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Facebook Stalking God

If you took a poll amongst my friends, I’m quite certain that whether best friends and acquaintances (I’d just like to note here that I do NOT know how to spell that word without spell-check), if you asked them to describe my top two characteristics, they would say: Facebook stalker and awkward human being.

I LOVE to Facebook stalk. I mean.. for the most part I think everybody Facebook stalks, I’m just way more public about it. But I do it so much and I’ve gotten so good at it that it’s become sort of like a game to me. Like… How much can I figure out about a person through Facebook? Also, our timelines aren’t finite sources of information. We update, comment, like, etc. everyday! There’s always something new to learn about someone! In a way, it feels like Facebook is saying, “Are you up to the challenge??” And to that I say… Challenge accepted, Facebook. Challenge. Accepted.

The thing is… I’m never really satisfied with just Facebook stalking. Most of the time it makes me want to hang out with that person in real life more and more. Like.. “I see that you like eating popcorn and watching Mean Girls… I too… like eating popcorn and watching Mean Girls..” or… “I see you have a Doctor Who poster hanging up in your room… in that picture you posted… last year… I too… like Doctor Who..” And after hours of creeping on everything there is to creep on their timeline, I’m left to face the fact that…. I do not actually know them.

I’d like to say that I do draw a line between friendly online creeping and actual watching-you-from-a-tree-outside kind of stalking. I do have some sort of self-control that allows my friendships to happen organically (even though I most likely have Facebook stalked them prior to meeting them in person) rather than trying to contrive them. ..generally… yea… anyway.

When Facebook Stalking moves to Actual Relationship

It’s a magical moment when I finally get to hang out with someone I’ve only ever known through Facebook stalking.

I’m thinking about the people in my life, some really close friends that I had stalked like… two years ago and now are some of my best friends. As much as I love creepin’ on their pictures and finding really random things they liked on Facebook, it’s nothing compared to the things I find out about them through real life interactions…

Like the way she can’t make eye-contact with you when you complement her. The way he addresses you by your first name in situations where normally, people wouldn’t think it necessary to because of familiarity but he does so because he so respects and cherishes your company. The way she has a facial expression to go with everything and anything she says. The way she naturally facilitates group activities, not because she doesn’t think what we’re doing is fun or feels excluded, but because she’s used to being the big sister and she loves her role as being the one who gives the opportunity for others to have so much fun. (I’m referring to specific things about a few different people here)

These are just a few examples of the little things I love about my friends that I only know because we actually spent time together face-to-face.

Creeping on Jesus

Another important thing to know about me is that I love to read. I don’t really read fiction… but about 3 or 4 years ago, I started to really love studying theology. I love to read books, articles, blogs, journals, etc.

Now and then I wonder, at what point am I just knowing things about God rather than actually knowing Him?

It’s like saying you’ll go on a coffee date with a friend… but you only ever talk about getting coffee, and like.. you only end up reading customer reviews about potential coffee shops where you could have this coffee date… and then you like… only ever end up talking about what kind of coffee you’ll drink at your coffee date.. and.. whether or not that coffee is fair trade or whatever…. and brainstorming what topics you’ll discuss during the date… You get the point. You never actually gain any ground in your relationship and most importantly, no coffee has been consumed. (Maybe not most importantly… but still…)

Now and then, I get worried that my knowledge of things about Him is disproportionate or takes precedence to my intimacy and knowing of Him.

How many of us can say with a definiteness, if all things go to absolute crap, that it matters not because we know God. Many of us have a testimony we can share… we’ve practiced the 2-minute version of our conversion story to whip out if occasion called for it… but how many of us, without hesitation, could say that we have known God throughout our ups and downs in life?

When I think about knowing my friends versus knowing things about them, the difference lies in the knowing them that goes beyond a list of facts. There’s this transcendent knowing of them that goes like: I know you. The deep down inside you. The things that break your heart. The things that irritate you. The things that make you laugh. The things that make you smile that have no significance to other people. 

I get to knowing these things about my friends through stuff like spending time together, staying up till 5am talking to each other, butting heads but figuring it out with each other. Sharing life together.

And so it should go with our relationship with Jesus.

The point in which my relationship is less like Facebook-stalking the son of God and actually knowing Him with that definiteness is:

– When I’m regularly spending time in His presence, in His Word. It’s actually going on that coffee date. That “partaking of His cup” thing that means to partake in experience. (Which in the Bible, eludes to sharing in Christ’s suffering) It’s both experiencing Him in silent meditation and the actual active-doing of Kingdom things.

– Talking to Him. Spilling my guts, laying all that’s on my mind and heart at His feet in prayer. Being real and honest about the things that piss me off, the things I don’t get about Him.. working out WITH Him the conflicts of interest that arise when my own wants, preferences, and desires are at odds with the things of the Kingdom.

It’s in these things where you get to know the heart of God: sharing your life with the Divine in both time spent just-being and doing. Perhaps that’s why Jesus asked us to, “do as I have done”. “Knowing” requires a shared experience.

The Bible is not a Timeline. It is not just a thing we read that gives us more facts about God. It is the Word of God. It is alive. Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood! (John 1:14, The Message) He talks. He listens. He responds. He’s real.

It’s okay to “Facebook stalk” God. Theology, knowledge of God, gaining better understanding of Him, that’s all good. But don’t stop at Facebook stalking. Know Him face-to-face. Enter into that magical moment: when Facebook-stalking becomes actual relationship.

When we’ve moved from “Facebook stalking” God to knowing God, perhaps we’ll be better acquainted with His heart.. what grieves Him… what delights Him… and perhaps not only will we be acquainted with what His heart is like, we’ll begin to be grieved and delighted by the same things in our own.

Challenge… accepted?

Warts and All

This is a repost from my original blog written on 10/14/2012

From Genesis 32:

24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with human beings and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

————

In a strange turn of events, the frustration that seemed to pull me away from grace is the same thing that seems to be driving me back to the cross.

I’ve been struggling with God. Wrestling ‘till day has finally broken. My stubbornness, my arrogance, my pride refused to let grace prevail over my sinfulness. So God, in His infinite mercy, has given me a limp.

I am walking with a limp. A thorn in my side.

Because I’d rather have learned my lessons well and present myself as wiser, more mature, having beaten my issues and I no longer have to struggle because I’m that good now. I want consistency. I want to put meaning to my past struggles. I want to win.

But like a deep, puss-filled, infected wound, one treatment isn’t enough. I require repeated disinfecting and cleaning. Because if it were as easy as I wanted it to be, I would start walking without Him. I would need community less and less. Because some part of me still believes that I can achieve some sort of holiness on my own. Without really realizing it, I act like all His sacrifice, pain, and suffering endured on the Cross falls short of the atonement necessary to cover my sin. So, in part, I need to save myself.

I mean, that’s what we were brought up to believe right? If you work hard enough, you can have it all. You aren’t just given things without working for it. You get what you put in.

I’m a lot like Jacob. Worried that God won’t do what He has already promised to me. So I tried to take matters into my own hands. I tried to secure His promises with my own hands. I tried to learn my lessons well so that there would be no next time. Tried to force letting grace work in my life because I know it ought to instead of actually experiencing Christ.

My walk is anything but perfect. Anything but polished. It’s rough. There are ups and downs. Yet part of me stubbornly still wants to seem better than I am.

“It is very easy to forgive others for their mistakes; it takes more grit and gumption to forgive them for having witnessed your own.”

At last, I cannot hide my limp.

Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader and later Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England. It was customary back then for royalty, when having a portrait painted of them, to have it done in the best possible light, omitting much of their physical flaws. Contrary to this, Cromwell asked to have his portrait painted, “warts and all”.

Friends, here I am. Warts and all. I have wrestled with God. I am wrestling with God. And in my struggle, have been given a limp.

It’s a limp that reminds me of my arrogance. Reminds me of my inadequacy.

A limp that disables me from going too far on my own. A limp that forces me, mid-struggle, to cling tighter to the One I wrestle with.

The wrestle is exhausting. The stubbornness and arrogance that had seemed to prevent Grace from prevailing turns out to have never stood a chance against one single touch from the almighty.

And just like that I am rendered powerless, helplessly grasping on to Him.

“I will not let you go ‘till you bless me”

Hallelujah for my limp. Hallelujah for He is patient through my rebellion and struggling, only to win me over in His timing.

Hallelujah, I will not let You go.

Hallelujah, He never lets go.

Rediscovering Jesus in the City (02/14/2012)

I’m back on Long Island after a week and a half trip to Geneseo. I spent about half-hour in Penn Station waiting for the LIRR. In that half-hour, I witnessed 2 different people on 2 separate occasions belittle and verbally abuse service workers and sat across the table from a woman who seemed to suffer from Schizophrenia.

Since I’ve gone to school in upstate NY, I’ve noticed that the more time I’ve spent up there, the more culture shock I would feel when coming back to Long Island during college breaks. So at first, I was bitter. Bitter that I was back downstate rather than upstate. Annoyed at the crowds of people and already wanting to make plans to move back to beautiful, amiable, and wide-open upstate NY.

Next, I got kicked out of McDonald’s. You’re only allowed to sit for about 20 minutes. That made me even more annoyed with the City. As I gathered my things and made my way to the LIRR’s waiting area, I recalled my conversation with Pastor Dave earlier today. With the St. Louis trip coming up for my fellowship back in Geneseo, we were talking about my future and how Dave realizes that I’ve grown a heart for ministry in cities in my 4 years of attendance at CityLights. I was taken aback by how his observations contrasted my current sentiments.

I know I love the city. I’ve loved seeing God move in cities. I love how cities are places of many different cultures and people. It’s diverse. It’s exciting. Dave was right. I do love cities.

So what’s changed?

Yes, the people in general are meaner down here than in upstate in general. I feel like that’s a natural result in densely populated areas. But that’s not news… downstate hasn’t changed. I have.

I used to not be phased by the “mean” culture that is downstate NY. When I went to school, strangers were drastically kinder to me. I started to prefer upstate’s culture to the one I had grown up with. And my time at Citylights taught me to look deeper into city culture with a new set of eyes to see the brokenness of the city and its people.

Perhaps it’s the uncertainty of post-graduate life that makes me find any little reason to reject life here and return to what is now more comfortable: life in western NY. Whatever the case, I was convicted that I was feeling so annoyed to be back.

I started to think about Gerry, the director of CityLights, my role model, and my spiritual father. Over the years, I’ve observed how he interacts with his environment, how he approaches ministry, people, etc. What were the differences in his everyday living that made him such a force of calvary-like love and transformation in the city of St. Louis? I wondered what it would look like if Gerry were walking in my steps tonight. What would it look like?

I recalled an experience I had with him at a Waffle House during the summer of 2009. It was about 3am. We were driving around together and we stopped in for a late-night snack. He was so kind to the woman behind the counter. Knowing it was a graveyard shift, he looked around the back knowing that she’d probably been on her feet for hours and seeing that there was no place for her to sit and rest her feet. He gracefully struck up a conversation about her. He was engaged with her. He showed such a profound level of compassion and empathy for this stranger. Upon leaving, he left her an extremely generous tip. The woman was so blessed. It was such a small thing but it left a profound mark in my memory. People in the service industry are treated with no dignity. But I saw Jesus that night. Gerry sees the situation with a different set of eyes. It’s what I believe to be a new set of eyes followers of Jesus should see the world with. He saw her the way Jesus sees her.

Consider the woman across from me possibly suffering from mental illness. She’s society’s outcast. Much like the lepers in Biblical times, she’s “unclean” or “untouchable”. She belongs to the kind of people that we do not want to associate with. We pretend not to see them so much so that maybe, we really don’t see them anymore. I know that was me. There are so many people in the city like that. I forced myself not to see them to avoid the internal conflict between my uncompassionate heart and the work of the Spirit. And so, over time, I really didn’t see them.

How did Jesus treat the social outcasts of His time? Take the story of the leper for instance in Mark 1. Jesus heals the leper. Not only does He heal him, Jesus touches him. In that time, people used to run across the street away from a leper screaming, “Unclean! Unclean!” Can you imagine for this leper how long it must have been since he had human contact? What does it do to a person’s soul to not even be dignified as a human being with one simple touch? Jesus could have simply said, “Be healed!” and by His words, the leper would be healed. We’ve seen that happen in the Gospels where Jesus heals simply by uttering words. But no, Jesus saw that the leper needed also the healing that would come from touch, human contact, for the first time in a long time. Oh to love like Jesus. To see how He sees. What a difference it would make!

I stand convicted that I am not a loving person. I don’t love Jesus as much as I love comfort and familiarity. And I certainly do not love His people. I especially do not love people who may be rougher around the edges. The city is full of broken people. It’s crowded with them. The problem doesn’t lie in the masses of broken people but within my own broken and unloving self. I’m annoyed with the crowds of broken people. Jesus was constantly followed and pursued by crowds broken people. He was never annoyed with them. Mark 6:34 says, “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.”

The service workers, the mentally ill, the homeless… you might compare them to the “sparrows” in Matthew 10. Seemingly insignificant to us, but are loved and cared for all the same by our Heavenly Father. How do we treat the “sparrows” in our lives?

Jesus, I’m so sorry for the way I’ve grown so complacent. Renew my mind and give me a new set of eyes to see the world in light of the Gospel. Teach me how to love like You. Transform my life and give me a heart that loves the unlovable and touches the untouchable. May I never just be a passerby but change me to live the kind of life that reflects the good news of Jesus Christ wherever I go. In the big things and the little things, may You be glorified.

The city desperately needs Jesus. Gerry is taking up his cross in St. Louis. What will I do? What will we do?

I love the city. I really do.

Theology of Weakness (11/26/2011)

I’m reading a book called The Emotionally Healthy Church By Peter Scazzero. The book centers around how we don’t like to live in brokenness and vulnerability. Most of us are blind to how broken we actually are or if we’re aware of our brokenness, we try to cover it up. Our culture values “strength” but we’ve wrongly attributed “strength” to battling on in life while ignoring and not dealing with our issues. When we fail to deal with our issues, we build walls. They keep people out but they also trap us within. We may become arrogant or prideful in our attempts to seem unbroken.

Learning from Paul’s Example:

Referring to the “thorn” in his side: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ 2 Cor. 12:8-9a 

Scazzero comments: “Paul did not want to lead out of weakness. He repeatedly told God, “I can’t take it.” God’s power would have been seriously diminished through Paul if he were arrogant or full of himself.

Paul’s growth in Christ parallels his increasing sense of weakness sinfulness:

  • Gal. 2:6, AD 49, After being a Christian for 14 years, He writes about the apostles this way: “As for those were held in high esteem — whatever they were makes no difference to me.” He appears proud and headstrong.
  • Six years later, AD 55 “I am the least of the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:9)
  • Five years later, “I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people.” (Eph. 3:8)
  • Finally, two year before his death and perhaps after walking with Christ for thirty years, he is able to see clearly, “I am the worst [of all sinners]” (1 Tim. 1:15)

Scazzero asks, “What happened? Paul had grown in his understanding of the love of God in the Gospel. He had become stronger in Christ by becoming weaker: ‘For when I am weak, then I am strong’” (2 Cor. 12:10).

Walking as a Cracked Pot (Also from the book)

A story I heard wonderfully illustrates this countercultural truth.

There once lived a water carrier in India. He used two large pots for his task. He suspended a pole across his neck and attached a pot at each end of the pole. One of the pots had a big crack in it while the other pot was perfect. The perfect pot always delivered a full portion of water from the stream to the master’s house, while the cracked pot arrived only half full each day.

For two years this water carrier made the same journey. The perfect pot became proud of its accomplishments. The cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfections and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. Finally,one day by the stream, the cracked pot spoke to his owner about his failure, “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize that I have only been able to deliver half my water to your house. There is a crack in my side which causes water to leak out. Because of my flaws, you don’t get the full value from your efforts.”

Then the water carrier replied, smiling, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” On that trip from the stream, the cracked pot looked around. 

“Did you notice there are flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?” the master commented. “That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we passed these spots, you watered them. Now for two years I have been able to pick those beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, I would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

It is the way God works.

I am not finished with the book yet.. but it has already ministered to me and I hope this story ministers to you as it did me.

I pray that we would learn to walk as cracked pots. As we press harder into our walk with Jesus, I pray that we would not be afraid or ashamed when our broken parts are revealed knowing that it is nothing new to our God who created us. May we embrace our handicaps and limitations as gifts and allow the Gospel of grace to free us to be able to admit where we are weak so that Christ can be strong and the power of God can flow through without our prideful disruptions.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. –2 Cor. 12:9-10

The Discipline of Rest (09/02/2011)

When I originally planned to work 30+ hours a week 2 weeks ago, I didn’t consider the fact that basically all those hours would be spent in complete and constant chaos behind the bar. Alas, week one is finished.

I am emotionally burned out.

I am physically burned out.

My throat hurts from yelling and I’m losing my voice.

My feet hurt all the fricken’ time.

I have just finished my last shift and I have never been more thankful that God modeled for us sabbathing.

Because here is what would happen if I didn’t have tomorrow as sabbath:

  • I survive my shifts until approximately 3’o clock on Tuesday.
  • At 3:15pm, Vicky is on cold bar… making frappuccino after frappuccino as she thinks to herself, “Frappuccinos are the scourge of my existence”.
  • At 3:20pm, someone orders something complicated… such as a venti matcha smoothie with soy milk. Vicky makes said stupid drink and realizes upon pouring that she only has measurements for grandes because venti smoothies do not exist let alone matcha smoothies.
  • 3:22pm, customer is unhappy.
  • 3:22pm part two, Vicky hits breaking point.
  • 3:24pm, Vicky has killed everyone.

Ok… so maybe I’m being a touch melodramatic here.

For the sake of my own sanity (and for the sake of my other co-workers and anyone else who would have to interact with me next week), my Saturday sabbath could not come soon enough. Rest is a discipline that is not built into our culture. We value hard work which, in it of itself, isn’t a bad thing except when it turns us into workaholics.

It makes God just that more awesome to me as I consider on weeks like this how amazing it is that He cares about the whole person so much so that He would instruct us to stop and rest at least one day out of the week for our emotional/physical/spiritual health. When I think about honoring Him, it always has something to do with doing something. Yet, He is honored when we trust our lives to Him by our not-doing on our day of rest. What I mean is, even though I might logistically benefit from another day of progress, keeping the sabbath is saying, “Jesus, I trust You and trust that even though I do not “do” on this day, You will provide for all my needs. I do not need to worry and understand that there is more to gain from spending time resting in You and fellowshiping with others.”

(And of course, I do not mean keeping the sabbath in a legalistic way where we don’t even eat because chewing would be work. Because that is ridonkulous.)

So Jesus, on the eve of my sabbath, I am so excited to spend an extended period of time with You and Your people. Because without You, I can’t keep this kind of schedule up and be healthy at the same time. I am humbled by Your comprehensive love for me. There’s nothing I can do apart from You.

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