Poison Dart Frogs are some of the tiniest and beautiful creatures on the planet; they are also incrediably deadly. So, why call this blog "Tiny Dart Frog"? It goes back to the old adage - good things come in small packages. We are all created exactly as God has intended - unique, strong, and beautiful.
I once had a professor who, as he was talking about spiritual disciplines, shared a 'discipline' of his wife. His wife often wore dangly earrings...and all during Lent she gave up wearing earrings.
I remember thinking, "This is the most ridiculous' sacrifice I have ever heard of. I mean, there's hardly anything hard about giving up wearing earrings". My pious theology got in my way.
But he went on to say that since she wore these swingy, chandelier - type earrings, she played with them. When she was bored she would touch her ear, when she was nervous she would touch her ear..probably every time she tucked her hair behind her ear, she felt those earrings.
So, for her, not wearing them during Lent was an amazingly conscious experience.
He then said, that every time she would go to touch her ear and found that her earring wasn't there, she would remember...
She remembered God.
As Lent began, I told my Office Administrator this story. And then forgot I had told it to her.
On Ash Wednesday I said, "I'm not giving up anything for Lent...it never works for me." Of course - all about me, huh? But then I said half-jokingly, "Maybe I'll give up chocolate."
She looked at me with wide-eyes and said, "Oh no, you can't give up chocolate. I have an idea."
Now, let me tell you that she has a coffee mug that sits on her desk which is regularly filled with dark chocolate Hershey kisses. I probably eat 5 of them a day... and give her a hard time about feeding my sweet-tooth.
On Ash Wednesday we were all out of chocolate...I know, because in the morning I went to grab a kiss and there were none.
But, later in the day, I went back into her office and the mug was full of chocolate kisses. But on the kisses was taped a little prayer:
"Pray for Carter and his confirmation class."
"Pray for Lucille."
"Pray for the children who receive blankets from Blanket Buddies."
"Pray for Epiphany."
There were numerous little intercessory prayers. I picked up a kiss, unwrapped it and let it melt in my mouth as I read the prayer.
Having the chocolate melt in my mouth while reading the prayer and thinking about what those words said, slowed me down...connected me with God...helped me remember others.
So, I'm eating chocolate for Lent.
And, truth be told, I am eating less chocolate, because it takes much longer to read and pray and think as you eat a piece of chocolate.
It's true that it is really hard for us to 'give up' something for Lent and that we are called to a life of sacrifice as we follow Jesus. However, our salvation is not based upon our ability to sacrifice, whether it be chocolate or our very lives. It's only grounded in God's grace, which sometimes happens to rest on us slowly and sweetly...like a kiss from Heaven.
I have a tank top that has ingeniously sewn into the hem: "I am a runner because I run" and every once in awhile when I contemplate slipping into a life of less physical dedication, I realize that would mean not identifying myself as a 'runner'. I'm the kind of person who's not going to wear that tank top (and it's such a great color) if it's not true. I know it's silly...
But that tank top hem holds a lot of truth. I am only a runner...because I run. And, it's part of who I am. To not run, would be to let go of part of my identity.
I am not a swimmer. I never have been and I do not long to be. I know swimmers. I admire them, but that discipline doesn't 'click' with me.
However, I have been thinking about this identity piece and how it is tied to things. I think it's also possible to tie our identity to unhealthy things. Running is probably not an unhealthy identity marker, at least not for me. But you know what? I also hold as part of my 'identity' that fact that I drink copious amounts of Diet Mountain Dew.
Really. Ask anyone who knows me well...and to not see me with a soda can would be....well, strange. Sometimes I think about trying to give up my soda habit, but when I really get down to seriously thinking about removing it entirely from my life, I have to face the truth that it would mean a change in my self-understanding. And, if I'm nothing else, I'm certainly the 'Mountain Dew girl'. Heck, that would mean other people would view me differently too.
In essence, giving up my soda addiction means that part of me has to die. I'm not so sure I can do that.
So, I've been thinking about these identity markers: running and soda (yes, I know those hardly make sense in the same sentence)...about how they are these outside agents which define parts of my life. They only are markers because I participate in them. Right?
I am a runner because I run.
I am a soda-aholic because I drink too much soda.
I am a mom because I play and care for and love my three children.
I am vegetarian because I don't eat meat products.
Good and bad identity markers. In which I do something so that I am something.
But here's the clincher.
I am a Christian. Why?
Because I did something? No.
At least this is what my theology tells me. Being able to be a Christian has very little to do with anything I've done. It has everything to do with what Jesus has done and is doing.
And - I believe that.
And - it's not enough.
Because our identities as children of God should do something....shouldn't they.
I'm thinking about Jesus. His identity wasn't as a Jew, obviously wrapped up in being a Christian, but in being the Son of God. And essentially Jesus spent his life doing Heaven.
In some ways (and hopefully t his doesn't sound heretical) his identity was more Heaven come to Earth than Sonship. It may just be semantics though.
I'm wondering what it might be like to claim part of my identity as Heaven. Since so much of me is probably more Hellish...something would again have to die. And, as I said...I'm not sure I can do that.
I'm better at killing Jesus than letting Jesus take over my life.
I'm sorry, but I am.
And...I'm a Christian. I want to have the where-with-all or gumption or whatever word you might choose to be better at being a Christian....but truth be told, for some reason I have no qualms about wearing a cross necklace and simultaneously 'fail' at being a Christian.
Here's the thing...I actually think I can do that because I know there's nothing I've done to deserve this part of my identity. It's the whole conferred upon me piece - the whole act of God in the cleansing waters of Baptism, marked my the Holy Spirit for eternity piece.
I get to claim that as part of who I am regardless of how 'good' I am at doing it.
I recently read someplace that the 'entrance exam for Christianity is admitting you're a failure'. I've got that down.
But it's not just that...right? It's admitting it AND allowing God to do something with that.
I am a mom.
I am a runner
I am a soda-alholic.
I am a sinner.
I am a saint.
I am a failure.
I am a success.
I am a child of God.
My name is Christine Stephan, although I answer mostly to Mom or Pastor.
I am a Lutheran pastor for an amazing group of Jesus' disciples just outside Washington DC AND a mom to 3 of the best boys in the universe.
I blog here about family and faith and frustrations....That thing we call 'life'.
My boys are passionate about all things legos, anything involving a ball, video games, and chocolate.
I am an avid runner, a lover of interesting books and deep conversation, a very amateur writer, and also a lover of chocolate.
I also love theology (which is weird, I know), but I don't love theology more than Jesus.
This blog is hardly ever profound, but it is real. As a pastor and I mom, I find 'real' to be more helpful in my journey with Jesus than crossing all the t's and dotting all the i's.