Archives for posts with tag: God

One of the worst things you can be in America 2015 is someone who judges the actions or decisions or lifestyles of your fellow man. I am a person with conservative beliefs. But I go online and read some articles or blogs, what have you, and second guess myself because our culture hates intolerance more than murder or adultery. In our New Age era where we’re supposed to follow our hearts and accept everything, I am afraid to even own up to my dissenting opinions. And yet, I have this thing inside of me that pushes back and I realize: I have been grossly neglecting and underutilizing my most powerful spiritual weapon: the Holy Spirit living in me. I read comments by LOTR actor John Rhys-Davies yesterday about how we’ve lost our moral compass and what it means for Christianity. I had the bulk of this blog post sitting in my drafts folder, but that interview inspired me to finish collecting my thoughts on the necessity of judging.

In reality, not only do I pass a steady stream of judgments throughout my day, good judgment is essential to my health and safety. I stop at red lights. I look before crossing the street. I don’t eat roadkill squirrels in the gutter. I decide to wear clothes. And beyond myself, I actively instruct our children to make all these same judgments. To consciously weigh the benefits and consequences of the actions, thoughts, and words that fill their days. Of course, whether or not I walk into oncoming traffic is a matter of life and death – not a moral judgment. But if I saw a person walk into oncoming traffic, I would surely say that he is either blind, mentally ill, confused, or suicidal. Can’t the same logic translate over to our spiritual lives? I think it can and should. All around me, people are walking into oncoming traffic in their moral and spiritual lives, not believing – some not knowing – that they have put themselves at serious risk. They may be blind, sick, confused or depraved, but they’re there. In the middle of the road. Consequences manifest themselves physically and emotionally, of course, but the spiritual self is the part of the person most at risk…especially when those who DO know better are not warning about the oncoming traffic.  I get it, though. It’s hard to speak out when you know that your words could cost you. It can cost real money. See: the privately owned businesses who were court ordered to fork over thousands and thousands of dollars after refusing business to gay couples. It can cost real relationships. It can cost real comfort. From Jesus: “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.” John 15.18. Sometimes when the world hates you, you’re on to something.

There’s a big flipside, though. Scripture is also clear about the dangers of judging each other. Matthew 7: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?’ “…and Luke 6: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

Then there’s this really interesting little verse in John 7 (v24): “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”  I really like the NLT version: “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” So, apparently there is a right way to judge, but also a wrong way. Instead of rejecting the popular notion that judging is wrong altogether, maybe we need to simply examine the way we use judgment. Are we doing it the correct way or the way that gets us into spiritual trouble?

The difference reminds me of a concept I learned while taking a parenting class called “Growing Kids God’s Way”. The lesson was about kids tattling/telling on each other. Bottom line: where is the heart of the tattler? Is he tattling on his sister because he wants to see her get into trouble? Because he wants to elevate himself as the better child? Because he thinks tattling will earn him some sort of reward? Because he wants her to feel guilty and ashamed? All of those are, of course, wrong reasons and our kids get punished for tattling. The class taught that the only good reason a child would “tell” to his parents was because he feared for the health and safety of his sibling. Example: he saw his sister about to walk into oncoming traffic and ran to his father for help. That’s the good kind of “telling” and comes from a heart of love and genuine concern.

Adult application. Bottom line: where is your heart when you judge? Do you judge someone because you’d like to see them “get what they deserve”? Because you feel better about yourself when you can look down on someone else? Because you think judging will earn you some sort of reward or points? Or maybe because you want someone else to feel guilty and ashamed? All of those are, of course, wrong reasons. Is gossip involved? Is slander involved? If so, wrong kind of judging. Is prayer involved? Is getting to know someone intimately (“Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly”) part of it? Do you feel compassion for your brother or sister? Then proceed with caution.

God gave me the Holy Spirit, who is my judgment-helper, to get me through life. All facets of life. Good judgment stops me from licking doorknobs. Good judgment keeps me from over-investing in relationships that drain me. Good judgment grounds me from throwing the towel in on parenting in the middle of super hard days. And if you’re someone who knows the truth and hears the Spirit prodding you, you need to speak up in private, heartfelt conversations with the people who you have love and concern for – the ones who are standing in the middle of the road, somehow thinking it’s safe there.

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My kids were being pretty annoying in the car last week. Cortland has figured out Harper’s annoyance triggers, not that Harper hides them super well, but, in no time at all, Cort has become an expert in exploiting her sister’s weaknesses. Here is how it went: We were driving home from gymnastics and Cortland started saying, “I’m five! I’m five!”. Harper, who actually is five, became quickly agitated and started yelling, “You’re not five! You’re TWO! YOU’RE TWO!!” As any other parent can attest, Harper’s tantrum reaction only served to encourage Cortland’s insistence of being five. “MOM! Are you listening to her? She’s saying she’s five! She’s NOT five! She’s NOT! She’s two! She’s saying she’s FIVE!” Tears. Balled up fists. Screaming. Kicking my seat in frustration.

That's right. These angels.   Photo by Brighten Photography

That’s right. These angels.
Photo by Brighten Photography

I could not believe how ridiculous the scene had become. I talked Harper down eventually and somehow was able to reason with her. We talked about how I am the final authority on how old Cortland is. I was there when she started being a person. She wouldn’t be here without me. Just because Cortland says she’s five doesn’t make her five. She is completely, totally, and helplessly obligated to the same system of time and counting and aging that we are all tied to. She doesn’t get to skip ahead or fall behind. Maybe she wants to be five, but she is two. Maybe she says she is five, but she is two. Maybe she even really believes she is five. Know what? She’s still two. I am the final authority on this topic. I know the real truth, despite what anybody says. So, Harper, trust that what is truth will continue to be.

The whole conversation stuck in my thoughts later for quite some time. I noted that her behavior is not far from lots of adults I know, at times even me. We throw (super annoying) adult sized tantrums (typically on social media) when our feathers get ruffled over something another mere man says or decides. We who are in Christ should know by now that God is our final authority. He knows the truth. He was there when this all started and we wouldn’t be here without him. A man saying he’s a woman does not make him a woman. Legislation going into effect governs the law of the land; it does not govern the law written on our hearts. We look ridiculous with balled up fists, screaming, red-faced, kicking the back of God’s seat, “Did you hear that?! Do you hear what they’re saying?? It’s not true! It’s NOT TRUE!”

Maybe you’re not a tantrum thrower (and thank you), but you feel anxiety mounting when you hear unsettling news, whether it’s national news or a disagreeable set of views from someone close to you. Don’t stop after the first verse of John 14, but that’s what I’ll include right here. From Jesus: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.” I have to include verses 16 and 17 because they’re so interesting: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” My takeaway here? If I’m getting all up in arms or letting worry nag at me and trouble my heart, I’m showing a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty and a fundamental distrust that Jesus is who he says he is.

Once more: We who are in Christ should know by now that God is our final authority. Not the President. Not the Courts. Not strangers, not friends, not family, not even our emotions with all their twists and turns. If you don’t know what’s real and what’s not, ask the One who is Truth to reveal it to you. You will waste a lot of time finding out the Truth if you’re sifting through talk shows and blogs and articles and newsfeeds. Just go straight to the source. God knows the real truth, despite what anybody else says. So, friends, trust that what has always been truth, is yet truth, and will continue to be.

We all have something, right? A fatal flaw that we can’t seem to shake? I’m telling you mine.

We’ll just rip it off like a bandaid and expose this thing for what it is: my ongoing sin of pride. Pride is so hard to overcome; in fact, it will likely be the battle I fight my whole life rather than something I can rid myself of once and for all. I understand how dangerous and filthy pride is, and I fight it in me. For anyone who passes pride off as “not that bad” a sin, read this short excerpt and, when you have some time, go ahead and read this whole blog by Fabienne Harford:

Pride will kill you. Forever. Pride is the sin most likely to keep you from crying out for a Savior. Those who think they are well will not look for a doctor.

We are all in need of a Savior. There’s no heavenly ranking system for sin. If you’re not crying out for a Savior, then you might be struggling with pride. If you are quick to notice all the other people who are in need of a Savior more than you, then you are definitely struggling with pride.

Anyway, it’s crazy, with as dangerous and blinding a problem as the sin of pride is, I can post this confession and be not at all nervous about the repercussions because America isn’t too bothered by pride – celebrates it even. But what if my Great Sin was something else? What if I asked for help kicking my crack habit? What if I confessed an affair? What if I needed to let my loved ones know I was abusing my children? No way on earth would I freely reveal those things for fear that I would lose friends or at least be treated differently. This double standard is not a God problem. It’s not a Bible problem. It’s a problem we have as people. We’re the ones who have come up with the ranking system. Sidenote: In my heart and in my gut, I’m certainly more disgusted by a child molester than by a Wall Street guy who’s cheating someone out of money. I do think that instinct IS God-given, but meant more for us to protect those who are the most helpless and vulnerable rather than to incite riot against the person committing the crime.

It’s not just believers who adhere to the sin ranking system. I have a non-religious friend who has lived a very difficult life – chronic drug use and relapses, isolation from his now teenaged daughter, a brother who committed suicide. The future feels bleak for him and he was telling me one day how much “better” I am than he is. “What have you ever done?” he asked. “Pride. Pride. Pride. And I have a temper. I yell at my kids when they irritate me.” He rolled his eyes, passing my stuff off as small potatoes. And, I confess, I’d rather have my current set of problems than his. By the standard of the world, I am good. Just fine. My family may even be more functional than average. But as my minister Chris Seidman said recently, “It’s a level playing field at the foot of the cross.” My friend and I are equally in need of the mercy and forgiveness that Jesus offers.

There’s a lot going on right now socially in America. We’ve got tense race issues, gay marriage, gun rights, and illegal immigration. No need to delve into debates over any of those issues, but they’re the reddest, hottest, hot-button discussions people are having. I have my own opinions on these topics, but no ruling or legislation or law has ever disheartened me more than observing the total lack of compassion that spews from the mouths of those (on both side of the issues) who are angrily picking fights in the aftermath. These reactions expose the pride that we are all drowning in.

If we truly understood the gravity of our sin, how could we spend so much emotion and energy pointing fingers at each other?

If we could get a grip on how quickly we’re sinking in our own pits of quicksand, where do we get off berating someone else for the mess they’re in?

Love is what we’re supposed to be doing – letting our understanding of where our own sin has left us lead us to compassion for the people around us who are as wretched, messed up, and pathetic as we are. But that means we first need to GET it. Not many of us feel desperately ashamed and broken over our sin. While we acknowledge that there is a sin rank system in our world and, admittedly, the natural consequences of different sins vary greatly, there is no sin rank system in heaven. We all need Jesus equally and if that’s hard for you to swallow, then you may struggle with pride.

All this to say, it’s this attitude we have about “worse” sins that is keeping people from our churches. I am committed to changing my thinking. To learning to love people who sometimes scare me because of the places they’ve been. To letting the knowledge of my own brokenness lead me to compassion and to serving others who are also struggling with something, be it my same sin tendencies or something very different.

We’re all in this together. We really are. So let’s help each other succeed. And one other thing since this post is kind of a bummer: God takes our jagged, ugly brokenness, carefully and lovingly puts together the pieces with the restoring power of Jesus’ blood, and invites us into his presence to eat with him at his table. He doesn’t look back and he doesn’t keep record of our wrongs. Neither should we once we have received the freedom and joy we have been offered through salvation in Jesus Christ. No matter where we’ve been, we all have been given the same shot at happy endings to our life stories.

I just read Matt Walsh’s latest blog post, in which he writes a letter to his young daughter to tell her that she’s beautiful; and to warn her that culture will try to tell her otherwise so that it can make money off of her. That is all completely true. To be clear, I would NEVER pick a fight with Matt Walsh because A) He would debate me into a hole, and B) Although he can be quite abrasive, I respect his honesty. I don’t disagree with his message (or the TONS of other writers on this subject) about making sure girls know that the Hollywood standard of beauty is skewed, fake, empty and gross. I do tell my girls they’re beautiful and I talk a lot about finding beauty in our differences. They’re too young to have observed much pressure to be “perfect” via magazines, commercials, etc. I imagine it will be a heartbreaking process to watch them go through when they’re older and wiser; I hope Matt (my husband Matt, that is) and I are guided by God’s hand as we walk with them through that.

I get it. Important things for women to know TRUTH about: Real beauty (IE: inner beauty, lovely character, pure hearts), modesty (IE: bikinis, short shorts, cleavage), dangers of vanity (IE: needless plastic surgery, too much makeup, overspending on stuff), and pressure (IE: purity, dating, not being taken advantage of). YES. Teach the truth about these things. They’re real and important and hold value to women and girls.

Let me just ask a serious question, though: Is this ALL we think being a female boils down to?

Because these are the themes I see impressed on girls over and over again. My frustration is this: We say we need to tell girls that they’re bigger and better than the way they look and then we only talk about the way they look. Even if we’re saying “love yourself as you are” when we talk about bodies (which is positive), we are totally neglecting the depth and complexity and wealth of wonderful that comprises a woman (which is a CRYING SHAME).

This is maybe the easiest way for me to express this: I want my girls to know that WHO they are is powerful. They can lead others because of their ideas, their skills, their words, their brains. They can serve others because they are kind, compassionate, empathetic, selfless, joyful, healthy, and hard-working. And they can shine a light on God because they can do all these things FOR HIS GLORY. Their faces and bodies are only the vessel through which they do all of these ACTUALLY IMPORTANT things.

You know the Dove ads and that recent Always commercial? Oh man. So good. So real. I bawl like a baby because I see exactly where the women in our culture have wandered in our perception of who we are as a gender. I LOVE how the young girls in that Always ad are FREE and they’re happy and they’re confident. It’s so sad that, as we grow, we learn that we’re judged for just about everything we are and so we shrink into tiny, intimidated robot people. Confined little boxes that squelch LIFE MORE ABUNDANTLY. We aren’t meant to live like that, friends!

You’re BIGGER and BETTER than your body or face. You have more to offer than that. Parents, teachers, ministers: Let’s all stop concentrating solely on the physical and superficial when we talk about girls and start emphasizing the real, complex, magical traits that make us who we are. Stop discussing whether or not wearing makeup makes us “holy” and start talking about the ways we are improving our families, schools, friends, and communities. Please stop harping about clothes and promote bigger ideas about what we should be PURSUING instead of the shorts and swimsuits we should be avoiding. I want my girls to FIRST RUN TOWARD the good things instead of always RUNNING AWAY from bad things. If the only thing I do is warn them that the world is going to judge the way they look, I’m not only minimizing their complete, whole, AMAZING person-hood, I’m pointing them in the wrong direction of where I hope they end up; they’ll forever be running scared instead of running their race of FAITH.

I’m telling you, these two…they’re the BEST! I hope they never grow up. But, when they inevitably do, I hope they understand that they have SO MUCH to share with the world around them and that their flesh is simply their working resource with which to do it.

Harper on the 4th of July

Harper on the 4th of July

Cortland's first lake experience

Cortland’s first lake experience

Not my grandma.

Not my grandma.

Sorry to anyone who clicked on this to read an actual list, hoping you could maybe get a clue as to where exactly it started going south during your conversation with a former friend who happens to match that exact description. That’s a weird coincidence.

But have you seen these types of lists circulating? I’ve seen a ton. There is one for every group and sub-group of human being, from “pet owners” to “teachers” to “women who had a C-section.” I was seeing so many people post these that it started making me nervous to have a conversation with anyone who had any type of life experience for fear that I’d accidentally offend them.  I’d read through the lists and discover comments of two varieties: Genuine but mis-communicated concern OR evidence of plain ‘ole self-absorption (projecting personal or preconceived feelings or reflections onto the receiver of their comment). Even so, I kept thinking to myself, “Are people really getting all worked up over something like this?”. Not having ever been a teacher, C-section mom, and just barely a new pet owner (hey, Frankie!), I just took it on good faith that these were legitimately insensitive words. One day I saw someone post about 5 Things You Should Never Say To A New Mom. Finally! I have been a new mom, so I followed the link, prepared to be super angry at what calloused things some heartless goon would let pass their lips onto the delicate ears of a new mother like me. And then nothing happened.

Not my daughter.

Not my daughter.

I get how, “Are you breastfeeding?” could be too personal a thing to bring up, but one of the things on the list was, “Are you loving it?” Really? I’m sorry, but if someone asking if you are enjoying being a new parent makes you steam, then maybe you need to take a breather. Maybe the commentor can’t remember how hard this phase is or maybe the commentor has never actually been in this phase. And I’ll be the first to echo every mom out there trying to make the rest of the world understand exactly how insane parenting makes us (this blogger’s description of her “day” SO resonated with me!). However, after reading a list that I could identify with, my initial hunch was confirmed (at least in my own head) that maybe instead of presuming that all of our so-called friends are deep-down-mean, we’re sometimes just a little too easily offended.

Not being easily offended could be something you have to work on. Like the other attributes of love as described in 1 Corinthians 13, not being easily angered or irritated may not come naturally. I have to work like CRAZY on being patient and not being proud. Those are mine. But don’t let a well-intentioned comment mess with your head.

There is a flip-side. I’m definitely not advocating that there is no need to pay careful attention to your words; I’m not saying that being offended is always the fault of the person who got their feelings hurt. Two – no, make that three – instances are coming  to mind of times where I said something really insensitive and stupid. Cringe-worthy, in fact. Thankfully, the people on the receiving end of those thoughtless remarks were proficient at grace and forgiveness. Being on the goon-side of insensitive comments helped me overlook an instance when, in my third trimester, a relative told me that I “didn’t really look pregnant, just bigger all over”. Who knows why she said that! Ha, I mean, really. I think we could all probably agree you don’t say that to a pregnant woman. Be that as it may, the comment caught me off-guard, but it didn’t offend me because I know she loves me and her comment was certainly not meant to be an attack on my self-esteem. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I tend to assume that most people are generally well-meaning. Or maybe I should just say that I’m not looking for reasons to be mad or resentful toward the people I interact with. Because, for real, mad and resentful is no way to live.

I look pregnant to me...

I look pregnant to me…

Ok, here are some math jokes to win back your excitable, one-legged, former math teacher friend. Good luck.

New Year's baby Cortland and Aunt Shelly.

New Year’s baby Cortland and Aunt Shelly.

I am a mediocre resolution-maker, but hear this: Not because I’m a bum. One of the things I’m actually quite good at is setting a goal and achieving it. It’s an obsessive quality I have, so it’s not always helpful or healthy. Anyway, the point is that setting a New Year’s resolution doesn’t really make me any more or less inclined to reach a goal. I got 99 problems, but following through ain’t one.

Always appearing on my goals list are the following: Know God more, live more like Christ, read my Bible more, lose weight. So generic, I know. I got to thinking about the lose weight one because, for the first time in forever, it’s not appearing on my list. I started thinking about how I got here – at a place where I don’t want to weigh any less. It happened when I wasn’t obsessing about losing weight. I wasn’t counting calories or working out twice a day. I wasn’t adhering to any fad diet, but my eating habits over the last 3 months looks waaaay different than ever before in my life. Thanks to the wonky thyroid thing I’ve mentioned briefly on here, my definition of healthy eating has only a little to do with calories (to bring you up to speed, I’m trying to use diet changes to naturally stabilize my hypothyroidism and hopefully avoid medication). In short, after doing lots of reading and research, I surmised my best bets were to eliminate soy and wheat (and, thus, every snack, dessert, and good thing); and to add lots more fish and coconut oil.

I’m not here to talk about diet. I want to talk about the God goals. They’re always on my list and, until I’m in glory, they always will be. But I want to go about these goals unlike I have before – do things drastically different. Kind of like with my former “lose weight” goal; it wasn’t until I redefined healthy eating that I got to where I wanted to be. Of course I need to be in the Word. Of course I need to be in communion with Christ. Of course I need to be obedient to my Father. And what does that look like for me? Well, it involves more specificity and action than my generically stated goals allow for.

Know God more: How about, “Seek out people who are very unlike myself in upbringing, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, race, etc.. Develop real friendships with them. Talk about things that matter. Let our differences challenge me. Be firm, and still tender, and be patient.” Now that’s a goal that will inevitably show me more about God, His creativity, His pursuit of us, and lessons I will never have seen coming.

Live more like Christ: How about, “Resolve the tension you know you have in some of your relationships. Think outside of yourself more so that you can be a better friend. Ask for help when you need it and become a person that people seek out to ask for prayer.”

Read my Bible more: How about, “Day and night, the Word should always be on your lips. Teach it to your children. May Scripture be woven through the thoughts that circle in my mind and may my tongue speak it often in conversation.”

So, new game plan. Know God, live Christ, and read your Bible are all great goals – don’t think your list is lame if you have those. I just need a little more narrative to get me going. I hope you reach your goals for 2014 and, if you need prayer, I’m your girl!

Stop worrying about your life – your food and clothes and all the other things that cloud your vision. The birds don’t fret about where their food will come from. The birds aren’t anxious about where they’ll sleep. All the things they need, God has made available to them. And you? If God cares so much for the birds, won’t He make sure His children are taken care of? You can’t improve your situation by worrying, so stop…always ALWAYS seek God’s kingdom first – and His righteousness. When you do, you’ll never want for anything else.

Paraphrased from Matthew 6.25-34

Harper made a birdhouse to help us remember that if God’s eye is on the sparrow, He certainly watches over us.

Harper making her birdhouse nice and colorful.

Harper making her birdhouse nice and colorful.

Cortland wanted in on the action.

Cortland wanted in on the action.

Stray paint

Stray paint on a pretty face.