Tonight at Socrates Cafe I made this statement: I want to be a woman of integrity.
How do I become a woman of integrity? If I tell the truth, if I am loving, kind, humble, patient, generous etc., does that make me a person of integrity? Or am I a "good person" (for lack of better word choice) because of who I am at the core?
Do I find my integrity apart from my actions? Do I draw my confidence from my action, or do I need to draw that from somewhere else?
I think this is an important question for various reasons. I think it is fairly simple for a person to create a lifestyle that looks a certain way. If I choose that I want to be an organized person, it is fairly simple to construct my environment to seem organized. If I want to feel peaceful, it is fairly simple to move myself into an environment of simplicity and peace. If I want to be a moral person, I suppose it is fairly simple to make moral choices.
But do these actions really solve my request? Am I then organized, at peace, or moral?
Does this seem like an elementary question? Let me take it a little further.
I don't really need to mention (although I will) that we often live like this in the church. I am a Christian. Why? I am a Christian because I go to church every Sunday. I pray. I give money to the poor. I read my Bible. I try to be humble, etc. While our actions can be effective in demonstrating our faith (Faith w/o works is dead) these actions alone do not make me a Christian. On the flip side, just because I fail in these actions---that doesn't mean I'm no longer a Christian.
You might be saying "Well duh April" but don't mock me. This is the way that many people think and if we can't interact with this prevalent mindset then we are never going to connect with our culture.
Let's stray away from religion for a minute. In all different areas of life we live by standards. We have rules or standards for our careers, for our roles as people (children, parents, friends, citizens). We have standards for health, for habits, for finances... and we are also constantly falling short of these standards, and often times we really beat ourselves up about it.
Sometimes we fall so short of our standards that we end up in great emotional stress and we feel like we just generally suck as people. Well, at least I feel this way sometimes.
I really think that we place a lot of meaning on our actions/inactions. I think we judge ourselves by our actions, and I think we judge other people by their actions.
And furthermore, I think that we often try to fix people's problems or needs with methods or recommendations of new actions. We try to share healthy habits with people. Healthy habits are highly important, but I think there's more. Is there more? Am I making any sense at all? I'm having a really hard time drawing my thoughts together.
Here's the thing. I need God in my life. I need God to help me BE a woman of integrity which is something that happens underneath my skin. BEING a person of integrity has to be more than just actions. In the same way, we are Christians because of who we are underneath our skin, which is far more than our daily Bible reading, or restraint from "sins" and/or the ways in which we live our lives. I become a peaceful person underneath my skin, which is more than just a peaceful environment.
Also in the same way, we MUST react to people (our culture) in a way that treats them underneath the skin.
If I say that I am a Christian, then I darn better live in a way that makes me look like a Christian. But I MUST not forget that ultimately I am a Christian because of the God I serve and not because of the person that I look like.
I am a woman of integrity because Christ lives in me and when I mess up, or when I act like a jerk, or when I am frustrated or depressed....Jesus Christ still lives through me and redeems my actions or emotions and makes them meaningful. I really feel like my humanity (constantly being redeemed) is dripping with integrity. I call it my imperfect perfect human self. I am perfectly imperfect.
I'm going to stop my thoughts here. It's late and I'm starting to notice that I'm rambling. Please comment if you wish. Please correct me or critique me if you wish. I hope I have made sense.
Love to you.
at 9:38 PM
Wow thanks for the responses to my question about character.
I have some more to think about. I still haven't been able to fully process my thoughts, or at least enough to put anything coherent here on this blog. But I have been reading a book called The Radical Reformission by Mark Driscoll. He makes this statement that intrigues me a little.
First, to change a culture, we must change the people within that culture. The question that arises is whether people do what they are, or if they are what they do.
The answer is imperative, because if we are what we do, then all we need to do is train people to act differently, and they will change themselves. But if we do what we are, then we do bad because we are bad, and we cannot do good until we become good, the very thing which bad people cannot do, no matter how many dollars are spent and organizations are founded to help them.
I think he has a strong point relating not only to the way we see the people around us, but also the way that I evaluate myself.
Like I said, I'm still thinking about all of this. But Jasie...I smiled when you played the "both/and" card...smiles of formal meal memories.
I'll post again soon.
at 2:44 PM
Here is a question that I've been toying with all day.
Is my character defined by my actions?
Or are my actions defined by my character?
Think about this for a minute. The implications are pretty deep. Ask yourself this question and if you find an answer that you like, ask yourself these questions:
What are the results of my conclusion?
What would the results be for the opposite conclusion?
I have some thoughts, and I fully intend to post them, but not today. Besides, I'm really curious to know what you think. So for all of you people who just casually stop by my blog without interacting...here's your chance. Stop and write down your thoughts in the comment box, or send me an email and let me know what you think.
at 1:46 PM
If you are interested, my friend Jasie is starting an online book club. We are starting with the book A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren. Jasie will post on a chapter weekly or bi-weekly and then we can all share some discussion, thoughts, ideas, and questions. We are starting on May 1st. I'm really excited about this. I will also post some thoughts as we work through the chapters. I am definitely looking forward to some new ideas, and new perspectives.
at 10:19 AM
I'm moving again! You know me, I can't stay in one place for too long, I start to feel trapped!
So here are a few pictures of the new place. I LOVE it! This is what it looks like now, but we will be painting and moving in over the next two weeks.
No, the kitchen isn't yellow. It's white, but we're going to change that.
Notice the antique ceramic sink. So cool.
at 9:54 AM
I love the moments when my friends truly make me laugh.
So I wast talking with my friend today about kindness. I said, "You are such a kind person. I have such a hard time with certain uptight and unrealistic and church-ruining people...but you have such a grace in loving them."
He said, "Well, my name is [kept confidential] and it means KIND. It's who I am."
Ha ha, and then he said, "Your name is April. April means "F&@# YOU". Ha ha....sometimes that's really how I feel. I admit it.
OF COURSE that's not the Jesus in me. OF COURSE I work really hard to keep my heart and attitude in check...and OF COURSE I'm not even very proud of the fact that I am a jerk sometimes....but he surely called it! And I laughed!
at 3:53 PM
Man loses leg trying to swipe cash machine
Suspect's prosthetic leg falls off during bungled theft attempt
POMONA, Calif. - A man accused of using a chain and pickup truck to yank a 1,500-pound ATM from a market failed to escape police when his prosthetic leg fell off during the getaway.
Gregory Daniels, 48, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of burglary for the attempted heist from Pomona Ranch Market, police said.
Authorities say Daniels and another man drove up to the market about 3 a.m., smashed a window, wrapped a chain around the ATM and used the pickup to rip it from the floor. After loading the cash machine into the truck, the pair drove off.
Officers chased the truck into a residential neighborhood, where the men drove into a dead-end street. Daniels' alleged accomplice fled, but police said Daniels wasn't able to escape.
"Daniels was on the ground near the vehicle in an attempt to flee from officers." Sgt. E. Vazquez said. "However, he was unsuccessful, as his prosthetic leg fell off."
at 3:25 PM
It's snowing. We are in the middle of a 24 hour winter storm warning. Looking out the window you can't quite see across the street.
While I find it bizarre that we are re-living winter...I secretly love it. Why secretly? Well...here at work I hear one complaint after another. People are NOT happy. If I were to stand up and say "Yay snow!" I might get attacked and...well....if you know me at all....you know that I hit like a little girl! I should probably work on some defense tactics eh?
So here I sit, secretly admiring the snow, secretly smiling as I have to scrape the ice off of my windshield, and secretly hoping I can wear my big rubber cherry boots again tomorrow.
I was feeling a bit annoyed at people's sour attitudes this morning. I just want to say "Oh stop your whining" to everyone that voices a complaint. It is what it is right? Then I was reading my friend Bethany's blog and I was comforted to know that I am not the only person who is singing snowy songs in my heart. I will quote her here:
it's snowing here. again. and the part of me that likes to fit in wishes i could hate it, but the part of me that loves magical weather is rather appreciating the cloak of white.
"to argue with the weather is to be a maladjusted alien" - i can't remember who said this
Thank you and good day.
at 1:46 PM
I read Frederick Buechner every day. This is what I read on April 5th. This is exactly how I feel like.......ALL THE TIME!
I have always loved fairy tales and to this day read E. Nesbit and the Oz books, Andrew Lang and the Narnia books and Tolkien with more intensity than I read almost anything else. And I believe in magic or want to. I want flying saucers to be true, and i want life to exist on Mars, and I dream of a heaven where old friends meet and old enemies embrace one another and weep. And just at dawn in an eighteenth-century castle built of rose-colored stone in Dumfriesshire, I have reason to think I saw a ghost. All of which to say I am a congenital believer, a helpless hungerer after the marvelous as solace and adventure and escape. I am also a fabricator, and I am willing to believe that the whole business of God in my life may be something I have fabricated out of my need for solace and adventure if not for escape because religion has never seemed escape to me. Escape would be for me to get out of religion--with all its demands and promises--rather than to get into religion. Maybe it is all just a dream. Maybe none of it is true except in some wispy sense true for me...But I did get mixed up with it and by it still, and as I stand here in the kitchen waiting for the water to boil, waiting for the time to wake up the children, I must speak of this. Such faith as I have, where did it come from and why?
at 2:35 PM
So Tommy was preaching on the significance of Jesus' entry on the donkey and I was fascinated! I've always been taught that the donkey was a symbol of Christ's humility. The donkey is a lowly animal, common, and small. The donkey was a reminder that Christ was humble and human. And the people were shouting Hosanna! because they realized that Jesus was a King. (or did they?) But that's another set of thoughts.
So here's a bit of history for you. In ancient times, whenever a Kingdom was at battle against other nations the King would ride a stallion into battle. That striking horse was a symbol that the King was powerful, that their nation was at war, and that the King was fighting for victory. And when the war was over and the King had conquered, he would find a donkey and he would enter the gates of his kingdom on that donkey to bring a message that their kingdom was now at peace.
And do you know what "Hosanna!" means? It is a term that means "Bring salvation now!"
Jesus was entering into that city, being recognized as their King, and he was riding on a donkey. He was basically SCREAMING a message of peace to all the people. The message of Palm Sunday is a huge one and there are likely many points to emphasize. But ultimately it is a message that God is a King of Peace and that his reign is a victorious one. And I know that sounds churchy but it's a message that I overlook so easily. Day after day I live as a Christian and I mingle with people and it's not hard to recognize that I am a Christian. But WHY am I a Christian? Why do I live this way? Why have I chosen to keep this faith?
Tommy(our Pastor) was talking a little more about Christ as the King of Peace. He said that there was this guy he knew who was at a place in his life where he was evaluating Christianity and trying to decide if he wanted to become a Christian. So he went around and asked his Christian friends, "Why did you choose Christianity?" People gave him all sorts of elaborate answers. People gave him bullet pointed lists of theological proofs and all of those answers just overwhelmed him. And then he went to another friend and asked the same question. I think Tommy said the guy was a big influential person who had a lot of brains and respect. And the guy's answer was "I needed peace, and Jesus Christ brought me peace."
This week as I am thinking about Easter and what it means to be a Christian, and the reality of grace and grace and more grace in my life....I can't help but smile when I realize that the donkey was showing me more than Christ's humility and humanity, but it is showing me that true peace comes from the King who is my God.
at 3:05 PM