Merry consumerism to you!

christianity, Everyday, Rant

Yesterday I went to the post office to buy stamps with a coworker of mine and we ended up having a conversation with a young guy in line ahead of us about the craziness that is the holiday season in America. He pointed out the amazing difference between celebrating what we are thankful for on a Thursday, then fighting over televisions and cheap toys on a Friday. And then shopping all day online on a Monday. Then maybe giving back on Giving Tuesday if you have spare change. That’s crazy, people!

Now, I’m not gonna lie. I definitely took advantage of the awesome deals I found at my favorite online retailers. But getting a deal is not the point. Getting a new TV is not the point. Those things are not inherently bad. It’s the attitude with which we procure those items that leads to a very dark road full of angry mobs and unmet expectations. It’s the fact that we often feel entitled to 40% off and free shipping. The fact that instead of spending time with family and friends on Thanksgiving, we line up at stores so we don’t miss out on products we can always buy later. The idea that we can actually get disappointed if we don’t get our favorite pie at Thanksgiving or the Christmas gifts we wanted or the right color or the right size, when we shouldn’t expect to get anything at all. Because frankly, we don’t deserve any.

For those who celebrate the religious holiday of Christmas like I do, they know that it is a time to remember Jesus’s birth and the fact that when He entered the world he paved the way for us to have a personal relationship with God by giving Himself up for us and dying on a cross for our sins. So no, we don’t deserve any gifts. That’s a pretty big gift right there.

For those who don’t celebrate the religious holiday of Christmas, that’s understandable. To be honest, the secular holiday has far surpassed the religious one and (let’s be real here) most scholars agree that Jesus was probably not born on December 25. So I get the love of all things Christmas without the Christ. There’s no War on Christmas, no hard feelings on my behalf that you don’t recognize the immense importance of the holiday (although, I would highly recommend you reading the full biblical account). But I also believe God’s gift applies to you as well. We don’t deserve anything, so we should be thankful and grateful for what we are given and take joy in giving to others.

Now to conclude this rather messy rant…I’m not asking for people to stop buying things. Honestly, it’s great for the economy. I’m not asking people to stop giving gifts to each other, because it’s often a great way to show someone you care. All I’m asking is for us to stop and think about our attitudes this holiday season. To really think about our expectations, our perceptions, and our preparation for a season full of temptations and indulgence and opportunities for selfishness. To find joy this season in the gifts we’ve already been given. And that is how you have a Merry Christmas.

I objectify women.

christianity, Everyday

Some of you know that disordered eating is part of my story. For those who don’t know, I had an eating disorder in college. What started as my attempt to actually start working out turned into a daily battle to fight the gnawing hunger in my belly. In six months I lost over thirty pounds (which is impressive for my already small frame), stopped menstruating for what would be a year, and permanently altered my relationship with food and my understanding of what it means to be beautiful. 

But this post isn’t about my past experience with an eating disorder or the fact that I still struggle with negative food thoughts from time to time. This post is about the harrowing realization that, although I’m a strong supporter of true beauty and healthy choices, my inner life actually perpetuates the messages I actively try to combat.

Every time I get stressed because I haven’t worked out, I accept the lie that my calorie-consumption directly affects my worth. Every time I read a fitness blog and sigh because I physically cannot ever attain a thigh-gap (ladies, some people just aren’t made that way), I assent that there is a physical norm we must adhere to. Every time I compare and contrast my appearance with that of another woman God has created, I choose to reduce them to an object. In short, I objectify women, because I objectify myself. And that’s pretty disgusting.

Don’t worry, I’m not giving myself all the blame. It’s well-known that women are forced-fed unhealthy beauty standards by the media. (I work in advertising, so I know far too well the messages that are being propagated, though I actively fight against it.) But we cannot blame media for our eager acceptance of their lies, for our willingness to swallow their images, for our crazed appetite for the next beauty line or fashion magazine… because the lie has been revealed.

We know the images we see aren’t true and that they don’t portray femininity in its full beautiful spectrum. We know that the media has skewed society’s perception of what ladies are supposed to look like. And that knowledge, borrowing from our friends at School House Rock, gives us power. We have the opportunity to change that, and some ladies already have. Whether it’s submitting petitions to magazines to include non-photoshopped photos in their publications or supporting products like Dove and their Campaign for True Beauty, there’s a lot that we can do to stop the objectification of our fellow women.

But it has to start with us. All it takes is some action, no matter how small. And that means starting to see ourselves – myself – differently. For me, that means finding an accountability partner to help me love my body the way God made it, and catching myself every time I judge another woman on their appearance instead of their character. For you, it might mean throwing away your scale. Or enjoying food because it’s healthy, not because it’s low in calories. Or removing the phrases “shedding for the wedding” and “summer body” from your vocabulary. Or just saying affirming things to yourself in the mirror in the morning when you wake up (I went through a time when I had no less than 10 Bible verses written in expo marker on mine).

It’s true society isn’t very helpful, but we can help each other. It doesn’t have to be some huge social campaign. But it has to be something.

I’m Not Nice

christianity

Sometimes I feel like people think I’m far nicer than I really am. And that concerns me. Because I live with myself every second of every day and I can tell you with complete assurance that I am most certainly not a nice person.

I know you’re probably thinking, “she’s being over critical” or “anyone could say the same thing.” But I’m serious. I’m not a nice person. If I could connect a loud-speaker to the part of my brain that produces thought and blast my thoughts out to the world, you would see how not nice I am.

Now, I’m not denying that everyone thinks mean thoughts at some point. What I’m saying is I don’t think people realize how much I have to filter myself on a regular basis in order not to come off as a judgmental jerk.

I just don’t want people thinking that I’m this super sweet person when I’m not. Or that I’m some goodie-two-shoes with nothing bad to say about anyone. Because that’s not true. At any given moment I can present to you a list of 10 things I don’t like about a person – and that’s before I have time to really think about it.

My complete understanding of the brokeness of my innermost character is what enables me to fully embrace the Christian faith. If an Intelligent Creator exists, I know that I have failed Him. And I continue to fail Him every day. Because with every positive step forward in my journey of humanity, I end up taking a giant leap backwards as my faulty nature takes control again. If He requires penitence and reparation, I will never redeem myself on my own. I can’t. That is why I thank God every moment of every day for sending His son to die in my place.

So, every day when I catch myself in a moment of weakness, when my sinful nature is fully exposed to me and I realize how much of a not-nice person I am, I step back and thank God that I’m not in charge of my own salvation. In spite of myself, I have been redeemed. That’s Grace. And it’s something worth believing.

Slow down.

christianity, Everyday

Bobby Pearce. World Champion Rower. Olympic Gold Medalist.

In the 1928 Olympics, Pearce was the only rower selected from Austria. So, let’s assume there was a lot of national pressure riding on him. Besides, who doesn’t want to win a gold medal?

However, during the quarter finals, when he was clearly beating his French opponent (and who doesn’t want to beat the French?), Bobby stopped rowing to let a family of ducks pass by. He then went on to have the fastest time of all 8 competitors in that round, later winning the Gold Medal.

Lesson learned? Slow down. Many people tell you that life isn’t a race. But Bobby Pearce proved that even when it is a race, you still have time to stop and help people. Even if those people are as lowly as some random ducks. Despite his rowing accomplishments – which, I admit, are quite impressive – the biggest thing I took away from Pearce’s life is the fact that he cared more about the welfare of a few animals than winning. And we should all live like that.

Bobby Pearce. World Champion Rower. Olympic Gold Medalist. Duck lover.

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'” – Matthew 25:40

When We’ve Failed

christianity

Many of you have probably heard the recent story about the woman who took it upon herself to restore a 19th century painting of Jesus. For those who haven’t heard, the story can be found here.

To make a long story short, Cecilia Gimenez, a woman in her 80s, had no training in restoration or background in art history, but took it upon herself to restore a 120 year old painting of Jesus Christ that belonged to her church in Zaragoza. Well, she failed. Miserably.

When I first heard about this, I was horrified. The history-buff inside me cringed at the thought of such an artifact being tainted, possibly permanently so. What kind of person would seriously think they could properly express what the original artist intended when they didn’t have the proper training, tools, or talent? What was once a beautiful, though fragmented, work of art depicting Christ (or the “white” version of him anyway) was transformed into something more resembling a monkey than a Messiah. I was in awe and a little bit angry at the audacity of the woman. But then I realized something even more horrifying: we, as Christians, distort Christ’s image every day.

Just like the woman, we often think we have enough training to skillfully reflect Christ’s message. So, instead of drawing conclusions strictly from the framework we have been provided, we fill in what we consider “the missing pieces” with our own opinions and ideas. We go into theological debates with unbelievers armed with the wrong tools, using loosely backed theories instead of scripture. And we arrogantly consider ourselves talented enough to be the spokespeople for Christ without fully grasping the humility and sacrifice of our own Savior.

However, like the woman in the story, we did it out of good intentions. We thought we would help people by filling in the frustrating gaps and holes in God’s Word with simple answers that didn’t create too much controversy. We thought people would like Jesus better if we made him a little fuzzier around the edges and easier to digest. Because of the “good intentions” of Christians, oftentimes the Jesus of today looks nothing like the original. Overtime, we have blurred the lines of doctrine, distorted Truth, and made Jesus into a laughing-stock instead of our Lord.

Today, Cecilia’s attempt has garnered worldwide attention and people are coming from all over to laugh and gawk at her failure. Some are even asking for her to be held responsible for the damage she caused to the historic artifact.

Thankfully, unlike the 120 year old painting, which experts have said may never be recovered, God’s Word is eternal and we aren’t powerful enough to destroy it. Christ trusted the beginning of His ministry to a bunch of sinners and look how far it has come since then. While we constantly fail at restoring Christ’s image, He is faithfully and graciously restoring us. We aren’t  meant to restore Christ’s reputation on our own. The only one who can fully restore Christ’s image is the original artist – Christ himself. We must look to Him for guidance as we strip away the extra paint and added strokes that have been piled on over the years. We need to train ourselves in His Word so we can have the tools to defend it. And we need to be humble enough to admit it when we fail. Because we will: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Even though we will be held responsible for how we’ve lived this life (as Cecilia will be), we can take comfort in knowing that Christ will always be redeemed in our failure and His death was justification for all of our sins, even being crappy Christians on occasion.

Colossians 2:8 – “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

Matthew 7:13-14 – “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

2 Chronicles 7:14 – “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

I made a craft.

christianity, Everyday

The first assignment for my advertising portfolio class was simple: I had to make a craft. It had to be a 5×5 square that reflected my personality. Those who know me really well know that I often feel my soul slowly die the moment I walk into my advertising portfolio lab. I love my major, it’s just that I am one of the only Christians in the program and…let’s just say my values aren’t the same as everyone else’s and the conversations and group outings reflect the more prevalent morals. That being said, I like to think of that class as my mission field and I try to be a good representation of Christ to my fellow copywriters and art directors. So I decided to make my personality square reflect my convictions and encourage me to keep the faith. Thus, I printed out the Sermon on the Mount and chapter 1 of the Book of James. Then, I cut the text into several tiny heart-shaped petals and shaped them into a beautiful, blossoming flower. Finally, I pasted the flower onto a bright pink 5×5 square and, viola! My square will be displayed on the lab wall along with 30 of my peers’. Little do they know that such powerful words are hidden within such a delicate flower. But I know that it’s there. And if I ever feel discouraged I can look to the words of my Savior for comfort and guidance. If I ever feel challenged or outcast I can remember James 1:2 and “consider it pure joy”. It may be simple and may sound silly, but it means a lot to me to know that it’s there on the wall for all to see. And maybe, just maybe, someone will ask me what exactly is written on my petals and I can tell them. And that would fill my soul with joy.

These flowers were made from the extra petals. Aren't they cute?

A Charge

christianity

“I have more faith in an atheist who helps an old lady across the street, than a believer who pretends not to see her because he is late for mass.”

I found this statement written in the About Me section of one of my acquaintance’s Facebook profile. Every time I read it I am hit with a twinge of conviction because I know that it was spoken in truth. More than that, I know that in this day and age, it is true. As Christians we are supposed to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We are supposed to reflect God’s great power and mercy in our actions and deeds. But all too often we get caught up in our own life journey and our own sin struggle and we forget–no refuse–to remember the charge that Christ has given us.

“Become doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves with false reasoning. For if anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, this one is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, and off he goes and immediately forgets what sort of man he is. But he who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.” (James 1:22-25).

We are called to love as He has loved. We are called to live as selflessly as Christ lived. We are called to give the shirts of our backs and to turn the other cheek. We are called to serve the poor and protect the widows and orphans of the world. We are called to love our neighbors and our enemies. Christ endured the greatest pain and the most heinous circumstances to save us from ourselves. And yet we often cannot find the time to share His love with others. It has become an inconvenience to reach out to the lost and offer them the Light that only too recently has saved us, as if we did something to earn it that they did not. We have grown selfish. We have grown lazy and complacent.We don’t look any different than the rest of the world, so how can we expect to be effective Believers if we don’t stand out among the crowd?

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” (Matthew 5:13).

If atheists are considered more Christlike than Christians we have not only failed our mission, we have failed our Lord. We have lost our saltiness, our effectiveness. We have dimmed down the Light that should radiate from our very being. No wonder the world has lost its faith in Christianity. We’ve given them a reason to.

 

UPDATE:

In response to a comment received on this post: It’s not good enough to be “good”. We all hold the potential to do what society deems right. It is the purpose behind our actions that should set us apart. We do good to glorify God and not man. We do good because Christ calls us to. We do good in order to lead others to the Truth, not because it makes us feel good or because it is the “right” thing to do. If we do good for goodness’ sake then we are no different than any non-Christian. We must live with a purpose and passion that points to our Saviour.

Father Abraham

christianity, Ponderings

So I was reading Genesis the other day and I found myself reading the chapter where God tells Abraham to sacrifice his favorite son Isaac as an offering. Abraham obeys, and right before he lights his son up in flames God sends an angel to stop him and tells him that he is a faithful man and righteous in the eyes of the Lord and that he needn’t sacrifice his son at all. Overall, this story is a great one, illustrating how faithful Abraham was. However, as I was reading this excerpt, a thought flashed in my mind – what was Isaac thinking while he allowed his father to tie him to the altar and begin to light it? I’d like to imagine that Isaac was stoic and silent, knowing the importance of the sacrifice, feeling honored to be considered a gift fit for sacrifice (usually the best goat or other animal), trusting that both his earthly father and his heavenly Father knew what they were doing. Of course that would fit the story wonderfully, a faithful father and son, fearlessly obeying their Lord. Can you imagine what Isaac would have done if it were present day? A day where we refuse to put our faith and trust in God? I would imagine that Isaac would have tried to stop his father, fight with him, tell him that he was crazy, tell him that His God was not real, that he should stop listening to thin air, because (of course) he would have lost the desire to “honor thy father and mother” like most of us have. Abraham would have tried to persuade his favorite son that he knew what was best for him, that he loved him and wouldn’t do anything to hurt him unless there was a higher purpose behind it. Isaac would have told him to mind his own business, that it was his life and he had the right to choose his own fate.

What has happened to the faith of our generation?