Sunday, July 6, 2014

Why I can't "Imagine"

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
1Corinthians 15:19

I know I'm about to ruffle some Beatle fan-feathers out there with this post.  To be fair, I am not a huge lover of the Beatles-- especially their early work. *dodges rotten tomatoes*  I find their later work to be much more musically appealing, and with better lyrical imagery.  "In my Life," for example, is wonderful.  "Blackbird" is one of my favorite lulabies to sing to Wyatt.  But a song that seems to hit every telethon, American Idol season, etc., is the infamous song, "Imagine."

This is a song loved by so many, but honestly, I find it depressing for the most part.  The very thought that unity, peace and happiness can only come by stripping the world of God just frankly, doesn't work for me.  Here's why: 

Imagine there's no heaven?  Um, no.  No, I'm not doing that.  I find such comfort in knowing that I will see my departed loved ones again.  My heart is a little less heavy in knowing that the children in our family who left us before we could ever hold them are bouncing on the knee of my Grandma Howard.  To know that healing in my body will take place someday, be it here or in the afterlife, gives me strength to push on for another day.  

There is a stanza within this beginning theme that reads as follows: "Imagine all the people living for today."  This implies two falsehoods, I believe: one, that people of faith only look to the afterlife, and two, that your actions don't affect others for generations to come.  Knowing that I will answer to how I lived my life makes me want to do more, not less, in the here and now.  Not because I fear judgement, but because I am so thankful for the love of Christ, I want to share it by loving and serving as many people as I can.  If we're only living for today, why choose environmentalism?  Why have communities?  Why bother loving anyone beyond yourself?  Truly, a balance between living exclusively in the present and "being so heavenly-minded that we are of no earthly good," is in order. 

"Imagine there's no countries ... and no religion, too."-- Yeah, this one doesn't jive with me, either.  While fighting and strife among peoples is something that I believe breaks the heart of God, I don't think diversity does.  Differing opinions, cultures, personalities and expressions of faith bring so much to our world.  Living side-by-side doesn't necessarily mean overlapping.  Peace doesn't necessarily mean homogenizing the planet.  True peace involves, I believe, a philosophy best summed up in the words of my buddy Pastor Paul: "Diversity without division, and unity without uniformity."  When I think of all the differing styles of worship that will take place in heaven, I get excited!  Christ urged his disciples to go into all the earth and spread the gospel, not to bring forth universal sameness, but the joy and freedom that comes from knowing Him.  While the church, as an entity of flawed human beings, has often confused her mission, that's on us, guys.  Not God.  Faith didn't divide, man did.

It is not in spite of my faith that I love and serve people who don't agree with me, but because of it.  It is my job to shine His light in love, service and sharing His gospel, but it is not my job to change hearts and minds.  The gospel is a means of loving out loud, not a rod to beat over the head of others who don't agree.  If you decide Jesus isn't for you, I'm not going to hound and harp at you.  If God himself doesn't see fit to force people to love Him, it would be pretty arrogant of me to attempt to!  If you think I'm a complete idiot for believing in God, I'm okay with that, too.  But it is my hope and prayer that perhaps those of you who have been hurt by others in the name of religion can see that the true practice of Christianity longs for peace-- just as John Lennon did.  However, in stead of taking God out of the picture entirely, we choose to make the Prince of Peace our focus.  Like the attempts at harmony in the chorus of "I wanna Hold Your Hand," I fail often, but clinging to Jesus, I will press on. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Popcorn and Puptents: A Movie Metaphor for Transfiguration Sunday

There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Matthew 17:2

There are many amazing parents out there who find great joy in taking young children to the movies.  I take my hat off to those parents.  I am NOT one of those parents.  In fact, dear parents whose kids are friends with mine, if you are in camp "Cinematic Enthusiasm" and would like to take one of my children along, not only will I pay my kid's way, but I will happily treat you to gas money, a large popcorn, a box of Sour Patch Kids and a Sprite so immense, you will sprint to the restroom afterward.  I am not kidding.  I may throw in a car wash.  

It's not that I don't like going to the movies, it's just that such an event requires a great deal of planning, attentiveness and spending from the "entertainment fund."  None of these factors seemed to mesh well with my children before age 8.  While their behavior is worlds better now, I'm still reeling from those years.  I'm overreacting, you say?  This has nothing to do with Transfiguration Sunday, you assume?  Well, you may have a point about the first one, but I promise, I will tie my past moments of parental exasperation into the lesson.  Since we're using cinematic metaphors, allow me to set the scene for you ... 

The tickets are printed, the car is fueled up, my husband has taken the day off and I'm actually wearing makeup before we get into the car.  If we leave now, we will have plenty of time to find good seats and grab a small snack before the movie starts. And then, it begins.  One child can't find their shoes.  Another decides at the last minute that a different shirt is required for sitting in a dark room with strangers.  Both children seem to forget the frequency of rain in the Seattle area and begin to step out the front door without coats.  What should have been a two minute exit has somehow taken twenty minutes, and we haven't even left the house! Oh well, we'll just miss the previews and sit in the back.  It will be fine ... until it's not. 

When we arrive at the theater, our children, seemingly oblivious to the cost of the movie tickets, are hoping for multiple snacking options.  When I calmly inform them that one box of Swedish Fish costs more than four of the same boxes at the store, they solemly order a single item, as though they did not just eat before leaving the house (which, of course, they did).  Dad grabs a popcorn (after gluten free status is confirmed) and into the theater we march.

As we file into the back of plaza 14B, I ponder how much it would cost to eat two boxes of candy and a bowl of popcorn at home.  "It's a special treat,"  I tell myself.  "The children will appreciate it." 

 As the opening credits roll, I hear the tell-tale sign of Mike and Ikes spilling on the floor.  The children clammer for a turn holding the popcorn (which inevitably also spills).  In stead of paying attention to the film's plot, they frequently ask, "What's going on?"  I am officially paying good money for episodes of insanity that could be acquired at home, free of charge.  Just then, we share a moment.  It might be funny or touching, but it does a mother's heart good.  Soon after, the movie is over.  As we head toward the car, one of the children utters, "Billie's dad took him to see the new *insert cool name here* movie last weekend, in 3D!  He's LUCKY!" 

And with that, I would vow to never take my children to another movie ... until next time.  

It's hard enough to deal with children who don't "get" the privilege of an experience, but how would you feel if this happened time after time with GROWN MEN?  Jesus had his hands full with his disciples, for sure.  They had seen countless miracles, wonders and signs, yet they continued to doubt, argue, complain and even interrupt Jesus.  This pivotal moment on the mountain was no exception. 

What Peter, James and John were about to witness was incredible, especially in a time without so much as a lightbulb, let alone cinematography.  They followed Jesus up a mountain.  Suddenly, Jesus starts glowing.  Next, Moses and Elijah (prophets from the Old Testament) appear and are talking with Jesus.  The Son of God and the two greatest prophets in biblical history are on a mountaintop, having a discussion about Jesus' coming death and resurrection.  Pretty important to the plot of His ministry and life as a whole.  While this would be a great time to quietly listen, loudmoth Peter interrupts with a brilliant plan to build 3 tents; one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah.  (Seriously, Peter?)  Graciously, God did not snuff him out for being annoying, but He did put the verbose fellow in his place by audibly speaking, "This is my son, whom I love.  Listen to him!"  

When God finished speaking, Only Jesus remained, and He told the disciples (who were understandably freaked out) to not speak of this vision until after the resurrection had occured. 

It never stood out to me before that Jesus asked this of His disciples until this morning.  I've heard this story countless times, but I caught something new today: Jesus took Peter to the mountain knowing he would be his usual, impulsive self.  Jesus didn't treck up the mountain thinking, "Man, I hope Peter doesn't make a fool of me in front of my Dad!" He knew what would happen, and he brought Peter anyway.  More than that, He knew Peter would boast of his devotion, cut off a soldier's ear (again with the impulsivity) and deny three times that he even knew Jesus.  He knew this, in fact, at their first meeting, and yet He still called Peter to follow Him.  

Unlike my wariness with the movie theater, Jesus never shys away from moments where His followers can spend time with Him and learn from Him, even though He knows in advance that we're going to screw up.  As I've written before, I relate more to Peter than any other disciple.  Sometimes I can be a raging fan of Jesus, but a lousy follower.  I interrupt Him, listen when I like what I'm hearing from Him and ignore the stuff I don't want to hear. I'm sooooooo easily distracted.  And yet, knowing all this, He called me, too.  Though my faith wavers, I am still granted incredible "mountaintop experiences," as well as the promise of His presence in the darker valleys of life.  I'm glad God is a more patient parent than I am. ;) 

The next time you grab a bucket of popcorn, I hope you're reminded of the second, third and fourth chances God gives His kids-- both for incredible experiences and fresh starts.  

Have a wonderful week, and I'll see you at the movies-- if I find a sitter ... 


About Me

I'm not your average housewife; but then, neither is any other housewife I've met! My life is a constant blur of kids, animals, hunting down and testing allergy-friendly recipes, shopping, LOTS of coffee, yarn crafting, nannying, singing and writing. I married my highschool sweetheart (the introvert who is a type-A, shy, organized, loves hunting, hiking and mountain climbing. He lives for pizza, burgers and cookies and doesn't like coffee). We are polar opposites, but Love, grace and a whole lotta Jesus can overcome anything! :) We have two boys who fill this house with lots of excitement, love, laughter and lunacy! Alan (9) is a happy-go-lucky, inventive, dramatic, eager-to-please kid who loves being dad's shadow and mom's shopping companion. He's the snuggliest kid I've ever met! Wyatt is extremely bright, inquisitive, entertaining and endearing. He lives for routine, Wii games, pixar films and writing stories. Alan is typically-developing, Wyatt has high-functioning autism. We live on an acre in the Pacific Northwest with our two aussies and 5 chickens. It's not the Waltons, but it works! :)