Anxious Alison

April 24, 2013

I get really anxious. Like to the point where my chest gets tight and I have a hard time breathing.

I guess I have always been anxious but after Arlo was born it really sky rocketed. I think “they” call it postpartum anxiety.

I call it darkness in action. If you have never suffered from anxiety than you won’t understand someone who does. Often times Christians can think if you eat well, exercise, think positive, and pray really hard that the anxiety will go away. These things help, but they don’t take the anxiety away.

Unfortunately you cannot work something like this off.

While it has gotten better as Arlo has gotten older it still can be crippling. I write about my anxiety not so that you will feel bad for me, but because it’s a way to cope.

Actually with all the shootings in ‘Merica it has been brought to my attention that there is very little room for mental illness within the church. The pharmaceutical company has a corner of this market but the church has little if nothing to say on the matter. Often if the church does speak on the matter it’s negative.

However, metal illness can cause a lot of problems for kingdom people in relationship. Christianity often looks differently through mental illness when it comes to reconciliation, forgiveness, love, or discipleship.

I wrote on Matthew 5:48 this morning. The perspective that Jesus calls us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

That Greek word translates as complete. We are called to be complete people. Wholistic people.

What a beautiful image. To be a whole, complete, unbroken person. To be a person at peace.

So, how are we called to love the people who might not know or express this love back?

How do we navigate forgiveness, reconciliation, discipleship with Christians who suffer from bipolar, anxiety, OCD, chronic depression, ect.?

Maybe meeting people where they are at and loving them in a practical way; Cooking meals, watching their kids, going on walks.

Maybe if we love in a practical way we can walk with people through their hardship and see what it’s like to walk in there shoes.

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I don’t normally write about the devil, as I would rather focus on the goodness of Christ.

However, a recent conversation inspired me to reflect on satan’s activity in our lives.

Scripture gives us some clues on Mr. Evil’s activities within the world, and to sum it up he basically is a deceiver.

Or in laymen terms; liar.

Actually my favorite image of Satan is found in St. Peter’s first letter. St. Peter writes,

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Satan is looking to deceive us in all kinds of ways.

He wants us to believe that we are less than.

Less than what?
Less than perfect.

In Matthew 5 Jesus teaches about loving your enemies and ends this section of scripture by telling everyone that we are called to be perfect like our Heavenly Father.

Perfection does not mean crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s. Jesus’ perfection means being whole.

Being completely whole.

We were originally made whole, but because of the fall in Genesis 3 and our own sin we are broken. The Good news is Christ’s death and resurrection makes us whole again!!

Satan gets a hold of this though and tries to get us to believe that our brokenness cannot be fixed.

He whispers,

“You are not pretty enough.”

“You are not smart enough”

“You don’t belong”

“Your depression and anxiety are just who you are, you can never experience freedom from them”

“You are only here to make yourself happy”

“You are not loved and you are too broken to be loved”

“Your house isn’t nice/big enough”

“You will never have enough money, it’s your only security in this world”

Ect.

I’m sure you have heard something similar in your own life.

These insecurities are crippling when they are all we believe about ourselves, and Satan is waiting in the bushes, hoping if we hear these lies enough we will start believing the lies.

Here is the Good News; we don’t have to be defined by our insecurities. We get to live as kingdom people right now.

We get to experience the freedom of the life transformation of Christ Jesus!

Lately I have been feeling the burden of these lies in my life. I have sat in self pity for too long over some things that have happened and have decided that I am wallowing in my own sin.

Satan doesn’t want me to move towards Christ, so he is going to try yell louder from the bushes. He might even try to get inside my heart house and stick his dirty little hands all over the different parts of my heart.

Scripture is clear on how to stop this from happening.

St. Paul gives us the image of putting on the armor of God to the church of Ephesus, to keep Satan at bay.

He writes, “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,”

Let us keep our hearts from being weighed down by the lies of Satan an rejoice in the resurrection of Christ.

Sticky faith

April 22, 2013

I caught up with some friends from high school a couple of weeks ago that I hadn’t seen in a long time.

We caught each other up on life. As I was talking about Arlo we somehow got on the topic of baby jam. Baby jam is a sticky substance that seems to get over everything that Arlo touches. It comes in all different colors and seems to get all over everything, oh, and it’s really sticky.

I was reflecting on our conversation and it reminded me of my faith.

Faith is like baby jam…it’s really sticky.

I know a lot of us use moralism as an interchange for faith, but if we read scripture faith is wider and deeper than simple moralism.

In fact when we did ministry in southern Illinois I noticed that moral theism was trending in the pews rather than faith in Christ.

I say faith is sticky because it’s really hard to nail down.

When I was younger, faith was an emotional response different experiences within a community of believers. This usually happened at church retreats.

In college faith was found in word studies, philosophical ideals, hermeneutics, and being right. My faith grew in the classroom and in the dorm room.

In our first ministry the faith I experienced became restricted by expectations, fundamentalism, and pride, both from myself and from others. The faith I experienced was cornered and scrutinized.

When we resigned I realized that the faith I was experiencing was changing yet again.

As I sit here and type this I cannot discount all my faith experiences, just like I can’t discount anyone else’s faith experiences.

I can say that I have noticed similarities in my experiences.

People, the church, evangelism, service, and study have been components in all of my journey.

But mostly people. I’m not an expert but the times when I have put myself in new situations, especially when I have been serving others is when I have experienced a new perspective of my faith in Christ.

And, this is why faith is like sticky baby jam.

When you put yourself in a position to experience new faith you get that faith all over every one you interact with.

Just like baby jam, that sticky faith starts to show up on everything you handle.

This sticky faith then leads you to encourage and challenge others on your journey in new ways.

Rule Keeper

April 8, 2013

I have always been rule keeper. Yes, I like to speed, yes, I didn’t go to every chapel in college, and I am generally very vocal when I think a rule is unnecessary.

But I really like rules. I think it’s my need to control that I admire them so much.

I think this is the reason why I love Waylon so much. He tends to know himself well enough to do whatever he wants whenever he wants. He also has a better grasp on the love of God and of God’s grace than I do.

Mostly because both the love and grace of God don’t follow the rules. The whole Gospel doesn’t follow the rules.

And that’s really hard to swallow for a rule keeper.

Most of the time when we sit down and read scripture we pick on the Pharisees, those religious leaders who always seem to be giving Jesus a hard time. We are shocked that they didn’t get Jesus and his message.

But, they were rule keepers who were guarding the historical rules that were given to them by God. It’s easy to pick on them because we live post resurrection and they are an easy target.

But, being a rule follower I know it’s hard to make room for people that break the rules or recreate them.

The reality is that Jesus lived, died, and lived again for all of us rule followers, rule pushers, and rule breakers.

He makes room for us all and loves us all tenderly, knowing our weakness and who we harden our hearts too.

One way that I have learned to let go of the rules is by connecting with other human beings.

I have a friend who swore she would never forgive or love a parent who abused her children, until one day she met a woman while volunteering at a soup kitchen who abused her children. This woman shared her brokenness with my friend and the hardness started to melt my friends heart.

Maybe that is the key to us rule keepers. To keep our hearts open to opportunities to live the Gospel out, so that little by little we can experience more of God’s grace and love in our lives.

Painful company

April 1, 2013

I have always connected with Good Friday more than any other Christian holiday. I think my connection to what happened on Good Friday is rooted within the humanity and suffering of Christ.

It’s the first time in the Gospel story where Jesus and I look similar. Pain tends to be a great equalizer.

We got the opportunity to go to a Good Friday service and it left me reflecting on suffering and how it not only impacted Christ but also impacted the men and women following Christ.

Often we look at the cross as a means to an end. We see the empty tomb and forget or pass up the opportunity to sit in the suffering that is such a vital part of our Christian faith.

Gathered together, in a small dark room, the disciples sat in their pain.

Perplexed by the painful situation, but perplexed together.

They suffered in community.

I have experienced painful situations in the past, and I often was blessed with a community that could suffer along side me.

What a powerful image. Christ dies on the cross alone so that we could suffer and be broken together.

We get the opportunity as resurrection people to not only walk alongside those who suffer but bring them to the cross to experience the freedom of death.

We get to share the life transformation that is the cross and the resurrection and we get to do it together!

Hand in hand we get to give up and walk into death together and hand in hand we get to experience the life of the resurrection.

Arlo’s birth was traumatic. He was born four weeks early and developed pneumonia which led him to be in the NICU for the first week of his life.

Arlo’s birth and first week also led me to have a new admiration for Mary, the mother of Jesus. I wondered what it was like for her going into labor and delivering Jesus so far from her own community. I wondered what it was like for Mary to hold this little God baby in her arms.

I remember asking Mary to be with Arlo when I couldn’t while he was in the NICU. We lived thirty five minutes from the hospital and while I tried to be there as much as I could I also had to heal from my labor. So, I asked Mary to watch over him and be with him. I guess I remembered that verse that talks about the great cloud of witnesses and I figured since Mary was one of the first she would be the best to ask.

I’m sure a lot of Christians would find my request from Mary to be off putting. I actually had a good friend ask me, “why didn’t you ask Jesus to watch over Arlo?”

My first response was, “well I just assumed He was already watching over him,” and my second response was, “because Jesus was never a mom”

There is something about being a mom that Jesus never got to experience.

When we finally brought Arlo home, I had no idea what to do with him.

I still remember his first sponge bath at home. We put his little tub on the kitchen table and Waylon and I undressed him and started to bath him. He screamed and I cried and it took us a good thirty minutes to get over the whole messy ordeal.

Reflecting on my first year of being a mom has allowed me to look through the eyes of Mary, and as this Easter has come and gone I have realized how painful the cross was to Mary. I would go as far as to say the cross might have been more painful to Mary then to Jesus.

You don’t want your kids to feel pain. When Arlo was on oxygen in the NICU I wanted so desperately to breath for him.

Mary must have felt utter despair that night. Even of she knew redemption was coming, that sword still would have cut her heart into pieces.

As we have moved out of the passion and into Eastertide let us not forget the brokenness and the pain that brings us all together as human beings. We all have suffered and all have the opportunity to weep with Mary on Friday and rejoice with her on Sunday.