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.

Thanksgiving Post 6

I am thankful for the wise older women God has put in my life.  I thankful for the ones I’m just now getting to know, the ones who only have time to send me a quick text now and again but still do it, and the ones who have been there for me through thick and thin, years and years even when I didn’t want them to be there with wisdom.  I have laughed, cried, been mischievous, grown, been challenged, talked off the roof, had my marriage protected when I was too stupid or angry or selfish to protect it, loved when I was unlovable, supported, encouraged and understood by these women in more ways than I can count.  Young lady?  Never think that you can make it without a wise older women, or several, to help you.

Specifically, I would like to express my heartfelt thankfulness for these six women:

My Mom: She has stood by me my whole life.  She has gently taken my hand and guided me away from danger both physically and spiritually time after time.  She doesn’t hold back when I need to be told I’m doing something wrong, but she always listens and very gently points me back at the Scripture.  She knows me inside and out, and treats me more like a dear friend than the crazy kid I sometimes feel like.  ‘Mirror, Mirror on the wall, I am my Mother after All’ is one of the highest compliments I could be paid.  I know no other woman of such grace, gentle strength, quiet heart, and diligent To Do List.  I have sat long at her feet learning both the truth of the hardships of life and sin, and also the glories and mercies of Christ.  I have learned how to order my home, love my husband, and welcome the stranger in from listening and watching her.  Also, Mom taught me to read – there are few gifts a parent can give like the gift of reading.  I’m thankful I’ve had her as my wise older woman since I was born.

Deanna Brown: It just so happened that God laid it on Deanna’s heart to escape her children once in a while.  It just so happened that someone suggested me as the babysitter so she could plan her escape.  Our friendship had flourished since that day.  Deanna, like my Mom, was a wonderful wise older woman because she listened and then often told me what I needed to hear without ever making me feel like a weirdo.  She doesn’t tell me what I want to hear, she tells me what I need to hear.  Deanna has over the years gone from being my “older woman” to being one of my dearest friends.  She is the truest supporter of my writing.  She sees my heart inside my stories in ways I don’t even see it sometimes.  She has made time for me when her own life was literally falling apart, and let me in on that pain when she could.  She has let me see her struggle and through that I have learned even more deeply the beauty of that struggle.  I am thankful for Deanna in more ways than words can express.

Wanda Jones:  It’s not every woman who gets a great Mother-in-Law.  It’s not every woman who gets a friend when she gets married.  I got both.  When you think of your friends and you quantify them by how much time you spend talking with them and hanging out with them, then my MIL is like in my top five.  She is wise, open, funny, helpful, and married to a Jones!  She has been there for me when she didn’t even know I needed her to be.  She has supported every decision we have made even when she didn’t agree with us.  She welcomes me into her home at any hour and tackles any question I have from cooking to plants to organization.  She is filled with very down to earth, Southern, practical knowledge.  Plus we both cry at Hallmark commercials.  I love my mother-in-law so much! Life wouldn’t be half the adventure it has been without her.

Deanell Smith:  Deanell and I like to joke that I’m her extra daughter.  First off, because it turns heads and makes people awkwardly stop and do a double take, but also cause this is our heart.  Deanell is my go to person for a hug.  (A trait her oldest daughter also shares that I miss.) She is always ready with open, loving arms and a welcoming word.  Deanell and I have never been able to take the time together that we want, but she has supported me when I was a fledgling and crazy Mary Kay consultant.  She did modeling work for my boutique, and she texts me big long text, that I love, checking up on me and my family.  She also has the most awesome hats.

Denise Wilkinson:  Denise is probably the newest addition to my Wisdom Team.  (Their like the Avengers but more subtle with their super powers and prone to injuring themselves without any aliens involved.)  She has gone through the steps of widowhood recently.  In my fumbling attempt to express my sorrow and love to her, I found myself being encouraged and uplifted by her.  Since then God has given me several opportunities to work with her and I found a kindred spirit in the beauties of hosting, a well set table, good food, and fellowship.  I look forward to many years of sitting at her feet and learning from her.

Kathy Butler:  Years ago, Kathy sat down and taught me to play the piano.  While my out-of-habit-fingers can barely play my favorite songs anymore, what I came away with was more important than piano playing.  From Kathy I had reinforced all the things my Mother taught me.  From a love of the country, to the amazement of adventure, to the beauty of music, and the beauty of hard work, God used Kathy to let me see that my parents weren’t crazy.  I learned that what they were teaching me was beautiful to watch.  Kathy has been a wise older woman to me from afar.  I don’t often get to sit and be with her, but I watched her as she struggled through the death of her husband, her new marriage, her children growing up, grand kids, and more.  She personifies in my mind the concept of a gentle and quiet spirit.  For that I will be forever thankful.  This is one of the benefits of Facebook.  Some people call it stalking, I call it learning from others. 🙂

There are so many more women who have come along side me, even in my church alone:  Bobbie Shaw, Amy Shaw, Brenda Richardson, Jan Gagliardi, Glyn Vasquez, Flo Woods, Jean Wilkinson, Laura McDaniels, Kim Moelling, Michelle Hodson, Jeanette Cason, Liz Kidd, Joy Hiller, Susan Tittle, Patricia Atterholt, Amy Dawn Downs, Jean King, Jeni Del Rio, and Maria DiMarco.  In my life, God brought Myrtle Fox, Mia, my Aunt Becky, Auntie Laurie, Aunt Debbie, Aunt Jenny, and Aunt Claudia, Tracy Gamboa and Lisa Dickinson, Lydia Muniz, Linda Marley, Abby Bundick, Susan Howe, Debi Blackburn, Randie Garrick, Gail Donell, Ann McCormick, and Pat Curley, my Grandmothers: Doris, Rena, Lou, Winnie, and Caroline.   So many women who impacted me in ways both big and small.  I’m thankful that the Lord so generously provided such kind and gentle hands to guide me over the years.

(I now have this overwhelming fear that I’ve forgotten someone very important.  If you are that important woman, my humblest apologies!)