I've heard some disturbing talk about idols lately. Actually, I've been hearing it for some time, but I'm just now calling it out. First of all, my apologies to my non-Reformed readers who may have no idea what all the fuss is about.
Just a brief bit of context...
Over that last ten years as those around me have increasingly turned to the teaching of Tim Keller I have observed a dramatic increase in talk about idols. Modern day idols. While we don't necessarily display wooden sculptures of human-created gods, we are all guilty of substituting the worship of God with things like power, comfort, financial security, etc. I get that.
Photo Cred: Mcgraths
Fun Fact: I've been accused of leading people in idol worship.
Yep. I'm a yoga instructor and I've been accused in writing, in person and behind my back of engaging in movements that may have been used by someone else to worship a Hindu god. (See me here leading my son astray.) This used to make me cry, but now it just wears me out. Trust me, I have idols, but they're much more harmful than headstands and breathing exercises.
But, I digress...that's not the idol talk I'm concerned with.
Over the last year I've sat with a number of hurting young women who have been quick to share with me their idols. They are steeped in this theology and they have a deep desire to please God. In each case I've moved quickly to divert them from that path of thinking. It's not that what they were saying could not have been true, I simply believe it was not helpful in producing the kind of transformation that Jesus desires.
Sometimes discerning, declaring and destroying our idols (a Tim Keller sermon) is exactly what needs to be done. But not everything is an idol and resorting such simple diagnosis shortchanges the process and adds to already embedded shame. Sometimes--many times--we need healing.
These "idols" come out of legitimate desires being met in illegitimate ways. And I'm not convinced that the Apostle Paul would make some of the theological leaps I've seen preached on this topic. Not to mention that as I've sat with Jesus in my own pain he has never once embarked on an idol smashing ceremony. He's never even mentioned the term 'idol'.
What I mean is...
Let me give you an example from my own life. One of my fears for many years has been looking foolish. (Keller notes fear is a key indicator of an idol.) I don't know what idol that is--not attracting negative attention to myself? Its something I've spent much time in prayer (and counseling) about. Technically, it could have been considered an idol. But there was so much more. And Jesus, in his mercy, is helping me learn to trust him when I feel foolish. One of the defining moments of my adult life was when He instructed me to stand up and do some yoga in the middle of a silent retreat. I felt like a complete idiot, but I sensed God inviting me into redemptive foolishness. And it was liberating!
No condemnation. No harsh labels. No oversimplified solutions. Real change.
Yes, idols are real. All I'm saying is, not everything is an idol. Please be careful.
I've picked up some helpful nuggets in all my years of therapy. And I don't mean the obvious analysis or guidance with all my neurosis and obvious character defects. Along the way my therapists have sometimes blown my mind with passing statements. Like this one...
"Some things are worth doing poorly."
She said it like it was an obvious truth. A basic life skill. This axiom was thrown out on the way to a bigger problem solved but I wasn't going to let that one slide in under the radar. This was exactly the opposite of everything I learned in my Midwestern Ethics workbook. (Okay, that book doesn't exist, but you know what I mean).
"Like what?" I asked.
She went on to explain that sometimes things were worth doing even if we couldn't do them at the highest level of our ability.
"Like what?" I inquired again.
"Well, like bringing store bought sweets to your child's kindergarten Valentine's Day party."
Still not getting it.
But over the years I have perfected this art of doing worthwhile things poorly.
Photo Cred: fauxpress
Practice makes imperfection easier.
This simple philosophy has helped me experience numerous joys that I would have otherwise avoided because I could not undertake them with perfection. Take last weekend, for instance. Madison invited 17 girls over for a Murder Mystery Dinner at our house and I had exactly two days to prepare. In fairness, she did have a distracted discussion with me earlier about this which I vaguely remember, but the reality hit me two days prior to the event after a two day business trip to Dallas.
What I wanted to do was go all out. There were two games with two different themes and I could instantly picture the Hollywood room and the British Manor room. I envisioned gold statues at each place setting in one room and real china with cut flowers and biscuits in the next. But I had two days and I was working on both them and I had no budget.
As I saw it, I had three viable options...
1. Cancel the event.
Not fair to Madison since I'd already agreed
2. Stay up all night preparing.
Nope, that was not going happen. I'm too old.
3. Go ahead with the evening with less than perfect ambiance.
Because they are in middle school, they've never been to a murder mystery dinner and I have nothing to prove.
You guessed it...I went with option 3 (if, for no other reason than to be a good steward of the thousands of dollars I've spent in therapy). And, I'm so glad I did.
Yes, they ate Costco food on paper plates. There were no themed decorations, I had no costume, the food was average at best and there was no prepared playlist filling each room with sound.
And...it was awesome. The girls laughed and ate and laughed some more. They accused each other of murder, lied about their alibis and filled the house with shrieks and giggles. They emoted and cried crocodile tears. And when it was all over there were white boa feathers scattered throughout the house and plastic cups in every room.
I have to admit that I had moments of loss prior to guests arriving. I so wanted them to be 'wowed' by the event...by my creativity and work. But on this night it was relationships that stole the show. And my beautiful daughter who has an amazing ability to bring people together and make them feel good about themselves.
Perhaps next time there will be glitter and streamers and fine china. But perhaps not. Either way, this event was worth doing poorly.
I just returned from my first funeral in Santa Cruz. Amazing how much you can grow to admire a person in just a year. Jim went to be with Jesus after 85 years on this planet and the overwhelming consensus was that his was a life well-lived.
Reminded me of my maternal grandmother's life. I want to be sure her legacy continues so I thought I'd share my remarks from her funeral.
14 “For it is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
My maternal grandmother was not a five talent servant.
Limited financial resources.
Limited education or vocational skill.
No influence or power to speak of.
But a faithful servant makes it grow.
With her few financial resources she was frugal, creative and joy-filled.
Her skill was a heart for service that she invested in "the least of these"--the marginalized and overlooked. She became a professional caregiver.
Her only influence was with her children and she used it to introduce them to Jesus.
But in God's economy all it takes is one good investment. And this was a good one. My mother is one of those children. She has been given more talents than her mother, but she too invested wisely. Also introducing her children to Jesus. All of us (her children) have been entrusted with more--not because of anything we've done and largely because our grandmother was faithful with little.
My grandmother's life went unnoticed by most. But not by the One who mattered most--her Savior and the lover of her soul. I can hear her happy cry as Jesus smiles at her and says--
"Well done my good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness."
At my church I'm not allowed to share God's word from the stage. I'm a girl, you know. But this past Sunday I preached. And it was good.
Easter is far and away my favorite holiday. It's been that way for as long as I can remember. And I never believed in the Easter bunny or purchased a new Easter dress. I simply love the reality of the resurrection. The person of the Jesus. Defeating death. Living today. Beyond my wildest dreams.
So, it's not surprising that sometimes my emotions get the best of me. Plus, it's been a long time coming. Nearly two years ago I sensed God had something for me to say...or sing (check out my blog post from 2011) .
I was on the worship team this Easter Sunday. Throughout the morning I was aware that I was practically yelling. Singing so forcefully that it I felt possessed. Or prophetic. How could I remain silent? How could I stand motionless and controlled when Jesus was alive?
A number of people commented on my behavior. "You seemed anointed" "You blessed me" were some of the comments. And, strangely, I felt anointed and blessed. And then it hit me...I was. God had used me. My voice. To proclaim his good news. Just like the women who found the empty tomb, he was once again using a woman to be the lead witness of new life.
I left the morning exhausted and full of gratitude. Jesus has entrusted me with his message and he has arranged for me to share it. What a Savior!
The problem with writing about introversion is that I'm an introvert. And, unfortunately during the course of the last month I needed to cease engaging and rest...right in the middle of my blog series. Quite inconvenient. But today I'm rested and ready to write and I'd like to start off with a question.
Was Jesus an Introvert or Extrovert?
In a recent survey of Christian college students, nearly all (97%) of the students pictured Jesus as an extrovert. This is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, because on all other personality traits the students tended to peg Jesus as the same as themselves and, two, because this mirrors our is cultural love of extroversion.
And...what the heck??? When did extroversion become a fruit of the Spirit? But I digress. (As an aside, Jesus was probably a perfect combination of introversion and extroversion.)
Photo credit: Duck Marx
In his book "Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture", Adam McHugh observes that evangelicals talk a lot. Henri Nouwen suggests that words can be a verbal mask for a spiritual void. How well I know that.
The Introverted Side of Jesus
There are plenty of strengths in introversion. We can be better listeners, better observers of human behavior, more contemplative, more reflective, better able to engage in Sabbath, and the list goes on. Jesus displayed all of these things. ( I dare an extrovert to try living alone in the wilderness for 40 days--even WITH food.)
Recent technology has uncovered that the introverted and extroverted brain works differently. Introverts have naturally more active brains. Blood flows differently in introverted brains than extroverted brains and introverts require less dopamine. All of this points to a divine design in our make up. As introverts who desire to be transformed into the image of Christ; to emulate his life and example, we don't have to be inauthentic. Our goal is not to act like an extrovert.
On the other hand, our personality is never to become an excuse for laziness or sin. And, the reality is that God moves in community.
So what does that mean for me? Here are a few thoughts I've been chewing on:
1. I can fully embrace the personality God gave me. I often describe myself as a contemplative and I love that about myself.
2. I have something to offer the larger community in my ability to listen, to slow and to stand apart from the hectic pace of culture.
3. My relationship with Jesus is designed to be lived out in community, but that doesn't have to look like it does for an extrovert. Sometimes I will stay home and that will be okay.
4. Just as an extrovert has to work to cultivate silence and Sabbath, I have to work to cultivate community. I don't get a free pass just because it comes less naturally.
Photo Credit: Morph Omir
Sometimes I Skip Church.
First of all, I know that church is an identity, not a place I go. But you know what I mean. Sometimes when the community of believers gather, I stay home. Not a lot, but more than you'd expect from a pastor's wife. And, yes, sometimes its because I have issues with the church, but I've done a lot of emotional and spiritual work around that and today I find that sometimes I simply need to enjoy Jesus in solitude. And that's not a sin.
Of course, on other days Jesus gently coaxes me out of bed and sends me to my community regardless of my emotional state. That's all part of the dance.
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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