I Know Him

I care about defending the faith I have in Jesus Christ, both logically and personally. Not in the “Ha! You are wrong and I am right!” way. I don’t want to make anyone feel stupid – no one wants to feel that way, including me. It’s more in the sense that I like Him and want you to like Him, too. There are many logical defenses I can give for the existence of God, the universal need for salvation from sin and death, and that that salvation is found in the God-Man Jesus, from Nazareth, circa year 33. However, I find a different initial response stirring in my heart and eventually coming out of my mouth when anyone asks me (and sadly, people seldom do) or even when I ask myself, “Why do you believe in Jesus? Why do you base your life on Him? How can you be sure there is a God?”

I believe that Jesus is who He says He is – namely, God – because I know Him. That’s my answer. I can tell you what He’s done in my life, about our interactions and our conversations. Let me attempt to explain why this will have to be enough for anyone asking.

When you meet someone, and hang around them a bit, converse with them from time to time, and maybe even become good friends eventually, you can say you know him or her. You may not know everything about that person, but you know him. When people ask, “Do you know so-and-so?” you will say yes (unless you are for some reason ashamed of having met that person and/or you are a liar).

You see, you can’t un-know a person. Not really. Life is not like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (though I’m sure many of us wish it was). Unless you suffer from serious amnesia, you can’t logically deny the existence of a person you have known in the past or know in the present. There is history between the two of you, most likely involving many other witnesses.

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Well, technically speaking, the operation is brain damage, but it’s on a par with a night of heavy drinking. Nothing you’ll miss. – Howard, ESOTSM

That is the way it is with Jesus and me. We have history that I can’t erase. Others have witnessed our interaction and how He has helped me grow as a person. If you haven’t met Him, or if you haven’t witnessed me relating to Him, it is easy for you to deny His existence. And I can’t make you pull up a seat as we sit together for coffee and meet Him too. Just like with any other person. Your knowledge of Him will match your desire to meet with Him.

I do believe President Obama and Kim Kardashian and Reba McEntire (very odd grouping, I know, but they were the first three celebrities that popped in my head) exist, even though I’ve only seen their faces in small boxes called TVs and computer screens and pieces of paper called magazines and newspapers. But what right have I to say I know them, to truly make an assessment of their character, if I haven’t spent any time around them, interacting with them? I do have a clue, however, of who they are by their words and their actions which I observe. If you think about it, it actually takes some faith to believe in anyone or anything we haven’t seen with our own eyes and touched with our own hands, but have only heard about and seen from a distance (celebrities and all of history, for instance).

Prompted by a Q&A book she has, my friend Sarah and I were discussing the question, “What is your theme song?”. Like, if your life had a theme song, what would it be? It’s difficult to pick just one, as our lives are pretty complex. But the following is one of mine. It’s called “He’s Always Been Faithful” by Sara Groves.

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me 

Morning by morning I wake up to find 
The power and comfort of God’s hand in mine 
Season by season I watch Him, amazed 
In awe of the mystery of His perfect ways 
All I have need of, His hand will provide 
He’s always been faithful to me. 

I can’t remember a trial or a pain 
He did not recycle to bring me gain 
I can’t remember one single regret 
In serving God only, and trusting His hand 
All I have need of, His hand will provide 
He’s always been faithful to me. 

This is my anthem, this is my song 
The theme of the stories I’ve heard for so long 
God has been faithful, He will be again 
His loving compassion, it knows no end 
All I have need of, His hand will provide 
He’s always been faithful, He’s always been faithful 
He’s always been faithful to me.

Like Sara has experienced, God has always proved Himself good, true, and faithful to me. Even when I’m kicking and screaming out against Him, wanting my will and my way. Even when I run away from Him. Even when I’m tired of knowing Him (an impossibility, but I talk myself into believing things would be easier on my own…ha!). Relationships are messy, after all. We ain’t robots.

To say I don’t believe in Him anymore or am struggling to believe He is real some days is to deny things that have already happened, conversations and interactions that were real. I can’t tangibly prove to you I had lunch with my friends Michelle and Jessa last week, nor can I prove I have a relationship with Jesus and I talked to Him this morning and am talking to Him now. You have the right to say I am lying or crazy about both situations.

You’ll have to take my word for it. But more importantly, I would invite you to peer into His. He will readily introduce Himself to an open mind and an open heart.

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It’s a Dreamer Town

I find it really funny and a little embarrassing that now that I have started blogging again, I hear phrases in my everyday conversations and I think, “Goodness, that would make a great blogpost title.” Even if I don’t exactly know what I would write about pertaining to the phrase. Some things people say though…I just think, there’s some meat there. Silly? Maybe. We’ll see. Because I’m doing it now and probably will again.

I joined a community group at the church I’m a part of here in Nash this past week. We had our first meeting Sunday evening. As we went around the room, each sharing the basics about ourselves – hometown, college, job, how long we’ve lived in the city – someone noticed how we all have very different interests and careers, and as many of us are new to town, the conversation also turned to commenting on the culture of the city itself and its inhabitants. Nashville is full of artists, writers, business people, filmmakers, non-profit pioneers, and of course, musicians. “It’s such a dreamer town”, one of the girls simply yet brilliantly summarized. “Everyone moves here to make it big, and they end up working at Whole Foods, but they are of course working on their *project* on the side”, she continued. She wasn’t being mean, or even belittling the dreamers. It’s just true. I know because I’m pretty much doing the same thing and know several others who are, too. It’s a fun place to be.

In our group, we are going to be reading through Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods. It’s about idols of the heart and how we all have them. Even if you don’t know what that phrase means yet, I hate (actually, I’m glad) to break it to you…but you’ve got ’em. An idol is anything or anyone you’re tempted to love and serve more than God. Idolatry pretty much define fallen humanity.

Keller wrote the book in 2009, for a great many reasons I’m sure, but specifically in response to the economic crisis of 2008. The devastation for many businesses and individuals resulted in the suicides of several prominent men. Something, or the success of something, had obviously become more important than continuing the lives they were given to live. A dear dream, maybe – a dream that had more than likely become a basis for personal identity. An idol.

“Most people spend their lives trying to make their heart’s fondest dreams come true,” Keller writes in the first chapter. Whoa yeah. Maybe it’s not a “I WILL be Taylor Swift one day” dream (woops just gave mine away). It could be “my kids will have everything I didn’t have when I was growing up” or “I’ll be the top of my graduating class” or “My work will be published one day” or “this person will love me, this person has to love me”. Or, “I will make tons and tons of money on Wall Street.” Whatever it is, we invest time and energy into that thing, which is okay. The trouble is when we demand this thing and view ourselves as failures if we don’t get it. Or if we get it, and we lose it.

I am learning that we should be careful with our dreams. Our hearts are too sick and too easily allured by the thought of our own potential glory and success. The thought of writing something important, something that influences people in a really good way, makes me giddy. Careful now.

Because if or when we get our dreams, it won’t be enough. It may be good and it may even be necessary for others’ welfare, but don’t count on it fulfilling you completely. On the other hand, the fulfillment of our dreams could actually be toxic. It could destroy us, as it has done to too many celebrities to name, or people you know. Or the loss of a fulfilled dream could be our end, like those businessmen in 2008.

Set goals. Seek ways to use your gifts to serve others. Hold your dreams with open hands. Believe you are called to live for something, Someone, greater than yourself.

We just may live a dream we never even dreamed of. That sounds even better, actually.

Okay, all of this dream talk makes me think of one of the best movie scenes ever because this is one of the best songs ever. And it’s another illustration of a dream sadly turned toxic. Gosh, the despair is so real. Props to Anne. (I cannot promise I won’t talk about movies in every other post…it just may happen.)

The Population of Nigeria

Guess what it is.

Just guess.

It’s 158,258,917. 158 MILLION 258 THOUSAND 917 people in Nigeria today. According to www.operationworld.org. Wikipedia says more (168 mil). It also says the President’s name is Goodluck Jonathan, which is obviously amazing. But I’d like to talk about something more amazing.

Learning the population, what I would consider a rather large population, of Nigeria today, a country (among many) I only think about when I happen to see the word in print on occasion, made me think about how many people there are inhabiting the planet. I have, indeed, thought about this before, and it has freaked me out.

Two years ago this fall, someone/the news/the world announced that the world population had reached 7 billion persons. I remember thinking, “Whoa, it’s been 6 billion(ish) for as long as I can remember. How’d we get a billion more?” Upon second thought, gradual growth seemed to make sense. Those billion didn’t come over night and all have the same birthday. But this isn’t the freaky part.

I began to think about how many people there had ever been EVER here on planet Earth. Since the beginning of time. Aiyiyi. I do not have the knowledge or wisdom to even guesstimate that number. Even freakier is the fact that…

Probably a lot of them have looked like you. Like maybe close to exactly. Who knows? No one could disprove it at this point. 10 people? 8,400 people? Your guess is as good as mine. And the freakiest fact and the point to which I am getting is…

No one has been or is or will ever be exactly like you. Your genetic makeup, at this time, at this place, in this situation, in 2013. It reminds me of this scene in Garden State:

Zach Braff! Funny every time.

Out of all the immeasurable amount of human beings that have ever breathed here, you get to employ the uniqueness of your own person and life at this moment. And hopefully for many, many more moments. So be encouraged today. I do think we’re each special. I would be denying the power and skill of my Creator otherwise (“knitted together”…”fearfully and wonderfully made”…”intricately woven” – Psalm 139…beautiful). I don’t think that’s cheesy or promoting self-absorption. It might be if we left out the next freaky fact…

You get to live life with those 6,999,999,999 (did I do that right?) uniquely crafted people. You get to know them! And learn about and celebrate the uniqueness of all the other ones that came before us, and appreciate the good they did for us. And with many, be sorry for the losses they brought about and learn from their mistakes and their involvement with evil.

Self-reflection is valid, and so is self-concern. But 1 vs. 6,999,999,999….if I’m honest with myself, it would probably do me good to occupy a much higher percentage of my thoughts with the souls that the latter number represents. And wrap all that in using our thoughts to consider the One that I believe made all of those people…well you will have material to chew on and wonder about for many lifetimes.

The Wonder of Words

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“Our culture has made a radical shift in the last century from a word-based society of readers to an image-based society of viewers. The media of our time are movies, television, and the Internet, not books. As a result, unlike our forebears of just a few generations ago, we don’t know how to read. To a large extent, we’ve lost that art.” – Howard G. Hendricks

It would be hard not to agree with Hendricks’ statement at least somewhat. The fact that I’ve never heard of the word “forebears” is a small testament to it. Noun. Ancestors, forefathers. There we go.

I love to read. Books, articles, blogs, handwritten letters, whatever. I haven’t had a stack of less than six books at my bedside since 2007(ish). I am absolutely fascinated by words.

But it hasn’t always been this way.

I’ve always been a movie junkie. ALWAYS. My mother raised me on what I consider the good stuff. Shag. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The genius Trifecta mentioned in my previous post. Dad tried to get me into Top Gun and such. Didn’t quite take. Though there were the occasional surprises like the Jurassic Park movies that we enjoyed together. : )

Around high school, I began to take a little bit of interest in movies of the Jane Austen genre (an interest that would skyrocket a few years later). I was entertained, but I remember thinking, really each time I watched, “What did people really do back then? It had to be so booooring.” I knew what they did. I watched four straight hours of them socializing, going to balls, eating together, playing rather mild sports, taking strolls through meadows, and reading reading reading in the A&E/Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. What I meant was, though I was a little embarrassed to admit it to myself because it might mean I had an obsession with entertainment and no real hobbies of my own, “They didn’t have movies or TV! How did they survive?” I couldn’t bear to think of life without…you know…the little boxes we sit in front of ev.ery.day. Honestly, I was a little concerned that I considered the situation that horrific.

Since, I have indeed come to terms with the fact the every other generation since the beginning of time has survived, thrived even, without TV, movies, and the internet. It’s funny. Now I actually long for a “simpler” era when I would have seemingly endless time for my now-favorite activity.

Television, movies, and the internet are not bad things. They are great things! We get to see stories, stories that need to be shared, and shared visually and beautifully. We hear and see the news when it’s, like, actually very new. We can communicate with each other in a probably inestimable number of ways. My real-time face can see your real-time face when your real-time face is not physically in front of me. That’s crazy.

But. Back to Hendricks. Is it true? Have we let one art form, the one that has carried the history of God and man century after century, be squashed by a thousand others?

I don’t think it’s been squashed. But I do think it’s in need of serious attention.

I am so interested in bringing back the wonder of words.

Let’s cut Disney some slack, and look in the mirror

Sometime in the last year or so, a [rather long] buzz phrase began to surface on various social media sites: “I blame Disney for my high (or unrealistic) expectations of men.” I, and many other ladies, immediately resonated with the statement. “Yes! Prince Eric is so not real. This is the real world and we don’t just go marrying gorgeous, charming princes. My whole childhood was a lie!” Angsty.

I would like to offer some bigger players in this “blame game” of expectations vs. reality that make Disney characters and storylines look like small potatoes. Even as I’m thinking through the classics now, I don’t find the character of any of the guys too appealing. Most of them were pretty normal (maybe even a bit boring). Except for the fact that most were princes. And so, here are a few more examples that served to feed the young and impressionable female (ahem, my..) mind with dreams of Mr. Perf and the fact that I could most definitely nab him:

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Mary-Kate and Ashley. As cute as they were and as fun as their movies and shows were to watch, in retrospect, it was not too helpful for me to see them prance around Paris or the Bahamas with dos local hotties year after year. It also made me incessantly want a twin to be able to wear “alike but different” duds and to always have a friend to show up to parties with (again, in Paris or the Bahamas).

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The entire CW (in my day, called the WB) network. That Rory had the good guy and the bad boy after her. Naturally, this will happen to every smart and responsible high school girl. And let’s be honest, even though she lived in a consistent state of “nobody likes me and I’m not attractive…”, Joey Potter pretty much had her pick of the whole creek.

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The Molly Ringwald Trifecta: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. This one takes the cake (^^^!). I actually had a poster of the above hanging in my room at one point. I lived and breathed the aforementioned movies from 7th grade well through college. They are dear favorites. Why? Great writing, real(ish) characters, utterly hilarious, and the stories they depicted were feast-worthy. Aside from her character (named Claire of all things) in The Breakfast Club who was the coolest gal in school, Molly played the normal girl who got the guy that everybody wanted. John Hughes wrote the stuff that dreams are made of.

But wait…I barely mentioned a Mr. Perf in this spiel. Isn’t this about women’s unrealistic expectations of men based on what pop culture has fed us?

No, I don’t really think so. Really, the blame game is not about our “high expectations of men” and how guys just don’t seem to measure up these days.

It seems to be more about thinking we (ladies and gents) know what we want and what would be best for us. The problem is us. It’s about comparing ourselves to others’ lives and others’ stories, to their perfect looks or their dynamite personalities – whether it’s fictional Rory Gilmore or a best friend. If we were like that, or even just passively wished enough like Samantha or Andy, then we could get that person, or that thing, that will make us happy and give us the stamp of approval and significance. I think we’re more concerned with wanting to be Ariel or Belle or Jasmine, and having the happily ever after. I know I am.

The good news is we actually can have that “ever after”. If you have the daring willingness to believe that ultimate satisfaction and pleasure can be found outside of human relationship, then you will start to see those relationships or potential relationships as beautiful, undeserved gifts, not identity-makers…..and you will acknowledge that you still hunger for more. Something people, on their best day, can’t fully give you or me.

This is a hunger to be known.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” – Jeremiah 1:5

“And I will betroth you to Me forever. I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” – Hosea 2:19-20

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.'” – John 7:37

“I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10:14-15

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” – John 15:11

Sounds like someone who knows us, and wants to make the joy (which is so much better than happy, don’t you think?) ever after thing real. He’s the One and Only Mr. Perf.

(In all honesty, I enjoy Disney movies, MK and A, CW reruns, and those movies will never leave my favorites list. But if we overexpose ourselves to them, as I did as a teen, they can disillusion us  and can affect our actions, our inactions, and most importantly, our hearts. Be enamored first by the One who fashioned your heart, and forget about the Jake Ryans for a while. And I have no idea why I started abbreviating “perfect”.)