Oh, the confusion!

I have now stopped and restarted this blog three times and I’m still not 100% sure where I’m going with this. So bear with me while I take some time to write out the thoughts spinning around my head. 

This week, President Trump signed something preventing immigrants from select countries from entering the U.S. for a while. My social media has since blown up with arguments and discussions – not that it has been silent since the election, inauguration, women’s march, first week of Trump’s presidency, and the March for Life. But, this seems a big exorbitant.

And I find myself torn.

I usually know precisely where I stand on issues. That’s why I have a whole category on here entitled “Soapboxes.” I know where I stand and I’m usually not afraid to voice my opinion.

This time around, though, I stand shrugging my shoulders in the middle. Not that I don’t care about it; it’s just that I find myself smack in the middle of an argument that no one will ever really win.

See, here’s one thing that sufficiently bothers me. Here we are saying that “Christians” lump all “Muslims” into one, terroristic category. That “Christians” are all “pro-life” but “don’t think past the birth and don’t care what kind of home babies are born into as long as they’re born.” “Christians” are “pro-life but hate refugees.” “Christians” voted Trump into office even though he’s [fill-in-the-blank with your word of choice].

But, aren’t you also lumping all Christians into one category as well then?

See, I am a Christian – and adamantly so. But, here’s where those stereotypes differ from me:

  • I am pro-life and anti-abortion and anti-Planned Parenthood. But, I am anti-women’s march. I am for proper sex education, funding of pregnancy care centers, women’s health, and better healthcare options. I want a total over-haul of the foster care and adoption systems as soon as possible. I think our inner city schools need a make-over and teen moms need a support system. I 100% do care about the well-being of a baby after its been born and think there are ways to do that beyond Planned Parenthood.
  • I am pro-refugee and have even talked with my husband about opening our home up to a refugee family if the need came about. However, I am also all for vetting and slowing down the process of just walking across our borders. We need to know why they’re coming in, where they’re going, and where they came from. It is no small coincidence that most of the terror attacks on our country came from one group of people; so isn’t it simply prudent that we take a step back and figure out how to make it at least more difficult for them to continue to enter our country and kill our citizens? That just seems responsible.
  • I am a Bible-believing, Bible-reading Christian and yet I take full offense to fellow Christians throwing up verses that say we are to feed and clothe those in need as a response to this new, temporary mandate. Context is crucial and I think those verses are being taken out of context and being used to throw guilt on the U.S. for protecting its rightful citizens.
  • I am a Christian – and I have Muslim friends. I do not hate Muslims nor am I afraid of them. I welcome them to my home, my dinner table, and my children’s lives. They are people with a minority who do terrible things. Kind of reminiscent of every religion, every culture around the world, don’t you think? Just like many people claim to be Christians and know nothing about Jesus’ saving grace on the cross – there are many Muslims who know nothing about the Qu’ran’s mandates to commit atrocities on “infidels.” However, there are a group that are intentionally, frequently murdering hundreds of innocent people. If there is a way to protect us from that minority, I think we should figure it out.
  • I am a Christian and my heart breaks for the refugee children trapped in Syria with no way of getting to a safe haven. This is where my confusion begins. While I agree we need to do something, I am not sure what we can realistically do. We are not the only country in the world watching these atrocities occur; therefore, we should not be the only place they can run to for safety. I do not want another WW2 on our hands, though – a time when every country closed its ears and borders to millions of people who legitimately were running for their lives, and ultimately lost the race. We can’t let that happen again. I do not have the answer to this horrid decision.
  • I am pro-traditional marriage, but I do not hate homosexuals. I believe it’s a sin; one is not born homosexual. I believe children should not be allowed to “choose their gender” like they would an ice cream flavor. I believe you should use the restroom that goes with what’s on your birth certificate. Do I hate everybody? No. Am I scared? No. I am, however, saddened that it is believed that line of thinking can be forced on me and yet I am to remain quiet and not voice my opinion or make a stand. I am not a gay-hater; I simply do not agree with the lifestyle they have chosen… just like, dare I say, they do not agree with the lifestyle of Christianity that I have chosen.

Christians are doing themselves a disservice – to themselves and to Christ – when they get on social media and begin to debate. Amongst themselves, no less!! This is what erks me the most: Christians debating other Christians about the smallest nuance and wording in a verse in the Bible. I interpret it one way; you interpret it another. Both of us have reason to believe the other is wrong. We debate, debate, debate using Christian-ese and huge words no one really understands — only to find out that neither side has changed and we have, in the process, turned away our unbelieving friends who not only did not understand the debate or even why we’re having it, but the wording we used while we debated it!

We are pushing people away from God and out of the church while we are trying to figure out where we stand on all these socio-political issues in the U.S. right now.

We have got to stop. 

We are showing the world how divided and opinionated we are. How close-minded we can be. How “cultish” Christianity appears. We are proving them right by debating in social forums. We are allowing Satan to divide us even further while we think we’re doing the right thing – sorting through tough Scripture passages to figure out how they apply to what’s happening in the world around us.

We need to apply Scripture in a culturally-relevant way, there’s no doubt about that. We need to, more than ever, be in the living Word of God and see what He has to say about these real issues plaguing our society. I love that the Word of God truly is “living and active” and applies to every culture, every century.

But we need to do that “figuring out” in a way that doesn’t turn people off to Christianity and make us mad at each other. We’re dividing ourselves in our attempts to apply Scripture. Doesn’t that seem dangerous? Shouldn’t that shoot up red flags that something is majorly wrong with these conversations? 

Satan would like nothing more than to divide us and split us up. He would love to see us marginalized even more and for the world to look at us as the enemy even more than it does already. In doing so, he will win more souls than we will. We’re losing the battle in our generation because we’re spending too much time splitting hairs over God’s Word. 

Let’s get a grip. Study the Word. Invite people into your house for coffee and conversation. Get real and go deep – absolutely. Figure out those nuances and help us all discern how it applies to what’s up right now. But, don’t do it online in a way that turns everyone off to Jesus and puts every person who claims to be a Christian into one, giant category.

I am a Christian. But please don’t lump me in with every Christian you’ve ever met.

Stop the Sliding.

Have you ever watched an Intervention reality show? You know the ones: a family member or close friend confronts, usually with the help of a professional, someone with a major addiction problem. There’s tears, anger, and usually resolution (it is, after all, “reality” TV).

When you watch, do you find yourself thinking that the one doing the intervention dislikes the other person? Or do they love them? They love them, right? Their love drives their deep desire to intervene in order to save their loved one. In fact, if they didn’t love that person, they would not go to the extremes of intervening because they wouldn’t care.

“Reality TV” always showcases best case scenarios, though. In real, real life, there are times when interventions and therapy don’t work. When a person that is deeply loved and cared for simply will not make the choice to change their lifestyle, be rid of their addiction, and be who they were created to be. Then, their loved ones need to make a choice: continue enabling them and getting run over, or – let them go. They reach the point where they must simply let them run with their choices, their lifestyle, their issues, until they hit a final wall and have sense knocked back into them the hard way. There comes a time when even intervening becomes useless and the loved ones have to release them to their desires.

Worst case scenario. It would be devastating, right? Yet, you wouldn’t say that the loved one doesn’t care for the addict. No – you would argue that because of their great love, they had to let them go to learn on their own when they have exhausted all their efforts, done all they could do, and can’t do any more.

We learned this from God. He talks about this exact same thing in Romans 1. Paul is talking about how sinful the world had become. People had turned their backs on God and were worshiping created things rather than the Creator. They abandoned the natural and chased after the unnatural. They didn’t want God, didn’t seek God, didn’t love God. So, God: “gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…, gave them over to shameful lusts…, and gave them over to a depraved mind.” He let them go.

The United States was originally founded on Christian principles – there is absolutely no denying that, no way around it, no way to distort history about it. Was it perfect? No. But, it was Bible-based. Over time, however, society has progressively turned away from those Christian principles. Now, in 2016, we’re unrecognizable as a Christian society. Slow, yet deliberate changes in the culture until we are a different people.

I grew up in Vermont and was a teen when the civil union law was put into place. I remember our church, which was the biggest building in the surrounding community, being used for a political rally to oppose the law. It was not a religious event; it was purely political. In fact, most churches refused to get involved. They were against law, absolutely, but they were afraid to be vocal about it. The rally was mostly attended by community folks who were also opposed. The Christian community was unsure if they should “get involved” in politics.

We know how that “opposition” ended. Civil unions in Vermont were merely the beginning. Today, gay marriage is legal nationwide.

A few years ago, a law was put into place that enabled people to change their gender on their birth certificate. There was, to my knowledge, no real outcry from the Christian community. However, this past Sunday, we had a petition in our church in order to oppose the bathroom law allowing people to use whatever bathroom they want based on how they “identify” themselves. All of a sudden, people being able to change their gender affects us and we are now vocal about it. But… is it too late?

Christians nationwide are asking the question, “How did we get here?” They are crying out that God is going to judge us.

You know, I think we’re past that point. I firmly believe we are living what Romans 1 described: God has let us go.

Paul talks about trading truth for a lie. Thinking they’re wise, but are really fools. Men with men and women with women committing shameful acts. Look at this list: “gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.” I’m not sure you can look at that list and not identify the U.S. with it.

We have a serious problem. See, we are slowly dehumanizing ourselves and doing what Paul says – worshiping (putting above God) the creature rather than the Creator. We are taking away gender. We are taking away the value of life by allowing abortions, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. We care for animals – endangered, abandoned animals – more than unborn children. This is a slippery slope and we are plummeting fast.

Two years in a row, endangered animals have made the headlines. Cecil the Lion in 2015 and now Harambe the Gorilla just this week. Don’t get me wrong, I love animals. In fact, if you look at my papers when I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a monkey trainer. Don’t ask why a little girl from Vermont dreamed of training monkeys; I never said I was a logical child. The truth remains – I love animals and mean them no ill will.

However, both of these animals have taken over the headlines, dominating above humans. Last year, Cecil was the major headline, taking predominance over the abhorring Planned Parenthood videos. While that poor dentist is basically unable to live life as he once knew it, Planned Parenthood continues their atrocities, essentially fully-funded.

This year, the Gorilla has taken over the headlines, filling our Facebook feeds with links to petitions and news stories about people protesting his death. The real issue, however, was not that the Gorilla was shot, even though this is definitely sad. There are so many other underlying issues that are so much more important – and we’re ignoring all of them and focusing on the death of a primate.

I have a small boy. Two of them, actually. They are curious, devious, and fast. I don’t doubt that it takes milliseconds for a child to escape his parents’ confines on their little hands. I do, however, take issue with:

  1. the fact that it did not take him mere seconds to climb the fence, run across the separating space, and fall into the moat. This was a couple minutes of nobody interceding. And I mean nobody. None of the many bystanders (because they claim it was “very crowded” which is why she lost him) and none of his parents or guardians, whomever was there watching him.
  2. the fact that he climbed the gate to begin with. Wasn’t he told not to? Did his mom let him play on gates previously making him think that it was okay to begin with? In which case, his mom was disobeying the zoo rules, too. See, even adults have developed this horrible case of disobedience – thinking rules are merely “suggestions” and they’ll comply when it “makes sense” to them. No! Rules are there for our protection… and apparently to keep gorillas from being shot when we disobey.
  3. the fact that we are more concerned with what the zoo officials did than simply making sure that this child is okay. I can’t even watch the video of the gorilla slamming him through the water without my stomach churning in horror. The boy was not being protected; he was being used to show the gorilla’s power and scare off the screaming humans above him. It is a miracle the boy survived as long as he did and will live to tell his story. I’m sincerely glad the boy is all right, but I don’t think he should’ve ever been near the edge of that enclosure to begin with.

Our value on human life is slowly going downhill. It’s beginning now with prioritizing lions, gorillas, and abandoned dogs (Sarah McLachlan, anyone?) over babies, the elderly, and those with terminal illnesses. Our own President – a father of two beautiful girls – can’t even call an unborn child a “child” but chooses instead to call it “a fetus.” It’s much easier to dispose of a “fetus” than “a beautiful baby girl.” We have a woman running for President of our country — a woman who has a child of her own and a beautiful grandbaby– who advocates abortion at any time during a pregnancy. At any time they can rip a baby – with a beating heart, who can hear and see, who feels pain – limb from limb and throw them in the trash can. At. Any. Time.

Oh, but shooting a gorilla that was going to crush a little boy’s skull is way out of line.

Remember, Jesus didn’t die for gorillas, lions, and dogs who have no soul. He died for the babies that aren’t even being given the chance to take their first breath.

What we are seeing today is the beginning of another downward spiral. Just like when the Christian community didn’t stand up to the civil unions in one State (one of the smallest, mind you) because it didn’t affect every State yet – and now we have people unsure of what bathroom to use – we will eventually have dogs with more rights and better healthcare than our children. It begins here and will continue to spiral unless…

…Unless we finally stand up and take a stand.

I don’t mean a boycott because oh good grief, that never works anyway (I’m pretty sure all that Disney boycotting when we were kids was absolutely pointless). I mean we do what we were supposed to do all along: Not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. If Paul could stand up and defend his faith in the times of Nero, then we can do the same today.

We need to make it clear that we believe in the grace of Jesus Christ – and what that can mean to our society, if they would do the same. We can help people find the identity that they feel they have lost. We can help people find purpose so assisted suicide in their last days is not needed. We can give the elderly hope of a beautiful eternal life. We can share love, hope, and purpose with the pregnant teen down the street and offer her real options instead of the easy out she thinks is her only choice.

We don’t need to stand on Capital Hill with signs, marching, protesting, and making obscene “Christian” comments on Facebook to strangers. We do, however, need to raise our children with God being first priority so they can be the change for their generation. Jesus said people would know we are His followers by our love, not by our petitions. Love that transgender neighbor and draw Him to the saving grace of the cross by making them wonder what makes you different.

I do believe we are past waiting for judgment from God and are living in judgement, reaping the consequences of years of sin and turning our backs on God. But, even in judgment, God offers grace. Because grace is more than just an attribute; it’s Who He is. And if we are being conformed to His image, then that’s who we are, too.

We need to start now, though. God has let our society go into its depraved, senseless, foolish way of life. That simply means our lights on the hilltops need to shine that much brighter.

Living for Vacation.

It was a foggy morning in Lima. We had to go downtown to get E’s paperwork shortly after she was born. It took us awhile to find our parking spot and then we had to walk to the government office. I cradled my newborn, dressed warmly, covered in a blanket, up next to me as we walked. We had to cross a bridge over the busy highway, the noise of traffic drowning our voices out and making it impossible for us to talk as we crossed. In the middle of the bridge, I noticed a pile of blankets. But as we approached, I realized it wasn’t blankets – it was a woman with two small children beside her, sound asleep. They were wrapped in ponchos and asleep in spite of the constant traffic noise below. Maybe for them, the traffic was their white noise needed to put them to sleep? The woman, whom I assume was the mother, had her head bent, a large hat typical of Peruvian mountain folk atop her head, shielding her from the morning winter drizzle. Another smaller hat lay on the blanket in front of her – the typical sign of begging for a hand-out.

At first, I walked right past. The woman and children never even glanced up. But as I gazed at my warm, well-fed, beautiful newborn daughter in my arms, my heart broke in two. I could not imagine what that mom must be going through having to make her children sleep on a bridge in the cold while hoping someone – anyone – would take pity and throw them a couple of soles. My new mother’s heart couldn’t bear it. I turned around and handed her all the soles I was carrying. Our eyes met. I can still see her brown eyes looking at me when I think about it. And then… that was it. I hurried to catch up to my husband and when we returned from our appointment, they were gone.

This summer, my reading choices have really challenged my thinking. I started with One Thousand Gifts, which I’m still working on, to be honest. I moved to Killing Christians and now I’m halfway through No Longer a Slumdog. In the last book, he asks the question: “Is her life as valuable and precious as…” He’s talking about the beggar children of India – the ones in the lowest caste who have never bathed, never been loved, and know no other life than that of mere daily existence no matter the cost. Are their lives as precious and valuable as.. my daughter’s? my sons’? my husband’s?

He precedes this question by describing a scene similar to the one I just shared – a young beggar girl asking him for change and in that moment, he saw her as more than “just another beggar” and as a little girl the same age as his own daughter. It changed his view – and his way of life.

I have to say, that moment on the bridge changed me as well. I am so thankful for this moment and many, many others while living in Peru that opened my eyes to a life drastically different than my own.

Then on the other hand, Killing Christians is a book entirely devoted to modern-day martyrs for Christ. While these stories are not new to me, it did make me imagine what it would be like to be a mom – pregnant, nursing, leading around preschoolers, protecting teenagers – in a country where it’s illegal to be a Christian. How do you hide a hungry newborn? A tired toddler? A preschooler who doesn’t understand the need for quiet? How do you teach your little ones about Christ while simultaneously trying to keep them quiet in public about their faith? I mean think about it – my kids have been known to sing “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of their lungs in Walmart and they ask questions about God while out in public. How would you teach your children to be bold in their young faith yet wise in where they express it for fear of their lives? I can’t even comprehend that.

My husband and I have talked frequently this year about something a friend told us. We have this great friend who’s in his 90’s and still working and still giving to the Lord. He is full of wisdom and one of the things he has expressed to Brian frequently is, “Christians today live for their vacation. They work so hard all year long and for what? Vacation. They don’t take the time to enjoy their families and life in between their vacations – it’s like they work and scrimp and save for those couple of weeks. What’s the point?”

He’s so right. All I hear all the time from pretty much everyone I’m around is, “I can’t wait for vacation!… We’re saving for vacation…. Vacation is looking so good right now!… I can’t help you; we’ll be on vacation… I don’t do ministry in [pick a month] because we go on vacation…. We have to have our vacation time so we won’t be at church….”

I have to admit something to you: I have struggled all summer with the fact that we don’t get vacation this year. Nor did we get it last year. Or the year before. Or… hmm.. we’ve been married 10 years and we’ve never gone on “vacation” in the traditional sense. It has never bothered me. Until this year. For some reason, the constant talk from everyone about “vacation” has gotten me really down on the fact that we simply won’t get one in the foreseeable future. No Disney. No camping. No beach (my biggest disappointment). Not even a weekend away. Our ministries don’t allow for it, nor can we afford it. It’s made me horribly sad on more than one occasion this summer. I’ve even been frustrated at my husband for not “allowing” us to go on vacation, though I realize that it’s not him.. it’s our finances and what we do for a living that won’t “allow” it.

Then, I cracked open these books and my perspective has begun to change. There are families around the world who would give their left arm to live the life we get to live in the States. Families who literally cannot afford to feed their children so they sell them. Moms who don’t have enough milk to nurse their newborn so the choice is to either listen to the baby scream the scream of hunger constantly or sell the baby in hopes it will get a better life. Husbands and wives whose very lives are in danger every single day because of their faith. Who go to church at 1am and sing songs in a whisper to avoid getting beaten in the street.

And I’m complaining because I don’t get a vacation this summer? Who am I kidding? 

The sad reality is that most American Christians have no clue what life is like in other parts of the world. They literally live for their two-week summer vacation when they can “finally” spend time with their family, go on that dream trip, do whatever “vacation” means to them. Church on Sunday is in the way of “family time” and “vacation.” Ministry over the summer months? Why? It’s vacation time! No one’s going to come anyway, so why do we need to volunteer?

Seriously?

Yet we find ourselves wondering why the Christian faith is not being passed on and why teens and college kids quit coming to church and don’t make their faith their own. Why would they? Their parents have consistently modeled that “life” is more important than “church.” It saddens me when I hear the excuse, “We don’t want to commit because on weekends we sometimes like to just take off and go do something fun so we probably won’t be at church this summer.” Yeah. That hour and a half at church on Sunday really cuts into your down time, doesn’t it.

The church in the States needs a rude awakening that life is not all about us. Would we still even HAVE our faith if we had to live through a fraction of what people around the world have to every single day? Would we keep our faith even if meant being dirt poor and fearing for our lives? Somehow, I doubt it. Why do I say that? Because honestly, a faith that hasn’t been tested and a faith that is put on the backseat on a regular basis is not a lasting faith.

We need to quit “living for the vacation” and begin living for the Lord. Let our hearts be broken for the poor and needy. Let us remember our brothers and sisters who are fighting for their lives at this moment. Let us put Christ above absolutely everything else- including our comforts, finances, and summer vacations. Prioritize your life so that your children see that God comes first, even if it feels “inconvenient.” Give to the poor; sponsor a child; and teach your children to do the same. Go on a missions trip – take your family! Support a missionary, even if … no – especially if – it changes your finances because then you can experience what it means to sacrifice for the Lord – something those missionaries you’re supporting do daily.

Live for eternity, not the next vacation.

March 2017
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