Thursday, March 31, 2016

It may be time for an eye appointment...

The last time I was physically in a Christian book store was at least 10+ years ago I think.  There are many reasons for that but the biggest one is that even at that time, there was so much trash in there masquerading as Christian literature it just made me feel physically ill.   I was there at that time because there was a specific book my husband wanted and by the time he told me about it I knew it would never arrive in time for his birthday, if I ordered it online. So the kids and I went into the bookstore to find it.  We did find it, thankfully, but the other things I saw on the shelves were so appalling to me I wondered how the store stayed in business. Mostly what made me feel ill were all the books that screamed from the shelves more information about self-help and feeling powerful, making money and getting recognition, than about repentance and faithfully serving God with a humble heart.

Then in the "devotionals" section I saw so many categories it made my head spin. There were devotionals for parents, parents of toddlers, parents of teens, teens and toddlers themselves, (nope, not making that up, devotionals just for toddlers) single people, engaged people, just for men, just for women, just for divorced women, and on and on the categories went.  There were so many others but I don't even remember what they were, I just remember that it was an entire section of the store dedicated to people who profess faith in Christ but want to be spoken to through a particular lens, first. It kind of blew me away and I didn't even know why at the time it bothered me so much I just knew it did.  So I thought about it, talked to some Christian friends about it, and have really mulled it over, over the years.

It's not that I have anything against seeking wisdom from the Scriptures that speak directly to particular and specific situations (such as widows) because truth be told I've done it myself. When I became a widow at 30 years old I needed serious help and I searched the Scriptures for that help and I'm really glad I did because it was a soothing balm to me at the time. But at the end of the day it all seemed incredibly narrow-minded and shortsighted on my part because Scripture has a lot more to say on how we, the body, are to treat particular situations than anything else. Even as a widow, I came away with more understanding on how I was to treat such a woman, than how I was to be treated.

Which brings me to lenses, and how we define ourselves, and see ourselves. I somewhat jokingly mentioned in reference to this subject tonight on FB that if you have a lens filter on the view of yourself through Scripture, it may be time for an eye appointment.

Every single Christian wears a multitude of hats that defines our roles in life and our identities - as in who we are.  From child, to spouse, parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, boss, employee, grand parent etc. In fact, the more you think about it, the more hats  or roles I'm sure you can come up with in your own personal situation. I could include in my own identity "married, white, extraordinarly clumsy, American, over-weight, middle aged" and more.  But I don't bother because through the lens of Scripture, none of that matters to me and it most certainly doesn't matter to God.  First and foremost I see myself as a child of God, saved by grace.  Every day, everything I do, everything I say, every opinion I have on whatever is going on in my home, in the local schools, in our social settings, politics or in the world in general, is filtered through my Christian identity and my Biblical worldview.

Which actually brings me to the entire point of this post.  Not all professing Christians see themselves this way, and this is a genuine problem on multiple levels because in some cases it actually feeds an ongoing, festering issue that divides society in general and the church specifically. My dear friend James shared his response to an article that makes my point crystal clear as to what the real problem is.

When you profess faith in Christ and call yourself a believer, but emphatically define yourself through the race-first lens (or any other lens, for that matter) you're putting God's grace into a subordinate category and exalting your agenda, or cause, or race, or gender or whatever it happens to be into the #1 spot of how you're defining or seeing yourself. This is truly dangerous ground and serves to do nothing but divide the body.  Something Scripture speaks directly against doing.

I think one of the most dangerous things about seeing yourself through cultural, racial, gender or circumstantial specific lens, is that you not only miss what the Scriptures have to say in context, but that you miss the conviction of these teachings because that's not your focus.  You're not looking for it and your heart isn't prepared to receive it. Instead of consulting His word to guide your heart and thoughts, you're consulting His word to guide your agenda.  You have to ignore a lot of Scripture, skimming over it and only picking out things here and there that will fit with the lens you've applied  and appear to support the identity you're seeing yourself as. Very dangerous ground indeed.

If you're not seeing yourself first as a child of God saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, He's not #1 in your heart.  It's that simple, and that awful.This isn't a popular thing to say but it is a Biblical thing to say.  Each person has to ask themselves what comes #1 in their heart.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

There's always something to learn

Teachable moments. Those little slices of life where something went sideways, someone did or said something they shouldn't have, and it's an opportunity to teach (or learn) something important about the situation and use that to (hopefully) learn a better way to react or respond in the future.  Parents have about 82 trillion of these moments as their kids grow up. Every day a new adventure and all we can do is hope and pray they take these moments and what we've taught them and it helps them to become a wonderful, respectable adult.

But there are teachable moments for all of us, every single day.  No matter if you're a parent, single, young or old.  Most of the time we just rush through our day and don't even take notice of them.  In today's insta-world we are bombarded with things that demand our attention on such a fast paced level that we don't notice these moments when they happen, and sometimes miss them completely.

I've been thinking a lot about these kinds of moments lately.

I thought about this yesterday as I read my friend Andrew's blog about his hippie friend Scottie who recently passed away. Andrew mentions how him and his friend Scottie were about as different as night and day and didn't really see eye to eye on many things, but it was only after his passing, that he realized he'd never have the chance to let him know how grateful he was for his friendship, despite their differences. This is a very common thought when someone we care about passes on.  But no matter how common it is, that never takes away how personal and anguishing it is.  We all wish we could express more appreciation for those we care about while we have the chance but then life does what life does, and we become busy and get side-tracked and before you know it, ten, twenty or thirty years have passed and we're looking back at those lost opportunities wishing we would have said or done more. Sometimes I think we beat ourselves up far too much about those things and forget that we can't be Super Human and super awesome every single day of our lives. It's just not going to happen.  I think it matters far more what kind of person we are, and not so much how many opportunities we missed.

I thought about it again as I read my various tweetdeck columns on various topics: Christian, World News, Public Opinion and a criminal case I'm following that is live tweeted each day by several reporters.  Yes, I know how strange that sounds but this is the world we now live in.

I have been increasingly frustrated with a number of people I once admired, as I've watched them come out publicly again and again, in support of Donald Trump.  No matter what the man says, or doesn't say, no matter what he does, or what others around him do (that he supports), no matter how vulgar, rude, disrespectful, their defense and support of him remains strong.  Not only that, his rudeness and disrespect is mirrored in the things many of his supporters say and do, and for me that's been a real teachable moment. It's not that he's influenced them, it's that this is who they were all along, and I just never really saw it.  Somewhere in the back of my thoughts I hear Procol Harum's Whiter Shade of Pale "and although my eyes were open, they might just as well been closed". 

It's an unsettling feeling.  Sort of like finding out one of your favorite people is a wife-beater, or hates kittens and puppies or babies. They're still the same person you thought you knew, you're just seeing those "warts and all" people talk about when they're describing a person's character.  I guess we all have those warts, but they're never pleasant to see.  While I follow all sorts of people on various social media platforms I don't agree with (the follow is simply to see where they're coming from and why), it's the ones I don't agree with but still manage to keep it classy and respectful, that have remained on my various feeds.  All the others?  And there have been many of them... they're gone.

If I've learned anything this presidential election year, is that I have zero time and zero skills for dealing with nasty, rude, intolerant or disrespectful people. They may be someone else's mission field, but they're definitely not mine.

And I'm okay with that.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Racism 2016: It's Still Vile

In my circle of Christian friends this was a pretty hot topic last week.  I wrote this at that time at the urging of a few folks, to share my story/thoughts.  I purposely however did not post it at the time because I wanted to think on it, pray about it and discuss it with those closest to me. I've decided to share it now, in hopes that it might help someone see a viewpoint they had not previously seen or understood. 

So then, racism.  The mere mention of that word conjures up all sorts of images, thoughts, feelings. None of them good. Understandably so, since sinful pride, lies, hate and contempt are the core of any form of racism.

In my particular circle of friends and acquaintances, the subject has come up recently in some really awful ways.  Accusations of racism flying back and forth, then more accusations of additional ugly nastiness follow that.  No time for grace, no time to listen & discuss thoughts, ideas, etc.  Just accusation after accusation.  It's a rather disheartening dialog to ever watch or be part of. For me personally it just makes me angry and makes me want to say things but... I have about 40 years worth of things to say and I never know how to start, or what to include, or what to leave out, or IF I should say anything at all because really, who's listening anymore?  Who actually cares?  It's hard to tell.

Not to mention that old line "you're white, what do you know about racism?" Few statements ever uttered make me as frustrated as that one tends to.  While it is true I did not grow up in a home or a community where most of my white family and friends were subjected to racism, oppression and societal scorn, generation after generation, it simply cannot be said that because you do not have that particular experience, you do not understand racism.  I may not be able to understand it on that level, but one does not need to experience 15 muggings to know what 5 of them feel like.  One does not need to experience being in a car accident 10 times to know what 3 of them felt like. One does not need to be black, to know what hateful racism feels like, and that's an experience many white people actually do understand and don't talk about. For me personally, racism actually changed my life for good at 17 yrs old but it started long before that.  I want to add as well, that for a Christian, one does not need to ever experience racism in any way, to already know and understand that this is a purely wicked mindset. While experiencing it personally may certainly make you more sensitive to it or passionate about it, it is still wicked and evil and always will be.

A few people that know me well already know these stories but I've never put them all in one place in such an open way as this.  So, here we go - a little bit of my story.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Back to the Basics

The other day I decided it was time for me to take a break from social media.  Trouble is, that's where I tend to get my news, keep up to date with family and friends, and discover some of the most amazing recipes.  Unfortunately it's also where vile accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, and all the other isms and phobias get thrown around as often as hashtags.  It's also where lines are drawn in the political sand and people turn into cave trolls when it comes to defending/supporting/their favorite political candidate.

Over the last few weeks and months it's begun to feel like wading around in the sewer, just being on social media and frankly, when you wade around in such filth, it's hard not to come out stinking.  I noticed how easy it was to get drawn in, fire back comments, and not really care how I was coming across.  Yeah, not something I really want to be a part of.

I made the decision to unfollow/unfriend certain folks thinking that would help, but it really didn't.  It seems no matter who you unfollow or unfriend, someone else is still more than willing to wade around in the filth with them and quote them, re-tweet them, etc., and you still see it all even if you don't want to.  So, it was time for me to step away for a while and ask myself a few questions. Such as; what am I even doing online in social settings?  What impression do I want to give? What do I want to contribute to a conversation? How do I want people to feel after having an encounter with me? Most important of all: is God glorified in what I'm saying?

These were not easy questions for me to answer honestly, so I came back here to this blog.  It's been almost twelve years since I started writing here and once upon a time I had hundreds of readers each day.  I know that's not a lot in the grand scheme of things but it was what it was and I enjoyed that.  The respectful conversations, where folks had more than 140 characters to share what's on their mind whether they agreed or disagreed with what I was saying.  And I had more than 140 characters to respond.

But times have changed.  Online interaction has changed. People's attention spans have been choked off and it seems unless you're dishing on the hottest scandal of the hour, most folks don't give a rip about what you have to say. And I'm okay with that, because that's not where I want to be anyway.

Of course I'm opinionated about, well... pretty much everything.  But at the end of the day I want to know folks have walked away after an encounter with me encouraged, challenged, edified, smiling, laughing or at the very least with a great new recipe to try.  In short, I want to be part of the solution, not part of the ongoing arguments or worse, the problem.

I have a HUGE list of things I'd like to write about but I honestly don't know if I'll be back to blogging every day, once a week or just how often.  You can leave your thoughts in the comments below, if you like.