Sunday Scriptures: Why Adam’s Rib?

Sunday Scripture

It was a normal Saturday morning: I was making the coffee and boiling the eggs for breakfast. The kitten was wining about not having any milk to drink and I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes enough to be forgetful of her. Steam screamed from the orange bauble-kettle and I turned off the burner to scoop Folgers into the French press, sprinkling the pile of dark grounds with a dash of orangy-brown cinnamon and pouring the steaming water up to the brim. After pealing the eggs and dousing them in black pepper, I sat down, opened up my Bible, and began to read. Not soon after taking my first bite of yolk-soaked toast, I was hit with this mind-shattering verse:

“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” 1 Corinthians 11:8-9

Now ladies, how do we feel about this?

As a newlywed, I have been learning quite a lot about my role as a wife, and let me tell you, it has not been an easy route; nor, I imagine, will it continue to be for quite some time. And perhaps it might have been a bit harder at first because of this fact: Men were not created for women. They were not created to serve them, respect them, love them, provide for them, or make them feel beautiful. They just weren’t. If they were, Adam would have been the second human, created to serve his wife Eve.

Instead, Eve was created for her man. She was to be his “help meet”. Meaning, she was a gift to Adam because she was completely designed to give him his every need. She was made from him and for him to be a helper, an encourager, a lover, and a team mate.

You all know the way it went, right? Eve was actually created from Adam’s rib. She actually was made from him. She is that much a part of him, and now, even though a wife is not cut from her husband’s side, she is still to come along side him (very much like a rib), and help him in the calling God has on his life.

Now, at first I thought that this meant women were below men, unequal and inferior to men. And to be honest, I had a little bit of a hard time swallowing this. Who of us ladies wouldn’t?

But this is not the case.

We were designed to be our husband’s help meet. So, we were created by God with a special man in mind for us. And when God created that man, he had us in mind as that man’s special helper. We were created, not to serve all men, but to serve and help and love and reverence one man: our husband.

Cover of "Adam's Rib"

Some of you may think: “Well Claire, this still seems like women get the short end of the stick!”

But it’s not true. We have the privilege of serving our husbands because, just like the Holy Spirit serves the Father and the Son and yet is still part of who God is, so we are in our marriages.

We are one with our husband. “The two shall become one flesh”— and so we are a part of him in a sense. Our natural design already is to nurture, encourage, love, defer to, and reverence. And when we do all of those very natural things for our counter part, our other half, our partner heir in the Kingdom, we make our husbands cherish us, love us, and value us as part of himself (his rib- if you will).

When we truly understand this scripture, we might read it as this: “For the Father is of the Son, but Christ is of God. Neither is the Father created for the Holy Spirit, but rather, the Holy Spirit was created for God.”

The only way, wives, we will ever see the beauty of the way God truly designed marriage to be, is if we start thinking of it as a reflection of God.

…However, I imagine some of you were like me that morning, utterly astounded and pretty much hacking up your breakfast when you read this kind of language. So….what does it mean to you?

How have you ladies seen this verse to be true in your lives? How has God been reflected in your marriage?

From Crying in the Weeds to Planting Seeds

Something evil was lurking in my body yesterday morning… I was unsettled and unhappy, but the reason for such a sour state of being was not apparent. This feeling soon grew to need a reason for it’s existence, so I began to pick a fight with my husband. Having a very bright morning, he was not altogether pleased with my needless anger and frustration, so of course, we had a giant argument….. right before church. How many young couples have been in this exact same situation before?

When we first joined our church, we experienced this kind of spiritual attack every Sunday morning. It seemed as though the Devil was working very hard to make us too ashamed and angry at ourselves and each other to be committed to our place of worship. So, when this came up again, I knew deep down that Satan was trying to prevent something from happening… but I had no idea how hard he would be working to break me that morning…

Upon arriving at church, I sat and sulked in the car, not wanting to see my husband lead worship, then I got fed up with sulking (because let’s face it, sulking is no fun) and so I started praying. It was very hard to hear God. I finally made my way into the church, trying hard to blend in and not be noticed (although, being the only white red-faced girl with a runny nose and teary eyes, this proved difficult).

For the rest of the service, I kept getting hit over and over with reasons to want to run. Far away.

It wasn’t that people were being especially cruel or rude (except for one unfortunate occasion), but it was clear that Satan was working to discourage my efforts in contributing to my church. Being still green to church membership and still coping with the fact that not all Christians in the church are perfect followers of Christ (see my previous blog post), I felt heartbroken at being so discouraged by my own church. Somehow I felt that this wasn’t the way it should be…

I came home sobbing, telling Dennis I never want to go back and that if no one appreciates my work or my creativity, then I’ll just go, or then we’ll just go and start our own church!

I literally would not stop crying.

Dennis was very sweet considering I had been a jerk to him earlier that same morning. He told me that what I was feeling made perfect sense….. But God still has called us to this church….so in other words, cry it out, then buck up and get on with it.

I cried for another hour, then decided to be less pitiful and start making some lunch (by this time it was 3pm and our stomachs were growling rather ferociously).

Over lunch I felt the Holy Spirit stirring in my heart. “I told you to plant that garden for a reason Claire. You blogged about it, but have you gotten your hands dirty in that soil yet?”

“I need to plant some seeds today.” I told Dennis.

“I was just thinking the same thing…” He replied. Although he was speaking a lot less literally than I was.

I went outside and got the pots ready with dirt and took out the weeds around our yard. While I was getting dirty and sweaty, Dennis went to get some beer. I know. Not exactly what you were expecting. But we took the beer over to our neighbors across the street and asked if the kids could come over for Bible Study and dinner later in the evening, then hung out on the porch with them, watching the kids play with the water hose and eat icy pops.

Allyiah, Stewie, JR, and Brianna came over to help me make pizza dough. The whole while I spoke to them about treating one another with respect and how to ask for things politely. (JR and Brianna were not as fond of each other and the kids kept grabbing things around our house and from each others’ pockets). Nevertheless, we mixed the flour and milk and butter together and we rolled out the the dough into little roundish disks and I let the kids splatter tomato sauce over it, throw cheese onto every corner of the pan, and sprinkle seasoning onto the little homemade pizzas. We stuck them into the oven and set the timer, and then met Dennis in the living room for Bible Study.

He had chosen Matthew 13: the parable of the sower. We read together, talked about what the seed represented, and what each part of the ground was. Then we read John 3:16 and talked about Jesus. The kids asked a lot of questions, and after showing them a movie clip of “Godspell”, Dennis asked them if they wanted to pray “the prayer” with him.

Let me start off by saying that I am not an avid evangelist by any means. I myself am a new Christian and so I feel somewhat hypocritical asking someone to start believing and living for someone I took so long to find myself. I also have not been trained in any evangelical methods, and so the prayer called “the prayer” was also fairly new to me.

I watched as these four children sat in my living room repeating after me and my husband. Their eyes were closed, they were really talking to God, perhaps for the first time, and they were speaking words to invite Jesus into their lives.

At first I thought, “Well, they don’t really know what they are saying… these are just words”. But then the power of this prayer began to sink in. These kids were admitting that sin was in their lives, that sin controlled the world they lived in, and especially in Roseland, where they are witnesses to violence, drugs, and sex everyday. They were confessing that they believe in Jesus Christ, that He died for them and that they loved Him. They were even vocalizing a choice to follow God and to live for Christ.

I felt the frustration with my church melt away little by little and I felt a quite voice inside of me say “You have planted the seeds, and their fruit is better than any you could reap from your literal garden outside. But I have called you to be a harvester for these children.”

A week or so ago I wrote about God’s unquestionable assignment to plant a garden. Now, we did go out and plant some seeds after dinner with the kids, but what I think God was really alluding to was planting the seed of God’s Word in the hearts of these young children.

The Gospel of Matthew explains that children are as the Kingdom of Heaven, and that if we as adults, humble ourselves as children, then we will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. The more I study Matthew, the more I am convinced that the Kingdom of God is already here; John the Baptist spoke of it’s coming, and Jesus brought it with Him when he gave us the Holy Spirit and taught us how to pray and live. Many are still waiting, and many are not contributing to it, but regardless, it is here and I know that I want to be sold out for it. Like the man who gave up everything to purchase a pearl of great price, I want to leave all to bring the Kingdom to Roseland.

Little children are Kings and Queens in this Kingdom. The poor, downtrodden, and weak are Kings and Queens in this Kingdom. This Kingdom does not look like any other idea of a kingdom that you could dream of or see in books and movies. This Kingdom is for the least of these. The nothings, the lowlifes, the scum, the dirty, the struggling, the lame, the blind, the sinners desperate for change. Children, wide-eyed, innocent, trusting, and believing, are the perfect candidates for Royal Subjects in God’s Kingdom, and last night, with all six of us praying to Jesus, we brought it a little closer to our part of the city.

Proverbs 22:6 states “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is older he shall not depart from it”. Even if this world takes over this block, even if Satan tests these children, just as he tested me that same morning, and even if they stray into sin, God promises that they will not depart from it when they are older. I pray that Dennis and I can continue to train up these children with Christ as the center, so that they will become good soil for the Word of God.

I truly am amazed how God turns what Satan meant for evil into His goodness. I don’t think I would be truly as surrendered to Christ last night if I had not been broken down earlier that morning. I know that I can always trust that God will encourage me in the areas I lack stamina; He will provide refreshment in the areas where I am dry and rocky; He will churn and tend to my heart so that it is ripe and ready for harvest, and all will see the Glory of God through the fruit of not our gardens or our grocery baskets, but by the fruit of our lives.

And so, when God says “plant a garden”, perhaps He means literally, but perhaps He is speaking in another parable.

“I Resolve to Date More Often”

 Each week my husband and I have a date night.

We work hard to set an entire evening (starting around 6:30 p.m.) to spending uninterrupted time with one another. This is a tradition and will remain a tradition, as I have seen it to be an essential to keeping our marriage happy and healthy.

I was reminded of this fact after having a yes–slightly tipsy–conversation with one of my husband’s close friends. 

He was telling me the importance of “guys night”, and how he really appreciated that I understood that it would be totally awful if I came along. He then explained to me how he loves conversation with Dennis and asked me what my “girls nights” looked like, wondering if they were anything like “guys nights”. To our surprise, the only thing that seemed to separate our idea of a good friend-hang-out session were cigars (the men being fond of those and the women, not so much).

But yes, it’s true, I did understand, as I too would not want my husband awkwardly sitting next to me while I chatted it up with my girl friends and sipped on coffee or ate appetizers….

We, as married people and as dating people, need both “guys/girls nights” as well as “date nights”. Tonight I will focus on the ever important Weekly Date Night

Now, I am well aware that there are many ways to have a date night, and each person has a different idea about what a good date night entails.

Here are 10 good ideas for fun and meaningful date nights for couples of all kinds! 

(Oh! side note: most the these options are “on the cheap” since my husband and I work to budget for a few “All-Out” date nights, but keep the majority of them affordable.)

1. Questionable Dinner – Write down a bunch of random questions, each on a slip of folded paper. Put the papers in a bowl and randomly draw one and answer it over dinner or desert at home.

This is great for new couples who are just getting to know one another, or old couples who want to reminisce  about the past, or learn some crazy-weird stuff about each other! Here is a sample list of questions.

2. Devoted to The Word – Do a weekly Bible study together! This way, you can read scripture together, learn from one another’s interpretations, and share with one another your walk with God.

My husband and I did a devotional study on love and marriage that we could both access from our iPhones. We especially liked the last one, as it helped us both articulate what it was that we first found attractive in the other person (something we needed to be reminded of at the time!).

3. Snack-Central – Make an array of snacky foods for dinner, spread it out on the bed, and watch your favorite tv series together.

Dennis and I LOVE West Wing, and our favorite snacks are smoothies, popcorn, hummus and pita chips/veggies, chips and salsa/guacamole, brie and fruit with cranberry sauce, cheese and crackers (with summer sausage for Dennis), and of course wine!

4. You-Comedy Night!- Each of you make a list of your favorite funny youtube videos. Alternate showing them to each other and vote on with three were the funniest!  We didn’t do this as structured, but one night Dennis and I just watched a ton of funny youtube videos and had a blast laughing together!

This is my favorite one followed closely by this or this. And this couple put together a list of their favorites.

5. Camera Fun- Find a flip cam, or a video camera of some kind and make a funny video. Or, do a photo shoot together.

Since my husband is a rock star, and I’m a person who enjoys taking photos, we have used this to our advantage and have had many photo shoots (mainly consisting of me behind the camera though…). However, we have not done the video portion yet. We were talking about doing a fake episode of “Cribs” to show off our fun apartment with it’s strange idiosyncrasies. I might have to push for that!

6. The Readers- Read a book over the course of a few weeks, meeting up each week to discuss it. It could be a fiction book or a nonfiction book.

Some books that Dennis and I have read and recommend:

The 5 Love Languages
This one is really great for any couple because it has some really great insights into how individuals feel loved. For the longest time, I would write Dennis these cute little love notes, and always wondered why he didn’t write them for me. After reading this book, I realized that words were my love language, and I was trying to love Dennis the way I wanted to be loved. Meanwhile, Dennis was doing really nice things for me to help me out: bringing me coffee when I had stayed up late studying (this was when we were dating in college), or making me lunch when I had a particularly busy day. Acts of service was Dennis’ love language, and he was trying to love me the way he wanted to be loved! Since we know how to love each other better, now I make him dinner and fold his laundry, and he writes me notes and tells me I’m beautiful.

Sacred Marriage    This book is a real earth-shattering one. If you are Christian and you are engaged to be married or already married, I would say this book is a must-read. Without knowing it, we all have notions about marriage in our heads that make us expect the craziest things of one another. This book taught me how to set priorities straight in a marriage, with God being the number one for both husband and wife.

Rocking the Roles     This is the book we are currently making our way through. It is also quite earth-shattering, even though it is slightly dated (I think it was written in the early 90’s). We both were struggling with our respective roles as husband and wife and this book really broke it down. We even had a huge Ah-Ha! moment where we finally realized some of our biggest differences. I would also say this is a must-read for married couples.

The Alchemist     Now, this is a fiction novel with a lot of truth behind it. When we first started dating Dennis told me his entire philosophy was based upon this book, and so, because I was crazy about him, I read it. I LOVED IT! It provides so many philosophical topics of conversation and the entire story could arguably be an allegory for something larger. Read this one or any of this author’s books, all of which would be a good choice.

Captivating and Wild at Heart     Both of these books are pretty great! Captivating is about women and Wild at Heart is about Men. I would recommend women reading Captivating while the men read Wild at Heart, all the while taking notes on each chapter. Then you can switch off and read the one about the opposite sex, and also take notes, comparing them with your spouse or significant other’s.

Other books that I’d like to read with Dennis:

Divine ConspiracyThe Four LovesDietrich BonhoefferEating AnimalsIn Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto , and The Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius  

7. Eco-Friendly and Equally Tasty – Start a garden together, then choose a day to harvest, or walk to a local Farmer’s Market and pick out some things. Go cook something up for lunch or brunch together with the fresh ingredients!

If you read my blog over the summer, you saw some sweet pictures of Dennis’ graduation/birthday gift to me, which was a vegetable garden! We even moved that potted garden to the South Side of Chicago when we left Bloomington, and have just harvested the last of the cinnamon oregano and green onions for the year.

Here is a great website where you type in your ingredients and they generate some possible recipes!

Here are some farmer’s market recipes!

Some Garden-growing help!

8. Smart Date with TED – For an intellectually stimulating date that we have yet to try (but may in fact this upcoming Friday!), choose a few TED talks to watch together. I was thinking of choosing from these due to the New Year. But your date could have a theme which you then find TED talks which have to do with said theme (such as work, dreams, technology, money, music, love, self-confidence, faith, inspiration, creativity, family…).

This kind of date would be a great way to expand your way of thinking, get to know each other intellectually, have stimulating and intelligent conversation, or just simply get inspired together.

9. A Bucket List Date –  Honestly, I keep stealing ideas from this blog, so I’ll just provide you with the link! This particular date sounds super fun and really useful for planning:

Create a “Bucket List” (things you want to do before you “kick-it”) separately. Perhaps limit it to 10 things you’d like to accomplish, places you like to go, or things you’d like to do. Share them with one another, then come up with anything else that you’d like to do together!  

This would be a great way to know what is important to your significant other or spouse as well as just have fun dreaming of the future together! You can even pair it with watching the movie The Bucket List as part of the date!

10. Splurge! – Go on an “All-Out” date.

The previous dates are all pretty cheap, which is how, as I mentioned, Dennis and I usually plan our weekly date night. But our numerous low-cost dates allow us to save for a rare and special occasion when we can go “All-Out”.

On our “All-Out” date, we will choose a really classy restaurant to go to, and we’ll get really dressed up to go to dinner. We’ll start with drinks, then slowly order an appetizer (we’re in no rush!). We’ll take our time with the food, and usually we will ask for a box so we can have leftovers later during we week (the portion sizes are usually pretty gigantic!).  We’ll sometimes choose a desert to share, if we’re not too full, or sometimes we’ll order the desert to-go and save it for another date night at home!

During our “All-Out “date, we don’t worry so much about price because we’ve saved enough to indulge. But there are always ways to make your “All-Out” date a little more manageable:  Ask for gift cards to nice restaurants for Christmas and Birthdays, pay attention to seasonal specials like this one a Maggiano’s which we just took advantage of, check Groupon or other coupon websites for deals, or go to a less fancy place and just make it fancy by dressing up and indulging in a 3 course meal!

Dennis and I usually like to try out new places for our “All-Out” dates, but we always seem to choose either Italian or Sushi places.

 

And there you have it! 10 super fun date night options for you and your special someone! I hope that part of your New Year’s Resolution is to take care of your relationships by being intentional with time, energy, and effort. 

What are some of your favorite dates? Can you and your spouse/significant other commit to a weekly date night reserved for only one another? 

Enjoy lovebirds!

A letter to a hottie

Dear Girl That Dresses Like a Hottie,

I saw you today in the CVS on Halstead.You walked by me in your skin-tight, hot pink, sleeveless dress, and I watched you stick your butt out as you strolled down the elise in your stilettos. You were buying diet coke and some cigarettes.

How can I convince you that you are beautiful?

Because you are. And it’s not because you have a tight, 19-year-old body. It’s not because you have globs of black mascara, shiny lip gloss, and highlighted hair. It has got nothing at all to do with the way you look right now, walking by me, all dolled up.

It is who you are that makes you lovely.

I want to ask you why? Why go out dressed like a club dancer? Why the low-cut, cleavage-bearing, short-skirted, skin-tight outfit? There is nothing good that this getup will bring to you.

You most certainly will attract a man, in fact, you’ll probably attract every man that passes by you (unless he is blind).  But I guarantee that those men will only be interested in your body and not your heart or mind, (and certainly not your soul).

Any guy that picks up on you while you are dressed like that will never last. He will not be the best friend, partner, and lover you long for. He will not affirm all that you need to hear. He will not be a good father to your child. He will not love you as you gain weight, turn gray, struggle with finances, get emotional on your period, or find a lump in your breast.

Perhaps you’re not looking for that man. Perhaps you want to have some fun while you’re still young and beautiful. Perhaps it feels nice to have a guy tell you that you look like America’s next top model, and perhaps you have convinced yourself that you only want one night of passion with no commitment.

I understand. But have you fully thought this through?

Just from the way you carry yourself, in your heels and short skirt, you are putting yourself at risk.

You could wind up a lover of a physical abuser. You could give your number to a convicted felon. You could find yourself alone in a bedroom where there are several guys waiting.  Your future husband could be repulsed by the way you are acting now. You could get pregnant.

You are also putting others at risk.

You are setting an example of what a woman is to every young girl who sees you walk by and thinks “I want to be loved like all the guys love her”. You are putting men who struggle with pornography and faithfulness to their wives as risk of temptation and sin. You are creating a situation where another woman may compare herself to you and feel insufficient in the way she dresses or looks. You are making it difficult for every man you pass to be a respectful, honest gentleman.

How you dress makes a statement about who you are. Especially as a woman. Because of this, I sincerely worry about you!

I am certain that you are not thinking about how lack of clothing can harm my own marriage.  I know when I was young, and even not so long ago when I was less conscious of myself, I didn’t think about these things either. Being a temptation to a married man might even be fun for you. But one day you yourself will be married, and a girl dressed like a hottie will strut in front of your man. Then you will understand.

I pray that you find the confidence and security to know that you are enough and that you deserve a loving, kind, and respectful man. I pray that you understand that you are enough to attract a good man, just as you are, without the makeup and push-up bra.

Somewhere out there is a man, who isn’t perfect, but who will adore you and cherish you and treat you the way you truly deserve to be treated.

Believe that you deserve to be treated as treasure and don’t settle for anything less.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  
With much much love (and I mean that),

Claire

“I hate the world!”

How many of you are like Linus over there and totally hate someone? Okay, maybe not hate, but how many of you “severely dislike” someone in your life? It could be a co-worker, a classmate, your boss…a member of your family…

Chances are, there will be some people in your life that you won’t really like. It’s natural right? We’re all so different and sometimes those differences just get in the way….

Okay, another question: How many of you hate all people as a whole?

… Unless you’re a moody teenager or an endangered species, you probably answered “no” to this question. I mean, how can we make a generalization like that?

All people? Well, I’m a person, so no way!”

People often times love humanity and are despicable towards individual human beings. It’s easy to love everyone as a whole because it’s a generalized notion of who people are as a species or a community. It’s a whole lot harder to love our neighbors as individuals, especially if we know them really well.

But the Bible tells us that we must hate the world and love our neighbor. We are supposed to have  great contempt for humanity as a whole, but great love for the individuals who enter into our lives.

Some may object, saying “But God loved the world didn’t he? He sent it only son here!”.

Well, that’s true… which it why it’s difficult to understand why we are called to hate the world that God loves so dearly.

A look at two passages of the Apostle John reveals this intrinsic tension.  On the one hand, as the former argument references, John writes, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16).  On the other hand, he tells us, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him” (1 John 2:15).

The issue is clear. We are in the world, a world that God loves, and a world in which we have a purpose.  And yet we are not of this world (we were created by something divine, not the the mundane earth), and we should guard against falling in love with this world.

The New Testament often uses the word “world” (“kosmon” in Greek) to refer to culture, or the results of human activity and creativity.  Obviously these different uses also have different connotations:

1.) The first is neutral or maybe even a positive one:  World is seen as the created order, including the actual physical earth (Matthew 24:21), the people living on it (Matthew 4:8; John 12:19), human life (1 Timothy 6:7), and the target of the disciples’ mission (Matthew 5:14).  Though sin entered into this world by the Fall, it and its inhabitants are seen as God’s beautiful creation.

2.) The second usage has a negative connotation.  World consists of human things controlled by Satan, in open rebellion against God.  The earth and its inhabitants are seen as involved in a cosmic struggle between spiritual forces due to sin (Ephesians 6:12).  In this battle, the sinful world didn’t recognize Jesus as God when He came to this earth (John 1:10), so it, as a whole, is an evil place due to its imperfections.

Are things clearing up a little?

Now there are a few typical responses that occur when Christians read passages like those that I just referenced.

First response: opposition and separation.  

The history of Christianity is filled with examples of this response.  Early Christians rejected Greco-Roman culture, declaring it idolatrous and corrupt.  The monastic movement of the Middle Ages pushed for complete withdrawal from the world.  Many Protestant sectarian movements–the Brethren, Mennonites, Anabaptists, Quakers, and also the Millerites –also embraced this approach.

Those who choose this route, I am confident, do so with a sincere belief that they are living out the Word of God.  Their sincerity should be respected.

However, the Bible does not mandate a complete withdrawal and isolation from the world. We are created to be social beings, and it is within a society or a culture that we live, work, worship, and witness.  At most those who break away from the world simply develop a different culture or subculture.  More importantly, this response implies that sin is caused by the world, whereas the Bible teaches that sin begins within the mind.

Second response: assimilation.  

This position assumes that culture is basically good.

Stressing peace and love, cooperation and communication, this approach allows the gospel to be interpreted, understood, and embraced in a multitude of ways.  In the process, the essence of the gospel becomes compromised and suddenly we get Christ as the “great moral teacher” rather than the Lord of life and sole Savior of the world.  Thus, Christianity becomes an all-embracing humanitarianism;  there is blurred distinction between the realms of God and Satan, propped by a moralistic humanism which poses a case for universal salvation…. and we all should know that is NOT what the Bible teaches.

But how do we understand culture, community, and our commitment of faith? Where do we draw the line between the demands of society and the kingdom of God?

In order to engage critically with our surrounding world, we must balance four biblical approaches to it:

1. Separation from anything openly contrary to God’s revealed will.

2. Affirmation of everything that is compatible with God’s revelation and original plan for humanity.

3. Transformation of individual human beings to become unified with God’s principles.

4. Contribution to the surrounding culture through elements that benefit humanity and enhance life.

And in order to see the world this way, we must seek our wisdom from the Holy Spirit and God’s Word so we may allow God to guide us in our choices rather than let our own selfishness lead our worldly conquests.

Doing God’s will where we are

In Mark 5:1-20, Jesus frees a man from an evil spirit. Afterwards, the man wanted to follow him,  but Jesus told his new follower to return home–to his own culture–and share the good news with his family and friends.

Here is the key to a Christian understanding of culture: Be a follower of Jesus where you are. No matter the situation, no matter the people you are surrounded with (who you might dislike). We are called to love those individuals, even if we hate the torn-apart world that surrounds us and effects us.

As Reinhold Niebuhran American theologian and commentator on public affairs, noted: As Christians we “… are forever being challenged to abandon all things for the sake of God; and forever being sent back into the world to teach and practice all the things that have been commanded (us).”

 

How do you, as a follower of Christ, live in this world and survive in today’s sinful culture? Or am I way off? Is our culture not evil at all?  

Stepping it up

So, news flash on Claire’s personal life for a sec:

Last year’s STEP-UP Fellows (can you find me?!)

I am currently working with an urban education teacher preparation partnership with Chicago Public Schools and Illinois State University. It provides an intensive live-in internship for undergraduates working towards becoming urban educators and community workers. It’s called STEP-UP.

I had this internship last year and it literally changed my life.

Currently I am on staff for STEP-UP and I have a feeling it may be equally life altering.

Today, somewhere in between meeting with the GADC and St. Sabina’s Employment Resource Center and visiting all of Auburn-Gresham incredibly welcoming (and entertaining!) host families, I found myself thinking about all the strengths and qualities that my team, an incredible group of educators, posses.

This job–heck, even the internship–is very demanding and could be considered high-stress. It requires long hours and constant work, but also continuous self-exploration, intrinsic motivation, and an other-worldly  kind of collaboration that I have never before experienced here on this planet as of yet.

I started thinking about all these demands, and I then surprised myself.

You see, usually when I am in a situation where I have a lot of pressure and stress on me, I freak out and stress out. But this time I’m not doing any freaking or stressing.

I looked at the team of people I am working with and it all made sense.

I could go deeply into all the reasons why I am incredibly grateful to be working with each of them, but that would be a terribly long post. I’ll keep it short. The most important thing you need to know in order to understand happened last night:

It’s 10:45pm, we’ve all been up since at least 6am and have been working pretty much non-stop with no dinner break. You would think that energy would be low and people would be drained, grumpy, and snippy. But no! Yes, each of us feels tired, but it’s that good kind of tired that leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. The energy is lower, but still very  positive.

The stress and frustration that could easily come about from the late hour and the little kinks that have come up in our planning is replaced with a shared patience and love from the group as a whole that I can’t explain in worldly terms. But here, I’ll try: These folks got my back, and I got theirs’! Why worry?! 

My affection for my own team got me thinking about Jesus’ Team: the 12 Disciples. 

In my last post I picked apart the meaning of the word “Disciple” and since then I’ve been contemplating and reading about what it truly means to be one.

What are the demands and skill-sets needed to fill the job description of one of Jesus’ 12? 

In the next few weeks, while I continue to work within my own job’s high

demands and long hours, and while I monitor our intern’s progress and skill-sets, I want to explore what it truly means to be a Disciple of Jesus Christ in this current world.

I want to send in my resume to Jesus so I can apply for the position of Disciple. I want to get the job, and I want to discover how to ROCK IT!

…… Okay, maybe not exactly like that.

But seriously, what do you think? What makes a “good” Disciple? What would be the job manuel for a Disciple of Christ? If you were offered the job (and you are) would you take it ( or…. have you taken it)?

Look out for more posts on this topic to come in the upcoming weeks!

Are you a “stalker”?

So, you’re an online blog-reader.

Annnnnd….I know from my stats that most of you get to this blog via facebook.

Have you ever heard someone start a sentence using these words: “so I was facebook stalking the other day…”?

Not you. Oh no, I know you would never partake in such a degrading and time-sucking practice as “facebook stalking”… NEVER!

The truth is, we all have been guilty of clicking through someone’s profile pictures, or following the chain of people who commented on so-and-so’s recent status update, then ended up looking at pictures of a stranger’s baby or dog or….something else equally invasive and downright creepy.

The truth is, we can know a lot about a random person that we are facebook ‘friends’ with. We can know that they like to ride their bike to work or that they are obsessed with One Direction. We can even know who they are dating, when they stopped working at the Dairy Queen, and (if they are as detailed with their status updates as some people I know) how often they go work out at the gym or what they’re making for dinner on Sunday night.

You could know all these random things about complete strangers!

And you’d be considered a genuine stalker in most people’s books.

…Although, social networking and people’s openness about sharing their lives with the world wide web has made this pretty much typical and even expected.

What I’ve found to ring so true for me is this: Often times, we are what I like to call Jesus Stalkers.

We know our Bible verses and our Be-attitudes and we wear our WWJD bracletts (are those even a thing anymore?)– fine. We wear our “Jesus is my Homeboy” tee shirts, and we go to church, and we know about what Jesus said and what he did and who he cured and how he died and how he rose and all of that good stuff.

And that’s good, right?

See, the weird part is that most Jesus Stalkers look like devout Christians who are highly informed about Jesus.

But again, the truth is, you can be highly informed about the dude who sits next to you in Philosophy Lecture hall simply because you’re BFF is ‘friends’ with him on facebook and follows him on twitter.

Knowing a lot of information about someone does not mean you know them. I mean like truly know them. On a personal level.

But see, Jesus wants us to know him personally, intimately, and deeply. He doesn’t want to be stalked. He wants to be walked with, talked with, listened to, and he wants our time.

If you google “stalker definition”, you get this:

stalk·er/ˈstôkər/

Noun:
  1. A person who stealthily hunts or pursues an animal or another person.
  2. A person who harasses or persecutes someone with unwanted and obsessive attention.
 Jesus had a few stalkers back in his day too. They were called the Pharisees. They knew everything he was teaching, what he was claiming, and what he was doing. They harassed and persecuted him because they were obsessed with the Law, which Jesus came to demolish, then rebuild in an even better way.
We are not called to be stalkers of Jesus, we are called to be Disciples.

dis·ci·ple/diˈsīpəl/

Noun: A personal follower of Jesus during his life, esp. one of the twelve Apostles.

Verb: Guide (someone) in becoming a follower of Jesus or another leader.

Synonyms: follower – pupil – adherent – learner – apprentice

This is what we want to be. A follower, a pupil, a learner.

The system of apprenticeship first developed in the Middle Ages. A master craftsman was entitled to employ a young person as an inexpensive form of labor in exchange for providing food, lodging and formal training in the craft. Apprentices lived and worked with the master for years and years until they had successfully mastered the craft completely. The idea of “one teacher per student” was adopted by many Zen teachers in practicing their art as well.

If we want to be true followers of Christ, we have to live and work with Him. We have to be one-on-one with Him. And because his craft is utter perfection, we will never master it completely, so we’ll have to keep learning from him every day, no matter how much we feel we know or how “good” we get at being “good”.

 So how about you? How long have you been a Jesus Stalker? 
What does it mean to know Jesus on a personal level?
What does your relationship with Jesus look like? Are you a true disciple?

Why God wants you to keep a journal

Today is an epic day. 

I finished my last journal entry in my self-bound book and began to write in a new book.

Whenever I crack the spine of a new journal to begin documenting my life, I feel as though I should make an introduction of some sort. Now, I know it doesn’t make logical sense: to introduce yourself to a bundle of paper. And yet it has been made quite clear to me (by numerous amounts of experiences and opinions of other people) that I am far from a logical person by nature and design.

*sign* I just love words!

I feel a sense of attachment to my journals. I do spend a great deal of time with each of them, and I pour out much of my heart and brain into them. I almost feel as thought my notebooks turn into… horcruxes. (any Potter fans out there?)– as if a piece of my own self resides within the pages.

I do realize that this notion is quite absurd. My identity rests in nothing of this world, not even language. However, language can be used to express what my identity does rest in, and so language and words and writing… well they are important.

And not just to me.

Words are important to God as well.

First of all, I just have a feeling that God wants me to be able to use words to tell you that my real identity rests in nothing other than Jesus Christ, the most important Man in my life.

Luke, the writer of the Gospel which I have least explored, recognizes the necessity to record the story of Christ for the “servants of the word” (Luke 1:2)

John, the writher of the Gospel with which I am most familiar with (so I’ll go into this a little deeper), starts off his work with these lovely verses:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:1-5

Obviously John was not a grammar teacher…

Now, I want to unpack this, because it’s confusing. And not simply because John cannot seem to choose one tense to write his Gospel in (as sometimes happens when one gets really excited about Jesus).

First of all, the Word of God is what exists, has existed, and will exist forevermore (perhaps this is the real reason for John’s seemingly laxidasical switching of grammatical tenses).

So the Word of God is first of all a proper noun, and it is what gives life to all people and all things. The Word of God is, I believe, and many theologians and fellow young bible readers agree, none other than Christ.

If you substitute “Christ” for “The Word”, you get a very clear depiction of what the rest of John’s Gospel will be all about. Let’s give it a try, shall we?

In the beginning was Christ, and Christ was with God, and Christ was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 

… That being stated, everything the “Word” does is actually what Christ does. Words, in this case, are the vehicle, the platform for bringing the said “life” and “light” to all people.

God uses words to call us all into being, and he puts the truth and love and perfection of his words into a physical form (coughJESUScough) so that we can see how to live the Gospel– the Word of God.

The Word in Three Forms

This is where I myself begin to better understand the Holy Trinity in a deeper sense. The Word of God is God, but then takes the form of a living man, then of a Spirit, which is mysterious and scary and… rather unexplainable to be honest! I’m talking about the Holy Spirit.

But unexplainable as it may be, it is this Holy Spirit which now dwells within each of our hearts and moves us to action. All three: Word, man, and Spirit is one God.

Some of the most beautiful experiences that I have had with the Holy Spirit have been with his words.

Now, the bible tells us that the Spirit intercedes for us during prayer, with groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26). But the Spirit also has inspired some incredible pieces of writing without which we as Christians would not even exist!

I’m talking about the Bible folks. The Word of God.

So Paul and Soloman and John and Moses and David and a bunch of other people all contributed to writing it over years and years and years, but we do not believe that it was only mortal men. No. See, we believe that God uses language and people to write his words and his story for our benefit.

It all ties back to words. Or rather, The Word.

The Gospel According to Claire… JK!

Now, I don’t go all into this to tell you that I believe I am writing the words of God.

But I do take my position of writer very seriously.

Words have power, even if you are the only one who hears them (which is really never the case since God always hears them as well). And I personally have been deeply moved and changed by the words of others, so who’s to say that the Holy Spirit won’t speak through me and with my words? I have witnessed him speaking through others many a time!

You see, maybe God didn’t design all of us to be incredible Super Heros. But the Bible tells us that he has given us spiritual gifts which he awards us in order to help spread his message and truth.

What if we took every talent we had this seriously?

What if, with every special skill or uncovered ability we realized we possessed, we all sought after ways to give it back to God– the one who gave it to us in the first place?

It might be to preach at a newly-planted church, or a teacher in an inner-city school, or a motivational sports speaker, or a doctor saving the lives of potential believers, or it might be “just” a  barista who hands sleepy-heads morning coffee with a warm smile. What if, no matter what we were doing, we were constantly striving to serve selflessly like Jesus did?

That, my friends, is how to live the word of God.

My Gift

God blessed me with an odd obsession with words when I was a small child which turned into a love for writing when I was a teen. Now, God has molded that gift into a distinct writer’s voice that I am speaking to you in now.

Why wouldn’t I take that seriously and want to use it for his intention?

So that is what I am doing.

And that is why I find a great deal of meaning and importance in the seemingly simple practice of keeping a journal or updating a blog.

What about you?

What is your experience with journal-keeping? Are you as obsessed with words and writing as I am?

Do you have any talents that you are seeking to use for God’s will? What spiritual gifts do you feel you’ve been blessed with?

Tell me what you think and about your experience!

online neighbors

So I was listening to WBEZ the other day (I’m currently addicted, so much so that I go online to listen to them when I’m not driving around Chicago-land), and they did this whole special on Chicago neighborhoods. A lot of interesting topics were brought up that I won’t go way into, but I did want to blog about it today. 

I noticed a lot of people bashing the online world as a key destroyer of human connection.

“Kids now-a-days don’t know how to have an actual conversation that doesn’t include texting or tweeting.”

“We are an isolated society that finds fulfillment in meaningless connections over the internet instead of face to face interaction that used to be so valued.”

“Once upon a time, when someone on the sidewalk flashed you a grin, it was considered a friendly gesture…now, it feels more like a confirmation of crazy. People, it seems, tend to be fearless online but increasingly terrified of face-to-face interactions.”

Being a blogger, and (I’ll admit) a constant pinterest, facebook, and twitter user, I can’t say that I whole-heartedly agree.

Chances are, since you are currently online reading my blog instead of hanging out with your neighbors, you probably also consider the world wide web as a community of sorts. It is a place to connect with people, have conversations, find out about other people or news, share ideas, and get new ideas. With how many million people follow me on pinterest alone (slight exaggeration there), I know that these online tools and social networks are highly used by many members of American society and even the world society at large. To say that all connection on these sites is meaningless is a bit absurd.

However, I do understand where some people are coming from when they blame social networking on the decline of neighborliness. People probably know their “friends” on facebook better than they do the person who lives across the street from them, and kids are getting better and better at finding ways to pass the time by sitting in front of a computer instead of playing outside with the kids down the block. Also, I have come to find that pinterest provides a false sense of productivity when people are “pinning” cool crafts and recopies instead of making them in real life. It’s even possible to feel a false sense of church community by all of the sermons and Christian blogs available with the click of a mouse, and I know that this can cause some major issues when it comes so socializing and community.

However, even before we all had laptops can could listen to John Piper on our iphones rather than attend Sunday service, there were issues with “genuine connection” and true “neighborliness”.

Some suggest that the specific decline in neighbors knowing one another had more to do with architecture than anything else. Houses and apartments were built with back porches rather than front porches, and yards were fenced in rather than open. This made people more seclusive…. or was it the other way around? Did people gradually get more successive and then all the sudden start building their houses to reflect that?

Also, air conditioning and cable tv. We sit inside to entertain ourselves and stay cool rather than sit out on our front stoop to see people walking by and getting to know our community.

Then of course, there is always the issue of race. Many people began to break off and away from certain neighborhoods because of different ethnicities moving in. Ever heard of “white flight“?

One of my theories is this:  People have become self-reliant and have placed a seriously high value on their own individuality.

While I think its great that so many people have so much self-esteem and are so confident in their abilities, I don’t know if this ideology is justified by Christ, or by our genuine human need for community.

Our culture has convinced many of us that serving ourselves is the most important thing and it teaches us that independence is a quality we should admire and aspire for. But this distorts the truth about Christ’s selfless sacrifice and his emphasis on communion with others.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that we all should take time to be alone and to seek our God alone to become refreshed and renewed in his Truth, but what I won’t buy into is the lie that loving others and creating community requires my own self-confidence and self-reliance to be supremely fed.

Jesus had friends that he hung out with (reject friends at that!). Jesus knew people and talked to people, and they were usually the ones that no one else wanted to be seen around. He ate and drank with people (and actually was persecuted in part because of this fact) and wherever he traveled, he loved the people there and gave them his time. He did not come to be served, he came to serve. He did not build up his walls so he could worship God all alone and rely on himself, but he humbled himself. He had the woman at the well, who no one would talk to, give him water. He asked John, his cooky cousin, to baptize him. He asked his disciples to prepare the passover meal and get him a donkey. He was not self-reliant, and he totally could have been because, well, he’s God.

Now I know I’ve gone off on a little tangent here, but mainly, the point I wish to make is this:

Community is important, but there a many different kinds of communities. Jesus had his apostles, friends, his family, his church, and then his followers who were spread about the land. We have our friends, our friends, our family, our church, our facebook profile, our blogring… whatever. It’s clear that we need people. We need connection. We need others to be with us and in communication with us.

God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” I think he was dead on….well, he is dead on about everything really, but this part is no exception.

How about you? What do you think of online communities? How can we make our social networking connections meaningful and Christlike? If you have any insights, ideas, or revelations, please let us know by posting a comment. I’d love to hear your input, as always!

Sexy

… I knew that title would get your attention.

The truth is I have been rather disturbed by our culture’s general view of sex. It is disgusting to me that pornography is one of the biggest money-making industries out there and I have become almost paranoid about men looking at me as simply a body rather than a person.

This is partially because I need to repent of my own sins and forgive the general culture’s addictive and idolizing tendencies because truth be told, I have my own vices which I am working on. I also need to remember that Christ forgives all sins, no matter what they are.

But the issue that I seem to be coming up against is that not all people really see their sex-obsession as a problem. In fact, some people even identify themselves by their sexuality, making it so much of a part of who they are that it truly becomes an idol to them, something they define their own worth by.

I know I am guilty of this. I mean, what girl doesn’t feel flattered when a guy thinks she’s attractive? But really…. deep down, we all are searching for something more than just flattery. We’re searching for a man who can make us feel truly loved, truly appreciated, truly accepted, and truly captivating.

But there is only one man who can do that, and his name is Jesus Christ. Every other man falls short of the glory that is God, and that’s how it was meant to be. It is meant to be that way because it forces us to need God so much and to depend on Christ’s love and fulfillment so that we do not mistake another man or a sexual act or a drug or another form of pleasure as God.

Our culture really does worship sex.

It is because we as humans are designed to worship. But we have gotten confused during that path and have turned to created things rather than the creator of things.

I could go on and on, but it’s rather late, and honestly, this guy says it better.

Sex: God, gross, or gift

Please take the time to listen to Mark Driscoll teach about sex both in and outside of marriage. It has both convicted me and inspired me to truly see sex as a gift rather than a gross think, or, like many people today seem to see it as, a God.

After you listen, please take the time to answer my poll. Thanks!