Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The American Dream Is Keeping Us Asleep

We must start at the beginning. 
All to God's glory is this blog dedicated to. 
I am human. 
I make Mistakes. 
I am hypocritical. 
I am learning. 
I am loved.
As I delve deeper in love with my creator, I am challenged to live radically. My life begins with Christ's love and will end with it, so I start my writing in the same manner. In love He bases everything, and so may He convict me to do the same. I am just one person, but for the sake of others and the Lord I love, I can only hope to be used for His glory.

If you know me, you know that I have always promised myself that if I ever start living metronomly safe and uninspired that I would do whatever it took to make radical changes. For Jesus says, 

"I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." 

It's an invitation. A choice.
A choice to either live life as: 

a long preparation for something that never happens///a gift to be USED.
fists clenched///hands open.
as if we are going to live forever///as if each day is the last.

I choose the latter.
Because in reality, it just might be.

Let us begin.


    I have come to realize that more than anything I don't want to live the American Dream. I want to live my life AWAKE! In my hunt to find the original meaning of the "American Dream" I also discovered its adaptations through the centuries. While it had started in the Declaration of Independence with good and freeing intentions to give Americans (despite race or social standing) an equal opportunity in "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness," it slowly adapted into a self-improving snowball of continual dissatisfaction. As the Governor of Virginia noted in 1774, the Americans "forever imagine the lands further off are still better than those upon which they are already settled." And that, "if they attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west."
    In 1931 Historian James Truslow Adams popularized the phrase "American Dream" in his book Epic of America stating:
"…the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement."
Equal opportunity, spiritual freedom, and a not-so-bad democracy system aren't the issue with the dream. But underlying it all, there is a subtle problem. The problem is that it is all about SELF.
Self-discipline to obtain Self-achievements.
When we live for the SELF, There is no room for dependency on God, therefore we will always come up short, and when we do, it completely Self-devastates us. 
    Why do we continually push ourselves to want more? From our career to our consumerism, its easy to point the blame to media and marketing, but the media can only get as far into our hearts as WE let it. And I am done letting the world tell me what I need. Because everything it has thrown at me is temporary filler until I realize that there is something newer and better to need. 
    I refuse to be a part of it. 
I choose instead to see how much MORE I can do with LESS. 
I choose to be satisfied with what I have and to choose to be satisfied with even less than that. 
I choose to LET GO OF MY LIFE to LET GOD do His will in me. 
For only He knows my true needs. So I will choose to trust that He will take care of those needs for me.

    When I was in Belize for my 3 month Discipleship Training School through Youth With A Mission (YWAM) I struggled with choosing to see God in complete control of my life. I clung tight to the good things I had worked for and I was terrified that if I fully submitted myself to God's plan for my life and asked Him if the things that I loved were a part of his will, that he would immediately take them away from me. Every part of me told me that I had "earned" them on my own and somehow had the unalienable right to keep making my own decisions-- mostly concerning my boyfriend at the time (who later became my husband). 
    Through my experience at school, God broke me down to see the beautiful mess I really was and helped me surgically remove the sins that ensnared my freedom in Christ. I had heard of others breaking off their relationships back home, and I couldn't even let my mind open to even ask God if my relationship and intentions with Stephen were according to His good and perfect will for my life. As a result I gave portions to God that were undemanding of risk or change to satisfy the pull of trust I felt from Him, but in the pit of my heart I began fortifying the little space where I held everything I truly valued. 

    On the last day I visited "our dock". My own hurricane stripped disgrace of a dock not far from the base that jutted out into the ocean just around a slight bend in the beach where it enabled me to feel alone with God. Almost every day at 5:10 am I would meet with God to pray aloud, listen, and watch the sun rise (which you haven't seen a true sunrise until you've seen it crest above the Caribbean). On that last visit I finally chose to let God completely destroy the walls around my desires, and instead of feeling fear, I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom and peace. I cried knowing that God was in complete control to give me what I need and take what I didn't. Even though God was already in control, it was still up to me to decide to see it that way. I am so glad that God IS in control, for He can make decisions based on the ENTIRE picture when we can only make decisions based on the minuscule amount we can see. It was an amazing revelation. 
    I looked at my watch and saw that it was time to start heading back, but just when I was about to get up, something strange happened. I suddenly felt like God was asking me to jump into the water. It was clear. It was definite. It was extremely weird. It was my test. And you know what I did? I walked away. I WALKED AWAY! 
I thought about not having enough time to change before class started.
I thought about what people might think. 
I thought about how silly it was, and how it MUST have just come from me.
But I tell you what, the entire walk back to the base, I have never felt such immediate regret. I thought about what I had just experienced and how maybe that was the Holy Spirit asking me to cement my spiritual revelation to a physical act. Possibly symbolize a new baptism to living in God's control. And I had just walked away. Like many other crazy things God had asked me to do that I didn't act upon, I minimized, rationalized, and justified my unwillingness and pressed it into the hidden corners of my heart. But every now and again, God would remind me of our dock and guilt would overwhelm me. 
    About six months ago God took my now husband and I on an adventure back to Central America, and we made a point of visiting the YWAM base in Belize. I knew among other reasons for visiting the base, I was being given another chance to respond to my call from almost 2 years before. We stayed one night at the base, and that morning, before the sun rose, I snuck out of our cabana to tend to my unfinished business. Walking down the beach in the darkness of night I was overwhelmed with memories and expectant for God to show up. As I reached our dock I could see that the last 2 years had not treated it so well. With hardly enough planks to even call it a dock, I practically leapt from one rotten board to the next before situating myself at the end to wait for the sun to rise. Feeling foolish, I subconsciously told God that as soon as the sun peeked over the horizon that I would plunge in. I prayed while I waited and felt God remind me of a verse I had memorized in Romans 12. 
Paul wrote:
    "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." 
As another version puts it:
  "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."

    Feeling adequately inspired and ready to go "all-in" I expectantly waited for the sun to show up, but I began to worry. Online I had read that the sun was supposed to have come up over 5 minutes ago. It was really cloudy and judging on how light the sky was getting, I had a sinking feeling that the sun had already rose and was hiding behind the clouds. I felt stupid for "throwing out my fleece" and testing God for a revelation of His love for me that morning. I realized I had the choice to follow through with what he said, on my own, without Him coming through first, and with a bursting heart I leapt off the dock, fully clothed, into the water. 

And then God came through.

    As I clambered out of the ocean and back onto my plank, the most explosive fiery ray of light burst from the East. In tears I watched as the most beautiful sunrise I had ever experienced unfolded over our little dock. I was completely satisfied in that first shimmer of orange, but God wasn't done yet. Because that is how God is. He lavishes His love upon us and just when we are filled He tells us He isn't quite finished yet, and continues to outpour his love until it completely smothers any trace of shame and disbelief. And there was MY sunrise. The Fiery orange led into bursting red and magenta with glory rays slicing through the clouds (yeah, the scientific name for sundays is LITERALLY "glory"). And if that wasn't enough, ten minutes in, the entire Western sky behind me seemed to echo His glory in hot pink-fringed cotton candy clouds. I was miserably in awe. I was soaking wet with a huge grin on my face. God came through, at just the right time, and not a second before or after.
    I believe the Holy Spirit confronts us with little choices like these, which to the world can sometimes seem radical… silly… or just straight up crazy. But when did Jesus ever ask us to live comfortably? When did he ever show us how to blend in and strictly follow decrees and religion? Christ is the ultimate example of what the world calls CRAZY. His entire ministry constantly threw a curveball to what society thought was right living. Why would he expect anything less that that from us?!
Therefore, I choose to be:


Unconformed to the world's standard of living, unsatisfied with my faith and always pursuing more, and uncomfortable in such a way that the only way I can make it through is to fully depend on God. Because anything less than that is not my all. And Christ CLEARLY asks for EVERY part of me.

Let's look at some definitions:

    1. A state of mind in which someone is or seems to be unaware of their immediate surroundings
   2. An unrealistic or self-deluding fantasy
    1. Regain consciousness; become aware of
    2. Make or become active again

    When we "dream" we are reaching for something we don't have, and often times it's something we don't really need. Our minds become consumed in the MORE and we become unaware of our immediate surroundings. When we live "awake" we become aware of what we already have, and if we are an American, then we most likely already have more than enough.
Watching TV the other day I saw a commercial that I thought epitomized The American Dream: 

    While soaking it in I thought about how terribly sad this concept was. Never being satisfied. Never catching a break. Never looking at what we have, always looking at what might be. Never stop improving. 
We need to get out of this ritual and more importantly, get out of the mindset that somehow we earned our overwhelmingly ridiculous wealth. "Work hard, get rich" works in America, but there are plenty of people in developing countries that work extremely hard, in extremely difficult environments just to SURVIVE. I'm not saying that there isn't poverty in North America, but even our definition of "poverty" in America is better off than most developing countries.
United States poverty is declared if a family's total income is less than the standard income for the amount of people in that family.
For example: 
In 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, the poverty threshold for a family of four was $23,492/year. The official national poverty rate was 15%. There were 46.5 million people in poverty. Taking the average income of the United States (between our wealthiest and our poorest) the American yearly income average is an astounding $50,000 a year or $137 a day. Real quick lets compare that to humanity:
   Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day
   1.6 billion people — a quarter of humanity — live without electricity

For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are:
   640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3)
   400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5)
   270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7)
Poverty Map: what the world would look like if a country's size were determined by its severity of poverty per capita ratio-- North America becomes a sliver, Australia is almost nonexistent and India triples in size.
    Poverty is complicated and I admit that I am incredibly naive, but these statistics are still incredibly humbling. My intention of posting these facts are not to throw around guilt or even discredit the hard work my family and ancestors before me put into providing opportunities for our generation. My intention is for it to drive us to step back and ask ourselves how we can EVER compare our riches to those who have more WITHOUT comparing downward as well! We are so quick to look around enviously at the MORE and not downward at what we ALREADY have and what we take for granted, like water, shelter, health services. 

So how do we wake up?
Lets look at what God has to say.

Hebrews 12
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing out eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Matthew 6
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Acts 4
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
James 1
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Matthew 19
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Jesus doesn't call us to give him portions of his life, He commands us to go all in, to give away what separates us from him. To focus on Him. 
It's when I start thinking that I can create my own happiness that I run the risk of failure. For everyone and everything of this world will let me down. The ONLY thing in this life that is fail-safe is our God, who intimately knows us and the desires of our hearts. If I choose to let Him work in my life, I know I will not be let down. If I let Him, He will take me on adventures I can only imagine. If I Die To Self, I create room for Christ to move.  There is nothing as important as serving my God and humbling myself to let him receive all the glory. 
-by realizing our need for Christ
-by realizing the life he wants for us to live
-by praying dangerously
-by obediently following through with what the Holy Spirit asks of us

It is a terrifyingly beautiful gift, 
but I choose life, and life abundantly.

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