Raise It Up

People think I’m crazy.  Which really is fine, because I probably am.  I mean, just look at my previous blog posts!  Get my late night rants condensed onto one webpage and you have the perfect recipe for 1) A good laugh, 2) A change of heart, 3) Serious offense, or 4) All of the above.

Seriously though, if you see a girl driving down a hill with her hands in the air, it’s probably me.  If that girl crashes because she doesn’t have her hands on the wheel, feel free to stand over her mangled wreck and laugh at her.  Of course, if it isn’t me, people might think YOU are crazy…just sayin’…

Back to the hands thing.  People really do look at me funny when I put my hands up.  And I do it a lot.

Roller coasters (screaming all the way).

Driving down hills (like a mini roller coaster, I swear!)

Waving (very enthusiastically!) at people I know.

Waving (very enthusiastically!) at people I don’t know.

Waving (very enthusiastically!) at people who aren’t even people.  Like birds.  And squirrels.

And then there’s worship.  When I feel God speaking to me through a song I raise my hands.  Not all the way sometimes, and at others as high as I can reach.  That’s when people really look at me funny.

If you go to one of those churches where worship is like being in prison, you know what I mean.  When the people singing “Glory to God” look like they’d rather be on the rack, there’s a problem.  And then there’s the people that kind of want to get into the music, so they do this weird swaying thing, but they’re not really letting themselves move…yeah…like dancing in a straight jacket?  Anyway, one person finally works up the courage to raise their hands above waist level, and it’s like they walked into church without pants or something.  People stare, and then look away embarrassed that someone would have the audacity to move more than the allotted three inches, then stare again.

The thing is, most people around that person with their hands up high are wishing they had the courage to do the same.  “Wow!” they think.  “That guy really has guts!”  NO.  That person has hands.  They’re just in the air.

Here’s the really cool part.  You have hands too!  Who knew, right?  If you don’t have hands, you have arms, or a head, or feet, or SOMETHING!  (Side note: if you don’t have a head, there’s a lot more going on here than I want to enter into…).  That person in worship, that crazy gutsy person, just has one thing that maybe you don’t.

They don’t care what you think about them.

*Gasp!*   Did she just say that some people don’t care what I (ME!  A person with lots of judgments and opinions) thinks? 

Yes.  Yes I did.  The people with their hands in the air are focused on God, worshipping Him, and what He thinks of them.  And (believe it or not), it’s a much happier way to live.

So next time you are feeling the tug on your shoulder muscles, don’t resist.  If you are on a roller coaster, in the car (hopefully not driving), see a friend, see a random stranger, see a butterfly, or are singing a song that moves you, go for it.  Be the crazy person everyone else wishes they were.

Don’t fight it.  Just do it.

Because life is a lot more fun with your hands in the air.

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Recognizing the Unlovable

I love Netflix.  I mean, come on, what’s not awesome about streaming movies right to your Wii?  TV shows, classics, documentaries, you name it.  I especially love watching other people’s stories.  There was this one documentary called Dive about people who dumpster dive for food, shining a light on how wasteful we are as a country.  A carton of strawberries thrown out because one strawberry is bad.  Sure, nobody’s going to buy it, so give it away!

Back to the instant streaming phenomenon.  Several months ago, thanks to Netflix, I was able to watch a documentary that I wouldn’t have heard about otherwise.  Mama Heidi: The Inspiring Story of Heidi and Rolland Baker.  The whole thing was inspiring (hence the title), but one phrase stood out to me the most, and has stuck with me since.  It was Heidi’s prayer right before God called her to Mozambique.

She asked God to help her love the unlovable.

I didn’t really know what it meant at the time, but I was never able to shake it.  It stuck in my head and popped up at random times.  I believed it meant to love the people in my life who were intentionally spiteful to me without cause.  In truth, I wanted to punch these people in the face (and almost did on several occasions), but the phrase would pop in my head (love the unlovable), so I would restrain myself and just smile or walk away.

The months passed.  I felt like I was doing really well, considering all the people I hadn’t hit.

And then God took me to Fuge.

For those of you who don’t know, Fuge is a national bible camp started and run by Life Way.  Total fun, incredible relationships, and God inspired worship are standard fare for Fuge.

This year our group went to Mission Fuge.  Instead of recreation in the morning and activities (crafts, choir, basketball, etc.) in the afternoon, we went and served in the community where the camp was held.  The mission track options ranged from beach ministry, to PCY (painting, construction, and yard work), to children’s ministry.

God put me in social ministry.  I had several amazingly full days of serving at different places that I would love to tell you about some time, but right now I will focus on where I went Thursday.

That morning dawned bright and early for me (up at 5:30, tired and nauseous).  I applied sunscreen, makeup, fixed my hair, put on glasses, my bathing suit, and my clothes over top of that.  Yes, I was supposed to wear my swim suit.

Chronic illness is a killer in the morning.  Many times, if I don’t get enough sleep, I’ll feel so sick that I’ll throw up.  At breakfast in the dining hall (trying not to gag as others ate bacon and waffles) I managed to drink some orange juice, but nothing more.  Praying I wouldn’t puke on the way, I headed out for another day of missions.

It was probably a fifteen minute drive to where we were going.  Never had I been so glad to get out of a car before in my life.  I don’t typically get motion sick, but this time was a MAJOR exception.

We were at a place called the Coastal Center: a live in care center for mentally impaired adults.  Our group headed for the pool (this is where the swim suit comes in).

Our morning activity was to help the most severely impaired people swim in the pool.  It was only three and a half feet at it’s deepest, so even I was able to stand easily in the water.  One of the patients would be lowered in where three of us would grab them and hold them so they could float in the water.

The man I helped carry was Mike.

Mike was probably 60+ and had the mental capacity of an infant or young toddler.  He was sweet and would try to talk some, but could only manage grunts and squeals.  I don’t know what he comprehended, if anything.

The whole time we were in the pool with Mike (about an hour and a half), I was physically very close to him, holding him up in the water.  I was already feeling really nauseous, but Mike made it worse.  All his teeth were rotting and he was breathing directly on my face.  I tried EVERYTHING I could to avoid throwing up in the pool, and I just barely made it.  The whole time I was thinking love the unlovable.

After lunch and lots of sitting down (which helped me feel better), we were ready for our afternoon activity.  Our group was set up in the gym to hang out with the higher functioning patients.  Some of the guys played basketball.  The residents really love Michael Jackson, so they had music playing, and a lot of them were dancing.  There were beads, pipe cleaners, string, chalk, and other supplies to do crafts as well.

Not wanting to move much, I looked for someone sitting down that I could talk to.  I spotted a man in a green shirt sitting all alone on a couch in the craft area.  Perfect.  He looked to be around his thirties, and he wasn’t doing anything but sitting there staring into the distance.

I sat down next to him.  He didn’t move.

I said “Hi”.  He didn’t move.

I told him my name.  And guess what?  He didn’t move.

I asked him if he wanted to go play basketball with the others.  Finally responding, he said “No I do not”.  I asked him if I could sit and talk with him.  He said “Yeah”.

After asking one of the staff I learned that the guy’s name was Matt.  I also learned that he could really only say “Yeah” or “No I do not”.  If I asked him what color he liked, he’d act confused and try to garble something out, then give up.  If I asked him if he liked the color blue, he could say yes or no.

It was like a gigantic game of twenty questions (meaning twenty THOUSAND questions).  I’d ask every single thing I could think of, sit and think for a while, then ask some more.  Every type of food, season, drink, TV show, color, movie, activity, you name it, I asked it.  At one point I was able to share the gospel with Matt.  I don’t know how much he understood, if any of it.  But he sat there and listened.

I felt really great about myself right then.  Most people would have simply moved on when Matt didn’t respond, but I was sticking it out and making an effort to talk to him.  I was loving the unlovable.

Finally, I asked him if he wanted to make a bracelet.  Tired of talking (but not tired of sitting), I figured this would be a good activity.  He said he didn’t want to.  So I talked about my siblings, and talked to him about his family, on and on and on.  Out of things to talk about, I tried again, this time with a different tactic.  I asked him if he’d like to make me a bracelet.  He agreed.

I picked out a purple pipe cleaner and got a handful of beads (you know, those giant plastic ones), and brought them back to the couch.  I held the pipe cleaner, and he’d pick out the beads and put them on.  He was slow and methodical, choosing each bead with care and placing it on the pipe cleaner.  Even with all that, the whole project took about ten minutes.

With time to spare, and a voice rapidly declining, I convinced Matt to help me make more jewelry.  We made me a necklace, and a ring, and him a bracelet, and a ring.  When we finally finished everything it was time to go.  I had been sitting with Matt for around two hours.  I’d only gotten him to smile at me a couple of times, but it was beautiful and genuine.  I thanked him for letting me sit with him and helping me make things.

On the way back to camp I thought about it.  I’d had a tough day, but I’d gotten through it.  I’d done a good job loving the unlovable, and I had some new jewelry to prove it.  I was feeling pretty awesome.

That night when we were in church group devotions, everyone was sharing how they’d been impacted during the day or how God had spoke to them.  I was ready to tell everyone what a great person I’d been.

God had other ideas.

Something dawned on me.

A thought so momentous I almost cried.

As soon as I’d gotten to the Coastal Center I’d been thinking mostly about how sick I felt.  I.  Me. 

The first thing I noticed about the residents was their disability.  How they were different.  What was wrong with them.  How they looked, or walked, or spoke.  I didn’t try to, I just did.

And after the day was over I was thinking about how I had impacted the lives of the people I’d met.

God had to hit me over the head with a log, but I finally got it.

In this situation, who was it that needed love?  I was the only one acting selfishly.  I was the only one with judgement in my heart.  I was the only one filled with pride.

Out of the three people in question, Matt and Mike weren’t the unlovable.

I realized that I was.

Mike and Matt  had done nothing but accept me all day long.  They didn’t care about my height.  They didn’t point out the gap in my front teeth.  They didn’t mention the dark circles under my eyes.

Matt made me jewelry and let me talk to him.  Mike would smile at me when I sang Jesus Loves Me to him, even though I don’t have a great voice.

All day long I’d been thinking that I was loving the unlovable. 

Turns out, the whole time I was thinking that, I was the unlovable.

I don’t know if I impacted Mike or Matt at all on Thursday.  But they for sure impacted me.

Instead of sharing what I’d intended with my church group (about me being awesome, and how great I was at recognizing the unlovable) I ended up confessing my sinful thoughts and how wrong I was.

On Thursday, Mike and Matt were the ones that loved the unlovable.

Because they loved me.

So now, do me a favor.  Before you stop and judge someone for who they are, what they look like, what they are wearing, how they smell, or where they’re from, ask yourself a question.  Are they the ones that need love?  Or are you the one being unlovable?

Feeling convicted?  Have hope!  Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Are you unlovable?  Filled with selfishness, pride, judgement, hate?

Guess what?  God loves you.  He is waiting for you, ready and willing to redeem your life.  All you have to do is ask.

I should know.

He did it for me.

The One About The Hunger Games

May the odds be ever in your favor.

If you are one of the millions hooked on The Hunger Games, just reading that simple phrase will send shivers down your spine.  Anticipation, fear, excitement, horror, romance, and terror, all wrapped up in one.  But why?  What is the craze all about?

I have been asked multiple times why anyone would want to read a book or watch a movie that features kids killing other kids.  It got me to thinking.  Why does everyone love this concept so much?  And more importantly, why do I love it so much?

In order to answer this question, we may have to go back to the beginning.  Not the very beginning…I wasn’t there then.  No, we must return to the fateful night that I first set eyes on Katniss Everdeen.  Mom and Sierra were at a photography class, and I was in charge of the young ones.  After putting everyone to bed I decided to start reading a book we’d just gotten.  I probably wouldn’t have even heard about this book until after the movie came out, except for (duh, na, na!) FATE.  A friend of ours was hosting a book club and had invited us to attend.  The title of the book: The Hunger Games.

Nine o’clock at night I began.  “When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold“. Captured by the characters, enraptured with the writing, there was no turning back.  Mom and Sierra got home, hugged me, went to bed.  I remained on the couch, reading furiously.

Three o’clock in the morning (six hours later), four words remained.  “END OF BOOK ONE“. In a daze I wandered to bed.  Images of burnt bread, mockingjays, mutts, and fire floated through my mind.  It was like my brain had been consumed.  All that remained was the hollow remnants of a captivating plot.

In truth, The Hunger Games does not have much literary merit.  I tell people, reading these books is barely one step above watching TV.  So how do I (someone who is in love with authors such as  Dickens, Twain, Austen, Stowe, and Alcott) find such great pleasure in the writings of Suzanne Collins?

Perhaps her style, if not her content, is what originally drew me in.  Up until that point I had read very few books written in present tense.  If you compare the sentences “I looked into his icy blue eyes” and “I gaze into his icy blue eyes”, which one do you enjoy more?  Most people do not even realize what tense they’re reading (and a skillful writer will make you forget), but subconsciously, do we notice?

Back to the original question.  How can anyone enjoy a book that features the murder of kids?  Maybe because it’s not that far-fetched. 

Our society already takes great pleasure in “Reality Shows”.  What could be more fun than watching bratty kids with two tons of makeup prance around stage in ruffles and bows?  Or brides that will kill anyone that gets in their way?  Or (for the guys) cops tackle that ever elusive drug dealer?  The one I grew up with was FEAR FACTOR.  What’s not entertaining about watching a girl in a bikini get in a glass coffin filled with tarantulas?  And those guys that have to drink the putrified liquid they squeeze out of cow intestines?  I really liked them.

WE’RE SICK!

If people ever revolted against the government, how far of a stretch would it be for them to throw kids in an arena to kill each other off?  And how far of a stretch for people to enjoy watching it?  Ask yourself, how great do you feel right now?

Returning to the question, I don’t think it’s only the despair and disgust that attracts such a following. As President Snow says in the movie, “Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear.”

The girls (and even guys) of our generation are constantly bombarded with images of what they should look like, what they should wear, who they should date, and most importantly – how to be important.  “Drive an awesome car, become a movie star, and you too could have a fan club”.  Disney Princesses are the worst.  Cinderella is never noticed until she’s all decked out in jewels and silks.  Sleeping Beauty is Sleeping Beauty (or what Hollywood thinks is beautiful).  I especially love the lyrics in the catchy tune that the women sing in Mulan when they’re getting her ready (read carefully).

Wait and see

When we’re through

Boys will gladly go to war for you

With good fortune and a great hairdo

You’ll bring honor to us all

I love this stanza:

Men want girls with good taste

Calm

Obedient

Who work fast-paced

With good breeding

And a tiny waist

You’ll bring honor to us all

(You know you sang this!  It really is catchy!)

And now to the point that I was making with all this.  In the story, it’s not the super-model with perfect hair that gets the guy and saves the day.  It is an ordinary girl, who is not spectacular at all, and thinks nothing of herself.  Yet she ends up doing amazing things and winning an extraordinary love.  The best part – he loved her before she was made to be beautiful.  The starving, unattractive, harsh, wounded girl is the one that Peeta fell in love with.  Not the Mockingjay.  Not the Girl on Fire.  Just Katniss.

The biggest thing that I was enraptured with was the portrayal of the (very flawed) main character.  She is shown as this selfish person who uses other people to survive.  This appears to be true to a fault.  Do not touch this girl’s loved ones.  Risking her life every day to feed her family.  When Prim is reaped she volunteers, expecting fully to die.  And at the end (spoiler warning!) kills President Coin in return for Coin killing Prim.  I identify largely with Katniss because of this.  The thing that drives her is keeping her loved ones safe.

Several years ago in theater, Isaiah (5 at the time) was supposed to wait in the green room for me to come get him and take him on stage.  Someone else’s mom got him and (instead of bringing him to me) stood in the front hallway talking.  I practically screamed at her when I found my little brother standing with her and a guy I didn’t know in the front of the old CAST building (you know, by the ABC store).  One time a kid was picking on my siblings during Simon Says by making them spin until nauseous, then having them try to jump up and down (all the while laughing maliciously).  It did not bode well for him.  Point being, hurt my family, and I just may hunt you down and shoot you.

Can an ordinary person, who is in no way perfect, still be honorable and heroic?  Is it possible to find a spectacular love, even when you don’t love yourself?  Could people of no consequence rise up and change the injustices they are forced to endure?  Will hope outlive every horror we are subjected to?

Suzanne Collins has captured something very important.  Not just a cool story.  Not just a fun romance.  Not even a great dystopian message.  She has embodied one of the things we all strive for.

Nobody wants to go through life overlooked, unnoticed, blown off as someone not worthy of attention.  We all want to do something.  To make and impact on the world around us.

This is our need to be.

/sīˈkädik/

Because murdering people is frowned upon, a blog is much safer for everyone.

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