Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pushing the Cart

yoke |yōk|noun
a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull

“For freedom Christ set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  -Galatians 5:1

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  -Matthew 11:28-30

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."  -Matthew 11:28-30 [MSG]

“When he says, ‘Take my yoke up you,’ he does not mean a yoke which he would lay upon our shoulders. It is his own yoke he tells us to take, and to learn of him. It is the yoke he is himself carrying, the yoke his perfect Father had given him to carry. The will of the Father is the yoke he would have us take, and bear also with him. It is of this yoke that he says, It is easy, of this burden, It is light. He is not saying, ‘The yoke I lay upon you is easy, the burden light.’ What he says is, ‘The yoke I carry is easy, the burden on my shoulders is light.’”   -George MacDonald

As a little girl, I loved helping my mom push the shopping cart at the grocery store. I would slyly slip between her arms, barely able to see over the handle, and position myself in front of her as “captain” of the cart. It seemed like such a wondrous responsibility – navigating heavy machinery through aisle after aisle, careful to avoid displays precariously stacked at each turn. I always took this duty very seriously, and it made me feel proud and powerful and important. Not to mention how fun it was! And yet somehow it never dawned on me that all my shopping cart pushing success was due to my mother’s presence at the handle with me. She was the one pushing. She was the one avoiding the inevitable canned-food catastrophe my blind driving would have caused. She was the muscle propelling the all-too-heavy cart. I experienced all the joy and carefree responsibility because mom was at the wheel.

I imagine this is what Jesus meant when He offered us His yoke. Rather than offering an “easy for Jaime” yoke, and a “light for Jaime” burden (think the kid-sized carts at Trader Joes), He says, “This God-sized yoke is easy for Me to carry, and this burden is light on My shoulders. Carry it with Me (push the grown-up sized cart with me, Jaime).”

Sometimes I think I try to carry the God-sized yoke of Jesus on my shoulders by myself. I somehow feel it’s my duty to fulfill the will of God of my own volition and strength. I have to do it by myself. As if God requires this of me. And so I stumble and I falter until I’m crushed under the weight of what I cannot bear alone, leaving a trail of wreckage behind. What was meant to be light and easy becomes devastating and discouraging because I can’t do it. I’m a terrible failure who can’t please God. I’m a slave to my yoke of inadequacy.

Mine is the story of humanity throughout Scripture.

Attempt after feeble attempt to please God.

God gave Israel the Law to show them how to live. The Law taught Israel that, even with a step-by-step guide of how to live a godly life, they were incapable of doing it on their own. They collapsed under the yoke of the Law. It showed them their need, not just for an external God who demanded obedience, but an indwelling God who would demonstrate obedience. A God who would be in it with them.

Enter Jesus.

“Take my yoke upon you… Walk with me and work with me”

We are invited to partner with Christ in obedience. It’s there we find the pleasure of God – by faith extended to us, and by deeds bursting from within us. It’s there we find ease, not in the task, but in knowing on whose shoulder’s the weight of it rests. It’s there we find lightness and rest from the frenzy of all our wonderings. It’s there we slip between the arms of our Savior, and with Him, carry out the will of the Father.

I’m so grateful that God doesn’t condescend a Jaime-sized burden onto my shoulders, one that I can manage on my own. How insignificant it would be. Rather, He generously allows me to participate in the grand, God-sized work of Christ – a work far too large for my inadequate shoulders, but where I fit perfectly within the span of His. I can leave behind my stumbling and faltering, and stand with strength and joy-filled confidence as I enjoy being a child at work with her Father.

Okay Lord, let’s push this cart together.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Baby Steps

I’ve been inspired by my witty blogging friends to get things going again. This inspiration comes by way of these two in particular -- Michelle and Jon Troll. Both are fantastic writers who just happen to be wise and interesting and HILARIOUS. Their blogs will make you better, more cultured people.

So, I guess you could say this is a revival of sorts.

Or maybe a blogvival.

I realize that I made a similar claim about nine months ago that survived a four-entry stretch, but I’m hoping this reblogal (if you will) isn’t just a passing fancy. What’s the key to my success, you ask?

Baby steps.


I’m devoting my blog to nothing but pictures and videos of babies taking their first steps. I think it’s going to be a big hit. Kind of like how kitties are all the rage. There may even be the occasional posting of a baby holding a kitty while taking its first step. Wouldn’t that be wild!?! And super inspirational… And perhaps a window into my dwindling ability to discern what actually inspires people.

Oh wait… what’s this?

You’re so totally inspired.

Stay tuned for more where that came from.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hope & Ugly Truth

Today I journaled out of Jeremiah 27 & 28. The interaction begins with God filling Jeremiah in on His plans to set King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon over several other nations, including Judah. Other prophets had been telling the people that this situation would be short-lived, but Jeremiah knew the truth meant they faced captivity “until the day I [God] visit them.” There was no time-frame for freedom, but there was a promise of providence if they yielded.

“Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, ‘Hear now, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord: Behold I will cast you from the face of the earth…”  -Jeremiah 28:15-16a

Hananiah couldn’t believe that God would plan captivity for His people. He couldn’t accept that blessing could be possible within the confines of those circumstances. The people had squandered their promise and God responded justly. Maybe Hananiah had good intentions. Maybe he didn’t want the people to lose heart. He didn’t want them to be consumed by the judgment of captivity. But in the end, Hananiah wasn’t doing himself or the people of Israel any favors. He imposed his standards of mercy and justice on God and prophesied a lie to the people. He offered them false hope that would paralyze them when judgment came. While Jeremiah’s message was much less pleasant, there was hope residing in the ugly truth: “Roll with God’s judgment and you’ll find mercy and blessing. Rebel and find wrath.”

This dynamic exists in different shapes and forms in faith today. Name it-Claim it. Prosperity. The message of grace erasing consequences. Problem-Solver Jesus… if we “get” Him like we “Get Jesse” then everything bad goes away. These messages cripple the people of God. When they inevitably face trials, hardships and suffering; when they collide with the brokenness of this world, they’re left floundering and shaken because their tidy solution never came around. The rainbows and butterflies never showed up! The truth is, God has given us grace and strength to face whatever foe or crisis comes our way. The blessing isn’t perfect circumstances or lack of consequences – it’s an all-sufficient Savior who offers forgiveness and promises never to leave nor forsake us. The blessing is in the character and contentment that come with trusting Him. God is always just, always strong, and always good – even when this world and life & death and suffering try to tell us otherwise. There is intrinsic hope in the ugly truth when we trust the Lord.

God takes this stuff seriously. Hananiah lost his life for causing the people to trust in a lie. As a follower of Christ, I have a responsibility to be a voice of truth that speaks and imparts real hope to God’s people; a voice that equips others to stand and flourish, even in the captivity of their current circumstances. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fickle Jesus

I found this on my computer today as I was cleaning up files and such. I wrote it about two years ago, and I'm happy to report that some of this has changed. But still, isn't it interesting how one can profess belief, but often operate in opposition to that claim? I know who Jesus is and what He's about, but I don't always live like it. 

This is a description of the Jesus my insecurities, fears and lack of faith often reflect. I want that to change.

I do not know Jesus as I claim.

I know a version of Him.

I’m acquainted with a Lord who fits rather well into my mindsets and traditions.

I know a Savior who has answers and offers them to me in familiar and encompassing promises.

He’s somewhat trustworthy but not always capable of addressing my concerns and meeting my needs.

He hears my prayers but requires my assistance in coming up with suitable solutions.

He doesn’t mind so much if I put off spending time with Him. He understands my busy schedule and is gracious to share me with all of my important and pressing commitments.

This Jesus is passive concerning the eternal affairs of man. He’s glad when someone is saved, but is sympathetic toward my fear of man and lack of urgency in reaching the lost.

He conforms to my emotional state. His nearness or lack thereof depends on how I’m feeling at any given moment. His plan wanes when I am frustrated or desperate, and is absolute when I’m on board.

He loves me, but doesn’t require much of me, except when I fail. Then he’s terribly disappointed.

He’s susceptible to my whims.

He’s flippant with the aching desires of my heart, and seems to withhold for no good reason.

How fickle this Jesus is.

Monday, January 17, 2011


The other day I got to spend the whole day playing with Jude Hansen. First, let's talk about how low maintenance and enjoyable this child is. Seriously. I was SO nervous going into this gig (apparently I am more fearful of how to interact with a one year-old than I am of presenting the Gospel to an "unfriendly" room full of Chinese skeptics... go figure). But Jude was an absolute delight! Aside from having to occasionally redirect him from playing with light sockets or eating floor fuzz, he was so easy (although, I may have gagged multiple times over his one poopy diaper that required changing)! Maybe my maternal instincts are finally kicking in. I've always been a late bloomer.

Late in the afternoon I brought Jude to my house where my mom was watching the kiddos. My five year-old niece, Olivia, is really into babies right now, and she was SO excited that I was bringing Jude over. Except that she thought "baby" meant tiny, little immobile peanut that she could swaddle and smother with love and kisses. "I thought he'd be smaller, Auntie. He's so wiggly." The entire afternoon as Jude crawled and explored, Olivia followed him around with pillows and blankets. Anytime he would stop, she would wrap the blanket around his legs, or put the pillow in front of his face in hopes that he would decide to lay still and cooperate with her desires to nurture him. I even caught her trying to carry him around and I think she only nearly dropped him on his head once (don't tell Marli). What a great helper! She was so sweet to watch.

On a related note, Olivia is soooooo ready to have a baby cousin (her current cousins reside in California). She asked her mom a couple weeks back when I was going to get married and have a baby so that she can have more cousins. Incidentally, I have the same question. :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Let Me Explain

I’m one of those people who feels that in order to post a blog entry it needs to be long and thoughtful and well-composed. It most certainly cannot be about the ordinary or mundane. Blog entries need to be clever and profound, gripping even.

While I haven’t led the most glamorous existence since my glorious return to America, I certainly have had thoughts and experiences worth sharing. The problem is this darn constipation. No, not of the bowel variety. I have had the worst case of verbal constipation. The more refined might call it “Writer’s Block.” But I’m a straight shooter, and I won’t be faulted for it. I call ‘em like I see ‘em. If there’s something in there that ain’t movin’ like it should. If it can’t come out…

Well, you get the idea.

Anyway, I’d really like to revive this blog with the flavor of my new reality. Hence, the new name. I feel like it sums up my life pretty well. You see, Jesus has this incredible way of infusing purpose into everything I do – noble or monotonous, stupid or spectacular. He somehow redeems it all, and in so doing makes everything worthwhile. That’s worth writing about.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ridicule & Redemption

I watched Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous for the second time last night. I’m not exactly sure what inspired this viewing. Of course, the entire point of the movie is to make various belief systems (especially Christianity) look ridiculous, and Maher supposed to accomplish this by interviewing some very odd, ill-informed, blindly passionate and/or willfully deceptive faith leaders. I mean, come on, he visited a Holy Land theme park and interviewed the actor playing Jesus. He stopped in at a trucker church in Memphis and wanted to argue theology. Bill Maher, who is highly opinionated and well-spoken, came at these people with his arguments loaded and ready, and he got exactly what he was hoping for: a barrage of apologetics clichés that carry little to no weight in an intelligent discussion, and believers who appear blind and ignorant in their devotion. Admittedly, I was a bit embarrassed (to the point of having to look away a couple times) by some of the believers portrayed in the interviews. It doesn’t bode well for faith when the critics are more informed than the congregants.

I’m not saying these things to be critical. Many of the folks being interviewed were totally blind-sided by the blatant opposition and it’s natural to get flustered or frustrated when that happens. I guess I was just challenged by it all.

Living here in China has been so good for me in this respect. While my “critics” are not so informed in terms of tenets or doctrine, they are, for the most part, incredibly intelligent. They believe in money, knowledge, science & evolution and have been heavily indoctrinated by atheism. Talk of miracles, prayer, salvation, even the very existence of God, gets them laughing. To say that I believe the stories I tell, to them, is like having faith in folklore or fairytale. It’s silly to them and they’ve not been shy about letting me know! One has several options when encountering this reaction, and I’ve grappled with them all…
  1. Become defensive and argumentative
  2. Try to make the Gospel sound more “believable”
  3. Feel hurt or offended
  4. Back down or build walls
  5. Graciously impart truth

 The first response, quite honestly, has never been an option for me. I get too nervous and my heart races, my voice gets all shaky and everyone thinks I’m going to cry. Plus, I’ve found that most people shut down when things take an aggressive turn, and it isn’t really how we’re called to interact with others. Jesus never bullied anyone into believing. Aggression in this context leaves little room for dialogue, or love for that matter.

The second option is always tempting… “Oh, it’s not as crazy as it sounds, promise!” Although the Bible says that the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, there’s always this hope that one can make it sound less divine and more doable. If I can make the Gospel more approachable, make the road less narrow, then certainly my listeners will more readily receive the message (and me!). But then what’s to be made of their concept of this so-called Christianity I’ve presented? They’ve only been deceived into believing in a deficient form of godliness. How is that any different from a cult? The stakes are high and the message requires faith. Presenting them as otherwise robs the message of its intrinsic power and stunts the growth & effectiveness of those who subscribe to it. Protecting the reputation of the Gospel (or more likely my own) by making it more “believable” is an incredible disservice to the Kingdom of God and its advancement. But the trap is there, and it’s rather attractive when you’re feeling outnumbered and ridiculed. I’ve fallen prey to it and I’ve repented for it.

I’ve had my fair share of hurt feelings in response to remarks my students have made. It’s easy to take things personally, especially when you feel like your very reason for living is being called into question. When faith is simply a compartment of your life that’s safely confined to Sunday mornings, it’s probably easier to shake the assault. But when you’ve allowed faith to infiltrate every fiber of who you are – your entire identity and purpose hinging on its veracity – opposition can feel quite intense. Being the fighter that I am, my first inclination is to cry. “Why are they being so mean to me!?!?” (I know, I’m very tough. This is when my big brother would usually come in and beat up whoever’s picking on me.) I’ve fought back tears on several occasions and replaced them with my brave face. The problem with giving into hurt feelings or offense is that it inevitably leads to the fourth option.

Dwelling on how bad opposition feels can lead to some serious compromise by way of backing down for acceptance’s sake, or building walls for safety’s sake. Now I’m a big fan of acceptance. I like being liked. But the problem with standing for something is that there will absolutely be people who don’t like you. They won’t agree with what you believe. They may think you’re perfectly tolerable, but your faith makes you an outsider and therefore a liability. To combat this, one can “tone down” their religiousness in order to find social acceptance. I’ve been guilty of this, mostly in not speaking up when misconceptions or poor opinions of God surface. Rather than call people out, I sit back in passive observance repressing any hint of zeal so that I can avoid being perceived as too devout. I don’t want to be one of those “weird” Christians. Of course afterward, the face I saved seems pretty petty, insignificant and horribly selfish. Another way to ensure social self-preservation is to build walls to keep the opponent out. They can’t reject me if they can’t get in. If I can keep my faith-life concealed then it’s safe from any scrutiny and I am safe from feeling bad. Win-win. Right?


Obviously the best option here is number five. In the face of opposition and ridicule, the absolute best response is to graciously impart truth. Hands down. This is what Jesus did. He was never defensive or argumentative. He didn’t shrink back or water down His message so He could enjoy the good graces of society. Jesus, full of grace and truth, spoke with boldness and conviction and was always exactly right. Every time. (Can you imagine living in the freedom of knowing that what you say is exactly what needs to be heard? How incredible!) When I choose any other option, I am choosing fear. I am choosing what appears to be safe or more acceptable. But at what cost? Is preserving my feelings worth leaving others in darkness? The choice is clear, but like I said, the stakes are high.

I have not been consistently good at graciously imparting truth while here in Qingdao. I’m sure there is so much more I should have said. I’m certain there are opportunities I let pass, relationships I didn’t seize, and conversations I misdirected. But I know that nothing I’ve done here is without purpose, or at the very least redemption. I mean, this blog entry alone proves that I’ve learned something through this process. And I will say this: facing opposition has solidified and reinforced my faith in immeasurable ways. It’s challenging and sometimes frustrating, but I have never been so sure of in Whom I believe. I’ve never been so sure of His love for mankind. I’ve never been so sure of His patience and affection for me. And while I haven’t quite mastered the art of sharing the Gospel, I know that HE is ever at work in and through me, and as I take bold and sometimes fumbling steps of faith, He is gracious to redeem and empower my feeble efforts.

I’m pretty sure that means I could give Bill Maher a run for his money.