Archive for Christian Faith

What’s Wrong With People?!

Vanishing Grace

Fair warning: My mind is contemplating life from many angles right now. I feel like I have enough words in my head to fill a book with lengthy chapters on any number of topics. But I will try to focus on a couple of items here, and state them as clearly as I can. Perhaps I can touch on other points later.

In light of both local and world news events, I am hearing and reading of more and more people asking, “What’s wrong with people today?” I wonder if it’s just an expression, or if people are sincerely wondering. If it’s the latter, I would imagine that a feeling of great desperation might accompany the question.

Frankly, I believe it’s the same thing that’s been wrong with people all along–there’s nothing new under the sun. Considering the rampant violence that seems to somehow intersect our lives every day, “No moral compass,” would be my simple response. How can we expect people to care about others and act in a selfless and responsible manner when there isn’t much in this world encouraging us to do so? Self-centeredness is rampant–I struggle with it myself. (How dare you pull out in front of me?! What makes him think he can treat me like that?! C’mon lady, I don’t have all day!–a small sampling of my pathetic, impatient, self-centered thinking).

But I also have a trusted place to turn in order to align my life with the morals and values that I know to be of utmost importance. I am convinced that the life of Jesus sets the perfect example for how we should walk through this life, and is the answer to what EVERY person and situation needs. But, I am also quick to admit that so many of us who call ourselves “Christians” are doing a terrible job of reflecting Jesus and His love and character and have confused the issue to the point of people immediately writing us off as idiotic, hypocritical fools. A recent quote I read says, “Christians are meant to give off the aroma of Christ, but we’ve often smelled like something else.”

When someone hears the word “Christian,” the first word that should come to mind is “love.” I can almost hear some of you laughing and rolling your eyes at that one. But it’s what Jesus exemplified. He preached truth and change and turning from sin too, but he always loved.

Because of our bad example and erroneous teaching over the years, so many today have no need for Christianity or “religion” in general. (Honestly, I don’t like the word “religion” at all. It gives the impression of “doing something for Godly gain” when in reality, grace is a free gift that we only need to accept and then grow to understand more and more.) But the True* Christian life offers HOPE. It offers love, forgiveness and a reason for being alive in this otherwise messed-up world. It gives life meaning. It offers the Perfect Example of how to live in every situation… but it takes sacrifice. Instead of self-centeredness, it requires other-centeredness. And therein lies the solution to what ails us today! But it will not come in a massive wave of world change. It will come one heart at a time. It takes time, patience and dedication.. and it’s not easy.

The gospel (translated “good news”) of Jesus really IS good news, but it’s not difficult to believe that many see Christians as bearers of bad news, not good.

So here’s some bad news: New laws are not going to make everything right. Politicians are not going to save us. Treaties with other countries will not guarantee our safety. A new job, spouse or neighborhood will not bring us ultimate happiness.

Here is a quote from a book that I am currently reading, which offers what I have come to believe as the Good News: “It strikes me as genuinely good news that we are creations of a loving God who wants us to thrive, not random byproducts of a meaningless universe. That God entered our world and demonstrated in person that nothing–not even death–can separate us from God’s love. That the story of Jesus has the main theme: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave…’ That  human existence will not end with the imminent warming of our atmosphere or the gradual cooling of our sun, and my particular destiny will not end with death. That God will balance the scales of human history not by karma but by grace, in such a way that no one will be able to accuse God of unfairness.”   —Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

Our worlds can be rocked and our very lives could be snuffed out tomorrow. It could happen to us–it’s not always someone else. But there is Hope and a Peace that passes all understanding. I am not worthy of it, but I cling to it with all that I am, because, through grace, I know the Great I Am.

 (If this post leaves you with questions, I would love to dialogue with you about them. There is so incredibly much more to be said. And if you consider yourself a Christian [or not] and are up for a good book that might make you want to radically change how you live your life, join me in reading Vanishing Grace. I would love to discuss it with you. It is really challenging me to become a more loving and grace-filled person, and making me aware of areas where I need a lot of work!)

*I use the word True in front of Christian here to represent people who are honestly striving to follow Jesus. It seems that many people call themselves “Christian” (think surveys, internet article comments, people screaming at other people) but don’t have a good grasp on what it entails and are, perhaps, currently far from being a whole-hearted follower of Jesus. Just my observation/opinion.

Be Overwhelmed

Country Sunset

So how’s your new year going? Off to a frenzied start? Feeling overwhelmed yet?

I set a lot of personal goals for this year and I am chomping at the bit to tackle them and take on some new projects. But for right now, it seems, those things are kept just out of reach by the routines and responsibilities that fill up my days. I feel like I’ll never have the chance to accomplish all the other things that are on my heart. I know of others who are dealing with much bigger issues.

The song “Overwhelmed” by Big Daddy Weave, has been going through my mind nearly non-stop as of late. I thought I’d share it here as an encouragement to anyone who needs to be reminded of what should be overwhelming us. I hope you can take a moment to turn up the volume, listen, and lay your burdens down at the feet of our overwhelming God. He loves us and He’s got this.

 

Something for Your Child’s Easter Basket

Kids with Easter baskets

If you’re looking for a great Easter gift for a special child in your life, I would highly recommend something from the What’s In the Bible series.

My kids {and Ken and I} love these DVDs. They are packed with solid Bible truths presented in such a fun way that your kids {and you} will enjoy and even remember them. Phil Vischer {of Veggie Tales} does a great job teaching simple, yet foundational biblical truth.

We currently have Volumes 1 and 8 if anyone local wants to swap or just check them out. I plan to get a couple more for my kids’ Easter baskets.

If you click here or on the ad in the left sidebar, you will see this week’s offer of The Jesus Journal with Volume 10 thrown in as a bonus. Volume 10 explains Jesus and the Gospels and is a great one for Easter time.

As part of their affiliate program, I plan to keep a link to their site on my blog and it will change with different deals or percentages off, so check back in if you’d like to wait for a different offer. {And I’m not gonna lie to you, I could earn a small commission if you order it through my site. So it’s a win/win either way.}

But commission or not, I really do think these DVDs are great!

Better than another chocolate bunny–right?! You know how your kids act when they’re all hopped up on sugar!!

Duck Dynasty and Adoption

I just came across this video and thought I’d share it here. Always happy to see someone speak highly of adoption and lead by example. I appreciate these guys even more now and agree with the other comments he made as well. Duck Dynasty and adoption, a couple of my favorite things.

Candy for Breakfast {and all day long}

candy for breakfast

I am amazed at the steady stream of candy that comes into our house. Just when one batch disappears, another holiday is upon us, or another parade comes through town, and our candy dish is overflowing once again. My kids would love nothing more than to eat candy…all day long.  As a parent, I set some ground rules {and even throw the stuff out on occasion to try to limit the quantities}.  As my kids ask for it, I have told them more than once, “If candy was good for you, I would be thrilled to feed it to you all day long, every day, because I want you to be happy and I want you to love me and think that I’m the best parent ever, BUT, BECAUSE I love you, I am saying no and I do NOT let you do that. Although you may not understand why now, hopefully someday you will.”

Am I unloving because I don’t let them consume as much sugary deliciousness as they want? No, quite the opposite, I would say.  I happen to know what is best for them in this area, and eating candy for meals is not it. I realize that it provides no nutritional value and will eventually cause them great discomfort. So guidelines are set and need to be followed. If left to their own juvenile thinking process, my kids would choose unwisely…often. So parents and guardians give guidance and establish boundaries to help kids grow and learn to make wise, healthy choices. Is that unloving? Is that rigid and unfair? I think not. It is the most loving thing we could do. To let them make themselves sick and cause long term problems and expose them to undo risk is unloving. To nurture and lovingly guide shows care and concern.

To me this seems like a great analogy of God’s love for us. It guides and protects. He is not trying to keep us from fun, but from harm and from suffering from our own foolish decisions.

In church this past Sunday, our pastor drew something similar out for us as he spoke of how the Israelites grumbled and complained as God {through Moses} led them out of the incredibly harsh bondage of slavery in Egypt to a promised land and better life. It wasn’t an easy journey to freedom and the people forgot where they came from and wanted to go back to “the land flowing with milk and honey.” Really—milk and honey? They were burdened with forced labor and cruelty but because they weren’t content with the way this journey out of slavery was going, they looked back with rose-colored glasses. But before we condemn them for their short-sightedness, we must look inward and see these same emotions welling up in us at times.

Pastor Wayne drew a chart with 2 columns: Benefits and Liabilities. Then, as a group we began filling in the “benefits” of sin—like immediate gratification, it’s easy, it’s fun, it’s exciting; and then the liabilities of sin—guilt, regret, hurting others, addiction, losing control, depression, damaged reputation, disease and other health risks, incarceration, separation from family, broken relationship with God and on and on. {I didn’t copy the exact things down that were mentioned, but they were similar to this}

We then charted the benefits and liabilities of obedience to God. Liabilities included—delayed gratification, persecution, opposition to the unbelieving world’s way of thinking, being wrongfully labeled, hard work, conquering our desires, learning self control—but wait—can’t most of those really all be seen as GOOD things in the long run?  Benefits included—unbroken relationship with God, confidence, peace, hope, joy, increased faith, increased patience, endurance, Godly humility, growing to be more like Christ, eternal rewards…

It may be more difficult, but why would we not choose obedience when we see it from the proper perspective? God isn’t a kill joy. Through His son, Jesus Christ, He is the Savior, Who sacrificed His very life for us. He. Loves. Us. So. Much, and He has our best interests in mind if we will humbly accept His guidance and not march off in a different direction following paths that seem wise to us, filling up on candy all along the way.

Not the Perfect Mom

I have a growing list of things that I would like to share on my blog. Some of them revolve around parenting and things that I have learned and ideas I am putting into practice. But I feel that first I need to write this blog, as sort of a disclaimer. I need to put it out there that, wait for it…I am not the perfect mom. 🙂 Those that know me best would laugh at even the thought of this. But anyone reading this who may not know me personally might think that I have it all together and am able to pass my great parenting skills or ideas on to others because I have perfected them in my own life. This, of course, is far from true. I am amazed at how easy it is to mess up as a parent. I could count on one hand the times I raised my voice—before I was a parent. I did not often get instantly frustrated or feel exasperated—before I was a parent. These emotions really caught me off-guard. Before becoming a mother, people sometimes remarked how patient I was and that I would “be a great mom someday” and frankly, I believed them. Then I became a mother and my patience seemed much harder to hang on to. Can I get an “amen” here?

I am so thankful for great friends who let me know that all these feelings were normal. They’re nothing to be proud of or to settle for, but they are pretty common place and I was not alone in feeling them. Whew—that was a relief! I couldn’t imagine being anything but honest in parenting and if I was constantly trying to live behind a façade, pretending that I was always calm and poised and my kids were always well-behaved and respectful, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. Life is just not that neat and tidy. Kids are kids and parenting is hard sometimes, ok, maybe a lot. But still, I LOVE my kids and I love being their mom, no doubt about.

I do believe that there are many seasons in motherhood or parenting, and some of us thrive in different seasons. Some people love the newborn stage and others can’t wait until their kids are verbally communicating. Some love the pre-teen years and others dread them.  I’m not exactly sure what my shining season is or will be, but I think I will always hope that each season will be even better than the last, while striving to make the most of the current one and fondly remembering the previous ones.

And here’s a parenting key for me: asking for forgiveness. Saying “I’m sorry.” Wow, those words are like a powerful eraser, getting rid of the mistakes and allowing us to move ahead, unblemished and wiser. I don’t have to be perfect, but I should always try to do better. When I have an impatient moment, or an entirely crabby day, I can always tell my kids that I was wrong in how I acted or responded and that I am sorry, and the wonderful thing is, they usually respond with a ready hug and an “I forgive you” and we can move on (as long as I let it go and don’t continue to beat myself up over it. A fellow-blogger, Erika Dawson, wrote a great post about that recently which you can read here).

And I expect the same from my kids. Living daily life together gives us parents the opportunity to model appropriate behavior. Our kids can see that even adults make mistakes and that the right thing to do is to admit it and ask for forgiveness and move on, striving to handle life better the next time. (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control–the fruit of the Spirit are great reminders of how we should treat each other, but I’ll post more about that another time.)

So with that said, I will now feel free to write about parenting to my heart’s content, referring back to this post whenever necessary to remind myself and everyone else that I’m still learning and growing in this area myself. (Do you see why the name of my blog–Grohing Up Together–is so appropriate?)  😉

Twice Adopted

Today my heart is filled with joy!

Last night Ken and I had the wonderful privilege of leading our children in prayer to accept Jesus into their hearts. As Christian parents, there is no greater joy. Of course, we don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know if our kids will wander away from their faith or always cling to it tightly, but we can pray that now that they have taken this step, they will grow in their understanding of the gospel of Christ and grow stronger and more knowledgeable in their faith. Having a strong foundation will be just what they need when faced with big decisions, as well as all of the smaller choices along their journey of life. I look forward to teaching them and growing along with them. No question will be off the table. The more you question your faith and find it true, the stronger it becomes. Ken and I won’t always have the answer, but God does and we can ask in earnest for His discernment as we strive to raise our kids in this world where I think it will be more challenging to be a Christian than when I was growing up.

Yesterday morning, I had no idea that by bedtime our kids would have both agreed that they wanted to make this commitment to Christ. We went to church and they were taught about Zacchaeus in Sunday School. Then during the afternoon we popped in the dvd  “Buck Denver asks…What’s in the Bible?” I cannot recommend these movies enough. They are by Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, and they take on powerful Biblical truths and explain them. They are humorous but full of skits that help kids AND adults understand the Bible. I think I learn something every time I watch one.

That, along with other circumstances of the day, led the kids to ask questions about God and heaven and one thing lead to another. We had talked about a lot of these things before, but yesterday both kids seemed eager to learn more. Our pastor had read from Psalm 139 during his message and I felt led to read that to the kids, as a confidence booster and encourager, especially with them being adopted. I want them to know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God knew them before they were born and had a special plan for their lives. They were not an accident. God thinks about them and doesn’t leave them, even during the night as they sleep or during tough times. They were loved before they were even created, as were we all!

I remembered an article in the Clubhouse Jr. magazine that we just received that talked about finding the Treasure of Jesus. Ken read the article to them and asked if they wanted to pray to ask Jesus to be their Savior. They both said yes, and to make it more memorable and to show our humble respect, we all knelt at the couch and prayed. Of course, our son first did a summersault and then tried to stand on his head {because he’s a 7-year-old boy} but he eventually got to a kneeling position and prayed. We told them how proud we were of them and that this was only the beginning. The magazine article had a certificate that they could fill in with their name and the date so I made a copy of that and they excitedly filled it in.

We let them know that now that they had started a personal relationship with Jesus, they could take communion at church. This raised a lot of other questions and we read about the about Lord’s Supper before bedtime.  I’m really anticipating the Easter season now that they will hopefully have more insight into the significance of it all.

Today I picked up a couple of inexpensive picture frames for them to decorate, which will hold their certificates, as a reminder of their decision. Our church has communion on the first Sunday of the month—which will be this coming Sunday–and we will continue to prepare them for participation in that. I think we’ll head out for a special lunch afterwards.

Meanwhile, a lot of life will go on as usual, with the usual disagreements and complaining, but I hope that we will now be able to speak to them on a little different level. They have been twice adopted–not only into our family, but now also into the family of God, and the Holy Spirit dwells within them, encouraging, comforting and guiding them to make wise choices. They now have an inward “holy compass” that will direct them on the paths of righteousness, should they choose to listen to it. How I will pray to the end of my days that they will.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!    1 John 3:1

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.    Galatians 4:4-6

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”    Romans 8:14-16

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