“Twenty-something” – I am sure you have heard this term used before, or maybe often, to describe yourself, your friends, or perhaps your children.
I, myself, am a “20-something,” seeing that I am 24, and I think that counts! We are considered many things: narcissistic, self-serving, lazy, the social justice generation, “slacktivists,” activists, the technology generation, the fatherless generation, etc… There are so many words used to describe this generation.
It seems we pride ourselves on the attention and the seemingly uniqueness. However, we often forget to stop and realize that this is the same for every generation.
Each generation is new and unique and engaging in a world that has not yet been engaged by that particular group of people. I am not writing this to discourage you or make you feel that you are not unique because God really has made you unique. However, I am writing this to remind myself that there is more to life than just being a 20-something.
Last week, my grandmother passed away, and I flew to Oregon for her funeral. We spent many days reminiscing over wonderful memories of her and all the great lessons that she had handed down to children and grandchildren.
While at her memorial service I was reminded that, as a young person, I should be slow to disregard the advice and wisdom of someone older. This is not true of all circumstances or all advice. I am sure that some could be down-right horrible, but in most cases the older generations have a great deal of advice to give. Take it. Though we are young and usually have good educations or lots of energy, we have not yet lived much life.
My grandma had seen the birth of many children and grandchildren; she had grieved, she had been hurt; she had been a community leader, an activist, but above all, she loved God. She passed along grace, forgiveness and humility like no one else could do. I would be a fool to not look at her life and desire to imitate her walk with God and her love for her family.
I do not have it all figured out. You do not have it all figured out. I admire our generation’s desire to be a force in the world, but let us not forget who was here before us and desire to learn from that. Perhaps those in your life have great examples to show of this or they have horrible examples, either way we can learn from these things.
In Judges 2 it talks about Israel being a disobedient nation. God had been great to them and shown them mighty and wonderful things, but they had failed to pass this along from generation to generation. In Judges 2:10 it says, “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.”
From generation to generation we are responsible to pass along the remembrance of the great and wonderful God we serve. Just as it is your responsibility to pass this along to those younger than you, it is your responsibility to receive it from those older. I pray that we are never too prideful of a Christian generation to seek the advice and wisdom of those who have walked with God longer.
Two days ago was my 20th year of being a Christian. Praise the Lord! Really though… I am so thankful for the 20 years of freedom that I have found in Christ. However, this 20th Easter is very different then that first Easter that I was saved by grace. I was saved the week before Easter…a lot like how Easter falls this year.
I hate to say that this Easter doesn’t faze me as much as the first one but to say that would be true. But only in some ways. The story is no longer new but seems like a repetitive story. I know the historical facts and the theological implications and the religious revelation that the cross means. I get it. Been there and read that Easter story more than I can count.
As some of my friends were talking about Lent I realized that I pretty much did nothing to recognize this Easter. I didn’t do Lent, I didn’t buy a new dress, I didn’t go to church more than normal. I didn’t do anything.
As a twinge of guilt crept in, so did anger. I wanted to be angry at God for “demanding” all these actions of me when some days I am struggling to remember to eat dinner or to keep my head on straight or spend time with those I love.
I immediately thought, “God, I am too tired for that. Sorry I didn’t do anything this year. I’m just too exhausted and that’s too much and so maybe next year.” In the days after this very non-spiritual prayer I spent some time feeling guilty about not physically recognizing Easter. Listen, last year I did the whole nine yards. Ash Wednesday, Lent, Passover, Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, etc. So yeah there’s that… I felt like I had fallen off the “godly wagon.”
One of my favorite pastors/authors/speakers is Tullian Tchividjian. He is the grandson of Billy Graham and is a great man of God in his own right. I got his new book One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World for Christmas and confess that I have not started reading it yet. However, I saw it on my entertainment stand last night and decided to listen to one of his podcasts. I often enjoy these and it had been a long day so I thought that would be refreshing and enjoyable for me. Because here is the truth, I was looking for a cure to my exhaustedness (I think I made that word up). And it is here that God met me where I needed to be met.
His Spirit reminded me that Easter is not about Lent or ash on my forehead or Resurrection cookies. And please do not hear me saying it is about my refreshment because it most definitely is NOT. It is about the fact that in one day the accumulation of all history and the pressure of all the future exploded in one instant and in that one instant, humanity was deluged in more grace and relief and refreshment then our minds can grasp.
When Jesus said it was finished it was FINISHED. Nothing could add to that act, and nothing could take any of it away. In that moment, humanity received the hope and the promise that what we experience will be redeemed. Every part of me and my life will be redeemed and turned into something good to offer to God.
At first thought this is exhausting because I think, “man I have a lot of work to do.” But then I remember that it is finished. What needed to be done was done on that fateful day. Nothing about me is good or worth offering, but in my place stands not just a redeemed life but the Redeemer; not just my salvaged soul but the Savior. I need not do ANYTHING.
Listen to me, friend. I WILL DO NOTHING to deserve to have my life offered to God. I am tired, no I am absolutely exhausted of working hard to give God something worth loving, and this Easter I failed to be spiritual enough. But truth be told, I fail before I even wake up in the morning, and so do you.
If God cannot take part of me then He cannot take all of me. So one drop of yeast infests the whole loaf (Gal. 5). I am a sinful person. Not just partially a sinful person.
So are you exhausted and tired? What are you trying to accomplish? Well stop it. Rest in the cross, beloved. It has done all that needs to be done. Its work is finished, and you have the chance at restoration if you accept it and nothing else. Strive in your relationship with Christ but do so in the peace that you are accepted and the work is finished.
This Easter if you do nothing else, rest in Christ and the celebration that you are accepted. No strings attached.
At this exact moment there are 11 sticky notes on my desk, and that does not include random scraps of paper laying around with scribbles on them. Needless to say, my brain feels as scattered as my desk looks.
There is so much going on, and I know I am not the only one feeling this spring rush of tackling “to do” lists. It is a cruel slave master.
In all things, I feel the need to be prepared to accomplish the next task before I am even completed with the present one. Essentially, I am confessing to you that I have built very little (if any) margin into my life. And by margin I mean this: that between tasks or events I have given myself time to take a deep breath and prepare for the next thing at hand.
For example, I have engagement pictures tomorrow. I originally had planned my schedule with something right up to the hour of this and for the exact hour afterwards. However, then I started thinking, “what do I want our pictures to look like and what do I want to wear?” This made me think, “Holy smokes! I didn’t even give myself time to make these pictures what we want them to look like. I left myself no time to enjoy it or look good for it.”
This is a trivial example, but it made me step back and look at the other areas of my life and if I had left margin for those and I had not. I was rushing from one thing to the next without enjoying the present one or savoring the one before. It reminded me of a liturgical prayer that I used to read on chaotic, busy days.
Prayer to Welcome the Sabbath
Lord of Creation,
Create in us a new rhythm of life
Composed of hours that sustain rather than stress,
Of days that deliver rather than destroy,
Of time that tickles rather than tackles.
Lord of Liberation,
By the rhythm of Your Truth, set us free
From the bondage and baggage that breaks us,
From the Pharaohs and fellows that fail us,
From the plans and pursuits that prey upon us.
Lord of Resurrection,
May we be raised into the rhythm of Your new life,
Dead to deceitful calendars,
Dead to fleeting friend requests,
Dead to the empty peace of our accomplishments.
To our packed-full planners, we bid, “Peace!”
To our over-caffeinated consciences, say, “Cease!”
To our suffocating selves, grant release.
Drowning in a sea of deadlines and death chimes,
We rest in you, our lifeline.
By your ever-restful grace,
Allow us to enter Your Sabbath-rest
As your Sabbath-rest enters into us.
In the name of our Creator,
Our Resurrection and Life,
*Taken from Shane Claiborne’s Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals
Dearest reader, this is my prayer for you today. No matter what your planner or iPhone calendar or “to do” list looks like…take five minutes to yourself right now. Breathe. Pray. Have joy in all the little details that God has blessed your life with even if that is a busy schedule.
“Wherever you are be ALL there.” –Jim Elliot.
A month ago I was so excited about throwing my boyfriend the best surprise party ever! Or at least I thought it was going to be a surprise…for him. It ended up being a surprise for me. He had known all along about the party and used it to propose to me. I was so surprised and excited! We are still so excited amid all the planning!
But this post isn’t to tell my proposal story, no matter how much I love it.
Without boring you with all my life details, to say my life is crazy right now would be an understatement. And the actual planning of the wedding may be the less stressful part of it all. No one told me planning for a home and a life afterwards would be the most stressful part. No one told me all the social pressure would drive me right over the crazy ledge. Or that Pinterest would become my sworn enemy.
I have a wonderful fiancé who has been so involved with everything that the burden of planning is eased and shared. That is not what has me pulling my hair out. In fact, it’s all the social expectation that has me stressed. It’s the limitless questions. “What color will your home be?” “Where are you living?” “When will you have kids?” “Now make sure you are keeping track of everything.” “Now don’t forget (fill in the blank).” “Why are you not stressed when your wedding is four months away?”
The wedding is an event to make memorable the commitments that we are making. That is all. We are doing the things that we like and that mean something to us, and the rest we are lovingly and gently placing aside.
The pressure to be perfect is what is so stressful. There I said it. I feel pressure to be perfect. To have a Pinterest perfect wedding and home and life. I feel the weight of expectations and social norms and the pressure to be over the top creative. In reality, I just hope the ones we love and who love us can come and enjoy themselves and rejoice with us in the blessing we have in each other.
As a culture we make fun of (and are entertained) by the “bridezilla.” In reality we are the ones who created her. Like a modern day, white organza-covered Frankenstein we have poked and prodded her with idea after idea, and pressure after pressure. We have given her the expectation of both keeping a calm head and being all in control. Brides are to know exactly what they want and be confident in that but also not be too pushy or demanding. It is a lose-lose situation.
Now please do not hear me saying that I am not enjoying this part of our life together. We are so excited, and with each set of linens that we pick out it becomes all the more real in our hearts and minds. I love that. We are so excited about what God has in store for us and the walk of faith that He is taking us through.
I say all of this to simply act as a reminder. Do not forget that there is more happening in an engaged couples’ life then the EVENT of their marriage. They are looking at a huge life transition and a huge commitment ahead of them.
So if you are the bride or groom to-be remember: you do not need to be perfect, and your wedding does not need to be perfect. It will not be perfect. Marriage is one of the greatest mysteries that God lets us experience. It is to be a symbol and an example of God’s relationship to the church. And though earthly marriages are less than perfect I am so thankful that God has given humanity this as a sample of the relationship to come. This is all about the godly commitment that you are making to each other.
Also, remember that people mean well. They are excited to
help and to join in with you on this special day…but you do not need to please every desire of their hearts.
If you are a friend of the bride or groom remember that they have other things going on in their life than the color of napkins or the centerpieces. Walk gently with them as they wrestle with all the decorating details but also as they wrestle with what it means to join as one with another human being.
For me, I am trying to enjoy every little bit and to take good care of myself and my relationship with my fiancé. I am trying to do the things that matter most.
Recently my family has experienced a great season of grief – over and over again it seems. Grief is often an extreme and exhausting “emotion.” For those of you that have experienced it, you know what I mean. In Death and Grief: a Guide for Clergy by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, grief is defined as this:
“Grief is an emotional suffering caused by death or another form of bereavement. Grief involves a sequence of thoughts and feelings that follow the loss and accompany mourning. Grief is a process and as a result, is not a specific emotion like fear or sadness, but indeed is a constellation of a variety of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Grief is the internal meaning given to the external event.”
Part of the coursework for my college degree was to take a class titled “Death and Dying.” It is there that I read the above book. Oh how greatly it has helped me in the years following. Grief is a complicated emotion to understand, let alone cope with. It has many causes, and not all of which are physical death.
Grief is a biblical emotion as well. We see God grieving over the people He has created in the story of Noah. We see Jesus grieve over the cross that was in his near future, and we see God grieve in the suffering inflicted on his son. However, we also see examples of human grief. Mary, Jesus’ mother, during the crucifixion, Mary and Martha over their brother’s death. We see Jesus grieve and weep over this death as well (even though He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead).
These stories are comforting and soothing in times of painful mourning over any loss, but they often do not answer all of our questions.
I attended a funeral of a dear family member this last weekend. Let me tell ya… we all had some questions like “why him?” and “why now?”
He left behind an all too young bride and three children from a death that took him in the middle of the night. These things I will never understand. It is an easy answer to simply say, “God’s thoughts are not my thoughts.” And that would be (thank goodness) too true. But it is harder to pick up life after the fact.
If you are experiencing grief here are a few things to consider:
1. Remember: grief can come from all types of things. Examples: graduating, death, sickness, loss of financial stability, broken relationships, etc.
2. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to grieve in your own unique way. Our culture often sets a standard for grief to be short and well hidden. This does not necessarily need to be true. Grieve how you need to and for however long you need to.
3. Recognize the transition your life and emotions are going through. As you look at the situation and the future, you will go through stages of grief. A mourner often originally tries to evade the loss. However, they later encounter this new reality and reconcile themselves with it.[i] Let yourself spend as much time as you need in each of these areas.
4. Seek God. It is easy to be angry at God in these times, and that is OK. God is big enough to handle our questions and our anger. But also remember that God is the ultimate Physician who heals both emotional and physical wounds. He will deal with you with loving hands during this sensitive time of your life.
Dear fellow mourners, in all things remember this: that we have hope.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13
[i] Information taken from Death and Grief: A Guide for Clergy. By Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt