March 26, 2012
Just something I realized on the ride home the other day.
March 11, 2012
After hearing so many negative comments about my choice to be a stay-at-home mom, I realized I didn’t need to justify my choice, but I wanted to defend it.
January 26, 2011
The quote that displays on my Facebook profile says, “I believe sincerely that if Christians took the time to admit that none are perfect and show love to those ‘obviously’ imperfect, then the world would be saved at an alarming rate.”
I have been marinating in this thought for a few days now. I am one of the obviously imperfect, and the outreaching hands of those in my life now have been the most positive, grounding force in my maturing faith. I know that without the love and forgiveness shown by those in my life, I would still be wandering, lost in sin and feeling like I had to find another way to God because I certainly can’t measure up to the “Christian standard.”
So, I started thinking, if more people were like the women in my small group at church, we’d all be better off. Yes, there are those of us who’ve had children before marriage, and women who’ve been redeemed from that. There are women who didn’t have children until marriage but certainly weren’t saints, and they’ve been redeemed from that. And, there are women who followed all the rules and lived the life God asked of them, but instead of looking down their noses, they lovingly come alongside the rest of us. I can’t say for certain, but I fully believe it’s because they know that they have also been redeemed from some less obvious sin.
You see, I used to look up to these impossible standards and feel so discouraged. I would see these ladies at church and feel judged by them, whether they were judging me or not, because their lives seemed to be so together, so much closer to God’s plan than mine. But, as I grow, it is not the Marys who inspires me the most: it is the Davids and Thomas’ in this life. The imperfect, the doubters. The ones who need forgiveness as much as I do.
In my world, it is hard for me to look at the life some lead because it turns into uncomfortable conviction. (That is not a bad thing, by the way. It is a calling to something better). Still, there are some that are so encouraging to me because of their obvious growth: my friend who refused to name her daughter after a Greek goddess because she didn’t want to glorify an idol. My brother-in-law’s strength of conviction and growing maturity in spirit. My sister’s unfaltering compassion. My father’s ability to seek academically but believe intrinsically. A friend from my old life who stuck by me and really loved me, the sinner, despite my horrendous sins.
Maybe you spend time thinking there is a standard you cannot meet and it keeps you from trying, but I tell you that there is a world full of Christians who love enormously because they know that they cannot meet the standard either.
It is our constant striving for more that binds us the most.
Granted, there are snobby Christians, but that doesn’t mean there should be snobby doubters. Don’t resist those who are further down the path because you assume they think they’re better than you. It is a mistake I made for far too long, and one you don’t have to live.
December 30, 2010
Today while trudging through Leviticus, I had a moment which made me feel like a cartoon character. If someone decided to sketch the moment, I believe fully that they would see me, rocking a baby to sleep with my Bible in hand. Then, suddenly, an angel would appear just over my right shoulder to whisper God’s message in my ear. My eyes would widen and a light bulb would appear above my head. That’s how it felt, anyway.
In chapter 4, Leviticus begins to detail the proper sacrifices for unintentional sins. At first, it seems very redundant. The rules are all the same (which I will come back to), and to be frank, it’s boring. We don’t do this anymore. The Jews don’t even do this anymore, so it’s very hard to feign interest.
But, don’t forget…Lightbulb.
Five times in chapter 5 it says if a person commits some sin “even though he is unaware of it, he has become unclean and is guilty.” When I first started reading this, back in chapter 4, I felt that compulsion that you feel as a child: to offer some blanket prayer of forgiveness for all the sins I didn’t know I committed that day, but I felt strongly that there was something more.
Here was what was whispered to me that caused the light bulb: “Maybe the intent isn’t to make you pray about something you don’t know you’ve done. Maybe the intent is to make you be aware of how you are living.”
Let me see if I can be more clear.
Clearly the passage says that we are held accountable for even the sins we didn’t know we committed, but maybe just maybe it is also implying that we should always be aware of the sins we commit. Eventually they will be revealed to us, anyway. I have this nagging feeling that we would know instantly we were sinning–no matter how small the sin–if we were really in tune with God.
There was so much more. In my Bible, chapter 5 is titled ‘What to Give if One is Poor’, and what interested me was that rich or poor the price was ultimately the same: the death of an animal in place of the person. “For the wages of sin is death…” It has always been the price. And it couldn’t be just any animal. It had to be “one without defect and of proper value.”
So, either I got another whisper or just another layer of the same whisper was revealed.
Some people say that the old system of sacrifices was inefficient. Some say it simply became outdated, and this is why we needed Jesus. I disagree. It’s not that the sacrifices were inefficient, it’s just that we stopped getting it. It wasn’t enough to watch perfect animals slaughtered to take our place. We had to have something more powerful. Enter Jesus.
December 11, 2010
I realized something tonight as I began my Christmas Cookie Extravaganza:
There are quite a few people in the world who approach faith like I approach baking. These people gather a few recipes from what they consider reliable sources and try it out.
Let me assure you, this is a very good approach to baking. I can quickly discern if I like particular flavor combinations or if the family hates the experiment.
It is not such a brilliant approach to faith.
For one, when you botch a baking experiment, you can look at the outcome and clearly see what you did wrong. ‘Ah. That I cooked too long,’ or ‘Less flour next time,’ are quick and easy assessments. This is not so with faith.
With religions, a person is not able to clearly say why one religion does not work for them. Very often in America, people will come up with some PC excuse as to why it did not fit their particular needs, but in fact, it’s usually a very superficial and muddled reason.
Secondly, in baking, you can usually still tell if the recipe COULD BE good. Sure you baked it too long, but had the bottoms not been burnt, the cookies would have been perfect. Maybe the cookies didn’t stick together so well because of all the flour, but they were delicious! When you experiment with different faiths, there is no leeway to make such small tweaks to the overall structure. You must accept the faith as-is, or you must leave it behind. (Claiming only a watered-down version of faith is, in fact, leaving the true faith behind).
Maybe the world would be a better place if we all looked at religion, faith, like I look at cooking.
Yes, I love to try new recipes, but I’m not going to put the effort into a lasagna from scratch if I’ve never tasted lasagna. It’s a lot of work for a ‘maybe’. And I’m never going to serve my guests blowfish because I don’t want to accidently poison them.
Just a thought…
October 20, 2010
There is one aspect of Moses’ life story that has always bothered me. It always made me extremely uncomfortable that in some verses it says “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” I just could not logically explain why the God of heaven, this loving God who forgives and reaches out to nations would specifically harden a man’s heart. It causes Pharaoh to sin and costs lives. What purpose could this serve?
Well, I think God let me in on the secret today.
As I sat down to read, I was drawn back to this question and here is an excerpt of my personal journal. God opened my eyes: “I have always wondered why God would harden Pharaoh’s heart. The idea just occurred to me that maybe it was to prove to as many people as possible (advisors, etc.) that Moses’ God was the only REAL, true God.”
Through the 2 1/2 chapters I covered today, the Holy Spirit revealed the truth of this insight to me.
It’s important to remember that the plagues started off as, basically, annoyances. Yes, the waters were turned to blood, but people were able to dig near the waters to get clean water (Exodus 7:24). It was just inconvenient. Then there were frogs, then gnats, then flies. The plagues slowly increased in severity.
1.) Time and again, the magicians of Egypt were able to mimic the works of God which led to Moses’ claims being dismissed. BUT God uses the progressively more complex plagues to turn the magicians first.
“18 But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. And the gnats were on men and animals. 19 The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said.” –Exodus 8:18-19
It took 3 plagues, but they got it.
2.) Then God shows that the God of Moses and the Israelites is in control of it all by excluding the Israelites from the plague of the flies.
I’m sure that this was done to show the people of Egypt that something special was going on.
Then I reached Exodus 9:16. I don’t know why I’ve never paid any attention to this before, but I wish I had because it answers my question completely.
“16 But I have spared you for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
And, God’s effort produce results. Some of Pharaoh’s officials believe as well.
“19 Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every man and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’ “ 20 Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside.”–Exodus 9:19-20
So, maybe, when we completely do NOT understand the plan that God is working out in our lives, maybe God is just trying to be the God we all envision Him as. Maybe he is being loving; maybe He is reaching out. Maybe His hand will be MORE evident when there is oppression or strife.
If that’s the case, and even more can be saved, who am I to complain?
October 11, 2010
Even the most diligent of Bible readers can struggle occasionally with the Old Testament. Some of the accounts are simply long lists of laws dealing with temple ritual we no longer observe; some are long lists of genealogy. Interspersed between these two types of writings are personal accounts of men and women who played an important role in the furtherance of God’s will through His people. The unfortunate thing is that these personal accounts are so familiar, even to the most unchurched, that when a person actually sits down to read the story, it can be…well, boring.
It is tempting to just skim the story, recognize the familiar points and move on, but you can miss some really cool things that way. (For instance, prior to Noah’s escapade in the ark, people were vegetarians. It was only after the flood that they were given the animals as food as well. Genesis 9:3. Who knew, right?)
However, there are times when the Holy Spirit offers us an insight into the story that is spiritually significant and often overlooked. I found 2 such insights in Moses’ story. I would like to share one with you now.
If you are unfamiliar with Moses’ account, please check out the link to the right. There is a page named ‘Moses’ that will give you a helpful frame of reference.
In Exodus 3 verse 6, Moses learns that the burning bush he has happened upon, in fact, contains the Spirit of God. Moses has a pretty natural reaction: He hides his face. He is afraid to look at God. I would have to say that I would be too. But the interesting thing about Moses is that by verse 11 of the same chapter, he has mustered up enough courage to argue with God.
That’s right. Moses sees God, knows it’s God, recognizes the might of God to the point of hiding his face and then ARGUES with God. What changed so drastically in those 5 verses? Where did this boldness spring from?
Well, that’s what struck me as new this time around. It was still just Moses and God in the desert, so the environment hadn’t changed. No miracles had been performed yet; no storm had come. The only thing that changed was that God actually asked Moses to DO something.
Yep. Moses’ sudden boldness, courage and defense comes when he is asked to go lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God promises to go with Moses, and doesn’t even ask Moses to approach the Pharaoh alone–he is instructed to take the elders with him– but he still argues (3:12 & 13). Better yet, God shows Moses 2 proofs and Moses STILL argues. (4:1-9)
This is interesting to me, and I immediately began to think of myself, my reaction to God when He asks me to do something. I either pretend I didn’t hear; pretend I will get around to it eventually…or I argue with God.
“Not me God. Surely there are more qualified people out there. Surely, you want someone with a spotless record and more skills…”
This type of avoidance is my specialty, and apparently it was Moses’ as well.
Well, Moses does go. He leads the Israelites out (through an intermediary) and he travels with God for 40 years, but Moses never really loses that spirit of stubborn resistance. Despite visual, daily reminders of their living God, the Israelites and Moses all fail time and again. Moses is never granted entry into the promised land because of his disobedience…and I think that is the lesson in it all.
I don’t want to lose the promised land because I’m a stubborn girl who argues with God. Not only does it sound crazy, it is ultimately futile. He is God after all.
August 18, 2010
“If you sin, how does that affect Him?…If you are righteous, what do you give Him, or what does He receive from your hand? Your wickedness affects only a man like yourself, and your righteousness only the sons of men.”–Job 35:6-8.
It is only out of love that God cares about our actions. The world and His will operate fine without us.
I haven’t written in a long time mostly because I hadn’t read for a long time. Fortunately, I have beautiful people around me who remind me constantly why I want to be a strong woman of God for the duration of my life. So, after a month of reading regularly, I was granted a little insight that I would now like to share.
Even those who don’t read the Scriptures have a pretty decent idea of how God operates according to Christianity. He creates; He lays out rules; He presides and eventually He will judge. Those who believe may bristle at the over-simplification; those who don’t will not be shocked by this information.
I just learned something wonderful and beautiful about the character of God regarding this whole process. This revelation is something contrary to what our nature usually believes: Judgement is a favor granted to us. The judgement humanity fears is not the power-trip of a punishment-focused God.
No, really. I promise…Ok, just hear me out.
The book of Job is an interesting one. A man well-favored by God is so firm in his faith that God grants Satan permission to tempt him in order to try to sway his loyalty. Job never turns and curses God. Job, instead, admits that God is sovereign and that all is within his control, but he does so through 35 chapters of whining and defending his own righteousness. Finally, God answers Job directly. He basically tells the whiny believer to hush. God is sovereign and Job, though righteous in his own eyes, has no right to complain about anything God chooses to do or allow.
Here’s the thing: God didn’t have to answer Job. He’s God. He could have left it to Job to figure it out on his own. God could have chosen to leave Job moaning in darkness or to be miserable and die thinking God had forsaken him.
But He didn’t.
God chose to answer. Job spends his time begging for a face-to-face meeting with God; he pleads for some way to present his defense and prove to God how righteous he is and how unfair God’s treatment of him has been. Job, though, knows that meeting God face-to-face would be overwhelming and that he really doesn’t deserve to demand any such thing. (This brings up many, very awesome verses about Jesus which you can find on the “Inspirations” page).
In Job 34:21-30, it says that “His (God’s) eyes are on the ways of men; he sees their every step…God has no need to examine further, that they should come before Him in judgement. Without inquiry He shatters the mighty and sets up others in their place…He punishes them where everyone can see them because they turned from following Him and had no regard for any of His way.”
You see, God’s judgement of us, granting us a “trial” that we may be made aware of our transgressions is a FAVOR to us. God gains nothing from telling us exactly what we did right and wrong. He has no need for this process because He already knows what we have done. If you add that to the belief of His perfect righteousness and sovereignty then the only possible result is perfect judgement.
Think about it: It would be like human judges being present 24 hours a day for the entire LIFE of the defendants who came before them. Would we question their judgement?
Who, then, are we to question God’s judgement?
Judgement is a gift. It may sound a little loony, but really consider the nature of God. If you believe that He is the creator, that He is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent; then, you must believe that He already knows our actions and motivations. Therefore, He has no need for a formal judgement. It is only for our benefit that we may know how to better serve Him, and ultimately that we may see that we are not righteous but He is. We are only made righteous by grace.
Formal judgement isn’t granted until the end of our lives for a reason. God opens many opportunities for us to realize our transgressions on our own and correct our steps. He corrects, convicts, intervenes, reveals and reaches for us daily. However, we, in our limited capacity, still have questions which seem unanswered. God then grants us two last showings of grace. He lays out each of our deeds, thoughts and words that we may know our standing. Since no one will measure up to the standard set, Jesus will then stand in and vouch for us. His word will get us in or exclude us from heaven.
So, really, we shouldn’t fear judgement only whether or not the Son of God knows us well enough to open the gate.
July 8, 2010
“Libertarians support maximum liberty in both personal and economic matters. They advocate a much smaller government; one that is limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence. Libertarians tend to embrace individual responsibility, oppose government bureaucracy and taxes, promote private charity, tolerate diverse lifestyles, support the free market, and defend civil liberties.” http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz_result?e=80&i=80_80.gif&p=80 (at the bottom of the page is a summary of 6 political views as expressed by lp.org and advocates for limited government)
“We declare the platform of the Constitution Party to be predicated on the principles of The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States and The Bill of Rights According to the original intent of the Founding Fathers, these founding documents are the foundation of our Liberty and the Supreme Law of the Land. The sole purpose of government, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, is to secure our unalienable rights given us by our Creator. When Government grows beyond this scope, it is usurpation, and liberty is compromised.” http://www.constitutionparty.com/party_platform.php
Warning: This post will be a departure from my typical foray into little life lessons of faith. Instead, I want to speak about politics and how they impact the daily lives of believers and non-believers alike.
I am not well-acquainted with the Libertarian political stance. In America, we are raised with 3 options when it comes to political views: Democratic (progressive), Republican (conservative), and abstaining from political involvement all together. For many, these options simply are not enough any longer. Though I am religious, and conservative, and traditional, I do not always agree with the legislation doled out by those claiming to be conservative Republicans. My desire for less social rule may seem contrary to my core beliefs as a Christian, but stem from a deep-rooted belief in the greatness of our country and its founding documents which do not favor the feds legislating how citizens conduct the most personal of matters.
In short, I am increasingly coming to favor those parties which tell the federal government to back off. The Libertarians and Constitutionalists are two emerging parties with views similar to mine in certain areas.
Here are some things you must know about me before we proceed. First, I am an avid, almost obsessive reader. I have been accused more than once in my life of being legalistic because of this. When I read something from a firm, fast document like the Constitution, Declaration or Bible–that is it. That’s what it says, that’s what it means, and it’s then my job to do my utmost to uphold the dictates discovered therein. (I fail remarkably well at the follow-through sometimes, but at least I can flip to a particular passage and say, ‘See this is what the standard is. This is where I went wrong.’)
Keeping all of that in mind I would like to present this radical view: Back off. All of you.
Here’s what I mean; I have encountered many religious/political advocates who push legislation through based on their personal morality. While I am not opposed to voting or advocating religiously motivated laws, I see a double-standard. Many times those same people will complain about the laws which restrict them from donating to campaigns or prevent their children from learning about creationism or saying the pledge in school.
By contrast, Libertarians on the fringe who are all for people’s right to smoke what they want, where they want and live how they want will NOT apply those same standards to the church communities across the nation. Here’s the thing kids: If you, as an individual citizen or private organization, have the right to get high or marry a same-sex partner, then I, as an individual citizen, have the right to disagree publically. I even have the right to attempt to talk you out of your beliefs and (gasp) evangelize and share my own. According to the founding documents, the only thing I don’t have a right to do is mandate federally how you behave. That is reserved for your state legislative process.
You see, people who scream, “Separation of Church and State!” don’t often follow through on the logic. If we are separate then let us be separate. Don’t dictate where churches can be planted. Don’t interfere when a bunch of believers weird you out by dressing as prescribed in the Bible. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Timothy%202:9,10;%201%20Peter%203:3, http://www.biblegateway.com/topical/Dress/Nave). I won’t force your child to pray before their meal at school as long as you don’t prevent my child from doing so.
Here is my proposed solution:
1.) Let’s all return to the Constitution.
-Daunting task I know. It means some people will actually have to READ the Constitution. But, it isn’t long. I promise. Heck, while they’re at it, they could throw in the Declaration and still have it done in a day!
2.) Let the states have their power back.
-If Vermont wants to allow gay marriage, adopt universal health care, employ illegals, and dance at every White House ball whatever.
-BUT if Texas wants to allow every citizen to openly holster a Smith & Wesson, ban gay marriage, shuttle all illegals out of their state, and allow a prayer and the pledge to start every school day then let them.
3.) Raise awareness for the hypocrisy.
-The next time you start to complain about your kid having to sit uncomfortably while another child prays remember that there is at least one child sitting uncomfortably because they cannot.
This is why federally legislating social matters does not work. For every one who avoids insult or injury there is one who is limited, insulted, and injured by the legislation. Leave it to the states; at least citizens are then given an option–Move.
If Cali’s increasing debt, lack of natural resources, and legislating themselves out of power isn’t working out for you, head east. Better yet, if you aren’t identifying with the
“extreme” ways of Texas, leave. I assure you that they won’t miss you.
I’ll make you a deal: Even though I disagree, I’ll stop complaining about your recreational, in-home drug use if you let me pray with other believers at my sons’ graduations.
June 10, 2010
From the outside, I know my life looks messy. It has to. From the inside, it looks, feels, and is messy, so I have no delusions about its outward appearance.
From the outside, I’m sure I seem like a failure. I have a lot of practice with failing. I fail at almost everything except academics–though I did fail my first class last semester.
From the outside, I probably even look stupid. Not in the low IQ, can’t-form-a-sentence-properly sort of way, more of the SHE-DID-WHAT…AGAIN?! sort of way.
Right now, I feel like the freed Israelites of the Old Testament. Here I stand, rescued from sin ,and yet, I continue to make monumental mistakes. Now granted, I haven’t recently cast any golden calves, but I have broken a few important rules. Repeatedly.
Still, through it all, I have been taking shape. Slowly, and certainly down a rougher road than I would recommend, I have been developing into a new creation.
One of the biggest changes I’ve been able to witness in myself is the subtle (sometimes startlingly un-subtle) transformation of my dreams. Through my pre-teen/teenage years I wanted only to be famous. Consumed with a feeling of insignificance, I wanted fame only so that my name would be remembered. I didn’t want to give money to charity or rise above circumstances. I wanted to be remembered.
As an adult, I discovered a passion…almost an obsession, for teaching. I’ve spent two years thus far in pursuit of a degree that I am immensely proud of. I sincerely hope to impart passion for reading in at least a few children (and drag the rest through the drudgery of basic grammar so they can actually write a decent sentence). I also hope to study literacy and develop a program to help adults who “slipped through the cracks.”–Undeniably a more selfless cause.
Still yet, I feel myself struggling with a new dream. I just want to be a mom. I want to get married, have lots of babies and raise them all. I want to teach them basic pre-k skills and put them in sporting activities and be at home, finishing a day of housekeeping and baking, when they arrive home from school.
Are my dreams getting bigger or smaller?
Certainly by the standards of society, I am settling into smaller and smaller rings of insignificance. I have an odd feeling, though, that my dreams are actually getting bigger. It’s entirely ambitious to think I have to wherewithall (or even option) to have my latest dream fulfilled. I’ve also shifted from aiming only to satisfy my urge to be remembered to a desire to positively (at least I hope) impact generations to come: starting with my offspring.
I’m certain it seems my dreams are getting smaller. But I wonder…