Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Why I should have been a "Cat Person"

Most people would agree that there are two kinds of people in the world... or at least in the U.S.: Dog People and Cat People. Growing up, my dad bred, raised and trained dogs, but we always had a cat, too. Therefore, I thought of myself as an equal-opportunity pet lover. I will have to say, however, that as much as I loved playing with puppies, my pet was always a cat.

Always, that is, until a freak accident occurred in high school and I ended up being allergic to cats for the rest of my life. It's kind of like Spiderman or Static Shock-- except instead of getting super powers, I got super allergies. eew.

Since that time, I have feigned hatred of cats and settled into my destiny as a "Dog Person." More specifically, I love golden retrievers. You know how they say pets and owners look alike? Well, I think they might have similar personalities, too.

Take my love of golden retrievers, for example. They are really wonderful, sweet, albeit slightly neurotic, dogs. I wouldn't say that label is too far off from myself. The other thing about goldens, and a lot of dogs, is that they want to please and appease their owners. They are, in affect, people pleasers.

Ouch. That arrow hit the bulls eye dead center.

Even though I am a confessed people pleaser, myself, there are so many times when I just want to hide away from the world; do my own thing. These are the times I wish I was more like a cat. Dogs follow on your heels looking for love and attention. Cats, well, cats do their own thing. They get pet when they want affection, fed when they are hungry and left alone when people are the last thing they want to see.

Yeah, I really wish I wasn't so allergic to cats. I think I'd make a great cat person. But, I guess I'd still need a dog, too. Oh, well.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

True North

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. ~Matthew 5:8

We've focused on this verse over the last couple of weeks in church. We're in the middle, or perhaps toward the end, of a series on the Beatitudes. The first week my pastor spoke on this verse, he prayed a prayer just for me. He may not have known it, but he did and I told him so afterward. His prayer was that some in the congregation may not even want to see God, but that He would be with them still.

In college, I learned a worship song called Open The Eyes of My Heart. The premise of the song is that it is a petition to God to open the "eyes of my heart" so that I could see Him. I don't know how many times I have sung this song with altered lyrics, or not at all, because honestly, the thought of seeing God "high and lifted up, shining in the light of [His] glory" terrified me. I mean, think about it, Saul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus and was blinded for days. Moses met with God on the mountaintop and came down so luminous that the Jewish people begged him to go away-- just from being in the presence of God! And let me tell you, verses like this one have not helped in my stigma of fearing the sight of God.

I spoke with my pastor about this and have been mulling over our conversation. Last night I prayed for the courage to even ask to come into His presence-- an honor Christ's death and resurrection has told us to proclaim boldly. As I was praying, it hit me: I still cling to the tenements of law. Now, I know that I have been saved by grace through faith, it is a gift and "not by works so that no one can boast" as stated in Ephesians, but somewhere, deep down inside, I still believe that I have to do something in order to earn God's trust, His love, His presence.

I look at verses like the one above and I see an "if, then" equation, a cause and effect. When I read it, I read "if you purify your heart, then you can see God" or "because you have purified your heart, you are allowed to see God." Honestly, with that sort of stipulation, no wonder I fear the presence of God!

My pastor said that in the Greek, "pure" means undivided, whole. I can never cause my heart to wholly and soley seek God. Therefore, I fear entering into His presence because I know I can never purify my own heart. What's more, I take verses such as this and set my sights not on seeing God, but on making my own heart pure. How tricky is my own self idolatry! I've taken even the word of God and made it about me.

In truth, I have steered my efforts away from seeking God, and more toward "perfecting" myself. Realizing this led me to think again on the sermons related to seeing God. During the last sermon, the pastor stated that our Christian lives "start in mercy, proceed in mercy and end in mercy." Our lives are a journey begun and finished by God.

Most journeymen will tell you the most effective tool to have on any trek is a compass. However, if you've ever seen a compass, you'd know it has two readings for North. You see, the earth's gravitational pull offsets the readings of a magnetic compass ever so slightly, thus effecting the compass reading. In order to counter-balance the gravitational pull, compass makers began to make two positions to read for North: Magnetic North and True North.

Just as the gravitational pull of the earth effects the readings of a magnetic compass, my own divisiveness effects the actions, intentions and proceedings of my heart. In this my greatest fears are both justified and waylaid. It is 100% true -I cannot purify my own heart; I cannot steer it wholly toward God-- clearly my own attempts to navigate the path continue to pull short of True North.

However, it is only by God's work in me, through the Holy Spirit, that I can even have the courage to ask to seek Him. And in *that* journey, He will purify my heart, refine my inmost being. He is, after all, the Alpha and the Omega; the Beginning and the End. I can begin no good work that He has not already begun in me.

Tonight when I think I will pray for direction on this journey; I will pray for the Holy Spirit to steer me past My North, straight on to True North.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Shades of Grey

As I Christian, I often want to think in "black" and "white." I want absolutes. Honestly, it's not that repugnant of a demand, is it? After all, being a Christian means that I believe in One Absolute Truth. Having one's world set to the tune of a single Truth, the desire to see everything else meted out as "good" or "bad" really isn't all that strange.

However, the more I learn about this faith, the more I learn that Truth is not so much a line dividing "right" and "wrong," but more a beacon of light, a focal point from which light emits, illuminating those objects closest to the light and falling short on things further from it. The further we progress from the light, the darker, fuzzier, less clear objects (or objectives) become. The light doesn't just drop off, like an ocean floor, though. It gradually fades into the darkness; gradually succumbs to shades of grey.

So are the decisions and choices we make day in and out. Sometimes, they are brought into the light, shown for their true worth (good or bad). Sometimes they are too far into the darkness to explore or pursue, lest we lose ourselves in the darkness, as well. No, Truth isn't the fulcrum of a seesaw, it is a lighthouse island in the middle of the ocean.

Nothing on this earth is purely good or purely evil. There is always a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Take those schools in Georgia who shut down due to gas prices. People were enraged, were they not? I can hear the initial reactions (even in my own head), "Education should not have to suffer so you can save a buck!!!" But, what do you think that buck saved went to pay for? If those buses continued to run and guzzle gas at such significant prices, how deeply would it cut into the school budget? What program would suffer for the cost of gas? With public education funding already stretched tightly across the nation, what would a gouge like that do to an already slim budget?

There are so many sides to everything. So few choices between right and wrong these days. How can we really expect to stand on a line and dole out decisions to the left or the right? No, I believe there are many shades of grey to investigate; many levels of light and dark.