September 19, 2014

The Water's Cleaner on the Side

In my daily Bible readings (daily is more on an ideal than a reality at present) I have been crawling through the old testament and most recently dwelling in 2 Kings.  This morning was a good morning, meaning I didn’t sleep in and am able to read in peace and quiet.

2 Kings 5 is like an old friend to me.  The story of Naaman and the servant girl and the leprosy and the washing and the happy ending is one of the most memorable of my childhood.  Maybe it’s the young girl in the story, maybe it’s the miracle, or may it is that Elisha’s servant Gahazi has such a fun name to say. Either way, I was looking forward to reading it quickly this morning and going away happy.  Then I came to Naaman’s response to Elisha in verses 11-12:

“But Naaman was angry and went away, saying ‘Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  Could I not wash in them and be clean?'  So he turned and went away in a rage.

I was cut to the quick.  I was shocked, because Naaman is just like me.  

At a very basic level, here we have an individual who has come to the almighty God (as a last resort) with their problem.  God shows mercy and gives simple easy instructions for how to miraculously fix the problem.  What a deal right?  Wow!  The God of the universe has given me exactly what I need to do for my well being which, I think we all can agree, he knows about best.  But what is the response?


I heard my words in Naaman’s mouth.  “What?!  I thought that I was worth more than this.  I mean, look at who I am, look at where I come from! And while we’re on that topic, how far I’ve come!  First, I was expecting a little more decorum, like, show your face already!  And then, why are you telling me to go somewhere else and wash when I know you could just wave your wand over my problem and make it go away!  How insulting and unfair!”  Disappointment, frustration, and anger leave him puzzled and defeated, but why does he respond that way?  Why do I?  


Go read it yourself!  Look at how he approaches God’s prophet and then responds:
-He bring silver, gold, and clothes
-He brings a letter from the King
-He comes with all his horses and chariots
-And stood at Elisha’s door (probably more like a hut) 
-He is insulted that he isn’t met personally
-He expects a fireworks-and-trumpets kind of miracle
-He says his water is much more sanitary (like seriously, I know better than you God)

But what did God want?  Simple obedience.  From where Naaman was there was a ton of humbling that had to happen for him to just simply do what he was told.

How do I come to God?  When I have a problem and I come to God for help, what is my attitude?  I can tell you exactly what it was this morning: pride.  I didn’t even realize it, but it was.  See, here’s the thing: I’m awesome.  (shocker) I grew up in a Christian home and have been saved for close to 16 years.  Because of the Holy Spirit in my life and my wholesome upbringing I was (blessedly!) kept from a lifestyle of lying, cheating, swearing, physical rebellion, drugs, promiscuity, fornication, and gossip.  I had my own sins, believe me! But I didn’t look like all the other sinners, so I got prideful.  I’m currently and active member of my local church, I’m in Bible studies and I want to see others get saved and grow.  My heart beats for ministry, I’m a pretty nice person, and, by God’s grace I’m getting better (becoming more like Jesus) all the time.  And that just the spiritual aspect.  SO. . . there’s my reputation, my family, my job, my status, my silver and gold, my horses and chariots, my letter, my background.  Don’t I deserve something special, after all? Let’s just do this my way, it will be much more pleasant.

Granted, I don’t consciously think this, but it is there.  Way. deep. down. it is there.  I’ve expected God to treat me a certain way because of me, and when He doesn’t I react the same way as Naaman.  Different words, if any, come out of my mouth, but the feeling is the same:puzzlement and frustration — the anger.  Instead of going and washing in the Jordan (whatever that looks like today.  It might be reading my Bible everyday.  It might be a long month of prayer and waiting.  It might simply be confessing my sin.) I get upset that God didn’t just snap His fingers and give me what I want.  Talk about being a Brat of a child of God!  That’s not the way a family works.

So, I was wrong.  I seem to be admitting that a lot recently.  I’m wrong.  I struggle with pride.  BIG TIME.  I can’t properly express all the different implications and applications from this piece of scripture right now, but I know this: I am just a sinner that Jesus saved.  I love Him.  He has my best interest at heart.  He will heal me(my ailment is called sin).  He loves me.  He expects obedience.  He expects me to struggle with and work through my sanctification (Philippians 2:12), but He hasn’t made it impossible.  I need to change my wrong expectations and humbly do as He says.  

Then, can I joyfully say with Naaman, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but [the LORD]. (2 Kings 5:15) 

September 11, 2014

Final Draft


It’s me again.

I find though, that you don’t really know who that is.  It’s been so long since I started this trifle of a blog that even if you knew me then, you’d still wouldn’t know me now.  I considered for a moment starting a new space — finding a clean slate and beginning again.  But these 550 pathetically “written and illustrated” are as much a part of who I am as my current pool of thoughts.  They made me the writer (and seamstress, if we must go there) that I am today and though they are embarrassing they are still a part of me.

Yes, that one you don’t really know.

The me that writes and journals and prays her life back into order, but rarely ever shares because she is wary of the darkness.  That darkness you see when you get on stage.  You’re nervous to perform and a little scarred because you cannot see anything but the harsh light on your retina.  But you know there are people out there.  Real people.  Unknown people.

So instead of walking on stage you stand in the wings; a speech on your lips, music in your fingers, drafts in your mind.   

As a friend so aptly put it, we have "lives composed of drafts."  Words and feelings and thoughts that are always written and never shared.  Written on our hearts, written on our hands, written in one thousand and one little notebooks. . .written on the web.  Only God knows if even this will ever be published.  It is so much easier to keep things inside sometimes.  To stay in that blessed place you may call a mind but we introverts call a home.  But what then is the point?

As beautiful as it is, this simple solitary state, there is a beauty far deeper.  There is a calling far greater.  There is a God so much bigger, and he created me to relate.  That breath he breathed into me wasn’t meant to fill a balloon.  It was a wind that is supposed to keep on moving.  To spread the good news like wild fire, to fill the sails of a child’s imagination, to  lift up the wings of the brokenhearted, to carry worship straight up to His throne.  I think I was created to be a river, not a reservoir (There I go mixing up my metaphors again).  My Dad says we’re faucets, not sponges, but that not nearly as poetic as a river.  

So if all of this is true, and sharing really is caring, then why am I living a life of drafts? Why am I afraid to let God use me?  Yes, I am incomplete.  Yes, I am a work in progress.  But if my pride will be hurt by not being perfect, is that such a price to pay for another’s blessing?  God uses broken things.  He heals the wounded, and he makes the unclean thing clean.  

So this is me.  And my final draft.

"And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”"
Isaiah 6:4-8 

September 9, 2014

Of Selfies

This is a journey.  Stick with me to the end.  Please.

I remember the days when pictures were scarce.  When every picture meant something - it held a memory and was valued either as art or as a little bit of the past that would never come back again.  I got into photography to preserve the moment.  To be places, and being there at just the right time to catch a moment and save it, to cherish it.  It was about seeing things differently, or maybe just more clearly, and showing that.  There was substance and purpose.

Then the selfie was born.  At first it was fun to see my friends as they were —  right in the moment!  Getting on the roller coaster, seeing an old friend again, discovering the best coffee they had ever tasted.  They were being raw and open in a way I hadn’t seen before, and couldn’t have unless I was right there with them.  They overflowed with genuine.  There was positive emotion all over the place; excitement, happiness, joy, and surprise.  It made sense.  I’m excited and happy about this, of course I want to share it with the world! Think about it. You finally graduate!  You get engaged!  Your baby walks for the first time!  These are things you want everyone to know, almost regardless of personal relation.

But then the tide slowly started to turn.  Here’s my new haircut! My new lip-stick, my cat, my food, my sad face, my trip to the dentist, my trip to the mall, my roommate, my new shirt, friend 1, friend 2, friend 3, my dinner, my ride, my grade, my shoes, my provocative face, my pajamas, my tongue, my bathing suit. . . There was. . .so much.  I got exasperated for a number of reasons.  
1. If I didn’t take a picture of it, it didn’t happen. I started to feel this pressure to talk about and show everything on Facebook.  Having lunch with a friend? Post to Fb! Getting a haircut? Post to Fb!  Mowing the lawn? Post to Fb. Saw a cloud that looked like an alligator? Post of Fb.  Now.  Otherwise it didn’t happen and it doesn’t matter.  Instead of taking pictures because they meant something to me and I genuinely wanted to remember how this moment felt, I had to bestow meaning on an event by taking a picture and - oh wait!  One more time, that wasn’t quite perfect … hmm. move here, put that there and . . .

2.The picture isn’t real anymore. No problem with posing people - I’m a portrait photographer.  I’ve posed the daylights out of people.  Trust me.  But a medium (selfie) that used to be the epitome of genuine and spontaneous became a search for “perfection.”  Like, that one “real” picture of a messy bun?  Yeah, I spent 20 minutes fighting with my hair and then took 30 pictures with different expressions and angles till I achieved the perfect effortless look that is so popular these days.  Talk about lying through your teeth, er, hair that is. . . phone?

3. All purpose yuck category.  Self-obsession, masks, sexting, you name it.  Granted, it’s a fallen world and every medium has been corrupted in some way.  The selfie provided an acceptable medium for being utterly self obsessed.  It also provided a channel to show everyone a false version of yourself.  I won’t get into despicable things our sex-obsessed culture has skewed the selfie to be.

My exasperation grew to disgust.  “What is wrong with my generation?!” etc.  When camera came out my insides tightened and I felt like glaring at it instead of smiling.  When people who don’t speak more than 10 words to me every time I see them run up with a camera and want a selfie with me?  Yeah, I lost even more respect for them.  I was done. 

I hated the culture of fake and unconsciously started to hate the pictures and despise the people (p.s. not the right response!).  I missed sweet, sincere, and deep and I guess I thought selfies had become the opposite of that.  Slowly that attitude spread to pictures in general and I stopped taking pictures. I’m a photographer, remember?  Photos are my medium.  They were my love, and I couldn’t even pick up my camera without dread.  I would not — could not — perpetuate this fake.  I lost the vision.  I went from photographing an event because it had meaning to seriously doubting the meaning of the event if I saw someone taking pictures.

But my friends, I was wrong!  I was right, too, but I was in a ditch.  

Last weekend I dropped everything to spend the day with a friend.  I friend who’s moving on (both literally and figuratively).  There were 4 of us.  And it was special.  Nothing super exciting happened.  In fact, it was a pretty run-of-the-mill shopping trip.  But it meant something.  The conversations we had, he relationships we built, the fears we got over, the smiles and looks without words.  I’ll remember that silly trip to IKEA and I’ll treasure it.  I can do that, because someone took selfies and pictures.  Not a million, but enough.  Pictures by Natalie. :-)

And it was then that I looked around and saw dirt around me.  I realized the ditch I had been in and took a slow step towards the road.  I was wrong guys.  And I’m sorry for being a grump.  I’m trying to come back to the middle.

I got this saying from my Dad that I’m trying to live by.  It’s simply, “Keep in the middle of the road.”  We, ok, me.  I’m talking about me. I tend to polarize.  I land in the ditches on either side of the road.  I tend to think in Black and White, even when the reality is a beautiful grey.  So my life is this constant search for the truth.  A pendulum swing between the subtle lies of the world and the even subtler lies of the church.  And by church I mean religion.  But that is a topic for another time.  Today we’re talking about selfies.

I can’t say I’ve landed right in the middles and “arrived” at balance, but I’m getting there. I’m rediscovering the beauty of a moment.  The concrete memory in a picture and the joy it can bring.  There can be sincere and there can be deep and there can be precious in a selfie. 

 And there is freedom in this truth.