A little over sixteen years ago, I signed up to join the United States Army. I had barely turned seventeen and I was excited. Three years later, in 2003, I deployed to Iraq. This post isn’t about that, however.
Prior to my deployment, my mother had asked her co-workers to come up with ideas for a “Journal Jar” that I could use to keep up with my writing while deployed. And, if you check out the picture below, you will see that I still have it!
Every other week, I will randomly pick a topic and write a short blog post about it. I have written some of these topics before, though I did not get to all of them, and the journal I used thirteen years ago is packed away in storage. And these journal entries will be different from ones I may have written before I’ve had a lot of changes in my life since then!
Today’s topic is: “Treasure Hunts on the Beach.”
The thing is, when I say treasure hunts, I do not mean leisurely strolls along the beach looking for shells, or driftwood, or sea glass.
No, I mean teams of two or three frantically running up and down the beach looking for items on a list so the team can win. My family is ultra-competitive (my brother, mom, and I once stayed up until 2am playing UNO and took our cards with us to bed—so no one would peek at our cards—when we didn’t finish, and then finished the game the next night) and we wanted to make the treasure hunts a competition as well. It is a standard event for most of our beach trips.
One year, in Lincoln City on the Oregon Coast, my mom, aunt, sisters, and myself decided to have a treasure hunt. I don’t remember what the winning team received, but my competitive instincts kicked in. When my aunt and I had every item on the list except for glass, I was determined to find some.
Of course, my sister, who had made this list, had assumed it would be easy. Every other trip to the coast, we never have any trouble finding sea glass. The treasure hunt for this trip, however, simply said “glass.” During my wanderings, I thought about where I would be likely to find glass on a beach.
And then it hit me. The garbage can!
So I ran up toward the parking lot, where an overflowing garbage can sat in the sand just before the sidewalk that led to the parking lot. I grabbed a bottle that was on the sand next to it and ran back down to the beach. My aunt and I won because we were the only team that had found glass. All the other teams had found all but one item on the list, and my aunt and I had all of them.
Of course, an argument started over whether the glass was actually on the beach. I told you we were competitive! When I justified it by saying the garbage was in the sand, not in the parking lot, the rest of the group reluctantly agreed that my aunt and I were the winning team.
There have been other treasure hunts, of course. We love them because it gives us an excuse to run around and act silly, and I love finding things. That time in Lincoln City is one of my favorites because the treasure hunt was so contested. But my team was still victorious!
And they’ve never let me live down the fact that I got the winning glass from a garbage pile. Families are great sometimes, aren’t they?
I was going to write a Christmas post, but wasn’t sure I could get my thoughts properly in order. Christmas, after all, is a time when a lot of people are thinking about Jesus and the “spirit of the season” means they may be more interested in learning about Christianity. But this post is also about politics, life, and Christianity. And what I hope this post conveys, even beyond all of that, is what I have had on my heart the last few months. As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors and I believe that has been missing for a long time in the modern church and in our country.
One of the best songs that I’ve heard over the past few years is by one of my favorite artists, Casting Crowns. I only discovered Casting Crowns about four years ago, when I began to listen almost exclusively to Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). This song is entitled “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” and can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJXIugwiN7Q on YouTube. I want you to listen to this song and think about how you treat someone who does not believe in the same things you do.
I am not speaking solely of my religious beliefs, but also my political stance and the ability to treat others with respect and without judgement.
This country is divided.
That is not a secret and on every Facebook page I visit there are comments blaming the other side for all the problems in our country—from both liberals and conservatives, from Christians and non-Christians—and it has almost made me want to quit social media. I will admit that I have blocked or unfriended some people because my core beliefs do not match theirs. I do not unfriend or block people who simply have different opinions, but for my own self-care it is sometimes necessary to get toxic people out of my life.
As a Christian, I am often confused on how to approach those who may not know anything about God or Jesus. I can admit that I am also sometimes reluctant to do so. Yet we must try. We are, in fact, called to do so, and to not even attempt to tell others what we know of Jesus means we are not truly doing God’s will.
But how can we approach people who are not receptive or who believe that all Christians are closed-minded, judgmental people who are trying to coerce them into a way of life they have no interest in?
That’s where the above song comes in. My favorite line in the song goes “No one knows what we’re for only what we’re against when we judge the wounded” and it is this verse I keep in mind when I am struggling with sharing my faith. We cannot judge the wounded because we are also wounded. It can be hard to show love instead of judgement to others who seem mired in sin. But when we realize that everyone, including ourselves, is standing in the muck, it makes that judgement hypocritical.
I’m a Christian. And I’m a sinner. These are both true statements, and ones that do not change regardless of how much I try to follow God’s teachings. And when we allow our “Christian” side to override the “sinner” side, we create people who think they are superior to non-Christians because we are believers and we have been saved.
We must do our best to remember that we are ALL sinners. One sin isn’t worse than another—they are all the same in God’s eyes. And we’ll be judged, one day. Not by each other, but by God. And not loving people that God loves is a sin.
We as Christians are called to love one another. It can be hard to do so when everything around you is divided and ugly and full of hatred. Like our country. Like our church. We must love each other and pull our country, and church, back together.
And what better time to begin than a new year? I am determined to make 2017 the year I began living without judging others. I hope you join me.
Happy New Year.
Writer/Editor. Voracious Book Reader. World Traveler. Veteran. Bakery Owner.