One of the most important parenting lessons I learned as a new mother.Continue Reading...
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My children are past the age of getting up in the middle of the night and coming into our bedroom. But I remember one night when one of my children came into our bedroom crying over a terrifying dream. I still remember that dream because it frightened me too.
The dream was my child running in the hallways at school from a man with a gun. It was frightening, and I did my best to comfort and reassure in the middle of the night that it was just a dream and not reality. I prayed for my child, and despite my poor ability for being able to memorize scriptures, I managed to think of the verse in 2 Timothy 1:7, For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. I explained that God has the power to calm all our fears even our nightmares. We can rest in that comfort.
I went back to bed but with a little check of fear in my own heart. “God, don’t ever let that nightmare become a reality for my children,” I prayed.
This past Monday we awoke to the news of the massacre in Las Vegas. A madman with a gun and people running for their lives, but this was not a dream. This was a reality.
That tragic event put fear in my heart as a parent. Our world’s realities are nightmares come true.
My kids are the generation that has grown up with Lock and Hide drills at school of the possibility of an active shooter. Music concerts that are celebratory events are now potential target audiences for violence. The week before, my daughter attended a country music concert. Fear set in, again. “I can’t let her go to another concert. It’s too dangerous,” I thought.
Jason Aldean was the country music singer who was on stage that night in Las Vegas. He saw the massacre unfold right in front of him. “This world is becoming the kind of place I am afraid to raise my children in,” he wrote after the tragedy.
I get it. I can relate as a parent to his fears. How do we parent in a society where we have to constantly fear for our children’s safety? A place where my child’s frightening dream has been a reality for people around the world.
As I watched the unbelievable tragedy on the news, fear started to take hold of me. And then I was reminded of that one particular night of my own reassuring words and the scripture.
God has not given ME a spirit of fear.
I prayed, and I let that Bible verse seep into my heart and I not only found comfort but joy. Isn’t that just like God to not only comfort us but exchange our fear for joy?
As a follower of Christ, I am a child of God. Just like my child, who came into our bedroom seeking comfort for their fears, I found comfort from God. I do know that fear can be a powerful emotion that can hold people captive. But we are not slaves to fear. In all the uncertainty of this world- in the violence and tragic events that seem to unfold before us every day- there is God. He’s there comforting us and reminding us there is joy and peace in uncertainty. That joy and peace can only be explained because I take refuge in God’s promises. I know without a shadow of a doubt that whatever happens to my children or me, we are safe in His arms.
It’s the reason why I can send my children to school each day. It’s the reason I can let my child go to a concert or experience all life’s celebratory events without fear. It’s God.
It is also important as a parent to model my faith and security in Christ in front of my children, especially when tragic events take place. I cannot let fear take hold of my heart. My reaction to tragedy in front of my children reflects my faith or lack of faith in God. And I know in whom I trust. I am a child of God. If I live that out, so will they.
I want my children to understand that whether it’s a bad dream or a real-life event, that there is hope and peace in living for Christ. They are not slaves to fear. I want them to live in that freedom and find joy amidst all life’s uncertainties.
I read that the Bible quotes “do not fear” 365 times. That’s one for each day of the year. I’ll take it and try to rest in that command each day. I will not be afraid.
God reminded me this week that I have no fear in raising my children because God does not give US a spirit of fear. In a world where we have no control over evil, God is still the giver of peace. He will speak joy into our hearts even in tragedy. We can rest in that comfort.
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10
I am a Twitter follower or more like a Twitter watcher. I follow some prominent people of faith, and one of those people is Beth Moore. She recently tweeted out a photo of this t-shirt her husband bought for her, and the message caught my attention.
“The House (the church) That Built Me.”
Such a simple sentence but can be interpreted differently. She responded to the photo, “And it’s the dang truth. While all hell was breaking loose at home, there was the church. I took out a lot of my aggression on handbells.”
If you don’t know Beth Moore’s story, I recommend you read, Get out of That Pit: Straight Talk about God’s Deliverance. In the book, she touches upon her past sexual abuse as a young girl and her healing journey. She found refuge in the church during the tragic events of her upbringing. Praise God for her healing journey, the church, and how God has used her to speak healing into the lives of other women.
But I read that phrase with a different perspective.
I recently had lunch with a friend, and I had to apologize to her. Several years ago she reached out to me during a very dark point in her life. I directed her situation to the leaders of a church. It was messy, and she needed more than I could offer for help. The summary of her story is that the church did not help her and I wasn’t there for her either. She is now on the road to healing, but the church deeply wounded her. I am sorry to say, that I include myself in being a contributor to her pain and resentment.
Growing up in the church, I know this type of pain all too well. My friend is a part of a group of people who read the message on that t-shirt and interpret it very differently than Beth Moore. For some of us, the church has been a source of pain, and it hasn’t been pretty. Scratch that! For some of us, it’s been downright ugly.
If I could take you down the history of the church in my own life, it would contain sordid details of hurt, abuse, adultery, hypocrisy, pride, legalism, false teaching… And that’s just me as a bystander, not the pain and stings I have felt personally from the church. And by the church, I mean the community of Christ-followers I or others were among; be it an individual church, ministry, or community.
I have seen family members and friends deeply wounded by fellow Christians. I have witnessed blatant sin not addressed in the church. I have felt let down over and over again by the church. Yet, here I am laying that all down to say I am beyond grateful for that “house” that built me.
Every sting, every wound, every misstep by leadership, each painful experience among the community of Christ-followers has brought me closer to Christ. I could have chosen to get bitter and let my heart find those dark places of resentment that Satan uses to pull people away from Christ and His followers. But somewhere along the way, I realized what God was teaching me. I let Him use every painful church experience I felt or witnessed to draw me closer to His Word, His will for my life, and (yes!) to His imperfect, sinful, mess of people He calls His church.
I found freedom in the knowledge of “The House That Built Me.” I found it by embracing my growing up in “the church” and how God has used every experience (good and bad) to continuously shape my faith, my character, my interactions with people, my view of Christ-followers, and my spiritual journey. And let me tell you there is freedom in letting go of the pain and loving God’s people despite the hurt.
Now I am not excusing bad church behavior. God hates sin, and he wants the church to rescue people out of sin. Loving people is loving them out of their sin. I am merely pointing to the fact that eventually, we have to come to terms with our personal relationship with Christ within or outside the walls of the church. That means dealing with our bitterness and forgiving.
I know that not everyone is ready to find that place of letting go of the hurt and pain that the church may have caused you. But I recommend you take the journey to get there- in your own time. God is patient! I guarantee you there’s freedom on this path.
My faith journey will continue with old and new friends, churches, and faith communities along the way. I can also list all the wonderful blessings, experiences, teachings, and people that God has brought into my life through the church community. I am still learning, still growing, and still asking forgiveness when I fail to be “the church” to others God has put in my life. I pray I will continue to grow more in the knowledge of God, follow His Word and the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life, and let the house of God (the church) continue to shape who I am in Christ through the good, the bad, and the ugly. He’s building me day by day, and I am forever grateful.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10: 23-25)
It was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.Continue Reading...
I still can’t get those images out of my head. Women were marching on Washington clad in vagina suits and pink pussy hats. Just writing that sentence irks me. Am I really raising my daughters in this rude society of women?
The words of Ashley Judd’s speech at the women’s march on January 21, 2017, still have me shaking my head in disbelief. She recited a poem from a nineteen-year-old expressing outrage about our current president. The poem railed against Trump’s past vulgar remarks, ironically, with equal poetic vulgarity. It ended like this, “Our p__sies are for our pleasure. They are birthing new generations of filthy, vulgar, nasty, proud, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, you name it for new generations of nasty women.”
Me: No, thank you!
Modern-day feminism has resorted to crassness instead of respectfulness. Women who call out injustices, inequalities and a man’s vulgar remarks with equal vulgarity…well, I guess feminism has risen to the occasion.
Today’s women’s movement uses celebrity platforms of women who think they speak for all of us. Their political and social opinions wrapped in hatred, anger, and crying out for justice that looks more like self-centered relativism. It’s not the generation of women I want to raise my daughters in. I am not nasty, and I refuse to raise a generation of vulgar females because it is not who God created women to be.
I recently did a study on the book of Ruth amidst all of the recent news on women’s speeches and marches. Now juxtapose this recent news with Ruth’s story, and you might be able to find the humor in it with me. Modern-day women who are screaming about their inequalities and then there’s Ruth; who loses her husband and her only means of income in a culture that does not treat women with equal footing as men.
Yes, yes, it was a different time and place in history, but you have to look at this woman and realize there is a reason her story is set aside as a complete book of the Bible. She is the exact opposite of the characteristics that define modern-day feminism. She was humble, selfless, giving, honest, hard-working, and defined love as serving others over her needs. You don’t find Ruth on a platform screaming about her “rights” that have not been afforded to her. Instead, she’s picking up scraps of grain behind harvesters so that she and her mother-in-law would have food to eat.
If you have never read the book of Ruth, I won’t give the story away. You have to read it to understand that charity defined her life and eventually, it was her selflessness that redeemed her widow’s story. A redemption story that ultimately would become a divine legacy.
The story of Ruth is really about what it means to be a generation of women who follow Christ. It celebrates womanhood amidst the struggles of life and real injustice. There are no words of self-empowerment, filth, vulgarity, or pride. Ruth is the very definition of what I want to teach my daughters to be in this nasty woman’s world.
Women who use their talents and strengths to serve others.
Women who find worth and value in their relationship with Christ.
Women who see humility as a strength and not a weakness.
Women who value their sex with virtue and respect.
Women who celebrate life and the God-given miracle of carrying a child in her womb or in her adoptive arms.
Women who celebrate their differences with men and find equality in those differences.
Women who don’t strive for perfection but emulate grace through all the struggles and imperfections of life.
I know that raising my daughters in the philosophy of Christianity over modern-day feminism is not popular. It’s turning away from all things progressive and marching against a tide of women who will look down on them and probably ridicule them. I don’t care! We will not be judged or known by how loud we scream and our “performance” in this secular world. Instead, like Ruth, if we follow the call of Christ in our lives, we will be known for our charity and humility.
I have this t-shirt that says, “Ruth. Mary. Sarah. Esther. #Squad Goals.” It’s a reminder of the women I want to emulate in my life. Biblical representations of women who followed Christ in a culture that often rejected the things of God. I am nowhere near imitating the selfless characteristics of Ruth. She’s a squad goal, but she’s also my hopes and dreams for a future generation of women, especially the young women I am raising.
I’ll keep wearing my biblical #squad goals t-shirt against the tide of pink p__sy hats. It might not be popular, but I’d much rather carry the title of a follower of Christ than a feminist.
Four years ago, God set me on a path to be a writer. A struggling, imperfect one who has learned so much and is still in the learning process. I have written for political sites, Christian news sources, and pro-life groups. If you read my past articles, it won’t take long for you to realize where I lean politically or socially. Within these past years, there is one thing that God has taught me about having a voice. It is to STOP being reactive and start being prayerful about the message I write.
What a difficult lesson to learn in a social media frenzy world. In a media driven society where “gotcha” titles compete for attention and followers. Everything seems to be in an instant and reactionary response mode.
The results of the recent 2016 Presidential Election have been a test of this lesson God is teaching me. I am to STOP and LISTEN before I REACT. We live in a diverse country where free speech is cherished and valued. Where differing opinions and beliefs make America such a unique place to live. A melting pot of cultures, religions, and races. Where my view differs from another’s perspective based on life experiences and upbringing. I think another word for it is simply-humanity.
Right now, in this moment in time as a follower of Christ, I have a testimony to live out. It’s not about who won or lost the election. It’s not about my view points, fears, or convictions. It’s about who I am in Christ and how I portray that to my world around me. Christianity and the gospel of Jesus Christ does not rise and fall with who sits in the White House. That’s all I need to know to stop me in my tracks before I respond in this heated post-election environment.
May God continue to mold me as a better writer but one who reacts less and responds more to the importance of being a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ- politically, socially, and to those around me who are listening.
I don’t know Jen Hatmaker. I don’t follow her on social media and I have only read a few of her posts or articles that other friends have shared. I know she has a beautiful family with adoptive and biological children. She also has a large audience and shares her Christian perspective on family and life in general in an often humorous and candid way.
I wasn’t surprised by her statements in a recent interview that have become controversial, prompting Lifeway Stores to pull her books off their shelves.
I am not going to respond to her views on homosexuality, politics, or even the Black Lives Matter Movement. There are plenty of other people who have written with more grace than I could and have articulated why many Christians disagree with her statements.
If Jen and I were to sit down and chat on these issues, I think we would both find ourselves at an impasse on where our views differ according to scripture. But Jen’s views are no different than many of my own personal friends, yet we manage to find friendship despite our differing Christian perspective on social issues.
What troubles me most about her interview and why I have not been a supporter of her platform, is something that God has had to teach and humble me about in using my voice as a follower of Christ. In the past, I could manage enough grace and mercy for those struggling with sin or who don’t identify themselves as followers of Christ. Scripture clearly commands me to love and have mercy for those who don’t know Christ. But grace and mercy for Christians- for the church- that’s was a little more difficult for me.
I could give you a list of grievances about Christians, the church, hypocrisy…. I am a daughter of a minister. Do I need to say more?
If I was to write a book, I could give the reader story after story how people who call themselves “Christians” have hurt other people, have been unforgiving, and the stories would pour out of my bitter heart of where the church has gone wrong in loving their neighbor. But God has tugged on my bitterness and revealed to me that although my grievances against the church and the Christian community are accurate assessments, they are also a form of my own self-righteousness which divides and does not unite or heal people towards the Christian community.
Jen Hatmaker responds, “I’ve seen too much pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church.” Yes, Jen, I get it. I have too!! But the church is made up of imperfect people trying desperately to follow a perfect God. Please show grace to the church (believers of Christ) as well as the homosexual community. We are all trying to navigate this world together but calling out Christians for their grievances against the gay community will only further direct the LGBT community away from Christ and the church.
I have come to realize that the Christian community and its impact on social issues is much larger than the four walls of one’s church building. I have written about abortion and questioning the church, as a whole, on where it stands in the pro-life movement. I still feel the body of Christ can do more in standing against the injustice of abortion but I strongly disagree with Jen’s statement on abortion in the Christian community. She responds, “There’s something incredibly disingenuous about a Christian community that screams about abortion, but then refuses to support the very programs that are going to stabilize vulnerable, economically fragile families that decide to keep their kids. Some Christians want the baby born, but then don’t want to help the mama raise that baby.”
I don’t understand how Jen Hatmaker- a Christian adoptive mother herself- does not pay tribute to the many, many Christian families who have opened their lives and homes to children and have been examples of the hands and feet of Christ. Does she not know of the numerous Christian organizations who raise funds each year to support pregnancy centers in their community to help the vulnerable and economically fragile? I know so many Christian brothers and sisters who have been the exact opposite of disingenuous when it comes to abortion. I ask Jen, as well as others, to look broader out into the Christian community and the numerous families supporting and raising adoptive children and the quiet but strong impact they are making against abortion.
There will always be injustice, pain, and rejection in the body of Christ. We are human. We are sinners but Christ calls us to draw closer to Him and his scriptures regardless of the hurt and bitterness. God is continually reminding me that I will never be a testimony of His righteousness to any community if I constantly call out the church for its grievances. It’s a lesson He seems to constantly teach me over and over again because I am an imperfect person worshiping God in an imperfect community of believers. By complaining, I am not honoring Him and I am not honoring the community of people I call my brothers and sisters in Christ. The foot of the cross is meant to draw and unite the sinner and the saint and none of us are worthy.
“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:30
Sometimes the hardest part of being a follower of Christ is learning to live among His followers. This is particularly true, when a fellow Christian is exposed for some kind of sin. But what if we put Jesus in the room? I mean, literally, in the room. How should we react and what side should we stand on?
Last week, Josh Duggar and the Duggar family was a trending story. This post is not going to rehash their painful family history. I don’t need to tell you what has already infiltrated almost every blog and news site.
Their story deals with a very painful subject- sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse of any kind is awful. It is sin that robs the victim and the culprit. I have seen sexual abuse rob so many of their freedom, both in their physical and spiritual lives.
But I have also seen the power of God’s forgiveness for the most ugly, heinous sins and I’ve watched people live out in freedom. A freedom that could only be attributed to the power of Christ.
As I was reading blog posts and news articles about the Duggar story, I witnessed the part of Christianity that makes me ashamed to live among His followers. The opinions, judgements, hatefulness, and metaphorically “casting stones” when we really don’t know their story.
But what if we put Jesus in the room?
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is from Luke, chapter 7. Jesus was invited to eat dinner by a Pharisee named Simon. I imagine there were many people at this dinner. A woman enters the house and right away everyone knows who she is. Let’s just say, she is not the most respectable member of their society. Her sexual sins have been exposed and probably numerous times.
The woman does a remarkable thing. She washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair, and then pours perfume on them.
The Pharisee questions the very truth of who Jesus is because He is letting this woman touch Him- a sinner. Gasp!!
Jesus then does what He does best. He calls out the hypocrisy of the Pharisee and lovingly forgives the woman of her sins. “Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47)
As I read this story and imagine this woman being put in the spotlight and ridiculed for all her sins, I imagine myself in the room. All these people are taking sides. There’s the Pharisee with his righteous indignation, perhaps some of Jesus’ disciples who are worried about Jesus’ reputation, and maybe there are those who are just watching and waiting to see what it means to be a follower of Christ. Where do I stand when sin like this is exposed?
What I really want to do is shout out loud, “JESUS IS IN THE ROOM!”
Sometimes as Christians we are so busy taking sides and making judgment calls that we forget Jesus in the room. We forget that we need to be like that woman; bending down at the feet of Christ and loving Him because He too, forgives our sins.
The Duggar story is reminder of what it means to be a Christian and how we are to respond as a community of believers.
I don’t want to be that kind of Christian who is so preoccupied with the sins of others that I forget Jesus in the room. I belong at His feet, washing them with my own tears right next to that woman. As followers of Christ, we need to forgive more to love more because none of us are worthy when Jesus is in the room.
It was an old abandoned stone building, probably dating back to the late 1800’s. The windows were all gone and it was all boarded up. Just the shell of a building was left but I loved it. The architecture was beautiful and I would often imagine what it looked like back in the day when it was probably owned by a wealthy New York City family. We would pass this building on the West Side Highway when my family drove to our home outside the city. I was a teenager then and I had big plans for that building in my heart… God knew.
Every time we passed by that building I would say, “There’s my orphanage!” There’s the building I would restore and create a home for children who have been abandoned, abused, and neglected. It was just a dream. A naïve dream of a teenager but that was my heart and vision at the time. Besides rescuing children off the streets of New York City, I was going to travel to Africa as a missionary and rescue children from extreme poverty and if I had time, I planned to raise my own family and adopt several children along the way. Oh, the naivety of youth!
Forward twenty-something years later and God reminded me of that building the other day and my future travels to Africa. No, He isn’t calling me to the mission field or back to New York City to restore that old stone building. Instead, He is calling me out of my own insecurities and reminding me of the heart of that naïve teenager.
I get caught up in my own little world on a daily basis. I often worry about me, my life, my success or my lack of success and feel very sorry for myself. It’s really the way of our world or at least in America. It’s like we live in a ME obsessed society. We are so focused on success, fame, and often, being noticed for who we are.
But God reminded me through the memory of that old, abandoned stone building of exactly what my calling is in life. I might have been a very naïve teenager but God birthed in me a desire to reach the lost, rescue the hurting, and change the world through the love of Christ. That dream of restoring that old building is really the reality of life for all of us who follow Christ.
We are like that run down building needing a really good restoration. We are bare and abandoned without the hope of Christ. Through salvation, God takes us and adds life to us as we grow closer to him. But we aren’t complete until we fill our lives with the purpose of reaching out to others and giving them a home and life in Christ, as well. Filling the walls of our lives not with our own success but with the stories of how our life, through Christ, has sheltered and nurtured others.
Maybe you are reading this and are feeling discouraged about your own life and plans that have not succeeded. Maybe you feel like your life has been a failure because the plans you dreamed in your youth have not become reality. That’s not, necessarily, how God works. He takes each and every one of us and our run-down walls and adds life to us as we give life to others. It’s usually not in the continent of Africa or in big cities but just wherever we find ourselves. God can do immeasurably more than we ask of him, if we are just willing to be used exactly where we are at and let go of those big, maybe naïve, dreams that God never intended for us.
I didn’t get to restore that stone building into an orphanage. I still haven’t traveled to Africa. God had other plans for my life. Great plans! But He still wants me to have the heart of that young girl who dreams big dreams, not of who I will become but who I will touch through the love of Christ. He lovingly redirected me out of my own prideful ambitions and reminded me that although my plans have changed and often times have gotten off track, my purpose in life is still the same.
My life is not about me or my success or my failure. It is about what God can do through me if I just get back to the heart of that naïve teenager who wanted to bring life to the lost and hurting. That’s my purpose, that’s my calling, and that is what can restore life and purpose in all of us. To be in a place in our hearts where we are willing to say, “Less of Me and more of You, God.”
Now time to get back to restoring more walls and making that building that is my life– a home.