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Friday, April 10, 2009

The Flawed Theology of a Teenage Girl

One night I was channel-surfing and came across what I called "The Catholic Channel." I mean no offense to those that are part of the Catholic Church, but the Catholic Channel was pretty scary stuff for a teenage girl that attended a Southern Baptist church. There were rituals and strange pictures and people standing on a hill chanting for hours. I didn't get, and didn't care to get it. (If you're Catholic, please don't stop reading. I promise you I'm not a hater.)

This particular night must have been an isn't-there-anything-on-TV night because I actually paused my channel-surfing and spent a few minutes on the Catholic Channel. I watched image after image of Jesus on the cross, broken and bleeding.

At first I was offended. My internal dialogue went something like this, "Why do they have to focus on His death? He's alive! His time on the cross is not the end of the story." Having accepted Jesus as my Savior as a child, I couldn't think of Him as dead because He had always been alive to me.

But I couldn't look away. With each image, His pain and suffering confronted me and demanded a response. I remembered hearing that if I was the only person on earth, Jesus still would have died for me. And all I could think was, "What a waste."'

I loved Him so much, and I knew in my heart of hearts that I didn't deserve His sacrifice. I was overwhelmed with remorse and decided that an apology was in order. He had to know I was serious about it, so I knelt in front of the couch on the tile floor, bowed my head in the appropriate position of piety, and asked Jesus to forgive me for needing such a sacrifice. For accepting the sacrifice and not being any different. For not being the prettiest, or smartest, or most talented, or nicest, or anything close to those things that would make people think that at least something good would come out of it and I would impact the world positively for Him.

I didn't know that there was absolutely nothing that I, or anyone, could do to deserve His sacrifice. That His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). That the lack of anything admirable in me would allow Him to receive every bit of glory for anything He did in my life. It would be years before I would understand those concepts.

But that night He began the process of setting me free from any unacknowledged thoughts of deserving or earning salvation and began teaching me the truth of mercy and grace.

After my apology, I thought I might as well be completely honest and begged, "Help me," over and over again. I'll risk sounding like a crazy person by telling you that he dropped His Presence on me so suddenly and forcefully that I actually looked around to see who else was in the room with me. And I specifically looked to my right to see who was next to me.

I didn't see anyone, so no need to call the mental police on me.

At first I was terrified to feel the room so full with a presence and not seeing anyone. But I also knew that there was nothing to be scared of. I realized that it must be God comforting me. Even though I didn't deserve it. Even though I wasn't the prettiest, or smartest, or most talented, or nicest, or anything close to those things that I thought would make one deserving of the attentions of the Creator of the universe.

I've thought of that night so many times over the years. It was the beginning of my understanding, in my heart and not just in my head, that we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). That I could do nothing to deserve salvation because He saved me by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). That He loves me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) and will lift up my head (Psalm 3:3). That my soul could thirst for Him and cling to Him, moving my lips to glorify Him and my hands to lift in His name (Psalm 63).

I've also learned that I cannot separate the fact that "He has risen" from "He was crucified." And that I would be doing good to agree with Paul and resolve to know nothing "except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2).

How like God to interrupt mindless channel-surfing with meditation on the cross. To use something foreign to me in order to reveal the flaws in my theology.

I pray that He interrupts your routine this Good Friday, too.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Pregnancy - 27 Weeks" or "Houston Restaurants Will Never Be the Same"

Yesterday I added Panera to the list of fine eating establishments whose bathroom I have violated.

And after eating the creamy tomato soup in a bread bowl. What a waste.

So my morning sickness continues all the live-long day. But I've decided to see it as a blessing rather than a curse. If nothing else, it has helped me to not gain 50 pounds of extra weight. I haven't weighed myself in the last few days, but I have reached the 20-pound mark. There's no telling what I would look like if not for the morning sickness.

My husband and I talked about this very fact last night. He says that from behind I don't look pregnant, but once I turn around it's like, "Whoa, Nellie!"

What a sweet and delusional man. He seems to have forgotten that he had to make a run to the maternity clothing store for me to buy new underwear because MY NORMAL UNDERWEAR, THEY DO NOT FIT. And they have not fit for many a moon. Proof positive that the nether regions are not what they once were.

And they weren't all that to begin with.

But enough about my derriere. Let's get back to the belly and its many looks.

My belly has taken on its own identity. I feel like I have the belly version of Sybil strapped to me, with a different personality for every day. All it needs is a pair of glasses and for my belly button to start saying, "You like me! You really like me!" and it would be Sally Field.

But if my belly button doesn't start talking soon, it won't get a chance. It has begun to flatten at an alarming rate, bringing to the light of day regions of my belly button that have never before been seen.

One of the personalities that my belly is taking on is that of the heat-seeking missle. I say that because it is now growing straight out. With a bit of a point. If we had some time-lapse video of my belly growth I feel sure that you would duck for cover.

Although it's nowhere near as dramatic as the "Jon & Kate Plus 8" belly. Bless her heart.

Despite the shape that my belly is taking on, I can say with certainty that I am not going to birth a missile, but an acrobat. While Baby Michael's movements the last couple of months have consisted mostly of jabs and kicks, the last few days he has moved into rolls and turns, with a little bit of the Marine belly crawl thrown in for good measure.

As a matter of fact, sometimes his movements cover so much area so quickly, I imagine him gripping the umbilical cord and swinging from one side of my belly to the other.

But you won't hear complaints from me. I rejoice over every movement because they tell me that my baby boy is alive and kicking. And that's not something that I'm willing to take for granted.

Swing away, Baby Michael. Swing away.

Just take it easy while I'm in Panera. Mama likes her soup.