Saturday, December 31, 2011

Musings in Preparation of the End of the Year

It's definitely been a good year, overall, I'd say. Ups and downs, for sure. The graph of my year would have many rolling hills and deep valleys, but that's how life is, I'd say. No part of life can be perfect, utterly void of anything negative. Life is never all dancing, pastel-colored ponies and shimmering rainbows. There are always going to be bad times, what determines "good" or "bad" is what you make of it.

And the bad times are how we grow. When we have nothing left but Jesus, we have to rely fully on Him. And that's when we finally, fully realize how much we truly relied on Him all along. He's always there for us, great strong arms open wide, warm, comforting, and inviting. He leads us, guides us, loves us, and often rebukes us. He's stern, powerful, and fearful, but at the same time...equally beautiful, loving, merciful, and so, so kind. He's perfect.

I've learned so much about relying on Him, and really trusting Him with my entire life this past year. I have such a long way to go, though. I'll never fully know him. I'll never be a perfect servant or perfect at loving others. I'll never be sinless. But that doesn't mean I won't try!

Jesus is my rock, my fortress, my strength. He gives me my desire to live a life that is full and utterly beautiful. Not full as the world sees it, but a full life by God's definition. A life totally dedicated to Him. I guess that's my New Year's Resolution...to continue on my path of desiring to live a life full of Jesus. To keep giving my life over to Him. To keep serving and loving, but far more than I've done in the past. To devote my life to others, always putting their interests before my own.

I have such a long way to go. I get so frustrated with myself, how easily my circumstances dictate my mood, how often I take my frustrations and upsetments, disappointments and angers out on others, how I spend so much time focused on me, me, me. But God is slowly helping me. Though I'm sure these will be struggles my whole life through, I know I'll never stop growing and changing, more and more, from the person I am to the person I'm meant to be, and Jesus will be there, holding my hand every step of the way.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Day

Frost covered everything. Cracked and rough on the windows and door, a hard shell of cold whiteness on the grass and plants.

The rising sun glinted off the frozen dew, making it sparkle and glint in the sun. Nature's morning diamonds.

Slowly the bright warmth of the new sun spread, gently melting the fragile layers of ice. A drop lightly ran down the window, like a tear sliding down a sad face.

In the distance were the mountains. A great, purple silhouette against the sun gently inching up in the sky. Only the dark tops were visible, the base shrouded in a cloak of fog.

A small pond, the dark camouflage of fall trees, the dark greens and browns, reflecting in the rippling surface of the water. An image slightly distorted by the steam rising from the surface of the warm water into the frigid morning air.

Frost and fog, blanketing the early morning, giving it an eerie, mystical glow. Only there for those up early enough, a sight seen by few and appreciated by even fewer.

Dark, powerful mountain tops. Sparkling diamonds of frost on the foliage.

A rising sun.

Hours later, evening falls.

The setting sun a brilliant orange, brightly filling the evening sky. It's orange glow lighting the tops of bare trees as though they were tipped in crimson paint and set aglow.

Huge stripes of purple and pink swept like paint-strokes across the sky.

The hues of orange and pink melting into the deep purples and blues of twilight, slowly fading into darkness.

Night.

Play-Doh and Crayons and Childlike Things

So last week and the week before I spent a few days babysitting some incredibly adorable children. They were really good, and I had a lot of fun playing make-believe games, reading Barbie Rapunzel five times in a row, coloring pictures, making crafts, and cutting out and decorating gingerbread cookies. Most of these activities were done with Disa, the four-year old girl. Cora, who's six, was at school most of the day, and the nineteen-month-old, Will, was either cheerfully occupying himself with small toys in his high-chair, or napping.

I won't forget the first day I babysat them. I spent about four hours playing in the basement with Disa. I don't even know how she came up with some of the games we played! Her imagination jumped so quickly and fully into her stories that it almost seemed like she was working from a pre-determined script.

We picked up Cora from the bus stop at four and went back to the house for an afternoon snack. We all sat around the kitchen table as the kids nibbled on white chocolate-covered pretzels and colored with markers. The kids also found a great fascination with my phone. Since it was an old, barely functional phone, I let them play on it, typing letters and words into blank text messages to no one in particular (though they did send a few to my dad, Megan, and accidentally call Andy). Only four, Disa didn't really know how to spell anything but her own first name, so she simply pressed all the letter keys until she had a long string of jumbled letters that she then made me “read” and try to make some sense of. Cora, on the other hand, could write out a few more full words.

When her turn came, she spent the time laboriously typing out “I love you, _____” and filling in Disa's name, and then Will's. Then she erased the name and filled it in for the third time, with my name. I was a little taken aback. This little girl, who I had now known for barely an hour, was already telling me she loved me.

Now of course, she couldn't really truly love me. I mean she didn't know me at all. I would guess for a little girl, she more meant “I like you, you're a nice person who I currently enjoy spending time with.” But that's too complicated a thought for a little kid. So the simplest way to express those positive feelings toward a person is with one simple word, love.

I would never tell someone I had known for barely an hour I loved them. Not someone I had known for a week, or even a month. Love is something that takes time, a process of getting to know someone and trust them, care about them, and eventually love them.

But maybe that's too difficult, too complicated. There are too many steps and possibilities for love to never occur. Maybe as we mature to adults we lose too much of the simplicity of being a child.

Kids love easily, forgive easily. They laugh and smile when they are happy, they cry and frown when they are sad. Their feelings are not hidden, their wants and needs are made known. When they have a question, they ask it. They don't worry about what others think of them. They don't care if they are liked or disliked. If someone doesn't want to be with them, they move on and find someone who does. Worries are simple, troubles easily solved.

Of course, as we grow up, things do get more complicated. It is no longer possible to live such a simple life. Jobs, school, money, deeper relationships, cars, houses, bills, these things fill our lives, but maybe we can still learn from the kids. Let the things that truly do not matter, simply slide. Roll with the punches and stop punching back. Live, love, and laugh easily and often.


Dear Me...

STOP. Stop, stop, stop Katy. Stop, shut up, and listen to the truth. You are not a failure. You do not screw up, mess up, or somehow destruct everything you attempt or touch. That is Satan speaking. That is him whispering lies into the insecurities that already lie in your heart. He is drawing on your struggles and amplifying them, telling you they are true, speaking lies into your ears and filling your thoughts.
Stop.
Listen to the truth.
You are a child of God. Loved by Him more than you can possibly imagine. You are wanted, loved, accepted, and needed. Sure, you fail. Yes, you mess up. Yeah, you can say dumb things and make mistakes. But everyone does! And those failings do not make you a failure. They do not make your life meaningless or worthless.
And here are some more truths...
You are a friend of Jesus (John 15:15)
You have been justified, by faith, not works (Romans 5:1)
You are united with God, one with Him in spirit. You have been bought by the blood and love of Jesus and you are His, part of His body of believers (1 Corinthians 6:17-20, and 12:27)
You are chosen by God, adopted into His family, loved and wanted (Ephesians 1:3-8)
You have already been forgiven of all the sins you have committed, and the ones you have yet to commit (Colossians 2:9-10)
You are free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2)
Your life has a plan, designed by God. He will complete the work He has started in you. Good work (Philippians 1:6)
You are not to be afraid, but be full of a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)
You are born of God, Satan has no true reign over you. You're God's. (1 John 5:18)
You have been chosen to do God's work. He will give you the strength to do it (John 15:16)
You can do anything through Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13)
You are weak, but Jesus is strong. And His grace and strength is more than enough for you. When you are weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

You are Jesus'. You are loved by your very best friend. You can never be loved, wanted, or desired more than He loves, wants, and desires you. You are His child. He has a plan for your life, a design specially written out for you. And no matter how many times you mess up, He will always love you. You will never fail too badly for Him. And you are not a failure. You are a child of a King.

Love,

The More Logical, Clear-headed, Remembering Jesus and His Truth Side of Katy

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wolf-Dogs, Smiley Faces, and Gas Masks

So the sermons at my church in St. Louis, New City Fellowship, aren't necessarily bad, or even boring, they're just frequently not applicable to my life. This past sermon was actually pretty good, though, with lots of points I liked enough to write down so I could remember.

One thing I really liked that Barry said was, "being a Christian isn't about getting a ticket to Heaven. It's about a relationship. It's about changing your life."

That's the great part about Jesus. Believing in Him isn't just checking "yes" or "no" off on a card, granting entrance to Heaven if you said "yes," and then going on with your life, doing, saying, and thinking whatever you feel like. Choosing to follow Jesus isn't just about believing in Him. It's choosing an entirely new life, a whole new existence.

Life changes, drastically. And most definitely for the better. Following Christ is about living for Him, trying to be like Him. Your thoughts and actions cease to be about yourself, or at least they are supposed to. Sometimes...scratch that, all the time...it's really hard. But it's so worth it! Life gets a true purpose, living for the most wonderful, loving, perfect person ever. Striving to be as perfect and sinless as possible to please that person, but living in the beautiful, freeing knowledge that if you do fail (and you most certainly will), that perfect person will still love you and will always forgive you without a millisecond of hesitation.

I feel like half of that sounds like a love note to a boyfriend or girlfriend. And that's how it should be. Following Jesus isn't just about a new life, it's a beautiful relationship, more perfect and wonderful than any human relationship could ever aspire to be. It's not just about us changing out lives and striving to live like Jesus, living to please Him and show Him we love Him. He loves us back. No, He loved us first. Before we ever started to care about God, He loved us, cared for us, lived and died for us.

Sometimes living for Jesus is hard. Sometimes it almost doesn't seem worth it. Sometimes it doesn't make any sense. But then you remember...He died. He died. For us! He's perfect, He's never done anything wrong. He doesn't need us. But He wants us. He wants us. He loves us. For nothing we have ever done, not because we are good enough or perfect enough or can give Him something He can't do Himself. He loves us, though. It's crazy beautiful. And that's what makes it so worth it. Knowing that this perfect person loves us more than we could ever possibly imagine for no reason other than that He does. He simply does. And we can't ever mess up so badly that it will end. That certainty can't be found in any human relationship, only in this perfect love with Jesus. It's comforting, too, the security that can be, and is, found in Him when we surrender our lives. Knowing that the tears and pains of life have purpose, that we are meant for something more.

I've heard this song a few times, but hearing it today it was perfect.

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

We don't know God's plans, but it is comforting to know He has them. God is designing our life. How awesome is that? The all-knowing, powerful, perfect, wonderful, loving God of the universe has designed a life for us. He cares that much about us. He values us. And I think that's awesome. He's the best friend, father, and most loving, perfect relationship we'll ever have. I wouldn't ever want to live without that, I don't think I could live without that. He's there when I cry, letting me curl up in His arms and telling me it's gonna be okay. He's there to listen when I just need to talk. He lets me yell and vent and scream at Him, "why?" and then He patiently reminds me that He's in control. When I ask questions, He answers, when I say a prayer, He hears. The plans and answers don't always happen the way I think they should, but He does what's best, because He loves us...oh how He loves us. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fall and Snow

I was just looking through photos from November and came upon a few photos I took during the second Denver snow. This snow was especially spectacular because the leaves on the trees hadn't yet fallen, they were still the glorious reds and golds of fall. Denver's cold weather came late this year, so when the first snow came, the leaves hadn't finished falling from the trees. The result was glorious. White flakes resting on the bright leaves, the clean, pure snow contrasting with the bright oranges and crimsons. Beautiful.








Wednesday, December 7, 2011

With a Blast from the Past, What's to Come of the Future?

So the other day I found my stash of old journals, and decided the best way to spend half of my afternoon was reading them. The experience was both enlightening and discouraging, funny and sad. Many buried or nearly forgotten memories were brought back to the front of my mind. Some were great moments to re-live, others I had buried for a reason. It was good to remember, though, both good times and bad.

I rediscovered what a grumpy teenager I could be. I re-read my conversion story, and all the depression leading up to it. I found my favorite memory (http://achildlikesenseofwonder.blogspot.com/2011/09/loving-arms.html) and was thrilled to find that it actually happened as I remember, I haven't been adding to the story in the past year or so. I found the end of some friendships and realized their endings were worse than I remembered, but that I'm also definitely better off now without them.

It's good to see the good and bad parts of the past, because when you revisit those moments you get to see the elements that all combined to create the person you are now, the broken relationships, exciting discoveries, friendships, family, trips, and conversations, everything that fits together, like strings all weaving together to create you.

Some parts were a bit, initially, discouraging, though. Sometimes I write my prayers in my journal too. There was a general theme woven through years of journals. That I would be more like Christ, less prideful, more humble. Less focused on myself and more focused on others. That I would be loving, caring, and others-centered. That I would be like Jesus.

Some of the prayers I read that were written a few years ago I felt could have been written yesterday, they were still so relevant. And that was discouraging, because if I'm still praying it...that means I haven't made any progress, right? And if I haven't changed at all, then what am I doing with my life? And if I want to change so much that it has been my constant prayer for years, why haven't I changed? What am I doing wrong?

It was a very confusing, frustrating, and discouraging battle of thoughts raging through my mind. I simply didn't understand how I could want to be more like Jesus so much, which is a good thing to want, and Jesus not be helping me with that, not be changing me to be more like Him! Shouldn't He want me to be like Him? Shouldn't He want me to love others, care for others, and be more focused on others than myself? Shouldn't He want me to be more humble and less prideful? These are all good things!

But here's the conclusion I've come to. Maybe I have changed. Maybe over the years I have grown in these areas, but there will always be room for more growth. Since I'm not Jesus (clearly), and never will be, I can always be growing to be more like Him. Which means my entire life will be a journey of realizing my pride and selfishness, giving it up to Him, and begging for His help that I may be more like Him and less like me. So it might not seem like there's been any change in prayers over the past few years, and maybe the prayer is the same, but the person isn't. The prayer should continue though, because Jesus always has more work to do.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reality vs. Expectation

You know that one scene in 500 Days of Summer where Tom's expectations of the situation are played on a split screen beside reality (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKDj7DJZMnI)? That's a bit what I feel being home is like. Reality isn't that different from reality, but different enough to change the mood entirely. 

Being home was like this perfect event in my mind. It was happy, stress-free, and full of a perfect, loving family. Reality was still happy, but slightly less so, speckled with arguments, negativity, poor behavior, sickness, and some raised voices. Sometimes, reality kinda sucks a little, especially when it doesn't live up to high expectations. 

I've realized how much I idealize my family in my mind when I'm away from them. I forget about the normal family arguments and sibling disagreements. This has happened basically every time I've come home, yet I always seems to forget it by the next time I come back. Problematic. The result is me being embarrassingly grumpy and irritable. I really hate to admit that this happens. I can't deal with all the silly arguments that are absolutely unnecessary and could easily be solved with a few simple words and no raised voices, so somehow my logical solution is to get frustrated and raise my voice to tell everyone to stop! Yeah, probably not gonna help. And I know it, but for some reason, no matter how many times I tell myself I won't, when the situation arises, my voice clamors in, arguing with the rest. 

As Andrew Stern at New City says, "more mercy!" So, so true. Really, the only solution here is Jesus. Trusting Him, remembering and knowing that He is good and loving. He'll always be there, no matter the circumstance. Reality will almost never meet up with reality, unless we have rather low expectations. Life is just to full of unknowns and unexpected curveballs. Like pneumonia, wasn't expecting that to hit again. Life can't only be happy when it's going perfectly according to plan, because plans change. 

I was just thinking about that today, plans changing that is, in relation to the Christmas story. I mean Mary and Joseph probably had a pretty basic life plan laid out...get married, have kids, raise kids, do carpentry, cook and clean house, etc. Mary's pregnancy with Jesus threw that plan off just a tiny bit! As much as I'm sure they were both absolutely thrilled to be the mother and sorta-father of Jesus, I would imagine they both had a little bit of a "oh no, life is going to change SO much now, and I don't know if I really want it to" kinda moment. 
I mean, I know I would! As awesome as it would be, I'm not really sure I would want to be in Mary's shoes. On the one hand it would be so cool to be picked by God to be the mother of His son. But at the same time, being a pregnant teenager, who appears to be pregnant out of wedlock, of a child who will only ever be sort-of yours, is God, and is going to die for everyone's sins at some point, would be a rather stressful turn of events. Not...convenient, I guess that would be the word. But such an honor at the same time. Confusing, I know. 

Really what I'm trying to say is that God's plans often don't seem to go along with our own. But the thing is, it's His plan, which means that it is good and awesome and divine. Sometimes we have a timeline of life events laid out, all ready to enact as the years come by. Then God does something, and the entire 10-year-plan is scattered to pieces, barely re-constructable. We scurry to try and pick up the pieces and lay them back out in a sort-of distinguishable line after God's little detour is done with, but God softly puts a hand on ours, stops us from picking up the pieces, and says "no, I have better things planned. It's going to be hard, but I'm going to be there with you every step of the way. My plan is better than anything you could ever have imagined for yourself, even if it is completely different than what you initially planned. So put down the pieces, and follow My path." And even though it is hard, and sometimes it does suck, and all the dreams and plans and thoughts you had all organized before you are done with...it is better. So maybe sometimes reality is better than expectations, in the end.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hot Pink Headphones and Delayed Flights

I'm surprised that airlines still serve peanuts. Every time I fly I expect them not to have the tiny gold packages of peanuts covered in crystallized sugar, yet each time they do. With the large number of people allergic to peanuts and various other nut products, you'd think someone would have had a massive allergy attack on a plane, sued the airline, and the removal of all peanut products from planes ensued. Nope. I wonder if it will ever happen, the same with pretzels because they have gluten products in them.

Airports are boring at night. Everyone is burnt out, chilling with their Starbucks, a book, a movie, or just napping with their mouth open and drool dripping out (ok, ok, I may be exaggerating slightly). The sky is dark outside, dimming the lights of the airport itself and giving it a gloomy, sleepy feel (at least in the Phoenix airport this is true). Two-hour layovers delayed an extra hour-and-a-half increase this dismal feeling.

Oh geez. That was a downer paragraph! It's not really that bad...

I think that when women get older they start to become color blind. In an effort to look younger, they attempt to color their hair a more natural (possibly their original) color. Unfortunately for many of them, they judge this to be slightly more orange, blue, or red than it actually was, thus resulting in a highly unnatural hair color, rather than the younger lack-of-grey color they had wished to achieve.

At the Phoenix airport, approximately half of the announcements made over the loudspeaker are actually done by humans. The other half are done by some computerized recording system that sounds like robots are taking over the airport.

It's funny watching people give voice commands to their smartphones. Holding the phone close to their mouth, they speak to it slowly and with disjointed words, like inexperienced adults sound when they treat small children like they are dumb. As the smartphone is frequently unable to understand different inflections in tone and accents, the person's instructions become more and more disjointed, louder, and more robotic. It's great to know people will always be able to have conversations with their electronics when all their friends leave thinking they are crazy for talking to their phone. Oh the 21st century!

Some people like to cuss...a lot. At entirely unnecessary parts of the conversation. I guess it makes them feel badass (see what I did there? Now I feel cool too!)

Food in airports is very overpriced.

People resort to desperate measures when they are stressed, tired, and awaiting a (very) delayed flight...like cheering loudly when the plane arrives. Except I kinda felt like cheering too...

Puppies are adorable. Especially jack-russel terrier and chihuahua mixes. I know chihuahuas are small, yippy, and generally annoying, but I promise this one was the absolute opposite of all those stereotypes! Cutest dog I have ever seen. I stared at it for a good fifteen minutes while waiting for my flight. I'm sure the owner thought I was crazy...who cares.

I like watching people...until the really awkward moment when they look up, make eye contact, and realize you may or may not have been watching their unique behaviors for the past four minutes or so. It's awkward then. Also whenever I'm wearing glasses I forget people can still see my eyes because I got so used to hiding behind sunglasses this summer. So I think I can stare uninhibited, but that's a lie. Oops.

I have this super cool bracelet from Andy that changes colors in the sun. The beads turn purple and green. Like glow-in-the-dark bracelets in reverse. It's cool.

I also have a minion in my backpack. I feel super cool. I hope the security guys could see it when they scanned my backpack. I totally look like a well-rounded, very mature, adult-like college student.

And this one guy had a super cool Russian-looking hat. Then I heard him speaking to his mother (or really old sister?) and it sounded like they were speaking Russian. Score.

The plane to St. Louis is finally here! Yay long delays in boring, dark airports. If you couldn't tell, I got bored.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One Year

I almost didn't even realize that today marked an entire year since Ms. Julia went to be with Jesus (see blog post a year ago: To Ms. Juila, RIP). I can't believe it's been a whole year.

I remember it like it was yesterday, sitting in Jazzman's Cafe with my computer and getting a text from Victor telling me she had gone home and asking if I could sing with the choir at the funeral. I sat there with tears slowly running down my face as I scrolled through facebook and read post after post about a beautiful, loved, and influential woman who was finally free of pain. The posts were full of sadness accompanied with joy. Sorrow at the loss of someone so beautiful, inside and out, but thankfulness and happiness that she was no longer held hostage by the pain of cancer, now in absolute bliss with the Jesus she spent her life loving so much.

Ms. Julia will never be forgotten, nor will the influence she had on so many lives. Her passion for life and serving others was beautiful and inspirational. Even when she was very sick she continued to put others first. I remember having a conversation with her a little before I left for college. We talked about me, my summer, the college experience I was about to have, what I was going to do, not about her or her illness or how she was feeling. Her others-centeredness was rare, her love for the Lord was beautiful.

She lead the youth choir for years, and the friends and relationships I formed in that group, as well as the simple feeling of belonging, helped to shape my life. When she passed away last year, I remember wanting to change my life to live more like her, to live a life that would make her proud. To serve wholeheartedly and unselfishly as she had, a lifestyle I am still striving and praying and working towards.

Ms. Julia was beautiful, loving, serving, and had a heart for Jesus. She's at peace now, absolutely free of pain and sorrow. I can't wait to see her in Heaven one day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Do Something.

So last Thursday I went to this big Christian concert/evangelistic thing called Winter Jam. To be honest, those types of events aren't my favourite. Simply because I think it becomes too easy at huge events like that for it to become more about the show and lights and action than about God. Not to say that happened at Winter Jam, I can't see people's hearts, it just seems to easy for that to happen. Anyways.

An organization called Holt International (http://www.holtinternational.org/) was there. It's a Christian international adoption organization. So they had this fantastic opportunity where you could sponsor one of these orphans for $30 a month. Basically that covers basic needs (like food) for these kids. A lot of the kids are from China, or at least that's where the organization started.

The "goal" of the evening was to get 280 kids sponsored. By the end of the evening, 90 kids were sponsored. Now it's absolutely wonderful that 90 kids are now being taken care of, but here's the deal...there were over 4,500 people at Winter Jam that night. That means (if I did the math correctly) that 0.02% of the people there chose to sponsor a child.

$30 every month amounts to $360 a year. In the grand scheme of things...not that much. And if you think about how many people spent probably over $100 on the ticket for Winter Jam, popcorn, nachos, and band merch...well I think a kid actually eating is kinda important and totally affordable.

So I guess by the end of the night, I was a little disappointed (again) in humanity. Generally speaking, people are pretty selfish. You keep hoping and putting faith in the goodness of people, but often times that hope is in vain. So I'm disappointed enough that only 0.02% of a group of 4,500 people could manage to cough up $30 to save kids' lives, but I'm even more disappointed that this small percentage was at a Christian event.

Even without bringing Jesus into it, people should help other people! That's how the world gets better, that's how lives are changed, that's what brings joy. If we (most of us anyways), in America, can eat three or more very full meals every day, sleep in a warm place, watch TV, and have more clothes and shoes than we know what to do with, we should absolutely be helping people who don't have these things. We have our basic needs met, and more...way more.

People all around the world don't have these things. There are people in the United States who don't have these things. In our own states, cities, and towns, there are people lacking these basic needs.

And they need help.

And they're not gonna get help unless people help them.

That's just logical, right? I mean it makes sense in my mind. Maybe I'm crazy.

So I believe that everyone should be helping others, thinking about others, serving others. But if you're a Christian, you really should be doing these things.

We're called to be like Christ. His entire ministry was love and serving others. And one of the biggest callings in the Bible is to care for those who are weaker or suffering, poor or hurt, and to treat them with justice and mercy. To serve.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
James 1:27

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.
Proverbs 31:8-9

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
Isaiah 1:17

I'm not saying everyone absolutely has to give money to orphans, or even adopt (though I think everyone should!) But everyone should give, love, help, and serve others. Whether you believe the Bible or not...help others.


 My little brother in the orphanage in the Ukraine with my parents, Dad's playing with Alex and other kids in the top, Mom's helping feed the kids in the bottom. 

And I'm sponsoring 2 kids now. I wish I could adopt on now, but college isn't very conducive to a baby!

Early Winter Morning

Falling
Dusting
A world in glitter

Covering
Blanketing
Sparkling in the sun

Laughing
Dancing
In a magical land

Looking
Contemplating
A shining, beautiful world

Of snow.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Be Imperfect. Be Real.

This is an article someone brought to my small group on Thursday, and it's kinda amazing. Read it, really. It's so worth the time!
As a warning, the following post was written in complete desperation. I have recently learned some very sobering truths from people that I love dearly. These truths have set in motion a quest within me to do whatever I can to make a change. Today is not geared at funny. Today is geared at something greater. Read it to the very end. I promise you will be affected in a way you have always needed to be. I spent more than twelve hours writing this post because its message is that important to me.
I wonder. Am I the only one aware that there is an infectious mental disease laying siege on us right now? There is a serious pandemic of “Perfection” spreading, and it needs to stop. Hear me out because this is something for which I am passionately and constantly hurting. It’s a sickness that I’ve been trying to put into words for years without much success. It’s a sickness that I have personally struggled with. It’s a sickness that at times has left me hiding in dark corners and hating myself.
And chances are it’s hit you too.
What is the disease called ”Perfection”? Perhaps a list of its real-life symptoms will help you better understand it. We live in communities where people feel unconquerable amounts of pressure to always appear perfectly happy, perfectly functional, and perfectly figured. “Perfection” is much different than perfectionism. The following examples of “Perfection” are all real examples that I have collected from experiences in my own life, from confidential sources, or from my circle of loved ones and friends. If you actually stop to think about some of these, you will cry as I did while writing it. If you don’t, maybe you’re infected with way too much of this ”Perfection” infection.
“Perfection” is a wife who feels trapped in a marriage to a lazy, angry, small man, but at soccer practice tells the other wives how wonderful her husband always is. “Perfection” keeps people from telling the truth, even to themselves. My husband is adorable. He called me a whore this week because I smiled at a stranger. When I started crying, he said he had a game to go watch. I love him so much.
“Perfection” is a husband who is belittled, unappreciated, and abused by his wife, yet works endlessly to make his marriage appear incredible to those around him. ”Perfection” really does keep people from being real about the truth.  You would have laughed, guys. She said that I suck at my job and will never go anywhere in life. Then she insinuated that I was a fat, rotting pile of crap. Isn’t she the best?
“Perfection” is a daughter with an eating disorder that keeps it hidden for years because she doesn’t want to be the first among her family and friends to be imperfect. She would give anything to confront it, but she can’t because then the “Perfect” people would hate her as much as she hates herself for it.
“Perfection” is when a son has a forbidden addiction, and despises himself for it. “Perfection” makes us believe that nobody else could understand what it is like to be weak and fall prey to the pressures of the world.
“Perfection” is a man who loathes himself for feeling unwanted attraction toward other men.
“Perfection” is a couple drowning in debt, but who still agree to that cruise with their friends because the words “we don’t have the money” are impossible ones to push across their lips.
“Perfection” is a mom hating herself because she only sees that every other mom around her is the perfect mother, the perfect wife, and the perfect neighbor. I’d give anything to be Mrs. Jones. Today she ran 34 miles, cooked six complete meals, participated in a two-hour activity with each of her seven children, hosted a marriage class with her husband, and still had time to show up for Bunco. What this mom doesn’t know is that Mrs. Jones is also at home crying right now because the pressure to be “Perfect” never lets up.
“Perfection” is a dad hating himself because he can’t give the same thing to his kids that other dads do, and then hates himself further because he takes his self-loathing out on his kids behind closed doors. You know what would have been nice? If you were never born. Do you realize how much money I’d have right now? Now come give Daddy a hug because I can force you to give me validation.
“Perfection” is a child hating herself because the boys at school call her fat, and when she goes home she tells her mom that school was fine. Her mom never stops to question why her daughter doesn’t have any friends, because her mom doesn’t want to think that anything might be less than “Perfect”.
“Perfection” is a man feeling like a smaller man because his neighbor just pulled in with a new boat.
“Perfection” is a woman who is so overwhelmed that she thinks about killing herself daily. “Perfection” makes it so that she never will because of the things people will think if she does. How could I make my suicide look like an accident? If I kill myself, I don’t want anybody knowing that I ever had any problems. She never stops to look at why she wants to do it, because healing means admitting imperfection.
“Perfection” is a man who everybody heralds as perfect, and inside he is screaming to be seen as the faulty human being that he always has been. Because to no longer be “the perfect one”, that would be freeing.
“Perfection” is a woman having an affair because she’s too afraid to confront the imperfection in her marriage.
“Perfection” is a twelve-year-old boy killing himself because he is ashamed that he can’t stop masturbating.
Stop, and read that one again.
There is a twelve-year-old boy buried 20 miles from where I sit because the “Perfection” that has infected the people around him infected him to the point that he deemed his own life worthless. “Perfection” pushed him to take his own life over something most of us would consider negligible in the life of any teenage boy.
“Perfection” is my friend’s cousin swallowing hundreds of pills because she just got the news that she was pregnant, out of wedlock, and the shame was too much to bear. She was only attempting to cause a miscarriage. 24 hours later, she closed her eyes and never opened them again. She is dead because of the “Perfection” infecting those around her. We’d rather you die than shame this family. Thanks for taking care of that, honey. By the way, we’ll do the right thing and make ourselves out to be the victims now. We have to. We’re infected with “Perfection”.
I could go on. This is all a small sampling of the disease called “Perfection”. You have brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, extended family members, neighbors, friends, and children who are ALL these things, yet none of us will ever know. “Perfection” is a hideous monster with a really beautiful face. And chances are you’re infected. The good news is, there is a cure.
Be real.
Embrace that you have weakness. Because everybody does. Embrace that your body is not perfect. Because nobody’s is. Embrace that you have things you can’t control. We all have a list of them.
Here’s your wake-up call:
You aren’t the only one who feels worthless sometimes.
You aren’t the only one who took your frustrations out on your children today.
You aren’t the only one who isn’t making enough money to support your lifestyle.
You aren’t the only one who has questions and doubts about your religion.
You aren’t the only one who sometimes says things that really hurt other people.
You aren’t the only one who feels trapped in your marriage.
You aren’t the only one who gets down and hates yourself and you can’t figure out why.
You aren’t the only one that questions your sexual orientation.
You aren’t the only one who hates your body.
You aren’t the only one that can’t control yourself around food.
Your husband is not the only husband who’s addiction sends him online for his sexual fulfillment instead of to you.
Your wife is not the only wife that is mean and vindictive and makes you hate yourself.
Why didn’t somebody, anybody, put their arm around that 12-year old boy and let him know that they loved him and would always love him? What was he being told and taught that he would end his own life over something that almost no teenager can control? Maybe that beautiful and wonderful boy would still be alive if even one person had broken down the “Perfection” that completely controlled all those in his life from whom he desperately craved validation.
Why didn’t somebody, anybody, tell a beautiful pregnant girl that there was nothing so big in life that it couldn’t be made right. Maybe that incredible young woman would still be alive. Maybe her now one-year-old child would be learning to walk or say “Mommy” right now. Maybe.
Maybe.
The cure is so simple.
Be real.
Be bold about your weaknesses and you will change people’s lives. Be honest about who you actually are, and others will begin to be their actual selves around you. Once you cure yourself of the disease, others will come to you, asking if they can just “talk”. People are desperate to talk. Some of the most “perfect” people around you will tell you of some of the greatest struggles going on. Some of the most “perfect” people around you will break down in tears as they tell you how difficult life is for them. Turns out some of the most “perfect” people around us are human beings after all, and are dying to talk to another human being about it.
You’ll love them for it. And you’ll love yourself even more.
Let’s not forget this quote: “I went out to find a friend and could not find one there. I went out to be a friend, and friends were everywhere.” Somebody who is being a friend doesn’t spread “Perfection”. Somebody who is being a friend spreads “Real”. Then, and only then, can we all grow together.
I am not perfect, nor do I want anybody to think of me as such. Here’s my dose of real:
I once stole a box of money that was meant for a child with cancer. There was more than $150 inside. That was 12 years ago, and I still hate the person in me that did that.
I believe in God, but not religion. It took me 30 years to find the courage to say that. It took me 30 years to believe that I could be a good man and still believe that.
I once got so angry at my wife that I hit the wall. The dent is still there, haunting me every time I see it because I never thought that was something I would do.
I once sat in my bedroom crying uncontrollably because I felt like everybody thought I was fat and ugly. I was a full grown man.
There are some people I avoid bumping into in public because I feel like I’m not as good as them.
I judge people harshly who share the same features that I hate about myself.
Sometimes I’m sad. Sometimes I’m not funny. Sometimes I just want to be alone. Sometimes I stay at home on a weekend because I just don’t want to see the “Perfection” going on around me. Sometimes I want to drop-kick a perfect person’s head across the room.
“Perfection” infects every corner of society. It infects our schools. It infects neighborhoods. It infects our workplaces. This is not to say that there aren’t a lot of genuinely, happy people. I am one of those people. Most of the time. There is nothing more beautiful than a person finding true happiness in who they are and what they believe. No, this is not me trying to diminish the happiness in others. This is merely me pathetically attempting to put a face on a problem that I see everywhere but few people ever notice.
This is me, weeping as I write, asking the good people of the world to find somebody to put their arm around and be “real”. This is me, wishing that people would realize how beautiful they are, even with all of their imperfections. This is me, sad and desperate for the girls in this world to love themselves. This is me, a very imperfect man, trying to help others feel a little more perfect by asking you to act a little less perfect.
Will you help me spread “Real”? Tell us below just how perfect you aren’t. You never know who might be alive tomorrow because you were real today. You never know who needs to feel like they aren’t alone in their inability to be perfect. Even if you comment as an anonymous guest, please comment. Tell us what you struggle with. Tell a sad or dark secret. Get vulnerable. Get real. Let’s see if we can get 1,000 people showing the world that we’re not defined by perfection.
And please, please please share this post. If you want the people around you to start being real, you have to be real first. If it’s your first time here, we’d love to have you follow us. I promise it’s not always this intense (or nearly this long). I’ll post something really funny tomorrow.

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There's a lot of processing to do after reading that. I feel like I've known for so long that the desire to be perfect is taking over so many people's live. It's something I have struggled majorly with in the past. But even though it is a problem I have recognized, I didn't realize just how serious it is. I didn't realize how much it takes over people's lives. I attributed many problems to this "disease of perfection," but mostly I attributed more physical problems, like eating disorders or body insecurity, and problems with not being smart enough, getting good enough grades, doing well enough in a job-situation, etc. This blog showed how nearly every problem can be traced back to a deep desire to be perfect, and never being capable of accomplishing this impossible goal. 

Hearing and reading this article was powerful, but after some thought. My first reaction wanted so badly to be that I didn't have that disease, that I had conquered it already, that I was cured. I wanted to not admit to faults, I wanted to be perfect. I mean, I'm better than I used to be with this disease. Last year I struggled with it more than I ever have. Pearce gave a list of things to embrace that we can't control. Three stuck out to me the most:

You aren’t the only one who feels worthless sometimes.

You aren’t the only one who sometimes says things that really hurt other people.

You aren’t the only one who gets down and hates yourself and you can’t figure out why.
You aren’t the only one who hates your body.

Especially the first and last ones. More than anything I want to erase those words. I don't want to admit my failure, weakness, imperfection. I want to be done with those feelings, those struggles. I hate them because I hate having that vulnerability, and I hate them because they mean I'm prideful, and I hate them because I feel like I'm failing God. Because if I'm thinking about me and my worth in the eyes of the world, then I'm not focusing on God and my worth in the eyes of Him who loves me unconditionally.

But at the same time, I love, love, love, that He will love me unconditionally. No matter how imperfect I am, He loves me. And He wants our imperfections, those are the things that make us unique, beautiful. That truth is a hard one to grasp, but it is an essential one.

There is no such thing as perfect, except for God. The only perfection we should ever strive for is God-like perfection, but while reaching for that, we must also realize it is something we can never truly accomplish, because we aren't God. Earthly perfection, the perfect hair, looks, body, grades, family, car, house, life, they don't exist. Looking around, some people seem so perfect. They are happy and put-together, they have money and good grades, they have tons of friends and are beautiful, their lives seem perfect. Nope. Beneath every facade of perfection and put-togetherness is a real person with real insecurities and real problems, always.

We have to remember, and keep telling ourselves, and truly believe, that imperfection is beautiful. No apologies for who we are. Embrace our quirks, awkwardness, ugly scars. Embrace bad pasts, embarrassing moments, not-model bodies (they're airbrushed anyways, no one looks like that!). Those are the things that make us who we are. Those are the things that make us individuals, unique, loved. We were made exactly the way we are to be just who we are, and that is exactly who we should be. 

And watch this video, it's really good. Remind Me Who I Am - Jason Gray

Cold and Bold



Every time it snows I think of Narnia. Seriously. When it falls down from the sky, when it covers trees and grass, making slippery sidewalks and icicle-adorned buildings, I think of Narnia. And then it melts, with dripping icicles creating a steady drip-drip-drip beat and puddles of melted white in every crevice of the sidewalk and even if it is the beginning of winter, it fees like spring. And I think of Narnia, when the White Witch is finally defeated, Aslan victoriously returns, and Narnia finally gets Christmas and Spring again, freed from their prison of ice and cold. That's where my mind goes every time it snows.

As much as I truly despise being cold, I don't hate the snow. I mean if it's going to be that cold, it might as well snow and everything be beautiful and white. It snowed this week, and it was spectacular. Colorado has been having a very strange fall. The leaves only started changing colors three or so weeks ago, because it has been so warm. Usually when it snows, the trees have lost most of their leaves, but not with this snow.

The trees were still covered in colorful leaves, crimsons and bright oranges, bright yellows and a few mottled combinations of all three. And they were covered in snow. I've never seen such beautiful trees. Everything was covered in a layer of soft white, the vibrant colors of fall still bravely peeking through.

The snow was so heavy it made most of the leaves fall off their trees. But that was beautiful too. When the beginning-to-melt snow froze in the late night cold, it covered all the fallen leaves in a thin layer of frost. Early in the morning, you could still see it. Sidewalks covered in a layer of leaves, their blanket of ice sparkling and glittering in the sun.
And when it all started melting, that was beautiful, because, even though really it is the beginning of winter, it felt like spring, looked like spring, and smelled like spring, fresh and alive, waiting for the next snowfall to cover the world in white again.
 









Friday, October 21, 2011

Whoosh

Catching dreams
like paper planes.
Flying,
twisting,
falling, all about.
Blowing in the wind,
like grains of sand.
And suddenly
there's nothing holding you together
Anymore.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sounds and Strings



The music played. Bows sweeping across strings. Drums thumping out beats to slow or speed your heart. Lips to mouthpieces, sounds blow forth. Ears ring. Heads bob. Bodies sway. Arms sweep. Welcome, to the orchestra.
Classical music is not just about the sounds and instruments, it is about the people and the place. Sitting down in red velvet chairs, the orchestra clothed in black before you, quiet in the audience, it is still and peaceful. Yet, it is not. Sometimes the music fades away, soft and sweet. Then it roars back up, leaping and tossing, loud and vibrant.
The music tells a story. Songs have titles and purposes, often there are entire tales behind them. I love not knowing these stories, however. I love listening to the music and making my own, forming my own experience, feeling the music, eyes closed and foot gently tapping out the beat. And I love watching … watching the musicians, watching the people around me.
You could easily buy a CD of classical music, import it into your iTunes library, press “play” on the computer, close your eyes, and listen. But it wouldn't be the same. You wouldn't feel the music. You wouldn't see the music. When the story of music roared up at its climax, the battle raging or hero in peril or a suspenseful moment of decision, you wouldn't feel the drum beats or the trumpets blare.
You wouldn't see the arms violently sweeping in perfect sync, bows leaping across the violin, viola, cello, and bass strings. Sitting in the audience, you see the orchestra players. Sometimes their eyes are closed, their bodies gently swaying to the music, immersed in the joy of their craft. Other times the head bob and jerk back and forth, moving with the music that is not only a sound they make with their instruments, but a part of them.
Orchestra is not just about the beautiful music. It is about the sights, sounds, and stories. Close your eyes and feel the music. Let it speak to you with its gentle sounds and growing tempests and resounding crescendos and dramatic endings. Open your eyes and watch the musicians. See them dance with their instruments, see them become part of the music they create. It isn't just music, it isn't just sound.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Delight

The only part of this verse I already knew was, "My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness."

And I can't ever remember the reference.

The surrounding verses are fantastic too, so my first memorization endeavor is this:

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, my power made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power my rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardship, in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I really love this verse because it's so very hard to legit give thanks at difficulty. To be joyful and count yourself blessed and glad to be weak or broken or suffering. So this is one of those verses that I not only want to know by heart, but I need to have as a constant reminder that God is in control, and He is worth every bit of hardship that could ever come, because He is always good, and our brokenness and adversity only points to His strength and grace and goodness when we let Him be in control and give it all to Him.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Without You

I'm really happy today. It's been an absolutely fantastic day, and if you were to ask me why, there would be no really tangible or solid answer I could give you. Really, there are only two things I could say...

1. Jesus

and

2. Coffee

Here's what I've figured out. I used to think coffee (aka massive amounts of caffeine) made me always have a good day. But recently I've had coffee and not had good days. So here's the current conclusion:

Coffee amplifies whatever I'm feeling. Stressful day + caffeine = more stressed. Upset + coffee = more upset. Happy + coffee = fantastic day. Factor Jesus in there, and the day gets significantly better.

Yesterday I was challenged to pray about my weaknesses, ask God to reveal what I am failing at and sinning in, and then ask His help to fix it. I had a very difficult time with this task. In the past two weeks I've felt God has revealed many deep sins that I need to repent of and begin to focus on changing. Short summary: I'm selfish, self-centered, prideful, and gossip.

At Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) last night we listened to someone talk about the story of the Lost Sons in Luke. I won't go into it too much, read Luke 15 if you want to know the story. But basically the two sons represent two ways we can sin against God, and the father in the story represents God (it's a parable). So one son essentially wishes the father was dead when he asks for his inheritance early (before the father has actually died). He takes the money and spends it on hookers, alcohol, partying, and maybe some drugs, who knows, use your imagination. The second son's sin is a bit more subtle. He's the son who stays at home and works hard, but the story reveals that he is as selfish and self-centered as the first son. His hard work is joyless. He doesn't do the father's will to please the father, because he loves the father, he does it so he can earn the inheritance he can't wait to receive when his father dies. The first son represents people who don't know God at all, aren't religious at all. The second son represents the people who are only religious, but have no relationship with God. They're just following the rules for their own glory and greedy ends.

I sat there trying so hard to identify with one of those sons. But I couldn't. I don't say that to sound like I've got it all together, like I have no problems or sins, not in the least. Those particular sins just didn't seem to pertain to where I am at this time. I felt/feel like God had already convicted me of my sins, weaknesses, and failures regarding selfishness and pride.

The story goes on. Both sons have really dishonored their father. They've both essentially slapped him in the face in their own ways. But each time the father forgives them, before they even apologize (and only the first son does). He goes out to meet them, right where they are in their sin. He doesn't wait for them to come to him, he goes to them. He takes them as they are.

I love that about God. He will always take us as we are. We don't have to dress or speak a certain way, our education or background is irrelevant to Him. He doesn't care who we are, what we've done, or where we've been. He loves us. And He just wants our love back in return.

God doesn't need us. He can do all things, so He doesn't need us to accomplish His goals or plans. The beautiful thing is that He wants us. And He wants us as we are. He'll take us in the midst of our pain, suffering, and brokenness and love us, and He wants us to love Him back. I just love hearing about that. It's such a beautiful reminder.

But here's the thing. God loves us that much, we should be telling everyone. That's what struck me last night. The guy speaking likened it to when he talks about his son. He loves his kid so much he can't help but smile every time he mentions his kid. That's how it should be when we talk about Jesus. We should just be so happy and joyful because of Him that we can't contain it. Yeah, there are reservations about forcing opinions or religion on people, but we are always sharing some sort of opinion. I do everytime I sit down to eat a meal and don't eat the meat. So we should stop worrying about what people will think and just be completely filled with joy at the mere thought of the beautiful Jesus who loves us no matter what, and loves us more than we can ever comprehend. It should be such an integral part of our lives that we can't separate Him from any of it.

That's what struck me last night. And I realized that's what I need to work on in my life. I mean I talk about Jesus a lot, but there are also many times when I choose not to mention Him. So I'm praying to be more joyful. To be joyful all the time. Because no matter what seemingly awful things happen in life, God is still King, and Jesus still loves me. Everything I do and say should in some way reflect Him. I don't want there to be any part of me that can be separated from Him, because He's the most important thing, He's the center of my life. He's all that matters.

I don't want there to ever be a me without Him.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Butler Did It - A Short Mystery Story by Me

The Harrisford family thought it would be a good idea to hire a mute butler. I suppose the general idea was that servants should be seen (though rarely) and not heard. A butler who could see and hear, but could not speak, could perform duties efficiently and silently. The Harrisford’s were not cruel individuals, they just weren’t particularly intelligent.


The poor butler. That old saying, “The butler did it!” heard ever so often in old and new mysteries alike, was often repeated around the Harrisford home. Whenever anything went missing, the butler did it. If a task had been done wrong, the butler did it. When anything and everything went awry, the butler had almost certainly done it.


Once the Harrisfords held a fancy dinner party. The theme was autumn, and all the guests arrived in their finest array of gold and crimson gowns, ties and jewels. The table, with silver plates, knives, and forks, tall wine glasses and fine silk napkins, had been set by the maid. The butler served the meal. He began at the head of the table and served to the right. He then dashed back to the kitchen, retrieved the spiced wine and began to meticulously fill each glass. As the butler reached the middle of the table an elderly guest, startled by what her neighbor had just said, drew her hands quickly to her mouth, knocking her wine glass from the table. The butler’s left hand shot out and caught the falling glass. He thanked his lucky stars he had played a great deal of baseball as a child and filled the glass with wine before setting it back on the table. When the last guest had been served everyone reached down for their forks and knives to dig into the carefully prepared feast...but one young lady was missing her fork, and an older gentleman in the corner did not have a knife! The Harrisfords blamed the butler and his pay was docked until the missing silver was replaced. He could say nothing in his own defense.


Another more unfortunate event was the incident with the cat. Poor Mr. Kitten Mittens had lived a long, happy life. We are thankful for this fact, as it would be an even more tragic tale if he were still a kitten. An orange tabby, Mr. Kitten Mittens was a favorite of the Harrisford family members both young and old. It was not the butler’s job to attend to the Harrisford pets. He had other duties to attend. All the same, when someone forgot, or lazily shirked their duties to feed the cat, the butler was blamed. A cat can only live for so long on the cockroaches they find around the house. As the Harrisford home was spotlessly cleaned every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and tidied the other days of the week, few cockroaches were to be found. Mr. Kitten Mittens passed away one warm spring day. As I said, he had thankfully lived a long and joyful life, except for his last few weeks of starvation at the hand of one forgetful or lazy servant. Once again the Harrisfords held the butler accountable for the tragedy, as no one else would step forward and admit their fault and the butler couldn’t say anything to prove his innocence in the matter.


Now, if you think a dead cat is a tragedy, the following event shall be a catastrophe. One rather chilly, but sunny winter day Sir Herbert Harrisford came to stay. He was an enormously rich, pompous gentleman who enjoyed a bit too much wine in the evenings and was generally disliked by both the family and the servants. As most men of his sort, he was unaware of this dislike, as he was very fond of himself. You may very well have guessed by now...Sir Herbert was murdered.


He was found very dead the next morning. He was lying in his bed, the sheets pulled up to his neck so he appeared to be asleep. The maid found him when she attempted to awaken him for the morning meal. He had been rather viciously stabbed. The left side of Sir Herbert’s head was battered. It appeared as though he had been clumsily beaten with the murderer’s weaker or less experienced hand and then immediately stabbed with the offender’s other hand. The three wounds had been made by some sort of sharp, pointy, and narrow blade and were slanted from the mid-chest towards Sir Herbert’s flabby right chest.



The butler was, of course, the first and only suspect. The family believed him responsible for other more petty crimes about the home so he seemed the most logical choice. Yet, as a murdered man is far more serious than missing silver or a starved cat, the Harrisfords wisely chose to consult a professional.


Detective Sturum was an expert. A third generation detective, he was very experienced. He was sipping green tea from an old jam jar and patting himself on the back for the case he had just solved when the phone rang. Mr. Harrisford had called, asking the detective to come to the mansion.


“Yes, he is definitely dead...very dead.” said Sturum.

“We had ascertained that ourselves,” replied Mr. Harrisford, “the blood on the sheets and lack of heart beat were rather self-explanatory.”

“Yes, of course. Who has been in the house?”

“Only our family and the servants, and Herbert of course. He arrived in time for dinner last night. We have ordered the servants to their rooms and locked the doors. We suspect the butler. Look what we found in his room!” Mr. Harrisford displayed a pair of scissors. They were ordinary scissors, except for a thread of engraved roses and vines along the blades, and these same long sharp blades were covered in dried blood.
“Yes, I see...” Sturum slowly remarked, and he sank deep into thought.


Five minutes later Mr. Harrisford grew impatient. “What is there to think about?” he exclaimed, “This seems uncharacteristically simplistic to me!”
“Yes, it would appear that way. Unfortunately, the first and most obvious suspect rarely seems to be guilty.”



Detective Sturum confiscated the murder weapon, for safety reasons. Ordering the servants to be brought downstairs, he gathered both the servants and the family into the main room.

“Yes, everyone must be considered a suspect in this matter,” he began. “Could the butler please bring us some biscuits...and perhaps your maid could bring some tea?”
Mr. Harrisford snapped his fingers and the two servants exited the room. Detective Sturum ordered everyone, family and servants alike, to find a seat in the large living room. Moving a small wooden table to the center of the room he placed the murder weapon upon the table. The gory scissors could be easily viewed by everyone in the room.


The butler returned to the room first, carrying a silver platter of biscuits. He walked around the room in his typical slow, careful manner, handing each person a napkin and biscuit. He took his seat as the maid entered the room. She carried a slightly larger silver tray stacked with tea cups and a large pot of steaming raspberry tea, Mrs. Harrisford’s favorite. She moved about the room in a more hurried manner, she was not the meticulous type. To each person she handed a cup, filling it with steaming tea and a teaspoon of sugar. When she came to Detective Sturum he asked for a second spoonful of sugar. She acquiesced to his request.
“Yes, that’s a beautiful ring,” he remarked, pointing to the maid’s left ring finger. “Did you recently become engaged?”
“Oh no, sir! It’s just a little trinket I found in a shop. This is the only finger that fits it.”
Detective Sturum thanked the maid and butler for serving. Standing in the middle of the room, he picked up the scissors and examined them one last time.


“Yes, I mean no, the butler did not do it,” he calmly declared, “but she did.”
The detective strolled to the middle of the room, stood behind the maid and gently pushed her forward. The Harrisford family gasped.



Upon searching the maid’s room Detective Sturum found some of the missing silver along with various other odds and ends that had disappeared. The maid had been performing petty crimes and generally slacking off, aware that the unfortunate mute butler would be blamed. After murdering Sir Herbert, for unknown personal reasons, she stowed the scissors in the butler’s room as he slept.


How did Detective Sturum realize the appearingly innocent maid was responsible? Simple, she was left-handed. He discovered this simple fact by observing the ring on her left hand, the hand with which she poured the tea and served the sugar. The detective’s first clue was the scissors themselves. Generally men do not own dainty scissors laced with roses. Of course, the butler could have borrowed the scissors, which leads us to the second clue. These scissors were made specifically for a left-handed cutter. The butler was right-handed. The maid was the only lefty in the Harrisford home, and the stab wounds, beginning at Sir Herbert’s mid-chest and slanting outwards towards his right side, were definitely made by a left-hand. Thus, the case was solved.


So, in the end, the butler didn’t do it...but the maid did.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Never Too Bad

I read through Psalm 136 today, at the suggestion of a friend. Go read it, but read it out loud. It's so powerful that way. The verse covers all these different circumstances in life, good, bad, hard times where it's confusing why God does or allows things, when He provides, etc. but after each part all you see is His love endures forever. And it's this beautiful reminder that He will always love us, no matter what. 

That reminds me of the video we watched last night at Cru, Katherine mentioned it in her post. I think the most powerful part of that video, or at least one of them, was when the speaker talked about how so many people who say that they don't believe in God are using that as a defense mechanism, an excuse, because really they think that God doesn't believe in them, that God doesn't love them, or want them. And the way this girl was saved, was through the diligent love of a Christian girl who was non-judgmental, and simply loved her, cared for her, and wanted to be her friend. Had a relationship with this girl with no strings attached, no hidden agendas.

It's so easy to fall into the trap of being friends with someone with the purpose of bringing them to Christ. That should never be the goal, we should never have that agenda. We should desire to share the love of Christ with others, but not to "convert them." We should share this love because it is such an integral part of our being that it is absolutely impossible to separate ourselves from this great love that has made us into who we are. But it should never be shoved in someone's face, never forced down their throats, we shouldn't make them swallow it like sticky pink cough syrup or children's medicine.

Our goal should simply be to love. Our agenda, to care. To have a relationship with someone, without expecting anything in return. People should see that we are different and wonder why, and then realize that we're different because of one simple thing, we know that Jesus loves us and we love Him back. And our lives should be about showing others that love, letting them know that Jesus simply loves them. Loves them without expectations or desires, without report cards or To Do lists, that He loves them no matter how screwed up they are, no matter what they've done. And that not only does He love them, but He has forgiven it all, and given His life as a ransom for theirs.