Sunday Thoughts: Why I’m Not a Roman Catholic

Crucifixion_by_Josse_Lieferinxe_3

“It is finished.”

Those three words, fleshed out by other scriptures like those found in Hebrews, are why I’m a Reformed Baptist as opposed to a Roman Catholic.  I believe that the scriptures are abundantly clear that salvation is humble and simple.  The glory of the salvation of sinners is all of Christ and none of us.

I don’t practice, nor will I ever practice Lent, confessions to a priest, mass, have a priest, or wear a crucifix.  Why?

“It is finished.”

All.  100%.  Every bit of the work that needed to be done for the salvation of the church has been done.  Christ is no longer on the cross.  He is no longer in the tomb.  He is SEATED at the right hand of God.

To understand why this is so important you have to be willing to stomach a little gore, and even if you can’t, you need to.  When God chose out a people, the Israelites, He set up a system of sacrifices.  They were required to lay their hand on the head of an animal as a symbol of it taking their sins upon itself.  Then, the animal was slaughtered, disemboweled, and dismembered.  Blood had to be spilled by an innocent creature to cover sin.  We see this in Genesis when God Himself took an animal skin to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness after they sinned.  We see this in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, and we see it in Christ’s crucifixion.  Sin requires blood.  Just imagine the sheer number of animals that gave up their innocent lives in the Old Testament era.  Thousands.  Over and over and over.

Hebrews 9: 19-26:

18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

What does this mean?  It didn’t work.  The blood of animals didn’t take away sin or they would have slaughter only one animal.  If it had worked, Christ wouldn’t have had to come and die.

Not only that, but look at the rules set in place to enter the presence of God.  Have we forgotten He is holy???  Guess who got to go into His presence? One man.  One man, once a year.  That was it.  A huge, heavy veil hung between the priests and the place where God was.  Even more space was between the priest and the people.  And, an even bigger space was between where God was and women.

But Christ!  Christ came, the better Prophet, the better Priest, and the better King.  He came, lived a holy life that we are incapable of living, humbly closed his mouth when falsely accused, died on a Roman cross, rose again and by death conquered death, entered not the earthly Holy of Holies behind the veil, but heaven itself where He was accepted by the Father.  And he SAT down.  One sacrifice, for all time, for His people.  He ripped the veil in two and opened the way for me, a woman, to come to God, through His blood.

Hebrews 10:11-18:

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ[a] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Are we so quick to put veils back up between us and God?  Are we so quick to demand that we play a part in our salvation when Christ opened up the path to heaven?  Why do we run to the shadows when we have been given the light?

We are no longer required to do these things!  Our sins are forgotten.  Why should we repeat them to an earthly priest?  Was Christ’s blood not enough that we are required to do penance?  Is the blood of the Son of God that weak?  Aren’t we freed from the burdens of the law?  Why would we make new laws for ourselves?

It is finished!

Christ paid the price and asked us, his beloved church, to believe in Him.  He didn’t hand us a long list of do’s and don’ts. He told us to love one another.  Instead of abstaining from Facebook for a month, try loving the person sitting on the pew next to you!  We aren’t holier because we abstain or indulge!  We are called to love our church family.

You can go there, but the cross and the grave are both empty.

You can go there, but the cross and the grave are both empty.

I’m amazed at how quickly we Protestants are willing to cave to the pressure to add rules or suggestions to the Scriptures that Christ hasn’t given.  We fought and bled for this truth, are we so fat and lazy we now willingly give it up just a few generations later?  I’m ashamed so many Protestants are unaware of why we don’t practice Lent.  It is finished, people.  The work is done.  Christ is sufficient.  He left nothing undone.  The few things Christ has called us to do – love our church family, develop the fruit of the Spirit, become more like Him – flow from our love of Him.  And, they are hard enough without adding burdens to your load that He never gave us.

What we don’t like about what Christ has given us is that these things start in the mind and heart of the believer and work out in our small local churches.  They aren’t real visible.  They don’t go viral.  The world doesn’t see them.  It’s work and it’s a daily, moment by moment, battle.  No one gets to really see if you’re being holy or not.  I think this is where we slip up.  We constantly want to have a hand in our salvation and our sanctification.  But biblical salvation is simple, not grand.  Its glory resides in a place beyond death.  That humility is so hard for us.  We want the glory here and now on this earth.  Resist the call of the flesh.  Resist the desire to add to your salvation.

Galatians 3: 1 – 9:

1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by[a] the flesh? Did you suffer[b] so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify[c] the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

My Christ, who paid for my sin, isn’t still on a tree.  He rose again!  He isn’t wringing His hands worried about who is and isn’t being saved.  He reigns now, knowing and preserving His people, His bride.  My job is to serve my church starting with the church member I live with and going out from there.  I’ll never wear a crucifix because Christ isn’t there.  I have pastors and teachers, not priests.  I have only One great High Priest who did His job one time and it is finished.

John 8: 31 – 32

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Advertisements

Sunday Thought: God’s Holiness and my Husband

jesus-washing-the-feet-calvin-carter

It’s interesting to me to share a Sunday Thoughts based on a sermon my husband preached. I’ve done them based on my Dad’s sermons and our other pastors’ sermons. Why does it feel odd to do it based on my husband? Well, I’m very thankful for him. I’m proud of him, if I can use such a word. I pray for him. I think part of the sense of strangeness comes from the fact that our other pastors have been pastors so long it’s part of their identity. With my husband, I’m watching a man become a teacher and preacher from the inside out. It’s very humbling to be an observer of this process. It’s a constant balancing act for me to want to praise him from the roof tops, while at the same time understanding that this is all of Christ and nothing of him. I want him to remember that truth. The minute it becomes about my man, we have a serious problem. So, that’s why it’s a bit odd to me to write this.

There was something in his sermon that has stuck with me for weeks. Not like three notes from a song you can’t quiet remember, but like a new book that clutches your soul and fills you with joy. There was also something after his sermon that filled me with joy. I want to share these two things with you.

One: God’s Holiness. My husband confronted us with the sin of thinking of holiness as something hard or arrogant. I laughed to myself inwardly. I never thought of God’s holiness as hard, cold, grim, or arrogant. But if that’s true, why was I floored when he explained that the sin Isaiah preached against was injustice, harshness to the poor, taking bribes? If that is the sin, then God’s holiness is expressed in defending the weak, the fatherless and widow. God’s holiness is being kind, gentle, humble, and longsuffering, not harsh and cold. It’s also just. It doesn’t take a bribe pitting the rich against the poor.

What a beautiful thing! Holiness isn’t harsh or arrogant, but humble and submissive. I have fed on that truth, meditated, thrilled, and reveled in the joy of God’s “matchless condescension”. He who had every right to be harsh and arrogant became a poor homeless man for me. He defends the one who is defeated and broken. Oh, you who are broken look no further than the Holy God. He is kind because he is holy. He defends the orphans and widows (those who are so alone) because he is holy! Look what grace and strength is on the side of the meek. Chew on that. Read Isaiah 1 -11 and feed on how the Word defines holiness.

Meekness and majesty manhood and deity
In perfect harmony the Man who is God
Lord of eternity dwells in humanity
Kneels in humility and washes our feet

– Graham Kendrick

Two: Christ says in Ephesians that he will gift the church with pastors and teachers. Seeing my husband in the pulpit feeding me and the rest of our church with the truth of Scripture is Christ keeping his promise. Christ is gifting our little congregation with another man who can preach and teach. Will my husband ever be called as an elder? I don’t know. That’s not important. What is important is him using his gifts to serve his church and the praise and adoration I can offer up to God at this very tangible gift he has given our local body.

01

I’m so humbled and thankful to witness this in my husband and play a small part in supporting and loving him.

God is good to wretched sinners. I stand amazed  that he would use my husband to  serve his bride. I stand amazed and filled with joy.

Failure

This is a statement without any Biblical basis. It is a statement without grace.

This is a statement without any Biblical basis. It is a statement without grace.

Sometimes I spend an evening, generally while my husband unwinds with a video game, wandering around Pinterest. I enjoy looking for new recipes to try, new cleaning tricks, fashion inspiration, decorating inspiration, writing inspiration, things that make me laugh, things that creep my out, or geeky things centered around my own particular fandoms. As I scroll through pins, I’m sometimes amazed at the level of narcissism and the lack of mercy shown to other sinners gathered around us. You see pins about rejecting the negative people in your life. You see pins about getting rid of those people who don’t just think you’re the greatest. Heaven forbid they don’t think your life dream is amazing. Heaven forbid they hurt you. Well you know what to do right? Throw those people away. You don’t need that kind of grief in your life.

Really good friends are perfect. They are perfectly loyal. They are perfectly focused on you. They are perfectly supportive of everything in your life, both good and ill. Good friends, and good Christians never fail.

Do you ever scroll past these types of quotes and feel like a failure? Do you every feel like you must just be a horrible person for honestly telling someone that while their dream is nice, they need to count the cost of the choices they’re making. Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try something things just don’t go right? Do you ever remember with horrible guilt the time you were that person who wasn’t loyal and lost a friend because of it? Do you ever remember with terrible pain the time you were failed by a friend and were broken by it?

Yes you were, because you made me your god. I'm not god. I'm a failed and failing human being.

Yes you were, because you made me your god. I’m not god. I’m a failed and failing human being.

Guess what?

You are a failure.

You will fail and the people around you are going to fail.

You’re going to miss someone, look back later, see how they slipped out of your life, and you’re going to regret it. You’re going to say something about someone and regret it. You’ll believe the worst about someone only to realize you misunderstood them. You will be disappointed. You will have regrets. You will disappoint others and have regrets.

You will fail and you will be failed.

Some of us are overcome with sadness when we see all the ways we’ve failed, especially if we admire and appreciate loyalty and friendship. The weight of disloyalty and failure can almost break us.

Oh how I remember being trapped in this feeling as a young person. Why doesn't anyone notice how much pain I'm in. Yet, I never stopped picking at my pain long enough to notice anyone elses pain.

Oh how I remember being trapped in this feeling as a young person. Why doesn’t anyone notice how much pain I’m in? Yet, I never stopped picking at my pain long enough to notice the  pain of others.

Where do we find comfort?

1) Find comfort in the truth and not fiction. We all fail. We all sin. We are all sinners. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord that He saves sinners. If He didn’t I’d be lost. Knowing we all fail gives me peace because God saves sinners. I’m only perfect in Christ and the same goes for you. We are only faithful by grace. Knowing that gives us the strength we all need to forgive those who have failed us. It gives us the strength to resist being paralyzed by fear of failure. Grace! Grace!

Again, vindictive and void of grace. You continue down this path and you will have no friends.

Again, vindictive and void of grace. You continue down this path and you will have no friends.

2) Find comfort in He who is faithful. God is faithful. Look at the parable of in Luke 11/5-13. We are all the annoyed neighbor who is already tucked in bed. God is never tucked in bed. He is never annoyed. He is holy. He watches for the down trodden, the broken, the least of the least. Cry out to Him with your needs and fears. Don’t put your faith in your fellow-man, that is far too big a burden for any of us to bear. We aren’t God. We are weak. We have to sleep and eat just like you do. God doesn’t. God isn’t bound by the time, space, and corporeal weaknesses we are tied to. God is faithful. (2 Tim. 2/13)

Knowing we are failures isn’t a license to fail as much as we want, but a reminder that we are all sinners and only God is faithful. I can turn to my fellow church members and forgive and be forgiven. I can ignore the pins of people who hope in this life, build little gods of others, and try to find their satisfaction in a broken world. Better yet, I can pray for them. My sins are covered by Christ. He is my perfection. Remove that burden from your heart and from the hearts of those around you. Realize you are going to be hurt and you’re going to hurt others. Instead of finding perfection in fellow sinners, look for it in Christ, forgive, show grace, and help each other along.

Remember Iron sharpens Iron. Does that sound comfortable to you? Sparks are going to fly. Remember the wise man heeds rebuke. That means you have to endure and apply the rebuke of others. Remember that we are called to be a body in our church and not everyone is going to get to be the eyes and ears, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon of removing people who suck from your life–people!–maybe look beyond the end of your own nose to serve them instead.

Hope in this life isn’t found in being unbroken. Hope in this life is found only in the Triune God.

Oh the mercy and grace of a kind and holy God!

Oh the mercy and grace of a kind and holy God! Here, oh soul, you may take your rest.

The Journey

1-1024x723

We’ve all heard the quote that it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination, right? I think there is a ring of truth to this idea. I’ve read Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Jane Eyre several times each. They’re my comfort reads. They’re books I go back to in the winter when I need to be reminded that spring will come again. I know how they end. I know about the Gray Havens. I know about Harry’s children, and I know about Jane and Mr. Rochester’s children. I know how the story ends. I’m not reading the book for the ending. I’m reading it for the beloved journey to the end. I’m reading it to let Théoden ride again. I’m reading it to play Quidditch in my mind. I’m reading it to watch a girl do the right thing when it’s the hardest thing. Over and over I read these books because the journey is more significant than the destination.

As a Christian, the destination is of primary importance to us. The destination is where we finally see hope fulfilled. We see. We see Christ, not by faith, but with our eyes. We will hear his voice with our ears. We will touch him with our fingers. We will finally see our great elder brother, our husband, our captain, our mighty King. Our destination is truly a mighty one.

But, at the moment of salvation we are not suddenly made perfect. We aren’t whisked away to paradise. We aren’t taken from this world. We aren’t even taken out of our sinful flesh. We are left to toil, suffer, and ultimately to die. For we are humans are we not? We are mankind even as Christians. We are left in the world God made for us until we die.

The Holy Spirit puts this time, this journey, to good use. He uses it to sanctify us and make us more like Christ. That is the point. The good in Romans is not good as in happiness and comfort, but good as in “conforming us to the image of Christ”. We are constantly being melted down. We are being weaned off this world, trained—like soldiers in basic training—to live by faith, lay up our treasure in heaven, love the brethren, and grow in grace and understanding. We are not magically righteous. We are made righteous.

For us the Journey is important.

My husband put it this way when he was preaching on theology the other night: The theological logic is as filled with blessing as the theological truth.

The journey is filled with blessing just as much as the Destination.

We may not understand why God decided not to just rapture us out at the moment of regeneration. We may not understand why God decided not to make us perfect at our first breath of faith, but we can rest in His Word. The journey is important.

Romans 8: 18-30: (ESV)

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

There is a journey here, a path to follow from predestined to glorified, from suffering to being conformed to the image of Christ. And just like the stories I love, I know the destination. I know where the journey ends. That gives me hope in the journey, but it also gives me the ability to focus on the journey.

The first time you read Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or Jane Eyre every fiber in your being is focused on the destination. But when you know the destination, your focus is on the journey. I know how the story ends. Knowing the end frees you to focus on the growth of the characters. You can see Frodo fail. You can soak in Neville’s courage. You can analyze the conversations between Jane and Mr. Rochester. You can focus on the journey because you know the end.

Life is the same for a Christian. (Oh the wonderful beauty of God’s wisdom, and the lesser yet still amazing beauty of stories.) You know the end, if you have faith in Christ, which frees you to focus on the journey here on earth. You can focus on the war against sin, your fellow saints, the means of grace, truth, love, and the beauty of the bride of Christ—His Church. You know where you’re going and you know how you’re going to get there. Focus on the journey.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0618640150/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0618640150&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=PJ5M2BLL5DPBDXV5

 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0545162076/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0545162076&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=6TWJDBPZUPEDGHDI

 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0007350805/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0007350805&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=37XMIUQ6MZJELMK6

 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1433524767/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1433524767&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=NDV4V7TIFBRKXYY5

Do I have to have a gentle and quiet spirit to be a Christian?

388872_2811104364703_654227245_n

WordPress keeps its bloggers abreast of their stats, followers, and which searches led readers to their blog. We even get a little map of the world with bright colors showing us which countries our readers come from.

my_stats___wordpress_com

Just fyi…these are not my stats. 🙂

Several months ago someone googled: Do I have to have a gentle and quiet spirit to be a Christian? This question led them to me and I’ve been pondering it for a while now. (I wonder if the lady who searched Google for information was surprised to come across a blog with posts about soldiers and action flicks? Not very gentle and quiet, huh?)

My pondering, which included talking about it with my husband, focused on the fact that much like Christianity the answer is yes and no. No, you don’t have to be gentle and quiet to be a Christian. To be a Christian you have to be a sinner in need of grace and you have to have faith in Christ and his work. That’s it. Those are the basic requirements. You will never in this life be a perfect Christian lady, but, thank the good Lord, perfection isn’t required for salvation! Thankfully, we live under grace and not law.

As a sinner who deserves death, but has been clothed in the blood of the Son, accepted, and adopted, do you not now wish to live for the one who saved you? Are you not motivated by His love to do whatever he asks? He died for you, giving all, and enduring the wrath of God in your place. Will you not die to yourself for Him?

Now, a misunderstanding of what gentle and quiet means may inspire part of this question. Gentle is defined as kind, amiable, not severe, rough, or violent. Are you severe, rough, or violent? Do you use your strength to lift up or destroy? Would you like to live with a man who is gentle or rough? Would you rather be a violent woman or a gentle one? Does this definition mention guns, trucks, tomboys or any other “unfeminine” thing? No. A gentle spirit is a woman in control of herself who doesn’t use her tongue to destroy her husband or anyone else. She is gentle.

Quiet means . . . well quiet. Not loud. Does this mean women have to talk in subdued voices all the time? Let’s look at the context of the verse. The context is instructing Christian women who are free in the Lord but married to an unbeliever who is possibly abusive. Does Christ say dig in your heels and fight? No. He says a gentle and quiet spirit. (I’m not trying to say don’t get help. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, get help. If your husband breaks the law, call the police. But, don’t respond in harsh yelling.) This means be kind to the ones who are unkind and quiet to those who are loud. Don’t nag.

You know what nagging is? It’s worry. When you’re worried, when I’m worried, I get loud. I nag. And I can be verbally ungentle, especially to my husband. How do we know it stems from worry? Cause we’re told not to fear anything fearful and to be like Sarah who had plenty of reasons to fear.

Unattractive.

Unattractive.

Can you see how this pours forth from a heart that the Lord has changed? If you’re afraid because your husband is talking harshly to you, your gut response is going to be to fight back. Yell back. Push back. Instead, trusting in Christ who has already secured your soul, you respond with a kind word. You take your fear in prayer to Him and rest in Him instead of nagging your husband. Maybe your husband isn’t diligent and you fear him losing his job, or paying the taxes, or taking care of you. Don’t nag. Do him good, be gentle, and be quiet. This is a work of the Lord and completely counter to your gut reactions. This takes incredible strength, courage, and trust.

Do you have to have a gentle and quiet spirit to be a Christian? No. God has saved many loud, obnoxious, and mean women. But, all true Christian women should prayerfully strive to be gentle (self-control laced with kindness) and quiet (non-nagging, quit worrying, stop trying to be in control).

Pray that God will help us understand this and see the ways we fail. Pray that when we fail, He will remind us of his grace and the work of Christ. It’s not pleasant to see our failures, but it is very sanctifying. We all need to seek out wise older women in our church and talk with our elders and pastors.

God has richly supplied all our needs through His Word and His Church, use them. Don’t spurn His gifts by ‘going it alone’.

Trust Christ—who died for you, endured torture, lived in perfection when you couldn’t—when you’re afraid, worried, or just concerned. Remember Sarah.

1

Sunday Thoughts: Visiting the Sick

images

For the last week of April through the first week of May, I was sick. Sick for two weeks! Yuck. The first week, I mainly felt gross and had normal cold symptoms. I laid on the couch and watched Band of Brothers, Transporter 1, Safe, LA Confidential, Rambo 4, Hobbit 1 & 2, and Lord of the Rings. The second week, I was able to do a little writing and the cold symptoms abated, but I felt exhausted. Putting on a load of wash required resting for a few hours afterwards.

I tend to be an active person. I get up at 5AM and go until about 7PM. Between keeping up the house, my writing, and my far more important church and family, I rarely have a day to just sit and be. I like it this way. I don’t want to spend my life sitting and being. I want to serve and do. Being sick for two weeks required many reminders to let my body rest and heal at its own pace. It required trust in God’s providence and calm. I hope I learned from this experience how to better love others who are sick. In our own church, we have several people who have battled illness for years, not just days and weeks. We have fellow saints who know, barring accidents, what’s going to bring them face to face with the Lord someday in the future. How can I better serve shut-ins, those struggling with long-term illnesses, or those who just caught what’s going around? Here are the things I noticed while I was sick.

FALLING-IN-REVERSE-Framed-Quote-604

  • Communication: I had so many text and Facebook comments to encourage me to rest, to let me know I was missed, and reminding me to trust the Lord. Communication helps the person whose world is suddenly reduced to a room by reminding them of the bigger world outside, the place they hold in your lives, and your desire to have them back. It lifts the spirit and the morale. Often I was too sick to take phone calls—never knew how much energy that required—or have visitors who weren’t related to me, but thank goodness for Facebook and texting. This does require the sick person being at least slightly open about being sick. You can’t hide away and then be upset when no one can find you.
    I’m renewed in my determination, after being sick, to not lose track of my own church family members who are struggling with sickness. Some of them can’t come to church. We need to notice that and do what we can to remind them they are still part of our body. Send a note. Send flowers. Send a text. For those of us afflicted with lighter health issues, it’s important to notice when a member is gone. We have moms who don’t make it to church for weeks due to a rampaging cold or stomach flu. Text them. Facebook them. Remind them that this is a season.
  • Empathy: As a writer, I tend to analyze and explore every experience I have, or that you have, so I can increase my character realism. Being shut up for two weeks gave me new insight into the life of those who are shut up all the time and renewed my empathy for them. It reminded me to pray for them. To pray they don’t listen to the lies of their heart and the Devil and become bitter. It’s easy to do. From my window, I could see my sisters getting together to take a walk through our neighborhood. I had to swallow a hint of bitterness and selfishness. How dare they get together without me??? (As if we can only get together when I’m around.) Watching people do things you can’t, or finding out that life had to go on even though you weren’t there to be in it can be very hard, even when you’re thinking logically through the situation. Being sick helped me glimpse this danger, which will help me pray for those who are sick.
  • Visiting the Sick: I don’t know about you, but I tend to stay away from sick people . . .they’re sick. Or, I don’t think about visiting someone who is sick. I think about texting them, but I don’t think about visiting them. Part of this stems from being a bit of a loner. When I’m sick, I tend to want everyone to go away. But, even then, a visit from my moms or sisters for just a second or two can really lift my spirits. This obviously has to be balanced with how much the sick person can handle, but a visit can really make a difference. A drawing from my nephew and a gift box from my sister made my whole week. We are instructed to visit the sick in the Scriptures. Christ spent a fair amount of His time with the sick. This is an example we should follow. A visit doesn’t have to be in person, it can be a simple note just saying the person is missed.

36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ – Matthew 25:36

index

Being sick for a few weeks reminded me of our church members who are sick even now. I think about Sherman, Mark, Delbert, my Dad, and others. I think about my own Grandma and Aunt Vi who, due to age, aren’t able to make it to church as often as they like, or ever. I’m convicted. I go about many of my days without thinking about them, praying for them, or finding some way to visit them. There are people who have struggled with major health issues in our church, some of which, I’m embarrassed to say, I didn’t even really notice. I want to notice. I want to visit. I want to let them know they’re loved and missed. This was done for me. I want to do it for others.

Being sick for a few weeks reminded me of the joy of being visited, the joy of being missed, the joy of being in a church family. It convicted me of the ways I don’t make time for others who are sick in my church family. It reminded me to that my health is not promised to me, but God’s goodness is.

I’m very thankful for Christ’s gentle leading and I hope I can hold onto the frustration I felt at being in this room, trapped on the couch by my own body, so that I can better love and serve my fellow pilgrims.

blessings-for-pinterest-330x247If you would like to read a couple of blogs written by people who deal with chronic illness, or who are  caregivers, I can suggest two, written by a mother and daughter I love very much.

http://strokemanswoman.wordpress.com/

http://likeabedofrest.wordpress.com/

Sunday Thoughts: The Seven Deadly Sins

Any chance I have to be a complete geek I'm going to take. Full Metal Alchemists is one of my favorite animes of all time!

Any chance I have to be a complete geek I’m going to take. Full Metal Alchemists is one of my favorite animes of all time!

Our modern culture seems to have forgotten that Lust is one of the seven deadly sins. We’re all still pretty agreed on Greed, Wrath, and Gluttony. Sloth, Pride, and Envy seem tolerated as long as they don’t get out of hand. But Lust is fully accepted. It’s gone from deadly to everyone does it so it must just be a natural working of our chemical make-up, right?

“If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” (Awww, the oft missed wisdom of parents.)

I noticed this the other day while I was listening to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Gaiman gave a broad description of the city of London going on about its everyday life. He threw lust in there alongside paying the bills and grocery shopping. He set it on the same level as those mundane, every day activities.

If anyone could make me set my pen down and stop writing, it would be Neil Gaiman. His books are so beautiful it hurts. The descriptions are vivid and unique. The characters are both down to earth and fantastical. His stories are full of whispered hints of past fairy tales, past stories, shared culture. They are rich, engaging, and masterfully detailed. And yet. Yet, I’m constantly frustrated by my inability to share them without caveats. He always has something inappropriate or sinful in them.

It’s not that a book is only good if it doesn’t have sin. Quite the opposite. We need sin in our stories or we have no salvation. We need death or we have no resurrection. But so many stories, Gaiman included, don’t show the consequences of sin. They might show the consequences of some sin in the anti-hero, or the villain, or as conflict, but it’s never treated as sin. Rarely, and growing more rare, do the characters see their sin, their need for salvation and repentance. Half, or more, of the 10 commandments are treated as guidelines and suggestions, if not just completely ignored.

You can listen to the BBC production, or Gaiman reading it himself. I suggest both!

You can listen to the BBC production, or Gaiman reading it himself. I suggest both!

Characters face the consequences of bad decisions but rarely for their lust. It’s just treated like, “well, everyone does it, what are you gonna do.” Shrug shoulders. I have a thought! We could fight it. We could show the fact that lust leads to death just as surely as gluttony does. We could stop pretending teen pregnancy, rampant abortion, lack of marriage vow holding, and a whole slew of other problems don’t exist as a consequence of lust. We could open our eyes and see the price of sin is death.

But, that is a supernatural work. It requires the work of the Holy Spirit. Dead men can’t smell their own stink.

Thus, I will hold my pen and not throw it down in awe of the gift God gave another man. I will keep writing so that not all the stories treat lust like it’s the equivalent of a stomach rumble. And I will keep copying—in the simple way a child draws stick figures as he watches his father paint—my heavenly Father by saving sinners from their sin. This is what I will aim to write. And I will do it as beautifully as I can using the gift given to me.

I will also keep reading Neil Gaiman because he sparks meditation on the grace of God by showing me how lost I am without that blessed blood shed for me.

Sunday Thoughts: Cruel and Heartless World

1797606_747694138582912_1031761939_n

Ever since I saw this quote the other day, I’ve been wrestling with it.  Now, granted, my parents probably took the toughen stance on child raising, so I’m a little partial to it.  I see that.  It’s normal to want to defend how you were raised when you had a great childhood.  But, I think it goes beyond that.  Thus, the wrestling.  I’m asking myself if I’m just defending my own parents, or if there is something deeper?  Am I having a knee-jerk reaction away from something sweet and emotional?  I do that.  I get so fed up with how sweet everything is that I tend to charge in the total opposite direction.  And this is not because I don’t like unicorns or something.  I do.  I own Legend.  This is, I think, a difference in philosophy.  So let’s wrestle with this.

The greatest Unicorn movie every made.

The greatest Unicorn movie every made.

get-attachment.aspx_My first reaction:  This is horrible advice.  Why?  Because the world is cruel and heartless.  The world is a cold, dark, selfish place…and anyone who says otherwise is selling something.  (Sorry.  I couldn’t resist.) If you don’t prepare your kids on some level, they’ll get eaten alive.  If you don’t help your kids be tough, smart, and strong, you’re leaving them open to all kinds of attacks.  I know people this has happened to.  I’ve seen it.  The world is full of dangers and it is your job as a parent to help your kid be ready to face those dangers.  This is why we teach them not to talk to strangers and not to accept candy from strangers.  It doesn’t make the world less cruel and heartless if you don’t teach your children this, it makes them open to kidnapping and worse.  My dad telling me as a young woman not to help men with broken arms didn’t suddenly create more men like Ted Bundy.  It taught me not trust my sense of pity, and to see beyond the surface situation to the dangers underneath.  Ted Bundy was out there.  It would have been horribly derelict of my father not to prepare me for that on some level.

080411_al_bundy_640

Ted Bundy

My second reaction:  This quote shows the loss of our understanding of total depravity.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, humanist still believe that we human beings can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, ignore God, and somehow become this magically enlightened society with no more problems.  Has anyone anywhere ever found this to work?  America has so many different utopian cults attempt this in small communes.  Has any of them every worked?  Even in a small group has anyone managed to eradicate greed, lust, envy, lying, stealing, and all the outcomes of such acts?  I’ve yet to read of any group that has done this to any effect, or in any long-term manner.  It won’t work.  Do you want to know why?  Because us human beings aren’t good.  In our core, down in the dark center of who we are, we aren’t good.  Now, we do good things.  We’re generous.  We forgive.  We heal.  We hold out a hand to those in need.  But that’s all common grace.  And not one bit of that is purely good.  We can all be very selfish while doing good.  We can be proud.  We can be arrogant.  So, it is pure folly to think that we can somehow make the world a good place if we just raise our children right.  You think serial killers don’t have moms?  You think they set out to raise sadistic killers?

My third reaction:  Can’t you do both?  Can’t you raise a warrior who loves?  Is it impossible to raise a boy to be a man who both loves and defends his family?  Is it impossible to raise a daughter who knows how to watch out for bad situations and still helps those in need?  Is it impossible to be tough and gentle?  (It’s not, because my husband is!)  I watched my mom work on toughening my brothers up for years so that they wouldn’t be whiny men.  They are some of the kindest men I have ever known.  She taught them to be tough so that they would learn how to harness their physical power and not hurt those weaker than themselves.  I was a bit on the sickly side as a teen, didn’t do well in my studies, and was honestly a bit on the lazy side.  My mom was hard on me.  She was tough.  We laughed at other home schooled kids.  They had it easy.  Homework in your pajamas? You better be running a fever. I’m so thankful for this now.  I’m so thankful my mom taught me how to keep going even when I wanted to stop.  Now I apply that to serving my church, my husband, and my family.  A child taught only one side or the other is going to be in danger or going to be mean.  You must teach your children self-control and generosity.

My fourth reaction:  This quote makes me want to sing A Boy Named Sue.  Ha!  This sounds like something someone would say who got disciplined as a child by a parent who skated close to the abusive side.  Like they had a dad who spanked but never hugged afterwards.  I get how hard that would be.  I’m thankful my dad did both.  But I see all the kids out there who need discipline so badly and I think this is exactly the mentality their parents must have: kids should be innocent if we want peace in the world.

I think this is one of those quotes that tugs at the old heartstrings.  Who doesn’t want a world less cruel and heartless?  But I think it can be a bit misguiding if you don’t have the right place to hang it.  You have to understand how to balance toughening your kids up to face life and teaching them how to be kind to others.  If you don’t, you’ll either abuse your kids, or you’ll create dangerous situations for them.  Discipline your kids and then hug them.  Teach them to not whine, but to be kind.  Teach them pity and protection.

(And maybe watch Princess Bride with them once in a while.  You’ll find it full of great life lessons!)69199-get-used-to-disappointment-gif-bjgn

Sunday Thoughts: Happiness and the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Movement

Yes, cause you are the center of the universe and get to decide who is worthy and unworthy.

Yes, cause you are the center of the universe and get to decide who is worthy and unworthy.

I know I promised to start the series on things I learned from managing our boutiques that have helped me as a housewife, but two things have been irritating me so I’m going to write about them first.

Sometimes a rage builds inside me, wanting out.  Maybe it’s my Irish roots turning me into a flaming redhead with anger management issues, but whatever the reasons, it happens.  In my line of sight today are two things: one, our modern-day concepts of personal happiness, and two the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity movement.

So, first things first.  You’ve all seen the quotes on Pinterest, on cards, plaques and on your Facebook feed proclaiming your happiness to be of chief importance, right?  They say that true love accepts you for who you are, no one should ever try to change you, and that if the world doesn’t accept you as you are, you have the right to reject and ignore them.

How narcissistic and self-focused could we possibly be?  If I followed any of this advice, I would be divorced, fat, lazy, lonely, alone, and angry at the world. (I’m not saying being fat is a sin, I’m saying I would be a glutton cause I like food.)  I would push most, if not all, of you out of my life starting with my husband and going on from there.  When did we decide being happy was the chief end of man?  And why don’t we see the inherit dangers that belief brings.  With that line of thinking, we would see the murdering of innocents because they get in the way, a high divorce rate, and suicide….oh wait.  We see all that.  This belief system would also incapacitate a society from convicting murderers of all stripes from bullies, to serial killers and terrorist….oh wait, we see that too.

When I think my goal in life is to be happy and that all stress should be eliminated, then I am my own god, my own authority, and you have no right to say otherwise.  Could we embrace a more unchristian attitude?  Now, it is true that I can’t change my husband….in the grand scheme of things, and he can’t change me.  But, we should be helping each other in the process of sanctification.  If my happiness and lack of stress are the most important thing, then I need him out of my life.  I mean the guy wants me to decide what’s for dinner.  He works all day and expects me to keep the house clean, our finances done, and food on the table.  I don’t like doing finances, cleaning the house, or deciding what to cook.  I’d rather sit on the couch and write fantasy stories.  Who does he think he is?  Well, I think he thinks he’s responsible for leading our home, and the man earning the paycheck while I work from home, which is exactly what I’ve been telling him for years that I wanted to do.  If he wanted to do what made him happy, he would sit at home playing video games all day and eating junk food.  If we both did what made us happy, we would both be slobs living on welfare doing nothing.

See the problem is that our society has lost a critical component of truth – total depravity.  Human beings are not naturally good, kind, hard-working, honestly, loyal things.  Occasionally, God shows us some common grace and we are all those things.  But, left to ourselves, left to pursue our own happiness, we would all stop working, engaging, and growing.  We would, instead, sit around selfishly ignoring others, while the world crumbled around us.

Because Stress is the worst Sin you can have in your life.

Because Stress is the worst Sin you can have in your life.

The idea that you should love me for who I am is another lie.  Have you looked in the mirror recently?  I’m so glad my husband loves me despite who I am.  I’m glad God loves me because of Christ.  I’m not a nice person, nor a pretty one.  I can only be those things by the grace of God.  I’m thankful He puts people in my life to help me who aren’t worried about me being happy, but instead being holy.  Pursuing holiness is hard work and stressful.  It requires you to put yourself in a state of iron sharpening iron.  You have to hang out with people who just don’t think highly enough about you.  You have to hang out with people who aren’t as cool as you.  The horror.  (You should read this with your sarcasm voice.)

We, as Christians, need to stop pinning, reposting, and decorating with lies.  We need to see them for what they are – the Devil’s whispers.  We need to remember that nowhere in the Bible does God say our happiness is our chief end, that you need to get rid of stress, and you should be accepted for all you are.  What the Bible does say is that we should be poor in spirit, mourn over our sin, be meek of heart, and put on the fruit of the Spirit.  We are to go to war against sin.  War.  If you’ve forgotten how bloody war is, go watch Lone Survivor.

And, the Health, Wealth and Prosperity movement only adds to this.  Could there possibly be more of a First World Problem than not being healthy, wealthy, and prosperous enough?  Only in a wealthy country like America could such a religion spring out of the Bible.
“God is not afraid of pain.  He does not try to keep us from it.  He does not avoid it for Himself.”  – The Language of Sparrows

So...who is defining blessings and what gave you the right to just hand them out without any qualification?

So…who is defining blessings and what gave you the right to just hand them out without any qualification?

If you can read the Bible and deduce that you are supposed to be wealthy here on earth, you have skipped some critical passages.  If that was true, why did Christ die?  But not just die, why wasn’t he wealthy, healthy, and prosperous while he was here?  Did he not have enough faith?  What part of laying your treasure in heaven do you not understand?  What part of the world hating you do you not get?  The Bible is not speaking of physical riches but Spiritual ones.  We aren’t called to live healthy wealthy lives, but quiet ones in the pursuit of holiness.  God is not in the business of making you happy.  He is in the business of making you holy.

“Life is pain, Highness.  And anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”  – The Princess Bride

Do you think Pastor Saeed Abedini is clinging to promises of happiness here on earth while he suffers, and is tortured in an Iranian Prison?  No.  Those concepts won’t sustain you when you are suffering, being tortured, hurting, angry, or enduring trials.  You must cling to the hope that just as Christ suffered, you will suffer, and just as He is glorified, you will be glorified too.  You must know and understand that the sufferings of this life are nothing compared to heaven, to seeing Christ.  You must know that God is in control and is not the cosmic Santa Claus, but the one who is redeeming, cleansing, and making holy a people unto Himself.

Don’t let yourself get sucked into the idea that all suffering is to be avoided.  Keep your eyes on your treasures in heaven, on Christ.  Don’t look for a better church, better friends, and a better life.  Look for the fruit of the Spirit, a way to serve, and battle your own sin.  This is the life of a believer.  Not happiness.  Not peace.  Not distressing.  Fighting.  Failing.  Looking to grace and the hope of eternal life motivated by the unfathomable richness of the love of God seen in Christ….and Christ died.  Don’t lose that.  Christ died.  Do you want to be like Christ?  Remember he died in a point of submission.  How much does that fly in the face of our culture?

You are never out of the fight.  Don’t let the world around you define who you are!  Look to the Scripture.  Look to Christ.  Submit your heart and mind to the teachings of the Scripture and get busy serving your local church.

Okay….I’m getting off my soapbox and getting busy managing my home.

Sunday Thoughts: Facebook Syndrome

Facebook-logo-1817834_pngFirst off, this is not a rant against Facebook.  I love Facebook.  It’s the only way I’m able to keep up with my very large and amazing family.  It’s great for storing and sharing pictures.  More importantly, it’s helped me take steps to get to know my church family on a more personal level.  Seeing their status updates throughout the week allows me to pray for them, encourage them, laugh with them, and serve them better.

I tend to be the kind of person who doesn’t rant on Facebook or even post negative things.  I try to be positive and light, focused on what activities I’m involved in, and share happy events.  These types of things seem more appropriate for a social venue with 200+ friends and family members reading my status updates.  When your audience ranges from pastors, parents, grandparents, kids, old friends and new it seems wise to practice discretion and limit the deep personal content.

Here’s the rub: sometimes we use Facebook, and its appropriate surface relationships, as a crutch and forget to get to know one another on a deeper level.  This is the Facebook Syndrome, or the, “Hi, how are you?”, “Fine.  How are you?” Syndrome.

My life is far more complicated and difficult than any of my Facebook statuses would ever indicate.  (This is a personal choice.  I don’t have a problem with someone posting prayer requests or negative circumstances.)  Because I choose to do this, I often wonder if others do as well.  Because I know some of my Facebook friends on a more personal, open level, I know they do.

This means we don’t know what a week has held for a fellow believer based on their Facebook status updates.  They may have experienced horror, joy, sadness, depression, struggles, or persecution.  Some things may weigh so heavy on a believer’s heart that posting anything about it on Facebook can seem flippant and disrespectful.  Sometimes things can happen that are so painful talking about them in the lunch line or between services is humanly impossible.  Behind the smile or the busy status update could be concern for a brother or sister overseas, a sister or friend’s miscarriage, a grandparent’s death, a long term illness, a chronically sick spouse, a difficult marriage, great loneliness, job stress, or aging parents.

Our lives are more than our Facebook status updates.  We want to share life’s blessings and wall up our tears.  It’s nice to be happy and busy.  We certainly don’t want to come across as whiny, needy, or depressing to others.  But, dear church members, if we don’t move beyond quick hellos and Facebook status updates we aren’t serving or loving one another.  Who will bear us up if we don’t share our tears with one another?

Go out of your way to get to know your church family.  You don’t have to be the only shoulder to cry on – we all have emotional limits – just don’t content yourself with a Facebook only relationship with your church family.  Don’t be satisfied with a surface relationship.  That’s a great place to start, but don’t stop there.  Practice hospitality.  Text, write a note, go out for coffee, visit, and share.  Be open with your own walk and needs, without gossiping, and listen to the person on the other side of the table.  Actively seek the unpopular, fringe members of your church.  You will find that when you seek to be a friend, you suddenly have many friends.  When you pour yourself out for others, you are blessed.  Don’t think about yourself, think about others and you will find that the Lord has fully supplied your needs.

A Rare Selfie of Grand duchess Anastasia Nicholaevna, early 1910

A Rare Selfie of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholaevna, early 1910

We live in a culture focused on ourselves.  We can create our own online personas, take selfies at more forgiving and filtered angles, and we indulge in a fair amount of ‘me’ time.  With all this online exposure and all this time focused on yourself, do you ever feel alone?  Do you ever wish someone knew you, understood what was going on in your heart and head, and still liked you?  Dear friend!  If you want to have friends, be a friend.  We have forgotten about self-sacrifice.  Pouring yourself out for people is largely uncool these days, but it’s the mark of a believer in their church.

You know the popular passage “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you”? Have you ever noticed its context?  It is in the context of our submission and humility in our local church!  Think about that!  Is it hard for you to reach out to people?  Is it hard for you to open up to others on anything deeper than your weekend and your favorite movies?  Do you talk to wise, older women and then take their advice?  Do you listen to your family?  It’s hard.  It’s very hard to be in an active, open, loving church family.  Why?  It requires work, planning, and purpose.  More importantly, it requires you to work with sinners.  It requires you to forgive and love.  It requires you to be a soldier of the Lord, to put yourself in harm’s way for the sake of the soldier next to you, and he might be the one hurting you.

hbctxThe good news, the silver lining?  Christ is the head of this family, our elder brother, our King.  He walks amongst His lamp stands, and He commands us to cast our cares on him.  So dearest family member, let’s strive together to shake of the ease of a relationship only as deep as Facebook, and go at the hard work of learning, listening, and loving each other.  You and I might be surprised to find we have plenty in common, even if it’s just grace – what a place to start!  My experience has been that my preconceived notions about my fellow church members are often wrong or far too shallow.  I have found that when I take the time to get to know my church family, they are the salt of the earth.