I resolve to…

Sure, I’m a little late on making a “resolutions” post, but one of my resolutions is to write more…soooo, check.

Heading in to the new year, I started thinking about what my resolutions of 2013 could be. I never know how to make new year’s resolutions. There are the traditional ones to eat healthier, exercise more, read more and for goodness sakes, finish painting the trim in the hallway downstairs. But I wanted this year to be different.

To help make these new year’s resolutions, I thought through some of my favorite, purest memories from when I was younger that I would like to relive this year.

My PawPaw’s garden. My family spent many meals around my MawMaw’s table. She could put out a feast like no one else. Roast, rice and gravy, buttered rolls, crunchy corn, a green salad topped with tomatoes from the garden, beans from the garden, and garden-fresh cucumbers dusted with salt and pepper. PawPaw worked his garden faithfully. I have this image in my mind of him wearing with his thin, plaid pearl snap, grinning under his straw hat. He always smelled of fresh earth and sweat.

Baking from scratch. My mom had this white cheesecloth that she would fold up and stick in the door of the freezer. When she got ready to bake a pie, she would pull that out and throw some fresh flour all over it. I would take my post on the bar and watch her make this beautiful mess. She would push and pull on the dough and then roll it out in a thin circle and then skillfully drape it over the pie pan. She makes the most divine pies. Ever.

Camping. Whether it was in tents in east Texas or the mountains of northwest Arkansas, I loved living outside for a few days. Cooking outside, taking leisurely walks, catching and cleaning the fish we would eat for dinner, and sitting around the fire drinking coffee and telling stories.

Spontaneous roadtrips. A group of us were sitting around having a cup of coffee when we heard the news that school would be closed due to the hurricanes coming through. While none of our houses were in danger, we did have a few mandatory days off from school and work. Within just a few minutes we had decided on where we would go and what time we would leave. Two hours later, we met back up with our bags packed and a cup of coffee in hand to head to the great state of California. 24 very long hours later we dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean. I would have never imagined that morning when I woke up that the next day I would be in California.

Theology Saturdays. I spent the first three years of my time here in Austin in a job that tested the limits of my sanity. Turns out, it only took three years to fully push me off the edge. My 8-5 was soul sucking for sure, but those Saturdays were coveted sweetness. I lived in several tiny spaces south of the river with my brother. One of my favorites was an old cottage. It was falling apart and attracted bugs and rodents by the thousands, but it had some of the best sunlight in all of Austin. I spent the early parts of the day studying theology with a constant cup of folgers by my side. As the sun dropped, I would pack up my stuff and take a short drive to the GreenMuse for a few pints of porter and more studying. I learned more about God on those Saturdays than I had in years.

The heart or root of those memories are where my resolutions from 2013 come from. Without further ado…

Grow a garden. Since I don’t have much of a green thumb, I gave my brother a couple of bags of organic soil and seeds as a Christmas present. It’s pretty perfect because he has the greenest thumb of anyone I know and he lives with us. I get fresh veggies from the garden, and never have to lift a finger.

From scratch. Whether it’s baking without a box, cooking from the garden, or sewing, I’d like to be less “store bought” this year. I’d like to take the time and forethought to go “can-less” this year. I like the idea of eating food in season and without all of the added sugar and preservatives.

Outside. I don’t spend enough time outside. I read recently about this family who takes daily walks together. I get so accustomed to feeling comfortable and forcing the temperature to be whatever I want it to be regardless of what season it is. I need more sunlight. I need more time outside. Whether that’s here in Austin or the mountains of Montana, I should enjoy outside more.

Spontaneity. The opposite of spontaneity is comfortability. I have gotten so comfortable in my cozy little life that I don’t even consider anything spontaneous. I’ve turned into quite the little planner. While this might be good for my goal of a more disciplined me, it’s definitely bad for my fun side.

Growth. I loved those Saturdays because I was learning something new. There are a million things for me to learn, why would I stop learning and growing and stretching my mind? JP Moreland said that we should always be reading above our reading level. My goal is to grow in articulation, depth and breadth in theology and history and literature and whatever else strikes a fancy.

And there it is.
Cheers to 2013.
Let’s make it a good one, folks.

Grit and Swindle

There is a grittiness inside of me that suffers under the optimism I feel I should possess as a believer. Most days I kind of feel like I have painted this absurd clownish smile over my tightly drawn lips. I’m not fooling a one. Most days I feel like this:

The whole head is sick,
and the whole heart faint.
From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores and raw wounds;
they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.

Just call me Eyore and tie a dark, stormy cloud to my butt.

I feel this. I feel this sickness in my head and heart. I wrestle with this chaos and relentless anxiety of unanswered questions, delayed answers, wrong answers. Most of the time, I just want it to all go away. I want to bury my head and hide away.

In my attempts to make it all go away, I go to God, with my little wagon full of sacrifices. God, if you will just make me feel better, I’ll have more time to do your work, I’ll be more productive, I’ll show more people who you are. I’ll be a better Christian if you just make me happy. I’ll be a better minister if I’m not drowning in my own blood and grit.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who tried to swindle God with half-hearted sacrifices:

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.

I bring these types of sacrifices to God all the time. Here’s my time, my pride, my everything…crap, what more do you want? I have nothing else to give! You’ve taken everything I have.

It was in one of those moments that I threw myself on the ground yelling at God for not giving me what I want that I figured out what my real problem is.  I think God owes me something. I think God owes me happiness, soundness, quiet, at least a bandage to stop my bleeding heart. I use my little list of things I am doing for God as flimsy sacrifices to try and swindle God into making me feel better.

It’s an exchange of sorts…God, if you give me a good day, I’ll tell someone about you. God, if you make me feel better, I’ll spend more time in Your word. And when that exchange doesn’t work, I get mad and manipulative and harden my heart towards him.

But the deal is, God did give us an exchange. A great exchange. In exchange for our rotten, dead hearts riddled with manipulation and anger and pride and brokenness, He gave us His perfect, sinless, whole, sound Son. His sacrifice was perfect.

God provided for us the sacrifice He wants us to bring to Him, His son. A sacrifice that is worthy of the holiness and glory of God. Yet, again and again, we bring our meagre offerings of self-absorbed sacrifices and get frustrated when he looks on them with disdain.

In the midst of this embarrassing display of childish and foolish fits of anger and entitlement, God says this:

Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

What would it look like to not feel sick, faint, unsound, bruised and sore and raw? What would it look like for us to not try and swindle God with our rotten sacrifices? What would it look like to spread out our hands before God and Him not turn his eyes from our vain offerings?

It looks like Jesus.

It looks like the one who makes us righteous. It looks like the one who is whole, sound, and whose sacrifice was perfect. It looks like us “with confidence drawing near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”. It looks like us depending upon that perfect sacrifice who made a way for us to experience grace to help in our dark hours.

Not who I thought I was.

Maybe it’s because I have recently finished reading Exodus. Maybe it’s because I saw Zero Dark Thirty. Either or both, I cannot stop thinking about suffering.

The opening scene of Zero Dark Thirty was one the most disturbing things I have ever seen.

I was at the Alamo with Kyle. We had just ordered our favorite bites of food and a pint of our favorite brew. We had spent a really nice day together, enjoying the comforts of home and one another and then were on a date at one of our favorite places with our favorite things. The the movie starts: dark, haunting, and what I can only assume to be scarily realistic. A US military man interrogating an Afghan man. The scene plays on and on and on…or so it feels like. The questioning gets more manipulative and physical and humiliating as it goes on. My stomach got so sick. I was filled with shame, I wasn’t even sure for who. Was it the man who was doing this awful thing to this other man? Was it the man receiving this punishment? Was it for me, for watching this while I am safely munching on my nachos and sipping on my craft brew?

All of it was too much. I pushed my food away and tucked myself further back in my seat. As the scene finally switched, some of the shame wore off and I went back to enjoying my date and my food.

I must admit, I am terrified of punishment, shame, torture. I am terrified of my need for comfort. I am ashamed of how much I fear suffering.

When I was younger, I used to read those books about Christian martyrs. I daydreamed about being killed for the sake of the gospel. I determined within myself that I would not be ordinary. I would go to the ends of the earth, to the places no one else wanted to go, eat the foods that other people would selfishly spit out. I would rescue children galore. I would make a difference. And when someone came to me with a spear threatening me to deny Jesus or die. I would choose to die. No question.

Of course, this was all before I had any real idea of the depths of my sin, my selfishness, my ability to choose myself over God.

I remember reading Exodus when I was younger and really saw myself as the Moses in the story. I thought of myself as the one person out of the many who would be the leader, the one with the faith in God, the one who would not back down. I (not so silently) judged the Israelites for not having faith enough to see that God was leading them, that He was in control, that they should be grateful for the manna and for the miracles of the water and the quail. They had everything they needed, why did they want to go back to slavery?

And nearly every day, I ask myself the same thing: You have everything you need, why do you want to go back to slavery?

I deny Jesus every.single.day. I deny His provision. I reject His love. I ignore His counsel from scripture. I dislike His creations. I deny His power, His sovereignty, His truth, His rightness. I scowl at His discipline. I cower from His holiness.

How in the world do I think that I could withstand torture, interrogation, public humiliation, pain, isolation, starvation, or more if I cannot love and trust God with all of my comforts tucked around me?

Why do I believe that I would be like Moses in times of trial, when I live like the Israelites every day?

What makes me think that I would be any different in an actually difficult situation than I am in a comparatively great situation every day?

I wouldn’t be. I won’t be. I can’t be. I don’t believe that I could.

The hope is not that one day I will finally grow up and be stronger, more mature, better able to handle adversity, suffering, or lack of comfort.

The hope is that in the middle of my every day, I will fully rely upon the One who can do these things.

I forget that Jesus is my hope to be able to do anything. I forget that for me to be able to get up and read my Bible even though I am in the most foul mood known to man, is only possible via Jesus.

I forget that loving my friends who annoy me, or who hurt me, or who just can’t get it right is only possible via Jesus.

I forget that going to work every day, cleaning my house every day, loving my husband, taking care of my health, fighting depression, doing things that are hard, doing things that are easy, are only possible via Jesus.

Whether I am dealing with a small battle of daily frustration or suffering for the gospel by being called “silly” for my beliefs or by having my toenails pulled off, it’s only possible through Jesus.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:15-16

Here’s to drawing near to the throne of grace to find mercy and grace to help me in my time of need. Here’s to me not only knowing, but believing that I can’t do it on my own. Here’s to me, looking to Jesus for help in the small things and the big things.

Here’s to me remembering this in the next five minutes when I am trying to go at it all alone…yet again.