God is Countercultural

These topics are hotly debated, but perhaps it is because they should be. I’m a millenial who grew up with mass shootings, I’ve lived as a Christian and non-Christian, and I do own a gun. But as a Christian, I have to consider what I am defending and protecting with my words online and in conversations. First, because God asks things of us as a follower and second, because we have the ability to bring people closer or further to God through our actions.

Sandy Hook. Orlando. Are we more apt to defend the rights of our guns or to demand some change? To say the status quo is no longer good enough? God, Jesus, calls us to the widow, the immigrant and the orphan, to mourn with those who mourn. Yet I see many who claim they are Christians first jumping to protect our rights instead of our people, and in the mean time we are creating more people who are mourning.

I love our rights. As a history major, I understand the danger of giving up rights out of fear or the desire for protection or security. I’m not saying the answer is simple or easy but we must look at our choices and as Christians, we should be caring for the victims more than our weapons. That doesn’t mean I’m saying hand them all over and melt them down; but we believe in improvement in our personal, spiritual and business life. It would be startling to think that some improvements can’t be made.

This, surprisingly or not, ties in to things like the death penalty. I don’t support the death penalty in cases where someone can be safely kept. This wasn’t always the case but my time with some Catholic nuns has shown me that everyone should be afforded every opportunity to repent and change their path; are we not all guilty in some way and worthy of being prisoners (if not of worldly law then certainly of God’s)?

I think if we examine other controversial issues like immigration, abortion, etc. we can start to see that leading with love and empathy might be the better foundation to build upon.

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Seeds of Change

     The fifth chapter of Brian Seaward’s book Stand Like Mountain, Flow like Water, is looking at seeds of change, was very insightful. First examined was the seed of faith, the mustard seed. Faith is something that must be cared for and cultivated. Like the tiny mustard seed, if cared for, it will become durable and rooted but it requires nurturing. “Nelson Mandela… said, ‘Faith is not belief without proof, it’s trust without reservation.’ Many people claim to have faith, but their faith can best be described as hope; wishing rather than knowing.” (pg. 177) I have found that as my faith deepens, it is not that God answers my prayers more or that I have a better idea of what the future holds; it is that more and more I trust where I am being lead and whatever situations I face, I know God is with me and so I am filled with courage.

     For the daffodil (personally my favorite flower), the seed of mirth, I took great comfort in this. I find I often balance serious conversation with laughter and it is how I attempt to bring comfort to people at opportune times. I particularly agree with where the cancer victor pointed out that it diffuses anger, dissolves fear, and lightens the heart. (pg. 186) The thing to be sensitive of here is that the humor is not at a cost to someone else; this is completely unnecessary and doesn’t bring healing to people as we see within the story of the people who are fighting for survival. It is best to not joke about people’s health, physical or mental, because you really have no idea what battles they are fighting. Let your words always lift people up. As someone who comes from a household where sarcasm was standard and wit was biting, I have found this habit to be a challenging habit to break at times but I never want make people laugh at another’s expense.

     The seed of compassion (the columbine seed) hit close to home as I was a freshman in high school during the shooting at Columbine; the ripple effect it sent through my high school was less compassion and an increase in threats for shootings and bombs. Fear of death, as this book covers, was not uncommon in school. The perspective of the state’s approach reflected on the license plates, “Respect Life, not only in remembrance, but as an expression of compassion,” (pg. 188) is very reassuring. Compassion isn’t about being thanked, or pity or shame, it is about unconditionally loving others.

     Lastly, the acorn, the seed of willpower, a seed that is soft and only half an inch in diameter and yet if planted produces oak, an tall and exemplary hardwood. Willpower is a muscle that requires consistent exercise. For each of these seeds, they start out tiny and, if properly planted and nurtured, produce something far beyond what one might expect when looking at a tiny seed. As we tie these seeds back to the traits we associate them with, we need to consider the conditions we “plant” these traits within ourselves. Do we feed them with positive or negative thoughts? Are they suffocated by ego or fear-based weeds? Based on our care, how can we expect these traits to grow?

I Am Transforming

Things I did this week that the old me would not have done:

 

  1. I asked my Father to pray daily for my (future) husband
  2. I spoke to my Mother about wanting her wisdom (with a preference towards loving delivery) and that I would not respond the way I used to in the past
  3. I am taking steps of faith that only other people of faith seem to understand; and their support in the courage this requires of me is invaluable
     I could list a lot of the ways I have failed in the past few weeks too. I’ve really been beating myself up internally over it but I’ve moved through that space now. I was reminded, through the Bible, I am transforming. I am being changed. There are people who will not see it, or will not understand it, or will not like it. But this is the work of God.
     While the Spirit is something I received, I also have to choose to hear the Spirit and respond to it again and again. I have to change what was a lifetime of bad habits and sixteen years of denying God and replacing that guidance, that Kingship, with other things. Things like the American Dream, money, vacations, retirement, bitterness, anger, resentment, entitlement, recognition, etc. All these things I have to give up. Sacrifice. But is it a sacrifice when in return for offering all this up, I receive my God as my King? A Father who sacrifices for me?
     In I Corinthians 6:15-18 it says, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take Christ’s members and make them the members of a prostitute? Of course not! [Or] do you not know that anyone who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For “the two,” it says, “will become one flesh.” But whoever is joined with the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Avoid immorality.”
     What does this say to me? Of course I could not fathom doing anything to damage the body of Christ and yet what do I do to myself? How do I treat others? I am a member of the body of Christ, and Christ a member of my body. So I should treat myself as I would treat the body of Christ and aspire to treat all those around me similarly. Which is why I pray a lot.
     I give thanks to God, always. I praise God. I pray for the people in my life. But then I pray for God to transform me even more. To make me over more into the image of my Maker. When I first started praying I wondered if my prayers were selfish but now I understand that the majority of my prayers focus on how I treat others. On how I impact the Kingdom. So I don’t think it a very selfish prayer after all. I want to see people the way God sees people and love them the way God loves them.
     I also repent. A lot. But this isn’t the self-loathing repentance you hear about or anything like that. I’m taking where I know I fell short to God and asking God to work with me in that area. And saying I’m definitely going to work on it too. I have a lifetime of transforming ahead of me.

Prayer of Thanks and for Change

My only God, Creator of all that is and will ever be, you wrap me in your love, you fill me with your Spirit, you pull me under your wing and give me comfort. When my eyes are open to my poverty, in your time you give me abundance. You are present when I seek you fully and your grace has shown no limits. I give thanks for the God you are, of both grace and justice, choice and presence. Continue to transform my heart so it is more like yours, so that I give freely what I have been given. Praise The Lord our God, amen.