“I am an Atheist”

“Why hello Atheist, do you want whipped cream?” I mean, what is there to say. This man gave me a title and didn’t give me a name until he left. He is thoughtful and disciplined. He was in the military when he was my age and still keeps himself in the same shape many years later! He led an interesting life and had interesting opinions. He was in the military and this year he has officially been an atheist for half of his life. He got out of the military and decided he didn’t think God existed. This was a return visit to Sozo for him. He wanted to get “Coffee and conversation”  and boy was he off to a start!

I think we both have a lot to think over now. We disagreed on a lot of basics. Like how to determine someone’s worth or what kind of future humanity has and if nature being an unmovable force is comforting. I was impressed at my self control. I wanted to yell at him. You believe lies, you don’t know. Satan has won you. But I sat and I listened. I didn’t think of my next witty comeback. I really listened to what he was saying. That left some awkward pauses. I had to think once he was done speaking to make sure I was answering what I felt he was really asking. I guess, if you are reading this pray for “I am an atheist.” He had 27 years of Catholicism and never met Jesus. He met rules, way to fail church. Way to fail. But, we haven’t lost the battle for this mans soul yet. Specifically pray that he comes to these realizations….

1. There are some things that don’t have a price. There are things worth dying for.
2. To continue to bring him to Sozo for coffee and conversation.

3. That believing our worth is limited to what we can do for society removes humans of all worth. That we are unique! And that that is beautiful. I have no less to contribute to society than him because I can’t bench as much as he can.

4.  To look into the historical evidence to the life of Christ. Good luck trying to find this non-miraculous Jesus without looking!

5. To give Him a Hope and a Future. You know, in the only way we can have one!

6. To open his eyes to tragedies. He doesn’t believe Christians face any persecution in this world. He has never seen someone risk something for Jesus. I think he needs to (goes with one).  He needs to understand that he can’t ignore something because he hasn’t seen it.

7. That Jesus is who he says He is and not who we want Him to be.

So Hello Atheist, thank you for your story.  I follow Jesus. There isn’t a price that will get me to claim otherwise, I have looked into the faces of the persecuted in China and they exist, I was created with purpose and it was destined that I would sell you a blended latte’ today. Please come again. Though you were concerned I would ban you for your opinions I have something to tell you. We are here for you! Bring your atheism in for coffee all you like. You did push buttons, I can take it. I won’t pretend it doesn’t upset me to hear my savior rejected. Still, we are not scared, we are not angry. We will listen calmly to your opinions. I can’t promise we agree, and we are passionate about Jesus. I have said things I regret, it doesn’t deter me.  We will be kind even if you are not kind to us. If you push a button I apologize if we fail to be kind, we are still sinners. It will be very hard to push my buttons on most days.  So don’t hold back anything you are really wrestling with. Being passionate for Jesus makes us passionate for you! Someone created in His image. Someone more powerful than gravity. You want coffee and I offer some of the best, I also offer salvation if you want it. If you aren’t afraid of conversation I will listen, really listen, if you will. I will offer you salvation and you can decline. That’s fine. Because I hope there will be a next time.

See you soon! My friends are praying for you.

Spider on the Glass

I had my first really good “Jesus” conversation at Sozo a few days ago. A young personable man came in. He remembered the building from the pancake feed GAMe ministries (who runs Sozo) puts on on St. Patricks day. He told me how the man there told him about meeting Jesus and though he respected the mans stance, he also thought the man was a little off. He then straight up asked me if I was a christian and if the ministry was still there.

If that isn’t an invitation I don’t know what is!

Because he was good humored I told him that I was a super christian! I told him about GAMe and OMC and gave a brief testimony in a few words about how God has called me into ministry.  He asked the logical follow up question “So like a pastor?”

“A youth pastor, I wouldn’t want to be the senior pastor.”

“Why not”

He was honest, well humored and really asking. So I gave him my real answer, bluntly. “Because I am a girl.”

“Isn’t that sexist?” he worded it carefully. He could tell this was important to me and he was being sensitive. I liked him, I think the girl he was waiting for got a good one. “Sorry” he added in case he offended me.

“I am hard to offend” I laughed.

“That’s good me too, isn’t that sexist.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

I wasn’t overly prepared for this. I told him first about the requirements in 1 Tim and how I didn’t qualify for that and that made me feel like not trying to take the head leadership role in evangelical churches. I told him that it would be disobedient in my calling and that I WANTED a man over me. I think that would have stirred some people. I think if Chris had told someone that I preferred a man in charge of me they would wrongly rise to my defense. I am not to be owned and I am not less than man! Correct! But not taking the highest position doesn’t make me less than the man in it. In fact in Christian circles power is an illusion. The guy at top is just the person is the biggest servant! He is a shepherd and required to lay down his life for the sheep. All the sheep have to do is follow. I think the sheep have the better slot personally. It’s not something I would have said as a teenager. I was disobedient at heart then. But the closer I have gotten to God the more I loved submitting.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes I want to go straight to the top and take over! Sometimes I know I could do a better job than a friend. I am only called to be obedient to my husband and I like man was made in God’s image. So when it is wise for me to take charge I will and I will do it well. Because I have the capability to in many areas. I just don’t need to be. Same with a church, I don’t need to I am not called to. Read Titus 1:7-9 that is the job description and it is talking about males. Now, I still am seeking a leadership position. But my authority over the church will be under the authority of a males. I told him I know there are female pastors and that I doubt their calling in honesty. I also told him I can’t be sure they wern’t. God has done far crazier things!

Then I told him that I was engaged. I got one of the best high fives of my life. I told him about the role of Chris in our relationship. He is called to give himself up for me as Christ did for us. That means when Chris rules over me, when he makes a decision he is doing it for my good. Because he loves me enough to lay down his life. If I am serving someone with my needs at his heart I am really serving myself because I am serving my husband and God. He is called to care for me like his own flesh. When we get marries and become one flesh when we care for each other it is for our good as well. The man nodded and told me that was interesting. Not sure what that meant and his date arrived so I made them both coffee and they sat down.

I think it’s scary for people to think that some people want somone’s authority over them. My God, my parents, my husband. If any of those people didn’t love me and care for my honor, dignity, needs and soul it is a broken cycle and it can be ugly and harmful to submit. Especially when our submission is forced and is made cruel.  But that isn’t anything I have experiences. Godly men are worth investing in.

So in conclusion, I told him what I do in the church is just as important in the Kingdom.  I am just suited for different roles and prefer different parts. For instance, yesterday as I drove home from youth group a spider crept down my window. I called Chris, it was almost time for him to be done and I was not going to deal with that. I could have if I wanted to but he was better suited for it and I didn’t want to. He could add it to the list of other dozens of creatures that broke my insect personal space arrangement. I was happy to let Chris lead in that situation and I am happy to have a man lead my church and it isn’t because I am lesser.

Taking a bunny trail, I had an event this morning where I interacted with a man who ran across the street to help me set up work this morning. He told me he was trying to leave his mistake behind and was trying to get rid of it. He was referring to the human being sitting outside the apartments that drunkenly called after him. He was a bit tipsy himself. He was reaping what he sowed last night. She followed him following me. Brokenness in a broken relationships where two people who cared nothing for each other chose to enter into a relationship of sorts.  He tried to sound like the better man who was paying penance for his ways last nights. He tried to make it sound like it was all her. But the truth is that he was responsible as well. Referring  to her as a mistake or as ‘it’ didn’t help either.  It didn’t make him look better in the situation as he was hoping. Explaining this wasn’t normal for him didn’t help the situation. He was supposed to be the leader, she was supposed to be wise. If a spider was on her windshield she would have been on her own and that is wrong.  That isn’t functional.

These may have been a bit scattered. I stayed up all night reading “For Women Only” by Shaunti Feldhaun and went to work early. I guess the point is that my name is Jennifer and I am okay with submitting to authority and I am okay with men being given a different type of authority than me. I actually like it. I can serve god mightily from ‘lesser’ positions in just as grand ways. I can do anything God enables me to do from anywhere.

My views on my roles of authority in the church are still maturing. Start your study in scriptures then go to better opinions than mine. Read Titus, Timothy, 1 Cor 14 and look into Pheobe and Pricsilla. Tell me what you think.

Pretty Insecurities.

This is a blog I am struggling to write. I don’t want to come across as overly insecure, or vain. I want to talk about my strange female need to not want to find myself ugly. It’s hard to talk about because I don’t believe my God creates ugly or stupid.  I just sometimes feel contrary to reality.   But I do think it is sad when people communicate with their body language and dress that they don’t care much for themselves.  I also don’t think women have to dress up all the time for any reason or look the way people tell them to look.  I guess I hope that I can adequately describe the unique differences between genders, the adequacy and value we have in Christ and the  dangers of letting our insecurities tell us who we are. Woman should be called pretty by people who appreciate them wholly, but we shouldn’t look to it to make us feel whole.

I was watching Firefly and Kaylee, the beloved good natured mechanic said “Wash, Tell me I am pretty.” She was looking at all the people coupled off and she needed to know she was pretty in that moment. Like all the girls with their admiring fellas. Wash of course gave a hilarious response. My heart went out to that character in that moment. She had one occasion to dress up for the entire one season of Firefly and no one there to appreciate it. She craved the ‘pretty’ dress in the window and when she got it, no one told her she was pretty. She wanted that dress. Why? To feel beautiful. The actress who plays Kaylee is beautiful and we all know Kaylee has a beautiful heart and is content being covered in spaceship oil most of the time. She shouldn’t need to be told she is pretty. The truth is self evident… just not to her.

In middle school and high school I was that girl with the ratty hair, pajama bottoms and baggy clothes. No one ever told me I was pretty and why would they? By media standards I wasn’t.  I was pretty, I just wasn’t projecting it. I am not telling you this to make you feel sorry for me, I have almost fully embraced the awkwardness of my youth. I am telling you this because it is something I still need to hear. Even if I now project it and even if people have started to bother to tell me fairly frequently.

Speaking for myself as a woman, there is nothing like a GENUINE compliment. Never only compliment a girl on her looks. She is so much more, but don’t think looks don’t matter to her at all either. If you can see she took time on herself, you can take the time to notice. Not in a creepy way, in an encouraging way. Thanks to the world my value is always under scrutiny. Thanks to Christ I know my value will never be tied to what I am really worth. I have complete righteousness. I have nothing to fear and my value is more than many sparrows (Matt 10:31 has always been one of my favorites. Also see Gal 2:20) But I openly confess that I need to  affirmed of my beauty every now and then. I have noticed that my female friends need it too. We want to know we are beautiful. We want to feel loved for all of us. That includes our aesthetics.

 

Note: It does not give anyone the right to break us down to only our aesthetics. We can’t be separated from our hearts, dreams, morals, personalities, fears, faults or any of the other things that make up a human. If you tell a girl she is pretty and you only mean her body, you don’t know what beauty is and you can’t honestly compliment anyone. I know why Kaylee needed that dress. i know why I need a dress.

I have plenty of dresses. If I confidently put one on and tell my gorgeous self in the mirror goodbye on the way out and no one else compliments me that day it will always happen. Especially if someone like my fiance’ doesn’t say anything. His opinion matters more than anyone else. My insecurities will produce a wrongly perceived reality in moments .  For instance, yesterday I found a dress on sale. I wasn’t sure about it until a friend made me feel like I was on top of the world in it and convinced me to buy the thing. Chris and I had plans for the next day and despite the cold I wore it. If I wanted to be beautiful for anyone, it’s him. So jeans and flannel weather or no, I was going to wear it so he could appreciate it.  I never want to outsource the need to be pretty to anyone else. I never want to have to look past Chris to get validated in my looks, and if I rest in Jesus I won’t have to. I felt great, thanks to a dress. I felt great even though I had been down until I put it on, because I felt beautiful.  That could be vain, maybe petty, but it did. I paired my dress with leggings and a mid-drift hipster sweater after trying an embarrassing amount of other options. I had to find the perfect combo piece to adequately show the world how a new dress made me feel. Strong and ready. I was ready for Chris.

Chris and I got through breakfast just fine. As soon as we left I got a reminder. He didn’t notice the dress. Then another reminder, he didn’t remember the last one either. He called Jenna Coleman  pretty two days ago (It should be noted that Jenna Coleman is stunning) and the last compliment was two days ago.. It was over text and it was non specific. I wrote it off as him just saying it. t felt shallow and he only said it because I complimented him first.  I couldn’t remember the last compliment before that. In fact the last thing he said about my appearance was commenting on a mark on my neck. Poor man, I turned into a trap. I waited for him to say something about how I looked and played other thoughts from other times I felt unnoticeable. It was awful. A female hell.

After going to three places I started to cry. I had been hanging my head, frowning and sighing. How could he not tell I was upset? I wanted him to have the chanch to initiate conversation. It wasn’t going to happen. He HAD noticed something was wrong. Sadly the poor guy didn’t know what was wrong. I knew it was silly and that I can’t ever lean on Chris to make me feel whole. Only Jesus completes me. But I was hurting. He thought that I was homesick. The loving man knows the issues close to my heart, it wasn’t a bad guess. I finally cried. He just sat there in silence. I decided he didn’t care he was upsetting me and grew snappy with him for not asking what was wrong. I didn’t know that he thought he already knew and was just deciding what to say. He had lost. He had gone too long without noticing all the work that I had put into my appearance for the day. I felt useless and ugly and it was his fault. Or at least I was blaming him. I had spent all day comparing myself to every girl, hiding my bad skin and comparing myself to every female in every ad. Our look obsessed culture isn’t kind to us when we start to scrutinize yourself. Was he to busy noticing them? Or did I just not measure up to them? When I finally asked him why he didn’t care that he upset me he was rightly confused. “I upset you?” Something so clear to me had not even crossed his mind. He thought I missed my dad. He hadn’t realized it was so important to notice I got a new dress. It told me he didn’t look at me and if he didn’t look at me when I felt my prettiest, in a new dress, when would he? Oh the dangers of assumptions!

In the end, I guess this a confession. Sometimes I am not satisfied with who I am in Christ. Its complicated because I think I was designed to be loved and to feel that way. I think fiance’s ought to tell me I am pretty (and he does) . But that I can’t bank on it. That my worth will never decrease. I wish I could tell you I am always content with Christ in me alone. The point of this blog is to reflect on my Christian walk. I have  been reflecting on this. I don’t like it, but I don’t think it’s ALL bad. I have a natural need to feel loved. I just need to balance that need with the knowledge that I am handcrafted by someone who really loves me. He loves me with a perfect knowledge of all the wrong I have done without . My worth is in that perfect love. That is a gift from God.

Because it’s good for you….. Eph 2:4-9

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

Familiar Noises in the Night and the First hour.

I woke with a broken heart. It would be trendy to say it was because today is September 11. Although I am still woeful for all the broken families and all the fissures still rippling through our country from that day, that isn’t it. Last night as I entered our laundry room I heard a bump upstairs. My crazy brain for some reason thought this sounded like my father upstairs. I got excited, then depressed. It hit me. The smell of vanilla candles, big comfy red couches, a friendly cat, a big tree over a deck and white coffee cups. I want to go home. Not heaven home for once, home being my parents house. I am not sure when I will get to revisit my home town and I admit that in the quiet moments after opening Sozo I can only think of home. Of visiting one of my home towns seven restaurants. I am not sure when I will get to relive memories of coffee with dad in the morning, lunch with mom after church or of movies late at night as a family.  So many memories of sleepovers, track meets, bike rides, block parties and all of the other bits that make up me barricade my thoughts. All of this because of one bump in the night.

I have to wonder what it means. This is my first year officially out of my parents home and I wonder if I am really ready to be an adult or the simple love I have for my family just hasn’t had an outlet in awhile. What does this mean if I think about being married next summer. What does it mean if I just need to be held by my father for a moment and spend some quiet time with mom watching a movie on the sofa? Am I still a child? Am I depressed? Or is this a normal sadness? I guess only time will tell. If I am like this next week I will have to call it what it is. Depression. But not all sadness is depression. It takes someone who has years of experiencing both to tell the difference, but there is one. Sadness is normal. It’s triggered by something. It tells you something is wrong. A friend is dead, you are hurt. It’s a human way of dealing with pain of one form or another. Depression is heavier. It can be triggered by normal sadness but it holds you for long hours, days and weeks. It warps the way you look at grief.  It strips you of hope and its more than a reaction. Its a reaction plus some.

So what will I do about today?  Well for starters, I will master my super white, behind the counter dance while I wait for a customer. I will find the perfect happy coffee hipster mix on Spotify (I think I nailed it this morning) and I will look to the Psalms. If anyone knows homesickness and grief it  is the often lonely heros of the Bible.  If they found hope in their situations, I can find hope for my first hour.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.