Thursday, January 12, 2006

Straddle the Fence

Last night on my way home from my church’s youth step team practice I heard the gospel song, “You Can’t Straddle the Fence” by Nu Beginnings. It was one of those moments where I almost pulled over just so I could better pay attention. Some of the lyrics are:

You call your self a true missionary but spend all night creepin with Sister Mary. And y’all women on the front row with your skirts real high. The preacher can't preach cause you keep catching his eye.

You call yourself a fulltime deacon Sunday but all them young girls call you 'sugardaddy’ on Monday. And all you saints on Sunday morning you shout real loud but before the sun goes down you spreading rumors and telling lies.

Slipin and slidin creepin and hiding partying out all night on Saturday; praising the Lord on Sunday turn on right back on Monday.

You can't straddle the fence. You can't straddle the fence.

Though you may not be struggling with the exact issues mentioned in the lyrics, it was convicting for me to think about other ways in which I straddle the fence. I thank God for his grace and mercy but often, when I’m honest, I rely very heavily on that grace and mercy instead of repenting. Instead of turning my back on my sins I ask for forgiveness each time I feel guilty….and when I don’t, I don’t.

I call myself a Christian – a follower of Christ. I long to be a good role model for the children in my church; I work hard to put on a good exterior when inside I’m not all I convince people I am. I admit I straddle the fence. I am very Christian in some ways and not so Christian in others. I know that this is part of my growth as a Christian – as a person. I think I’m in a weird stage of life. A sort of coming of age all over again. I know I need to go through a Eustace (Voyage of the Dawn Treader) process. Now that I’ve tried time and time again to shed my own skin, I need to let God ‘undress’ me. Though it may be painful, I am convinced that it will feel lovely in the end.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas

A couple days ago a family in my neighborhood was evicted. The kid that lived there has had a great year including a stint in jail followed by the death of his mother. The Holiday season has brought not Santa Claus but the Fulton county sheriff to put his family out.

It serves as a reminder that while people are traveling, opening gifts, taking time off, shopping, going to office parties,drinking egg nog, and dreaming of a white Christmas that there are others hanging on for dear life to make it through today.

I wonder if the money I spend on gifts during this season could be used better if it were given to someone to pay their rent or buy some food. What if at Christmas we decided to give only to those living below the poverty level instead of for gifts to people who already have more than they need. What if we gave to people who were really in need. Without judgment or having them fill out paperwork, without taking their pictures or writing their stories down. What if we took the billions of dollars we spend on useless gifts like a candle holders, picture frames, and gift bags to put them in and gave it to the poor. Walmart makes close to one billion dollars on Black Friday. Nine thousand keeps the family in my neighborhood that was evicted in their home for a year.

I know I sound like some bleeding heart who sees the world unrealistically as I am often told. I don't know what to do when my heart hurts so much to see people living in seemingly impossible situations. This is the time of year where hope and peace are supposed to be celebrated, but it seems to only be celebrated by those who can afford a house and gifts and to pay for utilities. Poverty isn't taking off for the holidays I am.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

This is the post that Mission Year's Vice President Leroy Barber put on his blog today. I thought it was a powerful realization on his part. I don't mean it to be a downer so close to Christmas but as I tallied my credit card receipts from today's last minute shopping, I was embarrassed for what I saw. Though I enjoy giving gifts to those I love and seeing them smile, this has reminded me of my selfishness and sin.

Lord, forgive me.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Long Lost (or not) Friendships

Recently I've been feeling strangely nostalgic about my college years. Now, that might sound normal coming from someone who has been out of school for two years but to me it feels weird. I had a pretty good time during my years at Penn State but I wouldn't say that it was the best time of my life (like so many other PSU alum would). I would say it was average. Those years were accompanied by a lot of frustrations and the desire to finish quickly. So why, two years later do I have the feeling of missing it? In the last month I've been missing my college friends so much that I actually did a Yahoo! search for one of them. And you must know that I haven't talked to any of my friends from college pretty much since I graduated.

Maybe it's the fact that virtually no one in Atlanta likes Penn State (at least not as much as they love UGA). Or maybe it's because the one thing that connected my experience, my friends, and my alma mater -- football -- was in the news every week this fall. Whatever the reason, I miss my old friends. Once I admitted to myself that, in fact, I'm very bad at keeping up with friends when we're not together I decided to make a change. I realized that it's often the little things that count so I sent hand-written cards to 2 high school friends that I haven't seen in months. I made it a point to at least text message my college roommate on her birthday. And like I said earlier, I set out to find the friend that had the most influence on my decision to even apply to Penn State to begin with.

This simple search -- and it's results --has changed me in an eerily profound way. I did locate this friend through what turned out to be a business's old website that just hasn't been updated yet, but I didn't know that before I sent an email with the subject "Remember me?". To my amazement my friend responded the next morning with a great email sharing all about the end of school, being married, and moving to NYC. Not only that but, as much as email can convey, I felt such was warmth and mutual excitement that there has been this small rekindling. We're both looking forward to catching up more over the phone during my 10+ hour drive home next week.

So maybe that sense of nostalgia isn't strange after all. Maybe I needed that in order to be reminded, yet again, of the importance of friendship and the faithfulness of God. Though it may seem like a stretch, the fact that my friend was so willing to re-establish some sort of friendship, even after all of the years and life changes, reminded me of God's willingness to re-establish relationships with his children that have lost touch. As my church here in Atlanta is so involved in drug and alcohol recovery, I meet people all the time who are clean and sober one day only to be back out on the streets a few days/weeks/months later. It's always difficult to hear that they've been seen hanging out back in their old places with their old people doing their old things. But now, with the re-introduction of an old friend into my life, I am given hope and confidence that those that have lost their connection with Christ, whether by addiction or any other vice, will also have the same result when they perform just a simple search.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Here I am

This isn't something that I ever thought I would do. But then, after much loving persuasion from my dearest friend Christie, here I am. I've created a Blog. It may take me a few posts to really get the hang of it so your responses would be greatly appreciated.

This is a new world for me...Internet diaries --my thoughts and prayers out there for anyone to see. I can't lie, it's a bit intimidating but I've been so encouraged by reading other blogs that I knew I needed to join the community. So often I get busy doing things that, even though I'm interacting with people all day, I feel a lack of depth; a lack of challenging thoughts; a lack of connection. I don't want to put all of the pressure on Blogspot to fill those voids but I do see the possibility to connect with people I would never have encountered before. Though the internet certainly has it's downfalls, within the community of bloggers I have been reading I have witnessed the presence of God. I have witnessed a sharing of ideas, a challenge of thoughts, an accountability of actions all posted with love and respect. I have, no doubt, witnessed a true Christian community.

So as I enter this uncharted (at least for me) territory I am excited to meet new people, share new ideas, and glean wisdom from those I connect with.

So with that I am.