Thursday, June 24, 2010

Choice and the Natural {choice is not the natural}

There is something about choice and nature that I have been struggling to figure out. We have all met people that are naturally good- they naturally look like great ‘christians’. (That is, assuming you think 'christians' should be super helpful and chirpy and reeeaaallly nice.)

So we meet these types of people, and if we meet them in a church or find them to ascribe to a certain religion, we consider them to be a great example of it.

And then we know people that are naturally kind of pissy or moody or flat out pathological liars- christianity certainly doesn’t hide these.

And I seem to have this line of thinking- and maybe you do as well- that we are shaped more by innate biological or psychological preferences rather than the choosing of what is better. For example, a coworker of mine mentioned how {person} is an incredible 'christian' because he has such a marked discipline in finances and how he structures his life/ tasks so well. I thought about it- and yes, those are good things. But those are not exactly a choice for him. He very naturally structures his life- it would be structured whether he called himself a ‘christian’ or an atheist or an elephant.

We all have natural actions that happen to look like good religion.

While those actions are good- I don’t know if it is something to be praised. Can someone say that not drinking is a result of religious faith when they have never really been tempted, or thought of it?

Sidenote: I've been talking to a friend at work about the differences/similarities between his faith- Islam and my own: {sideofthesidenote: the word 'christian' has so many varying definitions that I am leaning towards wanting to respond with 'Liberation Theology' but I haven't figured out how to do so without sounding like a total pompous asshole}.

Islam absolutely forbids alcohol. And he explained why- it's destructive, makes us violent, etc. I couldn't help but think and ask him about the importance of choice. It seems more beautiful for someone to have one glass for the sake of their beliefs than to abstain because of community judgement.


With my task-oriented christian coworkee, I think a virtuous choice would be him extending a kind greeting. Saying hello is hardly something to be praised in our culture. But the way his mind works, the way he processes- that would be a choice, that would be him going against the grain of his natural self- and choosing what is better. Him smiling and asking someone how they are, to me, seems more virtuous than his structure, or finances, or anything.

Can I take praise in enjoying to cook dinner for my room mates when truly, it’s something I find more pleasure in than they do? (I can say this pretty honestly, I’m a terrible cook. Perhaps them eating the food is more praise worthy than me making it.)

Aristotles book, Nicomachean Ethics, is a practical book on how to be a good person. It is not what it ‘means’ or what is ‘good’ or what is ‘person’ or the time-consuming thought of ‘what is IS?’(These are important definitions, but I see where they easily make people want to gouge their eyes out {the last one is a joke…kinda}).

In our culture ‘good’ looks really black and white. You are good if you do this, this and this. Everyone. All. And the modern Christian corporation capitalizes on this extensively.

Here are a few favorite passages from Aristotle that I return to constantly:

:We ought to consider what we are carried away toward since people of a different nature are inclined toward different things:

:Warped lumber is straightened by being pushed to the opposite:

:In everything, one must guard against the pleasant thing and against pleasure, for we do not judge it without bribes:

So if you are naturally good with money- then that is a good thing certainly, but there is little choice in that good. You enjoy being good with money. It gives you pleasure. Others think it’s a sign of hard work and character. So what are we good at with little choice or temptation toward the other? And do we explain away some of our negative traits by hiding behind the good?

I am terrible with money. TERRIBLE. And as I am trying, sometimes half heartedly, sometimes with choice, to get better at it- I find myself justifying my bad habits with the good.

I think Christ saw the natural inclinations of the individual pretty clearly. He did not respond to everyone the exact same way.

Some were told to sell everything and follow him, some were told to return to their life.

And I wonder: were some told to go back to their families because they saw in Christ a reason to adventure and not be responsible? Were some told to sell everything and follow him because they erred toward worshipping stability and money?

Christ knew all of us- intimately (I believe) and so we can never really have another person tell us ‘what God wants for you’. Only you, and if not you than certainly those closest to you, know the way your natural inclinations bend.

Do you tend to be more forgiving? Kind? Gentle? Have you always rather been so? I’d wonder if maybe these terms could be interchanged with doormat/coward; insecure; people pleasing.

The word have pretty much the same end result- but the motivations are completely different.

But if a person who is naturally harsh, business-minded, impatient, etc- if this person chooses to not hide behind good traits in the name of Christ {task-oriented, on time, efficient, etc} and chooses and sweats and tries to be kind and gentle and forgiving-

now that’s a damn choice.

What is a choice for you?

It is hard for me to confront people when they have hurt me. It is hard for me to follow through. It is hard for me to be responsible with time and money. But I justify these things by being ‘generous’. Generosity happens when people give from what they have, with choice and deliberation- I’m just plain rash and uncaring of money.

But it can look like generosity, can’t it?

This is natural: it is not a choice for Christ. To repeat the idea: If it’s easy for you to forgive, because you don’t like confrontation or you get over things easier, then Christianity is a great way for you to hide your cowardice in telling people the truth, or a great way to spruce up for your wound of worthlessness. To you, I’d say that Christ has more to say- Christ forgave everyone, it was his last words- but pay attention to the fact that he was no door mat. He spoke the truth- calling the religious elite a brood of vipers, because….they were. Yes, he forgave the disciples for their stupidity, but not before calling them out on it.

If you lead more towards unforgiveness, toward anger. Than perhaps you use the verses of Christs anger as justification, perhaps forgiveness is a word to you that really means little.

In fact, forgiveness means as little to one who strays naturally more toward anger as it does to one who strays naturally more toward apathy and calls it forgiveness.

I love the story of Mary and Martha-
38-40As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. "Master, don't you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand."
41-42The Master said, "Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it's the main course, and won't be taken from her."

NIV translates it, more typically heard, as: 41"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed.[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

It is not that Mary was better. He didn't tell her to be more like her sister. Christ said the name of Martha twice- a sign of deep respect and affection- and then said that her sister had 'chosen what was better.'

I would say it must have been hard for a woman, a second class citizen, to sit in the place of a disciple. But she did, and it was a choice Christ commended.

So what's a choice for you?

Also- for the love of God will someone get me the hell out of blogspot? I need to choose to get my own website and then never let myself design it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wrath and Love in 5 thousand years

Written by Jenn and I. Read at STATUS by Jenn.


that was my verbal image of the God of the Hebrew scriptures- which we call the Old. Testement. The story I had always been told was one of a vengeful and controlling God, looking to punish the world that He had created for not obeying Him.

And I was fine with believing that because I knew the end of the story- that Jesus had come along. It was easier to focus on Jesus- He was human and kind and loved children- I could hide behind him. If God was the angry parent, than Christ was the parent I could run to.

But to only know the God of the New Testament is to dismiss half the story. I want to be intrigued by the whole story, not just the parts that make me feel good.

Christ and God are not contradictions- but how does that make sense? How can these beautiful stories of Jesus also be the stories of the God found in the pages of the Hebrew Scriptures?

It seemed wretched for God to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians and then send them into the desert for 40 years. But there’s so much more to the story. There’s so much more to be found beyond just the black and white text of our bibles.

The Israelites had been in bondage for 800 years and they simply did not know what it was like to be anything but a slave. They were not educated, they knew of Avraham and his God but in a world of hundreds of gods, they certainly didn’t think He was the only God, just their strange, invisible god.

They had lost their identity to the whips of the Egyptians. They had lost their voice to Pharaoh. And when God rescued them from the only reality they’d ever known, he lead them into the desert for the purposes of teaching them what it meant to be human. He was teaching them how to be whole again. He was teaching them how to govern and how to marry and how to farm and how to not be a slave.

So this is God caring for his people in their toddler years, their teenage years, and Christ is not the opposite, but is looking at the Jews thousands of years later- as they now understood rules, but desperately needed the heart.

So, digging into who our ancient God is, I found more than I expected, so much more than I had been taught. Instead of an angry father or judge, I saw the words of a scorned husband or wife. I read a God who saved, redeemed, fought for his people- people who continually turned their back on him for gods more convenient. Our God, their God, stood completely outside of culture. It took over a thousand years for the Isrealites to even accept this – that their God was the only god- that was how strong the culture of polytheism was. You could not invent a God as ridiculous as the one God of the Jews. And in the time of Jesus the people still could not understand their God who stood outside time- who knew it was better to show love on a cross instead of leading an army.

The ancient scriptures are no longer strange lineages and seemingly insignificant details on how to build a temple or a guide on what kind of food is appropriate. When we take the time to explore what the words on paper meant to the people that lived it, we see a Father that is cultivating a child into an adult.

The entire bible is a story about love, not just the books we prefer to read.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why we are not friends-

If I am best friends with ten people, I am best friends with no one.

I am living in a strange dichotemy. Things inside my head are chaotic and exciting, working through theories, looking and listening to the present but processing it through the past- my brain feels alive and on fire and it's like seeing colors where before I did not.

But outside of my head, I am exhausted. I am tired of hurting the people I love with a lack of time, or energy.

I am tired of thinking that my attention should go to those I do not know that well, than to the people who are my family.

A good friend wrote me an email about how she felt I was not spending enough time with her, or was hurt by me paying attention to others. This is someone who has received most of my free time lately- but I realized that she really didn't know much about my schedule.

For the first time I wrote out what my week is comprised of- and it was pretty upsetting. So this blog is for the people I care about, the friends I haven't seen in months-

Saturday through Wed. I wake up between 7 and 9 to drive to Kissimmee (25-40 min, depending on traffic). I spend the 6 to 9 hours talking- taking multiple families through two hour legal closings.

at 4-630 i get cut from work and I drive 30-60 mins home (traffic). I am emotionally exhausted and have a head ache from talking.

Saturday nites I have free and feel pretty good.

Sundays I wake up at 7 to be the first one at work (so i can hopefully be the first to leave, but that depends on how long the client takes) so I can be at church between-5:30 and 6:30. Church is at 6:30 and lead I facilitate a discussion group after intil about 10:30.

Monday I go straight from work to a small group- I have never made it on time- I get home at 9:30-10

Tuesday night I am free but so very tired.

Wednesday is my friday. exhausted.

Thursday I have off to clean and shop and run errands and try to relax, but people want to hang out and I always feel guilty about not going to Restoration House at 6 because of this justification or that or the other.

Friday I have counseling which is a shot gun to the heart. I am a zombie but people still want to hang out - even though I would rather go in my room and read. Friday night is the only night I have set aside with Gui. The past two weeks I have been too tired or guilty (for all the other people I don't see) and I cancel with him and feel worse.

saturday. repeat.

I have three nights and two days to see all the people I care about and who care about me.

Ashley and Jenn are my bestfriends and have really walked with me the past two years- yet I feel as though put them last.

I would like to spend time with people one on one, but I am so tired and don't want to leave my house. And my house is so hectic and full and I want to see everyone but everyone ends up feeling slighted.

I have a dozen names in my head of people I claim to love but do not make time for- or I see them once every few weeks/months.

There is no where in my house that I can go to be alone.

My boundaries are limited to avoiding hard drugs and television.
My definition of community sucks.
My definition of love is probably Not-Love.

So, with all this bitching- some thoughts.

It's okay to say no.
I am not a savior.
I do not need to be needed.

More than anything, I have to remind myself:

When I say 'yes' to a person or a plan- I am also then saying 'no' to other people and plans.

When I say 'yes' to a person- without setting clear boundaries and being honest about what I can offer- I hurt them more in the
long run with unmet expectations.

These are hard things- it feels like bad Christianity- it feels like rejecting someone- it just feels like shit. But that fact is that I feel like shit. Kind of all the time in the past few months.

So- friends. Thanks for your patience.