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Posts Tagged ‘sincerity’

Why am I writing this series?  On Saturday I went to a jewelry party (like Pampered Chef, Tupperware, PartyLite candles, etc.)  There are rules for how to wear your jewelry!  People are afraid to try something new or not their typical style.  Layers are very “in” right now.  But you can go with a classic look that never goes out of fashion.  My friend who was hosting the party disagreed with some of the fundamentals of wardrobe, and the jewelry saleslady assented, “If it looks good to you, wear it; it’s all about confidence.”  I know my friend is independent-minded.   

Style is a big industry.  People advertise their designer creativity with crazy lines of clothing in fashion shows, and somehow make plenty of money.  This happens even though I don’t see anyone but models wearing those things, and if they’re not wearing them, are they really buying them?   Why do people follow trends, anyway?  The popular girl wore that, so I will too?  We really think the movie star’s life is so wonderful that we want to do everything like them, including clothes and hair? 

Because something is popular, we consider it beautiful?  Or just because it is new and different, edgy, we invest money in it?  I can understand doing that with a car (whose innovations usually look good and have functional improvements in performance).   Apparently advertising agencies run the world.  They created the concept of teenager, which now governs economics, education, family, marriage, morality, justice…  The industry tells us how to spend our money by manipulating emotional, need-to-fit-in people into feeling like they need their products.   

Do we have a choice?  Does God have choices?  What is the meaning of not choosing something?  Is value subjective or objective?  Is value placed on a thing by a chooser, or is it inherent?   The capitalist system of economics is based on the notion that consumers will act on their sense of value.  For example, I value a necklace at the jewelry party, but I value other uses of my money more. 

A wrench is thrown in the theory of capitalism when I say that even though I value something more than my fluid cash, I won’t buy the item because of moral/spiritual convictions.  I may believe that God doesn’t want me to spend money I don’t have, for example.  I believe that $15,000 would be a great deal for a house.  But I don’t have 15 grand, so I’m not acting on my sense of value.  Even if I need a house, or think it is a great investment, I won’t buy.   

God is also teaching me about embracing sacrifice, intentionally going without what I want.  This is part of the concept behind fasting.  Fasting is a huge exercise of will over want.   If I was being sincere, I would tell you how I really feel about fasting.  My convictions tell me that the way I feel is sometimes wrong.  So I will exercise my will in acting upon what I ought to be in order that I may become that ideal in sincerity.   

Finally, I’ve been reflecting on strong-willed people, especially children who try their parents.  Some strong-willed rebels are breaking my heart.  Other strong-willed children are too young to have made life-altering mistakes.  I listen to their parents talk about them, and I wonder if I could help them to understand the puzzles who are their children.  Would it benefit them to know?   Dr. Dobson wrote a book.  I haven’t read it.  He doesn’t seem to be strong-willed to me.  I think President Bush is.  President Reagan was. 

Heroes are strong-willed, fictional or historical.  Villains tend to be that, as well.  In Beauty and the Beast, both main characters are strong-willed.  Think of their argument after she runs away.  But, as the song says, somebody bends unexpectedly.  Notice it doesn’t say somebody was bent.  They bend.  The tense is intransitive.   

I can relate.  This could be titled, “Confessions of a Strong-willed Christian.”  In writing this series, I discovered a lot about myself, and happily connected dots.  I have a friend who thinks that it is inconsistent with the rest of my personality that I like to watch football.  My position is that it must be linked to my fundamental identity.  This has been an exercise in associating who I am with that identity.  But no, I still can’t explain why I like football. 

Still to come:

What is a Strong-Willed Person? 

How Can you Tell if Someone is Strong-Willed? 

What should Parents of Strong-Willed Children Do?  

Is there Hope?  The Good Side of Strong Will.  To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Do you know how much more I blog when I know I have an audience?  Before I blogged, my friends received long, winding emails quite frequently.  I’d threaten them that if they didn’t respond, I’d keep writing, desperate to have some contact with them.  Then I’d warn them that if they did reply, it would inspire me to write back.  Evidence imposes reality on my realization: I write more when I know you’re reading.  I talk when I know you’re listening.  The substance is better in conversation than in desperate attempts at starting a friendship, or drawing attention: advertising. 

I’ve been looking at my life, and praying about what I see.  Some days I can’t do that; my prayers are focused on survival.  God gives us phases, I think.  Like the moon.  I love the moon: always there, always the same, almost always visible, almost always seen in a new light.  And the light is beautiful. 

Why do I have better conversations, ones that “hit the spot” via blogging, or with an eclectic group of admittedly eccentric protesters outside abortion clinics?  I don’t agree with all the theology, but we can pray together.  When they ask how I am, I can answer that God is teaching me about grace, and share a little.  They share.  I want to know.  Not just their stories, but the stories of my friends, and the people at church and Bible study.  But in the hallways all I hear is “How are you?” and all I can answer is “fine,” unless we were going to cancel nursery service, worship, and lunch.  Then I could talk.  That’s the beauty of blogging and abortion protests.  There’s no schedule, no interruptions that matter.  So I can’t be online at work…  The conversation picks right back up, no awkwardness, more forethought. 

In my prayers I keep telling God I don’t want to play.  I don’t want to play at life.  Gas prices shouldn’t drive me crazy; I don’t want to play.  Hard decisions aren’t on my shoulders; I don’t want to play.  It’s pretending to say I have the wisdom or strength to decide.  And at church, I am so tired of playing.  What I do there is superficial.  I believe in being there, and in making the most of what is there for the sake of bringing the body towards perfection (Ephesians 4).  There is something so wrong about the way we do church.  Why do we bother singing and praying and listening to lessons when we don’t even know each other? 

People move away or change churches, and we never talk to them again.  Why?  When they were at church activities, we admired them.  We enjoyed doing ministry together.  Their comments in Sunday school were challenging, and their smile uplifting.  They’re gone, and we miss them.  But there was never anything more.  We never met for lunch.  I didn’t know what they were thinking, the little things that they might say as commentary on life, but would never think worthy of a special phone call. 

I have a friend at my church, and we’re going to start praying together.  I’m really excited.  She selected an anonymous envelope to “adopt” a teen from our youth group, and I wanted to ask her who she got.  I wanted to enter into even this little facet of her life, and so many more things like that. 

Tonight I babysat for a church plant.  I sat with three little boys while they ate dinner, and the parents and friends talked around the kitchen island.  I care about the adults, but the kids know me, and I love them because I watch them eat.  When one does some weird thing with his spoon, I get to know him.  The middle kid imitates the oldest, and you see how relationships are developing.  I intentionally sit with them when they eat, to build the relationship.  But do I do that with adults?  When is the last time I sat by someone not to start a conversation, but just to be there in case there was commentary? 

Speaking of the church plant, I could hear from my position in the basement of the pastor’s house uproarious laughter, evidence that the group is bonding.  They feel free to be loud, to be humiliated, to laugh, and thus are invested in the details of each others’ lives.  Eventually I think the plan is to have a “normal” church where there is preaching and singing, but I believe they want to keep groups like this one as core to their church.  Once they are loving, unified friends, they can march in sync in their ministry.  In fact, the pastor told me a couple weeks ago that he believes the church’s primary purpose is evangelism, and I’ve been thinking about my disagreement, looking for what the Bible says instead of just what I’ve been taught.  I see the great commission.  And I see Jesus’ prayer in John 17 for what He planned his followers to be.  I read Ephesians, and see that the church is about unity, edification, maturing into the image of Christ.  But that unity of the Spirit is what produces the striving together for the faith of the gospel, the reaching out to the world with the gospel. 

So another thought.  I get challenged like that from this friend, who is a pastor.  His church asks him questions like that more than some, but I think they’re in awe of him, and respectful of him as their leader.  (His wife was originally on my side, properly heeding his perspective and coming early to the conclusion that we’re basically saying the same thing different ways/different emphasis.)  My pastor doesn’t talk to me like that.  I get answers from people who run blogs.  They dare to address my real questions.  But a lot of times their own friends and churches aren’t asking.  What a mess.  Why can’t we be real with the people in our churches? 

I want everyone to read my blog.  But I’m fair about it.  I would want to read everyone else’s blogs or journals, too.  I don’t want to play at friendship, to pretend to be the Body of Christ, anymore.  I, me, personally, want to be real.  And I want to be a real friend.  May God take me, sold out, take my every hour, to be invested in Him and in building people. 

As a crowning point to how this whole topic is being driven home to me today, in one day-long thought, I was telling all these things to my brother after watching some of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  I have no idea how much we missed, but I wouldn’t dare go back to find out; there’s a reason you can skip tracks on DVDs.  (I’m definitely NOT endorsing the movie, but I’m not all that sorry I watched what I did.  Just read a review, and make an educated, prayerful decision if you ever think about watching it.)  Anyway, the premise is that this guy is getting his memories of his girlfriend erased, so he’s going backwards through the memories.  And timelines are just a bit confusing, but if you watch it twice I suspect everything would make sense.  Watch the hair colors.  It’s a key.  We discussed how our brains have to extend to the furthest reaches to follow the movie, and the implications of the story.  It’s too far out, to complex to put our arms around, to hold.  But you can follow it, if you try.  That’s relevant, but this is commentary, windows into my world that produces these thoughts. 

After I said most of the things above, and actually some are his additions, I was talking about being tired of friendships being fake; I want to hear what is going on with people.  I want to read blogs, and my blog to be read.  In an amazing double-irony, he asked, “Did you read my blog?” 

“No.”  We both laughed and I was crying, too, from the irony.  I knew of course that I was contradicting myself because I hadn’t read it in the past couple days, and that he must have written about basically the same thing, or he wouldn’t have brought it up.  And maybe we’re both thinking about the same thing because we read the same things, and talk, and (sometimes) read each other’s blogs.  So here is his perspective on real listening and real friendship.  You have to promise, if you are reading this post, to read his too, and to read it like he meant… every… word. 

Oh, and less crowning but still continuing, we’ve had an ongoing conversation with some friends of ours about “heads bowed, eyes closed” altar calls, whether it be for salvation or other things God’s doing in your life.  We’re tired of playing, and want to be the Church to those around us, at least.  If we can’t see each other, and we’re silent, not praying together at all, how are we going to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep?  What are we saying about the shameless gospel of our God’s great grace? 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

PS: My brother reminds me, and I thought it important enough to make clear: being serious does not exclude joy or smiling or fun.  When I say “I don’t want to play,” I don’t mean I’m opposed to silliness and recreation.  Actually, we should even take our fun seriously; be intense, and sincere when you play. 

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