Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm kind of a big deal

If you go to the Imago Dei website right now -- I'll even make it easy for you. Click here -- you'll see your fearless leader under the "A Deeper Look" section. Oh yeah.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Life according to Kenny Chesney lyrics

My man Kenny Chesney (who even three months ago I would have derided but who I'm now comfortable calling my man) sings this song "Beer in Mexico" that's been fairly constant in my head over the past couple months. The idea is that Chesney is at this crossroads of his life (he even says as much...actually those are his exact same words) and is trying to figure out where to go next. He's too old to be wild and free but too young to be over the hill. He's asking all these questions before feeling overwhelmed (my interpretation) and saying "screw it, I'm going to sit on the beach, have a beer and worry about this tomorrow."

Anyway, the song builds to a point where Chesney asks "Should I settle down and get married or stay single and stay free?" I'm not sure if I'd ever admit it, but I've totally felt these lyrics before. Marriage = social death. No more friends, no more staying up late. Buying houses, having to spend like $200 on things like blinds and shower curtains. Dinner parties. Pot luck. Shopping. Talking about my day. Was it a good day today or a bad day today? Well what kind of day was it?

Staying single = freedom. Doing what I want. Spending money on me. Eating foods I like, never devoting more than 11 minutes to preparing a meal. Coming home and watching four straight episodes of Prison Break not because I think it's a great show, but just because I can. Emailing for hours. Reading blogs. Occasional loneliness but it's certainly offset by the freedom.

Um...what has become very obvious to me (and which is even more obvious on e-paper) is that "freedom" isn't so much being free as it is being self-centered. Me me me. I can't get outside of myself. Yikes.

This is not to say that marriage is the answer to avoiding self-centeredness. As I learned (or at least heard a sermon about) long ago, marriage is not the answer to all of life's ills. Instead, I need to focus on drawing closer to God. True freedom lies in giving my life to Him, not in being able to play video games whenever I want. What I'm doing is not good enough.

Friday, October 19, 2007

He died and rose because...?

In the sermon last Sunday (10/14), Rick started off by asking: "Why did Jesus have to die?" He then proceeded along four major assertions, saying Jesus' death and resurrection 1) gives us victory over the Enemy, 2) frees us from slavery to sin, 3) releases us from guilt, and 4) provides belonging/takes away our alienation. These are all excellent points, showing some fine, nay, wonderful effects of Jesus' death and life. But they don't answer the question. What about our relation to God, eternity, and salvation? These kinds of things were hardly touched on. I also wish Rick would've extrapolated from point (4) more--what exactly are we belonging to? Why did Jesus have to die? Not to make our earthly lives more comfortable. I don't think Rick was trying to say that Jesus died to make us happy, but I think if he had focused a bit more on the really really big picture he could've done a better job of answering his own question (or maybe he just asked the wrong question?).

Of course, it's entirely possible that I missed some significant pieces of Rick's message, from spacing out, poor memory, bad note taking, or what have you. Did anyone else hear the sermon this way? Is there something I left out? Please share.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Creating vs. Discovering

On a rather long road trip this weekend, I was involved in an interesting conversation regarding "creating" art. As a designer, I've often gotten frustrated that it seems like there are very few new ideas left out there. Fashion has been on it's cyclical repeat of past trends, silouettes, colors, patterns, etc. for quite some time. This extends into music (sampling past artists, remaking songs, greatest hits albums) and dozens of movie remakes and overused storylines. The concept came up that as God has been the actual Creator of everything, than any form of art, invention, scientific notion, etc. is really just a discovery of part of God's being. While God has certainly blessed people who don't really know Him with some of those discoveries (I'm not sure of the inventor of the Ipod or the Iphone's belief system, but that would be a big one), it certainly translates that we as Christians can worship God through artistic mediums as a way to reveal a piece of Him for the rest of the world. I found this freeing, that in no way should I be prideful of any clothing I've designed as it was all God's idea, but also that God's creation is endless and perhaps we need to tap into it a bit more and really pursue Him better in order to come up with new art and ideas. Also, this idea I cannot claim to be my own since it was a collaboration of a few people inspired by God.

This doesn't really have anything to do with anything we've discussed in Home Community or the sermon series, it just made me think and I thought I'd throw it out there.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Whole or Compartmentalized?

I (Jodi) know I've had weird dreams before that seem to predict something before it happens, but I've never written a blog along the same lines of a sermon two days before it was preached - until now. Here's a link to my This Instant! blogspot. The title of the blog is Orange or Dip This Instant! and it's about how we tend to compartmentalize our lives.

The guy who spoke on Sunday (forgive me for only remembering Rick's name...and it wasn't Rick who spoke on Sunday) was encouraging us to let the whole Gospel affect our whole lives. Do we let missionaries be missionaries and not take any part in that because we're not "called to the mission field" as they are? Do we just go to church on Sunday and let that be our token Christian action for the week?

My blog is more about living with integrity and letting the character of Christ dwell in us fully. But who am I to preach? I recently went to a conference for work that I thought would be a secular conference. When I found out it was Christian-based, the thought went through my head, "Shoot. That means I have to be nice to people."

And that's about all I have to say about that. (copyright: Forrest Gump)

Notes from the pre-Christian life

A few things stood out as we had our little heathen focus group downstairs:

• The fact that, for every single one of us, there was at least one specific person who led us to faith. We all could name Christians who either served as good examples or who specifically told us about the gospel. This is certainly worth remembering the next time you have scruples about sharing your faith. Yes I just referenced an 80s board game (that's apparently still being produced)

• We all talked about how intimidating church was those first few times. No idea what to do during Communion (a couple of us mentioned specifically trying to avoid church on Communion days), couldn't figure out how everyone else knew what songs were being sung, hating when the pastor would make you shake the hands of strangers near you and a general feeling of being unwelcome (if that's a word). Kind of important for us to note.

• I asked the question about whether any of us would rather have had a Christian upbringing than the one we had. The overwhelming response was something along the lines of this: No one regretted how we grew up, per se, but at this point in our Christian lives we all feel somewhat "behind." We don't have Bible stories and verses ingrained in our minds. Some of us haven't even finished the New Testament let alone the entire Bible. Maybe it's flawed logic to assume we'd have greater Biblical knowledge had we grown up Christian, seems like we would have. I think we'd all like to get to the point where we can recite Biblical passages, know who famous people in the Bible are and so on. I wish this all worked like The Matrix, where that knowledge could simply be planted in our heads the way Neo was programmed to know kung-fu. Sigh. I guess we'll just have to settle for the all-seeing, all-knowing Creator of the universe.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

People I (Leisha) wish I could apologize to

Rick's sermon this past Sunday was about how sometimes I am the biggest obstacle to the presentation of the Gospel. (I am using the pronoun "I" in a general sense...Rick did not preach about how Leisha is the biggest obstacle to the Gospel...although, to be honest, sometimes I feel like that could be the case.) He talked about how it is impossible for us to represent the Gospel when we don't really practice Jesus being the Way, the Truth, the Life.

I grew up fully immersed in the conservative Christian culture, and was very fully trained in evangelism from an early age. Most of that training happened in interactions with strangers, because my world was totally and completely devoid of people who were not believers in Jesus. I have gone door-to-door in the neighborhoods around my church, I have wandered the boardwalk at the beach searching for that foolish person who would agree to take my short survey that worked into a presentation of the Gospel, and I have shared my testimony countless times in gatherings of all believers (sometimes embellishing slightly to make it more interesting). For all that training, however, I was completely unprepared for my first actual spiritual conversations with people who were hurting.

It started when I was 16 years old. My first job was in the children's department of JCPenney at Washington Square. I worked with a cast of women, most of them a couple of years older than me, and a few of them many years older than me. Over the course of the year that I worked there, several of those women stand out in my mind. They are the witnesses to my utter failure to connect to the Gospel in a relational way in my own life, and therefore in their lives. One of my co-workers was a woman who, in retrospect, probably had a drug problem. She was thinking of leaving her husband and two-year-old daughter for a male friend of hers. She would frequently talk to me, an unmarried, never dated, 16-year-old virgin, about the problems in her marriage. Another young woman confided her personal and professional anxiety and struggle with depression. One of the older women in my department spent several hours discussing her worries for her son, who was a few years older than me. Then there was the girl who, after deciding to keep her pregnancy, was abandoned by her boyfriend, and faced the impending hurdle of single motherhood alone. Each of those conversations and relationships make my personal Wall of Regrets because of the opportunity I had to speak peace and comfort to them, to represent and present the love of Christ, to speak of the transformative power of the Gospel, and I just couldn't do it because I didn't have a relational experience with God...only a knowledge-based understanding of the Christian faith. In fact, I was so disconnected with their struggles that all I knew to do was invite two of my co-workers, one of whom was the pregnant girl, to my youth group, where I made them sit in the front row with me, in all her nine-month-along glory.

That was one of those moments that I cringe to remember. One of those moments that I allow to prevent me from engaging people with the Gospel - I was and am such a poor representative of Christ. I was challenged and encouraged by Rick's message that I have the story of how I experience Christ and His power, and that's enough.