Conscience for your wallet

It used to be a part of our Sunday routine; after church we would stop by and get Starbucks.  My husband got a venti raspberry chai and I would decide between a peppermint hot chocolate and a hazelnut chai.  A few weeks ago I saw a letter to the store thanking them for supporting equality in marriage and it put a bitter taste in my mouth.  After a little looking online, I realized it was not just something that store had done, but Starbucks as a whole.  My mother-in-law got this response when she emailed that we will no longer be buying anything from Starbucks:
“At Starbucks, we deeply respect the views of our customers and partners (employees) and recognize that there is genuine passion surrounding this topic. Starbucks has many constituents, and from time to time we will make decisions that are consistent with our values and heritage but may be inconsistent with the views of a particular group.
From our very earliest days, Starbucks has strived to create a company culture that puts our people first and treats everyone equitably. Our company has a lengthy history of leading on and supporting policies that promote equality and inclusion, and we are proud to be one of several leading Northwest employers that support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality. We made this decision through the lens of humanity and our commitment to embracing diversity.”

It was easy to say we’ll never buy from Starbucks again, but it put a lot of thoughts in my mind that I have never thought about.  First, trying to figure out why companies need to take stands on things that don’t directly involve their business.  Importation taxation, fair trade coffee and the like are issues that relate to the business of Starbucks and make more sense to me than using their “guiding principle” of diversity to reach beyond the coffee world.  If a CEO wants to support political issues with his words and money, that is a better avenue to make a stand.

Secondly, I began to wonder how much business decisions should affect my purchases and if so, how do I find out what companies believe and support.  Starbucks is easy to pass over since there many other coffee shops.  In my looking for articles to link to in this post, I found out Microsoft and Nike supported the same bill Starbucks was supporting.  Nike is easy since I own nothing from them.  However, this post is being typed using a Windows 7 operating system and giving up Windows will be a much harder thing to do.

I am left with wondering how much influence company ethics and political views should have on my spending habits.  What do you do, if anything?  One thing is for sure, I am going to be more aware of where I spend my money (and I don’t want any gifts cards to Starbucks anymore).

Footnote about gay marriage: I firmly believe that marriage is between one man and one women.  And while I don’t condone the lifestyle, homosexuals should not be ridiculed as individuals.  The line is clear on marriage, but it’s a little more difficult to explain in individual relationships.  Maybe a post for some other day….

One question

A few years ago when I was working at a summer camp for troubled teens, I was challenged by a fellow staff member to ask the right questions. I was learning to understand the many different places people can be in their relationship with God, and if you don’t ask in the correct way, you won’t find out where they are. “Are you a Christian?” means so many different things to different people. “Do you believe in God?” is too narrow. After a bit of thinking, I realized what I really wanted to understand about people was “What is your relationship with God?” Now I admit this isn’t the most clear question, so I hope to explain myself here.

Most people will respond back “What do you mean ‘relationship’?” Here are examples of answers that would fit the question. “What is your relationship with God?”

Like my relationship with Casper the friendly ghost- I don’t believe in ghosts but they make for fun little stories.

Like my relationship with Erin- we were best friends when I was younger but we haven’t spoken since then. And I really don’t care to start that relationship again.

Like my relationship with the Queen of England- I know she’s out there but what she does has no influence on my life. So I really don’t care.

Like my relationship with President Obama- I don’t know him personally but I don’t like what he does. I want to avoid him at all costs and get him out of my life (sorry for the politics, but it made for a good example)

Like my relationship with my distant family- They are family and I love spending time with them once every year or two. But I’m not really close to them and I don’t have the desire to build that relationship.

Like my relationship with Sarah- We get along well but it is a long distance relationship and requires work to get to know her better. Therefore, the friendship gets dropped to the side.

Like my relationship with my husband- I love him greatly and know much about him. But there are still many things I don’t know. It’s not enough to know him as I do now. I want to (and am excited) to get to know him, to be able to love and serve him without having to ask how.

Those are just a few examples of possible answers. There are many different relationships in our lives. What is your relationship with God?

Moving beyond “Nugget-and-Fry” Christianity…

…to “Steak-and-Veggies”  (without the formality of eating with the CEO)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.  You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. ~Hebrews 5:12-14

What I’m not saying: I am not calling all Christians babies, living on milk and unskilled in righteousness.  I am not knocking those who feed on milk or those who provide the basic teachings.  I am not saying the Christian basics are not truth.

I led a small group with girls from my dorm in college and for one semester, we looked at commonly quoted passages.  Through that study we discovered that some of the most well known and commonly used verses in the Bible are often used in a very different context than was intended or shallow when compared to the truth of the whole passage.  All too often, we are never weaned off of the milk that brings us to the truth and onto the meat.  Just like nuggets and fries, the basics are food and provide sustenance.  But we must move to better tasting, better for us, more rewarding food.

The problem is that our culture loves nuggets of things, as opposed to the whole picture.  We quote just a line or two from a movie, every company has a small catch phrase, and even some of the greatest songs have lyrics which can be repeated in short little phrases.  Single Bible verses are helpful for meditation and building blocks, but to truly understand Christianity, you have to go beyond and study it all.

The Bible our guide book for life and our opportunity to know the Creator.  Though the presidential candidates may try, describing a person in one word just doesn’t quite do it.  While the word or small phases may be true, you miss the depth of who the person really is.  To grow in our faith and truly know God, we must push past the little sayings and reach for the fullness of the who He is.  I hope to do just that as I share thoughts about my faith and the Bible.  I have only one semester of seminary, so I don’t come with fancy words and high thoughts.  I pray that this will be the fullness of the truth, without the formality.

So what?!  Next time you hear or think of a Bible verse, go look it up (use an online search if you don’t know the reference) and see if your thoughts on that verse change based on the context.

Desiring God: the beginning

I stole this title from John Piper’s book by the same name because it is very fitting for my spiritual life right now. So many times in my life I have found myself moving along, not falling into temptation, but not seeking God. It’s a fairly neutral life which acknowledges God as present, in control, and available, but does not actively seek Him.

I know this neutral living is not how we are called to live as true believers, but the desire to seek Him isn’t there. I long for other things in my life; good job, close friends, involvement with youth. In all of these, I do my best to bring God into the picture and spent time praying, but it seems like something is missing. I am missing out on the simple relationship with God- getting to know Him and enjoy spending time with Him. Not involved in an activity or a pursuit, but just growing in my knowledge and the image of Him.

The problem is that this does not come naturally to me…to anyone. At times I want this more than others, but keeping the passion for Him is hard. I was reminded of this during church this past week as we looked at the story of the prodigal son. Both sons had the wrong sort of relationship with the Father and what they both had in common was a desire for the things the Father gave, but not the Father Himself. The younger son wanted freedom and the inheritance from his Father. The older son wanted his rightful due for his obedience. Neither of them simply wanted to be with the Father.

I am keenly aware of my lacking desire and am wanting to change that. Sitting on my shelf is a book that may help. John Piper’s “When I Don’t Desire God” seems like a perfect fit for someone like me who finds themselves, more often than not, lacking a desire for God Himself. I pray that God will use this book to change my thinking and desire Him always. As I take this journey, I will share my thoughts both on the book and what it means for my life. And I pray this journey may reach beyond me to help you grow in your relationship with God.

Real Treasure

Like most little girls, I remember making “beautiful” jewelry. By threading yarn or some such material with brightly colored plastic beads of various sizes and shapes, it was possible to make the best jewelry possible, worthy of wearing to any and all events. While I’m sure some of the delight in the necklaces was due to the effort put into making it by hand, these beads on yarn was seen as beauty to my little 6 year old eyes. What I had made in Sunday School would stay around my neck, or even possible passed on to my mommy to wear and show off. Wearing my masterpiece to school was fine, but not with my nice dress on Easter. Though my mommy put on the necklace at church, it was not good enough to wear our with daddy. She chose the pearl necklace he gave her. Despite my insisting that my necklace be worn in these situations, what I valued as beautiful was not considered as such by others.

As I grew up, the world of beautiful jewelry grew exponentially beyond those beads. I can oh and ah over diamond necklaces and admire the beauty in the variety of precious stones in jewelry. The colors are more natural, the sparkle is real and the price tag…well, we all know that is high. All of these attributes of real jewels give them worth. While the little bead necklaces carried sentimental value because they were made with my hands, pearls, and diamonds have value because of what they are.

Besides learning about truly valuable jewelry as I have grown up, I have also seen how similar my dreams are to brightly colored beads on yarn. As a child, I dreamed of a prince who would sweep me off my feet, friends to laugh and spend time with, and a life of emotional bliss. My view of God was also one of those brightly colored beads. He was this “person” in the sky who was in control of everything and “wanted a personal relationship with me.”

Life has gotten much too complicated for bead necklaces on yarn. There are complexities I never imagined. My prince has come, but there are so many emotional issues as two people work towards being united in marriage; you don’t always feel like a prince and princess. Good, close friends are hard to find, and once you find them, hard to keep as life sends you in different directions. There are tensions internally as I wrestle to figure out who I am. There are tensions externally as I learn to live and work with those I don’t like and honor my parents yet be an adult.

And then there is my relationship with God. Only now can I truly say He is incomprehensible. Justice and mercy. Disciple and love. Standards and grace. A relationship with Him is not easy, especially when my humanness can’t know Him even half-way. Though desiring to follow His will for my life, it isn’t as simple as “do as your parents say” or “do unto others as you would have the do unto you.” Needless to say, life is not at all what I thought it would be.

What I thought was valuable as a child is now worthless. I need a redefinition of what has worth in this life. The value I once placed on my bead-necklace dreams will not work. God, give me a mind to understand the diamond dreams you have for me. There are more complex, but so much more real than all the things that I once held dear. Help me give up on my bead necklaces and in return recognize and accept your sparkling, real dreams for me. For these jewels are Your plan for me; true beauty which reflects Your worth.

Guilt

“Here I am Lord and I’m drowning in Your sea of forgetfulness. The chains of yesterday surround me.”
~East to West, Casting Crowns

I wonder if we place ourselves on the beach of this sea, looking out and remembering our sins. Satan calls us forward and God calls us back. We take steps just barely into the water, believing that a little guilt and remorse is healthy. What we don’t realize is that this sea has a powerful undertow. I got swept away and was drowning, overcome with what I had done. The chains beat against me and I thrashed and cried and couldn’t breathe. But God was there to pull me out and the rope He used was my boyfriend. On the beach I got my breath back but facing God was still a challenge. I knew I needed Him but I was still too close to the sea with seaweed chains hanging on to me. The power that had pulled me under was still on my face. Yet my boyfriend pulled me away from the sea and toward God. I was able to face God as I should- guiltless.
This sea is a beautiful thing God has made to separate our sins from us. But as with most things God has created, Satan has corrupted it. The power and forgiveness of the sea of forgetfulness as the waves crash against the shore are wonderful. But the undertow on the beach and in the shallow is dangerous. Beware of “healthy guilt” for there is no such thing once you are forgiven!

“The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
“This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”
And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
~Hebrews 10:15-23

Rebirthing

This is my blog on religions ideas, thoughts, and brief lessons. My break from blogging on here is related to my recently relationship with God. I have learned a lot about myself over the past 6 months while life took many twists and turns. There was a move to the south side of Denver into an apartment with a roommate from Craig’s List, the abrupt ending of a relationship that was very special to me, and adjusting to a new Starbucks store that was very stretching.

I wish I had blogged, or at least journaled, during this time period. I have chewed over many thoughts about Christian living, my background, forgiveness and Christianity outside the cookie cutter. While these thoughts may not be direct and raw like they were at the time, I know they will color any following blogs.

“[I] Feel your presence filling up my lungs with oxygen” I am now attending Denver Seminary working toward an MDiv in Youth and Family Ministries. I hope to blog my reflections on class and other things going on in my life. Welcome back to my reflections on life and faith and learning to live a life Not My Own.

Prayer for Prayer

We can’t do it alone. Many of us know this and this is why we ask others to pray for us about this and that. With the knowledge of others praying, we feel somehow comforted. Others, friends and beyond, are joining us in our time of need. Others are doing what we may not be able to do ourselves- speak to our Father. We may be too heartbroken and can’t find words. We may be too overwhelmed and be unable to sort though what to say when we find the time to pray. We may be too far away from Him to even think about coming to Him ourselves.

Or we may have just taken on praying for a situation which is beyond our ability. The weight of bringing a friend to the Father may be too great for us. And so we have to ask for prayer as we pray for some friends. Such is my request now.

God
What has been done cannot be undone. There will be scars. But protect Satan from touching what has already been done. Be there and work to bring about Your glory and grace. Bring growth in Your children.
My heart aches, Lord.
~kms