Christian Living

How to troubleshoot your sacrifice

Today I’ve been thinking about sacrifice. I like to listen to the soundtrack for Star Trek Into Darkness when I’m writing so I regularly have that scene where Captain Kirk sacrifices himself to save the ship in my head. If you haven’t watched it, well, I realize there are people who don’t like Star Trek. It’s never made sense to me but I do know it is a fact of life 🙂 You can always watch the scene on youtube (although it loses something if you watch it without the context of the movie): https://youtu.be/rGOb0VmVFcQ

Anywho, sacrifice is one of the themes that pulls together many of the great stories–including Jesus’ life and death. It’s also where the rubber meets the road in the Christian life. We all sacrifice things every single day. Right now, I am sacrificing working on my novel, spending time with my kids, relaxing, and catching up on my to-do list for the sake of working on this blog. Every moment, we’re choosing to do something at the expense of all the other things we could be doing.

That’s why what you spend your time on says so much about who you are.

Sacrifice is one of those integral Christian values that I personally think we don’t spend enough time talking about. Maybe because we forget that we’re already doing it all the time. We sugarcoat sacrifice so as not to scare off non-Christians because it sounds daunting and painful. And it can be.

But imagine that I ask you whether you’d like to sacrifice your week of work for an all-expenses-paid vacation to the beach (or whatever your preferred destination is). Would you consider that a sacrifice? I bet you’d be lining up to ditch work. I know I would 🙂 I love the beach. Sacrificing to go to the beach is not a sacrifice–it is a joy.

Sacrifice is like an equation: (Present – sacrifice) + time = what God wants to give you. There are two parts to that sacrifice that change the equation: 1) the value of what you’re losing and 2) the value of what you’re gaining. You might not be so interested if I were to require your firstborn child in trade. Or a million dollars. Or your mint condition Star Trek collection 😉

Paul says he considers everything as rubbish compared to gaining Christ (Phil 3:8). In case that’s not strong enough, check out the definition for “rubbish”: “waste thrown to dogs, like filthy scraps of garbage (table-scraps, dung, muck, sweepings)” (Strongs, 4657).

So… yeah, that’s gross. It reminds me of desperately trying to convince my baby girl to let me wash the doll she carried around and sucked on every single day (we eventually cheated and bought a second one so we could trade them back and forth). It was super precious to her but also super gross.

That’s the kind of sacrifice God calls us to. He doesn’t just take something from us without giving us something even better. Like Jesus talked about with the grain of wheat–all seeds have to “die” to turn into plants (Jn 12:24). We sacrifice and God grows something awesome out of it (Rom. 8:28; Jas 1:17; Heb. 12:1-2). Sometimes it might be something completely different. Sometimes it might be the same thing–just sanctified and made into something that benefits us (vs. a germ-ridden, dingy doll).

I was reminded today that when I struggle to sacrifice something to God, it has everything to do with my perspective. Do I really believe God wants to give me something better? Do I really believe something better exists? And am I willing to be patient? Seeds don’t grow overnight. Dolls take time to wash. Sacrifices take time to bear fruit.

So what about you? What is God calling you to sacrifice? And, if you’re struggling to go through with it, which side of the equation is the problem at?

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Literature, Uncategorized

Bookshelf Tour: Journeys to Fayrah by Bill Myers

In case you haven’t quite caught it, we read a lot around here. Lately, I’ve been introducing my kids to Bill Myers’ Fayrah series (co-creator of McGee &Me, if you remember that series). It’s been a favorite of mine for a long time. The stories are fun and provide lots of opportunity to talk to your kids about spiritual concepts (or to be reminded of them for yourself!). Three main characters (Denise, Nathan, and Joshua) are transported to an alternate world in an alternate dimension so they can learn about Imager (similar to Narnia).

I really love how Myers uses analogy to talk about spiritual concepts. I could talk about each of the characters and their growth, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on Denise. For example, in book two, The Experiment, Denise is struggling with Imager’s love–in large part because her father left her at an early age. The Fayrahnians take her to a machine that’s been infused with Imager’s breath and is able to create life in this miniature world. She’s instructed to create some beings so she can experience Imager’s love for His creature and then left alone. She creates two cute little humanoid creatures and in the end, sacrifices herself to save them. She learns experientially that God loves her because He made her. She also has some interesting revelations with the creatures putting themselves in situations where they’re unable to hear her.

Another little fun analogy he has going throughout the series is the water in Fayrah–it’s made up of Imager’s words. For humans (upside-downers), it’s the only way to be able to see or hear anything correctly. Denise, Nathan, and Joshua all have to pour the water in their ears and eyes to be able to function.

In The Whirlwind, Myers describes the feeling of being re-breathed (saved) thus: “Immediately, [Denise] was struck with a feeling of lightness. First it started in her head. it felt as if a heavy darkness were being drained from it. All of the confusion and muddled thinking that had plagued her mind as far back as she could remember was suddenly being drawn away…Next she felt her neck and shoulders start to grow light. A heaviness was being drained from them and out her feet into the pool. As the weight slipped away, she noticed her fears were also slipping away. Fears that she wasn’t loved. Fears that no one cared, that she really was on her own. Now, suddenly all those fears began to drain away…Next Denise felt the darkness leave her chest. Gradually, all the guilt over all the wrongs she had done was drained away. It felt as if a giant weight were removed. For the first time in her life, she felt like she could breathe. Really Breathe.”

It was a lot of fun to read Denise and Nathan’s conversion experiences and to remember my own. Sometimes, in the bustle of life, it’s easy to forget what things were like pre-Jesus. My life was pretty rotten. I definitely lived in fear, despair, shame, guilt, etc., etc. Reading this section to my kids reminded me that, as Christians, we really don’t have anything to worry about. Our sin is redeemed–taken away and the consequences are transformed. We’re loved–so loved that God died for us. As Romans 8:32 puts it, how will he not also along with this graciously give us all things? The God who sacrificed Himself for us and owns everything isn’t going to grudge us food to eat or a place to live–He provides for us abundantly and joyfully (Matt. 6:25-34).

I also really love at the end of The Whirlwind where Denise is put in a situation where the accuser is reminding her of everything she’s ever done wrong and it’s up to her to hang onto what’s true. So hard to do in real life!

If you’ve never read them, they’re definitely worth checking out!

Movies

Frozen

Last week we took our girls to see Disney’s Frozen for Christmas and I loved it! As in, I told my husband I want my own copy so the girls can’t take it with them when they get old enough to move out. If I had the chance, I think I’d watch this one more times in theater than I did The Matrix (8 times). This movie had good music and good acting, but if you’re like me, what you really care about are the redemptive themes. Frozen more than delivered in that respect! It had some amazing themes in it and has sparked some great conversations with our children. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know what happens, go see it and then read this 🙂

One of my favorite things was how the Frozen folks defined love in this movie: sacrificing for someone else, whether that’s in the context of romantic relationships or anywhere else, and then they showed it with Kristoff, Olaf, Anna, and Elsa. The trolls talked about how you can’t really change people, but when you love them, they change themselves–and they talked about how we need this kind of love from family and friends and in the context of romance; we’re all “fixer-uppers.” We regularly talk to our girls about how humans are incapable of loving on their own (1 John 4:19; Galatians 5:22-23). God initiates love and that transforms us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we pass along God’s love and others are transformed. And then, of course, Disney hit the sacrificial love that saves Anna at the end, just as Christ’s sacrifice saves us. Love transforms us as we are loved AND as we love. So beautiful!

I also loved how Elsa’s parents thought they were protecting her (and everyone else) by isolating her and teaching “conceal, don’t feel” her magic, but at the end Elsa discovers love is what protects people. She’s trying so hard to control things. We had a great conversation with our daughters about how feelings are like that. When you lock them up inside you, they explode out and end up hurting people at some point. Instead we need to love and then share our feelings in the context of relationship. I could also really relate with the family dynamics of keeping secrets as a self/others-protective mechanism that ends up sucking the life out of and isolating those involved in the secret. Love is where it’s at.

Another amazing theme was freedom. Elsa feels trapped in her room/her power (or as she calls it, her “curse”) and then she sings about how she’s finally free when she goes up on the mountain alone and can let that part of herself out. She is free in the sense that she is finally using her power, similarly to how she used it in her childhood. She’s no longer pretending to be someone she isn’t and it changes her. I love how Disney visually showed this by switching up Elsa’s costume from a very straight-laced look to very flowey hair and dress. By changing her circumstances, it provides her with outward freedom to be herself, which is a step in the right direction, but later she realizes she’s not really free there either because she brought her own internal storm with her. It’s only once she learns to love and be loved that she’s really free. So beautiful to see a Disney film talk about how circumstances don’t determine our happiness, peace, etc.–that freedom is about being free from our own personal demons. And then combining that with her honesty about herself–Elsa ends up free because she lives out who she is AND deals with her internal storm. She lives a wide open life in a spacious place. I was really convicted by this theme. I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about how people can’t see what God is doing in us if we don’t live wide open lives. But it takes having time to be anchored in the reality of who we are. I’m not sure that Elsa would have been able to handle things as well if she hadn’t had that time alone where she was exploring her power. I have a short memory so I need time every single day to be alone, to sit in God’s presence and know who I am and who He is, to re-create that space in my soul. Only then am I able to love in truth. Otherwise I’m hemmed in on every side with no margin.

The Frozen folks also addressed fear and control and how the opposite of fear is love. Elsa and her parents are motivated by fear after the accident with Anna. Fear causes them to focus on control. They think they’re loving Anna and others by living out of fear, but as I said before, at the end Elsa discovers love is what protects people. I thought Disney did a great job of juxtaposing fear and love and how control is an illusion. Control promises to fix things, but all it does is hide the problems. And once you have some control you end up needing more and more to deal with the problem… it becomes a never-ending cycle. As a person with PTSD, this is a lesson I feel like I need to hear every single day. My natural response is to run to control because it seems like it’s the road to security, but I’ve learned that my heart is the problem.

I also liked that the bad guy didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Usually you can guess who it is from the get go, but the sudden reverse of Hans provided a great opportunity to talk to our girls about giving people time to show who they really are. Maybe it’s my background, but I think it’s important to teach kids to be wise in who they trust–obviously, it’s important not to swing to the side of teaching them to fear. Hans is also a great opportunity to talk about how having a hungry soul makes you vulnerable. He even tells Anna that he was able to fool her because she was so desperate for love. It’s sad, but she practically fools herself. I’m not saying that her situation didn’t come into play; obviously the fact that she was alone for years was a big part of why she was willing to give herself to whomever came along. However, from a spiritual perspective, having a satisfied soul is a great way to safeguard oneself from bad relationships, bad choices, and the like.

I think it’s very telling that Frozen did so well in box offices. When a storyteller connects with the themes of God’s bigger story and the way He made the world to work, people connect with it on a heart level. Suddenly they can picture themselves as this character or that character (and I think it’s very telling to see which characters they relate with–my daughters each picked a different character as their favorite, one that matched up well with where they’re at!). So, if you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to watch this beautiful story and think about who you are.

Uncategorized

Incarnation Musings

Filth. Dirt. Mess. Part of my background means that I’m a little obsessive about cleanliness. Physical dirt and disorganization is associated with trauma to me. I can handle going to a friend’s house, but I have trouble not hyperventilating in public restrooms. It’s something I’m working on. My children are continually stretching me 🙂

We were recently in a house that made my skin crawl. And as I was praying about it, God reminded me that sin makes Him feel even worse. Jesus came and became human. He lived in our physical and spiritual filth for 33 years. Just the idea of days in messiness sounds overwhelming to me. Scripture says my righteous acts are like the rags a woman used for her period (Isaiah 64:6). And those are the things I cling to and hold up for brownie points. I glory in them.

I found myself wondering if I could do the same thing. This isn’t the way I prefer to live, but can I put that away? Can I lay aside my disgust and open my heart up to love? God has put me in these various situations for a reason. What if I miss something beautiful because I’m too busy looking at dirt? Focus determines perspective. I can choose to focus on how awful I feel, or I can focus on listening for God’s voice. He’s called me to share His love with everyone, even those who like mess. It’s incompatible with who I am, as His child, to hold myself aloof.

O God, change my heart. Give me Your kind of love. Let Your love overwhelm the barriers I’ve erected to protect myself. God, free me from my fear-based living and overwhelm it with Your love. Let me run after You to the exclusion of all my prejudices.