Sunday, August 17, 2014

Nothing to Prove

My first grade teacher was horrible.  I mean, I'm sure she had her good qualities, but I could tell, even at the age of six, that teaching wasn't one of them.  I also need to acknowledge that the poor woman had to deal with awkward, advanced-reader/writer me.  I know I wasn't the easiest first grader to deal with, either.

I made good grades, but she would always cut me down in conduct.  I got a poor grade in conduct on my first semester report card, which made my parents very upset with me, but to this day I don't think I deserved it.  I'm not saying I was always perfect, but I think most issues rose out of her misunderstandings, rather than my misbehavior or disobedience.  Basically, I wasn't really all that challenged in her class.  That wasn't her fault, really, but it gave rise to a lot of problems.  I'd skip ahead in writing or reading assignments, sometimes going too fast for my own good.  She seemed to think it was arrogance on my part, and maybe some of it was.  I think most of it was just that I had already been reading simple books at the age of three or four.  I was already very interested in writing my own stories when I was in kindergarten.  My parents were teachers and encouraged that.  She thought I was doing things to show her up or irritate her, when I was just doing what came naturally to me.  I loved learning.

I remember one time in particular, when things really got completely out of hand.  The class was taking turns reading out loud.  Now, reading has always come VERY easily to me, but speaking and reading aloud has NEVER come easily.  And the book we were reading was a little bit ridiculous and below my reading level.  I remember seeing the words very vividly on the page.  I'm a visual learner, and always have been, so those simple words have been ingrained on my brain forever.

"Pots and pans and pans and pots."

That's what I was supposed to read.  And I knew that's what it said.  But when it came time for me to read out loud, I got nervous.  My words got jumbled and I stuttered out, "Pans and pots and pots and pans."

My teacher immediately made a huge deal about how I read it wrong and that I needed to read it again correctly.  Well, I got extremely nervous and embarrassed and overwhelmed then, and I started crying.  I tend to still do that when I get nervous and embarrassed and overwhelmed--ain't anxiety great?  But my teacher was either oblivious to my emotional state, or she thought I was faking--or she just didn't care.  She demanded that I read it again, but I was so distraught that I couldn't even speak, let alone read out loud.  I tried.  All that came out was a few soft-spoken, jumbled sounds.

It was time for recess, and I figured I was saved by the bell, but no.  My teacher said, "You are going to stay in here with me while everyone else goes to recess.  You can't go to recess until you read this correctly, as it's written."

And even as a six year old, I knew that my teacher was making a huge deal out of something extremely unimportant.  She knew I could read those words.  She knew that it didn't matter if I got them backwards, because she knew I was probably the best reader in the class at that point.  I have no idea why she wanted to do a Mexican stand-off over something as simple as that, but apparently she was ready to fight me to the death over it.  She had something to prove.

And I'm not sure how long I sat in there with her, in the dark room (she had turned the lights off as part of my punishment--to make me feel more isolated while the other kids were out playing).  She kept telling me I had to read the words correctly, or I'd have to sit by myself for the rest of the day.  And I just kept crying, but by that point, my embarrassed, anxious tears had turned to frustrated, angry tears.

She was going to make me conform.  She was going to make me say things exactly as they were written.  And I didn't see the point.  I didn't see why it was so important to her that I do things so precisely, especially when we both knew I understood the concepts.  And even at that young age, I was incredibly stubborn.  If she was going to have a stand-off, I was going to have a stand-off.  I had something to prove, too.

I wasn't sure how long this thing went on, but it felt like an eternity.  I'll never forget how alone and misunderstood little six year old me felt as I sat in the darkness, exchanging stubborn glares with a grown woman.

She started fussing at me again.  I started crying again.  And then, out of nowhere, like a knight in shining armor, my daddy appeared in the classroom door.  The relief was tangible, like a cool breeze.  My daddy knew, somehow he knew, that I needed to be rescued.

He asked my teacher why I was all alone with her in the classroom while the rest of the class was outside.  She immediately became very sheepish, then very smug as she came up with a good cover story.  She informed my dad that I was refusing to read the words correctly.  My dad picked up the book and gently said, "She can read this.  Ruth, what does this say?"

Everything that had been impossibly difficult for me before was suddenly very easy, now that my daddy was there.  I told him, quietly, but with certainty, "It says, 'Pots and pans and pans and pots.'"

My dad looked at my teacher, still unsure of what the problem was.  My teacher just said, "There, now, Ruth, was that so hard?"

I nodded through my tears, smiling, but not for her sake.  It was because I'd been able to do something my daddy asked me to do, and the ordeal was finally over.  So I took his hand and we left.

Turns out, my dad was supposed to pick me up early that day because my family was leaving town early for a vacation.  I had forgotten, and so had my teacher.  He caught both of us off guard.

I know I cried some more and talked to my dad about what had happened during the "Great Pots and Pans Reading Standoff of 1986," but I don't remember what either of us said.  I don't remember if my parents really said anything to me about it, or if they just talked between themselves.  But I do know that when my next report card came, and I got an even LOWER conduct grade, my parents weren't upset--at least not with me.  I remember being terrified about getting that bad grade, but they didn't punish me or fuss at me or anything.  And when I was older, I asked my parents about my first grade teacher.  I learned that they had taken my side.  They agreed with me that my first grade teacher was far too hard on me, knew that I was advanced for my age, and that she probably did have a lot of issues with insecurity.

Don't we all.

I write all that not to berate a teacher I had almost three decades ago.  I'm not perfect either, and I'm sure in my time in childcare that I've caused a few kids to feel embarrassed and angry.  I know I have trouble picking my battles sometimes, too.  We all need grace, especially when dealing with children!

But I'll never forget how I felt when I was in such a dark, oppressive place, when there was no justice, when I was pressured to be something, to do something that didn't make sense to me, when everything was just WRONG--my daddy rescued me.  My daddy gave me strength when the world just brought me anxiety.  When I took his hand, everything was right and good again.

Because my teacher made me think that I had something to prove.  But my wonderful daddy already knew what I was capable of.

And I'm not naturally assertive, and I'm not naturally aggressive, and I'm not naturally full of gumption--at least not how the world sees it.  Sometimes it feels as though the world sets up some kind of stand-off against me.  It wants me to conform.  It wants me to be like it.  It wants me to do things the way it things I'm supposed to, or it's going to abandon me to darkness and isolation with the other soft-spoken, introverted, anxious people who don't matter.

Sometimes I am tempted to believe that I have something to prove.

I have to be good enough, strong enough, smart enough, pretty enough, loud enough, cool enough, talented enough.  I have to be enough.

But I'm not.

And when I lift up my eyes and see my Father standing there in the doorway, when my Father assures me that He already knows me, I realize:

I don't have anything to prove.

He's the One who comes to my defense.  He's the One who gives me the strength I need.  Through Him, I have what I need in any circumstance.  When the world is oppressive, when the world breaks my heart, He's the One who holds my hand.

I don't have to be anything.  Just His.

And He's enough.





Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Please Prove You're Not a Robot (Thank You, Robin Williams)

When I was a little girl, I was extremely self-conscious about the way I looked.  I suppose I still am, but I definitely like the way I look a lot more now than I ever did as a kid (I guess I finally grew into my face or something).  My parents cut my hair short because it was so unruly and I didn't know how to take care of it.  I had huge 80s glasses (and I wasn't cute in them).  I was overweight.  My face was all weird, too.  I've always had a pointy chin and a big nose.  And people teased me constantly.  I hated the way I looked and wondered why I couldn't be pretty--or at least normal looking-- like the other girls.

But when I was 8 or 9, there was some Disney Channel special with Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, and Robin Williams (pretty sure it was appropriately named "Carol, Carl, Whoopi, and Robin," and I'm pretty sure it was all kinds of brilliant).  This was also about the time I started seeing "Mork and Mindy" reruns on Nick at Nite.  And I was suddenly just entranced by Robin Williams.  He was over-the-top hilarious, but in a way that was genuine and natural (a lot of the other comedians of my childhood seemed like they were trying too hard).  I saw in Robin Williams a guy I could relate to.  He was a pretty funny looking guy, at least to my 8 or 9 year old brain (I think he was handsome, now--those eyes!).  The more I looked at him, the more I realized that he looked a little bit like me.  He could have been my father with his funny face--his unruly feathery hair and pointed chin and protruding nose.

But people weren't laughing at him like they laughed at me--because they wanted to make me feel badly about myself.  They were laughing at him (and usually with him) because he was funny.  They weren't laughing in a cruel way, but they were laughing at him because he was hilarious, because he made them happy.  It was such a gift to be able to make others laugh like that.  And I actually started thinking, at the age of 8 or 9, that God maybe had a reason for making me look the way I did.  Maybe I wasn't supposed to be classically beautiful like some of the other girls.  Maybe I was supposed to look funny so that I could make others laugh--like Robin Williams did.

Suddenly, everything changed in the way I looked at things.  I was still self-conscious and awkward, but I decided that I wanted to be funny.  I wanted to make people laugh.  I wanted to bring others happiness by being as funny as possible.

I wasn't always class clown material, though, and I was probably more annoying than hilarious...at least for a few years.  But now?  Well, now I have people telling me all the time how much I make them laugh.  I have people telling me they purposely stalk me on Facebook because they know I'll have something funny posted.  They tell me that I bring happiness to their lives.

The kids I watch?  Most of them know two things about me 1) I love them, and 2) I'm silly.  And those reasons, more than anything else, are why I'm good with kids.  I have the tough love stuff down pretty well, too, but only when its necessary.  Most of the time, I'm the fun teacher.  Children understand that life doesn't have to be as serious as adults sometimes make it out to be.  When an adult takes the time to stop being a serious adult and just have fun with them, that actually communicates love to most children.

And in the light of this tragic loss of my favorite comedian of all time, Robin Williams, I've suddenly realized that he is the main reason that I have wanted to touch others' lives with humor and wit.  When I was that awkward, strange-looking kid, Robin Williams helped me see that I could use even my awkwardness and strange-lookingness and quirkiness to bless others.

I just read a very touching Robin Williams tribute blog over at my friend Jay Mims' blog, and I was trying to write a comment without crying.  And no one should feel badly about crying for Robin Williams' death, or for the death of any entertainer, for that matter.  I think it's sometimes very appropriate to grieve for the entertainers and artists we've never met.  Even though we never knew them, we connected with them.  They have made us laugh and cry and feel and hope and dream.  They've been a vital part of our human experiences.

And sometimes I'm tempted to feel useless in what I do.  The childcare is definitely useful, and I love doing it, but I also want to do more with the other gifts I have been given.  I want to write.  I want to sing.  I want to continue making people laugh.  But the world seems to scream at artists that they're impractical.  There's so much emphasis on practical careers nowadays.  Science!  Math!  Technology!  Practical!  Practical!  Practical!  Go back to school and become a nurse!  Go back to school and become an engineer!  Go back to school and become a legal consultant. Go back to school, you dreaming adult who never got a practical job, and do something USEFUL with your life!

It's very discouraging.

But I thought about Robin Williams and how much joy he brought to my life, about how much joy he brought to so many others.  I thought about how appropriate it is to grieve for those artists and musicians and entertainers who have been part of our lives--how we've laughed and mourned and danced and dreamed alongside them--how we've taken their stories as part of our own.

I haven't talked to anyone who isn't just devastated that Robin Williams is dead.  Everyone is grieving.  It's because he made a difference in our lives.  And I remember now.  I remember now why I do what I do, why I want to encourage others to laugh and to dream.

The world needs a little impractical.

When I finally managed to comment on my friend's blog, a security window popped up asking me one of those annoying code questions to ensure I wasn't a spammer.  It read, "Please prove you're not a robot."

Well, I started crying again.  Why?  Because I'm not a robot.  I'm human.  I'm an entertainer.  I'm a writer and a songstress and a laugher and a weeper and a hoper and a dreamer.

I think sometimes we need the impractical, the nonsensical, the beautifully, wonderfully, hilariously brilliant dreamers of the world to remind us, to PROVE to us.  We are not robots.

So thanks, Robin Williams.  Thanks for all you gave us.  Thanks for all you gave me.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I'm With Gungor

With all the things circulating in social media lately, one of the things that caught my eye was a controversy over something Christian musician, Michael Gungor, wrote in a post on his blog.  It was a blessing, I believe, that I came across an article from Relevant Magazine addressing the "Gungor issue" before I came across an article from Answers in Genesis that addressed the same issue.

Both of the articles above led me to go read Gungor's blogs for myself.  I read three separate blogs that addressed the issue, the issue being that Gungor doesn't take a literal approach to some of the Biblical accounts in Genesis.  The first blog was entitled "What Do We Believe."  This is the blog that started all the problems, but anyone who has only read the article from Answers in Genesis might have the wrong idea of what Gungor was really saying in the blog.  Anyone who has only read the AIG article might also misunderstand the rationale behind Gungor's second blog on the aforementioned issue, "I'm With You."

Ken Ham's approach was hostile from the start, from the accusatory headline, "Award-Winning Christian Musicians Mock Biblical Creationists."  And if you merely read his article, you might think that's exactly what Gungor (and his wife) were doing.  When I read the blog entry, "I'm With You, " however, it was like I was reading something completely different than what Ken Ham had read.  I didn't see a mocker; I saw a thinker.  I saw someone who had gotten flak from a post (the original "What Do We Believe") that wasn't even about creationism, but rather about being slow to judge others when we don't understand the reasons why they believe what they believe.  Many of those who have read "I'm With You" tend to take Ham's approach, that Gungor was being rude or condescending.  Rather, I think he was defending his beliefs.

I don't want to speak for Gungor, because I don't know him and I'm only vaguely familiar with his music and writing style.  But most people realize that it's hard to say how a person sounds when they're writing--whether they're being hostile or conversational or whatever.  Personally, I don't think Gungor meant to sound like he was mocking anyone.  It seemed to me that he was stating what he believed and why, and he was just doing it in a way that naturally came to him.  He might have been trying to be funny, not because he was flippant about his ideas, but because that's the way he thinks and writes.  And I don't think it's fair that he's being called a mocker simply for defending his beliefs in a way that was natural for him to do so.

When I say "I'm With Gungor," please understand, I'm not at all saying I agree with all of his beliefs.  I think he's wrong on some things, BUT I think it's okay that we don't share all the same beliefs.  I don't think I'll ever meet another human being I agree with on every issue.  What I'm saying when I say, "I'm With Gungor" is that I think the dude has gotten a lot of backlash over something that's really not as big of a deal as many are making it out to be.  I'm not saying it's not important.  I'm saying that it's not so important that we should be giving it this much attention, especially with all the other things going on in the world that deserve our attention.

With that being said, I really wrestled with whether or not I wanted to write this blog.  I think the "Gungor Issue" is overblown, so why would I possibly want to add to the chatter?  Well, aside from the snazzy blog title, this post isn't really so much about Gungor and what he wrote as it is about how the Christian community has responded.  I don't want to talk about Gungor or what he wrote as much as I want to talk about how SCARED I am that people have taken the "Gungor Issue" to the extreme.

This is why it scares me.

1. Too many people are believing something they read ABOUT Gungor instead of actually reading what Gungor actually wrote.

I don't really follow Answers in Genesis or Ken Ham as much as a lot of my Christian friends do.  It's not that I don't agree with him or his ministry--he's just not really on my radar that much.  I don't want to make any judgments about what he writes or does, because honestly, I don't know that much about what he writes or does.  It's not because I have any disrespect for him; I just don't follow him or his teachings that closely.

However, what he has recently written about Gungor might have made me lose a little respect for him, had I had enough of an opinion of him to have respect for him (I don't have disrespect for him; I'm just neutral since I know very little about him).   To read the article from AIG, I would have thought that Gungor was on a mission to corrupt the minds of the youth who listen to his music.  And from some of the conversations I've had about the "Gungor Issue," there are a lot of people who believe just that.  This leads me to a second reason why the Christian response to the "Gungor Issue" scares me.

2. If the Christian community believes that Christian musicians are one of the main sources where young people are getting their theology, well, that's a whole other problem.

This is one of my favorite Rich Mullins quotes:

 It's so funny being a Christian musician. It always scares me when people think so highly of Christian music, Contemporary Christian music especially. Because I kinda go, I know a lot of us, and we don't know jack about anything. Not that I don't want you to buy our records and come to our concerts. I sure do. But you should come for entertainment. If you really want spiritual nourishment, you should go to church...you should read the Scriptures.

I think there are a lot of really amazing Christian musicians.  I have gotten so much encouragement from listening to Christian music, from an old cherished hymn to the newest jam on KLOVE.  I've written several songs myself, and I draw comfort and encouragement from writing Christian songs as well as singing and hearing them.  But Mullins understood that Christian musicians are not supposed to be great theologians.  He knew that they were not supposed to be great role models for others to follow.  That's kind of ironic, because Rich Mullins is one of my role models--mainly because he didn't think or make much of himself, but he made much of God.

But if parents are so concerned that their kids are going to start following the beliefs of the Great Gungor Cult, well, that's problematic because there is no Great Gungor Cult, at least not to my knowledge.  I don't think Gungor is trying to proclaim himself as a great theologian.  Ken Hamm (in the aforementioned AIG article) wrote that: "[Lisa and Michael Gungor] are writing as though they know more than people who have spent their lives studying the inerrancy of Scripture."

Actually, Michael Gungor was simply stating his beliefs in his personal blog.  I find Ham's above statement to be a little outrageous, and more than a little unfair.  Apparently, it's not okay to say what you believe if you're a fairly well-known Christian who has opinions that are different from the accepted norm.  That's all he was doing.  He was writing his thoughts in his personal blog, not publishing a manifest he expected everyone to agree with.  Does that mean he shouldn't have people disagree with him and offer rebuttal?  No, of course there's going to be disagreements and rude internet comments from strangers.  That's what happens when anyone has an opinion on anything these days.  I just think the extreme to which Ham took his response was unfair, especially since HE is in a position of influence.

And parents, if you think your kids are going to start believing or mimicking any old wackadoo thing a Christian musician says or does, then that's saying something about your parenting.  That's saying something about how you've taught or not taught them in the Scripture.  Theology begins at home.  Not in the Church.  AT HOME.  And then Church.  If you don't trust your children enough to make informed decisions about what they're going to believe, then that isn't Michael Gungor's fault.  If anything, he was saying (especially in "I'm With You--Part 2") that we need to actively think about what we believe.  We need to question our faith.  Otherwise, how will we ever know what we believe?  He wasn't trying to lead anyone astray.

Yet, it seems that everyone is going crazy, afraid that Gungor is going to play his guitar and lead all the children away like some modern day Pied Piper.

We. are. going. too. far.

Teach your children to study the Bible.  Teach your children to be discerning.  Pray for your children. Chances are that when they're older, they aren't going to be led astray by something as simple as a blog post by a Christian musician.

And don't get carried away every time a well-known Christian says something controversial.

3. People are getting carried away every time a well-known Christian says something controversial.  AND THE WORLD IS WATCHING.

This is what scares me the most.  Some of my non-Christian friends have been watching this "Gungor Issue" unfold.  And I'm embarrassed.  I'm so, so embarrassed.

Why?  Because I've been trying to communicate to them and show them for years that Christians aren't the intolerant people they want to assume we are.  Because I've been trying to break down the walls between us, the walls built because they've seen too many Christians act without love, without consideration of another person's ideas.  Because I've been trying to show them that Christians can use their brains and form their own opinions and not just blindly follow what someone else says about another person or an issue.  And the Christian response to this issue has shown them exactly the opposite.

I'm not saying we have to agree with Gungor.  We don't.  We absolutely don't.  But in the past three days, I've seen people say the most ridiculous things about a man they don't know.

"I've never heard of Gungor before, but I'm boycotting him from now on."

And my non-Christian friends are seeing yet another example of how Christians shut out anything that makes them uncomfortable.  And, side note, it's not really boycotting if you weren't actively supporting something before.  Nothing changes if you're "boycotting" something you'd never heard of before.

"Gungor isn't a real Christian."

And my non-Christian friends are seeing yet another example of how Christians judge without taking the time to understand.  And, another side note, it's not our place to say that someone is a Christian or not.  That's between him and God.  I could say more on my thoughts on his apparent Christianity, but in the end, it doesn't matter.  It's between him and God.

"Gungor doesn't believe in the Bible."
"Gungor thinks he's better than everyone else."
"Gungor is leading people astray."
"Gungor is undermining the authority of God."
"Gungor steps on kittens."

Okay, I might have made that last one up, but the thing is, the overall response to the "Gungor Issue" is too much.  It's just too much.

I am not saying we shouldn't speak up when we disagree with someone, especially over a matter that we deem important.  I think it's important, but I do recognize that there are a lot of people who find this issue a lot more important than I do.  If that's you, I don't want to disregard you.  I don't want to disregard your feelings.

But here's the thing.  When we are fighting to show the world that we're not intolerant, as so many in the world truly believe us to be, then how does it look when we flat out attack someone for saying something we disagree with?  Or do we only have to be tolerant to non-Christians because we want to show Jesus' love to them?  Should we not also show love and grace and understanding to fellow Christians (even if some don't believe he really is a Christian--especially for those some who don't believe he really is a Christian)?

Tolerance isn't what the world thinks it is, okay?  The world says tolerance means we have to agree with everyone about everything, or otherwise, we're intolerant.  But here's what I've seen in this "Gungor Issue" that scares me, that makes me absolutely sick to my stomach.  I'm seeing Christians act with TRUE intolerance.  We've become like the rest of the world, the ones who say, "You disagree with me, so I must disassociate with you."

When we take our ideas to the extreme and start treating a (supposed) fellow Christian like an outcast because he said something we don't like, what does that look like to the world?  Can we not disagree with someone without going crazy?  Can we not say, "Your understanding of Scripture is wrong, and here's why" without attacking a person instead of just addressing his ideas?

This is a quote from the aforementioned article from Relevant Magazine:

...as Christians we tend to act like we have a belief system that is like a bubble: It is fragile and easily popped if anything even touches any part of it. We think we have to protect our bubble.
But when did the Christian faith become so fragile? It is OK to ask the tough questions, to question our beliefs to find them to be true (and if not true to find the truth God is revealing to us).
I'm embarrassed and I'm scared because I'm afraid this "Gungor Issue" has revealed just how fragile the Christian faith might have become--at least to the eyes of those in the world who are watching.  And the world is watching.  
I'm not sure what the solution is, but I'm hoping next time something like this happens (because it's going to happen), the Christian community will respond with a little less crazy and a lot more love.  We need to still be WITH the ones we disagree with.  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Power of Not-Always-So-Exasperatingly-Positive Thinking

The other day while I was watching children, one of them came running up to me in "Tattle Mode."  I hate "Tattle Mode."  The part of my brain that has worked with children for 13 years, that has been to workshops and training seminars and such, well it understands that sometimes children can't see past themselves, and therefore interpret any action exercised by another person, however minor or innocent, is something done against THEM.  Then there's the part of my brain that just thinks the kid in "Tattle Mode" is just being a short little jerk.

It's particularly hard to be patient after the fifteenth ridiculous tattle (i.e. that boy just scratched his head, or that girl just sneezed without saying excuse me).  But sometimes, sometimes there are tattles so ridiculous that it just makes me want to reconsider my entire career and go become a Forest Ranger.

Little girl in "Tattle Mode" rushed up to me and declared, with much urgency, "That boy just told me that cheetahs are REAL."

...

...

...

...

...

Oh, tattles like that make Baby Jesus cry.

After a brief facepalm, I calmly explained to Tattle Girl that the boy she was tattling on hadn't done anything wrong, since, well, cheetahs do have the tendency to be real.  She replied, "No.  They aren't.  They aren't real.  Cheetahs scare me.  Things that scare me aren't real.  So cheetahs aren't real."

That's it.  I'm off to Forest Ranger school.

Actually, I found Tattlin' Tina (that's what I've decided to name her) to be unintentionally profound, because the more I thought about what she said, the more I realize that there are a lot of grown ups who think the way that she does.  And there are probably even some grown ups who would praise her logic.

There are probably adults who would say, "Oh, but she's saying that her fears don't exist, and so she's overcoming them!  That's bravery."  And I guess I can see what they're trying to do.  I am just far too literal minded, and children are literal minded, and so I don't think that Tattlin' Tina is being brave.  I think she might even be the opposite of brave.  She's either taken something a well-meaning adult has told her to the extreme (i.e. an adult told her that she shouldn't be afraid of ghosts or something that ISN'T real, and she interpreted that to mean anything she's afraid of isn't real), or she has learned to lie to herself.

Given Tattlin' Tina's tendency to misinterpret reality, I'm kind of going with the latter.  She's learned to lie to herself.  If something scares her, it isn't real.  And if someone tries to tell her a truth she doesn't want to hear (i.e. the boy who said cheetahs are real), it upsets her enough to feel the need to tattle.

I know a lot of adults like that.

As a realist, I get a bad rap.  I've blogged a lot about that lately.  The thing is, the so-called Donnie and Debbie Downers of the world aren't always being as down as some might believe.  Are there people who go around complaining and painting every situation in the saddest light possible?  Yes.  Yes there are.

But then there are people who just speak the truth and have to figuratively pay hell for it.

Sometimes, it's something really simple.  I could just say, "It looks like it will rain" or "My throat is starting to hurt a little" and get called a complainer.  For years, I used to think something was wrong with me when people called me a complainer for saying things like that.  But the thing is, I wasn't always complaining.  It's not necessarily a complaint to just point out a truth.  If it looks like it will rain, it's not necessarily a complaint to point it out.  If my throat is hurting (and I just state the fact without moaning and groaning about it), it's not necessarily a complaint to just state a fact and ask if anyone has any cough drops.

This is especially irritating when someone actually asks me how I'm doing, and I reply back with an honest answer, such as "I'm tired," or "My back hurts a little," and then I'm accused of complaining.  I understand that most of the time, people just ask how you are to be polite or as a greeting, but, as I said: I'm literal minded.  If you ask me how I am, I might just tell you.  And sometimes the answer might be "Fine," because I might be fine.  Sometimes, however, I might not be fine.  And I might tell you how I'm really doing if I'm not fine.  My thought is, if you asked, then let me answer.  And don't get upset if the answer wasn't what you wanted or expected.

Also, and this might be a bit of a surprise to some, but I've got a bit of a sarcastic streak.  No.  Really.

(See what I did there?)

And I get it that sarcasm isn't everyone's love language, okay?  Not everyone gets the humor.  But sometimes, I'm being sarcastically hilarious, and some Positive Peter or Polly decides to ruin the joke by telling me to stop complaining.  I'm sorry...but if you can't take a joke, then who's the one being negative?  I'm not at ALL condoning sarcasm that hurts people or cruel jokes at the expense of others, but sometimes things are darkly funny.  And, I'm telling you Positive Pete and Polly (can I call you P.P.?), it's okay to laugh.

The thing is, like with Tattlin' Tina, there are some people who just can't seem to tolerate anything that's not over-the-top positive, whether it's an actual complaint, sarcasm, or just a simple statement of fact.  I guess I can see why.  There is a lot of complaining in this world.  You can't find a restaurant or movie theater or anything that doesn't have at least a couple of really horrible Yelp reviews.  I've read some bad reviews for some great places, and those same places have very few good reviews.  It's not always because the places are bad.  It's because people like to complain about something more than they like to say something good about it.  So don't hear me wrong and say I don't think it's okay to be positive.  I think that sometimes we need to be more positive.  I just think that some people over-correct and become super-duper ultra uber positive to the point that they can't handle a neutral comment, loving criticism, or a gentle rebuke.

A while ago, I went to see a movie with some friends, and after the movie I wanted to talk about some of the things that really bothered me.  These were fairly important issues, as the movie in question was geared towards tweenage girls, and one of the main characters was rewarded for some inappropriate behavior.  I thought the protagonist was a poor role model for tweenage girls, and I said so.  Before I even really began my argument, one of my friends stopped me and said, "Can't you just enjoy a movie without being so critical?"

No.  No I can't.  Because that's not the way my mind works.  But there is a huge difference between being critical and being negative.  And I'm a little afraid for a world that doesn't seem to be able to handle thoughtful criticism.

I've struggled just a little bit in the writing/publishing world, and part of me just wants to throw the towel in before I struggle anymore.  Part of me doesn't even want to bother because there are so many politics involved even in the publishing industry.  I've discussed in writing forums and online groups and such about the dangers of book reviews.  If you want to be published and you write book reviews, it's incredibly dangerous to give a book a bad review.  You risk offending the wrong person, be it agent or editor or publisher or whoever.  And the whole thing seems so dishonest to my realistic, literal mind that I just want to go be a Forest Ranger.  It's sad to me that people can't just be honest without risk.  But then, being honest has always been a pretty risky thing.

I'm just going to touch on this a little--because we live in a world that's so tolerantly intolerant.  It's okay to believe whatever you want, as long as you don't disagree with anyone.  That's why you can't give someone a loving rebuke when they're doing something wrong.  If you are, then you're being intolerant.  You're being negative and judgmental, just for trying to speak the truth.  And all I'm going to say about that is that if people who speak the truth today have to pay figurative hell for their truth-telling, then at least we can be comforted that Jesus paid literal hell for doing the same thing.

That's all I'm going to say about that.  For now.

But I have a problem with the Tattlin' Tina's of the world.

In Tattlin' Tina's world, it's impossible for there to be anything that frightens her.  Some people might actually applaud that and say she's being courageous for overcoming her fears.  But I don't see her overcoming her fears.  She's just denying them and pretending they aren't there.  That's actually cowardice, not bravery.  And Tattlin' Tina is just a five-year-old girl.  And I think it's just a phase (I hope it's just a phase), but if she doesn't grow out of that mindset, she's going to have a pretty rude awakening one day.  ...like when she visits the zoo.

But for those of us who aren't five years old anymore, maybe it's time we stop pretending cheetahs aren't real.

And I've decided that I might just want to be a Zookeeper instead.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Weakness I Wasn't Expecting

Anyone who knows me well or who has read my blog on a somewhat regular basis will know that I'm not too shy about admitting my weaknesses.  I know full well that I'm anxious, awkward, soft-spoken, hot-tempered, easily discouraged, insecure, and well, pretty much just a hot mess.  I also like myself fairly well most of the time.  I struggle with guilt over silly things and often get frustrated with how hard it is for a lot of people to understand me, but I figure I'm all right.  All this crazy here comes with a large side order of awesome, so I can't complain.  

And there are those who disagree and even get angry with me because they think I'm being too hard on myself.  Maybe I am, sometimes.  But there's a difference between feeling sorry for myself and just being realistic.  And the reality is that I've got a lot weakness.  The reality also is that God has a lot of strength.  If I have any reason to boast, it's not in me.  It's always in Him.

My life verse, for lack of a better term, is 1 Corinthians 1:27 (I'm including some context verses):

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;  but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,  and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,  so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,  so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”(1 Corinthians 1:26-30)

But people aren't comfortable with weaknesses.  And I'd like to believe I'm more comfortable than I am with them, but I've recently been reminded that I'm not all that comfortable with my weaknesses, either.

It started last Sunday morning.  Yes, last Sunday, that somehow feels like it happened about 5 years ago.  We had a guest speaker.  He was talking about Ezekiel and how the dry bones came to life, and how God is able to do things that are impossible for man.  And I was nodding my head and "amening" and thinking, "That is so true."  And I found myself praying that God would continue to be strong through my weaknesses, that God would continue being wisdom in my folly, because that's my only hope.

And my mind wandered (that happens occasionally, okay?) and I started thinking about all the dreams I have, all the things I am trying to accomplish with my writing and everything else.  And I prayed in my heart, "Thank you, God, that I'm weak and foolish.  Thank you.  It's a blessing.  Because I know, I KNOW I can't do these things on my own.  And I pray that you'll help me put in the work I need to do, but I pray even more that you will go before me and make a way for these dreams to happen.  I want to know, I want everyone to know, that there's no way I can ever achieve my dreams without your help.  I want to be able to stand on the other side of success and be able to proclaim how weak I am, so that others will know that the only way I was able to accomplish these things was through your strength.  I want to see my weaknesses as a gift."

And I was a little specific in my request.  But God doesn't always do things the way we expect.  

And so Tuesday morning, my car broke down.  Again.  In fact, the a/c compressor got stuck, overheated, melted a lot of stuff underneath my car, and almost caught my car on fire.  On.  Fire.  And I had kids in the car with me.  I held it together long enough for the kids to get picked up by friends and parents, and then I kind of panicked a little.  I wasn't clear-headed enough to make well-informed decisions, so when I called AAA and they suggested I go to an AAA service center, I was like, "AAA.  Yes.  Okay.  Good."  Their labor was expensive, so I overpaid.  And I left the service center with a weird sound in my car that wasn't there before.  When I took it back to ask if maybe they hadn't tightened a bolt up properly or whatever, they said that THEY hadn't done anything wrong, but that another part needed fixing, one that might possibly be responsible for the weird sound.  They showed it to me, and it was an old part, and it probably did need replacing.  So I had that fixed, too.  And it was also a little expensive.  But the weird sound is still in my car.  The guy told me it would be another part that needed fixing, and it would be expensive.  But I couldn't afford any more expensive.  

My emergency credit card was (and is) nearly maxed out.  I no can afford any more emergency.

And I felt as though I'd been taken advantage of (probably not, but I should have gone somewhere with cheaper labor costs).  And I felt as though I'd just made nothing but horrible decisions.  And I felt as though I'd been the biggest idiot in the world for not buying a new-to-me car last year when my transmission went out, instead of getting the transmission fixed.  

Then at about 5:15 this morning, I woke up from a bad dream to an absolute nightmare.  Something in my dream had made me jerk, and when I jerked, excruciating pain woke me up.  I couldn't move.  For a few terrifying seconds, I thought I was paralyzed, but it was small relief to realize that I couldn't possibly be paralyzed because it hurt SO badly.  I tried to get up, but my neck and right shoulder were just locked up in pain.  It took me about fifteen minutes to get to the point where I could sit up.  I figured I should go try to take a shower to relax the muscles.  Standing up took another ten minutes.  I carefully rummaged around, getting my shower stuff together.  Then I walked towards my bedroom door.  

I hadn't even stepped into the hallway when my vision started going all black and fuzzy, and I realized that I was in so much pain that my body just wanted to go ahead and lose consciousness for a bit.  I had the common sense to hold on to the door frame for dear life.  I stood there about ten seconds, waiting for the dizziness to subside, but it just got worse.  I realized somehow that I was either going to have to lower myself to the floor (which I knew was going to hurt like the dickens on account of my neck going on strike) or I was going to collapse to the floor against my will and maybe get injured even further in the process.  So I sucked it up and grit my teeth through the pain and lowered myself to the floor.  I lie flat on my face for a few minutes and got a bit friendly with my carpet.  

I did not actually pass out.  But something interesting happened.  You know that RED ALERT sound that they play on Star Trek when the ship is being attacked by Klingons or Romulans or spacial anomalies or whatever?  Yeah...my body was literally on RED ALERT.  The black spots in front of my eyes changed color and started flashing red.  My ears were ringing and even pulsating LOUDLY like an alarm.  So I figure that my body is pretty much the U.S.S. Enterprise.  NCC 1701-D.  Because Data and Picard are my homies.  Yo.

But all I could do was to lie there waiting for the lights to stop flashing, the ringing in my ears to go away.  

When it did, I managed to sit up on the floor.  I was thankful my heating pad was under my bed where I could reach it, and I had some ibuprofen in my lunch bag, which I'd left by my bed.  So I drugged myself up and heated my neck and just sat there thinking and praying for a good hour.

I started to realize something.  All that pain and discouragement and difficulty that I've gone through this past week was actually an answer to prayer.  I'd asked to see my weakness as a gift.  So God gave me situations where I was helpless.  God gave me situations where I was weak.

That wasn't what I prayed for--or was it?  I was asking God to reveal His strength through my weakness.  And I meant further on down the road when I hopefully have some big things accomplished because He has given me the grace to accomplish them.  But the thing I'm learning about God is that He doesn't have the tunnel vision we do.  I see the things I want eventually, the glorious things I think God could do in me that will reveal His glory in some big and huge and important way.  

But God sees the whole picture.  And I don't know what He's going to do a year or five years or ten years down the road.  I only know what He's done in the past--things that give me a lot of very solid reasons to trust Him, and I only know what's happening right now.  And right now He's doing something.  He's answering me in a way I didn't expect.  He's giving me situations that are difficult for me, that make realize how weak and needy I am.

To be honest, part of me wants to hide away from everyone in the world right now, lick my wounds, just wallow in how everything is just completely out of my control.  But...but God has chosen the weak to shame the strong. 

So maybe I don't emotionally feel like getting up and leaving the house and going to work, but I'm going to.  And what's more, I'm going with an attitude adjustment.  Because God's given me all these abilities to work, to live, to be.  He's given me amazing friends who help me out (even when I want to be too prideful to accept their help--that's a lesson all in itself!).  And it doesn't matter if I'm wounded or weak or foolish.  It's not about what I'm not.  It's about who He is, and about what He's doing in me.  

And I don't know if anyone will see this and be encouraged.  I don't know if anyone will see this and come away from it with a more glorious picture of who God is.  But I step out in faith that He's going to receive glory even through my weaknesses.  I can't boast in anything except for Him.  So I'm going to boast in Him.

So, yeah, I'm thankful for even this weakness, the weakness I wasn't expecting.  I pray He'll also use it in ways I could never expect.  

This year's theme--Don't Be Afraid.  Phew...I never could have believed all that He would teach me, all that He is teaching me.  I'm so grateful He loves me enough to teach me, even when the lessons are hard.  He's faithful. 

I'm boasting in Him.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Known

Almost a year ago now, when I was moving into the house in which I am currently living, one of my roommates had a friend come and help her move.  I'd never met this person before, so we knew absolutely nothing about one another except for what our mutual friend had told us.  My roommate told me that while they were sorting through stuff, her friend came across a side table I had placed in the living room.  Not knowing whose it was or if it needed to be "unpacked," she opened up the drawer to the table and discovered two cat figurines that my grandmother had given me years ago.  She told my roommate, "Wow.  So this Ruth person must REALLY like cats."

Thus, before this lady ever met me, she already had ideas about who she thought I was.  And over the course of several months, after she had actually met me, my roommate's friend made a couple comments to me about how much I liked cats.

And I do like cats (though not nearly as much as she assumed--and certainly not enough for that to be the sum of  my entire identity), but it was extremely frustrating to me for this stranger to have already decided who I was before she ever met me, especially based on a couple of cat figurines I had forgotten in a drawer.

Maybe it's the way I feel I have to be honest about everything, but I don't like it when people think they know me and really don't.  Back in college, I remember being on a ministry team where the leader thought he had me figured out really early on.  I'm quiet around strangers, and it takes me a while to get used to new situations.  But when I was ready to really start getting involved in the ministry team, I found that I couldn't.  I'd already been labeled as, more or less, dead weight.  I offered my talents, but had no opportunity to use them, because the other people on the team thought they had me figured out.  And they wouldn't give me a chance to move beyond their ideas of me.  So, after struggling with that for a few weeks and praying through it, I quit the team. 

And since then, I really haven't liked it when people have incorrect ideas about me.  I am sorely tempted to go to this extreme where if I people don't know me for the real me, I don't want them to know me at all.  

But lately I've been thinking about how I perceive other people, and about how my perceptions are most likely skewed somehow.  I've been thinking about how aside from family and close friends, most people really have no clue who another person really is.  And even within family and close friends, no one really, really, really knows another person.  In fact, we probably don't even know ourselves too well.

And even when we do start to know ourselves, it's still pretty complicated.  We're always changing.  We're letting go of past things, reaching towards new things, experiencing new pains and joys.  We're never the same.  It's no wonder it seems impossible to be known, sometimes.

I took that a step further and started thinking about every relationship I've ever had ever.  And by "relationship" I mean friendships, I mean family, I mean coworkers, I mean acquaintances, I mean parents of the children I watch, I mean those people I often talk to on Facebook but seldom talk to in real life, I mean people I see on a regular basis working at the post office, I mean people who wait on me at the Walmart, I mean the guy I waved to while driving out in the country where everyone waves to one another, I mean people who I've only met once ever in my life.  What if every one who has ever met me has an idea of me in their head.  

Now, I figure I'm actually pretty forgettable to a lot of the people I've only met once, but there might be a few of them who have some kind of lasting impression somehow.  Maybe I smiled or said thank you to someone and made their day; maybe I frowned or said thank you in a way that made them wonder if I was being sarcastic and made them grumpy; maybe they remembered the way my hair was sticking up; maybe they thought I was cute or awkward or weird or nice or whatever.  

But let's say I've met five thousand people in my life (it's probably been WAY more than that, but let's just say five thousand people actually remember meeting me).  If each of these people has an impression of who I am, then there are five thousand versions of me floating around in people's minds.  And I don't think anyone sits around and thinks about me constantly or anything, but I'm there--or a version of me is there--in someone's mind.  And maybe none of them are completely accurate, and maybe some of them are waaaaay off.  And maybe there are people out there who are almost complete strangers who think I'm a crazy cat lady based on a couple figurines in a drawer, or a quiet person who has absolutely nothing to offer.  And there's really nothing I can do about it.

(Sidenote: What if there are a lot of different versions of me? But I digress...)

And in the end, I think it's true that God's the only One who really, really knows us.  As I said before, we probably don't even know ourselves that well.  We don't always know how well we're going to respond to a situation until we're in the midst of it.  And sometimes we surprise ourselves by being a lot braver or nobler or stronger than we knew we could be.  And sometimes we disappoint ourselves by being more cowardly or crueler or less faithful than we thought we really were.  And we're all in a state of flux, never consistently being the SELF that we think we should be, always growing or declining, never being complete.

And that's perhaps why God is the only One who really knows us.  He knows us, not just the person we were, not just the person we are, not just the person we will be.  Given the name of this blog, it's no surprise that one of my favorite passages is 1 Corinthians 13.  I like the "love verses," and really, the whole passage is about love, but I like the verses towards the end of the chapter more than the descriptions of love.

"For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." (1 Cor. 13:9-12 NASB)

Right now, we don't have the full picture of who we are (and so how can we be expected to have a complete picture of who others are?).  We're not going to have a full picture of ourselves, of others, of God, of anything until we've moved past this life and into eternity.  

My desire to be known by other people is a desire that I think everyone has.  We want to be understood.  We want other people to see us.  But the expectation to be fully known by other people is unrealistic.  It's simply not possible on this side of Heaven.  And recently I've realized that I've made an idol out of wanting to be known and understood.  I've gotten angry when people have made assumptions about me.  I've gotten really hurt by people who have flat out misunderstood me.  But I had those emotions because I was expecting other people to do for me something that only God can really do.

Because He knows me.  He knows who I was without Him.  He knows who I am while I'm striving to know Him more.  He knows who I am in completion, though I'm not there yet.  He knows I'll be there one day.  He sees me that way, as I should be, but He loves me and guides me while I'm not as I should be.  It's a mystery, but it's a beautiful mystery.  And when I stop trying to promote myself so much--the SELF I don't even fully understand--then, I realize that I already have what I'm searching for.  I've had it all along.  

And while it's always going to be a struggle, and I'm always going to want to be understood, and I'm always going to want to be known, it's a comfort to know that I'm already known perfectly.  It's a comfort to know that one day I'm going to know as fully as I am known.  

I said in a previous blog that I probably should just learn to like the fact that I'm misunderstood.  I don't know if I'm there yet or if I will ever be there or even if I should be there.  I'm not supposed to be too comfortable here, because this isn't Home.  It's easy to forget that.  But I need to remember that more and forget myself more.  It's funny how you're probably more yourself when you're less conscious of self.  

I figure I'll get there eventually, on the other side of the dark glass.  For now it's just a poor reflection.  But I think there's grace that we can see at all, no matter how much the image is distorted.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Prophets, Reality, and More Bad Raps

A couple years ago, I was listening to the radio, and a band called Sidewalk Prophets was talking about their band name.  They had taken it from a line in a Jars of Clay song (Art in Me) that went, "Images on a sidewalk speak of dreams descent."  They also came up with the word "prophets" by reading the dictionary and discovering that one of the meanings of "prophet" was simply "someone who tells the truth about life."

I'm not a huge Sidewalk Prophets fan or anything (though I LOVE Jars of Clay), but I think they were on to something.  Because I think it's typical for people to think about prophets as something weird and strange, mystical and mysterious.  I think it's typical for people to assume that prophets were people God used back in the Old Testament, but that prophets don't exist anymore today.

But if you look at the definition the Sidewalk Prophets adopted, that a prophet is someone who tells the truth about life, then yes.  I do think that God gifts people with prophecy today, and I think they're more common than most people presume.  I don't think that prophets necessarily do predict the future (some might), but I think that sometimes they can see how things are going to go by looking at the reality of situations.  Prophets, people who see and tell the truth about life, are like the ultimate realists.  They look at a situation and say, "This is not going well," but they also say, "this is what needs to change if things are going to get better."  And I'm not too sure which one is more offensive to people--the accusation that things are bad, or the challenge to do something differently.  All I know is that prophets and realists are offensive.  Unintentionally.

...I may or may not be a prophet...
(the writing kind, not the preaching kind)
...the jury is still out...
...but I am a realist...
...and I am mysterious...
...and I do like Dragons...
...so that's nice...

And if you read one of my recent posts that is kinda sorta NOT about Eeyore, you're really going to know that I really think realists get a really bad rap.  Really.

I've had to learn the hard way that when you tell the truth about life, people don't like it.  And I really should have been more prepared, especially since a lot of the Biblical prophets had it pretty bad.  When they weren't busy getting persecuted (the real kind where you could actually lose your life, not the American version where you have a flat tire and are only mildly inconvenienced), threatened, thrown in cisterns, having their written prophecies torn and burned up, being ordered to tell lies like all the false prophets, etc., they had to do some pretty crazy stuffs to illustrate the prophecies they'd been given.  Isaiah wandered around naked.  Hosea married a prostitute.  Ezekiel had to lie on his side for over a year and then cut off his hair and beat it with a sword.  I'm not trying to make light of Scripture, but really...what did Zeke's neighbors think?

And maybe prophets were just weird, okay?  Because John the Baptist wore camel skin and ate locusts and wild honey. Locusts and wild honey.  If I were going to eat giant-freak grasshoppers, I'd probably put some honey on them, too.  Helps them go down easier, I'm sure.  And maybe that's part of the whole prophet experience.  If you're going to go out into the wilderness to see a freak show tell you the truth about life, then you're going to go out into the wilderness to see a freak show tell you the truth about life.  Jesus even had something to say about that: 

...Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings' palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, 'BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.' Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.  For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.  And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear.  But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children and say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon!' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds." (Matthew 11: 7-19 NASB)

Jesus knew why the people had come out to see John the Baptist.  And I imagine he was quite the sight.  People probably came to John for the novelty, to see someone weird and different who had something to say.  But he spoke the truth in both love and power, and people's hearts and lives were changed.  But there were also those who scoffed at and persecuted and killed John, and there were those who scoffed at and persecuted and killed Jesus, too.  And there are those who scoff at and persecute (and, yes, sometimes even kill) the prophets of today.  Because no matter whether you're wearing a suit and tie or a suit made of camel skin, if you're telling people something true that they don't want to hear, they're going to hate you for it.  

And no one really wants to be told the truth about the sin they're trying to hide or deny.  No one wants to be told that their sin is going to lead to death and hell.  No one wants to be told that there is absolutely nothing they can do in their own strength to save themselves.  People want to be told that life is going to pleasant and good, that they can do whatever they want, that they don't have to follow any God besides their own heart-idols.  They want to be told that they're essentially good and strong in their own merit.  They want to be told that they are special and wonderful and are always going to get what they want, regardless of how they live.  

Prophets get a bad rap because people always want to kill the messenger.  

Prophets get a bad rap because people like having someone else to blame.

Prophets get a bad rap because ignorance really is bliss, and people really want to be blissful.  They don't want to be convicted.  They don't want to change.  So they sweep the problem under the rug, and they sweep the prophets out the door.

And people miss the message they need because it's not what they want to hear.  They miss the message because they lie to themselves that prophets are gloomy and depressing and have nothing good to say.  But most of the prophets in the Old Testament had good news at the end of the bad.  And the prophets of today have hope at the end of the despair.

I have heard many, many people say that realists are just pessimists in disguise, but I disagree.  A realist sees a situation for what it is.  And the reality of our human situation is that we're sinners.  And because God is holy, He can't tolerate sin.  So that means we're going to be separated from Him forever.

But that's not the end of the matter.  It should be, but it's not.  The reality of our situation is also something pretty amazing--that God loved us while we were still sinners, and came to die in our place.  He came to be fleshly like us so that we could be Holy like Him.  The Old Testament prophets had good news, hope, in the midst of the stark reality of the Israelites' sins.  The prophets today have good news, hope, in the midst of the stark reality of our sins.

But the reality also is that people still don't want to hear that.  They want to believe the more comfortable lies.  And they still want to kill the messengers.  So prophets are called liars or idiots or fools.  Prophets are called intolerant or bigots or religious fanatics who are stuck in the dark ages.  Prophets are called unloving.  Prophets are called hateful.  People make up lies about prophets to make them look like the ones who are evil.  And people want to believe those lies rather than to face the truth.

And all the while, the prophets who remain obedient keep speaking the truth in love to a world that just doesn't want to hear it.

It's hard, and it's heartbreaking.  It's heartbreaking because a true prophet doesn't just care about the message; a true prophet cares about the people who hear the message.  But so few have ears to hear.

Still...the prophet speaks.

The reality doesn't change just because no one wants to hear it.  And people are still sinners even if they don't want to believe it.  And Jesus is still our only hope even if no one wants to accept Him.

Jesus is still our only hope.