PRAYING FOR THE PRESIDENT.

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(Before you start reading, can I ask you a favor? Read the whole entire post, pretty please.)

There’s been a lot of talk on twitter since this group of worship leaders visited the White House and shared about their experience on social media. From what I can tell, most people are pleased that faith leaders are praying for the president. That makes sense to me. What people aren’t pleased about it, is faith leaders also saying that so many good things are coming out of the White House and that everyone there is focused on not leaving behind the marginalized. Other Christians are calling bull, because President Trump’s words, actions, and policies have hurt many people who are marginalized.

President Trump has said lots of racist, anti-immigrant, and misogynistic things. In office, he’s followed up on many of these comments with policy decisions. His administration has torn apart immigrant families at the border and refused to let doctors give detained immigrants flu vaccines. He’s lowered the refugee admissions ceiling every year, from 45,000 to 30,000 to 18,000. Before and during his campaign, and throughout his time as president, he has consistently demeaned the marginalized with his rhetoric and harmed them with his policies.

Jesus, on the other hand, was much more interested in standing with the marginalized than pleasing the powerful. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, He challenged Jewish stereotypes about people from other races, ethnicities, and nationalities (Luke 10:25-37). He interacted with a Samaritan woman in kindness and grace (John 4:1-42). Jesus was actually a Middle Eastern refugee Himself (Matthew 2:13-15). He cleansed lepers (Mark 1:40-42), called a rejected tax collector to be his disciple (Matthew 9:9), respected the poor (Luke 21:1-4), and dined with outcasts (Mark 2:15-17, Luke 19:1-10). Rather than appealing to the powerful, he turned existing social hierarchies on their head; one of my favorite tweets from this week said that Jesus “rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to mock the entire system of empire and power.” Jesus’ pattern was making the leaders of his day mad because He loved so boundlessly.

I think these contrasting patterns are why I feel troubled by the worship leaders enthusiastically supporting President Trump. Christ deeply loves the people whose pain has been caused, amplified, or invalidated by the current president’s words and actions. And even if the president has helped some marginalized populations, like Kari Jobe says he has with fighting human trafficking, we can’t ignore the track record of bigotry. We must applaud some actions and criticize others.

I’m incredibly challenged living in that tension. I want to love all people: the religious far-right, immigrants, the Trump administration, people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities. I pray for the powerful and the powerless.

But I also feel convicted to love the powerful by standing with the powerless. Because ultimately, when one person is hurt, we all are. I believe in a common humanity such that, when an ICE or CBP agent rips children away from their immigrant mother, that border patrol officer is also losing. When we demean the inherent worth of others, we miss an opportunity to learn and grow in the wonderful presence of people who are different. As one humanity, we win together or we lose together. In this moment, love requires me to boost our chances of collective victory by supporting the marginalized, oppressed, and vulnerable. I can’t do that without calling out the powerful people who marginalize, oppress, and increase the vulnerability of those populations.

I’m not passing judgment on President Trump, anyone in his administration, Kari Jobe, Brian and Jenn Johnson from Bethel Music, or anyone else involved in the faith summit (which ironically seems to have only included Christians). I’m passing judgment on their actions, which I believe is an entirely different and incredibly healthy thing to do. If my actions hurt someone, I certainly want them to call me out. And I also want supporters of that hurting person to show their support publicly, in part by publicly criticizing my hurtful actions. It’s how I want to be treated, so it’s how I’m trying to treat the president and the religious leaders surrounding him, with this blog post.

But that’s not the only reason why I’m writing this. Another tweet inspired me by sharing a story about A.J. Muste. A reporter asked this pacifist activist if he thought his protests, standing alone outside the White House with a candle, would actually change policies. Muste responded, “I don’t do this to change the country. I do this so the country won’t change me.”

Given the dangerous political climate, where will I be in five years if I don’t actively resist white nationalism and publicly stand with the marginalized now? If I don’t shake writing this, thinking about what some of my peers who support Trump might say? If I don’t take a comparatively minuscule risk to prevent this country—the country whose Statue of Liberty boasts “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” but whose immigration policies say anything but—from changing my character?

For me, it comes down to this: Jesus cared more about standing with the marginalized than pleasing the powerful. To follow Him, I must embrace the same mentality and follow it up with actions. That’s uncomfortable. It’s countercultural. It goes against every natural inclination to shrink away from conflict and make sure everyone still likes me. But it’s the way of Love. And ultimately, it is more fulfilling and life-giving for everyone involved than the way of complacency. Let us reject the way of complacency, of enthusiastically posing for cheesy photo-ops with the president but not speaking out against some of his more destructive patterns and policies. May we walk in the way of Love by standing up for our hurting, marginalized, oppressed, vulnerable brothers and sisters.

BSTUD :: ECCLESIASTES 3:9-11.

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What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 

Ecclesiastes 3:9-11

Bet you didn’t think I’d be doing one of these posts on a passage from Ecclesiastes.

I sat down with these verses the other day, asking God to help me understand how they fit together. As He answered that prayer, I began to see just how much they show God’s character and our identity relative to Him.

The first verse, verse 9, says: “What do workers gain from their toil?” A common theme in Ecclesiastes is wondering about meaning and meaninglessness. This question considers why the heck we work so hard all day long. It’s only gained more relevance as time has gone on and culture has progressed to turn us all into little worker bees.

Verse 10 continues: “I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.” Following verse 9, it seems like that burden is hard work with little to no reward. But verse 11 changes the game.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” God is the One who makes all things new and beautiful in His timing. He is before the beginning and after the end; He has put longing for eternity in our hearts, but not understanding for it in our minds.

How do a question about the worth of work, a statement about God’s burden for us, and a declaration of what God has done fit together?

As I sat with Him, God helped me make sense of it: The writer questions the meaning of work because He sees that so much of our work is futile, without God, striving for nothing that really matters. We work to achieve, when God has not placed an expectation for achievement on us. His burden for us is trusting who He is and what He is capable of. That’s why the writer switches pace to talk about how God has made everything beautiful in its time and no one can fathom His deeds. This passage shows that work outside God’s mission is worthless, because God has not placed a burden of work on us,  but of faith. His only requirement is that we trust Him, the One who makes everything beautiful in His timing, the One whose forever we long for but cannot comprehend. God’s gift of an eternal heart leads us to trust Him, because we have forever desires with worldly, transitory minds. We need to trust Him, because we can’t understand. We can trust Him, because He is who He is. Trusting Him is the “burden” He places on humanity, and that is why it makes absolutely no sense for us to slave away at work by ourselves, for ourselves.

God’s call is for strivings to cease. We may perceive it as a burden, because it’s hard to put aside our confidence in our own capabilities. But once we trust Him instead of ourselves, we discover a God who is infinitely more able, making more beauty than we can dream of, outside the realm of our tiny comprehension.

Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’

John 6:29

(BSTUD is a blog series studying the Christian holy scriptures. BSTUD = B(ible) STUD(y). You can read more BSTUD posts here.)

MOVING TO MALIBU.

 

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I’ve been really into learning from others’ stories lately. Obviously I believe in and love the Bible as God’s word (I have a whole post about it here, and a whole category of posts dedicated to studying the Bible here!). But recently I’ve been inspired to dig into accounts of how others have experienced Jesus. I imagine the early Church, who didn’t have the New Testament to read. They read letters from other believers like Paul and shared personal details of how Holy Spirit had moved in their lives. Thinking about it that way, it’s important to not only read the Bible, but also to get to know others and their stories about God. God is alive and well, working and moving in people every second of every day. We can see Him more fully when we listen to or read about others’ experiences and perceptions of Him, always comparing their views to the absolute truth found in His word.

Because of my newfound interest in others’ stories, I’m totally loving the Delight Stories and Devotionals book! Delight is a college women’s small group ministry that I’ve been a part of ever since coming to Auburn. I. love. Delight. so much. with all my heart and soul. I’ve made some of my best friends through this ministry, I’ve come so much closer to God, and everything they make is pink!

I was reading Haley’s (what a coincidence, huh?) story from their story and devotional book the other day, and this quote stood out to me:

I see it like this: say somebody gave you an all-expenses paid beach house vacation in Malibu, complete with travel, a car, food, and all the hip furniture and decor you could ever dream of. You could brag about your new lifestyle, tell all your friends, plan for it, and dream about it. But until you pack up and leave your current home, the new life is never really yours. You cannot live in Malibu and your current hometown at the same time.

Delight Stories and Devotionals, vol. 5

I love this picture of life with Jesus. God has given us the gift of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. When we believe in Him, our eternity and inheritance in heaven are promised, sealed forever, a 100% guarantee. He has given us the deed to His house in heaven. The rest of our lives on earth are us moving into that house. We’ve been given the gift of heavenly eternity with our Father, but we can start to live in that reality now. We own the house, so to speak, because it’s been graciously given to us, and we will move in fully when our time on earth is up, but we can start the moving now.

We can take our earthly mindsets and move them to a heavenly one. We can take our flesh caving in to temptations and transfer it to letting Holy Spirit’s convictions change our behavior. We can look at our worldly worries and trust God instead. We can excavate bitterness, annoyance, and disappointment in others, and replace it with purity, love, and forgiveness toward them. We can move from earth to heaven while our bodies are still on earth, because our spirits are already citizens of heaven.

True faith in Jesus is like a moving van for us on earth: its purpose is not only salvation, but also sanctification. Holy Spirit is gradually taking our earthly, sinful selves and replacing them with who God created us to be. That’s the moving. That’s us moving from our earthly reality, the death we were condemned to, to our heavenly reality, the one God created for us when Jesus died and was resurrected. We don’t have to wait for heaven to see this heavenly reality that supersedes our earthly one; we can move now.

Here’s the thing about moving in real life: it’s hard work. You have to haul boxes up and down multiple flights of stairs. If you’re moving in Auburn in the summer, you sweat. A lot. You have to leave behind what’s comfortable, which can be painful and lonely at times. Moving requires others’ help to lug mini-fridges and giant armchairs around. And let me reiterate: it’s hard work.

But Malibu is so much better than the broken-down shack. God’s heavenly reality is infinitely better than our earthly one. We have already received the gift of heaven, and it is nothing but that: a gift. Whatever we have to sacrifice to live in that gift now, is worth it. Moving may be hard, but Malibu is better.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Philippians 2:12-13

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.

C.S. Lewis

WHY YOU SHOULD LOOK AT YOUR APARTMENT BEFORE PAYING THE FIRST MONTH’S RENT.

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Confession: I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with transitions. Each time I approach a fresh start, whether minor or major, I think: This is it. It’s my time to shine. I am finally going to pull it all together. I’m going to complete all my homework days before it’s due, maintain a spotless living space, eat kale for every meal, run five miles every morning, and spend my free time volunteering for a somewhat obscure but definitely worthy cause. This thought process arises at the beginning of new school years, semesters, months, and even weeks. Confession #2: I have always fallen short of these perfect goals. Every single time, I find myself needing more grace than I expected.

Of course, the beginning of my sophomore year brought the familiar feelings of excitement and anticipation. I was moving into an apartment with two of my roommates from freshman year. I had it all planned out: My bedroom’s color scheme was light pink, gray, and navy; I would have trendy hand-lettered quotes up in picture frames on the wall; I would finally own a car to drive around Aubs; I would spend Fridays (when I only have one class #blessed) meal-prepping cute, healthy dinners; I would use my new planner to finally stop procrastinating once and for all. Fortunately, after repeated failures of the “my year” philosophy, I did start out this fall a little more realistic. I tried to reframe my thinking, to hope more for growth than for perfection. Little did I know, God had a surprise in store for me to help me accomplish that goal.

When I showed up in Aubs on Wednesday afternoon, I checked in to my apartment, payed the first month’s rent, and received my keys. We walked in… and were met with mold, a broken toilet, a missing smoke detector, a completely black air filter, and an overall filthy, unsafe apartment. We spoke to a manager that night, asking them to fix the issues by the next day so that we could move in. After spending the night in LaGrange, we went back to the apartment the following day to find… the exact same mess. Ultimately, after many unsatisfactory interactions with staff and management, we decided to try to get out of our lease and began searching for other places to live. I’m writing this post from a guest bedroom in my mom’s former coworker’s house.

A few days ago, I read the following passage from Matthew 8:

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!'” (vv. 23-27)

The winds and the waves of my current apartment storm obey Jesus. As I prayed in my journal today, Holy Spirit led me to gratitude to say: Thank You for this apartment situation. Thank You for starting my sophomore year off in a place of dependence on You. What a miracle, that God gave me what I needed, not what I wanted. What a miracle, that He orchestrated these events to grow my faith in Him, instead of my sense of self-sufficiency. What a wonderful God, that He has already used this crappy apartment for so much good in my heart. And who knows? Maybe there are even more reasons for this mess than just growing my faith. Maybe my new neighbors at another apartment complex need Jesus. Maybe my previous apartment complex will prove to be unsafe, and this situation is His form of protection. Maybe one of my new neighbors will end up being a friend and a light to me. I may not know all the reasons yet, but I believe these events are on purpose.

Now, I definitely haven’t been a ray of sunshine and faith this whole time. My emotions have been rampaging all over the place the past five days. My flawed handling of this situation is yet another reminder that I must seek growth, not perfection. And I’m thankful to say that God has grown me. A friend told me last night that she noticed how surprisingly okay I seemed, given the fact that I’ve been living out of my car since Wednesday. Truthfully, Jesus deserves all the credit for my stunning lack of freakouts. He’s covered me in more peace that I thought possible. He’s teaching me that peace in any circumstance is far greater than the control over my circumstances that I was seeking.

He reigns as King of this world, of my heart, and of my current living situation. He is already redeeming it all and using it for my good and His glory. What a wonderful God He is!