We as a team of writers wrote a blog about New Year’s Resolutions. I was a part of that blog, I chose a word like everyone else, and I wrote about it. I often hear people say that they can’t believe how much their lives have changed on a year to year basis. I can honestly say I used to think that too. Things happen on a day to day basis, when you don’t pay attention that really adds up to a life changing amount of interactions. I can say that until 23, I kind of floated. Then I was 24 looking back on year and not realizing how drastically different it had been than my previous years. Now, being 25 I am acutely aware of how my week to week interactions go and ultimately how they work into shaping me as a person. The differences of being 23 to now being a few months in to 25 seems pretty drastic. New house, new job, new church, a new boyfriend or two, a new hair colour, but probably the best things to come out of it are the relationship I have myself and God. At 23, I didn’t really have much of a relationship with God. On top of that I was in a relationship that I lost myself in. I even saw myself as a fiancé and not as Ashley anymore.
Since then I am pleased to say that really do like myself as a person, but I am even happier about where I am in relationship with God. What a patient God we have, to sit and wait for me to try and fail throughout my early 20’s only to welcome me home with open arms when I finally realized how deep in the dark I really was. As a very plan full person, when God’s plans and timelines didn’t match mine, I thought his should default to mine. Not recognizing at the time that I should have been much more welcoming of ideas and plans for my life that weren’t mine. So, feeling like I have it more under control now, and being in the best relationship I’ve had with him in my whole life this far, I feel like I need to share some things with you.
I wrote a blog before the Holidays saying that I realized during a night shift that I was so busy I hadn’t even prayed or had a conversation with God for more than three days. What? Would you go for three days without talking to your best friend? What about the one who let his son die to give you life…
I don’t think so! I have learned my lesson since this past Christmas because I went from being too busy to remember to pray, to being too busy to figure out a run to the grocery store or how to factor in time to blow dry my hair. I know I have to master the fine art of saying NO. I don’t mean saying no in a negative way, I mean it like if you have two evenings free a week after all your work time and other commitments, don’t feel bad saying no to going to coffee with an acquaintance that doesn’t speak much goodness into your life. You do not have to feel selfish for having to set aside time in your schedule to just be alone, and to commune with God. If you feel like you need permission to do that, consider this it!
There Is No Wrong Way To Pray
I have talked to probably 10+ people in my life that have prayer closets. I have no idea what I would put in a prayer closet. I know that for me I feel closest to God in the quiet parts of my day. In the morning getting ready for the day, and in the evening when I use my journal. But I also have worked on a relationship with him where I don’t have set aside times to pray. I have an ongoing conversation all day long. Think of it like when you are texting a best friend or significant other, you normally have an ongoing text message string all day. You never really say good bye, you just text back when you can. I want you to feel good about however you chose to pray, there is no wrong way and everyone is different. I think we can all agree that God knows we are all different.
You Are Going To Make Mistakes
How great is it to worship a God that knows you aren’t perfect and loves you anyway? There is no façade, you can’t hide who you really are, underneath your clothes, your hair and makeup, the show you may put on for the world. God knows what’s really going on. I hate being late. I hate it a lot. But sometimes a side effect of being a city transit user is being late. Occasionally when I am late, I don’t think God is angry at me for not being perfect and showing up on time. He loves me through fights with loved ones, through missed busses and bad hair days. He loves you too. You are made in the image and likeness of God. Mistakes or not, he loves you.
You Won’t Get To Keep All Your Friends
This is a list I am making being an outgoing 25 year old woman. I promise you I have met an incredible amount of people during my lifetime. You are going to meet people who “get you’’ down to your soul. You will feel it in your bones. The connections I have made have been both wonderful and heartbreaking. You don’t get to keep all these people with you. I learned this when my best friend died before I turned 18. There are other ways to lose people, you move, you outgrow each other, (which I used to think was a made up thing adults said about friends they secretly didn’t like). Now that have outgrown certain friendships I understand. The feeling of loss you will feel, inevitably, should not keep you from forging new friendships.
Worrying Is Wasteful
See above for my feelings about this one. All the time I wasted worrying was time I should have spent praying because in the end, God is here to fight for me, not against me. Worrying is like telling God you don’t think he knows what the best outcome is for you. Of course I’m by no means going to tell I can promise bad things won’t happen. But know that God is going to help you through all the obstacles. Side note, that also took me about 23 years to learn, is even though you God has your back, you are allowed to ask for help when you need it. It doesn’t make you weak. It makes you smart. Please don’t struggle alone. You are never alone. The burden is always lighter when you share it.
So while my word for the group blog was love, this is a little update. I think I struggled too much putting my whole existence for the next 365 days into a word. So instead you now get to see the things I have learned and the things I have been working on. Everyday everything you adds up to making you, you. My wish is for to know what makes you happy, and go after it. You’ve had about two months to get used to writing 2015 on everything, now here is a reminder for the resolutions you may have forgotten about
I don't suspect that it is God's ultimate plan that our lives be full of rain, but rain does come. Jesus said that the rain falls on the good and the wicked (Matt 4:45) and this wasn't due to any person's particular sin, but simply a reality of life. The real question is: What do we do while we are in the rain?
Maybe you are in the midst of a rainy day in your life and everything seems unsettled and uncertain. The clouds have rolled in and they don't seem to be leaving anytime soon. No matter the theological debate of, 'Did God cause it, is He using it or simply letting it happen?', let us not waste the waiting time. It can be in the darkest times in our lives that true faith grows and matures. God can do a real work in our lives when we are being refined by fire and bring up to the surface was shouldn't be of us.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Don't waste the waiting time. God can handle our questions and we can ask 'why?'. But don't stay there, perpetually stuck on the 'why?', never moving from this state of mind. At some point we also need to ask the question 'what now?'. See, not only does God work in the midst of these times, but He calls us to work as well. He will almost always call us to action, to move forward and do something. So often we can be stuck praying, hoping that God will magically rescue us or fix the situation we are facing. Now, don't get me wrong, the first step is always prayer, but at some point comes a time to perspire, to put that prayer and faith to work.
So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. // James 2:17
Maybe God is calling us to change something, to do something, to be something or simply trust Him and move forward, knowing He will guide us and shape us on the way. Is it possible that the answer to your own prayers is the changed you, the work of the Holy Spirit transforming you into the person and work that will accomplish the very thing you are praying to be resolved? Maybe that is why the rain has come, so that you can become the very thing you need to answer the very prayer you are praying.
When we see the unique partnership of God's refurbishing hand on our lives and us being made into something new, accomplishing new things through Him and His power in us and through us, this not only gives us great reason to rejoice after the fact, but praise Him in the midst of the whole ordeal.
Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. // 2 Cor 1:7, 11
Do We Have a Victim Mentality?
It is easier for us to define what we believe when we can identify what we are against. Once
we know what we are against it we can figure out who we are against. We create an
environment where it is "us versus them". We conflate the thing that we are against with the
people who do the thing we are against. We create our own enemies, and it is natural to think
that our enemies want to further their own agenda by destroying ours.
Maybe there is some sort of personal need to feel like martyrs because we want to think that
we would die for our faith. Corporately, though, as comfortable North American Christians we
are not persecuted. Some like to think that if another group gets equal rights our right are
being eroded. American Christianity is in love with the idea of being a victim. There are a
couple things I have noticed that keep coming up.
“The Gay Agenda”
In Alberta, there is currently a controversy over gay straight alliances. They are a group for
gay students to escape the bullying that they experience in school. It is a way for straight
students to stand with their gay friends. Naturally, because it involves homosexuality,
Christians perceive it as a threat. Some speculate that it is part of a plan to convert our
children to homosexuality.
We hear from conservative media all the time about the 'gay agenda'. I can only speculate
about what people mean when they use the word. Maybe some think it is ruining Christianity
and it’s intent is to recruit straight people into a gay lifestyle. Maybe the gay agenda is making
gay marriage acceptable to the masses and convincing Christians that homosexuality is fine.
Some people even think that it is the intention of gay rights supporters to make straight
marriage illegal. As if that would be possible.
In reality, what gay people want is basic, civil rights. It does not threaten our rights in any way
to give a another group of individuals the ability to live their lives without fear, as we do. To be
able to order a cake without being discriminated against. Kimberly Knight has a great blog
post about how equal rights for LGBT people are not last rites for Christians.
We still own our own value system even if other people are allowed to do the same things we
do. Just because they can get married doesn't mean that our marriages now mean less than
they did before. Let’s be honest here, it isn't persecution to allow two people to pledge their
lives to each other no matter how much we may think it is wrong. It doesn’t harm us in any
way if gay people are represented on television.
Don't misunderstand me, I agree with someone like Philip Yancey when he affirms the people
in the LGBT community but doesn't affirm their lifestyle. Yes, I think that homosexuality is
wrong in the sense that it is not what God intended. I can't say that, however, without
mentioning that I am positive I myself am not living my life as God intended I think that our
only job is to show God’s love and grace until we, through relationship, are able to speak into
the lives of gay people. I strongly believe that it is only God himself that can convict people of
“Fit in or !*%# Off”
Apparently allowing immigrants into ‘our’ country and letting them practice their own religion is
unacceptable. Of course, this is only the case if 1. we believe that it is only “our” country, not
God’s and 2. We think that they are taking over and “not fitting in”. That all the muslims that
move here are going to take over parliament and institute sharia law. It seems outrageous but
we all know of people that believe it is going to happen. I do not doubt for a minute that there
are certain groups of people (not all) that would like it to happen, but that is not the point I am
trying to make. The point is that Christians tend to think that our way of life is damaged by
letting others practice their way of life.
For example, Fox News has reported that there are “No go zones” in France and even the
United States. There is even a facebook post going around now that claims there are no go
zones in the UK too. Snopes.com doesn’t think so. A No go zone is a muslim controlled area
where sharia law is in effect. This is the type of sensationalist, sky is falling media coverage
that amplifies the uneasiness that people feel.
The facebook post also claims that Canada is instituting Muslim prayer in schools. It
conveniently leaves out that it is optional. It reads, “Now Islamic prayers have been introduced
in Toronto and other public schools in Ontario, and, yes, in Ottawa, too, while the Lord's
Prayer was removed (due to being so offensive?).” It continues to claim that islamic
extremism is the next step. “The Islamic way may be peaceful for the time being in our
country until the fanatics move in.” They must be referring to a school in Ontario that opened
a Nslim prayer room. As for it happening elsewhere, Snopes.com doesn’t really think that
It seems to be a common thought that if we let Muslims worship we have somehow ‘lost the
battle’. As if there is a culture war to be won. Maybe it is a symptom of Constantinian
Christianity to view those with differing beliefs as the enemy. They aren’t, they too are created
in the imago Dei. They were created and loved by God in the same way that we are.
As for removing the Lord’s Prayer, I am not too sure why we want to force people who aren't
Christians to perform a Christian prayer anyways. As a Christian I definitely want other people
to be Christians too, however, I do not want them praying to God if they don’t believe He
exists. People should be praying authentic prayers. No wonder we get accused of pushing our
beliefs on people. This does not mean we are victims of an increasingly pluralistic or secular
society; It just means that there are people who have differing beliefs.
This particular facebook post also complains (it was a long post!) about the availability of halal
foods to appease the “privileged minority”. If you are questioning my motives for writing this
post just consider the level of audacity that is required for straight, white, male Christians to
complain that a minority is privileged. Other than that, we have had kosher foods for a long
time, I’m not too sure why this is a big deal. Food producers are all about the bottom line, they
found a way to make money. It isn’t a conspiracy. Again, I find myself asking, why do we care
Before I am mistaken; No, I don’t agree with other religions since I put my faith in Jesus Christ
alone, I am not a pluralist. That does not mean I need to promote fear mongering. I don't need
put a sign on my truck that reads “fit in of !*%# off”. It doesn't mean that I promote an attitude
that all muslims are terrorists. It doesn't mean that I think that all the muslims that come to
‘our’ country have an agenda. It doesn't mean that we we are losing our rights or our culture.
“Keep Christ in Christmas”
Let’s not forget the product of ridiculous fictional martyrdom, 'Keeping Christ in Christmas'. It
is our way of proving that ‘the gays’, ‘the Muslims’ and secular humanists are trying to destroy
our traditions. Every year we hear how ‘they’ are trying to ‘take Christ out of Christmas’ by not
saying “Merry Christmas”. We are surprised when they have the audacity to say “Happy
Holidays” or even invoke the celebrations of another faith. As if they forgot they live in our
country now or that it was founded on ‘Christian principles’.
A couple things need to be said about this situation. 1. Our current Christmas celebrations
don’t have much to do with Christ anyway. 2. Other people with other faiths exist within our
world. It was the same for Paul; He was apostle in a synchrotistic time but he used
persuasiveness to convince people of the truth. Instead of getting upset at this perceived
insult we should use it as a means to convey the goodness of God revealed to us in Christ.
We can’t do that if we are offended all the time.
By all means, continue to say "Merry Christmas", we shouldn't be stopped from saying it.
Keep in mind though, it has no lasting value if they don't know the reason why we say it. If all
they hear is us complaining then they don't hear the gospel message of Christ.
So Much More
There is one other thing that is important that needs a post of it’s own but deserves at least a
mention here. Politics. Some (most?) conservative Christians associate Christianity with
conservative politics. Therefore some seem to think illegal aliens and homosexuals are our
enemies. That universal health care and redistribution
of wealth are something that Christians shouldn't be supporting. The lessons that Jesus taught us about taking in the alien, caring for orphans and widows, loving your neighbor, pacifism, and living communally are forgotten in favor of empire (not Kingdom) building, culture wars, bootstraps style capitalism, fear mongering, and blood lust.
To put it bluntly the connection between conservative politics and conservative Christianity is
an oxymoron. Some have associated so much with conservative politics that any notion of
Christianity cooperating with socialist style politics is perceived as a threat.
Much can still be said. We can talk about Ken Ham claiming religious persecution because he
didn’t receive a tax break. We can talk about the Christians in an uproar because Hollywood
movies “don’t follow the Bible”. I think I've made my point though. When compared to the
sufferings of many international Christians, there is much that we do that seems insignificant.
Why do we think that everyone is our enemy? Why do we assume they are out to destroy our
way of life? Can we stop thinking like this? What would it look like if we loved our enemies?
Maybe it looks like an evangelical church (that doesn’t affirm homosexual activity) being 'too
nice' to a pro-gay protest. Or, 200 young Muslims protecting Christians in Nigeria. Or,
Christians protecting praying Muslims or Muslims protecting Christians, both in Egypt.
-This post is being rated PG for the sake of the reader because I don’t want to be liable for your uneasiness. Also, because I’m a child.-
To be totally honest, I still giggle a little bit when someone mentions the word duty.
And yes, I’m still 8 years old.
But I just can’t help but think of doing a #2 when that word comes up, and I really don’t think I’m the only one. I was sitting in class the other day wondering why that was. I suppose it’s most likely because, in a sense, that “act” is a duty of ours. It’s not (necessarily) a substantially exciting or moving event, but it’s a daily ritual that most - if not all - of us partake in at least a few times a week.
To be clear, for those who haven’t caught on, I am talking about poop.
It’s a thing that comes up every once in awhile that we don’t really think about until we get the inkling and the routine kicks in. We go, do our thing, hopefully wash our hands, and then continue on with the rest of our day, not really thinking of it anymore until next time.
Unfortunately, for a lot of us, this is our faith.
(I bet you didn’t think I could turn that boat around.)
Our beliefs - our faith - should be a part of everything we do.
We wake up, go to school/work/whatever, eat lunch, continue with what we did before lunch, go home, eat again, spend the evening doing our own thing, brush our teeth, and finally go to bed. At some point in there our bowels kick in and shift to “B” for Boogie. Similarly, at some routine point in there, our faith kicks in also. Maybe it’s before we go to bed we say a quick prayer or read a couple verses from the Bible. Maybe it’s before we eat we say grace. Maybe it’s just when we go to church Sunday morning. Whatever it is, it’s just a part of our routine.
Now, don’t get me wrong: there is NOTHING wrong with any of these. In fact, having it as a part of your routine is great. What I believe is wrong is when it just becomes another “thing” we do. Our faith instinct kicks in and we do our business in order to get on with the rest of our day. It doesn’t seep into any other parts of our lives. (This is where the poop analogy stops. I really hope that doesn’t seep into all other parts of your life.)
Our beliefs - our faith - should be a part of everything we do. It should be a part of us when we’re at work. It should be a part of us when we’re at school. It should be a part of us even when we’re in the little boy’s/girl’s room. It should be something that is evident in literally everything that we do.
As Christians, we should be Christ-like always. Not sometimes. Not just when we pray. Not just when we read the Bible. Not just at church. Not just in the routine spaces we’ve put in our lives. Always. No, that doesn’t mean you need to be reading your Bible every second of the day. It doesn’t mean that you need to be at church every waking hour. It merely means acting as Jesus did always. Because that’s beautiful.
Let your faith be beautiful. Don’t let it become just another thing you do - a duty.
It’s no wonder that some people’s faiths literally stink. Their faith has become pure duty. It’s only about the things that they do. Their faith is dedicated strictly to the moments set aside in their busy lives. Trust me, I’d know; I’ve been like that before. It stinks for me because my beliefs become a set of distinct rules and procedures to follow which only trap me more. It stinks for other people because the lack of joy they witness in my life gets thrust upon them when they interact with me, whether it be by imposing my rules upon them or because of my general negative attitude. Finally, it stinks for God because we keep ourselves from the full relationship He meant for us to experience.
Let your faith be beautiful. Don’t let it become just another thing you do - a duty. Show the people around you what it’s like to live as Christ did. Show your peers, your friends, your family how amazing it is to live a life to our full potential - the potential that God gave us to live. Show God how much you love Him by giving that potential right back to Him as you serve as Christ did: through love. Be the beautiful human being God made you to be. You are beautiful. God’s love for you is beautiful. God’s plan for you is beautiful. So show everyone. Don’t let it just become one “nice” aspect of your day.
And if your faith is going to be poo- anything, at least let it be potpourri.
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