Saturday, July 23, 2011

Burn It

"'If I can?'" Jesus asked. "Everything is possible for him who believes." 

And the boy's father immediately responded and exclaimed, "I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!" **

You know. I really respect this father. I see his response as very humble. When people call me out, as Jesus called the boy's father out, my general response is to, while admitting to my mistake, also make excuse for it. I think my natural response to Jesus' words would have been, "Oh, that's what I meant! I didn't mean you couldn't do it. I just...worded my request badly. Of course you can do anything and everything. I didn't mean to imply you couldn't! My wording was simply poor..." And I probably would have babbled excuses for awhile. 

The father doesn't do that. He owns up to his fault, admits his unbelief. He doesn't say he doesn't believe, but he recognizes that part of him was skeptical. Perhaps it was not even a conscious thing, but there was a bit of him that wanted a safety. If he didn't 100% acknowledge Jesus' power, then if Jesus did not heal the boy, then the father had an escape clause. He could pass it off as, "Well I asked, 'if he could help' and clearly, he could not." But after Jesus called the father out, he admitted his unbelief. And instead of just saying, "Sorry, I had a moment of failure to believe in your awesome, great, omnipotence." He recognizes that he will probably have these bouts of unbelief again, and again, and again. And he asks for help. He asks Jesus to help him overcome his unbelief. He humbles himself by admitting his fault, and then requests help in overcoming that weakness. 

These are good things to take into account, things we should remember to do. When we're called out on a sin, no excuses. Own up, admit to it, take ownership, then apologize or make it right, and accept the forgiveness that accompanies that recognition of sin. 

And remember that we are unbelieving souls. Like the father, we always want a safety net hanging right below us at all times. We want bungee cables tied to our belts to make sure we bounce right back up. We want hard hats and padded knee and elbow guards. We want three kinds of health insurance and extra money saved in the bank. Plan A, B, and C, and then backup plan 1, 2, and 3...just incase Jesus doesn't come through. Or that on the off chance that the .001% of you that has a really hard time believing Jesus really is real was the right part of you. Incase Jesus doesn't come back. Backup plans. 

Pitch 'em. Burn them. Cut the cords, destroy the plans, take the cash out of the bank and spend it on something more worthwhile. Backup plans are for sissies. And in saying that, I'm definitely calling myself a sissy. It's so hard to put 100% and then some into Jesus. Someone I've never seen. Someone I won't see until I die. But though I may not have seen his actual face in person, I've seen his work in the world. I've seen his love played out. I've seen the difference he has made in lives. I've seen the difference he made and makes in my life. I've heard his voice. I've heard others' stories of his love and care and grace and mercy. I've felt his presence in my life, and in others' lives. And I know he's real. 

That doesn't make destruction of Backup Plans time easier, but it must happen. Have a destruction party in your backyard to burn the plans and extra insurance papers. Let the flames flicker high, orange and bright in the dark sky. Let it burn, burn, burn. Then go inside, and remember the father. He believed, but he still had unbelief. And he knew it. And he recognized his need for a savior and his need for belief. So he asked for it. Go inside, leave your backup plans to burn and ask Jesus to help you overcome your disbelief. And he will, oh he will. 

**my wording, from Mark 9.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Serenading You

Close your eyes. Picture someone sitting across from you. He may have a beard, neat and trimmed, but still scruffy. His dark brown hair may be a bit on the long side, nearly touching his shoulders. His skin is naturally darker, but also tanned by the sun. He holds a guitar, strumming it gently with rough, kind, carpenter's hands, a tune to go along with the song he sings. The words flow from his mouth, and you listen. Maybe he has a bit of a hippie vibe. Birkenstock sandals, worn jeans. Peaceful, loving, kind. He sits there, strumming and singing. And you listen, you listen to the words of love, the words of hope, from someone who truly cares. You listen, and believe. And he sings, he sings you a beautiful love song. . .

It's been so long since
You felt like you were loved
So what went wrong
But do you know
There's a place where you belong
Here in My Arms

When you feel like you're alone in your sadness
It seems like no one else in this whole world cares
And you want to get away from the madness
You just call My name and I'll be there
You just call My name and I'll be there

The pain inside
Has erased your hope for love
Soon you will find
That I'll give you all
That your heart could ever want
And so much more

When you feel like you're alone in your sadness
It seems like no one else in this whole world cares
And you want to get away from the madness
You just call My name and I'll be there
You just call My name and I'll be there

You just call My name
You just call My name
Call My name say it now
I want you to never doubt
The love I have for you is so alive
Call My name say it now
I want you to never doubt
The love I have for you is so alive

You just call My name
You just call My name
You just call My name

The love I have for you is so alive
The love I have for you is so alive
You just call My name
You just call My name
You just call My name

Monday, July 18, 2011

And the Ants Come Marching Proudly In

So you know how they say guys with small penises make up for it with big personalities and egos? They have an inferiority complex and overcompensation or something? I kinda have that same issue. Well, not in regards to a small penis (I mean, clearly mine is huge), but I definitely feel the need to overcompensate. See, incase you somehow didn't notice, I'm tiny. Like, tiny. People comment on it all the time. I have a small build and I'm skinny. Just the way I am. But since I don't weigh very much, I'm the one that it's easy to pick up and throw into the pool, or just pick up in general. You know how people sometimes walk along and bump each other accidentally-on-purpose? Well half the time this action results in me either 1. Falling, 2. Stumbling and having to catch my balance, or 3. Nearly falling and the person who bumped me having to grab my arm and rescue me. It's a little awkward. So pretty much I'm small, quiet, and easily pushed over. I don't feel big and strong, but I want to. So maybe I don't really overcompensate, but I try so hard to be big and strong and brave and tough and make up for the fact that I'm really just small and insecure.
And then I have moments like tonight to remind me that, quite frankly, I'm not.
Twice a month, at my pool, we have what's called an inservice. We basically practice our lifeguarding/saving skills and review stuff, just to make sure we're all 150% ready for any and every possible emergency (and don't worry, we're stellar). This month's main theme was endurance. We did an Indian-Run around the lazy river. I was all pumped and ready for it. I run or swim almost every day, do weights, ab workouts, and yoga. I would like to think I'm pretty well in shape and strong. When it came my turn to run to the front of the took me nearly three times around the lazy river. For most people, it only took one to one-and-a-half times. I was out of breath and struggling to get to the front of the line. I looked weak, pathetic, small, and helpless. And I felt all of those things as well.
I don't like to feel hopeless. I don't like to look weak. My dear prideful self wanted to do so well on that Indian-Run. I wanted to look strong and fit. I wanted people to see that I could do anything. I wanted to seem strong. But I didn't. And I had to deal with that. In that moment I felt so small, pathetic, and worthless.
I feel like that often. I don't say that to have a pity party or complain about myself. I admit to that because it is a huge fault. And something I'm realizing, praying through, and trying to change. Because what I've realized is this, the vast majority of the time I allow what others think of me (or what I imagine they are thinking of me) to rule my emotions. I mean yeah, I have tons of faults. And I suck at a lot of things. And the vast majority of the time, I'm not smart, pretty, funny, outgoing, or skilled enough.
But the fact of the matter is, I will always fall short in someone's eyes, because no one is ever perfect. I will never ever be perfect or strong enough. And there's beauty in that. There is beauty in imperfection, and strength in weakness. Every flaw and weakness I have is like a crack in a wall. The wall is full of scratches and chips in the paint, little cracks run like ravines along it. But then someone comes along and patches the wall with mortar, filling in each line and ditch. The wall is made whole and new, stronger and better. That's me. I'm broken and weak. Guess who isn't? And where I am weak, He is strong. Where I fail, He prevails. Where I falter, He presses on. When I fall, He picks me up. When I sin, He forgives me. When I'm not good enough, He is.

Recently I've been forgetting all those very important truths. I've been allowing my weaknesses and imperfections to take over. Rather than focusing on the fact that no matter what, I am loved, I have been focusing on the moments when people have not cared about me, or have left me, or haven't wanted me, or when I haven't been good enough (and yes, that could possibly have maybe had sorta something kinda smallish to do with a boy). And looking at it, I can clearly see how, especially in the last week, I have just been "in a funk." And that funk was pretty self-focused on me being better and stronger in the eyes of the people around me. That is not the way it goes. That's not the way I should live. That shouldn't be my focus.

So the conclusion is simple. I'm flawed. I'm weak. I'm helpless. I'm never going to be super big and strong. I will never be perfect. I will always fall short or mess up. But the wonderful news is this: it doesn't matter, because I'm good enough for my Best Friend.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Rowdy Room, Therapeutic Theater and a Psychedelic Ceiling

Some people had been in line all day. They had waited hours, some even an entire day, for this moment. The room was chilly, people huddled beneath blankets, cuddling on couches or curled up in the balcony theater-seats. It was a moment they'd all been waiting for...the end had come...Harry Potter 7 part 2. 

Now I wouldn't call myself a die-hard Harry Potter fan. I've been reading the books since they came out so many years ago, so I guess I did grow up on them. I would have been perfectly satisfied with watching the film sometime in the coming week after its release, but my friends had been planning to attend the midnight premiere for nearly a year (since the first half came out at least) and I'm always up for movies, 5 hour energies, and fun times with friends! Plus, I'd never been to the midnight opening of a movie, and I figured the last installation of the famed Harry Potter series was the best time to do it! 

Now I sound like a cynic or hater, only there for the people. Not true in the least. I love the Harry Potter series, movies and books. The books I definitely enjoy more, the movies I like because they're part of the culture and the tradition and the story. Without the books backing them up, though, I don't think I'd enjoy them nearly as much. 

When we were standing in line, right before the doors were about to open, we were all given raffle tickets to fill out for a drawing later. We wrote down our name, email address, and favorite character. I definitely had too many favorites to write them all down, so I chose three. Dobby, Hagrid, and Snape. 

Snape? What? 

Yeah, Snape. 

He's honestly one of my favorite characters. Before the last book came out, after we'd all read about Snape killing Dumbledore at the top of the tower, there was loads of debate. I remember there being two sides, the Snape is Good side and the Snape is Evil side. I was always on the Snape's Good side. Even though all the evidence pointed against him...what with him being a Death Eater and killing Dumbledore and all, I was just sure that he had to be a good guy. As usual, I was right (only joking about the "as usual" part of that sentence). Still, I was thrilled when he turned out to be Dumbledore's spy all the time, thwarting the supposedly un-trickable mind-reading skills of Voldemort. This last movie, and a reminder of the rest of Snape's story, only strengthened my admiration of him as a character. 

Imagine how difficult it must have been to be Snape. He loved Lilly Potter more than anything. But he never got to express that love, or receive it in return. And to add insult to injury, Lilly married James, someone Snape hated. But Snape is so loyal. Despite his clear fascination and appreciation of the Dark Arts, and the Dark Lord himself, Snape never allows anything to overcome his love for Lilly. His undying, loyal love is not broken by Lilly's love for someone else, it is not broken by Voldemort, it is not broken by the struggles and fears and trials of living a double life, never truly fitting in.

No one trusted Snape, except Dumbledore of course. When Snape publicly denounced Voldemort and joined the good side, no one ever truly believed he had ceased to be a Death Eater. So his fellow staff at Hogwarts, the students, and families, didn't trust him. Many said they trusted Dumbledore and therefore concluded that Snape must be good, others said Dumbledore was senile, but none believed Snape. And when Voldemort returned and Snape re-entered the world of Death Eaters, they never fully trusted him either. So no one trusted Snape, but he was the most trustworthy of them all. True, his life was a web of lies and tales and crossing people, but all for good. All to keep Harry safe. All to save the world. All for the love of Lilly Potter. 

Such pure love, willing to sacrifice everything. Snape lived a rather miserable life, but he did it all because he loved Lilly. I find that so admirable, and so inspirational. He didn't look after his own interests in the slightest. And if it weren't for Snape, the story would have had a much darker ending. I also love that Harry recognizes this. Though he and Snape never got along, once Harry realizes the true Snape, he understands all that Snape did in his lifetime, all that he sacrificed. And Harry remembers Snape through a name, the name of one of his children, Albus Severus Potter.

True Beauty

Honestly, my sister is one of the most beautiful people I know. I mean she's smart, funny, great to be around, kind, and loving. Plus she has great personal style (I'd like to think I contributed/influenced that at least a little) and she's simply stunningly gorgeous and unbelievably beautiful :) Here are some of the pictures from a photoshoot I did of her in Nashville.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Don't Look Down, Close Your Eyes, and Hold on Tight

Sometimes my life is such a roller-coaster. Not with events and such, but emotionally. Emotionally, I am a roller-coaster. Also, I'm tired a lot, which adds to the emotional highs and lows. Anyways.

So I guess I've been thinking a lot. Well, I'm always thinking. I think too much. Sometimes it's a really bad thing, I start thinking about something and it snowballs and suddenly a slightly-bad situation that could have been turned into something kinda goodish becomes the biggest tragedy of my life where I have no friends, everyone hates me, my life sucks, I suck, and clearly the world is going to end quite soon. Granted, that is a bit of an over-exaggeration, but still, it happens.

One of my recent roller-coasters has been friends and friendships. Some people are so on-and-off. One minute or day or situation or state-of-mind you're great friends, but then the next moment they aren't talking to you at all. And every time I start to accept that the friendship simply isn't there anymore, or isn't what I thought it was, or maybe they really just don't like me in the least, and I've accepted that fact and started to move on...something happens or is said to change it all back. Suddenly I have to re-address all the issues in my mind, or try all over again to figure out if we're friends or not. It's very confusing, really. And everything I just said is super confusing because it was all so vague. My sincere apologies. But that's so up and down. And it forces me to deal with a lot of issues and insecurities I have. I've lost a lot of friends, and I never can figure out why. People just generally leave me. It's something I've had to come to accept. It is hard, but I feel like I'm a stronger person because of these lost and broken relationships. I'm also much less trustworthy and far more insecure. So it takes more for me to really care for someone and trust them with that love, and then hurts a lot more when/if they leave. I'm also more sensitive and fearful of people leaving. This causes me to blow situations way out of proportion at times. Also highly problematic. So yeah, I've had a lot of friendships this summer that didn't/aren't going as planned, or have changed, or simply aren't there anymore, or are just super confusing. It's really been a struggle, but it's been good. It forces me to place more trust in Jesus, which is something I've been struggling with more lately.

I was at church on Sunday and tons of parts of the worship and sermon were very applicable to my life and current issues. It was great. There was this one line of a song that was something like, "friends may fail me, foes assail me, but Jesus makes me whole..." and it just really applied to where I am right now with all the friendship stuff. That was very encouraging.

Church has been difficult too, though. The New City Fellowship I knew and loved doesn't seem to be here anymore. I know a lot of it is that it's summer, and they're currently transitioning from one big service to two smaller services and at different times. All the same, the church is pretty empty, and the passion I once felt I can't seem to find in the same way. It's been hard going from the great group I have in Passage at Denver United. There's so much fellowship and love and living together in the Body of Christ. I don't have that here.

I used to think that Christian fellowship, while good and encouraging and wonderful, wasn't as important as it really is. I understand now how absolutely essential this fellowship is. I can see in myself a difference. I read my Bible less, I don't live as passionately as I did. I pray tons, but when I step back and think about it, those prayers far more often focus on me and my struggles, my concerns, my issues, my requests and less on Jesus, His desires, His will, His plan, His calling for my life, and living a life worthy and honoring of Him. That's a problem. That isn't how I want to be. That isn't me. That isn't who I'm supposed to be, how I'm supposed to live, what I'm supposed to do. Almost every time I go for a run I listen to my "jesusmusic" playlist on my iPod. Quite honestly, that's some of the best worship time I have had the entire time being home. Right now, New City simply is not the place for me. Although this Sunday's message was good for me to hear, generally speaking I am simply not growing there. I feel myself shrinking. Receding back into a little shell of selfish Katy-ness. In this place I spend more time thinking about myself, my needs, my wants, and my insecurities than I ever should. Bad, bad, bad. I don't want to be that way!

On Sunday, Tony talked in his sermon about how we're called to inhabit the world in a different way. I definitely needed to hear/be reminded of that. But I also think that's part of why it has been so difficult as far as my walk with Jesus has been going this summer. In school I had a wonderful support system. Between small groups, Young Life, Cru, Passage, Denver United, and my Christian friends, I frequently was in the company of, or in contact with, people who also felt called to inhabit this world differently. Here I often feel like I'm doing in on my own. Living a life that is true to God isn't exactly easy. Actually, it's really hard. It's worth it, more worth it than anything you could ever imagine, but it's hard. It's so difficult in fact, it can't be done alone. A life for Jesus can only be lived with His help. He's the only one that can get me through the day. He's the one that holds me up when I'm too weak to stand, and that is far more often that I frequently care to admit.

And right now, I need a lot of support. When I think about it, I've been spending way too much time focused on me. If I'm only thinking about me and my own personal comfort, I've missed the picture, I've missed the point of salvation and redemption. I wasn't saved, Jesus didn't die for me, so I could sit on my butt having frequent pity parties and wishing that life were easier. First of all, in perspective, my life is pretty easy. And in all reality, I am not the center of my world. I'm not the center, and it's not even my world. The center is Jesus, and my purpose and calling in His great land is to live for Him. That purpose encompasses sharing His love, mercy, compassion, justice, and grace with those around me.

The world is tempting. Some days I just want to be able to do anything and everything. Not worry about sin because I don't care if I do because I live for me. Sometimes it seems like it would be so easy to give in, give up, stop living for Him. When I'm at a party and everyone's drinking, sometimes it is really tempting. Not to get wasted, just to have a drink or two. Loosen up, have a good time. Everyone's doing it, why not? Wouldn't it be great just to have a few hours of literally caring nothing about what anyone thinks. Being so carefree and open, uninhibited and whatever about everything. It would be so easy. And no one would ever know, right? It can be so tempting. But I have to remember, that if I give in to the short-lived and short-term pleasures of right here and now, things that I know aren't right for me, I'm missing the calling. I'm missing the point. I'm not living differently, I'm not living in the light. It's hard, but it's worth it. Cuz living for Jesus...well..."it's better than life!"

Campfires and Calm

So last weekend I went on a float trip. I've never been on a float trip before, and I haven't been camping in years. It was awesome. Honestly, it was probably one of the best weekends of my entire life. I went with a whole bunch of people from the pool I lifeguard at. The absolutely wonderful thing about that job is that it's more than a job, it's a life in and of itself. We're pretty much all a family (with a few awkward second and third cousins who are never around thrown in the mix). People hang out with each other outside of work, have parties, and go on float trips. I almost didn't go. I was afraid it would be awkward because, though I love everyone at work dearly, none of my super close friends were going. So instead of hanging out with brothers and sisters, it would be more like cousins. But I'm so glad I went! It was awesome. I'm not even really sure how to explain why it was so fun. I think it was just carefree. Floating down a river, the water cool and the sun hot. The rocks were slippery, covered in algae and fuzz. We sang and laughed, chatted and chilled. It was lovely. There were a few mishaps along the way, but everyone got out alive, and (for the most part) unhurt.
The only truly scary moment was poor Renee. She'd been floating along with her boyfriend, Pat, in an innertube. We had four large, bright blue rafts and four black rubber innertubes with us. Somehow, no one can really figure out how, she got run over by two of our rafts! She'd gotten out of the innertube or something and was just floating along in the water. It was super shallow (only around two or so feet deep) and the bottom of the river was quite rocky. Our rafts ran over her, and somehow no one saw her. It was one of those freak accident things. Red eyes, lots of coughing, bruises, and a small fear of the river later, she was okay. We are lifeguards, after all! It was scary, though. We all definitely paid a lot more attention to the whereabouts of our innertubers after that!
After getting back to the campgrounds, we just chilled. It was so nice. Campfire and chairs, games, conversation, food, and music. I think part of how lovely it was was simply the fact that the whole weekend felt so carefree. We all see each other sweaty and gross and chloriney at work anyways, so there was no pressure to look good. Sometimes not wearing makeup or worrying about looks is so freeing and relaxing. Basically, it was just chill. Exciting and fun, but chill too. Even though those things don't really seem to go together, they did, merging together in a perfect mix of a wonderful weekend.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Old Memories and Pretty Paints

Last weekend we visited my great-grandma in Nashville. It was a bit of a melancholy trip. When someone asks "why are you going?" it's weird to reply with, "well...we're going to take one last group photo with my great-grandma because she's really old and may die soon..." Just a wee bit awkward. But okay. So that's officially why we went. It was sad seeing her, she's pretty much just wasting away. For someone late in their 90's, she's in "good health." I guess her only true ailment is simply being old. She's lost weight. Once a jolly, rotund, artistic woman, she's now unable to remember anything within the past ten years or so, and her papery skin literally hangs off her bones. She looks so small and frail and breakable. She sleeps all the time and I'm glad she does, she can't remember anything or take joy in art or talking or anything like she used to. I hope our visit brought her a few minutes of joy, but I think in reality she was just frustrated that we kept her from her nap.

Seeing her that was was sad. When I was younger we used to visit her in Nashville all the time. And we'd visit my grandma (who passed away a few years ago). I always wanted to stay with Memaw (my great-grandma) more because her house was so much more interesting. Plus, she had a massive television, and we never really got to watch TV. At her house, we could, and that was quite the treat. We'd play in the little man-made stream-river-water-in-a-concrete-ditch-thingy and get all dirty and mosquito-bitten. And best of all were the ceramics.

Memaw was an artist. It was more of a hobby for her, but she was still good at it. She did some oil painting (we have one in our family room) and she painted beautiful and intricately detailed ceramics. Painted tan and brown with white trimming, the one-story building in the back of Memaw's house was full of excitement and creativity. It sat there, tantalizing and inviting, full of unpainted ceramics and paints simply begging to be dug from their boxes and used. And best of all, we were allowed to use them. Every time we went to Memaw's we would spend hours unpacking the boxes, looking at the various options simply waiting to be painted. We'd pick a few and then find paints. There were so many colors. Bright turquoises and forest greens, some shiny, others matte. Hundreds of shades of pinks, reds, purples, and blues. The options were endless, sometimes so many that it was almost overwhelming. Often we were instructed to only pick a few colors, otherwise we could never have decided. The beautiful colors would be squirted out into paint trays, beautiful blobs of color, bright and cheery. Our house used to be full of our ceramic creations, though I'm sure many have been stealthily thrown away over the years. Those were some of the best of times.

So Memaw has grown old. She no longer paints or laughs or cracks jokes. But her memories will live on forever, and the wonderful memories of childhood weekends spent in Nashville visiting her will never be forgotten or lost.