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’m Not Nice

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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.

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.”

Me Against The World

Rant

THE WORLD:
If I haven’t found The One, I’m not trying hard enough.
If I don’t have a boyfriend, I’m running out of time.
If I’m not interested in a guy, I must not be interested in guys.
If I’ve never been on a date, my standards are too high.
If no one asks me out, I’m not putting myself out there.
If I like being single, I must be antisocial.
If I’ve never been in love, I must be heartless.
If I’m not looking, I must be crazy.

MY WORLD:
If I’m not looking, it’s because I want to be pursued.
If I’ve never been in love, it’s because I know what true love is.
If I like being single, it’s because I know I don’t need a man to be happy.
If no one asks me out, it’s because God is protecting my heart.
If I’m not interested in a guy, it’s because I’m waiting for a man of God.
If I have high standards, it’s because they are God’s standards.
If I don’t have a boyfriend, it’s because God has something better planned.
If I haven’t found The One, it’s because He’s not of this world.

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?

H-E Double Hocky Sticks

Lists

As many of you know, I am a Christian, so the idea of there being an actual heaven and hell is pretty much a given. For me, hell is not the firey lair of a sharp guy in red but the complete and permanent separation from God, which is far, far worse. But for my purposes, let’s assume that hell is comprised of the things you absolutely hate. Out of bordeom and intrigue I decided to try to quantify the horribleness of the eteral flames with worldy examples of general suckiness. As I imagined myself slowly walking through all of Dante’s 9 levels of hell,  I realized that I’d only need 6 to get the point across:

Haley’s 6 Levels of Hell

Level 1: A Purebred Dog Park in a Pine Tree Forest

I am allergic to any animal that sheds and any tree remotely related to the pine tree (yes, my Christmases have been filled with the nostalgic allure of plastic nettles). Although I don’t break out into hives and my throat doesn’t close up, I am plagued by a faucet-like nose that has a little too much pressure, unquenchable thirst, dry mouth, sinus headaches that don’t respond to pain killers, and several other side-effects that I’d put in that little barely readable font at the bottom of this page if I could afford lawers. Why purebreds? Because, my allergy aside, uppty pooches piss me off. Also, I assume that they have been sent there for their sins aswell so they’re probablly equally pissed and irritable.

Level 2: Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World

My Dad used to drag me to Outdoor World on “adventures”, which really meant that we were about to get sucked into a world run by Larry the Cable Guy and his fishing buddies.  The title tricks you because it makes it sound like it’s some sort of theme park. What’s worse is this place is open 365 days a year. 365! Talk about an eternity.

Level 3: Post-earthquake Japan

If I even had a tiny inkling to visit this island it disppeared the moment that Japan experienced a crisis that blew any Spielberg movie out of the water. Earthquakes, tidal waves, nuclear reactor meltdowns. The only thing missing is Harrison Ford and the’ve got a blockbuster. Exotic vacation spot? Over my dead body. (Did you catch that? Good.)

Level 4: A concert by a 65-year old smooth jazz musician

Yet another way my father used to torture me was by forcing me to listen to smooth jazz. It actually became a form of punishment. When my sister and I fought he’d make us sit on the couch and listen to jazz until we begged him to let us apologize to eachother. Thankfully, I can do the same thing to him by playing Broadway showtunes on road trips. 

Level 5: The Public Library of Hell

Okay, you caught me, hell probablly doesn’t have a public library, but if it did it would be awful. First of all, I hate libraries. HATE THEM. Most people are shocked to hear that since I’m pretty much a bookworm, but it’s true. I hate that you can’t keep the books. I hate that the librarian went trigger happy with the stamp and defaced every book in the building. I hate that the books have lost their smell. I hate that you can’t finish them on your own time. I hate that you feel like the sound of your breathing is going to get a glare from other library patrons. I hate that once when I was 5 the storytime lady was rude to me. The library in hell would include all these things and worse: there would be a man employed specifically to read you the last page of every book you wanted to rent before you rented it.

Level 6: The McKinney Department of Motor Vehicles

Almost everyone has experienced the horror that is the DMV, but only a chosen few of us get the honor of feeling our souls slowly dying while waiting in line at the McKinney DMV. What makes ours so special? It could be because of the employees who either look like they’d be happier watching molassess move down a glacier or like the government is holding their families hostage and will kill them if they work too hard–they always seem incredibly frightened of efficiency. It could be because anyone who is anyone in McKinney knows that the best time to visit the DMV is between the hours of 9AM and 5PM and that you should always leave your paperwork at home so that you can have an excuse to come back again. Or it could be because the National Chapter of People Dedicated to Making the DMV Suck are holding a contest for the most ill-equipped-employees-who-wish-they-were-dead and McKinney is fighting hard for first place. Take your pick, I’m pretty sure all three reasons would be accurate. Regardless, if I had to spend eternity standing in that never-ending line and staring at that poster of the girl who’s face burned off in a drunk-driving accident, I think I’d kill myself (did you catch that one, too? Awesome.).

Despite all of these horrors, I would truly endure them all if it meant that I could be in the presence of God for the rest of my days. I could even mix all 6 levels together in a strange dog-infested Outdoor World in Japan run by DMV employees and that book-ruining dude from the library with smooth jazz playing on the intercom and all that pales in comparison to the unexplainable horror of being eternally separated from Christ. Thankfully, I know that my future includes a never-ending praise-and-worship session with Jesus leading the way. If you think that version of heaven sounds boring, then you haven’t met my Savior. I’ve experienced an unbelievable joy from knowing Him here on Earth and I can only imagine how crazy awesome it will be when I can actually see Him face to face–expect to see me belting my lungs out with praises. So forget imaging what hell will be like. I am 100% confident that I’ll be in heaven after I die, are you?

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.