Archive for February, 2009
I don’t always finish the books that I start. (see previous blog confession) However, I just finished a reading a book that struck something inside—this delicate chord that sways between who I am and who I want to be. It named something for me that I have been wrestling with and questioning.
I have grown up surrounded by Christians. I have gone to church for as long as I can remember. I am a person of faith and I continue to learn what it means to be a follower of Christ. My faith has shaped who I am and how I think about the world and my place in it. I am nothing but grateful for my parents and siblings and friends and professors who have loved me, prayed for me, challenged me and graciously, given me room to change.
In recent years, especially since college, I often come back to this question “What does it mean to claim to be a Christian in a society where the word “Christian” often has such a negative connotation?” I sometimes sit and cringe when I hear certain right-wing political commentators claim to know God’s agenda and I am often embarrassed by televangelists on TV who profess this cheezy, game-show host kind of a God. I don’t know these men and women personally, so maybe they really love God and love people, but sometimes I am sad that they become the image that people conjure up when thinking of a Christian. And I get angry when Christians spend the sum of their energy talking about the two hot-button issues; gay marriage and abortion. I don’t understand how Jesus’ message of “love God with all of your heart, soul and mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself” gets reduced so quickly to two issues. I just don’t get it. I write hesitantly on this topic, because I know it can lead to heated arguments with pointed fingers and hurt feelings, none of which is my intent. But I write, nonetheless, to acknowledge what I am learning and thinking and to be true to who I am. It feels a little risky because I know some may misunderstand me or misjudge me, but I guess that goes with the territory of publicly posting your personal opinions on the internet : )
Donald Miller articulates it better than I can in his book, Searching For God Knows What? He writes, “The person who believes the sum of his morality involves gay marriage and abortion alone, neglects health care and worlds trade and the environment and loving his neighbors and feeding the poor.”
When I read parts of the gospels and look at the life of Jesus, I am continually amazed at the life he lived- he was a radical, who believed in peace and truth and not buying into the expected norms of the day. He spent time with the marginalized and the poor, he ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. He challenged the Pharisees and the religious leaders. He loved people—all people. It wasn’t about “us” versus “them,” or proving people wrong. He asked questions. And listened. And loved.
In church today my pastor spoke from a passage in John 11. It’s a story that most people at some point in life can identify with; it’s a story about two mourning sisters and a dead brother. It’s a story of pain and grief and of a God who offers healing and hope. One of the most poignant verses is verse 35. “Jesus wept.” It’s so simple and yet I sat in church, filled with emotion, and thought what would happen if our society saw this Jesus- a Jesus who weeps with us in times of pain and grief, a Jesus who empathizes with our longings and desires and more than anything wants to bring us healing and hope and redemption. I started thinking what would happen if as a Christian, I truly lived a life where I wept and empathized with people.
Some of the men and women I admire most in this world are not famous authors or speakers or Nobel Prize winners, but they are family and friends, who have chosen to live how Christ lived.
One of my friends shares a meal with homeless men and women while they get access to medical care every Wednesday night. Another friend has chosen to not to raise her standard of living, so whenever she gets a raise at work she gives that money away. I have been inspired by a family who recently planted a city garden and are now advocating for more sustainable food sources in our city. I’ve watched a dear friend who spends time with an international student to help her feel welcomed and comfortable in a new country. I have a friend in law school who is studying Spanish and pursing her law degree so she can advocate and defend immigrants and minorities who are treated unjustly. And I could go on…
These are people who call themselves Christians. It almost seems too simple: they love God and love people. I sometimes wish that when our society heard the word “Christian” they would think of these men and women. People aren’t perfect, no one is. Christians, Muslims, Agnostics, Catholics, we are all bound to make mistakes. But I am learning that if I claim to be a Christian, someone who wants to follow Christ, then I want to be someone who tries to live generously and patiently, someone who is quick to forgive and willing to listen, someone who takes care of creation and advocates for those who can’t stand up for themselves.
As I continue to struggle to keep this at the forefront, to make it not just an ideal but an actuality, I am reminded of a verse in the book of Micah:
“And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
This is my prayer for today.
Today I marched into work wearing my cute, cherry rain boots. About 10 minutes into 1st period, when the rest of the class was busying coping notes off the board, one of my students in the back made a comment just loud enough for the whole class to hear:
-woah, ms. acker’s boots are flossy.
Flossy? Is that what he said? I ignored the comment partly because it was off topic, but also because I had no idea what it meant. Flossy. Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
Thanks to the fine folks at urban dictionary.com I learned a new word today:
Flossy (adjective): Superficially stylish; Showy; Attracts attention with looks or nice things; similar to “bling”; someone or something that is considered cool or stylish
Apparently Fergie’s song Glamorous also refers to “flossy flossy.”
Oh, the things I learn from high schoolers. Ill add flossy to the other slew of slang words my students say (words like dank, baller, trippin, days, hater, bumpin…and I could go on!)
At least I can rest assured that wearing flossy boots is a relatively good thing.
When I was growing up I was one of those kids who didn’t like to miss school. I feared falling behind and or worse yet, missing out on something. It didn’t matter if we were going on a family vacation, taking a trip to Disneyland or going for a routine check-up to the orthodontist, I did not like to miss school. And I absolutely hated it when I got sick. Most often I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t sick and on the rare days when I was actually a sneezing-coughing-running nose kid and beyond the point of self-deception, I would bargain with my parents to let me go to school for half a day.
Some things never change.
I still don’t like to miss school. And I still try and convince myself that I don’t get sick. I figure if I am going to take a day off work, then I want it to it be one of those sunny-lie-by-the-beach, visit-good-friends type of days. I hate, HATE taking sick days, when I am actually sick.
But today I gave in. I called the district sub line at 6:25am and requested a sub. My left eye had been bothering me all night and it was not any better. So with a red-watery eye, I laid in my bed moaning from the pain and discomfort. The doctor’s office didn’t open until 9:00. I couldn’t see out of the one eye and it felt like someone was scraping my eyeball with a piece of glass. And perhaps, the worst part was I couldn’t do anything about it.
I spent those first three hours just mad—I was mad at my eye, mad at the doctor and mad that I had to miss school. I couldn’t read or watch a movie or journal or go for a walk- all things I would happily do on a “day off.” No, instead I had to just lie there, with my eyes closed because any bit of light caused excruciating pain. I had to lie there and do nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was like some cruel joke.
I was humbled; humbled by my weakness and my inability to do anything.
Maybe this is what it takes sometimes for me to stop and pay attention and slow down. As I lay there I prayed. I selfishly prayed for healing (because lets be honest, its hard to pray for anything but yourself when you want to tear out your own eye). I prayed for people who are hurting in Santa Barbara and our country. I prayed for men and women and innocent children in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and Palestine– they are hurting in ways that I will never know. I laid there and dozed on and off, in-between prayer and restless sleep.
Two doctor’s visits, two separate co-pays and two trips to the pharmacy later (thank you, to the American insurance bureaucracy) I was diagnosed with a scratch on my cornea. My eye didn’t get immediately better, but my perspectives on the day did. For one the doctor gave me these glorious numbing drops that stopped the pain and then he recommend I wear a patch to keep out the light! All in all I am pretty impressed with modern medicine and the fact that some magnifying machine can look into my eye and see tiny scratches and infections. I was not however so impressed with the patch idea. But I’ve learned I can’t really negotiate or argue with doctors. If they say wear a patch, then I will wear a patch…ever so reluctantly.
I am sure I looked ridiculous with my black, pirate patch plastered over one eye. I sat in a coffee shop with my black looking pirate patch, I walked to the grocery store with the black object still there and I even did a little shopping at Ross complete with my black, pirate piece. Pretty soon I just started ignoring the blank, empathetic (or maybe slightly concerned) stares. I pretended no one else noticed : )
I did feel much better after my incredibly culturally savvy sister reminded me that this same thing happened to Monica on Friends. Maybe Monica and I have more in common then I’d like to admit. I mean c’mon she doesn’t look that bad with her eye patch on, right?
Hopefully, tomorrow I will be back at work…without an eye patch!