understanding value.

This past week, I’ve had to come to grips with a very difficult truth. one that honestly, has only come out of many times of tears and loneliness.

I had forgotten that value isn’t dependent on what others do for me, or how much i have in my bank account, and certainly not on my own personal grading curve; but rather, each and every person has value because they were made in the image of Christ.

For me, finding value in nature and beauty comes naturally. I can see the hand of a very complex and caring Creator as I marvel at the detail on a butterfly’s wings or in the complexity of a flower’s colors and design. I understand awe of a truly awesome God as I stand in the shadows of mountains or see for what seems forever as I stand on top of the highest peak. Yet, I seemed to have forgotten this very core concept of creation itself: none of these – not the ocean, not the sky, not the snow-capped mountains or the God-carved gorges – bear the image of the Creator Himself. Indeed, the Bible tells us “the heavens declare the glory of God”, and that the rocks will cry out to praise Him if we will not (Luke 19:40),  but that’s the thing: we get first dibs. When God created the world, He saved the best for last. (#shereadstruth)

This past week, I have been reminded that it’s a calling to see worth, value and dignity in every human, no matter how sinful or distorted or far from God (even if that person is you). To devalue any human being is to deny their intrinsic worth as a fellow image-bearer of the Creator.

It’s been a tad obvious that God has been waiting to flood my heart and mind with this reminder, as everything I have seen, read, heard and listened to this week has been somehow spot on with this concept, especially the scripture in the sermon on Sunday. A reminder found in Matthew 6: 19-21 –“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

For me, “value” has been replaced with “demand,” and “worldly worth,” and quite honestly with “what can you do for me?” I’ve been so busy storing up my worth, my possessions, and my people here on earth that i haven’t even realized they are already already rusting and wasting away. Like the farmer who tried to store up his barns so he could just relax and party, only to find them all destroyed and him as well; I too have been so wrapped in trying to hold onto people and things as if they are mine, and not the Lord’s gifts to me. As I try to hold on tighter, the more things and people seem to be slipping through my fingers. My earthly treasures, rotten and ending, have been stealthily replacing the treasures that will never fade.

Here, in this desperate time of fighting for control, I realized that “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” That, in the midst of me trying to wrap everything into a neat little package, God has been offering this whole time His perfect acceptance, made perfect through the blood of Jesus Christ. That I don’t have it together, and quite honestly, don’t have control like I would like or think I have. Instead, each day of giving control to God has brought a little more peace, an unexpected joy, and quite honestly, a hope that I haven’t had in a long time.

It hasn’t been easy. Rather, I think I’ve used more tissues this week than I have in the past year. Also, I’ve spent more time in the Word than I have in years. I think it’s a good trade Tissues for time with God. Done. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been refreshing. Necessary. Eye-opening. Humbling. And so, so powerful.

When it comes down to it, I’ve realized that even I have value. An unfathomable, jaw-dropping kind of concept. Somehow, that hasn’t sunk in before like it has recently, with a reminder that there is always a better version being written of me the more I let go, and let God.

“O the blood of Jesus washes me
O the blood of Jesus shed for me
What a sacrifice, that saved my life
Yes the blood, it is my victory.”

Jesus paid it all, for me. He thinks I’m worth it.

So to those who I have treated unfairly, forgotten whose you are, or simply didn’t show you the kindness or the respect you deserve, I humbly apologize, and promise to reconcile with you. To the culture who deems my worth by how much stuff I owe or by how much money I make, I choose to step back and find my worth in the laughter shared, the memories made, and in the joy I have discovered in loving others, and in turn, being loved by them. And to the thoughts inside my head, demeaning and devaluing me, I renounce you in the name of Jesus, because He thinks I’m worth it, and I choose to believe that, one day at a time.

(special thanks to #shereadstruth this week, as so much of their writings have resonated with my heart this week)

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speak truth into my life.

there are three things i can always count on, no matter what.

1) my family will always be there for me, no matter what the cost, the problem, or the distance.

2) this world will always have heartache and pain, joy and beauty, searching and seeking.

3) no matter how much I pursue Christ, I will never fully understand or become perfection like Him, until He returns. However, He will always be in pursuit of me, and will always be truth in my life.

 

for me, truth is perhaps one of the virtues in life i hold most dear. in a world where the central Hellenic notion of “the golden mean” has been simplified to “I’ll try anything once,” and that we must be tolerant and “open-minded” and willing to give anything a chance must also be reflected in our pursuit of truth and right and wrong. does that then eliminate our need for truth if we are willing to then be accepting of anything and everything? no longer are we a society grounded on firm beliefs, distinctions of right and wrong, and adhering to the laws of nature, principle, and foundational truths, but rather we have watered down truth to be notions of the times, of narrow-minded thinking, and reflections of an intolerant society. so we move from one extreme to the other — becoming accepting of everything, and intolerant of those who choose to believe that right and wrong still exist, and that truth is less of an old-fashioned notion and more of a guiding beacon in the hazy, twilight-colored path that we must trod.

i am not an expert on truth. obviously. otherwise i wouldn’t have to ponder, question, seek guidance, or need daily prayer dedicated to seeking and understanding right and wrong. perhaps that is why i choose to focus so much of my thoughts and life on the pursuit of truth and the desire to uphold right and wrong. i realize the more i look into my life, the more i seem to hold right and wrong over other’s lives; as if my standard of living is above all others, and that if i should deem to stoop to their level, that they should know they do not live up to my expectations.

i am shamed and humbled at the reality of my depravity and selfishness. 

this is why i surround myself with others, who are more mature in their walk with Christ, who know me at my deepest levels, and who God has used over and over again to share Himself with me through, in order to seek wise council and speak truth into my life. i cannot tell you how this has shaped and saved my world, time and time again. there are very few people in this world that i meet that i do not like — i tend to wear my heart open wide and welcome anyone in; strangers are just friends i haven’t met yet. at the same time, there are very few people in this world that i respect — that no matter what they have to say to me, good or bad, i will listen with an open mind and a humbled heart, because they have earned my respect and proven their hearts to be good and to be sharing with my best interest in mind.

after having an interesting conversation with a friend last night, i really have begun to ponder the necessity of people like this in my life. do i really need others to “speak truth” into my life, when i am already programmed with an innate knowledge of right and wrong, of “truth” and fiction, and of knowing myself? he begged to differ. i choose to embrace this blessing.

regardless of what i may “know” inside of me, i am constantly at war with myself — my flesh is battling with my spirit, and it is a daily struggle of who i will answer to, and what path i will choose. Paul said it best — “my spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” considering i’m human, that means my flesh is constantly present, and is often veering me off-course. therefore, i choose to believe that God has placed certain people in my life to speak this truth when my flesh clouds my vision and distracts me from reality. for those who live a life without truth, or without people to speak that truth to them, i am truly saddened for them. because truth is the greatest of blessings in a world of tumult and uncertainty.

“surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness without you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” — Edmund Lee

 

for those of you who speak truth into my life, thank you for taking that plunge. 

 

Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”  ” — John 18:37

labels: what’s in a name?

the more i think about it, the less i realize i know who i am.

see, i have always thought myself unique, slightly strange, definitely my own person, and 100% authentic. what you see is what you get. yet, more and more these days, i have individuals come up and tell me that they’ve met “my double.” not necessarily in looks, but in personality, mannerisms, even inasmuch as my slight lisp and strange way of pronouncing things. (the “trash” thing is sooo over, guys.) does that mean i am not my own anymore, or are there characteristics about me that are evident in the lives of others, creating a strange connection across the airwaves, bonding us together in some sort of human existence across the miles?

if i took a deep, long look into who i am, i realize that the person i am today is not the one i began as, almost 25 years ago. physically, i have grown into a tall, slightly clumsy, overly-dramatic individual. mentally, well, the maturity thing is still out, but at least i made it through grad school! and emotionally, well, i’d like to think i’ve learned to not wear my heart on my sleeve…as much. but there are still things that remain quite the same about me, that will forever label and define me.

first, my nameChrista. the name originates from Latin, as a shortened form of Christina, simply meaning “follower of Christ.” my parents named me after a dear family friend, but perhaps, as in biblical times, the name not only gives me a moniker in life, but essentially has been revealing my destiny. this name, spelled and misspelled countless ways, has always opened conversations and has repeatedly taught me patience (“No, my name did not grow an extra syllable; it’s just Christa”). yet perhaps, my name has directed and defined a deeper part of me, and has guided me through the rocky paths of life. but it’s not the only part that continues to define who i am today.

secondly, my past. everyone has one, but no one else has my past. glancing back, i’ve led a deeply blessed life, full of joy, wonderment, opportunity, and love. yet, you can’t see all the rosy colors without noticing the blackness that is outlined in the cracks, the patches, and the dusty corners that the Lord continues to mend and clean. my past does not define who i am today, but rather has played an key role in refining who i have become today. i wholeheartedly believe in the difference.

today’s lesson from P-Dave (that’s Pastor Dave to you, not-as-tight-with-PDave-as-me, folks) spoke on the humanity of Christ. how He suffered every human emotion and experience; how labels impacted His life as much as ours. how labels can essentially destroy our hope, or can spark a change that radically alters our destiny. traveling around the internet these days is a beautiful emerging project of taking back what has been stolen from us, in the form of identity through the power of spoken word. The project, called 

reminds us of our two choices when it comes to being labeled: 1) We can allow them to define our current day and our futures lives, or 2) we can choose to embrace the power in saying “NO, I will NOT be defined by human definitions and flawed opinions.”

i believe that the power that raised Christ from the grave, that brings hope to the hopeless, and that doesn’t simply allow us to exist but rather empowers us to embrace, is the same power that has broken the chains of the labels that i have been listening to for years. i lucked out. i never had to endure the daily jeers and mocking tones from my peers; never had to face down a label given to me by anyone other than my teasing, but well-meaning friends. no, the labels i have battled with stem from a much darker, and deeper place inside me — my own insecurities, prompted by self-doubt and whispered to me at the lowest of times by the darkness and by his workers.

fat. ugly. talentless. unloved. unpopular. liar. judger. worthless. these labels have held me captive for years; reminding me of my humanity but covering the fact that it is in my humanity that Christ is necessary, and thrives. the labels sought to define me and destroy me, until one day back in 8th grade, i realized that labels are simply words. they are not men with guns, or earthquakes with raw, untamed power, or even my own hands with a sharp razor. they are simply spoken, and just as easily can be forgotten. that day has radically altered my journey in realizing what is in my name.

i still get labeled. still get called the wrong name. still sometimes listen to the darkness that i am still battling within myself. but i chose that day to not allow the labels to choose my destiny. because, before i was born, my destiny was already set aside, intricately planned moment by moment for the glory of Christ. that, even in my name, who i am about is revealed. my deepest desire is to live out my name — to be seen not as Christa, but to be seen as a “follower of Christ,” and that is one label, that i don’t mind having.

“But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, ‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.‘” — Isaiah 43:1

surprised by joy.

when i least expect it, God infiltrates my wall of defense and reminds me of His goodness.

the beauty of this action is that, in some respects, i should not be surprised. He distinctly reveals His character again and again throughout time, stays true to His covenants, and does not change from who He is; and yet, at the same time, the fact that He cares enough to break through my barriers and loves me enough to remind me in an overwhelming flood is utterly mind blowing.

for me, it’s easy to believe that God is a just God; that He loves us enough to send His only Son so that we may have a hope; and that His power will triumph on that glorious day…but sometimes, i struggle to believe in His goodness. that, in a world filled with broken families, destruction of heart and home, trafficking of humans as if they were less than property, and children starving to their last breath…there is still a God who is good.

He is. He still is. and He reminds me of this through the smallest of things.

i’m reading C.S.Lewis at the moment, his memoir “Surprised by Joy.” i have an unashamed obsession with the wisdom that God has passed through this man — he has written my favorite books, pierced my heart with his journey to faith, and continues to ask the questions that my heart has failed to form into words, but have been longing for the asking. i’m pretty sure Clive and i would have been besties, because i feel everything he writes is a letter from my soul…except he does it so much more profoundly and in a lovely British accent. He writes of his first account of being surprised by joy and God’s goodness — maybe without the realization of what was the source, but still a life altering event.

“the first is itself the memory of the memory…it is difficult to find the words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton’s ‘enormous bliss’ of Eden comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what? not, certainly, for a biscuit tin filled with moss, nor even for my own past — before i knew what i desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse of withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased. It had taken only a moment of time; and in a certain sense everything else that had ever happened to me was insignificant in comparison…there is a quality of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable that any other satisfaction. I call it Joy…i doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.”

i believe that being surprised by Joy is the business of Christ. that his very being radiates this mystery, this longing, and creates that vacuum that nothing else in my life will fill. when i, in a rare and blessed moment, realize that God is indeed, good — my heart swells and i realize that something else beyond me is infiltrating my being.

these past few weeks have been craY craY. and yet, i have had more moments of Joy — mere glimpses of life beyond this, as if the veil was lifted for a peek, and then settled back into position. i believe that God is in the business of Joy, of blessing, and of Goodness — and these crazy times have only strengthened that belief, not eroded it into bitterness and anger.

i anticipate much more joy on the way. it’s just being willing to look for it, with eyes open, heart wide, and spirit willing.

pura vida.

“wake up and live.” — an ode to twentythirteen

a new year
a new blog
a new post
a new take on life.

obviously, i’ve decided to try blogging again. this time however, there is a much deeper realization of the power of thought into written word, and the desperate need to ponder, actualize, and come to terms with the turmoil and joy that is often at odds inside of me. i’m pretty much a poser blogher though: the idea is super hip and engaging…for a bit. i really just have the tendency to go full throttle with something that entertains my short attention span, then fizzles out after the initial honeymoon phase.

however, now, i realize more and more my desperate need to think, ponder, and sort through the thoughts that run on repeat through my mind and heart. the idea of meditation seems so foreign and “spiritual” to me, not really relational. yet, as i closed out 2012, i discovered that the cry of my heart was to simply just think things through; to truly ponder the questions, the hurts and joys, and perhaps even the simple things of my day in a way that gives significance and value to each moment that i have lived. with all the turmoil that is currently possessing and obsessing our world, i do not want to miss even the slightest moment where God reveals His glory and His power to me, because i am so loathe without it.

so really, this blog is just a chance for me to engage what God is doing in my life in a new and exciting day. i have half written journals and ripped out notebook pages with random scribblings and rare glimpses of wisdom…but my mind runs at a dead sprint so often that my handwriting cannot keep up with the thoughts pouring out of my head, so i guess typing is the only way to try and comprehend all that is going on in the void between my ears.

im sitting in Java Coffee & Cafe, where their slogan is “wake up and live.” how simple a concept; how difficult to truly obtain. and yet, i think, not really. if i chose to worship Christ in my daily routine and meditate on His Word — then that is indeed, learning to truly live. i want to embrace that.

so, my ode to twentythirteen, well, i can’t take credit for the beautiful words. rather, i choose to embrace the idea, and thus, embrace this new life ahead, in the midst of questions and wanderings.

“I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” 

2013, let’s do this thing.