Saturday, March 30, 2013

This kind of Jesus

When I worked at Mankato State University, I had a student insist to me that Jesus was white, because she'd "seen the pictures."

Yeah. I've seen the pictures too. Jesus always looks so serene and other worldly, like in that one where he's standing outside the door in a halo of sunlight. I get the feeling that if I were to ask that Jesus what he's thinking about, he'd say something like, "Heaven" and I'd be all, "Oh" because I was thinking about chocolate, and then feel like maybe he and I couldn't relate very well.

But lately we've been watching The Bible on The History Channel. It's a great series, even if Noah has a Scottish accent and Moses seems a little unhinged, and Satan looks like a cross between Obama and Voldemort. What I like the most about it is Jesus.

When Jesus was with Peter in the boat, he just seemed so, well, human. He needed help getting into the boat. He sat casually and looked amused at Peter's lack of faith. He spoke earnestly to him, and with conviction. He looked at Peter like you would look at someone you just really like.

Throughout the series, I have watched Jesus' face with fascination. I see his joy when he's in the midst of friends. He's delighted with children. He's compassionate toward even the guard who came to arrest him. His face fills with sadness and tenderness as he is betrayed by a kiss. He's human.

And then he swirls his hand around in the water and brings tons of fish to the boat and reminds me, "Oh yeah, this guy's God." He walks on water, he heals lepers, he gives the religious leaders looks that penetrate to their souls. When asked, "Are you the son of God?" he answers, "I am" and I think, "These men stood in the presence of God and they didn't know it."

God with skin on. It's really such a gift. We get to see what God is really like. I realize that this is a TV show I'm talking about, but the fact is that God was human for a time, and he did feel all those things. I can relate to a Jesus like that. I have been imagining him, as I go through my days, picturing the look he would give me in moments I am experiencing. I think he would laugh with me. He would cry when I'm hurt. He would speak words of conviction with kindness and tenderness. He would tell me that he likes chocolate too.

And because of Easter, because of the resurrection, there is nothing to keep us from experiencing a relationship with that God, the one who knows all that we go through, who felt it with us, who still feels it with us. He is not someone who stands at a distance. He wants to walk through life side by side, doing life with us. Do you know this kind of Jesus?

Do you miss China?

People often ask me if I miss China. I really don't know how to answer this question, because what comes to mind is the pollution this year that has been so high it's unmeasurable by the current systems. Obviously I can live without that. I miss friends terribly, but several of them have also left in the last year as well, so I know that life there would be very different now. I confess I find America a little boring at times - I go to the store and nothing weird happens, ever. Is that enough to make me miss China? No. I can make my own weird.

We spent time recently with friends we knew in Singapore. We talked about how, initially, my friend missed it so much after moving back here that she just wanted to go back to Singapore, but the reality was, it wouldn't be the same. We agreed that what we miss wasn't necessarily the place itself, it's the intangibles.

It's things like community. I miss meeting people for the first time and being dear friends with them a month later, because that's how things work overseas. I miss bonding like soldiers during war time, hunkering down together when the waves of living cross-culturally are too rough.

It's feeling competent, knowing how to be an adult in the place where you are. I don't know how to own a house. I don't know the norms of being a parent in America. One day I will figure out this DVR thing.

It's being known and understood, having routine, being more comfortable being the only white face than looking like everyone else. These are the things I miss, because they are the things I think we all desire from anywhere we live (except maybe the white face thing. That was just our normal).

I had those things. I miss having them. I know I'll gradually get them back, over time, for the most part. So do I miss China? Let's just say "I miss that life."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Christ Who Gives Me . . .

This morning I received an email from Ethan that said, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me." I jokingly wrote back, "Gives me what? What is it Ethan? The suspense is killing me!"

But I was encouraged. This is his budding faith in action, as he was gearing up for what we both knew was going to be a rough day, reminding us both who we need to trust. He has a quarter paper due tomorrow, and in defiance of the word "quarter", he has chosen to instead try to do it in about a week. The last seven days could be titled, "The Butz family learns the meaning and consequences of deadlines." This morning he still had about 4/5 actually written, but not edited, and no bibliography. Nothing like a challenge for Monday morning!

To make it more interesting, Megan went to a birthday sleepover on Saturday night with 20 other girls where they were allowed to stay up until 1:30 am. I don't remember the last time I willingly stayed up that late. It was probably my freshman year of college, before I realized that I can't function beyond 10 pm. We learned yesterday that Megan can't function well herself on 6 hours of sleep. Today, we were still feeling the residual damage.

All that added up to an emotional day, the kind of day where my heart struggles to stay engaged with my kids, to enter in to their emotions fully, to just sit with them in their tears. Part of me wants to let them just cry it out, to say, "Yep. I get it. School is hard. Life is hard. I'm totally with you kiddo," and another part of me wants to move them through it as quickly as possible back to a place where they can actually finish the work and put us all out of our misery.

At times, I think, "This is too much God. My heart can't stretch any more. I can't sit through another meltdown. I don't have what I need for this."

But throughout the day, I've remembered Ethan's email. I can do all things through Christ who gives me . . . strength, yes. But really, fill in the blank. Patience. Compassion. Gentleness. A bigger heart. Whatever it is we need.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I Am an Israelite

As a family, we've been reading the Bible in a year together. At the same time, the church we've been attending is going through something called The Story, which is a 30 week overview of the Bible. We decided to throw in The History Channel's The Bible series for good measure. We are immersed.

One of the things that always gets me when I read the Old Testament is how the Israelites can seem so dense. I mean, seriously - God parts the Red Sea for you to walk through, and about a minute later you're complaining that you want to go back to Egypt? He provides food out of nowhere, but still you must grumble? The leader goes away for a little while and you decide the best option is to make a farm animal out of perfectly good jewelry to worship? So fickle. So quick to forget. So untrusting.

So much like me.

Sigh. The truth is, I am an Israelite. I have seen God do amazing things in my lifetime, both around me and in me. But give me a new circumstance, a new place in life, and I too often forget what God has done and who He is. I look at myself, my own resources, my lack, and I lose heart. That is what I have done these last few weeks, and it has not been pretty, my friends. Not. Pretty.

Isn't that what the Israelites did? They took their eyes off who God is and looked at their circumstances through their own eyes. God didn't change - their perspective did. They just plain forgot who they were dealing with.

Which is why Moses, in Deuteronomy, tells them about 100 times "do not forget the Lord." Remember what He has done. Remember who He is. That same God who parted the Red Sea? He's with you in your move. He's going ahead of you to find that house. He's here in Orlando. He's got plans for you.

When I realized this a couple days ago, I took some time to sit down, confess it to God, and to remind myself of who He is. He is good, He sees me, He is able, He is love. It doesn't matter the circumstances, it matters who we're looking at to take care of them.

My Friend Dayle

One of the people God has blessed me with in the last few years is a wonderful woman named Dayle. She is quite possibly the most encouraging person I know. It seems to be impossible for me to talk to her and not walk away feeling infused with wisdom and joy, refocused on God. In short, she makes me feel like a rock star. A rock star who loves Jesus.

She recently asked if I would post on her blog, so I thought I would direct you there to read it, but while you're there, linger. She sees God in everyday life and shares honestly from the heart. I know you'll be encouraged!

Dayle's Blog