A Blog by Jennifer Aulthouse


A heart for those who want more of God. A desperate plea for those who don't.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Compassion in the Face of Ridicule

A Short List of Things Not to Put Me in Charge of......or Really, to Have Me Included With in Any Way:

1. Arts & Crafts
Still learning how to utilize perforations without tearing the rest of the paper

2. Decorating Cakes
Or really any Event-Driven Cooking (i.e. besides dinner for my family and friends or anyone else who will still love me anyway)

3. Animals
I can handle a cat. Probably goldfish. Beyond that, you’ve got an Urkel episode waiting to happen.

4. Driver’s Education Classes
Well, I’m almost 35 and I still avoid backing into parking spaces

5. Teaching a Group of Children
I’m more than a fish out of water here......

6. Photography
Somehow the shot will be ruined. Blurriness. Red Satan-eyes. Poor lighting. Years ago I visited my friend in Tampa and she took me to the beach one day. Sooooooo splendidly splendidy splendid. There was a parasailer out over the water. I grabbed my camera, enthralled by the sun sparkling off the water, sailboats in the distance, and the parasailer soaring through the air. All of these items were captured in the shot, and they beautifully framed the metal garbage can sitting on the beach that ended up being the star of the picture.

7. Being Photographed
Since puberty, I have had approximately 7 good pictures taken of me, thanks to either unruly hair, facial volcanic eruptions, incessant blinkage, or just plain goofy expressions.

8. Gardening/Plant Care
I loathe getting dirty, first of all. But when I was at my last job, I had a little cactus on my desk. It lasted for a good while, and I’d either forget to water it for, oh, weeks and weeks, or I’d forget if I had watered it and basically water-boarded the poor thing. One morning when I came in I found it lying on the floor, pot broken in 3 places. My coworkers decided it must’ve just finally had enough and plummeted.

9. Gift Wrapping
If the packaging isn’t a perfect square, it’s hopeless.

And one last:

10. Predicting the Rapture

And while I have, at times, either adventurously voluntarily or by some sense of interpreted indirect peer pressure/societal guilt-trip attempted most of these things, not the last one. This one I am certain God has not chosen me for. Or any of us, as the Bible makes pretty clear.

That being said, I found myself saddened this week by the tone of, well, just about everyone who on the Internet anyway had a sarcastic or snide or cruel remark about this whole doomsday thing. I don’t really know anything about Harold Camping or his followers besides what was reported on this past week, and I found myself wondering whether all this was a deliberate hoax for financial or egotistical gain or if this is a man who truly believed all that he spouted out about Jesus returning yesterday. And if the latter is the case, I can’t imagine the overwhelming sense of failure, disappointment, and guilt he must be experiencing.

There were several discussions about this on Facebook this week, and one woman (who I do not know) had what I found to be the most relationally warm and spiritually insightful remark that I’ve seen or heard. I can’t quote her because I don’t remember it word for word, but basically, it was that the church has to be ready to lovingly embrace this group when the predicted events do not happen (assuming it wouldn’t......because after all, Jesus said He’d come back at an hour we don’t expect and what perfect timing that would be when all the rest of us are spouting that we are certain He won’t return then because it would be expected......) because the bewilderment and loss they will be immersed in will be spirit-crushing. That sounded more like something Jesus would say than anything else I’d heard on the subject. I found the public mockery, which escalated from being about Camping and his followers to basically the whole concept of Jesus coming back at all, ever, to be just as saddening as the predicting itself.

What I can take from all this in regards to spiritual growth, then, is a lesson in sensitivity and compassion. In knowing the Bible and what it says, certainly. And faith. Because even though I believe all of this was clearly against scripture, some of these people performed monumental acts of faith in their own lives in preparation in regards to their finances, livelihood, relationships, etc.

Can I reflect on my own life and see any sense of peace-filled, joy-driven, love-inspired urgency to live a life of worship and growth and readiness for Him?



Friday, May 13, 2011

Fear

While out for a walk on Sunday, one particular street, in which I will be carefully avoiding from then on, was lined with many homes that shared one conspicuous aspect in common: a large dog barking its head off at me as soon as I came into view. And as I strode by, trying both not to look too tasty and not to look like I was in the least bit bothered by the canine symphony echoing through the air, a front door happened to open and an even-larger black lab came bounding towards me – frantically barking too, of course – and leaped through the air. And then stopped when he realized he was at the edge of his lawn. I had jumped roughly 37 miles in the air myself by that point, and the door-opening homeowner bleated out a half-laughing “sorry”. Yes. Hysterical.

Sadly, this is not an isolated occurrence, and it's one reason why I don’t like dogs.

I also have a fear of fire. When I was 18-ish, one morning as I groggily transitioned into a conscious person, I looked over to notice that the outlet by my bed had suddenly burst into flames. I froze for a moment and then started to run out of my room, only to watch the fire go out as quickly as it started. And when my son was a baby, I had him in the kitchen in his highchair with a snack as I washed some dishes. I soon felt myself being pelted in the back with said snack, and after a few warnings he still refused to stop. So I got him out of the highchair and decided to put him in his playpen in the living room. As we walked through the dining room to get to the living room, I noticed that a simmering potpourri pot I had lit was completely engulfed in flames. I quickly put my son in his playpen and then panicked and grabbed a glass of water sitting nearby and threw it into the flames. This instead caused the fire to make some sort of exploding noise and shoot up to the ceiling......and then all of a sudden it went out. And I sat in a chair for about an hour startled and twitching by what had happened.

There have been a few more instances with fire, too. That’s why I don’t like fire.

There are other fears, both the practical kinds that are not so hard to talk about, and the intensely personal kinds, such as the ones that drive how we relate to each other. Those fears, for instance, are tied into how we measure our sense of value or whether we’ll be accepted for who we are.

Regardless, though, they all have to do with unpredictability, which in turn is rooted in our desire to control our environments, which in turn is rooted by a drive towards experiencing certain feelings – safety, for instance. Approval. Comfort. Freedom. Painlessness. When I am not in control of my environment, the existence of these unspoken longings that are at the heart of my daily pursuit is threatened. A fear is merely the potential loss of a desired feeling or the potential experience of an undesired feeling.

There are many fears making their presence known to me lately as I forge forward in the writing process, and I continually have to dig below the surface and understand as best I can what it is I’m so afraid of feeling or not feeling. Whatever the particular fear is about, the answer is always remembering who I am in Christ and Who He Is. The fear may not lessen in how I feel its intensity, but a peace washes over me, reminding that His plan is worth whatever feeling it appears I may lose in being obedient. I need this today. I need this every day.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Gift of Spiritual Friends

My friend called me “weird” last week and I’ve relished that ever since. She stopped by for a visit and she happened to mention how her grandson has gotten interested in the Titanic. Unbeknownst to her, I’ve been a Titanic buff for years now, ever since Leonardo DiCaprio uttered “No one puts Baby in a corner!” to Kate Winslet’s spirit-crushing family and family-to-be. Okay.....wrong movie, same theme. Except for the boat part.

Anyway, as she was getting ready to leave, I showed her just a bit of my titanic collection of Titanic collectibles. In college, I wrote my senior thesis on the Titanic and the various ways the public has chosen to remember the sinking, and how those remembrances have affected us. I have many, many books and knock-off memorabilia, but the “weird” comment was spurned from a book in my possession which is in essence a Bible study based on spiritual lessons we can take from the Titanic. I showed this to her with great enthusiasm, which led to her response of “you are so weird!”

It was said with delight because of her love for my unique idiosyncrasies. Since, I’ve found myself very grateful for the handful of people I have in whom I know get my "out-there" tendencies. They understand why I’m drawn towards what I’m drawn towards, and even if they don’t always share those tendencies themselves, they’ve come to appreciate their value in my life and to the world.

What a marvelous gift it is to have people like this in our lives. They are each a different spice in my spice rack, bringing a unique flavor I could’ve never conjured up on my own but would never want to be without in my kitchen of life.

I spend a lot of time studying people and what makes us tick from a spiritual and philosophical standpoint. Anytime I read an applicable Bible passage, I cannot help but notice the supreme importance placed on spiritual friendship and how desperately we need honest, loving people who see our great value in God’s eyes, and are willing to be inconvenienced by being warmly involved, as called, in our daily monotonies. Yet they are also willing to challenge and disturb us when necessary because they love God more than they love us and they want to see Him glorified in how we live. They are miners, traversing the dark, dirty, unsteady terrain of our human condition because they know there is treasure to be found. We need those people and we need to be those people.

Authentic spiritual connection between God’s children provides now but a glimpse of the glory of eternity. I’m grateful for this revelation and the perspective it’s afforded me, and I’m sweetly humbled by those who have found the hard work of mining me worth the time. What a wonderful example for me to pursue as I relate to others.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Tears of Justice


There’s a specific person in this world whose sins have affected probably millions of people and maybe more, though there’s no way any earthly being could keep a count of something so visually intangible. I can say this because I believe that sin is a seed, just like faith, and has the potential to grow and infect others due to the devastating relational, physical, emotional, mental, etc., wreckage left behind from its destructive havoc.

I’m talking about myself.


If I added up every selfishly-motivated thought, word, and deed, that I’ve breathed life into simply out of a desire for my will coming first.......the thought causes me to tremble inside with a sadness and remorse that in all appearances feels insurmountable. I don’t want to be that kind of person. And “grateful” doesn’t begin to describe the joy and peace and flooding of emotion I have spilling out of my heart because I know Jesus is refining me into one who, one day, won’t be that kind of person, and who has the power right now to not ever be that kind of person again.

So I’m having a little trouble today celebrating a death, even if it is the death of a terrorist who deserved his demise. While I’ve never nurtured and relished a plan to crash airplanes into buildings and kill people purely because I don’t like what they represent, it would be blatantly false to say that I’ve never been driven internally to some degree by the root of the same sentiment, to imagine and dare I even say hope that someone who for whatever reason has wronged me – whether that sentiment is real or imagined - would face devastation in his or her life as payment for whatever directly or indirectly negative element he or she has brought to me or to someone I care about.

I appreciate and embrace as much as an outsider can the sense of justice that must be swelling in the hearts of those whose lives were devastated by the evil this man unleashed. I, too, am swept into that sense of national pride that a terrible wrong has been confronted, and I exhale as well into the collective sigh of relief filling the atmosphere of the allied world. There is a perfect beauty that blossoms from justice, one that confirms our sense of hope that the future of a harmonious universe isn’t lost.

But another image captures my mind, and it paints tears falling from the eyes of the Lord for the life that could’ve been, for one that was also created in His image and found worth it to die for, and, as far as my simplistically limited perspective can attest to, chose not to believe it so. So for this I mourn.

I wonder if something is terribly wrong with me that I don’t feel filled with the joy that seems to be rightfully saturating everything around me, like somewhere I’ve taken a detour that’s too touchy-feely on my spiritual walk. But what I sense now is that the beautiful sense of justice and the lamenting sorrow that fill me are not opposites that can’t co-exist. Somehow I know that the wrong I’ve done has caused the same tears to fall from the eyes of the Lord......but I also know that the revolution I’ve become because of the heart-piercing, life-creating sweetness His grace has created in me has also produced tears in Him of an entirely different sort.