I Stand

Friends, my heart is greatly burdened.

My heart is burdened by a great number of things. By the election results. By the violence and protests and tragic hate crimes. By the pain of so many in our nation. By the reactions to these things from the communities I love and respect.

We’ve seen the facts we can’t ignore: the increase of hate crimes and microaggressions, the accusations of racism and sexism and intolerance, and the labels like ignorant, simple-minded, and stupid exchanged between friends. We so easily minimize the pain and fear of others in the face of justifying our own opinions, and make light of the dehumanizing speech used by our President-elect by creating memes and tossing around jokes.

I ask this of myself as much as of you: when did arguing our points or justifying being on one side or another come before simply showing one another love and compassion? Please, let’s be cautious of shifting the blame. Before we accuse those offending us of failing to show that love and compassion, let’s take a look at our own lives.

In the face of challenging discussions and different perspectives, I have wrestled with how to speak to those I love with the grace I request from them. I own that I have been angry and frustrated and ashamed and confused and disappointed. I own that I still harbor bitterness in my heart, and I am seeking humility and understanding. I recognize that to generalize about anyone based solely on their race, gender, religion or vote is grossly irresponsible. There are those on all sides of this debate who are approaching things with understanding and love – I know this from experience, and I know this because I have hope in our communities.

However. The loudest voices out there right now, through broadcast news and social media and even in our friend groups, are spewing hate. They paint those of other perspectives as the enemy, and delegitimize their feelings in the name of logic or fact or a political party. These are the voices claiming that a fear of Donald Trump or the people who elected him is petty and ill informed. These are the voices that claim that everyone who voted Republican is a bigot. These are the voices that claim that everyone who voted Democrat is un-American. These are the voices that take joy in Hillary Clinton’s disappointment. These are the voices that wish failure on Donald Trump. These are the voices that deny the realities and responsibilities of privilege. These are the voices that ignore racism and sexism and prejudice, as well as those that attribute it to everyone outside of their own demographic.

So I suppose this is a call, then, to not only seek fresh understanding from those we mistakenly see as “the other side,” but also a call to speak out and stand up.

My Jesus calls me to love. He calls me to grieve with those who grieve, to defend the broken, and to act with compassion. He does not call us to love only if we agree, or to grieve only if we can logically, from our perspective and our side of the political spectrum, understand their fears. My Jesus calls me to use my voice as a tool of peace and my privilege as a declaration of value for those without it.

And so, I stand with you.

I stand with the women who have been scarred by physical or emotional abuse, who fear a culture that perpetrates and ignores these realities, who are disrespected and objectified.

I stand with racial and religious minorities who fear losing friends and family to deportation, who are persecuted for their skin color or their hijab, who are told that they have no value in our communities.

I stand with the LGBTQ community, who are hated, who are demonized as destroying the “American” life, whose sexual orientation is seen before their humanity.

I stand with our veterans, active duty military, and their families.

I stand with physically, cognitively, or learning disabled people.

I stand with those who are screamed at to leave the country.

I stand with those who made a political decision and are called racist or sexist or homophobic, not for their personal actions, but for their vote.

I stand with those who see their way of life threatened.

Stand with me, and keep me accountable. May we, speaking in truth and love and grace and compassion, be the louder voices.

For my fellow Jesus followers: I have heard the sovereignty of God used as a sign of hope as well as a platitude in these tough times. But the sovereignty of God and our hope in Christ is not a reason for passivity, nor an excuse for retreating from reality. My pastor, Andrew Clawson, said this morning that, “It’s often in the places where we think God is the most absent that He is most active.” May He be active in and through us as we love the hurting and the broken.

Posted in 2016 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Return

It’s been a long time, friends, since I’ve even opened this page. I look back at the posts I made more than three years ago, and I feel worlds away. In many ways, I am changed. So have grace if you decide to see what my younger self was thinking.

I contemplated started completely over, as I have in many things this year. And yet I refuse to remove or delete my previous posts, because those words are a part of my journey.

It’s time to write again. May my words be guided by compassion, grace, and humility.

Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment

Complacency or Peace?

In several of my latest posts, I have either directly or indirectly addressed the problem of complacency. This topic has been on my mind consistently in the recent months, whether over break in reflection on the fall semester, or in striving to be active in my Christian walk here and now. And as I was working through these ideas and thoughts, I began reading John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) for a second time for one of my English elective courses.

Okay, so, I knew I liked the tale. But geez, did I forget the simple beauty of this book! Oh, it’s been so much fun! Like reconnecting with an old friend… and realizing you did miss them even though they were not constantly in the forefront of your mind. Sheer joy!

Of course, it’s been since 8th or 9th grade since I last read it. At least four years later, I definitely have learned from and appreciated the work far more. And sharing that insight and joy with fellow, Christian, literary lovers? I am essentially walking on sunshine — in my soul, at least, because the weather here is ludicrous. No, Colorado, I do not treasure the -13 degrees on my way to class. Unfortunately, when I attempted to file a complaint with God, He told me to quit telling Him how to do His job, focus on what I can control, and grow a spine.

Anywho.

I want to share one of the moments from this piece of allegorical literature that struck me the most. For those who haven’t read it, understand that Christian has left the City of Destruction and traveled through the wicket Gate to find salvation. At this point in the story, we find him climbing a steep hill on his way to the Celestial City. As the hill grows increasingly difficult, Christian resorts to “clambering on his hands and knees” (46). He is exhausted and running low on physical stamina, however, he diligently continues to climb. Suddenly, half-way up the hill, the tired pilgrim discovers “a pleasant arbor, made by the Lord of the hill, for the refreshing of weary travelers” (46). Here, Christian takes a break to rest, as intended. However, he soon falls deeper and deeper into sleep, utterly losing track of time. In fact, he sleeps through the whole day, wasting good daylight hours. A voice awakes him, proclaiming Proverbs 6:6: “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise.” With that, Christian frantically races up the rest of the hill, encountering other pilgrims who are turning back in fear of danger at the top. He soon realizes he has lost his valuable scroll, which he received upon entering the Gate and seeing the Cross. Thus, he must turn back to retrieve the scroll. Readers are told that during Christian’s journey back down the path, “Sometimes he sighed, sometimes he wept, and oftentimes he chid himself, for being so foolish to fall asleep in that place which was erected only for a little refreshment for his weariness” (48). Nevertheless, in short, by the grace of God he finds the roll of parchment and rejoices by powerfully continuing his journey.

After facing menacing lions, Christian reaches the summit of the challenging hill, entering a lodge kept by Porter (I know, I know, the names are not creative… this is the point). Here, as well as in a place earlier in the story, Christian runs into the opposite problem. The residents, namely Charity and Prudence, ask him many questions and show him many things. However, all Christian can think about is moving on. Bunyan writes that, “on the morrow he got up to go forwards, but they desired him to stay till the next day also” in order to show him further glories and impart wisdom (58). After his time of learning is through, Christian begins traveling again. 

So what is the difference between these situations? In one, Christian’s supposed to enjoy it for a moment and move on, and in the other linger? What’s the lesson to be learned? Where the heck is the consistency?

This is where my nerdy love of analysis comes in, and I grow utterly excited. You see, Bunyan placed these two examples one after another in his book to display the differences between abusing God’s blessings of places of rest and refreshment, and recognizing longer seasons of preparation. In the first situation, Christian loiters too long where he should only take a breath, be thankful for the respite, and continue his journey. In the second, he is enthusiastically ready to depart, but the Lord knows he needs to prepare his heart and mind for the trials and temptations ahead.

I don’t know about you, but to me, that is an incredible comparison. I highly recommend you read it for yourself! As for the applicable side, be conscious of where God has you. When He blesses you with moments of peace and joy in the midst of hectic life, enjoy them! Simply be conscious to avoid growing complacent and taking advantage of God’s blessings. Conversely, do not grow impatient with seasons of formulation. As a college student, this is where myself and many of you all, my peers, struggle. We either focus too intently on having fun, or we grow anxious in wanting to change the world while God’s still busy doing His work to shape both our intellectual and spiritual educations. Personally, I’m still learning to tell the difference between moments of peace, moments of preparation, and moments of pathetic complacency.

Evaluate your circumstances. Did you take moments in the last week to enjoy God’s gifts of respite, and then continue diligently in your work and school? Are you recognizing the growth God is doing, or growing irritated at how long it is taking to “move on and get life started”?

“But I have trusted in Your mercy;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” – Psalm 13:5-6 

Posted in February 2014, Spiritual Growth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Real Country

Driving back to campus last weekend, after a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s break, Colorado threw one of its infamous weather temper tantrums. Most of you are fully aware of Colorado’s bipolar qualities, but let me explain the specifics anyway.

Leaving my house, the sun was shining and smiling brightly, warming Colorado Springs to 50 degree t-shirt weather. However, upon turning onto the main road from my neighborhood, I noticed dark, ominous clouds to the north and west. Thirty seconds later, rough winds began to pull at my vehicle from seemingly all directions. Soon after, before I had even reached the interstate, snow began to fall like rain – clouding my vision, but melting the instantly upon contact.  The clouds threw in some hail and the odd mixture of snow and ice that natives refer to as “graupel.” Meanwhile, the snow thickened to just above white-out conditions. This lasted for another twenty minutes of travel along the interstate before the snow was replaced with soft rain. Upon summiting Monument Hill, not only did the white expanse seem to lift, but the sky’s tears again withered under the sun’s rays. I basically encountered all four seasons in less than half an hour.

And I am thankful, because I will never forget that image, coasting down into the valley, gazing at the surrounding plains. I wish I could have pulled over to snap a few pictures, because words do the image no justice; nevertheless, I will do my best. Surprisingly large patches of crystal blue sky graced the horizon, met by puffs of cotton ball clouds rising from the mountain ridges I love so dearly. The clouds looked like the breath of the mountains, wreathing them in wonder and mystery. Through the haze, you could see browns and greens below their snow-covered heights.

Fittingly, Keith Urban began to croon through my speakers, “I’m alive and free, who wouldn’t wanna be me?” In that moment, I relished the beauty of God’s handiwork, as well as the nature of life. The clouds still loomed full of harrowing peril and fear, but now they stormed behind me, representing triumph in my rearview mirror instead of clouding my vision of the journey ahead. Leaving the danger, trouble, and caution behind, the rolling hills and glorious peaks stood radiant before me in the light of day.

And yet, while these thoughts were still forming in my head, I passed three lonely, driverless cars, along the right shoulder, covered in snow. Abandoned, whether in the face of the elements or mechanical trouble. I couldn’t help thinking those poor vehicles were so close. They almost made it to freedom, to joy, to the warmth of the sun. Instead, they stalled under the deluge of resistance.

They gave up.

I realized this is a representative of much of life. I’ve used analogies regarding steering and road trips in much of my previous writing, particularly when addressing the topic of surrender. However, in far more general terms, the Christian walk is about loving God and loving others, and glorifying God in that as we deal with the trials and joys found here earth. Unfortunately, many people do not succeed. They lose hope, forgetting the prize and the bliss that awaits those faithful to the Father. Their lives rest like empty shells, perhaps in tact on the outside, but broken where it counts.

I want you to do something that I, personally, am striving to do more frequently: think about what you truly believe. That the God of the Universe loves you like His own Son, whom He sent to die. To DIE, that you might have LIFE.

Because of HIM, this is not our home.

We’re made for a grander country.

We will spend an eternity in Paradise. An eternity. A forever. That’s always, y’all.

Unimaginable? Heck yes. This life seems so long, so central, that it is impossible for us to look beyond it. It cannot be that all this is temporary, right? Forever seems like so utterly far away. But how beautiful is it, friends, to truly ponder that we have so much more to look forward to? Does it not stir excitement in you, place your soul in a state of sheer awe? As wonderful as daily life gets, it is bland compared to the beauty of knowing Christ and praising Him forever. This is what the Great I AM has planned all along.

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” – John 14:2-3

So when life is peaceful, use this hope to remind you why you have that blessing. When your days grow complacent, use this hope to renew your zeal. When life remains turbulent and difficult, use this hope to keep you going. We cannot forget it. We cannot forget WHY Christ made His magnificent sacrifice, and we cannot forget why the way we live is so important. Take a look at Revelation. Maybe, for once, don’t ponder the questions and debates of HOW the end will come, but take a look at the last few chapters that talk about the bliss He has so graciously promised. Remind yourself that one day you will break through the whiteout conditions and the hazy weather to see His splendor shining all around. And then we can declare like C.S. Lewis’  Unicorn in The Chronicles of Narnia – The Last Battle: 

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it until now…. Come further up, come further in!”

Posted in In Awe, January 2013, Tidbits of Perspective | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

He-Focused

That’s right! After a blessed semester filled with new adventures, challenging courses, “you can sleep when you’re dead!” repeated too frequently, and convictions of complacency… joy of joys, break arrived! Three weeks of no school, no assignments, no pressure, no commitments… right?

Come on.

Of course not. Unfortunately, it took several shamefully long days for the reality of that delusion to fully resonate. In the meantime, I drove my family insane with “taking it easy” and “just trying to fit back in.” In fact, it took more than a few long days… it took both my Heavenly Daddy and my earthly Daddy knocking me into shape to realize the depth of my issues. After I quit bemoaning and grudging how uncomfortable their honesty made me feel… I took a look at what the Lord has been showing me all year.

Hi. My name is Bri, and I’m a self-addict.

My biggest concern in life is my own happiness, comfort, and success. And I loathe admitting it, but this is the difficult, buried truth: I’m pretty good at helping other people out, but if it gets in the way of my personal priorities or what I want to do? Ninety-percent of the time, you can forget it. Now, you have to understand, in general my friends reap the benefits of this, and my family bear the hurt. Because for some idiotic reason, I feel like helping my friends even when I don’t feel like helping my family. It’s not that I do not love or care for these people in my life. It’s the opposite, and my affection is immense! I am simply extremely self-centered, and poor at shifting my focus to the most important people in my life – the wonderful family the Lord gave me. I’ve lived this way for years, fluctuating between mild cases of improvement and slacking in my love and service again, whether it being simply doing the mundane things requested by Mom or going out of my way to make life easier for everyone in the home. However, returning from school was a huge wake-up call, like a bucket full of ice dumped down my shirt. I’m ready for a turning point.

I’m not minimizing the challenge that changing this lifestyle presents, but I am serious as a heart attack. I know I will continue to stumble, but it’s time to face the issue directly. Enough is enough.

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 2:3-5

“… No drug is so powerful as the drug of self. No rut in the mind is so deep as the one that says I am the world, the world belongs to me, all people are characters in my play. There is no addiction so powerful as self-addiction.” – Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

Not only have I slighted my family and other people precious to me, but in my self-absorbed world, my relationship with the Lord has been ultimately me-focused, rather than He-focused. I have made my pursuit of God about what I can receive from Him and how He makes me feel, rather than acknowledging those blessings while I pursue knowing Him. I can tell you there is absolutely nothing fulfilling about a one-sided relationship, and I am deeply thankful for a God who loves me despite my ignorance and abuse of that love. He is calling me back to His heart, and I am running because my life depends on it. May He continue to be patient with me as I learn to fully devote myself to Him and act on His promptings to serve the people around me… whether they be family, roommates, friends, or strangers.

In addition to Philippians 2:3-5, I have the following slogan playing on repeat through my head: Jesus, Others, You. JOY. As cheesy as it sounds, I learned this little acrostic in fifth grade, and I have never forgotten it… I have, however,  failed to apply it. But trust me, I am far too well acquainted the emptiness and joyless pits that result from a life centered on self. After these last few weeks, where God is leading me in step-by-step growth in selfLESSness, I have found for millionth time the genuine fulfillment and joy that comes from following Christ’s example in putting others first.

I do not make “New Year’s Resolutions.” I believe we should always be examining our lives, asking the Lord to work in us and spur us to change us in ways that only He can, instead of only worrying about it for a few days at the beginning of the year. However, I am thankful for the transition and the way the Lord uses human tradition to refocus my life when I drift away. I believe that goals are important, whenever they are established, so that we do not float through a life bereft of growth. So, a few weeks ago, I asked the Lord to break selfishness in me. And since then, my visit home has been truly wonderful. He is turning my shame and personal preoccupation into motivation! I am already amazed at the difference in my attitude in doing the littlest things for others, compared to my previous disgust at the insignificance of sweeping Mom’s floor every night. I guarantee you this enthusiasm is not rooted in my humanity, for my soul is still clutched by fingers of selfish desire. Even when, still, the last thing I want to do is get up off the couch, the Lord is slowly prying those selfish fingers apart. Their death-grip loosens as I follow the urgings of the Spirit instead of ignoring it in favor of myself.

Abba, in place of continuing in selfishness, I ask to learn love. The love of others that replaces the love of self. Because when I’m living selfishly, I’m lacking in genuine love…  but when I focus on cultivating love, only in selfishness will I be lacking. Teach me to love You and love Your people as You love, absent of conditions and the need for reciprocation. Teach me to cultivate a heart of service and humility. Pull me closer and take me deeper. I fail constantly, but in my soul, I now truly desire that when people look in my direction, they will not see me on my pedestal, striving for earthly nothings that will bring me temporary pleasure… they will see a person changed by Your magnificent handiwork, a testament not to how much I love myself or even how much I love You… but to the expanse of Your love and grace. 

My love for God and others has been utterly skewed, viewed through a lens that tracks my personal profit. I’m finally listening, prayerfully long-term, to the voice of the Spirit pressing me to refocus. I want to be able to say: Hi. My name is Bri, and “my life”? Psh, it isn’t about me at all! I’m addicted to Someone so much bigger than myself.

How about you?

Posted in January 2013, Serving, Spiritual Growth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment