dazzle gradually, but instead blinds us and brings us to our knees, what can be done?

Here, I think Paul provides another beautiful example. Yes, he was blinded by his interaction with Jesus, but he was not left to wander alone. “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” He’s given a purpose. “So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus.” He was given aid. You can read more in Acts to see all of the ways the Lord provided for him and helped him to learn and grow, perhaps with some “gradual, dazzling truths.” (Later in Acts 9, it says that “Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some time.” (v19B)

When there are calls to “JUST RECOGNIZE THE TRUTH.” What are we asking others to see?

I’m not as interested in providing a path, whether slow and dazzling or sudden and blinding, to many things these days. I don’t have a lot of truths I’m willing to cling onto that closely. I’m not so much growing in my staunchness of my convictions or opinions, but prefer to grow in being an avenue of truth to those who will accept it.

Where I can be an avenue for the slow, beautiful, dazzling truth of the gospel to be revealed, may it be so.

Where I can be a presence to those who are hit with a sudden, glorious, and blinding realization to the truth of the gospel, may it be so. May I be a gentle, leading presence.

May our churches be places of prayer, discipleship, and the awakening of truth- the kind that strikes awe, hope, and love into our homes, communities, and into the world. Where we are blind, may there be patience, love, and grace. Where we are repentant, may there be rejoicing, reconciliation, and growth. Where we are obedient, may there be wisdom, strength, and an in tune vision with the Lord above.

He dazzles. He strikes. In both, he is faithful. In either, his truth is always good. Whether walking along the road on a mission of destruction or calming a child in the midst of a lightning storm, truth meets us, finds us, and changes us.

Photo by Raphael Renter on Unsplash

Posted in Inspired, Random Thoughts

The Tired Thirties

I’m tired. Who isn’t?

I recently read  A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle. A passage that caught my attention was one about something she coined “the tired thirties.” It says this,

“Sometime, during those years, I read The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. What I remember from it is the reference to “the tired thirties.” I was always tired. So was Hugh. During the decade between thirty and forty, most couples are raising small children, and we were no exception. Hugh was struggling to support his growing family in the strange world outside of theater. And there was I, absolutely stuck in bucology, with the washing machine freezing at least once a week, the kitchen never above 55* when the wind blew from the northwest, not able to write until my little ones were in bed, by which I was so tired that I often quite literally fell asleep with my head on the typewriter. The various pressures of twentieth-century living made it almost impossible for the young mother with pre-school children to have any solitude.”

The tired thirties. Yep. I’m only about two years into my thirties and I can tell you I am confidently claiming that title for the next decade of my life. There have been many nights of laying in bed with literal muscle and bone aches from the physical and mental exhaustion. The sleep that follows never seems to be quite enough.

The demands of each day. The never-enoughness of each day. The long list of failures of each day. The to-do list that never gets done. The whines, demands, and cries. The chopping, peeling, and stirring. The washing, drying, and folding. The giggling, imagining, and creating. The short tempers, the grace, and the restarts. 

The exhaustion is all consuming, and yet, this day is what’s presented to me. This decade or season or phase are written into the story of my life.

Writing a story. In the midst of the tired thirties.

A beautiful story doesn’t wait for the energized, awake, and alert. Sadness doesn’t wait. Joy doesn’t wait. Pain doesn’t wait. Beauty doesn’t wait.

It’s here. Today. In the midst of the tired thirties. 

Photo by Martin Reisch on Unsplash
Posted in Inspired, Jesus Chats, Random Thoughts

New City Catechism Pre-K Activities (Q1-7)

If you end up using all or part of this guide, I’d love to hear about how it went! It’s meant to be low prep, easy to use, and fun! I take God’s command to love him and our neighbors seriously (Thanks Jen Wilkin for reminding us that our child IS our neighbor), so I view opportunities to positively connect and learn about God as one practical way to love God and neighbor at the same time! Family worship can feel overwhelming at times and it can feel icky to only bring out the Bible verses when we’re disciplining our children, so I hope this is an easy and comfortable way for you to teach your child more about God and his love for your child!

Posted in Inspired, Jesus Chats, Random Thoughts

A Few Thoughts About Anger

Before I begin, I’d like to point out that this post is not a “subtweet” or a direct response to anyone in particular. This is a topic I’ve dealt with personally and the primary subject of this post is ME. My hope in sharing is that I do believe we are on a concerning trajectory, so if you relate or consider/pray about any of the things mentioned, I consider that a win! I do not propose to know the heart or motivations of anyone’s words or actions, so I am not positioning myself as an authoritative voice in your life, but instead my hope is to share my own perspective and experiences in an effort to help you love Jesus more.

Labels have an interesting effect on a person. For example, I was often labeled “the angry child.” As such, I both resented this label AND made an effort to live up to it. How did it feel to be labeled as angry when you are still learning how to process and express your emotions, frustrations, and objections? Belittling. How did it feel to express that anger knowing that way to respond is already expected of you to begin with? As if I was being my “true” self. Familiar. Justified.

I am afraid of anger.

I am afraid of who I am when I’m angry.

It took therapy for me to recognize that anger is an indicator, or a warning. It doesn’t have to be a demon or a way to define myself.

When I’m mad, I still get hives on my chest. My whole body feels it.

How do I process my anger?

How do I know if I’m expressing “righteous” or “sinful” anger?

I’d like to share a little bit how the Lord has been working on my heart in regards to this topic.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it–not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it– they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts is pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:19-27 NIV

Jesus lays out a pretty heavy command to the disciples (and us) in Matthew 28: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (19-20)

Make disciples. If you’ve been a Christian long, I’m sure you’ve been given MANY tools to evangelize and share the gospel with others. These are well and good. One personal conviction I have in regards to “making disciples” and also “discipling other believers” is to do whatever I can to demonstrate following Jesus and bringing him glory in as simple terms as possible. We don’t add to the gospel. We don’t make additional duties or convictions essential to the gospel. We don’t create a standard by which others must feel or act or say as we do, when we do, how we do. We reveal the beauty of Christ, the glory of the Lord, and the freedom found in salvation in as many ways as we can. One of the ways I have personally been hindered in this approach has been a draw toward anger. Anger lure us in. Anger indicates something in us or around us that needs to be addressed. I’d like to point out a few cautions and encouragements regarding it.

Photo by visuals on Unsplash

Cautions:

Righteous Anger as an Excuse/Justification.

One concerning aspect regarding “righteous” anger is that we will often justify or belittle any pushback against our expressions of that anger. A feeling of anger is different than an expression of it. This is why we are explicitly commanded to not sin in our anger (Eph 4:26). Do we have people who speak into our lives and observe how we speak to or about other people? How do we respond to their criticisms or concerns regarding our words/actions?

God is the only perfect executer of righteous anger. We are not. If someone is pointing us to the gospel after we express our anger in unhelpful ways, that is a true brother or sister. If our community is allowing us to act or speak harshly, foolishly, or without any accountability, this is dangerous.

Ministries/Platforms Built on “Righteous” Anger.

At the beginning of July, we moved away from the community we established in Texas. This was extremely difficult. We were not alone in having to interact primarily online due to this transition as EVERYONE at this time was also doing so, but I found myself even more vulnerable to seeking a primary community online. As such, I started seeking out writers, preachers, and cultural commentators who were saying things I found to be interesting, thought provoking, and/or speaking to issues and causes I am invested in.

As I curated my internet experience, a few trends started popping up:

I started to recognize that a lot of the people I was following built a platform based on anger. These may be fellow Christians, but they are ANGRY and a majority of their content was tailored around criticism, calling out other believers, and setting parameters on the “right” way to be a Christian. I saw this from Christians on the right and left, conservative and liberal. While it is good and right and true to discern between error and truth, and that evil should not be tolerated, I was growing weary from the CONSTANT criticism, anger, and “verbal” processing I was reading. I began to see people with generally helpful points and perspectives as foolish, short sighted, and arrogant. I don’t want to live with an uncharitable view of others, so I had to recognize that helpful conversations and change rarely come from online hot takes. I had to unfollow and mute a lot of people in order to remain charitable and loving toward them. I have to engage in real life conversations with people who will and do frequently disagree with me in order to grow and process in helpful ways.

I am also wary of any church that is planted on the origins of criticism of other denominations/church experiences. I am not saying these churches should be discounted, but what is the basis of the ministry? How does the pastor lead as he talks about other believers who align differently than him? As someone who moves frequently, you better believe I am listening/observing WHAT a pastor says and HOW he says it.

Righteous Anger as a means of producing sinful anger in myself or others.

As a Christian, I take sin very seriously. As such, I do not want to be a means by which another person stumbles or falls into sinful behavior. What better way to lead someone down a pathway to sin than regularly provoking anger in him/her? We’ve seen some of the scary consequences of leading others down that path. Even if we don’t have the same level of influence, why should we be guilty of the same? The impact of sinful behavior is not how we define sin. Am I saying we never speak out against evil? No. Am I suggesting we are ALWAYS guilty if another person sins because of something we say or do? No. I am saying that to the best of our ability, and as often as we can, we should seek to be loving, peaceful, and led by the Spirit, not our emotions.

Also, this means that when someone approaches me in anger, I will do what I can to listen and to not stir up additional anger in them. “Oh yeah, I can see why you’d be mad…did you know they also did/said this!? Can you believe it?” I am often tempted to join in, validate, and increase the offense. Disgusting.

So far, it may seem as if I’m pretty skeptical of righteous anger. I’m not. I’m more skeptical about how it is often defined and used to justify sinful behavior. I do think righteous anger is a grace and means to point to God in our weakness. Genesis 3 set a generational consequence of not only sin entering our world, but that our eyes would be opened and we would become aware of the difference between good and evil. (Something Adam and Eve didn’t really need a distinction of before). God hates evil, so it is good when we allow him to destroy the power of sin and evil in our own hearts and when we work to bring goodness and restoration to the world he created. Righteous anger is a tool by which God can use his people to fight against evil, but it is NOT his means of redemption. Jesus is. We need to always separate that out. Our righteous anger is not God’s means of redemption. It’s a tool. A good one when used rightly.

Encouragements:

Righteous Anger as a means to pray.

When we see oppression, injustice, and evil, it should spur something in us. We should lament, grieve, and feel uneasy. Righteous anger commits to righteousness when it first lays down any concern, frustration, or provocation at the foot of the cross.

Read a Psalm.

Pray.

Express the fulness of your anger, anxiety, and sadness to him.

Cry out.

He hears our cries. God is the perfect executor of justice.

Alignment with the Spirit enables us to work, speak, and act more effectively for God’s Kingdom. It allows us to pause in our moment of weakness and enables God to do the work, with us a mere means by which he demonstrates his power, wisdom, and love.

Righteous Anger as a means to help.

How do we respond when we find out a child or spouse is being abused? We do what we can to get that person out of the situation. We KNOW God hates sin, and especially sin that dehumanizes or belittles others. Righteous Anger enables us to see a dangerous or harmful situation and to do what we can to help. Righteous Anger toward sin in the world enables us to create and work with ministries who are doing good work to combat that evil. Their work isn’t sitting around complaining about the evil, it’s getting in the trenches and messiness of sin and bringing safety, healing, resources, and comfort to those who are suffering. We partner with these people by giving of our time, finances, and prayer. We do real ministry in real time with real people.

Righteous Anger as a means to love others.

Righteous Anger cannot be limited by our own experiences and perspective. Righteous Anger enables us to enter into dialogue with others who see and experience the world differently than us. Righteous Anger disarms our go to responses to disagreement: name calling, belittling, and cutting people out. Think about it this way: God does not see the world the same way we do. He sees everything. Every detail, every intended and unintended consequence. Every thing. I have a feeling he isn’t particularly interested in adhering to our proposed solutions, especially when we go out of our way to limit those solutions based on our own feelings, bias, and stubbornness. As we grow in community, we grow in diverse perspectives, differences, and understanding of factors we may have not ever considered before. This enables us to view life and those issues with the complexity they deserve, recognizing the weakness and shortsightedness we bring to the table, and trusting in the God who faithfully leads his people. There are people right now who demonstrate this beautifully. There are people radically committed to God and so skeptical of their own idols and prideful efforts to earn righteousness. Seek them out. They typically aren’t fixated on growing their platform. We can become that. God can shape our hearts to depend on him fully. We can become less, so God can become more.

So, where do we go from here? I don’t know about you, but here are some of the practices I’m implementing:

  1. When sharing something controversial or devisive, I am covering that post in prayer AND sleeping on it before hitting “post.” More times than not, I won’t post it, but when I do, I want it to be drenched with truth, hope, and love.
  2. When I feel angry, run straight to God. I am horrible at this. Righteous anger quickly becomes unrighteous when we unleash in on anyone who will listen. Cry out to God. He is listening.
  3. Unfollow anyone who regularly stirs up anger in me, even if I agree with them. This doesn’t mean I stop reading anything they say, but I do so on my terms and not am drawn into controversy on their terms.
  4. Prioritize time in God’s word. If we are more familiar with and spend more time reading/watching the news and the sins of the world than we are by God’s word, there’s something off balance in our lives.
  5. Invest in community. Seek accountability and wisdom from those bold, wise, and loving enough to give it.

I’m sure there are plenty more, but I think that’s enough for today.

Posted in Random Thoughts

Gone are the Days

I recently discovered The Gray Havens and have been playing them on repeat. The song Gone are the Days has been one I have come back to multiple times in response to current events.

It speaks to the hope we hold for what’s to come.

“One day, when sorrows are gone.”

“Finally, all is right
Only love and light
Finally, all is right
When all is right…”

One day, all will be made right. One day, we will be free of our sorrows, burdens, and suffering.

How do we pass the time until then?

We will shed tears. We will carry grief. We will endure suffering.

We will see glimpses of what’s to come. We will experience joy that radiates our faces. We will find comfort and rest from the Lord. We will hold onto hope.

We live in a broken world. We live in a world that will be restored and made great.

In time, evil will ultimately be defeated.

In time, Goodness will reign.

In time, we will be those who worship the One who causes all of this to pass.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[b] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Romans 8: 18-30

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link-up!