Friday, April 1, 2011

Equality in Christ

"Do any walls bisect your world? There you stand on one side. And on the other? The person you've learned to disregard, perhaps even disdain. The teen with the tats. The boss with the bucks. The immigrant with the hard-to-understand accent. The person on the opposite side of your political fence. The beggar who sits outside your church every week." (Max Lucado Outlive Your Life, p. 125)

We could certainly come up with a longer list. What walls exist in your world? Whom do you build up walls toward because of different styles of worship (or even different religions...yes, we are called to relationship with them), different tastes, different tongues and different traditions?

Jesus spent His time breaking down the barriers and walls that people built, and still build, up (whether they be physical or societal). Countless times, He spent time with people society disrespected or discarded. The stories about people He spent time with and reached out to (or reached back to when they reached out to Him) teach us how He feels about the person on the other side of the walls we have built up.

"The Cross of Christ creates a new people, a people unhindered by skin color or family feud. A new citizenry, based not on common ancestry or geography but on a common Savior." (Lucado, 128)

It's time we get past our biases. I would argue with Max in that he talks about us hindering God's work because of these stereotypes. I don't believe that we can hinder God's work...but we can hinder our participation in this work.

We are ALL welcomed to His table and we are ALL equal at the foot of His Cross.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are ALL one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you, so that God will be given glory. (Romans 15:7)

Who are you or I to consider ourselves MORE worthy than someone else of the Love of Jesus Christ? To teach anyone that they are unacceptable to Him just as they ARE is not only an insult to these persons who are made in the image of God. It is also an insult to Jesus Christ and blatant distortion of and assault on His teaching.

Prayer (from Max Lucado p. 130): "Lord, in how many ways does my foolish heart make false distinctions among Your people? Reveal them to me. How often do I judge someone as unworthy of You by the way I treat him or her? Rebuke me in Your love. Where can I blast a wall or remove a barrier that keeps Your children apart from one another? Give me some dynamite and the skill and courage to use it for your glory. What can I do in my sphere of influence to bring the love of Christ to someone who may feel ostracized or estranged from You? Lend me divine insight, and bless me with the resolve to be Your hands and feet. May I be a bridge and not a wall. In Jesus' name I pray, amen."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Disabled" relationships with "Typical" People?

While doing research for my Systematic Theology paper on the image of God and "differability", I looked at a book by two professors/counselors. There is a section in one of the chapters on "Accepting Relationships" about the sociological perspective on "how individuals and groups commonly referred to as deviant come to be accepted into a society or a community." An accepting relationship is defined as: "a relationship between a person with a deviant attribute...and a 'non-disabled' person, which is long-standing and characterized by closeness and affection and in which the deviant attribute, or 'disability', does not have a stigmatizing, or morally discrediting, character in the eyes of the 'non-disabled' person." Accepting relationships are not based on a denial of the 'disability' or difference, but on the absence of impugning the 'disabled' person's moral character because of the 'disability'.

In this book, people are defined as either "typical" or "people with severe disabilities". The authors question what draws "typical" people into relationships with "disabled people" and what motivates them to form close relationships. These relationships are then broken down into categories:

1. families who decide to keep their children at home or foster and adoptive families
2. volunteers and citizen advocates who become involved in the lives of people with 'disabilities' long-term
3. staff members who go beyond their role to form personal relationships with the people they serve

The authors claim that "four major orientations can be distinguished" based on the sentiments held by the "typical" person towards the person with the "disability". These sentiments were determined by expressions/reactions to questioning and interviewers seeming to assume that the relationship is abnormal.

Why are sentiments the other way around not considered? As if the 'typical' person somehow has more to say about the relationship or their opinion of the relationship is of more value?

The four categories that emerged included: family relationships binding people together; religious commitment or "calling" as underlying motivation for forming relationship...with the "disability" being the reason for forming the relationship; humanitarian concern, particularly staff with clients; and feelings of friendship.

In regards to the religious commitment, the relationship is said to not always be an expression of charity, but a commitment to those who have suffered or been wounded. As if there are not others who have suffered or been wounded? As if we, the "disabled", need YOU, the "typical", because you assume we are suffering and wounded?

My "favorite" part was "feelings of friendship". "Here the relationship is described not in terms of abstract values --- family, religious, humanitarian --- but in terms of liking and enjoying the company of the person with a 'disability'."

They claim that friendships between 'disabled' and 'non disabled' people are typically rooted in other kinds of relationships. The other relationships described above, they claim, often turn into friendship. It is never assumed, however, that the relationship just starts at friendship.

"Becoming friends with a ('disabled') person is a process in which the person essentially becomes 'delabeled'. While the 'disability' or label may be prominent in the eyes of the other person during the initial stages of the relationship, that aspect of the 'disabled person' becomes less salient over time." Apparently only those 'typical' people who fit the other categories above are capable of engaging in this process.

They also say that "people who describe themselves as friends of ('disabled') people often point to what they have in common" and "focus on their positive qualities". Excuse my mouth for a second, but no s*** Sherlock. Why should that be any different than other friendships? We, the 'disabled' also become friends with you, the so-called 'typical' person based on what we have in common and your positive qualities. Why would we become friends with you otherwise?

I will have to give some thought to what categories would emerge if a "disabled" person defined all this....

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do not worry...

Tonight in worship/prayer at GCTS, this passage was read. After the passage both from Matthew and Luke, I have posted my thoughts from tonight.

Matthew 6

Do Not Worry
25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]?

28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Luke 12

Do Not Worry
22Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What I wrote during worship after this was read:

Do not worry! Your life is SAFE in My hands.

How many times does God have to say "Do not worry!" before you will listen?

Worry makes evident a lack of trust in God.

If you know how much He loves and cares for you, why would you not trust Him? What better thing do you have to trust in? How are the other things you're trusting working for you? (Against you?)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

From worry/frustration and sorrow to peace and joy...

Here at GC we're in the middle of finals weeks. I have a test coming up in Greek. This is the class I am struggling with the most...the class I'm doing pretty much on my own (semlink). In your first semester, with four other classes, this is a REALLY bad idea. It is getting better and I am learning it slowly, there is just SO MUCH...and it's overwhelming.

Though it's helpful being on a campus where everyone else is studying SOMETHING, add into that wanting to be able to connect with people and care for your SOUL (these two things are very connected for me, though I also need my "alone time" every day), and it's just CRAZY. It feels impossible. It seems like one area of my life is always being sacrificed to work on another one (in this case, minus some time with friends, everything has been on hold to study Greek).

I know, for those who have seen me on campus lately, that I HAVE been insane...but without you, I would be TOTALLY losing it. Luckily we are all here to encourage each other and pray for each other etc. Hopefully I have been able to be encouraging to you all as you have been to have certainly been lifted up in prayer.

Last night I was REALLY stressed out and discouraged...and to my breaking point. Really...I cried (I have witnesses). (Thank God for the right people being around at the right time with hugs and words of encouragement!)

When I was back in my room, I studied more and spent some time with God. We recently had a prayer conference on campus. During that time I had read Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians. When I looked back at it last night, I realized that I had underlined things like:

Galatians 4:15 ~ What has happened to all your joy?

Ephesians He Himself is our peace...(2:14) (I underlined the word peace a lot)

"in Christ Jesus"...I underlined wherever this shows up. THIS is where my joy and peace etc. come from...and when I HAVE no joy/peace/etc., the first thing I question is whether or not I have been cultivating my relationship with Him.

"Be imitators of a life of love...Be very careful.then, how you live---not as the unwise but as wise..." (Ephesians 5:1-2, 15) Do I/we imitate Him even when we feel like we have lost our joy/peace/etc.? YIKES.

Armor of God in Ephesians 6...maybe something I need to be focused (in thought) on putting on daily.

Philippians - more peace...

"Through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ." (1:19) Boy have I been SO grateful for both of these things!!

"Whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ." (1:27) "Do everything without complaining or arguing." (2:14) Again, how do I/we act when things get stressful?

I also made note of what Paul said of Timothy in 2:20...Timothy took a GENUINE INTEREST in these people's welfare. Having people in my life who have taken a genuine interest in me and I with them has been PRICELESS to me.

Be content whatever the content in every situation. (4:11-12) Yikes...content is certainly not a word I would use to describe times of anxiety and frustration.

I can do everything through HIM who gives me strength. (4:13)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thansgiving, present your requests to God. And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (4:6-7)...then in 8-9 what to focus your thoughts on and things to put into practice in order to have the God of peace with you.

OOH and...are you ready for THIS? "And my God will meet all your NEEDS according to His glorious riches IN CHRIST JESUS." (4:19)

Did you catch that? God already KNOWS what's going on with Greek...HE KNOWS. He has ALWAYS known where I needed to be and when...and has ALWAYS worked it out FOR HIS GLORY IN HIS TIMING!

So why do I/we allow distress/worry/frustration and sorrow to creep in when GOD means for us to have PEACE and JOY?! I for one know I am cheating myself by allowing ANYTHING to, even for a moment, steal my peace and my joy. No, that doesn't mean I have figured out how to NOT allow it (obviously...), but God is certainly working on me!

Continuously this semester, His big question for me has seemed to be: Do you trust Me? Do I? Do you trust Him? If not, why not? God has never HAD to prove Himself to me, but does why do I lean toward the negative feelings/thoughts rather than relying on and trusting in Him? There is no better place to go than to HIM!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Love is...

True love is loving your neighbor as yourself (ex. Lev. 19:18) and loving your enemies (ex. Matthew 5:43-44) (These commandments are found in MANY other places...).

True love is husbands who love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25-26) and not being harsh with them (Colossians 3:19).

Love for God is obeying His commands (1 John 5:3, 2 John 1:6).

True love is patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13)

Those who do not love do not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8, see also v. 16)..."This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:10, see also v. 16)

If this is love, how can we ever dare claim to love? How dare we throw the word around so much when our words and actions and thoughts are proof that we more often do not love at all? But then, if we do not love, how can we claim to know God?