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Posts tagged ‘Christ’

The Temptation of Festivus

This girl has been a diehard Seinfeld fanatic for 2/3 of her life. When the episode about Festivus premiered, I was in 8th grade. Jerry Stiller’s Frank Costanza describes his epiphany/creation as such: 

  
I remember hysterically laughing when I first saw this 18 years ago. Part of the brilliance of Seinfeld is that it grows with you; while I still get thigh-slapping laughs from watching this, I now watch this and find myself sympathetic with Frank. Though I’ve not reached the point of raining blows upon someone, I am in total agreement with him – there HAS to be another way to celebrate Christmas. 

As a child, I used to love this time of year. The gifts! The music! The Jesus! I remember caring for them all, and as I’ve grown, my priorities have simply shifted. Sadly, so has my attitude. It is not because I learned Santa isn’t real (although I did just finish watching Miracle on 34th Street), or that I have to buy presents for other people. My Lord, do I wish that was all that Christmas called for – shelling out some cash and calling it a day. Why did Frank rain blows upon the man? He wanted to do right for his family. Who can be mad at those intentions? 

Thus we find ourselves wanting to get into the ‘little c’ christmas spirit, saying things like “It’s not about the presents!” or “Spend time with your loved ones!” These are, indeed, good things all year long. Suddenly, it gets to be after Thanksgiving and everyone remembers how they should have been acting the previous 11 months? Can’t we space out the cheer? Whether it’s preparing a program for work, attending a stupid ass party, or preparing our home for all the family that’s going to converge upon it today, I find myself thinking that this is now my least favorite holiday. 

Don’t get it twisted. I am a Christ-follower. I believe in observing this time of year with special reverence. However, like Frank, I find myself without the peace and reflection that anticipated his coming. I, too, seek another way, but sadly, I have found my heart becoming too much like the Festivus pole…

  
Cold and impenetrable. I, here and now in this post, am airing my grievances! I am sick of all of the things that get in the way of truly observing the miracle of Christmas. It’s not the commercialism; it’s all y’all. Sorry. Running around like a crazy person for four weeks is costly as well. 

As I was putting ornaments on our Christmas tree a few hours ago (just in time!), I noticed that the leaves were starting to shed. I paused and smiled to myself. I hope my heart is always more like a live Christmas tree than a Festivus pole, with evidence of His presents? Presence. Heh. There should be light. The ornaments are like all of the people who make my life better. Yes, sometimes their presence makes some of my leaves shed. I may even feel weighed down at times. Like the tree, I am more beautiful for having them. 

Thank you for being on my tree! Enough with the parties though, okay? Merry Christmas!

  

The Blessing Tax: A Prayer Request

“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. (‭Malachi‬ ‭3‬:‭8-10‬ NASB)

It’s really a sweet deal when you think about it. God blesses you with a way to provide for yourself and your family. You give just 10% of that to your local church, they put it together with other believers who have done the same and do awesome things for the community, and then on top of THAT you get additional blessings in whatever form God sees fit for you. No sweat.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. (‭Matthew‬ ‭23‬:‭23‬ NASB)

Oh. So it’s like, it doesn’t matter if I give my tithe if I’m a jerk? Is that what you’re saying, Jesus? 

I was recently listening to a radio show whose topic was tithing. I grew up in a faithful home in which I saw both of my parents tithe so it wasn’t strange for me at all to think in this manner once I started working. Make a line item for it in my budget and go from there. I’m not going to pretend it’s not tempting sometimes to say, “I could save more,” or “ermahgerd that outfit is like, so HAWT,” but by God’s grace I (typically) resist. Indeed when I trust Him and give my tithe AND keep my eyes and ears open I do see how I’m blessed beyond measure. Those speaking on tithing, however, were talking about both money and “other resources.” 

Oh, dear. My time.

You know those financial blessings of which I give 10%? Well, I work some long hours for them. There has been more than one occasion where I’ve taken advantage of my church’s ability to tithe online just so I don’t have to be physically present to worship. I Does God hold us accountable to give him 10% of our time as well? He blesses me with income, I give 10%. I’m blessed with mobility/health/time – why wouldn’t I need to give 10% The church hour adds up to a mere 1-2% a week if you take 168 gross hours or 133 “net” (a believer’s gotta sleep!) hours. Does that mean I need to take 10 hours a week to do some volunteering or church activity or – something?

I know this is an area of my life I need to work on because God wants my whole life, not just my wallet. If you are reading this, please pray that I actively seek ways to serve Him with my time. I don’t wanna be a Pharisee! Thank you kindly 😊

On Sucking and Vacuums 

I had the privilege of reconnecting with a friend from college recently. God is still using my girl Cut Short to touch my life and grow closer to Him; Mom2ECR is pictured between me and Cut Short, who is on the far left. 

After posting the above picture, I was inspired to see what was up with Mom2ECR. After catching up a bit, I shared my blog with her and was pleasantly surprised to learn she is keeping a blog herself. Something she wrote really resonated with me: 

Therefore, for Lent, I have decided to focus on the pursuit of something rather than the giving up something. Not that I will not be giving things up, but rather that I will keep the purpose of why I am fasting in mind. 

You should totes check out her blog to find out what precedes “therefore.” 

Lent is funny. Religion, generally speaking, is funny. I have often said that everyone is religious in his or her own way; the only difference in how or what we choose to worship. It is very easy to go through any tradition somewhat mindlessly, and religion is fraught with opportunities for ignorance. Some people dismiss religion for this reason, but I believe that the bad things about it are often systemic because people suck, not because religion does.

I say this to say that in my experience, the idea of giving up something for Lent can be very superficial. “I give up Coke!” Okay, maybe you don’t have Coke for 40 days. Your pancreas is grateful, I’m sure. But then what? The day after Easter you go back to life as it was? I don’t say that to minimize the effort that it took to fast from something for that time, especially if it was difficult. I don’t believe it’s my place to judge any fellow Christian for what, if, or how they choose to give up something, but what is the real point of doing so in the first place? If you are giving up something that is bad for you, shouldn’t logic dictate you probably shouldn’t be doing it the other 325 days of the year? 

That’s just it, though. We do suck at both doing things that are bad for us OR not doing things that are good for us. Like the Apostle Paul writes here: 

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (‭Romans‬ ‭7‬:‭19‬ NIV)

I think this catches everything, from how we treat our neighbor to what we choose to put in our body. We don’t just get to give up the Coke if we want to fast successfully. There must be something in place with which to replace it. Does Diet Coke count? Well, only the person fasting knows if that’s moving them toward Christ or not. I do know that nature abhors a vacuum. It is pretty difficult, if not impossible, to give up something without replacing it with something else. If I say that I’m going to give up being a jerk to my neighbor, I need to figure out how I’m going to treat my neighbor better. I can say with great confidence that the God I serve would not be pleased if I settled for indifference toward my neighbor as opposed to active malice. 

Paul writes earlier in his epistle to the Romans that all have fallen short of God’s glory. I fall short every day. It is impossible for me to lament on the state of humanity without first lamenting on my own state. Then I have to be careful not to be proud of my humility! This Christian walk business is no joke. I am thankful that my sanctification is a process and that Christ chose to die for me despite knowing what I am capable of. The Holy Spirit is working in me to remove my suck, but not without replacing it with the contrasting good quality. 

He’s pretty busy. 



Lady J’s Christmas Reflections: The “J” is for Jerk.

Christmas The way Christmas is often celebrated sucks.

I had to word that carefully. As a Christian, the marking of the Savior’s birth is a pretty big deal. I have no desire to be blasphemous or flippant about it. It’s merely that all of the hoopla surrounding the observance – for me – doesn’t serve the purpose of celebrating His
birth. Forget about the supposed commercialism of the holiday and how some are up in arms about “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas.” “Oh, woe is me, a store is trying to sell more things!” That’s kind of the religion of business, no? I’m talking about familyism. And friendism. It’s y’all who ruined Christmas.

Let me tell you how.

A quick look through my previous posts will illustrate that I am fairly adept at expressing thankfulness for the blessings in my life throughout the year. Yes, of course there are times for me personally that make me reflect upon these blessings more than others, but it is definitely more often than the last 6 weeks of the year. So all you jokers come along, “Hey, it’s the holidays! I miss you. Let’s grab food/drink/swim/bike/run/whatever.” I am not in some black hole, inaccessible the first 10 months of the year – unless Coachie has me there, but even then I still get phone reception there. I get a little time to relax from work and all of a sudden because the Savior is born you want to blow up my phone. Quite frankly, if it is important for me to talk to or spend time with you around this time, I would have done so on stupid October 3. I’m not saying I’m above losing touch with important people. I’m just saying that I’m probably better at staying in touch than you are. 🙂

Then I hear the still, small voice.

“Hey Joan. I came because people are imperfect.”

I then am forced to take the time to reflect upon my own imperfections. Indeed, I am a thoughtful person, and one of the things I hate most is wronging someone unknowingly because it reminds me that I cannot be in control all of the time, even when I think I am. As good as I am at expressing my gratitude throughout the year, I will never be perfect.

I pray that in years to come, I am able to find both the solitude I need to strengthen my relationship with Christ and with others. Love is patient, wrote the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. I’ve got a long way to go.

Merry Christmas!

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Dear Christians, I’m lobbying for a new hobby.

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First, I’d like to let you know who is writing you. I count myself among Christ’s followers. I was raised and baptized in a Southern Baptist church. I regularly tithe, read the Bible daily and do not view it as merely good ideas. I am saved by Grace and work (and fall short) every day to show that I am thankful Christ gave his life for me. Theologically speaking, I am no liberal.

I count myself blessed to have been born in the United States, where I get to put on my church hat, grab my iPad, and choose which translation of the Bible I’m going to read without fear. I’m not talking about the kind of fear of losing a couple of friends or people thinking I must not be too bright if I think the Bible is God’s inspired word. I mean fear of the government. Fear for my life. I can worship freely and I love that the framers, whatever their flaws may have been, set us up that way.

I’ll speak to one of our favorite hobbies now – the pro-life movement. As to where I stand, I think abortion is tragic. I wish they didn’t have to happen. I wish no woman suffered the pain of a miscarriage. I wish no woman would ever go to the doctor to learn that her child would be born with an unimaginable defect. I hesitate to call myself pro-life because of all the mess it’s associated with. At the same time, I am not comfortable calling myself pro-choice for the same reason. I find it disturbing that people would picket and shout at complete strangers with whose situation they are completely unfamiliar. I also find it flippant and disrespectful to say “don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.” Everyone has a right to a voice. Christians, we have a responsibility to make that a Christ-like voice. A loving voice. The stuff that happens outside those clinics ain’t it. In a perfect world, abortions would not have to happen. Many things are not under our control. You know what we SHOULD do if we hate abortion so much? 1. Work to improve circumstances of mommies and 2. Work to educate children so children are not having children. Nothing unbiblical about that. Summary: put me in Clinton’s camp. It should be safe, legal, and rare. I think there are lots of things related to 1 and 2 mentioned above that the church can be doing to make it rare.

You know what will definitely NOT make it rare? Not covering birth control in an insurance policy. The recent decision of the Supreme Court disturbed me on several levels. I could only imagine if my mother worked for Hobby Lobby when I was a teen and needed birth control for hormonal issues that had nothing to do with the pill’s intended purpose. Our God made us free to follow Him. Jesus did not grab Peter by the throat and say “joker you better put that net down or else.” We cannot expect for everyone to believe what we do, and certainly not in this context. Aside from that, regarding the purpose of birth control – I am positive that many of the women who work for Hobby Lobby are in happy, heterosexual marriages. If the beef is that everyone should be procreating, why is Hobby Lobby covering vasectomies? Certainly Viagra promoting procreation is a joke too, right? Most in the market for an erectile dysfunction drug are not in the market for children. It just makes me suspect that if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a non-issue. “Shoot, I’ve got season tickets. I can’t have this baby.” Just. Like. That.

Christ died and rose to save people. John 3:16 does not say “For whatever corporation believeth in me shall not perish but have eternal life.” If a corporation were a person, it would be a two year old. Selfish, having no interest except in the here and now for its own sake, regardless of how it impacts others. What do we do with two year olds? We don’t let them out of our sight for a moment. We appreciate two year olds and love them, but we – some more than others – are all too aware of the damage they can cause.

Christians, a decision like SCOTUS made is damaging to us. Don’t think for one second that it’s out of the realm of possibility that people will say they have a right to deny anyone, including us, a right to anything. Christ is bigger than this. We should be bigger than this.

I used to think that the thing I feared most about following Christ was that I wasn’t doing a good enough job with the rules to be known as a Christian. Now it scares me that because I am not shoving my theological beliefs in people’s faces like a jerk I will not be known as a Christian. We should be known by our love (with truth, of course) and not by trying to keep women from having access to birth control. Not even abortion. The thing that prevents women from having them!

I know my walk is imperfect. I share that with all of you. Let’s all walk more humbly, keep our eyes on Him, and leave the judgment to the Perfect One.

Love,
Lady J

Least of These or Lying Heffa?

At the gas station:

“Ma’am! My car ran out of gas. It’s parked over there (a significant distance away from any pump). I need to get from here (Fort Lauderdale) to Jupiter. Can you help me?”

Why, yes. I maintain a blog. I look forward to reminding everyone what a fantastic woman I am because I helped you.

Of course, my real response was nothing like that, though clearly, the situation has moved me to write. I thought to myself, I have means, this woman is in a jam, why wouldn’t I help? I had already decided I was going to assist before I looked down and noticed she was pregnant as hell. She looked tired and thirsty. I gave her a bottle of water I happened to have and assured her I would help her reach her destination.

Then she kept talking.

“Yeah, my mom is on her way to come bring me a gas container.”

Game changer.

Now, I am fully aware that by most standards, I have never had a bad day in my 29 years. When I have a problem, it’s like, “measures 9-14 of that sonata are a beast” or “my massage therapist is out of town for a month!” Woe is me. I also know that this could change at any moment, so I make a conscious effort to walk humbly and live graciously. Of course I could help this woman. This new information, however, brought in a should.

I asked her when her mother would be arriving. She said she wasn’t quite sure. The woman appeared to be about my age. I just found it strange that a mother who could bring a container of gas couldn’t also bring a bit of cash to fill up the container. Or otherwise help her daughter reach her destination. I told the lady I would return in a minute with some assistance. I got in my car, where my two young cousins were waiting for me. They had heard what was going on.

“Joanie. What are you going to do?”

So like, not only is God watching, but here I am, off the clock and needing to set an example for the youth. I’m just a sista tryna fill up and get home and now I’m presented with a dilemma. Fie.

I thought to myself, there’s this:

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:40 NKJV)

But then there’s this:

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16 NKJV)

I don’t think the two contradict one another at all. Jesus wants us to care for those who have less than we do. That doesn’t mean He wants us to be dumbasses about it. In fact, I would venture to say that it’s morally wrong to be irresponsible with the resources with which He’s blessed us. As a good steward, it’s my job to ensure that I’m sharing both as lovingly and wisely as possible.

For some, this situation might be clearer than it was for me. “Lady J, how could you even think about not giving this woman help?” Alternatively, “Wow. I can’t believe that chick is using her baby to hustle people. Don’t let her getcha!” I thought about what would bother me more – knowing that I could help her and chose not to OR being tricked out of some cash. Yes, I’m blessed, but I work pretty bloody hard to make it rain all this teacher’s salary. In the end, I gave her what I thought would be helpful. She thanked me as I left.

I chose to do so because I could NEVER know if she was trying to get free gas, but I would most definitely know that I had means to help and didn’t. I figured that erring on the side of fool rather than jerk was better in this case.

I strongly believe that the way in which we’re moved in situations like these is reflected in our political philosophies.
Whether we find it more disturbing that an innocent person is punished or a guilty person does not get what’s coming to him. Personally, if I have to be wrong – and I’m human, so it’s going to happen every now and again – I’d prefer that a couple pregnant hustlers treat themselves to a beer than even one woman not be able to care for herself and her child as she should.

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Do Triathletes Hate Jesus?

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“Good to see you here, guest!”

These words from the person sitting behind me in church today stung my guilty conscience. I smiled and shook her hand as I thought to myself, “Lady, I’ve been a member of this church longer than you’ve – anyway, ma’am, it’s been a long time.” Indeed, I’ve been a member of my church since I was baptized there 15 years ago and attending before that. I have great respect for my pastor and am always fed spiritually whenever I choose to go. Unlike that stupid “I really regret that workout, said no one ever,” meme, my currently injured, always battling perfectionism butt never regrets going to church.

However, as my sister-in-Christ inadvertently pointed out today, church attendance has not been a priority of mine lately.

When I started racing, participating in running races and training rarely came up against my church attendance. Race on Saturday, thank God for making me so awesome on Sunday. No problem. Then came triathlon. As I started looking for races to do, I noticed quickly that while most running races fall on Saturdays, most triathlons fall on Sundays. What’s up with that? Okay, let’s say I race 5 out of 52 Sundays in a year – 47/52 ain’t bad, right?

Then comes the training.

Open water swims. Sunday morning. Long rides. Sunday morning. Long runs. Sunday morning. I can only do so much physically on Saturday. Everyone seems to love training on Sunday and because I am new I am uncomfortable swimming and biking by myself. This time, it is really my desire to regularly attend church and not my distrust of others that makes me wish I were further along on my TriBaby journey. No one that shares my hobby seems to have this conflict. I’ve even secretly wished that I practiced faith in a denomination that had more service times. How twisted is that?

Not quite as twisted as having a new reason to miss church.

Some of the things I struggle with as a triathlete I struggled with first as a Christian. Those who know me closely know that I really value my relationships. Once you’re in, you’re in. If you’re not in – the word apathy comes to mind. Notice how I spoke of my respect for my pastor and not of my relationships with anyone in church. 17 years in and He is still working on my desire to fellowship with other believers. In fact, I would say that I feel much closer to God while racing and training than in church. I have no choice but to turn to Him as “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.” (1 Cor 9:27a) I’m no (complete) dummy.

I pray that I find resolution to this scheduling conflict, but more importantly, I pray that my heart is softened toward others. My soul needs way more work than my body. Real talk.

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