Monday, May 9, 2011

Modern Grandmama...

This isn't so much a soapbox topic, but here it is anyway.

For those of you who read this that aren't my family (none?...Tiff, you count. You're family), Grandmama is my maternal grandmother. She was an incredible, godly woman who really inspires me to this day. I'm always glad to see myself and my cousins emulating things that she did. Even though we didn't know her as adults or even teens, we still seem to live under her influence. I guess that goes without saying, she raised a parent for each of us, and they raised us based on all the good she raised them with.

(This is nice for post-mother's day.)

There are some strong similarities that I share with Grandmama. I love butterflies. Not in this huge way, but that was my choice if I saw them on clothing or jewelry. Not too long after I put two and two together, I noticed and later asked my cousin Leah about the same thing. Yup, she loves them too! (What's neat...and just that Leah didn't know Grandmama very well. She was very young when she passed.)

Now I realize - liking butterflies is not an amazing thing. It's just neat, something I enjoy and appreciate.

The thing I see myself doing that's like Grandmama is "letter" writing. Okay, okay, I do NOT write letters. But one of the reasons I had to cold-turkey facebook was because I'd spend hours reading status updates and putting in encouraging comments. I would send messages to people who were having a tough time. I would chat with friends to see how they were. I'm an emailer now. And now that I'm working in so many offices in my "new" job, there's even more people that I frequently touch base with.

And I love it! I love to jot a quick email to see how someone is. I like to encourage others. If I could have picked one trait of Grandmama's, this would have been a good one to pick! I'm really glad I share it with her. I hope that in the future, I can continue to do this in a way that she did. She built up missionaries by sending them encouraging letters while they were serving in the field, sometimes feeling very alone. She would support them financially. (Someday...) She would pray for them. She was an amazing woman. I want to inherit that too!

I hope she wouldn't mind me modernizing her talent and gift. I admit, it would be tough for her to see it translate to electronic. Oh, she would be frustrated with computers and how many buttons are on my cell phone! But maybe she would be okay with it. She wouldn't change to it, that's for sure. Perhaps that's why she's not here anymore. But I think it's okay for me to update the encouraging letters to encouraging txts and emails. In this modern day, where things are faster, we have no choice but to update our approach. I hope I'm doing it okay!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Changing the Face of Christianity

Something that's been on my mind lately is redefining how the world percieves Christianity. Here we are in a world where anything goes, have your own opinions, keep them to yourself, don't offend me, but believe what you want.

Jesus told the disciples to go and tell the world. I'm sure it was a little easier then, they were all still so excited. They'd been in Jesus's physical presence, which is good for us human beings. We do have trouble with things we can't see. But just because we didn't have the same experience the disciples did doesn't mean we're exempt from telling others about Christ.

I strongly believe that the Bible is filled with black and white truths. I'm sure reading this, you can think of a few off the top of your head. Lying is a sin. Jesus was fully God and fully man. God promised he would never flood the whole world again. These things are true. They haven't changed.

Some stuff from the Bible has "changed." It's those cultural and time things that everyone likes to point out when questioning the legitimacy of the Bible. Are we still required to sacrifice animals for our sins? Nope. Jesus took care of that in the New Testament. Does that mean we can throw out parts of the Bible? Nope. It's all valuable, and we can learn from all of it. Plus, if we start tossing stuff out, how do we know we're picking the right things? We don't. Can't do it. Sorry for our luck.

In the same way, we have to fall back on these black and white truths when approaching how we live as modern-day Christians in this modern-day world. A lot of this shows up at churches. Many churches no longer sing hymns, they have praise teams. Does that mean hymns should go away? No way! There are a lot of people who still find that the best way to worship. It also doesn't mean it's wrong to have a praise team.

But I don't want to repeat all my church soapbox ramblings from earlier. Our presentation as Christians goes way beyond the (sometimes portable) walls of our church buildings.

What is the face of Chrsitianity? Despite what we may want to change, the face of Christianity immediately becomes defined by those who claim Christianity. Sometimes we're good representatives. Sometimes we're very poor representatives. Unfortunately, God has to use us, human beings, to represent Him here. I really do wish He had a better choice. Yet, at the same time, sometimes the best witness is showing God's forgiveness.

How do people see "us" then? I cringe to think what the answer may be. Are they thinking about people that go to church on Sunday, then act like someone else the rest of the week? Do they think about that group holding signs that say "God hates Fags"? Do they think of someone they knew that hurt them emotionally, but claimed salvation? Does anyone think of me when I'm saying something I don't mean in haste in a rude tone? *gulp*

When I was still in school, I met my friend (sister? I guess not, there's no marital ties) Jess. Before she met me, my dad told her about me - that I went to Christian School, went to youth group at church. I know she wasn't interested in me before she met me, at least that's what my dad said, saying she claimed to be an atheist. We ended up spending a lot of time together over the following years after we met. I made an effort not to be forceful about my beliefs. I figured she didn't want to hear about it if she didn't believe in it, and that was okay with me. But I did end up talking about school and church because it was my life. Years after we met, she told me she wasn't sure what she believed about God. I don't know what she thinks these days. I gave her a few songs and books on a take it or leave it basis trying to explain why I believed what I did. Who knows what happened there?

I'm not sure where we got the idea that we needed to do this pushy witnessing business. I personally don't believe that's the way it should be. (I could be wrong.) It's really not effective.

Have you ever tried to get someone to sign up for a credit card? They shut down as soon as you say "cred". Be honest, if someone came up to you and asked you "do you know if you're going to heaven" or "do you know Jesus," would you feel comfortable? I wouldn't, and I believe in God!

My husband said he's had more than one pushy person approach him, and after he replies that he's a Christian and attends a church he's happy with, they kept going. What's that all about?

Even some of our "subtle" approaches are annoying. My youth pastor (later regular (?) pastor) and his wife didn't like Christian bumper stickers. They can be ridiculous! I've driven behind cars that I felt were trying to push their faith down my throat, and their faith is the same as mine.

Take my friend as an example. She doesn't eat meat. She's not out to save the animals, she just doesn't like the taste. She doesn't have anything against meat. She's tried it a couple times. In fact, she kind of wishes she liked it so it would be easier to get a balanced diet - she has to work hard to ensure she gets adequet protein. But even when she explains the senario, everyone has to put in their 2 cents. Just try it again! People can get pushy, but why?

If people tell her she'll like it, will she enjoy the next steak she tries?

If you tell someone they should believe in Christ, should they take your word for it?

What makes Christianity different from all the other religions is that there's nothing you have to do. No good deeds, no praying in a certain direction, no hail marys that are going to get you into heaven. It's about a relationship with Christ. Yes, it's still work, but it doesn't depend on us being perfect. Are you perfect? I'm not.

Our witness is equally about relationships. Proverbs 27:17 says "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend." I can think of friends of mine that have approached me about rights and wrongs, but I'm only able to accept that from them because they know and love me. Likewise, a complete stranger isn't about to listen to what you think about religion or faith. Why do they care what you think? But someone you've built a relationship with might. It's at least a lot more likely.

Building relationships is also a good way to do some silent witnessing - people seeing us acting differently (hopefully). I like what my cousin does. The last time they moved into a complex, he introduced himself to people who passed by, people he knew would be living in close quarters. Nothing major or crazy. Just hi and his name and a handshake. I wish I did that. I need to do that. It just opens doors to let people know that you are kind, that they can talk to you if they want. (They don't have to, of course.) What if we all started doing that? Not "Do you know Jesus?" "Hi, I'm ____." It can't hurt.

Well, I just preached to myself. I'd better dismount before I reveal all my sins! (Oh wait....)


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Of Submission and the Sunday News

You don't have to talk to me long about marriage to learn that I subscribe to the "old fashioned" and unpopular act of submission. It's something I try to practice and believe in. One of my favorite writings on this is from Marla Taviano in her book (From Blushing Bride to Wedded Wife). There's a back to back section about submission, followed by respect. I think I should be required by law to read it daily.

So instead of talking a lot about it, I thought I'd share this story.

On Sunday, I went down to pick up the Sunday papers. Chris usually reads both the local papers every weekend, so one of us has to pick them up on Sunday. I went into Rutters to grab them before I made us a very late breakfast. There was a guy there trying to get sign ups for our local Sunday paper for delivery. They always get you because they offer you a free paper. I went ahead and took one, but I knew I wasn't going to go for the offer, even if it was good. The reason was exactly what I told the guy. I don't make decisions like that without talking to my husband --

--side note: my hubby doesn't require me to discuss everything with him first. If the paper thing was something only I participated in every week, and I wanted to take my spending money to subscribe, he wouldn't have cared. But since this is something that's important to him, all final decisions route through him. Same goes for anything moderate or major. Minor things often don't require a discussion. --

--Being a sales person, he still tried to get me to buy it. What if after I talked to my husband, the offer was gone? But he even went to the point that he hid in one of his points that I should "be a big girl and just do it."


I didn't say anything back to him. I knew it wasn't worth it, he was just trying to do his job. But it was pretty offensive to me. Be a big girl? Does he understand how hard it is sometimes to submit? That takes a bigger girl. Don't get me wrong, I was glad for an out on this one, and I often would much rather have my hubby take the big decisions for me, but sometimes it is hard to let go and trust that allowing my husband the head of our household will work. And it does. Because God honors us when we do things the right way.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A verse

I don't have anything major to say today. Just this verse from today's reading in Proverbs....

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Are you going to Hell?

Did that catch your attention? :)

There’s an interesting phrase that I hear tossed around every now and again, which usually occurs after someone does or says something they think is pretty inappropriate, but they decide to do or say it anyway. “I’m going to hell.” It’s an interesting moment. A lot of times, especially if I’ve heard them say they’ve attended church, I’ll find myself saying  “no, you’re not” or “not just for that” or “not because of that.” It always catches me off guard and rubs me the wrong way because I hate a works-based view of Christianity.

I think it’s important that before I start going into my soap-box thoughts on this subject, I should put out there exactly what it is that I believe. That way if someone reads this besides my family or friends, it will be clear what worldview I take. I believe that Jesus, who is the Son of God, came to earth and died for our sins. He rose 3 days later and is living today. In order to gain access into heaven, we must confess our sins to Him and follow Him. Mostly, that involves repentance, recognizing sin (what is unpleasant and unacceptable in God’s sight) and turning away from it. The best part of all is that forgiveness is always available when we do mess up.
 I've said it a million times, and I'll never stop saying it.  Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. It's not set by hard rules or a one-time-mess-up losing it all. But that's also not to say that we can do whatever we want without consequence. Our pastor has a great saying: Forgiveness is not a time machine. If I could give you three attributes of sin, it would be these: 1. It's wrong. 2. It's forgivable. 3. It has consequences. All three of those live in tandem. You can be wrong and forgiven, but still have consequences. I'm sure there are a few people in jail who know they're wrong, are sorry, and will come out and change their ways, but they still have to stay in there. Imagine if all you had to do was say you were sorry to get out!
There's a flip side to all this. What if instead of blurting out that phrase, we said after every sin "I deserve to go to Hell." How much would that change our appreciation of Jesus' gift to us? I don't know about you, but I would love to think I'm not that bad of a person. I've never killed anyone or committed adultery. But I do have jealous thoughts, roll my eyes at my husband, get lazy, snap at my coworkers, and about a million other things that are wrong every day. So, no, I'm not such a great person. In fact, I am a sinner. But, if you look above, I'm not going to Hell, though I deserve it. I am forgiven. I am covered by Christ's blood.
Truly awesome.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Feeling a little like a copy cat…was totally planning to talk about church and the modern church and different types of churches and why ours is so cool.  But Joel totally touched on some of what I wanted to say. Great minds do think alike. So here’s my 2 cents.

My mom visited "my" church today. I certainly didn’t expect her to love it enough to make it her new home church, but I thought she would enjoy the sermon. She did. But she said something I expected, what a lot of those “older” (not old) than me will say. It didn’t feel like church.

Most great churches will tell you to find a church that fits you so long as it preaches from the Bible, teaches that Jesus was the son of God who was fully God and fully man who died for our sins to allow us the ability to enter heaven despite our sins when we accept him as our Savior….those kinds of core beliefs. I would certainly agree. The arguments that have separated churches come down to everything from music to the pastor to…really anything can quickly become an area of argument. I think we’ve come a little way in our church building journey where I personally have seen less splits and just more new opportunities. Maybe I’m way off base. That’s just what I’ve seen.

But one thing I think we’ve all seen is a shift in the non-traditional. Generation X and Y are taking the things that make us happy and comfortable and fitting it into our church life. Meeting places have been a big one - Action Church meets in a movie theatre (before I became part of the team, they met in a bar), the church Joel mentioned has a very small meeting place. All of sudden, we stop focusing on have a building. (There’s nothing wrong with having a building, however. There’s good and bad to both. For instance, we didn’t have a Christmas Eve service because…well, that’s a good day for business for Frank’s Theatres.) For the church I attend, I don’t know that having our own building would work. You see, it’s attracted more people by being accessible. “Well, I have to go to church. I guess I’ll attend this service before I see a movie so I get my brownie points.” Why not? After all, God is big enough to capture us no matter where we start or where our hearts begin.

Need I say much about the music? It’s a highly debatable subject. Are hymns obsolete? (probably not) Is rock music inappropriate for church? (Nah.) Is there a right way to praise God? (David danced naked, so…I vote not really there too.) I’m not going to type paragraph upon paragraph about music because I’ve always felt strongly that if it’s something that’s really important to you, you should find a great church that preaches Christ and closely matches your needs. Some people don’t mind, they have other priorities for where they worship.

How about dress? I remember growing up that the appropriate church attire (as a girl) was a skirt at the very least, then pants were appropriate, but regardless, you had to be dressy. Now I’m not out to say that it’s a horrible thing to do. After all, it’s a great way to demonstrate to God how you approach worship, putting forward your best. But there’s also something to be said about accessibility. What if someone who works in a factory setting and has a couple children wants to go to a church, but feels uncomfortable because he doesn’t have anything really nice to wear? And as much as we’d like to say we wouldn’t look at him funny or judge him, at least most would. (Myself included in past experiences.) But if everyone’s comfy, jeans, tees, whatever, it’s easier to just drop in. One of the reasons my friend’s husband likes to come to church is because he can wear his hat during the sermon. And why not?

The way I see it, the more we move to this “non-traditional” church, the more we capture the heart of Christianity. God gives us immense freedom. It’s never something we should take advantage of, but something we can be thankful for. It also reminds us that we don’t have to save our Christianity for church. It plays a part in everything we do. (Just check out the action through the week on twitter with our congregation, if you will.) When we stop feeling like we have to be a different person or put on an act, we realize that God is present at all times, and we should include Him in every step.

The disclaimer, of course, is that if you attend a church that is “traditional” and it helps you worship God, then that’s where you should be. God can use anything to teach us. But I think if we start to think outside of the box, we can reach more people, and better yet, we’ll learn how to grow without the confines of tradition or “the norm.” The world we live in is constantly changing, but God’s word is staying the same, and it’s still relevant. How we apply it and use it remains the challenge, then passing that on to others takes it up a notch. Because whether we like to admit it or not, God’s way works. We’d be wise to follow his wisdom and Word.

(dismounting soap box)

References (the church I attend) (Joel's blog)