Sunday, April 17, 2011

Praying for Ricky Gervais - and chatting-up Chewbacca on the side

I know. It sounds weird. It sounds kind of "church-y" and perhaps even smug....

But I pray for Ricky Gervais regularly. Because he and I go WAY back. (Kidding). Okay, so here's the real reason:

Christians, as of late (as in, say, oh, hundreds of years), have had a bad rap. I mean, well, we have. We're portrayed as judgmental (with the focus on MENTAL), persnickety, hypocritical, backbiting, insufferable (while pretending to suffer - as long as it makes you feel guilty.. . Well, does it? Oh, good, then), prudish philanderers (you know who you are) and overall pious gasbags. I say all of this with love (I am SO magnanimous. Sigh... Why can't you ALL just be more like ME? Ch.).

But seriously (and, sadly, I was... being.... um, serious...).... We all need to work on this. And I know this well because I'm made it a lifelong mission to beat myself up repeatedly at every turn. After all, I was taught by the church that EVERYTHING I did, with the exception of saying "Praise the Lord," was bad. And even while I am praising Him - am I REALLY? Or am I just trying to gain the attention of others? "Ha! We thought so! Ten more lashes for you, Erin, you big phony!" So, I am such a complete wretch that I can't even praise my God without worrying I might just be trying to gain brownie-points for Lent. So, on some counts, the perceptions aren't so far off.

When I'm not glorying in martyrdom, I enjoy sci-fi and comedy. I LOVE comedy. I feast on the expressions of the SNL crowd, Tina Fey (Yeah, yeah, the Sarah Palin thing gets old but she's funny. Leave me alone. "10 more lashes, Erin." Gulp), Seth Rogan (Pineapple Express was hilARIOUS - "THAT filth? About DRUGS? NOT very CHRISTIAN-like, Erin! You disgust me. TWENTY lashes."), Will Farrell, Steve Carell - which brings me to Ricky Gervais ("100 beatings, 300 Hail Mary's and you clean the rectory bathroom - yes, the one that Father Joe uses after chili potluck - just for mentioning the FOUL NAME!").... I like Ricky. He's funny. He's smart. He's an Atheist with a capital A and he's loud and proud about HIS faith. But he's hilarious and brilliant. There's no denying this, no matter how we slice it - the man's a genius. So, uh, why not get him on our side?

Look, people, our PR's been pretty bad.. We need this guy. Did you hear him at the Academy's? At the very least, if he's on our side, he'll scare doubters into silence. "Stephen Hawking, you better shut your trap Er, wait. I mean. Stop your... whatever it is you do to communicate your misguided ideas about a universe without God or I'll... I'll...."

Okay, fine. So maybe he wasn't the example I'm looking for - but if Ricky Gervais were a Christian, I think he'd still be a funny guy with a sharp wit. And, folks, I'm not seeing a whole lot of funny Christians 'round here. Yeah, yeah - we have our handful of Christian comedians (love them) but for the most part, we're scared SILENT. We've stepped on so many toes we've taken our shoes off and cut off our feet - and our hands. We're, now, sitting in a wheelchair on Venice Beach with a sign that says, "Feed me, My Name Is Bob" strapped to our necks! We're mute. We're timid. We just want to be nice and maybe the bad people will go away and let us alone to play with our Rosary.

Well, they won't. They are all up in our faces with their hate! It's one thing to be an atheist and quite another to bash God, Christians and religion, in general, at every turn. And that's what's being done, peeps! Look, I'm as conflicted as the next guy - but I'm a Christian. I'm not perfect ("Duh!?! 30 lashes for stating the obvious. Dork.") but I refuse to hide behind my Bob sign, ever again! I have legs. I will KICK you if you slander my God! Figuratively - especially within City limits- but, still. I'm done sitting around playing "nice." I'm on the offence, Baybee. Waiting at every corner for Margaret Cho to say ONE MORE crappy comment about my faith, on stand-by for Jack Black's next irreverent portrayal of Christ and RIGHT HERE, baybee, ready to STORM the gates of ABC and their "Good Christian Bitches." Now, I'm exaggerating (Nooooooo?) to make a point, here. I'm not suggesting we resort to physical violence to defend our faith - but when you hear someone mouthing off about your FAITH - SHUT THEM UP. There is nothing wrong with standing up for your faith. You don't need to go postal. Just stand up and say something. Please.

Meanwhile - Dude. We seriously need a re-frame. We need some stand-up Christians who are loud and proud on GOD'S SIDE. Ricky's been good to Atheism - So I've been praying for Ricky Gervais. Of course, I'd love for him to enter into a personal relationship with Christ but I would also like him to SEE that we're not ALL like the church that wants to beat me continuously - while raping my wallet and attempting to force me to dress like Marge Simpson, hair and all. Not all Christians are like that, Ricky. Let me introduce you to my friends. Well, some of my friends. SMILE, you're on Christan camera!

You see, I've been fortunate (I was going to say, "blessed" but my aversion to Church-ese lingers) to come across some awesome Christian people who are normal! ("Normal? We won't have it! Thirty.." SMACK! Shu-HUT up, Churchee! I'm on the right track with God. He loves me where I am. Yeah, I screw up, I fall, I get back up and continue on. He accepts me. He helps me. You don't like that? I've got a Cee-Lo song for ya.) Ahem. Anyway. Yeah, so I have NORMAL Christian friends who are not the kind we see on TV! No heavy mascar-y. No air-conditioned dog houses. That I know of. They're relate-able. They are just normal, down-to-earth people who happen to believe in God and in Christ. Besides that - and including that - they're a lot of fun! They're hip. Silly. Funny. Weird. They dress in all different kinds of apparel - eclectic-chic to thrift-store tacky (I put the "ack!" in tacky).

I never would have believed such people existed - especially since Hollywood kept telling me they didn't! They insisted, they PREACHED THEIR GOSPEL of BAD, Hypocritical Christians - insisting that every Christian was like the ones at my old church! Well, guess what - they're NOT. I have friends of many races, religions and "lifestyle choices" and we don't hate each other. It's amazing! We're actually cool with one another - loving, accepting, happy.... Imagine THAT. Happy! Kind. CHRIST-like. Who knew Christians could be this way? And, hey - these people are good - they put up with MY crap so clearly they're a tolerant, patient, non-judgmental bunch (focus is still on the mental - but I'd say that for any group).

So, I'm praying for Ricky Gervais. I'm praying that he - and the rest of the world - sees Jesus for who He is and what He taught. I'm praying he learns that there are many (and we are a widening circle - and not just because we're eating way too much Easter candy, either) Christians who do our darnedest to adhere to the principles of Christ. Yeah, we blow it. But we know that and we are okay with that. We're working on it, on ourselves, to spread the true gospel of Christ -- that's a gospel of love, by the way - with no room for lashes, mascara'd or otherwise.

And if Ricky won't have us, I'll just have to move on to my other entertainment joy - sci-fi. ET is really smart, so there's a possibility... It wouldn't be bad to have Predator on our side - oh, wait. The PR image. Yeah - no. But Spock would be good. VERY analytical. I like it.. Darth Vader.... Nah. He'd split churches (literally). CHEWBACCA! YES. Anyone know how to reach him? Chewy! Call me! I'll take you out to the Cantina. My treat!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Taking it to the Cross is easy. Leaving it there requires faith.

Lately, one of my spiritual go-to friends has been trying to teach me a valuable lesson that I thought I'd learned ages ago. I didn't realize until earlier this week just what they were up to.

Whenever I had a look of frustration, voiced words of doubt, expressed fear or anxiety in any way, or started to question something, they'd simply look at me and say, "take it to the Cross, Kriss." If you know me well enough, you can probably guess that it took all of three times of them saying that before I was ready to mouth-off and explain how I'd ALREADY taken it to the Cross... I'd prayed about it, I'd journaled about it, I talked it over with Jesus, etc, and just what exactly did they mean?!

Finally, after weeks of hearing this reply to everything, it dawned on me... I may immediately take things TO the Cross, but do I really LEAVE them there? Am I truly surrendering ALL to Him?

When Christ hung on the cross, He took all of my sin... all of it. That includes my fears, my anger, my shame, my doubts, my sadness... any of the things that keep me from focusing on His face.

Colossians 2:13b-15 He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

He forgave ALL of our sins. He canceled our debt. He took the condemnation away. He took away the power and authority of these sins in our lives. He didn't just take them away either! After He took them away, He made a spectacle of them and triumphed over them. They are powerless. They are NOTHING. He eliminated them.

As sins pop up in our lives, we must give them over to Him. We must surrender them to Him. When I take my sins and burdens to the Cross, I'm meeting Him there, asking Him to take these things from me and free me of their oppression in my life. Jesus gladly takes the burdens upon Himself and sends me back on my way to keep working for Him in this world.

1 John 3:4-6 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

If I fail to give Him each and every part of the things I bring to the Cross, I am neglecting to fully surrender all to Him. I am not trusting Him to carry the entire weight of these burdens. I am failing to LEAVE these items at the Cross. Taking it to the Cross is easy. Leaving it there requires faith. Once they are left at the Cross, they are gone. They do not exist. God has cast them as far as the east is to the west (Psalm 103:12). They are GONE.

As frustrated as I became with the constant answer of "take it to the Cross, Kriss", I am so very thankful for this reply now. Now, it's my immediate response to any situation. Now, I don't just take it to the Cross, I leave it there. Jesus is big enough to handle any and all of these burdens. It's not my job to carry these things around. My job is to keep my gaze on Jesus' face and live out His purpose in my life. It's not my job to fear, doubt, get angry, judge, question or blame. It's my job to share the Gospel and to love others. Once they are completely left in Jesus' hands, these burdens and sins have absolutely no control over my life anymore.

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Psalm 16:8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

So, go ahead, TAKE it to the Cross. But, be sure you LEAVE it there! Then, burdens eliminated, go joyfully back into the world and GET BACK TO WORK!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Grab Your Gear!!

I admit it. I am absolutely addicted to outdoor adventure activities. I could never get enough backpacking, climbing, canoeing, kayaking, caving, camping, hiking or mountain biking in one lifetime.

When I was blessed with twins, my outdoor adventures took a back-burner to mommyhood. However, when the boys were just over three years old, I was granted the opportunity to spend a week backpacking through Yosemite's wilderness area on an Outward Bound trip. The trip absolutely nourished my body, mind and soul, though it was SO different, because I spent the entire time missing my baby boys! It was a incredible learning experience and something I'd never trade for anything in the world. (Read more on my Outward Bound blog)

Before I could get another small taste of outdoor adventure, we found that we were expecting another little blessing. This poor baby girl of mine has no idea what's in store for her with this adventure-loving, outdoorsy, tomboy of a momma...

We just made plans for our first family camping trip. I am bouncing off the walls with excitement. I get to experience both Acadia National Park and the state of Maine for the first time, AND I FINALLY get to introduce my children to the world of outdoor fun. I've taken the boys on little hiking excursions, taught them to climb, and have taken them on other little jaunts in the outdoors, which they have loved, but this will be the first time that we will be completely immersing our entire family into the outdoors for four entire days. No phones. No electricity. No showers. No technology. No buildings. Back to the absolute basics. Us, God and God's creation. I cannot wait.

Do you know what makes any outdoor adventure activity successful? It's not the experience itself, though that is a huge part of it. It's the PLANNING. The PREPARATION. If you take the time to plan ahead and prepare for every scenario, you can absolutely relax and enjoy the experience, knowing that everything is ready, taken care of, and completely in God's hands. As we all know, even the best-laid plans can go kerpluey, but as long as it's all in His hands, you know you'll be just fine.

There are some key basic things you need to pack for any extended trip to the great outdoors.

What's in my backpack?

Well, the essentials. I have food, water (or a way to keep the water filtered), shelter, the correct gear, and the proper attitude.

We obviously need food to sustain us physically during our time outside. It may not be the same food we'd make at home, but I have turned into quite the gourmet chef with nothing more than a camping stove, fuel, matches and basic ingredients that are easily portable & packable.

Just as important as food is water - or some means to filter water found along the way. Although we can bring things to help flavor the water, they aren't essential. Water is a MUST though. No matter what. Without water, there is no trip.

Shelter. Okay, those who have been on an Outward Bound or NOLS course, don't slam me here. YES, I am FULLY aware that you don't absolutely have to carry any form of shelter with you. I have been forced to sleep under the stars with no tent or canopy and I survived. However, for the not-so-hardcore, you should bring some form of shelter. You aren't going to be guaranteed of sunny, clear, dry weather. And sleeping under the stars may be nice, but not when it's pouring down rain. Trust me.

The correct gear is of the upmost importance. Yes, you could get away without some of it, but you probably wouldn't want to try. We're not talking Survivor here. We're talking enjoyable excursion to the outdoors. So, you'll want to have a map, compass, first aid kit, a campstove, fuel, light, and the correct clothing/shoes. The map and compass will keep you from getting lost. The first aid kit doesn't have to be elaborate, but your blisters will thank you if you at least have some bandaids with you. Campstoves are essential if you want to eat more than bread and fresh fruits or nuts. Fuel, well, if you want to use that handy dandy campstove to fix some food that's actually hot (or at least warm), you need fuel. A source of light may not be an absolute necessity, but it is a great source of comfort and can come in handy for middle-of-the-night bathroom trips (or searching through a dark bag for a bandaid for that blister). The correct clothing/shoes... well... you can actually prevent the blister this way! If it's going to be in the 90s and humid, you do not want to have to carry or deal with heavy pants, coats, shirts and more. However, if the lows are going to dip down near 0, that tank top and shorts aren't going to be too comfortable. Plus, if you're in the middle of nowhere, who's really going to care that your clothes aren't that fashionable, don't really match, or are the same ones you wore yesterday? You should plan to dress in layers, and have clothing appropriate to the environment and weather conditions. This includes having rain gear, unless you're a die-hard true-to-nature person who thinks if it rains you are supposed to get wet. The correct shoes, just like the correct clothing, will keep you comfortable and ready for your adventure. Wearing those fancy sandals while hiking over rocks and through mud probably wouldn't help much. Good hiking boots and an old, comfortable pair of shoes to wear around camp at night are a good plan.

The correct attitude, though it cannot be physically packed into your bag, is so incredibly essential when heading to the great outdoors. As a Girl Scout, I was taught to leave a place better than I found it. Outward Bound also strongly emphasizes this concept. So, when I head outdoors, I go with the plan of service. I plan to find a way to serve others or make a place better. I also go with an attitude of submission - to God's plan for the trip. I go expecting the unexpected and anticipating a wonderfully inspiring, great time. Although the pre-planning may be extensive, once I get out there in the midst of nowhere, there are no longer any schedules, deadlines, rigid structures or other elements of the technologically-overloaded world I left behind.

As I've planned and prepared trip after trip in the past, I came to the realization that our Christian lives are much like my excursions to the world outdoors. We, as Christians, should be prepared and plan ahead. We should be ready for our adventure. Each of the five basics I listed above correlates to something we should have in our "spiritual backpack" each day.

Food: As a Christian, our food is God's word. The Bible gives us the wisdom, knowledge and examples we need to be successful on our adventure. His truths enable us to face any situation or trial along the way. The Bible makes several references to God's word being like food. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that He sustains "all things by his powerful word".

Water: Worship and the Holy Spirit are water for our souls. When we allow the Spirit to work within us, He quenches our thirst. When we allow our hearts open up in worshipping the Father, we are blessed with a river flowing through us and a spring of life welling up and overflowing inside us, filling us with peace, joy, love and eternal life. John 7:38 - "Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 4:14 - "but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Shelter: God is our shelter in this world. When we need shelter from the storms of life, we pray. We find our safety and security in the shelter of God's protection through prayer. There are so many verses, especially in the Psalms, that refer God as our shelter. Our salvation also falls under this category. In order to rest in the comfort of God's shelter, we must first know Him and allow Him to be Lord in our lives.

The correct gear: The Armour of God is our correct gear in this world. Just as we had a list of necessary gear for heading outdoors, there is a list of necessary battle gear found in Ephesians 6. We should put on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness, fit our feet with readiness and peace, and take up the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. This gear enables us to firmly stand our ground and extinguish all "flaming arrows" from the devil. With the proper gear in place, we are prepared to battle evil and promote good.

Correct attitude: An attitude of service is just as important in this busy, technology-driven world as it is in the middle of the greatest wilderness. Romans 15:15 tells us we should have the same attitude towards each other as Christ had towards us. Christ gave us His grace so that we are equipped "for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12-13). Facing each day with an attitude of service enables God to use us and work through us as we come in contact with others.

Each and every day, Christians should fill their Spiritual backpack with these five things: God's word (food), worship/Holy Spirit (water), God via prayer & salvation (shelter), the Armour of God (correct gear), and an attitude of service. If we have these things within us, we will be packed, prepared and ready for this great adventure called life. We can relax and enjoy the experience - even the trials - because we know it's all in His hands and He will take care of us. We can then go forward fearlessly, telling others of God's unending love, grace and mercy, and helping them find their way into the shelter of His wings.

So, Christians, grab your gear and let's go!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mommy, how can I get to Heaven?

"Oh you can't get to Heaven... on roller skates..."

As a kid that was the one camp song that I dreaded. Why? Because it seemed to go on FOREVER and EVER and EVER and...

Anyways... I was thinking about this song today because my inquisitive son asked me how he could go to Heaven and visit with Jesus. He didn't want to stay there, mind you, he just wanted to pop in for a quick chat with God and come back home to Mommy and Daddy in time for dinner. This led to a great conversation about prayer and about Jesus being here with us so we don't have to physically go up to Heaven to talk to Him. It also led to the discussion of "being good isn't good enough" and that we must have Jesus in our hearts to be able to go to Heaven one day.

My son's heart has been completely opened to Jesus in the past couple of weeks. Just yesterday he asked me if Jesus lives inside Him. I asked him, "Did you ask Him to?" He said, "Not yet. But I want to. Mommy - will you help me ask Jesus if He'll come and live in my heart forever?" Fighting back the urge to dance around in circles shouting praises to God for this moment (and of course fighting back the happy tears) I said "of course!" and we prayed together. That was the absolute sweetest prayer I have ever shared with another human being. Ever. I have looked forward to that moment with each of my children, and was not surprised in the least by which one was the first to open himself to Jesus' love. This is the same child who for WEEKS was asking us questions about death, dying and Heaven. The same child who has been staying up past bedtime every night for the past week reading his Devotional Bible (THANK YOU Sheila Walsh & cousin April). He has been so excited that he can read now and doesn't have to wait for someone to read the Bible to him. This is also the same child who asked me a thousand times a day if he could do his "Jesus book" (a little boy's devotional activity book). He can't get enough of God, Jesus, the Bible, information about Heaven, etc. He is so open and excited. When I think of "childlike faith" from now on, I am going to picture these days Patrick is journeying through.

Do you have a childlike curiosity to learn as much as you can about Jesus?

Do you want to know how YOU can get to Heaven?

Do you want to sit and just have a chat with God?

You can. You can. And you can.

Open yourself up to Jesus. Read His word. Get to know Him. Spend time with Him. Talk to Him.

And please - be sure to get your passport. (Thank you Pastor Teddy) If you want to know what that means - go watch

Now... about those roller skates... you KNOW you can't get to Heaven on roller skates... 'cause you'd just roll past those pearly gates...