The Life I See

As I was drifting off to bed last night after a long work day I had two thoughts:

 

  1. I’m missing my #100daycreativechallenge post
  2. I’m feeling delusionally inspired to write a mini manifesto for the life I want

 

I’m equally tired and delirious tonight but not only do I want to write my life manifesto but I also owe myself and the creative challenge a post for today.

 

So here’s what I will write for The Life I see:

I see a life that is filled with laughter and purpose

I see a life that contains a family fully focused on Jesus and His kingdom

I see a life with a family of sons and daughters

I see a life with a  family of adopted sons and daughters

I see a life of writing adventures inspired by God’s faithfulness

I see a life that includes people who are not included

I see a life that is filled with unexpected generosity

I see a life that has a home where anyone is welcome to stay

I see a life that contains travel and conferences and speaking engagements

I see a life that is ever focused on drawing closer to God

I see a life that never forgets its purpose

 

Christ Before Me, Christ Behind Me

The past few weeks have been, challenging.

So much good is in my life and yet equally we can all agree that there will always be something trying to pull you down.

Let me paint a picture for you.

I volunteer at Hillsong NYC as one of the leaders for Venue Design. This means all the signage, seasonal decor, etc is set up every week and broken down every week to make the venues we occupy feel more like home. We’ve been using this long poster box to house promotional materials, but if you know anything about the boxes shopping items come in, sometimes the weight of what you are carrying was not meant to hold all that is inside.

Hello.

But that’s a whole other sermon am I right?

The point is I saw someone try to lift that weight today and the box crumbled. Papers were everywhere and crumpled, and although the ideal thing would be to have a stronger box, sometimes you have to work with what you have.I explained the situation earlier today to my mom by saying “it’s like trying to carry a brick in a tissue box”.

That’s how it has been internally for my family the past few weeks.

For those of you who might be new to my blog and life journey, my older brother is schizophrenic. He has a kind, often simple spirit and is often mistaken for my little brother because of his temperament. When he was 21 he was diagnosed after a paranoid episode that he had never experienced before. They say mental illness strikes at that age if it is going to strike at all in a person’s life.

I both love my brother and feel like I do not know my brother.

These few weeks have reminded me of that very point.

Schizophrenia is often misunderstood in the media because so often you see people with mental illnesses villainized. Not every person is going to go totally off the deep end or endanger their life or other people’s lives. For my brother it is a matter of failing to identify fantasy or imagination from reality. It’s a confusion where he currently does not believe that our birth mother is our actual mother, it is a situation where he believes he is actually a hero in a video game he is currently playing. It’s a kind of imagination that you cannot always escape from.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Inception it reminds me of that. You go deeper and deeper into levels of dreams and after a while you feel like you can’t wake yourself up.

Some days its hard to cope with. I know I cannot save my brother. I know that he has a life ahead of him in Heaven of total health and to God be the glory for that. I am grateful that this is a promise we as a family can look forward to. However there are real human realities that you deal with as well. Sometimes that just feels like giving up. Sometimes that just feels tormented by the lies of the enemy. Sometimes you wonder why God hasn’t healed your brother. All of these things are acceptable to feel. But I was reminded at church today that my circumstances do not need to alter my convictions. My conviction is that God is good and loves my brother and while his mind might betray him our God never will.

God is behind me. God is before me.

God is likewise behind you and before you.

Let our hearts not grow weary. God is good and the things today on Earth will not hold us. We have eternity of joy as our future.

Don’t Make Enemies of Friends

The title of my post today is completely credited to the teacher of the Evening College course at Hillsong NYC. Nathan said this one thing and it’s stuck with me. I don’t believe that’s by accident. We all at one point or another look at one body of Christ or Christian and disapprove of their behavior. We might disagree with the way they look or do church, or their gifts, or the fact that they do not do something we do. The possibilities are endless really.

I wasn’t planning on posting today but I awoke from an afternoon nap today and saw that there was somewhat of a social media battle online.

I like social media.

I also don’t like social media.

It’s this weird tension where I love the cool things and the breadth of reach you get from it, but I also don’t like the faceless hate and criticism that people use it for.

The point is, I saw a friend of mine made it into a public volunteer church photo today. And in the midst of the innocent and expected shout outs to her Instagram handle to let her know she was in the photo…there was one, still small voice. And it was judging the posture of what it appeared like she was doing in the photo.

Now in church, I’ve heard the pastors mention sometimes the level of bullying and hate they see on our official pages and personal pages. It really ranges depending on the day. Sometimes it’s an attack on physical appearance and sometimes it’s an accusation about their character and if our church is a cult.

The sad part to me in reading this back and forth conversation today is twofold:

  1. Seeing the girl explain herself in the photo i.e. the timing and angle of the snapshot and the accuser’s total disregard for that explanation.
  2. Seeing members of our church try to explain that we need not worry about what it looks like to the accuser. And see where along the way the tone could be misread and seen as mocking or mob mentality i.e. some ganging up on one.

The sad thing is, both sides are Christians. Now I can’t read hearts like Jesus can, but I am giving the person I do not know from church the benefit of the doubt.

I think at times like this we need to be careful what conclusions or judgements we make towards brothers and sisters in Christ.

These were my initial thoughts and I hope they serve as a reminder for me and for you, my sweet friends:

  1. Assume the best in people, not the worst.
  2. Realize that in judging another Christian in a public way, it makes non-believers feel like they are already out of the game. If you have no grace for your Christian family, why would an outsider think you would have any for them?
  3. As humans we do not know someone’s heart. Yes we can see one sound byte online or a photo that could be misinterpreted, but ultimately if someone explains themselves I believe we owe it to that person to accept it. We are called to love God and love people and the judgement is left for God. He has motive X-ray vision, He has heart night-vision goggles.
  4. Be mindful of how you could be misinterpreted in a quick online post. If you feel that you explained yourself in grace and your conscience is clear, let your reply stand, don’t go back and forth with them in an argument.
  5. Matthew 18 doesn’t always get used in an online forum but it should:

15-17 “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.

If you are attacked online by another Christian I think you have two choices: to ignore it, or to respond Biblically to it. I fully believe that you can try to diffuse a situation by explaining yourself truthfully. If that is not received, I don’t think you need to take the rest of the scripture and spin it out of control. What I mean is you don’t go and talk trash to your other friends and have them gang up on that one person. I’m saying you can rely on their counsel and be at peace that they will tell you if you were wrong or to let the drama go. If a friend or pastor feels like at that point its ok to stand up in truth and defend you as well that’s ok too, but I think the mistake is turning one bad comment into a debate. It’s not a good look for anyone.

I’m not perfect. None of us will ever fully understand God or people on this Earth. We are only human and our thoughts are not high like God’s thoughts. There are still times when I wonder if someone is truly a believer because of their behavior. We all can feel justified to “fruit inspect”. I do think there’s a way to be respectful and concerned for someone instead of picking up their fruit and throwing it back at them.

It reminds me of that scene in Wizard of Oz. If you don’t know it here’s an excerpt:

Dorothy
Oh, apples! Oh – look! Oh!
Ouch!
Tree
What do you think you’re doing?
Dorothy
We’ve been walking a long way, and I was hungry and – did you say
– something?
First Tree
She was hungry!
Second Tree
She was hungry!
First Tree
Well, how would you like to have someone come along and pick something off of you?
Dorothy
Oh dear! I keep forgetting I’m not in Kansas.
Scarecrow
Come along, Dorothy – you don’t want any of those apples. Hmm!
First Tree
Are you hinting my apples aren’t what they ought to be?
Scarecrow
Oh, no! It’s just that she doesn’t like little green worms!

I think a lot of times we can be any of these three people.

We can be Dorothy. We saw an apple, a Christian, and were surprised that they scolded us. You thought we were all on the same journey and the same “team”, team Jesus.

We can be the Tree. Offended that we are being questioned. Defensive.

Or we can be the Scarecrow. We can be somewhat of the instigator. You don’t want to associate with THOSE apples. Or you’re one of THOSE Christians. Oh your picture isn’t honoring God. You should know what kind of person THAT is. Etc etc.

All of this to say, let’s just be kind to each other. None of us have this all figured out. We’re at different stages in our walk with God. We’re learning Biblical lessons at different times. We are getting revelations from God at different times. We are changed but we are changing still.

Have grace.