we're not doing anyone any good.

overheard online today:

I ask people in member interviews, "Tell me about your relationship with unbelievers." And almost constantly, I hear, "I don't necessarily try to preach the gospel all the time. I just want my life to be my testimony. I just want to share my life with people." You know what, y'all? Our lives are a mess! And when we share our lives with people--without sharing the grace of God that rescues us--we're not doing anybody any good. We're not!

--Mike Cosper, Sojourn Community Church, December 27 2009--

oh, what great joy and freedom we have, that the work of redemption is not something we must do, but something which we can partake of. that's good news.


christmas evening thoughts

i really love giving gifts. specifically, i really love giving the right gift ... i really love it when i know someone well enough to give them the perfect gift--something they don't already have, something they wouldn't think to get for themselves, but something that they now can't imagine not having.

the problem of being a gift-giving-lover is that i often end up giving a LOT more gifts than i receive. that isn't necessarily a problem, but it creates a situation that reveals a problem in my heart: jealousy, a sense of entitlement, and material idolatry.

i prepare myself for it every year -- because, caught unaware, these little attitude problems become even uglier. but they are irrepressible, even if i'm the only one who knows it.

it starts with counting the boxes. then it moves on to comparing the value (monetary and sentimental) of the gifts i've given with the gifts i've received. soon i have a sinking feeling, a true knot in the pit of my stomach, a mixture of feeling unloved and unknown, feeling like i deserve something more, and then, of course, feeling appalled at such self-centered pride.

their gifts from me were so carefully and thoughtfully selected, because i love them. their joy in opening their gift gave me joy, too. the time and energy and money was totally worth it. why do i suddenly feel so empty, then, when the sentiment isn't returned?

i want to be loved, cherished, known. i want to be known. i want to be cared for. i want to be worth it.

there is an almighty God, creator of the heavens and the earth and all that they contain, Who became flesh and bone, Who released His hold on His rights as God, so that He could know, really and truely and honestly know what it is to be human ... to be me. He gave up everything He was, everything He had, to be born a baby, so that He could know me, and you, and us ... so that He could be with us.

there is no more perfect, or costly, or desperately needed gift to be found on this--and all--Christmas days.

and now here i am. may i live in such a way that i return the sentiment. and may He know my love is real even when i don't.



the other day i was talking with a good friend and co-worker about the ways that sin still manifests itself in our lives. which it does, much as i'd like to pretend it doesn't.

i'm a community-lover. ENFP, energized by being around people. i feel inspired and alive when i'm interacting with other people, most especially those with whom i am similarly impassioned.

but in my rebellion against God and His ways (which, in my life, is characterized by stubbornness and control-freak-ish-ness), i work myself into a frenzy trying to sqeeze too much stuff into too few hours. i take on more than i can possibly do, nevermind what i could do well, and i find myself over-stimulated and overwhelmed.

so i withdraw.

fall back. buckle under pressure. isolate. depress.

instead of seeking first the source of life, i block out as many voices as possible (including God's) and try to forcibly stop the barrage. i don't return phone calls or emails. i don't communicate in a timely fashion with the people who need to know. i cancel plans. i don't show up. and i quit praying, reading, dwelling, worshipping. rebellion by apathy and laziness.

but what sucks is that even though it's quieter, it's not any more peaceful. my soul is not at rest. i still feel the pressure and the pull. i still can't manage.

it's because withdrawal is not the same as rest. withdrawn means "removed from circulation, removed from contact." it's like a foot that's fallen asleep: useless, numb, disconnected. when i remove myself from circulation, i may not have as much input to deal with, but i'm also not going to live very long. what good is it to have respite from the pressures of life if it makes you completely numb? i become ineffective and useless, a dead weight.

yes, i am overcommitted. yes, i have a problem with squandering my time. but the solution is not just to quit and withdraw, to disconnect myself from the time-suckers. the answer is to prioritize better, and to choose actively the things that are worthy of my attention and investment, the things that are life-giving and God-glorifying, and to actively reject the things which are not.

but only to withdraw is simply more rebellion. it's not living.