The Saturday In-Between

There is an awkward Saturday situated in-between Easter Sunday and Good Friday. In previous years I’ve greatly associated with Easter, or I’ve greatly associated with Good Friday, but this year I’m strangely content to relate most to the Saturday in-between the two big events.

A church I attended once referred to it as ‘dark Saturday’ which I think fits. It is the day after the crucifixion, the day where all of Jesus’ followers would be in mourning. I think along with the mourning they probably asked, “what’s next?” The man they’d followed for years, a man who had performed miracles, healed the sick, and cared for the poor, who promised them heaven and for God to be restored as king, was dead. Crucified at the hands of the Romans. Their Messiah, the chosen one, was gone and I imagine their faith was probably at a standstill.

After all, when your everything ended up hung on a cross and killed for the public to see, it might be hard to imagine moving forward.

They didn’t know that Easter would come the next day. They were oblivious to the fact that the stone would be rolled away, the tomb would be empty, and they would have the chance at new life. Jesus would resurrect and a new point in history would begin.

Saturday was a day of isolation. Loneliness. Uncertainty.

So this year I think Saturday is the day I associate with, because since I’ve moved back to Oregon I’ve felt like I’m in some sort of black hole. Yes, I’ve managed to find work. Yes, I get to be with my family and play with my niece, yes, I’ve been given some awesome opportunities and cool experiences…but it still feels oddly empty. Where things of the world abound in my life, God is strangely absent.

Though I guess absent isn’t the word as much as muted is. God is muted. I attended a Christian school for two and a half years and had God in every aspect of my life. Classes were based in faith, friends always wanted to have faith based conversations, my work was in an environment surrounded by people always challenging and pushing me to pursue Christ. In that time God was a high definition bluray with surround sound.

Now He’s more like a gurgling brook I can hear but can’t see.

I feel like the disciples in that I understand the reality of what happened on the cross, and unlike them in the fact I know that resurrection came, but somehow I still find myself resting in the middle ground. I’m sitting between death and resurrection wondering where exactly I’m going to go next or what I’m supposed to do next.

How can I continue to pursue a resurrection relationship when I feel a strange disconnect from my surroundings?

I have a lot of questions and not really many answers. I will celebrate Easter tomorrow and accept the fact that grace saved me. But I will still meditate on the meaning of the Saturday in-between and keep seeking what comes next.

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You’re Beloved

It is amazing to me how one minute I am going about my day and the next I’m struck by a simple, kind phrase.

On Twitter today I was bantering with an actor whose work I enjoy. Me and a few other fans were chatting with him as usual, bouncing back and forth, posting pictures of our pets, and being goofballs. It is fun to brush elbows with the people who entertain us week after week on television.

He had posted a bit of a trivia question, wondering if any of his followers knew the answer. No one seemed to know as his fans refused to Google it (at his behest) and honestly replied. Jokingly I tweeted him saying that we as his fans had failed him, and his tweet back stopped me in my tracks.

No, no, you’re beloved. No failure possible.

I actually looked up the definition of the world ‘beloved’ and got these:

1. Dearly loved

2. Greatly loved; dear to the heart.

In other words, it is a fancy way to tell someone they are worth something. That they are loved. It made me stop, not because of who the tweet came from, or the context of anything on Twitter, but because I realized how little time I take to stop and fully comprehend just how loved I am.

I’m far more likely to spend the day thinking of all of the ways I have failed, or all of the things I should have done but didn’t, and don’t take any time to sit and feel loved. To stop and be loved. To love myself and to be thankful for all of the people in my life who love me.

It also made me realize how often I neglect to let the people in my life know that I love them. That they are beloved, no matter what they’ve done. When my niece, who is a toddler, does something she is not supposed to do we scold her…but then tell her that we love her. Her mess up, her mistake, her disobedience does not negate the love we have for her. It is not the “failure” we want her to focus on. We want her to know that she is loved even when she’s at her worse.

We take this approach with kids but lose it as adults. More often than not, at least in my circle of influence, when an adult messes up we tease them. I tease them. Sometimes I even bring it up later in the week and we all laugh about it again. Sometimes I’m the butt of the joke. I had a fact or belief that was proven to be incorrect and it is brought up again and again, laughed at every time, until it becomes something I cringe about.

I don’t like when that happens, so why on earth do I do it to other people?

Pointing out mistakes is not inherently bad, but when people are only told how badly they are screwing up without the understanding that through it all they are loved, it begins to take its toll. Guilt or embarrassment suddenly becomes shame.

I imagine when we’re at our worst and beat ourselves up over one failure or another, God just shakes his head and says something similar to what I was told today:

No, no, you’re beloved. No failure possible.

It is funny how those seven words can have such an impact.

So this week (and for the rest of my life) I hope I can be a person that makes her love clear, even when people screw up. I also hope I will be someone who can accept love from others even when I screw up.

Let grace and love abound. 

Patience in the Moment (Matthew 6:31-34)

One day at a time, one moment at a time is one line from the serenity prayer that has always stuck with me.

I am not particularly adept at living one day at a time. Usually I find myself running from the moment in order to have plans three weeks from now. I will run myself ragged trying to anticipate every possible outcome instead of focusing in on what is happening today, right now. I ignore the blessings of the present in favor of maintaining a false sense of control. I don’t have time to be in this moment, I have to be prepared for what might happen tomorrow!

In Matthew 6:31-34 Jesus speaks directly to the heart of every worrier:

So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Lately that last line, “each day has enough trouble of its own,” has been keeping me in the present. Between a father recovering from a stroke, a mother recovering from a badly sprained ankle, our hallway getting flooded, our kitchen having asbestos under the vinyl we’ve currently got down (meaning our kitchen will be getting ripped up), and a niece to help take care of, there has not been a lot of time to look ahead. Instead, I find myself being taught patience.

I think patience is the key to living in the moment. If we’re impatient then odds are we’re rushing to the next thing, trying to figure out what tomorrow will look like, or what next week will bring. We do not want to take time to be in the moment because the future is far more alluring. Our impatience propels us forward while patience stops us in our tracks and allows us to soak up the moment.

Even when that moment is chasing a stir crazy toddler around the mall, or unpacking two years of Southern California living and integrating it into my old room, or packing up the cabinets in the kitchen so they can be moved and our floor ripped out. Fun moments, crappy moments, all of them deserve to be lived. All of them deserve to have patient consideration for all of the blessings and lessons they contain.

Would I like to know what I will be doing in three months? Sure. Heck, I would like to know what Wednesday is going to look like when the asbestos team comes to rip out our kitchen. Right now, though, I am going to enjoy pondering the scripture, drinking my coffee, and eating my scone.

Why?

Because right now this moment is all I have and there is something to learn from being in it. 

Schooled by a Child in the Art of Giving (Outside of a Target)

I stopped by Target today. I’m going to the Grand Canyon this weekend and I had a couple more things I needed to pick up. As I walked up to the doors I saw a table set up with a lady sitting at it, a donation box in front of her for an organization that helps homeless families. She was wearing a turkey hat, which was what really caught my attention. Yet I walked by and went about my business.

After checking out I exited the store and saw her there, knowing she was going to ask for money. I did my best to hustle by. I refused to make eye contact and hurriedly made my way to my car, saved from having to respond to her plea for money since her sights were on someone else. Yet as I was crossing the street a man’s son ran by, waved at her, and then exclaimed, “I would give you change!” I looked over and his dad was ushering him away, but something about his exuberant exclamation made me pause.

My thoughts as I had exited Target and hurried past this woman were as follows:

I already give enough.

I have other organizations that get my money.

I will fill a box for Thanksgiving for a family.

Oh how hard my heart is and how it melted at a little boy’s words! No wonder Jesus loved children so much. Their hearts are soft and their hands are open. They do not try to justify their inaction. They wear their hearts on their sleeves.

As I loaded my stuff into the car I took out some cash and walked back over to the lady in the turkey hat and dropped the money into her donation box. Her face lit up.

It was only a couple of dollars and I am not writing this to glorify me. I am writing this because the sweet, innocent words of a child who would have given every last cent he had to help someone in need showed me something about my own heart. If a little child who has nothing would have given it anyway, how much more should I who has more than plenty, be willing to give to help those in need?

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” (Luke 21:1-4 ESV)

I stepped out of Target unwilling to give even a little of my abundance, already justifying my inaction because of all the other things I do. Really, I should be giving first to those in need and then dealing with the rest. Children are often willing to give all they have to help, but I was not even willing at first to put a couple of dollars in a donation tin.

I pray God helps me to be a person with a soft heart and the willingness of a child to help those in need. 

Confessing a Struggle

1st John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

A friend of mine published an amazing book called Struggle Central. In it, he chronicles the various struggles he’s faced in his life so far. He does so boldly and through a series of “confessions” in which he explains his story and the work God has done in his life. God has redeemed my friend, and God has redeemed me. So I have a confession of my own to make:

My name is Katie, and I have struggled with an addiction to pornography for a very long time.

I say “have struggled” because even though I’ve found victory in it, it never ceases to be a struggle. People talking about it, spam links show up in my inbox, sites like tumblr where I can be browsing innocently and suddenly something appears and I have to scroll away as quickly as possible, and the general nature of today’s culture make it a difficult thing to stay away from.

There is no white-knuckling through a pornography addiction in the 21st century when thousands of hours of smut are just a click away.

This post makes me laugh because I was just telling a friend of mine yesterday that I felt like I was going to be called to write a blog post that I was not going to like writing…and I was sure right (as I sit here feeling convicted at 1am to write this). This confession makes me deeply uncomfortable, no matter how many times I’ve confessed it. I have even confessed it to a room full of my peers and professors during chapel, and writing it in this blog still makes me nervous. There is a dark part of me that winces whenever light is shone upon this particular issue, but I bring it up because I think it is important to start a dialogue about it.

For too long I have gone to churches where the pastor stands on a stage, tells the congregation that pornography is bad, and tells them they have to repent or else they are hurting themselves and everyone around them. The intent behind the meessage is good, but I think it is the method that scares people even more. As the church (to generalize, of course there are always exceptions) we have induced shame instead of creating an environment for healing. We’ve boxed up the issue and have put a big “just don’t do it” sticker on the front without actually addressing the contents of the box.

The church often fails to address the loneliness, the pain, the emptiness, the lust, and ultimately the hole that people are trying to fill when they view pornography.

It took me six years to confess it to someone because the shame I felt, magnified by the messages I was getting from the church, crippled me and kept me from speaking out. As an 18 year old I was scared out of my mind to confess that I struggled with pornography because all my life it had been made into the big bag wolf and I sure wasn’t going to admit to associating with a villain.

I felt scared instead of safe, alienated instead of welcome. Even to this day when I struggle, the old doubts pop into my head and the shame comes roaring out and I find myself pulling away and nursing the wound because admitting the struggle means admitting that I’ve somehow failed and that brings me shame.

I have a feeling I will write more on the topic as time goes on, because it is a topic I have long felt called to discuss. As a woman, as a Christian, and as a struggler I have a lot of personal experience with this particular vice and if my personal experience can bring someone healing, then I am all for sharing. It still scares me, it makes me nervous to wonder what my family will think, or what the friends I have never told will think, but I also think it is important to be open and honest so that others can feel comfortable being open and honest.

After all, it was my friend Tom’s honesty through his book that inspired me to write this post in the first place.

Feel free to post any thoughts you have in the comments below. I want to facilitate a discussion, not just preach at people. 

If you are interested in more from Thomas Mark Zuniga, author of Struggle Central, feel free to check out his blog.