Tag Archive | Christianity

The Ugly Bride

img_4876I heard it again last week. A Christian blogger proudly announced that his focus was Jesus, and since the church was a broken mess, this person was going to honor Jesus alone. Just Me and Jesus, he said. Church isn’t for me.

I found myself imagining a conversation between two men, where one guy wants to warn the other about a bad choice for a wife. And being a novelist, imagining conversations isn’t hard. For this one, blogger dude is named Dude. And Jesus–well, he’s named Jesus. And the conversation might go something like this…

“So, man, I love you. You know that, right? I’d take a bullet for you, man. But I need to talk to you about this bride of yours. I mean, I hate to say this, but knowing who you are, and how you could have anyone you want, why would you want this bride? She’s kind of… well, she’s kind of ugly.”

“My bride is ugly?” Jesus asks. “Tell me what’s ugly about her.”

“Well,” Dude says. He’s warming up to this. Jesus wants his opinion. “Okay, sometimes she comes out with her hair a mess. Her clothes don’t always match. I mean, how simple would it be just to keep herself looking good, you know? She’s the bride of one impressive guy, right? And the way she acts… Sometimes she laughs way too loud. Her jokes can be crude. She doesn’t always say the most politically correct things.” He lowers his voice. “I’ve even noticed her scratching in public. That’s just not done. I’m just saying it might be better for you to keep looking. There are plenty of brides out there.”

“But I love this one.”

“Okay. I mean, you’re a fair guy. She must have something special, but why doesn’t she show it? People would like you a lot more if your bride wasn’t so difficult. Unpredictable. That cackling laugh, the wild hair, her inability to behave right in public…I don’t get it.”

“Have you seen her feed the poor?”

“Well, sure. And that’s good and all. But she doesn’t always feed the poor. There are still a lot of poor.”

“And have you seen her take in the orphans?”

“Of course. But there are still orphans. I’ve also seen her turn her back on orphans and poor. I’ve seen her do a lot of things I don’t agree with. You just never know what she’s going to do.”

“Regardless, she’s the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen.”

“Man, you need to get out more,” Dude says, frustrated. Jesus just isn’t seeing it. “She can be rigid and fanatical. Or she can turn around and be blase. I don’t know how you find that beautiful.”

“Have you heard her sing?”

“Sing?” Dude is perplexed. “So what if she can sing? A lot of people can sing.”

“She sings to me. Sometimes with an organ, sometimes just with her voice, and sometimes with flutes or drums. Beautiful love songs.”

“I hate to break it, but she doesn’t have that great a voice. Nothing about this woman is spectacular in any way. I just don’t want her to hold you back or bring you down. You have a mission, right? She’s in the way.”

“Her voice is angelic. And she’s the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen.”

“Why do you keep saying that?” Dude asks. He’s angry now. He loves this guy, but wow. Like talking to a brick. “She’s not beautiful. You asked me, so maybe I’ll ask you. What makes her beautiful?”

“You mean other than feeding the poor and holding the orphans and singing to me with the voice of an angel?”

“Um,” Dude says. This isn’t going well. “Yes. Other than that.”

“My father made her just for me.”

“What? Your father made her?”

“He put together all her parts, exactly for me. Everything I need for my mission. Everything I love. Everything I find beautiful. Her vocal cords are just for me. Her hair is for me. Her clothes are for me. And crooked toes and each finger and every part of her. In every part of her I see my father’s love for me. And he sees my love for him when I woo her, when I sing back to her, when I hold her in my arms and we dream of our future together.”

Dude coughs. This guy has it bad, and he realizes he might have said the wrong thing here. It probably isn’t a great idea to anger someone so powerful.

“Fine,” he says, panic giving way to anger. “Fine. Your father gave you a gift that’s average at best. You want everyone to know you through that woman? Really? It’s the best either of you can do? That’s fine, but I don’t want any part of it. You and I can be friends, but she has to stay out of it.”

“I don’t think that will work,” Jesus says. He shrugs. “She’s everything. I don’t have room left for anyone else. But if you talk to her, spend time with her, get to know her, I think you’ll see. Look at her the way I do. See my father in her, when she feeds a homeless man a sandwich, when she holds a door for an elderly man, when she sings a song off key with a sparkle in her eye. See my love for my father when she compliments a harried waitress or holds a victim of violence or mows her neighbor’s grass when he’s ill.”

Dude hangs his head. Jesus’ bride embarrasses him. She might have Jesus duped, but he knows the truth, that she’s not classy enough for Jesus, not sophisticated, prone to fits of anger. But what can he say?

Jesus smiles. “I know what you’re thinking. But if I only accepted perfection, I couldn’t be your friend, either. I love her. She is and always will be the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. And I would easily take a bullet for her. Already have, in fact. And the scars I wear–they just remind me that while her songs are off key and her hair can be wild and sometimes she makes no sense to the world, she is mine. And I am hers, all she needs, all she wants, all she loves.”

—-

I feel sad for the blogger who thinks he’s doing Jesus and Christianity a favor by maligning the bride Jesus loves, the bride for whom Jesus wears scars, the bride that signifies such eternal, omnipotent love. I hope that man spends some time getting to know the bride, even with her unpredictable behavior and mismatched clothes. Even when she scratches in public.

Because regardless of anything else, Jesus loves her. She is the most beautiful creature he has ever seen. One day all will see her vibrant beauty, and the flaws of this world will fall away. And wow, that’s a scene I can’t wait to see.

 

 

 

When Someday Might be Soon

sun-on-mist-through-treesAnyone who knows me knows I have always wanted to live in a country setting. I want to look out the window and see beautiful scenery and not just neighbors. It’s never been feasible for us to move, mostly because of money, so it’s just a dream. Someday, I say. Someday.

A couple weeks ago a few events happened that made me rethink the someday part of that dream. I saw a couple houses in our price range that had land and beautiful scenery. My son got married, and another is closing on a house, so our family is shrinking fast, meaning we could do with smaller spaces, which might be more our price range. My husband’s job is in a location that makes it easy to head out to a country setting without him spending half his life in the car.

So we talked to an  agent and decided to put our house on the market. I’m painting and repairing and working myself to death to get it all ready. And while I do, I worry. And I doubt. And I question the wisdom of this. We have a perfectly fine house. It’s on a pretty lot, considering we live in the city. There is no reason for us to move except that I want to. It will be expensive, and it’s work. My husband and son couldn’t care less, so it’s happening just because I want it to, and wow. It’s been hard to tell myself this is okay.

My husband isn’t happy with his job. It doesn’t use his skills, and the pay is much lower than his last job (he was an engineer who lost his job about eight years ago), and it’s second shift, which has been hard. When we decided to move, he stepped up his job search, thinking maybe he could find a new job before we move, and then we could simply move to his new location. I’m fine with that. I hate for him to feel trapped and not to be challenged by his work.

So I’m worrying about finding a new house and whether it’s worth a move just because I want it. Feels decadent. And he hopes to find a job before I find my long-awaited country house, because he would hate to find a job three days after we settle and force us to move again.

Today he got a call from a recruiter about a job that’s close to us but far enough that it would make a country life easier. The job would make more money, and it is in a small, rural town close enough to our big town that I could easily keep my son involved in his life. It would be the best of all worlds. It would be amazing.

And my thoughts about this? It could never happen. That isn’t how God deals with us.

God must get so tired of me for doubting His goodness and His love and His power. I fall into this same pattern of thinking over and over and over. And yet the Bible makes it clear He isn’t tired of me. He doesn’t get frustrated and make my life hard just because I expect it to be hard. His love is huge. Of course He could give us a good job and a good house at the same time. He’s done it for other people. It’s not an impossible dream. And if He does or doesn’t do that, it doesn’t change His love for us. He isn’t a big meanie who doles out blessings like a miser.

So where does the doubt come from? I’ve had plenty of things in my life work perfectly. Healthy babies that grew up to be healthy adults. A roof over our heads even after months on unemployment. A great church. We have cars that run and toilets that don’t. So where do I get this idea God puts a limit on how good things can get?

I’ve been like this forever. It’s something God and I hash out over and over and over, my doubt that He cares about the little things, that He works in the details. The big stuff, sure, like salvation and justification. Heaven. I have no doubt he loved me enough to send Jesus. So why do I think a few details are beyond Him? And where do I get the idea that He wants me happy, but not too happy. Life can be good, but not too good.

I don’t have answers for that. I have the feeling the next few weeks are going to shake a few things loose. I’m a mom who’s spent the last quarter century putting myself second to my family, and right now I’m asking my family to sacrifice so I can see trees. You bet I have some things to learn here. And my marriage–whatever happens with the house and a job, we’re about to make some changes. We’ve not moved in seventeen years. And in more personal ways we’ve been pretty stationary, too. Big changes in our outer world will mean big changes in our relationship. And that’s exciting and scary.

So. We’re putting our house on the market. Simple words. People do it all the time. My son is a mover, so his entire livelihood depends on people moving from place to place. But it feels huge and strange, and it’s bringing up a whole lot of emotions and shaking loose a whole lot of wrong thinking. And God is there waiting, smiling, urging us to seek Him and work through it all and maybe for once get a real picture of His love, maybe one I can keep hold of for a time.

I’m excited. I’m terrified. And as the words of this blog leave my fingertips, I know this is God calling me to come closer. Whatever happens, He stands with outstretched hands and beckons me to come close so He can take the burden and work through the questions and grow me into the person he wants me to be. City, country, good job, bad job–He can and will work through whatever He has planned for us.

Step of faith? Step of selfishness? Doesn’t matter. He’s part of it and loves me, whatever the motives, whatever the path, whatever the outcome.

The Layers of Me (and You!)

layers of meThis semester I spent some time teaching teenagers. I’ve taught at home school co-ops for years, and I’ve taught all ages. Normally, I like teaching. Sure, kids can be difficult, but by the end of the semester, I usually walk out of the classroom with a few relationships under my belt. I convince the rowdy ones to slow down and work on art (I teach art or writing most of the time.) I’ve had conversations with a few about their writing desires or their art dreams. I am known as a good teacher, and kids like me.

Ding ding ding. Yep. That old pride bell goes off. I admit it–I like knowing kids like me. It makes me feel good.

This semester I had none of those rewards. Very few of the kids acknowledged me as more than a teacher, and for the most part they glared at me from their seats as though offended I was wasting their time. Two students, maybe three, ever had a kind word and considered me a human being. I spent hours preparing classes that nobody seemed interested in sitting through. They took selfies instead of doing art and talked instead of writing. Epic levels of disrespect, every single week. Longest semester ever.

I know in my heart that my identity comes from God. I know He alone gives me value, and I know He values me a lot. Blood, agony, tears value. Nobody on earth has been valued the way I’m valued, me and my fellow siblings in Christ. We are loved with unimaginable love.

However, what my heart knows, the rest of me doubts sometimes. I don’t want to be sensitive to other people the way I am. That trait helps me as a writer–sometimes I can see below the surface. But sometimes I’m simply paranoid and create things below the surface that aren’t there. But regardless, sensitivity is part of me. And those kids this semester were doing some serious damage to my sensitive soul.

I’ve been told I need to develop a thicker skin. I don’t know how to do that. I know I want to trust only God for my value. I do. But the steps required to get there have me stumped. And I don’t know if thicker skin is the answer. When I can express the fullness of human emotion in my writing, I think thin skin might be helpful.

When I face scowling teens who would rather be doing anything in this world other than listening to me, I want skin so thick nothing can penetrate it. I want all their laser eye beams to hit and deflect, but too many get through. They pierce and hurt.

When I look at the news and watch my own nation grow less and less tolerant of my life, more and more lost, I want that thick skin, too. But I also need a soft heart, because those people matter. They’re adrift. I need to want to rescue them. Unfortunately, when faced with those who hate God and my beliefs, that thick skin pops right out. They need rescued, but I don’t want to rescue them. They need compassion, but I long for justice. I defend God mightily, my armor on, my weapons out.

A human is a strange and complex creature. Lately the Spirit is making me aware of the layers of me. Sometimes I need thick skin. Sometimes I need a soft heart. Sometimes I need reminded of my value. Sometimes I need reminded that God can take care of himself, and he would prefer compassionate children over wild warrior children.

Knowing how to react to situations, how to respond to people, when to jump in, when to back off, when to love, when to fight–He can help me with that. I can be honest. I haven’t always been honest with God. I’ve tried to be perfect all by myself. But the layers of me are too crazy to figure out. I’m tired of trying.

It’s time to let Him help me. Toss the complexity of myself at his feet and let him guide me one step at a time. This year I’ve seen Him come through. I’ve spoken in groups, when that isn’t my thing. But it’s His thing, some moments, for my words to be heard. I’ve prayed out loud, when that isn’t my thing, either. But some moments he wants to hear my voice call to Him on other people’s behalf.

You have as many layers as I do. Maybe more. I’m going to try to remember that, too, when I deal with you. We’re not flat and simple. We’re vibrant and fluid and hard to decipher. But God understands and loves all the layers of his children, and He wants to use them to get His things done.

I think, in a few weeks, teaching won’t be my thing for a while. Either the Spirit will let that decision lie, or he’ll call me on it and bring me back. But whatever He does, I hope to listen to Him and not my pride. I hope to remember where my value comes from. If I can let Him define me and guide me, I can do anything He wants.

 

Collage cover River RatsUsually I keep my fiction life and blog life fairly separate, but this week I have a promotion running where one of my ebooks is a free download at Amazon. If you have a Kindle or Kindle app, go check it out. The book is Swamp Rats, a clean/sweet romance for teens and the young at heart (Honestly, most of my teen book readers are adults). It’s one of my trilogy that isn’t explicitly Christian, but it’s fun, filled with adventure, and clean. Follow Princess and Cree, two kids in a swamp, as they grow up, fall in love, and avoid alligators. (Click here to get to the Amazon site. And thanks for putting up with my PR paragraph here!!)