Easily Offended…

of·fend·ed (əˈfendid) adjective: resentful or annoyed, typically as a result of a perceived insult.

Of all the things that bother me about the way our culture in America has changed during my lifetime, the tendency to be so easily offended is probably at the top of my list. It’s something I don’t understand, and, unfortunately, I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

You don’t dare say something that might “offend” anyone, even if it is the truth. This goes hand-in-hand with our culture’s lawsuit mentality – another thing that drives me crazy. People live their lives in fear that they might accidentally say or do something that someone will sue them over, and it has become absolutely ridiculous.

I worked in the political arena – as a volunteer and as an employee – for several years, and I saw this all the time.

In the political world, people allow party lines to be roadblocks to open communication. In the legislature, simply knowing that a bill was written by someone of the opposite party can mean that it won’t pass, despite its merit and worth to society. People choose to be offended simply because someone sees something differently than they do. This is especially amusing because our culture says that everything is relative…

One of my favorite quotes about this topic is from the movie The American President – which is one of my favorite movies of all time.

‘America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”‘
– The American President

Our Founding Fathers didn’t agree on everything, but they didn’t let these differences prevent them from coming up with solutions. They had reasonable discourse, even if heated at times, and they were respectful of different ideas (as evidenced in many documents from that time).

They realized that we all come from different backgrounds and have different ideas, and all of them are worthy of consideration. If we all thought the same way and believed the same things, life would be incredibly boring and we would have nothing to discuss. Yet, our culture has lost the ability to respectfully dialogue and discuss issues with the intent of truly learning from the other side.

Our country was founded on the concepts of several freedoms, one being the Freedom of Speech – and that freedom only works if you are willing to respectfully listen to those who disagree with you (as the quote above says). History aside, this is a significant problem in our culture today.

In terms of the Freedom of Religion, the best example I can come up with at the moment is Christmas: Christmas is a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus. It is a religious holiday – more specifically, a Christian holiday. But, don’t you dare mention Jesus or have a Nativity scene set up to celebrate, because you might offend someone.

Yes, I realize our culture has largely changed Christmas into a secular holiday as well and has made it all about gifts and Santa and whatever else, but it is supposed to be about JESUS. It’s not called “Christmas Vacation” anymore in schools because you might offend someone who doesn’t celebrate the holiday (which, really, is a very small amount of people since it has become so secularized). People say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” for the same reason (even though holiday comes from “holy day” so it’s essentially the same thing).

When did we become so sensitive, and why?

This is something I simply cannot understand, because I have never been offended by a Jewish menorah or Star of David. I have never been offended by Kwanzaa or Ramadan. I have never tried to secularize these holidays so that I can benefit from the celebrations. Why? I recognize the right of these groups to celebrate what they believe in openly and publicly. As long as what they are doing is not destructive or harmful, then why does it matter what they celebrate? It doesn’t. So why are Christians and Christian holidays singled out as being so offensive?

From a theological standpoint, I understand why people are offended by Jesus. The Gospel offends because it acknowledges sin in our lives and we don’t like to be told that we are wrong. There is also a very real enemy who roams around the earth trying to turn people against Jesus. I get all of that. But it seems like the only religion that brings offense in our culture is Christianity. 

I maintain that it is a choice to be offended. It is a choice to refuse to listen to the other side of the issue and discuss things rationally. And the root of this is selfishness – “it’s all about me, so don’t you dare do anything that I don’t like.”

We have forgotten how to love our neighbors. We have forgotten that each person has value and deserves to be respected. We have forgotten that there’s a huge difference between tolerance (“the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with“) and acceptance, and we let our emotions and selfishness rule our behavior.

This is a dangerous path and if we don’t take the time to instill within the younger generations what true tolerance is, and encourage them to not be easily offended, things are only going to be worse in the future.

New Perspective…Part One.

So, something occurred to me in the past twenty-four hours that just might be an answer to a long-standing prayer of mine. Maybe. It’s at least getting me closer to understanding the “why” of my jobs, past and present. I have split this into two blog posts because it’s far too much for one post.

First, some background:

In 2001, I was ready to take on the world. I wanted to be the governor of California someday, with every intention of being my friend’s vice-president in 2028 (we even had a website!). High-profile aspiration is an understatement.

That’s how I saw myself: working in politics to change our country for the better, and everyone would know my name and how awesome I was. I wanted to feel important, to feel admired, to feel respected because of my capabilities, talents, and brilliance. In one word: pride.

Over the next few years I interned with Newt Gingrich in Washington, D.C. (2003), I worked on (and ran) several campaigns, attended the 2005 Presidential Inauguration (and a ball) and was even on ABC for thirty-seconds. I attended campaign training at President Reagan’s ranch in Santa Barbara and was pictured in TIME Magazine with the rest of the training group. I was on my way…or so I thought.

Fast-forward to 2007: Two years past graduation and I was still living in Southern California (not my plan). I kept trying to get back to D.C. but doors just would not open. Instead, I was working for a financial company fixing tax returns all day long–completely low-profile–along with doing youth ministry at my church (nearly full-time for a while). I eventually became content (but not fully happy) in the tax job and even tried to move into management, to no avail. Even though my bosses said I was the perfect candidate for management, I continued to be passed over for promotions, and it didn’t make sense to any of us. But, it was a good job so I remained there.

In December 2007, I felt God urging me to pray for discomfort. My faith had grown stagnant and I was desperate for a change. He brought to my attention all of the accounts in the Bible of people who grew tremendously through trials and discomfort (and never through times of prosperity or easy living)…

…so I did it. I began praying for the next year that God would make me uncomfortable in order for me to become more like Jesus. God definitely delivered. 2008 was one of the toughest years of my life thus far, and I never DREAMED of what God would call me to do/lead me through. From the spiritual struggles to the physical (pneumonia), He used that year to the fullest to mold and shape me. I knew it would be a challenging year (I could probably write a book), but I never dreamed of the growth and transformation that would take place by surrendering to God’s plan and letting go of my own.

The biggest change was my move to Pennsylvania. I had been contemplating this for many years but kept trying to do things my way and nothing ever worked out. I visited PA in October 2007 and during that trip I realized that I didn’t want to live in Southern California anymore, at all. The realization even brought me to tears one day.

I began praying that God would allow me to move to PA, and I prayed for six months before I felt an answer from the Lord. He said that I could stay or go, and that He would use me wherever I was. That was a huge lesson in itself, realizing that sometimes God allows us to make decisions and that sometimes there is no “right” answer.

I moved to Harrisburg, PA on July 31, 2008 knowing only two people in the city, having no job, and having very little money. I chose Harrisburg because of it being the center of Pennsylvania politics. I worked through a temp agency for awhile until obtaining a job with a lobbying firm–which I thought was PERFECT! This was it–my door into the political arena!

Boy, was I wrong. Looking back, I firmly believe that God allowed me to have that position for a year to show me that He did NOT want me in politics. It was a terrible year–the job was a terrible fit and I was so miserable in that role. I saw a side of politics that I had never seen before and I was completely disillusioned. I was let go on 09/09/09 and the joy that I felt was indescribable! Most people aren’t happy after being fired (or, in my case, “forced to quit”), but I felt all the heaviness that had weighed on my heart disappear and I felt so free.

From there, I was unemployed for a year, and that year was an incredible gift to me. I watched as God provided faithfully for me and I was able to pay my rent until April 2010, when I moved in with Brennan’s aunt and uncle until our wedding. I was able to focus on church planting and mission trips, and I was so joy-filled through it all. I got engaged during this time, so this also allowed me to focus on wedding plans/marriage. God’s provision was constant, and though it was a humbling year, I learned to accept help from others and to not be proud.

I worked for a temp agency as much as possible (talk about humbling), and in June 2010 I began working part-time for a consulting firm (huge blessing). In September 2010 I obtained a second part-time job (my current role) and was finally working full-time again. I learned more during that year of unemployment than I thought possible! It was a humbling and faith-filled year.

That brings me to today…I have been in my current role for two and a half years. I have never been recognized or thanked for my work by my supervisor. I do work that a high school student could do. I have never had a raise (and I don’t make much to begin with). I do not use my very expensive, hard-earned bachelor’s degree. I go most days completely unnoticed by my co-workers (and have NEVER been asked to join them for lunch when they go out). My gifts and talents go by the wayside as I watch the clock day by day, waiting for 3:00pm to arrive so that I can do things that actually matter. I feel completely unappreciated and overlooked. I have applied for and even interviewed for MANY jobs during this time period, but God has not opened any other doors. So I have remained here, despite how miserable I tend to be here.

Even my role as a relief houseparent at MHS is largely a “thankless” job (from the students themselves, not from the supervisors or the houseparents…students aren’t going to thank you for disciplining them, haha). Don’t get me wrong–I LOVE it, and it’s highly rewarding to help these students make decisions and learn lessons! My point is that they don’t care about the fact that I’m intelligent, a great musician/vocalist; they don’t really care that I am a good photographer, or that I was once in TIME Magazine. They just want to be fed (they are middle school boys, after all 🙂 ), entertained, and kept safe. Above all, they want to be loved.

So why has God been allowing me to go through these things? I think I’ve determined His reasons…

To be continued…

It’s October…

Autumn is here, the chilly temperatures signal that Winter is fast approaching…and the change in seasons isn’t the only change happening around here. 🙂

Change #1: I am unemployed…and it is completely God’s timing and plan! My last day of work was September 9th, when I was essentially forced to quit. What a blessing this has been! I had been praying for months for guidance from the Lord regarding His plan for me, regarding the next step that I should take.

I spent a day praying and fasting in August regarding my job, and the Lord told me (and those people I had asked to pray with me) “not yet–you must wait”…so I did. And He has proved yet again to be faithful! What will I do next? I have no idea. I do know that I don’t want to have a career in politics anymore–so now I have to figure out what God wants me to do. I know that I was brought to Pennsylvania for a reason (well, more than one!), and I am SO excited to see what God is going to do! 🙂

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”                         –Philippians 4:6-7

Change #2: Our new church has launched! The Well at East Shore had its inaugural gathering last Thursday night, and it is SO exciting to see how the Lord is working! This is not your typical church–and not just because we meet on Thursdays. Every third Thursday, we are going out to do community service projects–being the hands and feet of Jesus and “being” the church rather than just “doing” church. My job is to coordinate the projects, and I LOVE it. It’s SO awesome! Check out the link to learn more about what we are doing!

Change #3: I am dating an amazing, wonderful, Jesus-loving man! 🙂 He is absolutely incredible, and I look forward to the future with great expectations!

I just thought I should update my blog since it’s been a month 🙂

All in all, life is great…God is awesome…and I still love living in Pennsylvania. 🙂

From California to Pennsylvania…

On July 14th, 2008, I drove away from Glendora, CA and the life I had known for seven years (and the state in which I had resided my entire life). My mom and I headed east, with maps in hand and a great adventure in store. But the biggest adventure awaited me at the end of the journey: building a new life in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania practically from scratch. With no job, no church, and a few friends in the Harrisburg area, I trusted the Lord and I took the first step with faith that He would prove to be faithful. Eight states and 3,000 miles later, I arrived!

A year ago today, I was saying tearful goodbyes to my best friends, and the people who had walked beside me through so many experiences. We had an evening of bluegrass and fellowship, sharing music and memories, and it was the perfect way to say goodbye to those I love. Today, I am surrounded by new friends who have blessed my life beyond my wildest dreams; friends who hold me accountable in my walk with the Lord and who are seeking Him fervently; friends who are so genuine, so loving, so encouraging…and God has shown His faithfulness through them.

A year ago today, I left my church in Glendora after being a part of it for six years. I came to Pennsylvania praying that the Lord would bring me a church where I could serve and grow, a church that was seeking to love Jesus more and to be Jesus to the community in everything they did…and He, again, blessed me beyond my wildest expectations! My church has truly become FAMILY to me…I love serving there, I love worshiping there, and I am SO blessed to be a part of East Shore Baptist Church! And God again showed His faithfulness here…

All of this came after I had spent many months praying for the Lord to make me uncomfortable–for Him to present situations that would create growth in my relationship with Him…and I never dreamed that would mean moving across the country to a relatively unknown place (I had only been to Harrisburg three or four times before I moved), leaving everything behind. But, that is sometimes what He requires of us! And I am so glad that He answered my prayers for discomfort, for the joy that has come from these experiences and from my deepened walk with Him is immeasurable.

People consistently ask me why on earth I would leave “wonderful California” for Pennsylvania…and the best answer I can give is this: God said to go! 🙂 Pennsylvania is where I am called to be, and I love it more each and every day! Each state has its pros and cons, and no state is truly better than any other, in my opinion. After living in California for 25 years, I was more than ready to experience something new.

God is faithful, and when we listen to His voice, we are blessed beyond compare. :0)

One Year Ago…

pasign-1

One year ago today, I flew out to Pennsylvania to begin the process of moving. According to my driver’s license, tomorrow (April 16th)  is my “anniversary” of being a resident. 🙂 It’s so crazy to think that it’s already been a year (kind of)! When I came out last April, I signed my lease (and met my roommate), began job-hunting, and got pneumonia. 🙂 Besides the pneumonia, it was a great week out here! 

God is SO good, and SO faithful.

Many people asked why I was moving to a new place, where I really didn’t know anyone, so far away from family…and I told them that I knew God would bring “family” into my life, and I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that He would take care of me. When I moved to Southern California, He brought “family” into my life. When I spent two summers in Williamsport, PA, He brought “family” into my life…

…and He most definitely has done the same for me here in Harrisburg! My church has become like family–and I absolutely adore them! There are a few families in particular who have really “adopted” me, and I have felt so loved, so appreciated…and I simply adore them. I have been blessed with having amazing roommates, amazing friends here in Pennsylvania…and I really can’t complain. 🙂 I even survived my first “real” Winter! Haha.

Thank you, Lord, for leading me here to Pennsylvania…I am so blessed, far beyond I could have ever imagined! 🙂