Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Celebrating 100 Posts!

So I just realized today that I have written 100 posts on this blog! This is my 101st post! I think that is worth celebrating!

So on this momentous occasion, I would like to share with you a quote from great literature.

"I know I chatter on far too much, but if you only knew all the things I wanted to say and don't! " Anne of Green Gables,  reproved for saying too much.

Now try this one on.
"If you only knew all the things I wanted to write and don't! " Kari Keener,  reproving herself for not saying enough.

100 posts deserves celebration.  It also feels like the perfect opportunity for a fresh beginning….new resolve to start digging out more from the deep well of thoughts in my soul that are begging to be written!

So many seeds of inspiration are left to shrivel away, whether out of forgetfulness, perceived lack of time, loss of motivation, or simply a mix of weariness and laziness at the end of the day that says, “Writing is the last thing I feel like doing right now!”  It can become depressing if I think about it too much.  I guess if you’ve never felt the stirring within you, it would be hard to understand why it’s such a big deal.  It’s like there is a dam of deep thoughts and words pent up inside me, and they want to come spilling out, but it’s not as easy as breaking the dam.

So many words…..
Sometimes a barrage of words can say precious little.   And sometimes a few well-chosen words can speak volumes.  What are words if you don’t mean them when you say them?  What are words if you don’t live what you speak?  Or write? 

I believe God has given me a gift and a desire to write.  Sometimes it burns within me, and most of those days I am left feeling frustrated because I haven’t done anything with the stirring.  I wonder what God meant me to do with this gift and if I am simply burying it in the ground because I don’t have the time or resolve to learn how to use it.

We have all been given gifts.  If God gives you something, then surely He also gives you what you need to use it.  But the gift is not like a magical super power.  That gift needs discipline.  It needs time and practice.  It needs to be developed and honed. 

I don’t want to just write.  To simply spill out a barrage of thoughts and words with little care of their meaning.  I want to write well.  I have many things to say, but I want to choose carefully the words that I use and craft them for impact, rather than volume.  I want my words to exude quality, and that does not necessarily mean quantity.  I long to write truth in a way that draws people in to a different way of thinking, a renewing of their minds, which in its course will work to change their lives. 

I know I have promised more frequent posts several times.  I always have that intention, but it keeps getting lost somewhere!  I’m expecting to have more time to write in the next few months as my life/work situation has changed for awhile and gives me greater flexibility.  But I should know better than anyone that envisioning all the free time I might have and what productive use I can put it to is only a pipe dream unless I put the rubber to the road.  I have to be willing to sit down, whether I feel like it or not, to exert the mental energy and sweat to pull out thoughts and form them into meaningful words and sentences that make sense, and to make myself write, even if it’s just a little bit every day! 

So if you’ll stick with me, I will keep at it.  I want to begin making a new habit of writing just a little bit every day, to try to keep those creative juices flowing.  The goal I’m working toward is one post a week.  That looks pretty lofty to me right now, simply because I know myself.  I know how easily I push writing aside for everything else.  I know my discouraged perfectionist tendencies….how I subconsciously tell myself that if I can’t do it well, (which often means I can’t do it to some abstract level of my own expectations), then it’s not worth doing at all!  

But maybe the things that take the hardest work, the things we have to push ourselves to do more than anything else in life….maybe those are the things that are worth the most.  Maybe our enemy knows this?  Especially when it pertains to gifts that God has put within us for the purpose of delighting Him, bringing glory to His name, and drawing people into His kingdom?  And maybe the enemy would like nothing better than to keep these gifts dormant and watch them never get off the ground because we fell for his carrots on a stick….all the little glittery things that seemed more worth our attention, and all the little “urgent” things that crowded in to monopolize our lives.  Yeah, I think I might be onto him. 

So reader?  If you’re out there?  And you’re on track with what I’m saying?  I just might need you to give me a push now and then.  Tell me to quit making excuses and keep the words coming!  Because maybe someday God will give me something to say that could change a life.  And I don’t want to miss that.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What Is Love, Really?

In the last couple months, I've read three books by Don Miller.  I love this guy!  He writes in such a relational way, as though you were sitting down with him in a coffee shop having a conversation. His theology is refreshingly simplistic and outside the box, especially for someone like me who grew up in the "conservative Christian" culture.  Don himself was raised in much the same culture, perhaps more "religious fundamentalist" than my own experience.  Nevertheless, the way he was drawn out of religion to the person of Jesus Christ and the things God has taught him about life and relationships through other people have breathed fresh perspective into my soul.

I recommend his books as an excellent read.  I cannot endorse his theology as being perfectly correct; in fact, I have come to realize that I cannot say that of any human being.  A simple, perhaps obvious conclusion to some, but you have to admit that we are far too eager to attach the label of pure truth to the ideas of mere men.  We are too willing to follow men rather than Christ alone.  One idea of Don's that I really like is this: he says basically that maybe we'll never get it all right.  Maybe we'll never discover all of truth in this life.  But he believes that's okay.  Someday, face to face with God, we'll know perfectly.  This life is a journey into truth.  

I think he's right.  Because if any man or woman could "get it right", we wouldn't need Jesus, would we?

The journey into truth is like getting to know a person.  Because Truth is a person.  Jesus Himself. He never told us to figure it all out.  He just asks us to follow Him.  Relationships are fluid, always in motion.  Healthy relationships grow.  And there's conflict.  We will have conflict with the Truth. Some things are hard to swallow.  Especially when you begin to see that something is not the way you always thought it was.  And every one of us has a unique relationship with Jesus.  Following Him will not look exactly the same for you as it does for me.  It's art, not a formula.  It's not always black and white.  And we will never come to an end of knowing Him.  

Sometimes I wonder what Scripture means when it says, "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; but then shall I  know even as I also am known." 
(1 Corinthians 13)

I think maybe there is a degree to which we will see clearly and know fully in the presence of God. And yet how can you ever fully know God?  He is so fantastic, so "other" from us.  I think He is kind of like this enormous country, without borders, that we can spend all of eternity exploring and never stop discovering new things!

Anyway, to get to my main point.  Don Miller wrote something about love that bears thinking over. It could really get under your skin.  For me, writing on this blog is sometimes a way of chewing on something that I want to get hold of.  

What Don said is that one day God showed him that the idea of "love" as he was living it, as held out by much of the church, is not real love.  That we treat it as a commodity, like money.  We assign value to people according to what they can do for us or how they make us feel.  We give love in order to receive love.  We are willing to love if there's a good trade-off.  

But if someone is too different from me?  If they think and believe differently?  If they make me uncomfortable?  If for whatever reason I just don't like them?  If they can offer me nothing in return? Woahh, then I get stuck.  I withhold love.  I decide they are not worth it to me.  I pass them by.  

This is not Jesus' kind of love.  Real love is not a commodity.  It cannot be bought, earned, or traded. It is a free gift.  Without condition.  In Jesus' economy, you don't have to think like me, look like me, talk like me, or behave the way I think you should in order to be valuable.  You are valuable because He made you.  And love is free.  It is meant to be given away.  You can take it or leave it.  You can spurn it, spit on it, fight it....but it is offered freely and constantly.  

And this kind of love changes people.  You can't change people by devaluing them, controlling them,or guilting them.  When people encounter genuine love and acceptance, they open their hearts. They are willing to listen.  They'll take a second look, wondering what kind of person can love them like this?  They'll pay attention to what makes the difference.  We don't love someone to change them.  But I think love by its very nature is a change agent.  

Jesus, change my heart and mind.  I have treated love as a commodity to be traded for my own benefit.  Help me to see people with Your heart.  Help me to love them like you do.  Work in me real love for the people who turn me off, the people who scare me, the people I would rather ignore or avoid, the people who are outcasts and worthless to society, the people who are different from me. Teach me how to offer love as the free gift it is.  Let your love catch the world off-guard.  May my life sing value to every person.  And may the story you are writing with my life always point to the Truth in love.