Category Archives: MOMENTS OF TRUTH

Charity begins

I really believe that Americans are some of the most generous people in the world.  I also believe that Americans are some of the most selfish people in the world.  And I most certainly include myself in these statements.  I know, it’s confusing.

As a whole, when a crisis occurs, as in the 9/11 tragedy, America pulled together.  We were united in our desire to help our neighbors, loved ones, friends, and strangers.  We willingly emptied our pockets and our hearts to help those who were so closely affected by the terrorist attacks on our nation.  It was a beautiful thing to watch perfect strangers reach out to each other in a way our nation has not done before.  Sometimes it was done through organizations like American Red Cross, but in many cases it was just one person offering a helping hand to another.  It was endearing and noble, and selfless.  It was charity in perfection.

Recently we received the first of many Christmas giving catalogs.  We like to support organizations that are helping to feed, clothe, and train people out of poverty.  I often have tears in my eyes and a huge lump in my throat as I look through these catalogs.  Not just because of the moving photos and heart-warming success stories, but because I look around my own house and see nothing but excess.   We’re not rich by any American standard.  We’re solidly middle-class.  We work hard for what we have, and we have more than we’ll ever need really.  And yet I often find myself using sentences like, “I need a new pair of shoes,” or “I need to get my hair colored,” or “I need some mums to plant in the yard for fall.”  Of course these really aren’t ‘needs’, just wants.  But in our American mindset these are often treated as needs.  As a whole, and yes, this is a very broad statement, we are a needy, selfish bunch of people who live in excess rather than necessity.

The reason I get teary eyed looking at these charity catalogs is because I see people who can truly live and thrive with the most meager and humble of possessions.  The gift of a single goat to a family in Guatemala can change their life monumentally.  It seems like such a trivial thing to us, and yet these are people who can build a business out of one animal.  They can feed their family.  They can help others.  It’s just a single goat, not world peace.  But that’s the key.  They don’t need world peace to make a difference.  And neither do we.  It just takes one person, doing something for someone else to make that difference.

I’m sure I don’t have to say it, but the holidays are fast approaching.  Kids are already starting to get those Christmas catalogs too.  The ones filled with toys and games and gadgets.  Already phrases like, “I need a cell phone,” or “I need a new PS3,” or “I need a new Macbook” are starting to fly around.  And the sad thing is, they really believe they ‘need’ these things too.  Just like I believe I need mums for the yard or another pair of shoes.

But what we really need is to develop a sense of charity.  We need to look around us and be more sensitive to the guy standing on the street corner holding a sign asking for help.  We need to realize that shelters in our community are filled with people who truly have no place to go.  That families are being torn apart by violence, drugs, alcohol, and abuses of other kinds.  These are our neighbors, our loved ones, our friends, and even strangers.  And sure, there are people out there who are playing the system.  There are genuine crooks, scammers, and bums who want to take advantage of the compassion of others.  And that’s okay.  Some day they’ll have to answer for their actions, whether it’s here or in eternity.  But we have to not worry about being ripped off.  We have to stop expecting the worst of people.  We need to train ourselves out of the mindset of “I need…” and start thinking more along the lines of “how can I help?”  It starts with us.  Not with Governments.  Not with foundations.  Not even with churches.  Just us.  If we want to change the world we have to start doing it ourselves.  Charity needs to begin in the heart.  It needs to begin now.

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As if…

Last night, over a plate of Italian food, Sam and I found ourselves reflecting on an article he’d read earlier that day on AOL (or some other “news” source) regarding the discouraging number of clergy that lose their faith in God once they begin graduate school.  Since I do not read the news I can’t point you to the exact article he’s referring to, but the fact that an article was written on it is surprising to me.  However, what was even more shocking disappointing was the fact that most of these people don’t leave the ministry, despite their waning lack of faith in God.  How does that work?!  It seems that these ‘ministers’ felt it was important to stay in their chosen profession (yes, at this point, it is just a profession for them) because the ‘idea of God is so important for people’, and they felt they were still able to help people understand that principle.  As if God needs us to help Him with anything!

As the days grow long it is becoming increasingly difficult for Christians to share the Gospel message with people.  Not that the difficulties are coming at the hands of the Government, which I’m sure will happen at some point.  And the difficulty isn’t even in the message itself, as it hasn’t changed in 2,000 years.  No, the difficulty comes now with the hearer.

In this era of relativism how does one define sin?  How does a person accept that they have indeed sinned?  There’s a fix, patch, compromise, exception, and finger to point for everything.  It is rare to find a person who truly understands the concept of taking responsibility for one’s own actions.  Sure, we still understand cause and effect at a base level – if I touch a hot stove, I’m likely to be burned.  However, that logic has been expanded much further today – instead of being a plain and simple fact, the argument seems to go like this – if I touch a hot stove, I’m likely to be burned, but I felt compelled to touch the stove because my parents sheltered me too much as a child and I needed to express my inner rage….blah, blah, blah….or some equally as ‘convincing’ argument.  And these ‘arguments’ and ‘logic’ are falsely propped up by paid professionals who’ll tell their clients whatever they want to hear.  Yes, gone are the days of morons and idiots – well, they’re not gone – just look around you, but now you cannot actually speak truth to them and call them morons and idiots.  They’re just ‘challenged’ or in need of professional help, and we must willingly tolerate their idiocy.

At any rate, the Gospel message is losing its impact because we are a hard-hearted and stiff-necked people, who are continually striving for more of the world’s things – even Christians.  I know some folks would argue against that statement, and I’m not likely to change their minds.  Sure, churches are filled on Sunday mornings with people singing and praising and worshiping God, but for every one person that comes in the front door, one is leaving through the back, or falling through the cracks.  We (as a society) are pushing God further and further from us, and eventually, he’s going to have enough and we will be utterly rejected, as He rejected his own people Israel – sending them into exile as slaves.

For the longest time I used to wonder how in the world a time would come when everyone who could hear the Good News would.  I mean, we’re talking about billions of people – not hundreds or thousands or even millions, but BILLIONS of people throughout history.  How could they all have the chance to ‘hear’.  But as time passes, I realize that time is not too far away.  You see, I thought that every single person would have to physically hear the Good News in order for the end of the world to be ushered forth.  But in reality, it’s not about hearing, it’s about the condition of the heart.  If people live in a world where the condition of the heart is relative or based on emotional experiences or on assigning blame for everything, then they won’t ever be able to ‘hear’ the Gospel message with an open heart and mind.  That’s scary to me, my friends.  If our church leaders can stand in the pulpits on Sunday mornings and ‘preach’ at us without even believing in the message themselves, then how can we expect for anyone else to accept and understand it?

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The ‘wrong crowd’

I’ve almost always been the kinda girl who inevitably finds myself mixed up with the wrong crowd.  And I’ll admit that for most of my life that ‘crowd’ has created a level of stress and worry in my parents and family; not to mention strained relationships between us all.

In junior high (where it all got started) I seemed to gravitate toward the kids who came from rough backgrounds – divorced or absent parents, low-income, hard living, wrong side of the tracks kinda kids.  My friends were the ones who started fights in the hall before school – and not just ridiculous cat fights either – I’m talkin’ about knock-down, drag out fights.  It was cool.  Although I never actually got in a fight or skipped a class, my parents we generally surprised (and thankful) that I didn’t get suspended right along with the rest of them.  I guess they had the mentality that I was automatically ‘guilty by association.’

In high school I seemed to find my niche in the loner crowd.  This group consisted of an assortment of personalities, backgrounds, and ethnic origins.  Some were artists, others were musicians, some were into cars and small engines, while others joined the Latin and chess club, and still  others were just dope smokers and class skippers.  Some of these kids were smart – really smart – and others were…….well, lets just say they weren’t the brightest crayons in the box.  I fit somewhere in the middle and was able to remain a non-participating member of the group.

Once I found myself eight hours away from home at college, I once again used my keen sense of friend finding and became friends with a group of people who truly didn’t belong at school.  This was a Christian college (the only one my parents would pay for that wasn’t located in my tiny home town) and they had standards.  “We” weren’t Christians and were only there because of scholarships or our parent’s insistence.  This particular crowd was comprised of the students that skipped classes, partied all night long, smoked, drank, and had sex.  **cue the collective shutter** And unlike my former days of being just friends but not participating in any of their bad habits, while in college, I was an active, if not the charter member of the “wrong crowd” club.  In fact, I might be the only person in the history of this college who was asked to leave by the Dean!  No, it wasn’t a proud moment for me or for my parents….ah, the days of young stupidity.  Anyway….

After my short stint in college I decided to really find Jesus.  And we all know that His crowd has often been the ‘wrong ‘one – at least according to society.  For thousands of years, these authentic Christians have wreaked havoc on social standards, morals, and ethics.  We’re kind and generous and accepting to a fault.  We offer hope and an eternal promise of love and life.  The mainstream just hates that.  So they go picking and digging into backgrounds and histories; looking under rocks and piles of rubble that have long since been abandoned.  Searching like a cadaver dog for some scrap – a shred of evidence that we were all once human.  Sadly, there’s plenty of rubble to dig through and plenty of skeletons in our closets, because yes, we were all once  human; and last I checked, we still are. Sure we’ve got our problems – who doesn’t?  We can all be accused of being hypocritical, selfish, unloving, stingy, hateful, spiteful, ignorant, closed-minded, aggressive, rude, and every other unsavory out there.  It happens.  We’re not perfect –  and thankfully we don’t have to be.

Here’s the rub though – the longer Jesus tarries the more ‘wrong’ being a Christian is going to become – despite our message of hope.  In America we’ve been so fortunate to have the freedom to openly acknowledge, accept, and serve whatever God we want to.  Currently, there is very little, if any real fear of being openly persecuted on a mass scale.  Our church buildings stand proudly in our communities.  Church-goers can freely come and go from worship services with our heads held high and our Bibles in hand.  We can mail out literature, we can even hand it out to our neighbors and friends.  We can stand on the street corners and shout out Bible verses to passers-by.  We can even knock on someone’s door and share our personal testimony with them.  All without fear of losing our home, our job, our family, our freedom, or even our life.  At least not for now.

However, in the past 34 years I’ve seen a shift in the direction of society.  In just my short lifetime I’ve seen church groups go from being openly welcomed in the public forum to being pushed into the corner and told to keep quiet.  Friends, our next stops are the closet and then underground.

I’ve heard Billy Graham address millions over public radio and on national television programs – urging the listener to give their heart to Jesus.

I’ve prayed in school.  I’ve been to student-led/teacher-supported Bible studies in school.  I’ve worn Christian themed t-shirts to school and public events without being asked to take it off because it was defamatory.   And I’ve openly held Bible studies in restaurants, cafes, parks, shopping centers, and community centers.  But all that’s changing too.

No longer is it alright to carry a Bible with you, or share your personal beliefs with others who feel differently than you do.  No longer can kids wear Christian themed attire to school – mind you they can show off nearly every inch of their own skin, but don’t bring anything wholesome into the mix.  In many parts of the country kids are often denied rooms to hold Bible studies during school hours – teacher’s can’t be viewed as being supportive of that kind of thing – it might just jeopardize their tenure.

And, you will rarely, if ever, hear a preacher be invited onto national television or the public airwaves to give an address – let alone for them to say that Jesus is the only way to heaven.

I’m not one for fear-mongering, but I am realistic about how the world works.  And friends, it won’t be long before our churches lose their tax exempt status.  It won’t be long before zoning restrictions will be come so rigid that congregations will be forced to build only on the fringes of a community.  In-home Bible study groups will be closed down by the fire marshal because they will ‘exceed the capacity limit’ for the premises, or will create a parking hazard on the streets.  Christian bookstores will not be able to get business licenses.  And churches who have ever accepted any Government monies (for anything) will likely be forced to compromise their core beliefs in order to keep their doors open.  Within my lifetime neighbors will become enemies because of Christ.  American families will be estranged because of the name of Jesus.   Kids will not be allowed into schools or athletic leagues because they go to Sunday School or church.  Churches will be torn down in favor of a shopping mall or another community center – eminent domain will become a catch-all for Government overstepping religious freedoms.  Families will be denied home loans in certain neighborhoods because of religious beliefs.  And so on it goes.  Remember, we will not always be exempt from open persecution.

So as you can see, one day soon I will once again be an active part of the ‘wrong crowd’.  This time it might cost me more than just a slap on the wrist though.  How about you?  Are you willing to give it all up in order to keep your Bible and your beliefs?

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What’s it saying about you?

Yesterday I mowed the grass.  I really like this task as it gives me nearly two solid hours to myself to really just think about stuff (oh yeah, and to sweat and sunburn).  Sometimes having that much time alone is a good thing, and sometimes, well, it’s not so good.  However, yesterday it was one of those days that I was feeling a bit introspective.  So keep in mind, this post is directed at me as much as it’s directed at anyone else……

I’m a Facebook user.  My beloved would probably classify me as a Facebook “junkie”.  He’s probably right, but the first step to recovery is always denial, right?!  Besides, I can stop anytime I want to!  He doesn’t understand the appeal that Facebook has for most people.  He has an account, but he rarely uses it.  He thinks of it as a “networking and marketing tool” for his various blogs, books, and the farm.  I however see it as one of my few social outlets.  It’s so sad, to be only virtually sociable….but that’s a post for another day.

What is your Facebook profile saying about you?

Every time I get a friend request (yes, I actually get them, not just send them out!), I check out the person’s profile before I accept them (and sometimes their photos if I’m not sure who they are – its been a LONG time since high school and college mind you).  I read the entire profile page, including the “groups” section.  Do you know, I can read through the bio and feel really good about a person, and then get to their “groups” or their “fan pages” and my stomach almost immediately sours.  Let me give you an example (by the way, this is not a ‘real’ example, although it might feel like some of y’all’s pages)………

BIO:

** I’m a Christian mom (or dad) who homeschools my 17 children – ages 6 months to 25 years.  We live on a farm in the middle of God’s country, and we milk our herd of 30 Jersey’s daily.  I make cheese with the  milk.  My children and I work our one acre garden and sell produce at the local farmer’s market.  We gather eggs from our hen’s each day and we donate about 15 dozen each week to the local food pantry as we want to help give back to our impoverished community.  My husband and I attend our small community church each week where I teach the 4 and 5 year old Sunday School and my husband is an elder in the church.  My life is blessed beyond measure.  I have great friends, a loving family, and I serve an amazing God who has seen fit to not only take care of my every need, but to give me some of the things I long for as well.  Praise the Lord!  **

Now after reading through that, if this were a person who has sent me a ‘friend request’ I’d feel pretty good about accepting them.  That is, until I get to their favorite pages or groups….see if you don’t agree…..

GROUPS: (Yes, I know some of these groups are real Facebook groups)

* If I had it to do all over again, I’d be a lesbian! *

* My daily Bible verse *

* Hope & Change for America *

* Yes, I’ll smile and wave, but deep down I think you’re a dirty rotten two-faced whore. *

* Mafia Wars *

* FarmVille *

* What’s wrong with having a National Healthcare system? *

* Biggest Loser *

* Glory To God Christian Church, Mytown, USA *

* Desperate Housewives *

* Bejeweled Blitz Masters: Learn all the tips and tricks for the highest scores possible *

* Curvy girls are better lovers than skinny girls *

* P.E.T.A. *

See what I mean?  The BIO looks pretty good, and this ‘person’ might genuinely feel blessed by God, but their PAGES/GROUPS speak volumes about who you really are…deep down inside…when you think no one is looking.  Even if they joined these groups because they thought they were funny.  How would I know if that’s the reason?  On the surface all I see is, they belong to these groups, whatever the reason.  Now I realize that it’s not likely that this type of person would be involved with all of these groups, but there are some of these groups that people who claim to be Christian’s are a part of, or other groups that are just as sketch.  Simply put, some of our “favorites” send very mixed messages; if not destroy our witness all together.  Remember, you might be the best Jesus some people ever see.

The internet is cloaked in an overwhelming sense of (false) security.  In and of itself, the net is a-moral (neither bad nor good), however its us that pervert and twist it.  What goes on between our fingertips and the keyboard is who we really are.  On the net, we can spend countless hours surfing websites, browsing for everything from cooking spices and ingredients to sexy lingerie to homeschooling curriculum to plastic surgery to gardening how-tos’ and  videos of people doing Lord knows what.  We can spend our alone time on message boards (anonymously, of course) for married couple’s seeking affairs, or on boards for people who want to know more about farming and livestock.  There are virtually millions of places we can go, but why would we?

The danger of too much internet time (at least for me) is becoming ensnared in the virtual world, and forgetting (or not wanting) to live  in the real world.  Through Facebook and other social networking sites we can find just about anything we want – from support groups to church groups to discount coupon clubs and old flames from high school and college.  There are games and special interest groups and political forums as well.  Pretty much, everything a body could ever want can be found online.  Unfortunately, more and more marriages are being lost to social networking affairs.  People are losing their jobs because they spend all night gaming or chatting and are too tired to go into work the next day.  Others are being caught up in the world of evil-ex bashing or co-worker bashing and forgetting that these are real people too (maybe not nice people, but my mama always told me that if I couldn’t say anything nice about someone I shouldn’t say anything at all.  And she’s been right – taking the high road is always the better option.).

Philippians 4:8 says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

This verse doesn’t just apply to our outward life, but also our inward life (our virtual life, as it were).  I know that there weren’t computers and iPhones in Paul’s day, but it seems that this verse was written specifically for today.  We must always be fixing our thoughts on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise.  It’s hard to do sometimes, especially when we’re feeling lonely, bored, tired, under-appreciated and over-worked, angry with your spouse, or a dozen other feelings that can get us all into trouble.  But if we strive to always honor God, even in our private life, we will find we’re even more blessed than we think.  Besides, keep in mind that Jesus is always right with you – He sees all you do…even when no one else is looking!

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*Tap* *Tap* Is this thing on?

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” James 1:19-20

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re telling a story and within the first ten seconds it seems no one is paying attention any longer? Or been asked, “How are you doing?” and before you can get a word out of your mouth the inquirer has moved on to the next person? Have you ever found yourself entrenched in a sensitive and emotional conversation and realized the listener seems to be zoning out? Do you feel like you’re always having to repeat yourself? Or do you often feel like people are talking over you?

I find myself in these types of situations often – and admittedly I sometimes am the person who’s not being a good listener. Listening is a rare quality these days. And while most folks are born with two ears and perfect hearing, they don’t seem to hear a word we say.

Sometimes it’s difficult to really listen to people. Life demands so much of our attention that our brain is often going a hundred miles a minute trying to wrap itself around our own ‘stuff’. But James directs us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. We are to give our full attention to those around us – especially those whom we are speaking to. This means our children, our spouse, our boss, our co-workers, our neighbors, the deli counter attendant, the telemarketer on the phone, the elderly lady sitting next to you at church, etc. If we develop an attitude of listening, we’re going to be able to pick up on the problems our children are having in school; or the fact our spouse feels unappreciated; or the financial difficulties our neighbors are having; or the loneliness the elderly woman feels. When we listen and really hear people we’ll be better equipped to pray for them and to meet their needs.

I encourage and challenge you to take some time today to really listen to those around you. Stop what you’re doing and really focus on what’s coming out of their mouth. Do they need to be encouraged, uplifted, congratulated, or even just inspired? Try it, you may just learn something new!

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God, is this were I’m supposed to be?

I don’t know about you, but there are times in my life when I feel completely lost. Just about the time I start to get comfortable and I think I’m living in the center of the Lord’s will for my life a curve ball comes whizzing by my head. Usually these things take me by complete surprise. Once I’ve been hit with that darned ball I really start to questions myself – Am I really where God wants me to be? Did I miss a sign somewhere along the way? Is there a map around here? Did I confuse the wills?

Right now is one of those times for me. The past 18 months have been a rollercoaster ride of emotional highs and lows. The good times have been really good, and the bad times have been really bad. For the past couple of weeks it seemed we were on the upward climb to another period of good times, but yesterday afternoon that ride took a sudden and unexpected downward spiral. So here I sit, in the soup as it were, questioning the plan and counting the alphabet letters floating around me – hoping they’ll magically spell out the direction I’m supposed to be going in.

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Tatoos – the good, the bad, and the ugly

It has come to my attention over the past couple of weeks that there is a huge and heated debate amongst church folk regarding tattoos. I suppose this has come about because tats are so trendy right now, and everyone seems to have one – is getting one – or wants one.

There are a couple of different blogs I read on a regular basis that are written by associate pastors of mega churches. Both guys have major tat work down their right arms. And to their credit, the tats are spiritually based. Both tats are very nice, very big, and very visible. (NOTE: The photo below is NOT of the two pastors.)


So here’s the question: Is it a sin to have a tattoo?

Conservatives and legalists say it absolutely is – based on Leviticus 19:28, which says, Do not cut your skin for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord.

Liberals and radicals say there is no sin because Leviticus 19 was old law, and as New Testament Christians we’re no longer under the old law.

Let me just say this: I have a tattoo. It’s not a big one, and it’s not in a very visible spot. I got it at 19 years of age, and it is representative of a 19 year old’s thinking. I’m not proud of it, and quite honestly, I no longer like it. I one day hope to have it removed. Not because I think it’s a sin to have it, but because it represents a time in my life when God was absent from my life (at my request). (NOTE: The photo below is NOT me.)


As far as this debate goes – Christian’s getting tats – well, I’m not going to say it’s a sin, because I’m not the judge, but I do think it is a poor decision – especially if it’s a highly visible one. The reason I think it’s a poor decision is because tats are generally associated with a somewhat more rebellious, unpleasant aspect of our society. When I see a person covered in tats, my first thought isn’t, “wow, that person is really expressing themselves well.” But rather, “holy cow, what a moron,” and right or wrong, I want nothing to do with them.

I think tattoos are just one more way we destroy our bodies. Plus, it draws attention to us (often negative attention) in a way that makes it a little bit harder for us to show the world Jesus. Is that wrong? Maybe so. But the world at large still has a stigma against tats, which closes their minds to whatever you’re interested in. Sure, you may reach the fray of society, but you’re evangelism effectiveness in the long run will most likely be compromised if you have visible tats. You may be an associate pastor, children’s pastor, or even a worship pastor and are currently able to pull off the tat thing; but how many senior pastors have you seen that are all marked up? I’ve never seen any, and I’ve been around churches for a while.

Before I go, I’d just like to make an observation. As far as we know, Jesus didn’t have any tattoos, yet, he managed to be 100% effective in his ministry. He was able to reach into all sectors of society and touch people’s lives. He didn’t need to mark his body in a way that screamed, “I’m the Messiah…don’t miss me.” He was effective because his focus was on God and serving the needs of others. People knew there was something different about him from the moment he met them. He didn’t need any outward reminders of who he was, and he didn’t need to advertise it either. As his people, who are called to mirror Him, why do we feel we need to advertise our Christianity…….instead of really living it?

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