Picking up the pieces

I was watching the news again today. What struck me most about the latest on the tsunami were the individuals desperately searching for their loved ones through bloated bodies of the unfortunuates who didn’t survive Sunday’s tragedy. The survivors had kerchiefs over their mouth because of the disease and stench coming from the dead. One young man had been searching through bodies like these for three days to find his sister. I wish I could offer them the hope of resurrection Sunday and say, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” But I don’t know if their loved ones are alive….I can’t offer them that hope.

Other people are sitting on the broken rubble of their home or businesses and they look like cannot even figure out where to start. As they survey the damage, all they see is brokenness. Thousands of miles away, I feel the same way. Sometimes I feel like life hit my like a tsunami in October when I had my nervous breakdown. Now I’m still picking up the broken pieces and trying to figure out where they go. There are others who are wandering around the streets looking blankly at their surroundings.

I know the feeling, but not the physical devestation these people have experienced. They’ll pick up the pieces and so will I.

Thoughts on Tsunamis and other tragedy

I spent a lot of time inside my head today thinking about life…and death. I’ve been pulling things up from my old blog, and putting thoughts on here so my blog looks more crowded, but all the while it’s been a mere distraction from what lies deeper.

The death count stands at 52,000 as of now. Some people are considering this to be the worst tragedy in recordbale history. I’ve read stories of tragedy…mothers whose babies were swept from their arms, a young Australlia rugby player drowned on his honeymoon while his new bride is left to pick up the pieces of her shattered life, and the millions of survivors screaming, “Why not me?” as they survey the strew rubble of civilization around them. Words fall short in times like these.

Like many others, I want to do something…anything. I’ll send my money as limited as it is. I’ll pray and I’ll do whatever I can. But I am helpless, and can only turn to God with tears in my eyes. Why, God is a question we all ask. We asked it on Sept. 11, 2001. We ask it now as we watch the tragedy in Asia unfold on our screen. We ask it when we hear terrible stories of job loss, friends dealing with family difficulties, teenagers who run away from home, and hearts that are broken. I turn to God in these times, and I realized something recently….He is weeping, too.

A lot of times we get angry at God for not preventing this tragedy, especially in natural disasters. We shake our puny fists at heaven, and fail to realize we could never understand if God sat us down and explained it. We simply do not know and that has to be okay. But one thing we forget is that God also weeps in these tragedies. He does care, and He is near. As a God of compassion, He cries with us. Let us draw near God in through our tears and realize that when we weep, He does, too.

Churchless Faith

Hey, I was reading Renee’s book recently (STUMBLING BY FAITH…if you haven’t read it, read it!) and I’ve been thinking about how she hadn’t gone to church for a while in order to find out who God truly is away from the church’s interpretation of Him.

I had a conversation with a friend who seemed to think a respite from church was a very odd thing indeed, and entirely unnecessary. As I think more and more about it, I am thinking that it’s not a bad idea at all.

Right now, I’m not actively engaged in youth ministry at any church, so it’s not harming my “witness.” My relationship with God is stronger when I’m not in church right now and I’m finding out more about Him. Except for when I was in WA with Bill and Shannon, my relationship with God has suffered from church shopping.

Since I’ve moved in August, I’ve gone to some truly bizarre places of worship. Growing up in Christian world, going to church has never been an option, no matter how much I hated going. But now I go to church and I end up angry, frustrated, and crying. What if going to church is actually worse for me right now than not going?

Right now I’m learning to separate God and all His glory from the church that many boxes have put Him in. He’s so much bigger and majestic and comforting that our small cliches. I’m not saying I want to not go to church forever, mind you, just for right now so I can discover who God is away from these places that are really irritating me.

I still have Christian fellowship, and some of my closest friends seem to be supportive of my temporarily taking a respite from church. I know someone out there is going to make a post about how gathering with other Christians is church and all that….that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about going to a builiding on Sunday mornings and perhaps more times a week.

Let me be honest. When I’m going to these buildings, most of the time I’m just going through the motions. I’m singing songs because I have to, not because I want to. Right now so much pain from past issues in churches is coming up, that it’s almost overwhelming to attend. I want to get to the point where I love getting up on Sunday morning and walking through the doors of a house of worship, but I’m not there right now.

God just doesn’t show up on Sunday mornings and fellowship doesn’t just happen then. Do we sometimes have to leave church (or rather churchianity) to find God?

A Thought on Christmas

As I sit in another Christmas Eve service, I am feeling rather empty. I enjoy singing familiar Christmas songs, but find little fulfillment in the rest. The message about the gospel is the same as ever, and I find myself wondering what I’m doing here.

I slouch down in my seat as I survey the surroundings of the ultra contemporary “family life center” as I pretend to listen to the pastor’s talk. My ears perk up as I hear him say, “The outside world thinks that God is love. These people think that they can do whatever they want and it does not matter because God will still love them.” Maybe that’s true for some people, but it seems that the people I encounter are overwhelmed with their sinfulness. They feel incapable of approaching a Holy God in their own wretchedness. It’s true, in our own humanity devoid of Christ, we are unable to be in God’s presence.

While a female singer sporting a sparkly black sweater belts out Chris Rice’s “Welcome to Our World”, my eyes survey each detail of the beautiful nativity scene backdrop that covers the entire stage. I notice that image of Baby Jesus being held by Mary. Not only is this baby Jesus terribly Caucasian, he is sporting a full head of hair (which is not entirely impossible, since I did have a full head of hair when I was born). The most unusual thing of all about this particular Baby Jesus is his sunburst halo which is almost as big as he is shooting off colors of yellow and orange. It almost appeared as though he was wearing a terribly absurb sultan’s hat. Mary is calmly holding the baby, looking very clean and mellow for a woman who has recently given birth. Joseph is a bit removed from the scene. He is content to stand off to the side amicably observing Mary and Jesus. Angels, shepherds, and the wise men are also depicted. Again, the backdrop is beautiful and creative, but it seems unapproachable. How could a sinner such as myself approach this holy baby?

In my mind, I see a red-faced infant held by a sweaty and weary young woman. In the background is a frantic new father doing whatever he can to keep his new son warm and aid his young wife. Perhaps he is laying down fresh straw for Mary to lie on while removing the straw dirtied from the messiness of childbirth. The smiling animals staring at the holy infant have disappeared. Instead, there is a cow chewing its cud, a donkey relieving its bladder, and a plethora of other animals making various noises to indicate that they would like an early meal. The scene is not only unsanitary, but it smells from the refuse of the animals.

Jesus’ first visitors were not shepherds wearing bright-colored clothes cuddling clean white lambs. These were dirty, smelly undershepherds. These men were the lowest in the low class of shepherding! Imagine their flock of sheep following closely behind their masters, fleece dirtied and stinking from being in the muddy fields for months. Mary and Joseph were most likely also in rags, as was their child wrapped in strips of cloth used to preserve the dead.

This is my scene. Not one that removes Jesus’ holiness, but one which restores his humanity. This is my Jesus who accepts me in my tattered robes as I wreak from the stench of sin. I like pretty pictures of the nativity at Christmas time, but nothing can replace the beauty in the simplicity of his birth. Jesus set aside his heavenly glory to dwell with humanity. It is his humility in these circumstances that astounds me.

He didn’t have the royal birth meant for a king. The beauty of Christ’s birth was not in God’s packaging; it was contained in the miraculous gift of the infant Jesus. And it is because of this beautiful gift we can approach God as his children with the authority given to us through faith in Jesus. Merry Christmas!

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