Stupid Stuff Christians Do

Be very careful, then how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil~ Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV

 We all do stupid stuff sometimes. It’s simply a small piece of this thing we call “being human”.

 Some stupid stuff is essentially inconsequential in the grand scheme. Things like shopping at Costco the day before a holiday, ordering the triple cheeseburger meal, or forgetting to turn the heater down at night are all choices that will cause no serious harm to anyone but us.  

 Then there’s the big stuff.

 When I say ‘big’, I am talking about actions that are potentially life altering and destructive. Driving drunk, using drugs, having affairs, and committing armed robbery all fall neatly into the category of really stupid stuff that has the potential to hurt all kinds of people.

 Then there’s the stupid stuff Christians do.

 Most of the stupid stuff Christians do is not intended to harm anyone. We just do stuff without bothering to question the rightness, wrongness or wisdom of our actions.

 If we are lucky and circumstances merciful we are the only ones hurt by the stupid stuff we do. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as luck and circumstances are rarely merciful. When one Christian does a stupid thing it becomes harder for all Christians to share the gospel effectively, it also causes all Christian to appear ignorant, mean-spirited and/or hypocritical to the unsaved world.

 Any list of stupid stuff Christians should avoid needs to begin with…

 1. Speaking in anger- James 1:20

 I know there are times when things just need to be said and saying them when we are angry feels really good. However, I have learned the hard way that speaking our minds when angry rarely leads anywhere beneficial or productive.

 2. Refusing to take advice or accept correction- Proverbs 19:20, Proverbs 12:1.

 Imprudent people assume they already know everything about everything. Wise people receive criticism and evaluate it honestly, seek out divergent opinions and request guidance. Wise people don’t do everything others tell them to do (that would be stupid) but they are willing to hear others out.

 3. Tolerating sinful behavior from the people we love- Matthew 18:15, Luke 17:3, Galatians 6:1-2, Jude 22-24

 In a culture where the highest value is “judge not lest you be judged” confronting sin feels counter-intuitive and wrong. However, a well-timed, well-worded and loving confrontation might just be the only thing that saves a rebellious person from a lifetime of self-destruction and an eternity spent in hell.

 4. Allowing personal sin to take root in secret- Genesis 4:7

 If you do not wish to participate in a particular activity (with a few notable exceptions) in front of your Mother, Pastor, supervisor or a police officer, that activity likely has the power to destroy you. Stop it. Now.

 5. Playing with dangerous behaviors that may or may not be sinful- Ephesians 5:15

 Just because an activity is legal that does not make it a wise thing to do or to do excessively. We should think long and hard before we entangle ourselves in any behavior with that has the potential for self-destruction.  

 6. Isolation- Genesis 2:18

 A natural response to hurt for certain types of people is to isolate himself or herself from anyone who might possibly cause more pain (basically all of humanity). This form of self-protection feels noble and even wise but is a really terrible idea. Isolation inevitably breeds peculiar ideas and weird behaviors. Neither helps the cause of Christ.

 7. Choosing to have the wrong kinds of people in our lives- Proverbs 13:20, 1st Corinthians 15:33, 2nd Corinthians 6:14

 Sadly enough good people rarely affect bad people to the same degree that bad people affect good people. That’s why even grownups ought to choose their friends, spouses and associates wisely.

 8. Believing everything we hear or read- Proverbs 18:15, Matthew 10:16

 Christians are sometimes the most gullible people on earth and it really hurts Christianity. God calls His people to be wise, perceptive and discerning. If a news story (no matter how juicy) cannot be substantiated by more than one source, assume it’s false and do not post it on Facebook, mention it to your prayer group or write a blog about it. Please.

 9. Not listening to others- Acts 17:16-34

 I am shocked at the number of Christians I know who simply will not listen to anyone or even watch an interview with a person who does not share their opinion on EVERYTHING. It’s true that we need to be discerning about what and whom we allow to influence us. That said, if we never engage with people who think differently than we do we will never impact our world for Jesus.

 Most of this stuff is less about smart and stupid than making the decision to consistently seek God and do life His way. When we look to God and His word for guidance He directs our steps and we cannot help but become wise; and in the process of becoming wise we stop doing stupid stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Wishlist for the Church In 2017

 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ~ Philippians 1:9-10 NIV

I have a rather sketchy relationship with New Year’s resolutions.

 I love the whole notion of New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, I tend to struggle with the follow-thru required to actually bring my dreams of self-betterment to fruition.

 It all starts out fairly well.

 Like most folks I typically I find myself feeling a bit pudgy and sluggish between Christmas and News Years. It’s the sad but predictable outcome of too many Christmas cookies and not enough time on the treadmill in the weeks leading up to the holidays. So logically my goals for the coming year begin with a strategy for weight loss and reaching a level of physical fitness I have never achieved before (a doubtful endeavor at my age and stage of life, but you can’t fault a woman for hoping).

 Next, because I like to consider myself a spiritually minded individual, I normally include a resolution to study and pray more. I also typically resolve to read at least a couple of books written by people who are smarter and more spiritual than I am. I also always include some sort of strategy to better myself in a tangible way (i.e. become a better wife, mother, writer, speaker, leader, friend etc.)

 To my credit, I tend to do better at the stuff that actually matters (spiritual discipline, self-improvement, prayer) than I do at weight loss and achieving physical fitness goals. The only time I can remember losing a significant amount of weight in the month of January was the year my daughter was born. She was born in January, so losing fifteen pounds wasn’t exactly an earth-shattering achievement

 My biggest grievance with New Years resolutions is that most years my resolve vanishes around the same time the Valentines candy shows up on store shelves. Therefore, this year I am taking a new approach. Rather than simply resolving to make some superficial changes in my life, I have decided to choose a few issues and make them a focus of prayer throughout the year.

 Some of the things I intend to pray about are personal; others are more global, most are both. Many of my prayers for this coming year will be focused on the church and what I hope God does in the lives of His people (me included) this coming year.

 Without question, my number one yearning for Christians is that we will do what needs to be done to make the main thing the main thing once again. From God’s perspective the main thing is for people who don’t know Jesus to come to know Jesus and repent of their sins (Acts 4:12, 1st Timothy 2:3-4, John 3:16).

 Sadly, evangelism ceased to be the main thing in most of our churches long ago. Making unsaved people feel loved, welcome and utterly un-judged has taken a backseat to getting those people saved and walking in truth (Matthew 28:19-20). I pray this is the year we do the soul searching and hard work necessary to make evangelism a priority in the life of the Church once again.

 My hope is that this is the year we will gain a deeper understanding of the complexity and depth of Christian love. Love is our highest calling as Christians (1st John 4:7, 1st Corinthians 13) no one with even a shallow acquaintance with Scripture would bother arguing against that point. However, Christian love is more complicated than simply being nice to sinful people.

 Jesus was the nicest, kindest person who ever lived. However, niceness did not prevent Him from informing sinners they would go to hell if they refused to repent of their sins (Matthew 4:17, Luke 13:2-3, John 8:11) and kindness didn’t stop Him from calling out hypocrisy and pretense when He encountered it (Matthew 23). I’m thinking it’s time for the pendulum to swing back and for the church to preach all aspects of the gospel consistently once again.

 My prayer is that followers of Jesus will do the hard things that need to be done so we can grow into the people God has called us to be and reach the people God has called us to reach. If we do that, 2017 will be the year we truly impact our lost and hurting world for Jesus Christ.

 Happy New Year! 

 

 

 

 

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

Be strong and have strength of heart. Do not be afraid or shake with fear because of them. For the Lord your God is the One Who goes with you. He will be faithful to you. He will not leave you alone~ Deuteronomy 31:6-7 NLV

 I do not pretend to know everything there is to know about life.

 I freely admit that there is more I don’t know than there is that I do know. Moreover I am well aware that even after more decades on this planet than I like to talk about I probably still don’t know what I don’t know.

 Sigh.

 That said, there are some things I am convinced are true. The first is that God is a good God, and He always has our best interests at heart, even when our feelings or circumstances tell us something different. The second is that spiritual truth simply does not change or become untrue because the culture in which we live tells us otherwise. God’s opinions do not “evolve”. If something was true from a spiritual perspective two thousand years ago then it is still true today. Notwithstanding all the reports you have likely heard to the contrary.

 And lastly, I am persuaded that every human being who walks through life on this silly, sin-sick planet has or will experience the frustration and confusion that comes with not knowing what to do or how to respond to a particular situation or problem. Sadly, there are times in this life when education, wisdom or extensive personal experiences still leave us thoroughly ill equipped to handle the junk life throws at us.

 An unpleasant sense of defeat generally accompanies these times. The muddle is further compounded by the fact that the stuff that vexes us most in life is generally profoundly personal and often deeply painful. This ends up leaving even the best of us feeling bewildered, vulnerable and peeved with God.

 Which leads to doing a whole lot of nothing.

 I am convinced that the nuts and bolts story of how we got to this place in life matters a whole lot less than what we do with the circumstances we are faced with. Don’t get me wrong; there is value in self-examination. Self-examination and an honest assessment of our actions and reactions is the only thing that will keep us from replicating the same stupid mistakes over and over again.

 However, it’s what we do when we don’t know what to do that determines our character and ultimately it’s our character that determines our destiny (please pardon the trite platitude).

 Again, I do not know everything there is to know about this or any other subject. However, I do have more experience than I care to admit with not knowing what to do in a particular situation (don’t ask). So today I want to share a few tips for maneuvering through the morass of what to do when you don’t know what to do.

 First…

 Don’t get stuck in a muddle of misery and self-pity.

 Personal blows such as a job loss, relational rejection, business failure, or a divorce are horrendous, life-altering, episodes that really do warrant a legitimate grieving process. It’s crucial that we allow ourselves be sad or angry when we experience a big hurt or loss, it’s also crucial we don’t get stuck in feelings of sadness or self-pity. At some point we have to heal from the hurt, take risks again and find a new normal.  

 Do something good

 Anytime we make a big mistake or suffer through a hurtful situation it’s tempting to isolate ourselves and wait for good things to come our way. Sadly, good things rarely just happen. Good things typically transpire because we are doing good things for other people (Galatians 6:7). So turn off the electronic devices and and go interact with humanity. Volunteer in a soup kitchen, get to know a lonely neighbor, or help out at your church. It may not change your circumstances but it will make you feel better about life.

 Don’t blame God.

 Trust me, it’s not His fault.

 Forgive the jerks that hurt you

 Lack of forgiveness keeps us trapped in a never-ending cycle of bitterness that makes it almost impossible to see a way out of our current circumstances. The only way to break the cycle is to let go of resentments and forgive. It frees us up to see the future that God has prepared for us.

 There is one other thing I am staunchly persuaded is true. I am sure God never allows anything, no matter how painful or futile it may feel to us, into our life without a greater purpose. Sometimes when we don’t know what to do, God wants us to get to know Him better. When that task is accomplished, then He will show us what to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When God Calls You to Love a Jerk

To you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you~ Luke 6:27-28 NIV

 Pretty much every Christian I know (myself included) likes to pontificate endlessly on the topic of love.

 Why on earth wouldn’t we?

 In a world that is increasingly more hostile towards Christians and their faith, love is one of the few doctrines left that everyone likes discussing. Sin, judgment, obedience and hell are sensitive, uncomfortable, sticky-wicket kinds of issues that are all-but certain to offend pretty much everyone. However, no one can quarrel with the whole notion of loving people.

 That said, even a hasty analysis of the comments section of any news article or blog piece posted on the Internet clues us in to the fact that although most people love the idea of love, and we adore quoting scriptures concerning the importance of loving people, we struggle mightily with the implementation of loving people.

 The Christian standard of love is outrageously high and almost impossible to achieve, mostly because some people are jerks and God calls us to love them anyway. Scripture commands we love people who do not love us back and those who openly despise us. We are also instructed to love people who make fun of what we believe, insult our intelligence and tell lies about us (Romans 12:9-21).

 This is quite obviously easier said than done.

 There is no question that loving people (even nice people) is a concept that is far less painful to achieve in theory than in practice. That said, it’s easier to love a person when there is relationship in place or an emotional bond that has already been established.

 Showing love to a wayward child or a spouse with a less than pleasant disposition is somehow much easier than trying to muster up some emotional warmth or caring for a heartless, egomaniacal boss or an intellectually pretentious brother-in-law/college professor/auntie/co-worker. The one who cannot seem to stop themselves from insinuating that the only possible motivations anyone could possibly have for voting for a particular political party would be racism, homophobia or a criminal level of stupidity. It’s even harder to muster grace (let alone love) for the media personality who is constantly undermining decency and openly supporting actions and attitudes wholeheartedly contrary to God’s way of doing things.

 Sigh.    

 Thankfully, authentic Christian love is more about making a choice than manufacturing a feeling. We can choose to behave in a loving way towards people we don’t particularly like. In the process we might actually change hearts and minds in a way that hateful and nasty rhetoric or sidelong glances never will.

 Loving jerks needs to begin with some honest self-examination. Sometimes we are the innocent victims of jerks and other times we are the ones acting like a jerk. Even Christians are capable of less than Christian behavior from time-to-time, especially when someone is intentionally pushing our buttons. Any time we feel offended or hurt, it’s a good time to prayerfully evaluate our own actions and attitudes to see if we are doing anything that is contributing to the problem.

 Nothing about honest self-examination is pleasant or easy, however it is necessary if we want to grow and mature spiritually.

 Sigh.

 If after some soul-searching we discover we are indeed part of the problem, then we need to repent. Repentance is all about changing how we think about the person who has hurt us. Instead of focusing on the things we don’t like we need to look for positive qualities. We also need to cease any hurtful actions on our part such as gossip, ugly or passive-aggressive comments, and writing rude things about the person on the Internet. Genuine repentance always includes praying for the person who wronged us.

 Praying for the person who offended or wronged us really does make any repenting on our part that needs to be done easier and less painful, and prayer actually has the capacity to change the heart of the other person.

 Bonus.

 Then God calls us to the truly hard thing, blessing those who curse us and actually doing good to those who have wronged us. Doing good is about more than an absence of malice. It’s about thinking through to what Jesus would do to the person and then doing it.

 Love is an action.

 

Why We Should Stop Telling People to ask Jesus into Their Hearts

When He (Jesus) had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me~ Mark 8:34 NKJV

 Anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time will tell you in a state of wide-eyed wonder that evangelical Christianity has changed significantly over the course of the last three decades or so.

 Some changes have been positive and healthy. Changes in attitudes have righted some legitimate wrongs that were shockingly common in some Christian circles, especially in the arena of legalism.

 I have an older Christian friend who told me that when she was growing-up her family had an actual LIST of things she and her siblings were told they could not do if they wanted to be followers of Jesus.

 Among other things THE LIST included: skipping church for any reason other than serious illness, playing card games (because go-fish and Uno are gateway sins that the devil exploits to lay the foundation for future gambling addictions) attending movies of any kind, wearing make-up, going to the beach (because of swimsuits) and of course wearing pants (because she was a girl). Her Pastor also taught that it was possible to lose ones salvation for owning a television, smoking cigarettes or attending a school dance.

 Sigh.

 Thank heaven most of us have chosen to part ways with the pharisaical judgment of the past, and leave it in the past where it belongs.

 However, Christian’s today are far less devoted to their faith than our more judgmental forerunners were. Christians today are far less likely to attend weekly services, honor their marriage vows, observe scriptural commands regarding sexuality, read the Bible consistently (or at all), pray and serve in their local congregations.

 Sigh.

 It would be foolish to argue that the problems vexing the Church are somehow less threatening to Christianity than the sins of the past. The current crop of problems the church is dealing with may be different from the problems of the past, but that does not make them any less hazardous to the health of the average Christian.

 Theories abound as to how exactly we got into this mess. There are some who blame inadequate teaching from the pulpit. Others attribute the problems on an absence of church discipline. Many blame invading secularism and the acceptance of worldly entertainment in the Church.

 Oddly enough, there are even some who believe that it was the demise of legalism that created the problems the Church is now wrestling with.

 No I am not kidding.

 Some individuals actually believe that legalism (strict adherence to manmade rules) made Christians more aware of their own behavior and fearful of the judgment of others. Thus legalism protected the church from the sinful excesses currently devastating the body of Christ.

 Clearly, some theories have greater merit than others.

 However, in my estimation they all miss the mark. The real problem is not with legalism per se. In this case legalism is simply a symptom of a much bigger problem. The real problem lies with how we view the Christian life. If we view the Christian life as a list of rules to be kept then we will eventually devolve into a pool of legalistic goo and destroy the beauty and spirit of grace that makes the Christian life a life worth living.

 Conversely, if we view the Christian life as simply “asking Jesus into our heart” then we will inevitably come to see our relationship with Jesus as something we get to do on our own terms. The Christian life becomes something we do for our own pleasure and to meet our own needs. God becomes the servant and we become the master. He becomes a tool that we use to get what we think we need out of life. If God fails to meet our needs on our terms we leave Him on the margins of our lives or abandon Him all together and go off in search of something that will satisfy us on our terms.    

 The answer is not a return to legalism or even simply ridding our lives of bad entertainment and wrong thinking (although that idea is not completely without merit). The answer is to rethink how we view the Christian life. Christianity is not about asking Jesus into our hearts just so we have assurance of salvation.

 Christianity is about following Jesus wherever He leads and obeying His commands, whatever the cost.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voting for Corruption

 

Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them~ Isaiah 1:23 NIV

 I am an ardent fan of all things political.

 The Presidential elections are my favorite; it actually bums me out that they only roll around once every four years. I look forward to the presidential election season the way some women look forward to a fifty-percent off sale on Jimmy Choo shoes.

 I am a registered Independent and although I cheerfully admit to leaning conservative I am attentive to the goings-on on both sides of the political aisle. I will vote for any politician evidence reveals is a decent human being who can pass a drug test, possess a solid ethical compass and has a working knowledge of basic economic principles.

 This election has been a gloomy one for me. It has challenged my love of politics as well as my faith in the intelligence of the American electorate. Somehow the nation I love has succeeded in picking the two most tragic candidates in the history of our Republic. The out-and-out absurdity of these two choices for President baffles me to no end. My unending irritation over the Republican pick has caused me to say precious little about Hilary Clinton.

 Well, no more.

 Recent revelations have made me so insane with righteous outrage that I can no longer hold back my uncensored opinion on the dangers of a Clinton presidency.

 I will begin with the email controversy.

 It is an irrefutable fact that Hillary Clinton set-up a private email server in a bathroom. She committed this criminal act against the counsel of her staff, proving she is either hopelessly dimwitted or has zero interest in keeping classified information out of the hands of foreign governments. For the record, I do not believe that Hilary Clinton is dimwitted. Nor do I believe she was ignorant the law (as she claims), nor do I believe her emails are so desperately dull that no foreign power would ever be intent on reading them, as she stated in an interview with the comedian Jimmy Fallon. Hillary Clinton is an attorney who has worked at the highest levels of government for most of her life. She simply despises accountability, doesn’t care who she hurts and believes herself to be above the law.

 If the email debacle were the only example of flagrant corruption, I might be inclined to let it go, sadly that is not the case. In 1997 the Clintons created the Clinton Foundation, ostensibly for the purpose of raising money for do-gooder causes. In all fairness the foundation has raised a lot of money for various causes, many of them good. Exact numbers are tough to pin down but conservatively speaking millions have been given to help people around the world.

 That is a good thing.

 What is not a good thing is how Ms. Clinton used the foundation while she was Secretary of State. Credible allegations charge she used the foundation to line her own pockets by selling meetings (to the tune of $156 million) to individuals, corporations and foreign countries in exchange for donations to her foundation. Donors include the Prince of Bahrain who pledged $32 million to the Clinton foundation.

 Doubtless these folks were astute enough to get something in return for the money they paid. Naïve people have argued that there is no actual evidence she ever gave anyone a favor in exchange for a cash donation. Sadly, that unlikely scenario makes the whole situation worse rather than better. It means she and her aides were running some sort of a flimflam operation out of the office of the Secretary of State. Trust me: the crown prince was promised SOMETHING in exchange for 32 MILLION DOLLARS. No one in their right mind pays 32 million dollars simply to meet with someone. He had an ulterior motive and if he did not get what he paid for, he’s seriously furious.

 When her email server was exposed, she blamed her own ineptitude (like that is supposed to make any of us feel better), then she blamed her colleagues. When her colleagues declined to be hurled under that particular bus she blamed COLIN POWELL. Seriously, she blamed Colin Powell for her illegal server, that’s like me blaming the mailman for the sloppy condition of my front yard. When four Americans were killed in Libya she blamed an anti-Islamic video that few people had actually viewed for the disaster. When her husband sexually harassed women he worked with she blamed the women.

 I could go on forever.

 Hillary Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, was born in Michigan but raised in Saudi Arabia. She is the daughter of Muslim intellectuals who have dedicated their lives to spreading the Muslim faith. Abedin acted as the assistant editor for a radical Muslim publication for ten years. The scholarly journal Ms. Abedin edited openly promotes Sharia law, is anti-women’s rights, anti-Christian, anti-Israel and blamed America for the 9-11 attacks. The woman slated to be the next Whitehouse Chief of Staff has close ties to radical Islam. At the very least this fact proves Hillary Clinton does not have the good sense necessary to make her own staffing decisions.

 Any American who is not troubled by Hillary Clinton’s corruption and poor judgment is at least as dimwitted as she pretends to be.

   This is the most depressing election of my lifetime. A Clinton Presidency may very well be unavoidable. However, that doesn’t mean nothing can be done. Christians everywhere need to pray. It is not too late for God to intervene. He is in the business of miracles and we could certainly use one right now. Christians also need to vote— the congressional election is critical this year. If conservatives lose the house and senate and Clinton wins the Presidency all will truly be lost. The most openly corrupt person in the history of American politics will control everything.

 God help us all.

The Key to Dealing with Disappointment

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit~ Romans 15:13 NIV

 I will not lie. It’s been a chaotic couple of weeks around our house. We have been in the final throes of the moving process and experienced all the standard drama associated with moving ones worldly belongings across four states and over sixteen hundred miles.

Everything and I mean everything, has taken longer and cost more than we thought it would. The electric company called last week to let us know that our first bill was sent back (they were not amused). A few phone calls revealed that ALL our mail is being returned to sender and a trip to the post office has yet to remedy the situation.

 Our new neighborhood is a place where folks take lawn care seriously and we have not figured out how to make the sprinkler system work. As a result our lawn is turning an ominous shade of brown and the neighbors have begun to cast sideways glances at us. The dogs are troubled by the recent changes and cannot figure out on a consistent basis where they are supposed to “do their business”.

 Sadly, all that pales in comparison to the drama we have experienced with one of our kids. This kid has been what can only be described as a mammoth pain in the backside for weeks now. We have been losing our minds trying to find an explanation for this behavior.

 A long encouraging conversation resulted in no discernable change in behavior. We then attempted some coaching, when that failed we moved on to gentle correction, praying for wisdom, and finally punishing the bad behavior with increasing intensity: nothing worked. We wondered if the disobedience was perhaps a result of homesickness or missing the old school or perhaps even a weird side-effect of getting less sunshine.

 After a number of increasingly more intense discussions it was revealed that at the root of the angsty misbehavior was something more basic…

 Disappointment.

 I am not sure what the kid was hoping for, and neither do they. But it turns out that living in Washington is a lot like living in Arizona only with more rain and fewer swimming pools. They were expecting things to somehow be different, more exciting, and less humdrum. At one point in the conversation they did admit that at the very least were hoping that a change in location would result in a change of expectations. We discussed the issue at length and I am pleased to report that life in Price household has finally returned to something that more closely resembles normal.

 My immediate reaction was relief that the crisis was over; relief was followed quickly by amusement. My amusement faded when it hit me that even many grown-ups have been guilty of the same sort of wishful hoping at one time or another.

 Most of us have irrationally hoped that making an outward alteration in education level, tax bracket, marital status or zip code would somehow alter more than just our education level, marital status, zip code or tax bracket. We believe deep down inside that getting married will fix our relationship problems, moving will transform us into a more interesting person or that getting a degree will give us the sense of belonging or prestige we have always longed for. When we wake-up the day after making the big change as the same person we’ve always been, reality results in…

 Disappointment.

 Disappointment is unavoidable in a fallen world. Few things in life work out exactly as we hoped or even planned they would. If disappointment is not handled properly it can transform into anger towards God. If anger is allowed to fester it will eventually grow into a cancer that always results in either a nasty case of depression or a grown-up version of acting out. We act-out (sin) because deep down inside we feel that our disappointment has earned us the right to take pleasure where we can find it. Acting-out is an ugly thing that never ends well for anyone, regardless of age.

 For Christians the key to coping with the inevitable disappointments of life begins with a willingness to surrender our dreams and desires to God. When we let go of our dreams and desires, we are freed up to embrace the dreams God has for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

When You’re Ready For It to be Over Already

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength~ Isaiah 40:29-31a

For the most part my son was a sweet and obedient little boy. However, there was one area he struggled throughout his childhood. Alex was (and is now) a kid who routinely spoke his mind, irrespective of the appropriateness of the situation.

 When Alex was six my husband took him to a local home improvement store where he saw a man dressed as a woman for the first time. Alex stared at the man for just a second or two, gave a slight nod, as if he had made his mind up about something significant and loudly declared that if men were going to wear dresses they ought to at least shave their legs. Alex charmed everyone within earshot with his thoroughly naïve but straightforward appraisal of the situation, except of course, the man wearing the dress.

 My son’s inclination to boldly speak his mind was not limited to the questionable wardrobe choices of others. Nor did it start when he was six. It started in early toddlerhood. To my utter horror, He would routinely ask total strangers the most personal questions imaginable. He also made a regular habit of informing the parents of other children when he felt their kids were misbehaving. He was notorious for correcting or contradicting any opinion he believed to be based on misinformation. Regardless of the age or person giving the opinion.

 As awkward, embarrassing and downright irritating all that was, nothing matched the level of humiliation I felt when my son would decide was ready to leave a gathering or a play date. Once he made-up his mind that he had enough fun for the day, he would approach me (he never once did this privately) and announce loudly that he was “done” and “ready for it to be over”. Once my initial inclination to hide under the furniture passed, I was typically overwhelmed with a very un-motherly yearning to murder my own offspring. For nearly a year of his childhood most of our outings ended with a lengthy lecture on the importance of not actually saying everything we think or feel.

 Alex’s desire to be done with any situation he wasn’t enjoying anymore was maddening. However, I do understand his feelings. Sometimes even grown-ups are done with a situation or trial long before God has decided it’s time for us to move on.

Lately, I have found myself saying some things to God that sound remarkably like the things my toddler used to say to me.

 It is not as if the trial we’ve experienced has been the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone. We have a great deal to be thankful for. We have a steady income, our kids are healthy, none of them are currently using drugs or openly rebelling against God, we have a roof over our heads and food on the table. My husband and I are healthy and our marriage is solid. In other words all the stuff that really matters in this life is still okay in our world.

 All that said, having a house that has sat on a stagnant market for the better part of a year has been hard. Our lives are currently on hold. The youngest is struggling emotionally. Living apart has been tough (to say the least) and our checking account needs CPR. However none of those issues compare to the spiritual bewilderment we have experienced as we waited for God to act on our behalf.

 There have been many times over the course of the last eight months when I have felt as if we were being tested (and failing badly). I now know I was wrong, at least about the testing part. We have been reading the situation all-wrong. It’s not a test.

 It’s an opportunity.

 Like any trial the last eight months has been an opportunity to learn to love and trust God even when life is a lot less than easy and the answers are hard to find. It’s been an opportunity to trust and to proclaim the goodness of God even when He has felt far away. It’s been opportunity to show the world what faith really looks like (Hebrews 11:1).

 I know this likely won’t be last time I will be given an opportunity that feels like a test. I am hoping and praying that the next time an opportunity disguised, as a misfortune comes around I will have the wisdom to recognize it for what it is sooner.

Weight and Other Creeping Things-

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us~ Hebrews 12:1

 2015 will go down in history as the year that refused to go away quietly. In our family it ended with a rather brutal case of the flu. I got hit the hardest and because I have been blessed with a husband who worries too much, I spent the better part of an afternoon at urgent care.

 I am not a fan of urgent care clinics. Waiting is not my thing and urgent care is all about waiting. It’s just what you do. First you wait to speak with the receptionist. Then you are moved to a reception area to wait some more. Then the medical assistant escorts you to a sad little cubicle with no windows, At that point the waiting begins in earnest. Then they make you wait to leave.

 The waiting aside, the thing I find most troublesome about urgent care is being packed into a room teeming with sick people. I have nothing against sick people per se, but there is something about being confined in an enclosed space with a dozen or more sneezey strangers harboring who-knows-what kind of strange sickness that I find truly unsettling.

 I was waiting in the reception area, attempting to distract myself from thinking about the number of viruses that could potentially be mutating into the next outbreak, when the medical assistant called my name. I was ushered into the back room, where she pointed at a scale and informed me that that I needed to be weighed before I could see a doctor.

 I attempted to resist.

I hate being weighed even more than I hate waiting. I don’t own a scale. I have always thought that voluntarily being weighed is a bit like begging for bad news.  I like to think I’m smarter than that. However, good manners eventually won out over my dread and I eventually stepped onto the scale, but only after removing my shoes and coat. A few minutes later I found myself sincerely wishing that I could have taken off more than just my shoes and coat.

 I will not tell you how much I weighed. In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that it was a large number, one I haven’t seen on a scale since my pregnancy years. After the disturbing weigh-in I was escorted to the cubicle where I had plenty of time to think while I waited for the doctor.

 I was shocked and horrified by the number on the scale. One of the reasons I hate scales is because they don’t lie and they have no way of softening the bad news. But it wasn’t the number that bothered me the most. It was the fact that I didn’t even notice the pounds sneaking on that really bothered me. It’s the sort of thing you would think one would notice.

 Then it hit me like a ton of bricks: weight is not the most dangerous thing we can miss sneaking up on us. Spiritual health is far more important to the big picture and even easier to neglect.

 One of the reasons spiritual health is so easy to neglect is because it cannot be measured by looking at a person or the number of spiritual activities we participate in. Spiritual health can be faked, at least on the surface. A person can look good on the outside, say all the right things, be in church every time the doors are open and even read the Bible daily and still have a sin-sick soul.

 Spiritual health is measured in attitudes and actions, rather than by appearances. One sure sign of good soul health is when we can see and celebrate the hand of God in more than just the times of ease and plenty. Our spirits are healthy when we see people the way God sees them. When we understand that people are, the end, never simply the means to an end. Our spirits are healthy when we are engaged in activities and relationships where God is at the center.

 We know our spirits are healthy when we are content with what we have but are still seeking to grow in whatever calling God has given us. The key to staying spiritually healthy is to stay close to God, to keep Him at the center of every question we have, every concern that comes our way, and every celebratory moment we are privileged to experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay Christians, Let’s Talk About Sex

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect~ Romans 12:2 NLT

 By the time I hit my teen years, the sexual revolution had been fought and was well, pretty much over. The popular culture had for the most part moved away from the notion that sex ought to be exclusive to marriage. As a result there was little debate outside of the Christian community concerning the morality of sex outside of marriage.

 The rightness or wrongness of sex was determined by feelings and emotional rather than legal and/or spiritual commitment. If a man and woman felt they were “in love” and at least somewhat committed to one another then sex was thought to be morally acceptable. Without love and some level of emotional commitment most people felt sex devolved into something skeezy and morally dubious. It was certainly not the biblical standard of sexuality that their parents and grandparents honored, but sex and love were still considered to be inseparable in most peoples’ estimation.

 Thirty years later those notions have become rather quaint and archaic. The whole notion of love and sex being closely connected has been replaced with a culture of hooking-up. Hooking-up, sometimes called “friends with benefits” or “not-dating” for those fortunate enough to be blissfully ignorant, is the new term for sexual activity sans commitment of any kind.

 Hooking-up has replaced dating and long-term romantic attachments for the vast majority of non-Christian adults. The results of this brave new world include plummeting marriage rates among those under thirty, skyrocketing out-of-wedlock birthrates; and a shockingly large number of young adults who report difficulty forming connections with the opposite sex outside of the bedroom.

 It doesn’t take a mastermind to grasp the obvious and conclude that the loosening sexual standards of the 1970’s and 1980’s paved the way for the ethical anarchy we see today surrounding the issue of sexuality. A culture does not go from the absolutely no sex before marriage standards of the first half of the 20th century to a culture of detached hook-ups without at least a couple of stops along the way.

 As alarming as I believe these developments to be, I also understand that it is not my place to be concerned with what the greater culture is doing behind closed doors. Judging non-Christians is a waste of time. Without Christ, people have little reason to care about what the Bible has to say about sexuality or anything else and even less reason to modify their behavior based on the Bible’s teachings.

 I am deeply concerned about what Christians are doing behind closed doors.

 Christian Mingle is an online dating service that surveyed 2,647 single adult Christians about their attitudes concerning sexuality. The results revealed that sixty-four percent of Christians between the ages of 18 and 59 believe it’s morally acceptable to have sex outside of marriage. Additionally, a 2009 study conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy reveals that eighty percent of never-been-married Evangelicals have had sex at least once. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed reported having sex the previous year and forty-two percent were in an ongoing sexual relationship at the time of the survey.

 To my knowledge the question was never asked, but I would bet that most of those surveyed felt that “being in love” was the only criteria that mattered when deciding whether or not to have sex. In other words, Christians have embraced the same standards of sexual ethics that the greater culture adopted in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

 The Church’s nearly universal loosening standards of morality have led Christians into an increasingly ugly ethical muddle. Divorce rates for Christians are nearly as high as divorce rates for non-Christians. Christian men view pornography as often as non-Christian men and it’s estimated that at least 650,000 Christian women abort their children every single year. As a result of all this ongoing sin the church has lost all moral authority in the culture. Nobody outside the church cares to hear what Christians have to say about anything of substance anymore because they see that our faith is so feeble that it does not even empower us to control ourselves in the most basic way.

 We live in a decaying culture filled with people who urgently need some solid moral examples to draw from. Christians can be that example again. But only if we are willing to embrace and live out the truth that it takes more than love to make sex right. It takes two people making a lifetime commitment to one another.