Friday, January 10, 2014

A Christian-Schooler's Game

If you've never been to a private Christian school, you might not understand what I mean when I say this: while some groups have their holy wars, we had a holiness war.

I don't know if the teachers saw it, but we all knew - there were three classes of people at our school.

There were the "spiritual kids" (the ones who checked all the boxes on the holiness list - who raised their hands in chapel, or if they were really spiritual, jumped up and down, the ones who prayed out loud in class, etc.).

There were the "decent kids" (the ones that didn't rock the boat, but weren't particularly "spiritual," either).

And there were the "bad kids" (the kids that actually got in trouble, at least once a week).

We faced constant pressure to "be more spiritual," according to the made-up list of super-spiritual things we were supposed to do.

I remember doing some of those things, but my heart really wasn't in it. I didn't really want to do them. I thought, "Maybe if I just raise my hands in chapel, the desire to raise my hands will follow. Maybe if I just join the service organization, the desire to serve others without recognition will follow."

The thing was, it never did.

I did a lot of spiritual things when people were looking, but in the everyday things, Christ was often completely absent. For example, when my mind was on boys (which was most of the time), Christ wasn't in the picture. Who I wanted to date, who liked me, who didn't like was all about me, and how being liked made me feel. I never thought about how God said, "You shall have no other gods before me."

Or how about the kinds of things I said behind people's backs? Girls who trusted me...the way I would scoff at them in my journal or in front of my siblings. As long as those girls never heard what I said, I could still look "spiritual" at school, all day long. It was all about appearances. Who cared about my heart attitude?

I thought that my little list of proper, "Christian" actions would change my heart into a "more spiritual" and "more Christian" person. I think most of us did. The very heart of Christianity was lost on us.

What do I mean, you ask?

Let me first say this - I have often wondered, if I had one chance to go back to my school and speak to the students in chapel, what would I say? I've made up the speech in my head many times. Now I finally know the gist of what I would tell them:

Are you working really hard to be good? You are? Bad news - your works do not...cannot...change the state of your heart.

Do you see those people who are genuinely spiritual? The ones that actually want to read their Bibles, actually pray outside of school, and actually pursue holy lives? The ONLY reason they're like that is because God changed their hearts FIRST. Those actions that you want to imitate...those are only there as evidence of their salvation. Merely doing those actions can't save you. Only repentance - acknowledging you're a sinner who is hopeless to make yourself better - and calling on Jesus Christ can save.

Someone else has said it better than me, though, so let's look at how Jerry Bridges puts it:

"A person cannot be justified [absolved from guilt and declared righteous] without being regenerated [made a new person]."

"...I am concerned that there are thousands of professing Christians who think they have been justified, who think their sins are forgiven and that they are on their way to Heaven, who show no evidence of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. I fear for them that they will one day hear those awful words from the lips of Christ, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (Matthew 7:23)"

Stop asking yourself how "spiritual" you can be in comparison to someone else. This is not between you and them - it's between you and God. So if you don't see evidence of real heart change in your life, maybe the question you should be asking yourself is, "Am I really saved?"

I am not being mean nor judgmental. I'm being biblical. Paul exhorts members of the early church to do the same. I'm not saying that Christians will never make mistakes, have "dry spells," or struggle with sin. But if your whole Christian walk is characterized by a dry spell in which you engage in unrepentant sin all over the place, you would do well to remember that "not everyone who says to [God], 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Can't argue with that - Jesus said it.)

To close, the reason I am telling you this is because I don't want you to leave here believing a lie. I want to see you in Heaven, someday, where we can rejoice together! I don't want you to be deceived until your life ends, and it's too late to change your mind. Think about what I said. Read your Bibles - see if it lines up. Be mad at me and call me a hater, if you must, but know that I love you, and only hope and pray that these words grow in your heart until they become reality.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Update From Your Friendly Neighborhood City Girl

Hey, all. Just thought I'd check in to the land of the living and give those interested a brief update. :)

I just went to the local farmers' market for the first time. There's something so refreshing about the atmosphere of a farmers' market. It gives you a feeling of simultaneous touristic novelty and civic familiarity. That is, until you ask one of the vendors if they take credit cards, like I did. Then you just feel like a typical clueless city-goer.

The last two weeks have been busy and pleasant. Due to the fact I'm an introvert, I have been feeling very fatigued though everything that's happened has been good. My parents visited us in NC for the first time June 16 through 22, and a few days after that, Ellie and I flew to Norman for a week to attend Laura Piersall's baby shower and visit friends. Seeing old friends greatly uplifted me! As I explained to Chris, by the end of the week I was ready to come home, but not to leave my friends behind. Would that I could take them all with me to Wake Forest, but alas, we cannot always get what we want.

Ellie did great on the plane, in case you were wondering how that went. I tell you, the girl gets more attention from random strangers than the Kardashians get from the tabloids. I guess that's what happens when you're the cutest possible baby of all possible worlds. I often wonder if that will cause a struggle for her if and when a second child comes along. If it does, that could actually be good, since don't we all have to learn at some point that the world doesn't revolve around us?

Also: Ellie is turning into an adorable girly-girl, which makes me mentally giggle with glee . She has recently realized (thanks to Laura), that headbands are pretty decorations for your hair. Therefore, she will incline her head if you hold out a headband to her, and try to put it on herself if you give it to her. She also learned how to brush her hair just by watching me. She's a smart cookie, that one!

Due to the visits and travels, I haven't written anything in a little while. I have, however, been tossing around a few projects in my head. Remember how I wanted to write a systematic theology book for teenage girls? Well, that is morphing into a desire to write a devotional, instead - a hermeneutically sound devotional that doesn't take one verse out of its context in order to make a point (albeit a good point). It is an attainable goal, and will challenge me in many ways - not only in writing, but in prayer and Bible study as well.

I'm also developing ideas for fantasy novel no. 2. Having a blank slate is incredibly freeing and refreshing. There are so many themes and scenes and characters bouncing around in my head waiting to be given life, be thrown out, or be modified and filed away for a later time.

I've read two very good nonfiction books this summer - "When People are Big and God is Small," by Welch, and "Love to Eat, Hate to Eat," by Fitzpatrick. I highly recommend the former to all Christians, particularly those who find that the fear of man (or, to put it euphemistically, "people-pleasing") characterizes the majority of their interactions with the world and others.

I urge anyone woman who struggles with either under- or over-eating - whether out of bad habit or an actual eating disorder/mental and emotional struggle - to read Fitzpatrick's "Love to Eat, Hate to Eat." As someone who has historically struggled with disordered eating and still often with disordered thinking, if you will, I found this book to be the piercing sword of truth I needed to make my heart feel the weight of the wrongness of my physical and mental habits. The author is dead-on about the root of the problem and the source of the solution. It is no surprise that this - the most "spiritual" advice I've read about the topic - has ended up being the most practical advice, as well. If you want to ask more on the topic, please feel free to contact me!

Well, there's a bit of my life in a nice little nutshell. I hope to hear from you, dear reader, in a comment, email, or whatever else you feel like. Until next time.

Monday, April 29, 2013

N to the C

Hello, friends all. I just realized I've been so caught up in the steady, sometimes mind-numbing, thrum of life - and have focused on my writing blog when I've had the inkling to blog at all - that I've neglected to write here. And that is my loss! Coming back to this blank page makes me realize how much I like to simply blog about life. There's a beautiful simplicity about the day-to-day that's not to be underestimated.

I was inspired to return by one of my dearest friends, Megan. Her most recent posts concern Facebook, and how it affects our perception of ourselves and our lives. Check it out, if you have the inclination!

What's been going on in the good ol' Krychocosm? Well, we moved to North Carolina. I guess that's kind of a big deal. Actually, it's almost the end of Chris' first semester at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Unsurprisingly, it's been fun and not too difficult for him, since he likes to write and read about theology in his spare time, anyway. There are certainly worse problems to have.

Of course, this threw somewhat of a wrench in my emotional machinery for a bit. Since Chris is working part-time from home and doing school, his schedule is fairly flexible. He's at home quite a bit, albeit working. So, I find it all too easy to try interact with him as if he isn't working. This was especially true after we first arrived here, since I was still adjusting and clinging to the familiar like flotsam in a shipwreck. I've gotten much better about respecting his space since then. After all, he's working hard for Ellie and me - to provide for us. I try to remember this when I feel the sinful resentment kicking in. I have to remind myself that he's not working because it's the most fun thing ever and he'd rather do that than spend time with me. He does enjoy work, but he does it for a God-ordained reason, and that is worthy of great respect.

Deer in the front of our townhouse - a regular occurrence.
Our sweet Elayne Kaylee is ELEVEN MONTHS OLD. Unreal! Her steady growth has afforded me all kinds of new domestic opportunities that seem a bit strange, at a glance. For example: I just pulled a whole squash out of the oven. It's for Ellie's baby food, but still. That may not strike you as odd, but baking whole squashes never struck me as something I would be doing as a function of motherhood. Her increasing mobility has afforded her all kinds of new opportunities for facial expressions, including the impish lip-quirk that indicates she did something she wasn't supposed to, and the bright-eyed grin with lifted chin that shows she is proud of a new skill she was able to showcase.
Proud of herself for eating a banana with her hands for the first time.

Behold, my beautiful squash.
As for me, well, this has been a period of rapid growth. As I described to a friend, there are those times in life when you go from slow and steady sanctification to a sudden leap that forces you to grow in some crazy ways at what feels like lightning speed. In reality, it's as fast as it needs to be, and there's more than enough grace to go around when it happens...but for awhile, you just feel a little bit bonkers, especially (I imagine) if you're a methodical, checklist-y person like myself.

This transition has brought sins and insecurities to the surface, forcing me to deal with them. The feeling of disorientation that came with moving caused me to cling especially tightly to the Lord, for which I am so thankful. Also, our new church has a reverence and passion for the holiness and glory of God that has challenged me right down to my bones. The clear exposition of Scripture has been nothing less than I suppose it always is and must be. The Lord has used our pastor, Dr. Andy Davis, to address difficult issues from Scripture, and I've come out the other side knowing and loving the character of our awesome God more.

So there it is, in a nutshell (or a maybe a squash rind). Hopefully, I'll update here more frequently so that those who care can learn more about what's going on with us than what Facebook statuses indicate.   Hope you're well, dear reader. By all means, leave me a comment telling me something going on with you.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Contemplations of a Young Mom, First Part

If I build my parenting around ways I can make Ellie like me more, I'm doing it wrong.

Maybe that seems obvious, but this very problem did not come about loudly, but subtly and quietly. Oftentimes, especially when Ellie was between 3 and 6 months and began to show personality and preference, I found myself feeling jealous of Ellie's affection and attention. "She seems to like this person more than me," I would think, or, "Why does it seems like she's happier with (insert name) than with me?"

While I, at first, battled these thoughts with the self-provided assurance that "no one can replace Mom," I began to realize that I was merely dealing with the symptoms and not the disease by doing so. I asked myself, what will it look like when Ellie is, say, 13, and has a favorite female mentor she tends to confide in more than me? Will I feel resentful towards my own daughter? Towards the mentor? Will I make desperate attempts to be more fun, or funnier, or more interesting, in order to draw my child's attention back to me?

I didn't want to be that woman. I wanted to love Ellie, love her well. And though I began to tell myself, "I only feel this way because I love Ellie so much," it brought me to the question: What do I consider love? Vying for Ellie's attention isn't acting out of love - it's acting out of insecurity. That's not how I want to parent.

So, what do I consider "love?" Well, what does Christ's love look like? Sacrifice, patience, care, and compassion, despite whether the person receiving those things would end up following him beyond the grave or deserting him at their first glance of the horror of Calvary. Christ's love didn't look to what he'd receive from the sacrifice. It looked to how to obey the Father. So should my love for my daughter, and any future children should God grant them to me, look - never expecting or exacting a reward for my faithfulness as a mother, but simply growing more in Christlikeness, for that is what God calls me to.

As Rachel Jankovic -  a Christian writer and mother I much admire - comments, writing about this lesson does not mean I have checked or could justify checking it off my sanctification list. These things I write about - these are the daily battles I fight. Chances are that if I feel like I have it down one day, I'll be struggling like crazy the next. Let us pray for one another, that we fight these battles better each time they come around by throwing ourselves upon God's grace. Amen.