Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Is It Enough to be a Good Person?


Earlier today, I saw something on a friend's Facebook page. In the post, this gentleman was explaining his beliefs. He stated he isn't atheist, but that he doesn't fully sign on with their being a God either. But he made a statement that basically said, if there is a god, he doubts this god cares about the trivial things of the flesh, but rather that we be good people.

Now, I am not going to debate the ins and outs of whether or not the God I worship and love cares about things of the flesh (i.e. who's sleeping with whom). But I do want to pose a question...

What does it mean to be a "good person"?


To me, being a good person (or, attempting to be) means essentially to love one another. This is a commandment Jesus gave... one in which that exact terminology is mentioned 12 times in the King James Version (I'm not going to list them all... but they're easy enough to find). In addition to "Love one another" being specifically stated a dozen times, the Bible on a whole is based on the concept of love.

What does it mean to love one another? 


Don't kill someone... punch 'em, kick him, stab him, etc.
Don't hurt someone... physically, emotionally, verbally, sexually, etc.
Don't lie (this hurts people). Don't talk bad about someone (this hurts 'em too).
Don't steal from them (anything of theirs... their money, furniture, ideas, spouse, pet, etc).
Don't cheat (yup, this one hurts people too).
And I"m sure the list goes on.

This would be how to be a good person.

Now then, as for those trivial fleshy things? 


Cheating we already covered. That hurts people (spouse, loved one, etc).
Sex before marriage?  This can hurt others too, depending on how they think of sexuality/virginity.
Masturbation? If you're married/involved, you could be hurting your spouse.

In other words...

To be a good person means to love others. To love others means to put their needs/feelings before your own. Quite simple.

So... is it enough to be a good person? 


Friday, April 11, 2014

5 Lessons My Children Taught Me About Love



Often, some of the best lessons we learn come from children - especially our own. These past few days, in the midst of a bit of family health issues, my children have managed to teach me some much needed lessons.

No problem is bigger than love: 


Those of you with kids understand - sometimes children (especially teens) make mistakes. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that sometimes teens make decisions that we, as parents, disagree with. This happened with my eldest a few weeks ago. And because of this decision, she and I were barely speaking to each other (we both tend to be a bit stubborn when we think we're right...).

When her father ended up in the hospital two days ago, I let her know what was going on. Regardless of my anger at her/her decision, this was her dad. She showed up at the hospital and just gave me a big hug, and it was as if the past few weeks hadn't happened. Or didn't matter. Later that night, she sent me a text assuring me that everything was going to be ok.

We aren't always going to agree with decisions other people make... we can't (unfortunately) control other people. But we can control how we respond to these people - and it should always be with love. And it took a 20 year old to remind me of this.

Love selflessly:


Sometimes, I just can't always be the strong one. After receiving bad news after bad news, I fall apart. And this is often after I tell one of my daughters bad news and she starts crying. Every time this happens, my son is right there, wrapping us both in his arms.

When I'm scared, angry and/or hurting, I often withdraw into myself. Yes, I am still there for my children, but I often ignore the needs of others who are also hurting.  But not this kid. In spite of his own fears and anger and sorrow, he always puts the rest of his family first. He's the first one to reach out to his siblings, and even to me and his father, when things are going rough. He pushes aside his own needs to help friends, neighbors, and strangers.

Granted, he does still need to care for himself (as do all of us). But no matter how much pain we're in, we need to remember there are others also hurting - others who need support and love. And it took an 18 year old to remind me of this.

Let love trump greed:


Last night, my youngest son found an addressed envelope near a snow pile. The envelope appeared to have been outside for a couple months at least, most likely having been dropped in the snow and eventually buried by more. He showed his sister. She and her friend decided to open it as they didn't recognize either of the names on the envelope. It was a thank you card with a gift card for Starbucks. At first, they contemplated keeping the card - who doesn't love a good cuppa Starbucks coffee? And then they read the card.

"Thank you for taking such good care of our son this year, when we weren't able to care for him." It was signed by the parents, and also by an obviously young child.

These two teens decided Starbucks wasn't that important. They placed the card and gift in a new envelope, with a letter of their own to apologize to the recipients that they hadn't received it earlier, but that they had just found it in the snow. I usually think of myself as an honest person, and would like to think that I would have made the same decision. But... coffee...

There was someone most likely needing to hear this thank you, and deserving to be shown appreciation for taking care of a child who was not their own. Our own greed should never come before honesty and love. And it took a 16 year old (and her 18 year old friend) to remind me of this.

There's no room for pride or envy in love:


I have twins - a boy and a girl. They are polar opposites, with the exception of their love for sports. My daughter is very outgoing, talkative, and extroverted. My son is very shy, quiet, and introverted. Yesterday, they had a long day at a track meet. My daughter placed first in one event, second in two events, and third in her fourth event. My son only placed in two of his events - fourth in one, and eighth in the other.

Rather than my son being jealous of his sister's accomplishments, he congratulated her and told her what a great job she did. And instead of being prideful and having a "ha! I did better than you!" attitude, my daughter told her brother he did a great job as well, and assured him of how great he is in sports. Neither focused much on their own accomplishments, but on the accomplishments of the other.

It's really easy to get wrapped up in our own successes, we often forget to show encouragement and support to others. We find ourselves filled with self-pride. We get so wrapped up in our own failures, we often forget to show joy in others' accomplishments. We find ourselves filled with envy. There's nothing wrong with being proud of what we accomplish, or feeling a little down when we don't do as well as we wanted, but love is about other people - about lifting them up, and encouraging them when they're feeling down; and being happy for them and celebrating with them their accomplishments. And, it took two 13 year olds to remind me of this.

Enjoy being in the presence of loved ones: 


I had a long, stressful day at work yesterday. The work itself wasn't stressful. Finding out at 9am that my husband would be having a surgery, and is two hours away from me, and knowing that I still had to finish out the work day - that was stressful. After picking up my youngest son from school, I had to tell him what was going on. After a lot of hugs, he asked if we could go to the park and fly kites. The last thing I wanted to do was go anywhere. And while my son would disagree with me, kite flying really isn't the most exciting thing to do. But, he needed it, so we went. The kite I had broke before we even got there (windy day.... cheap kite... ). So, I was going to get to watch kite flying. Even more exciting...

And yet, it was a wonderful hour or so. Just watching him having fun and hearing him every now and then saying "Mom, look!" made me forget about my stress. Having him laugh in the midst of all the chaos our family is going through.... there was nothing I could do but also laugh.

Often times, when we're stressed or hurting, we want to just crawl in a hole and avoid people. And we don't want to laugh and have a good time when someone we love is hurting (maybe it's a guilt thing). We want to sulk and be miserable. But it's at these times when we need to get out of our hole, and enjoy the little things in life. We need to get out and be in the presence of loved ones. And, it took an 11 year old to remind me of this.

----

I am so grateful of the children God has blessed me with, and the lessons they are continuously teaching me. These are only some of what they taught me... and just within the past 48 hours.

May you all be blessed with love.

God bless

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Count the Number of Sins (Winner gets a prize!)

Ok, so this friend of mine (married woman with children) decides she needs a night away from responsibilities. Husband agrees (wife is cranky/whiny... he really is perfectly fine with her leaving for a bit) and so he stays home with the children.

Wife goes to the bar and orders a drink (alcoholic no less).
A relative of the bartender approaches the woman, requesting her help. She's playing a little prank on one of the regulars because it's his birthday. The woman agrees, and the two ladies start telling everyone they're lesbian strippers.

Someone else orders drinks for the women.
The "lesbian stripper" sits on the bar and puts her legs on the woman's shoulders. The ladies enjoy another free drink.
Dancing ensues - and it is highly possible the woman had a fully clothed, but intimate dance with a barstool.
More free drinks.

The women laugh, talk, and get to know each other (not in that way). They discuss their jobs, the bartender (who happens to be a really cool person), God, their favorite alcohol, the weather, etc.
They close down the bar, hug each other and the men they were joking around with. And everyone goes back to their own homes/families, where the woman proceeds to tell her husband about the fun night. 
------

Count the number of sins this woman committed in this scene.... Winner gets a prize: A free fake-lesbian stripper night! Ok, I'm kidding. There really is no prize other than my love. :) But, I am curious as to how many sins people see in this scenario...

Are You a Teenager (like most Bible scholars)?

If you have teenagers, or know teenagers, or were a teenager, then you know this to be true:

Teenagers know EVERYTHING. 

 

Just ask one. They'll tell ya how it is. They know what they're doing. They know right from wrong. They know the meaning of life. They know they're right. And most of all, they know you're wrong. You cannot tell them anything - they already know. And, you're stupid. Especially if you are:

  • A parent
  • A teacher
  • A pastor
  • A specialist in any field
  • Any authority figure
  • A friend who disagrees
  • A sibling
  • A dog
  • An alien
  • ...

You get my point.Teenagers think they know more than everyone else, and there is nothing you can say to the contrary. Or, you could say something to the contrary.... but you'll be faced with:
  • anger
  • resentment
  • insults
  • "facts" pulled out of thin air
  • looping thought processes that are really just meant to confuse you to the point of you bowing down to their superiority.

Bible Scholars are just older teenagers

 

Yes, you read that right. Bible scholars are teenagers. Theologians are teenagers. Seminary students/graduates are teenagers. That one lady who has never missed a Sunday at church, and has read her Bible cover to cover 4 times, and teaches Sunday School/Bible Study/random people on the street - yup, she's a teenager, too.

I gladly admit, I do not know everything about the Bible. In fact, I know quite little about it. I've read it. I've studied it. But the more I study it, the more arrogant I find myself getting. Suddenly I feel God has empowered me with all His wisdom, and anyone who dares disagree with me? Idiot. I'm a teenager for crimminy's sake - I am not wrong!

Young children have an advantage over Teens/Adults


I have six children - five of whom are currently teenagers. The younger two teens aren't quite fully enveloped in that "I know everything and parents are dumb" mindset quite yet... but they're working on it. My youngest child is eleven. And even he is already slipping out of that young child advantage. But I remember when they were all in that place...

Young children are innocent. They're trusting. They're loving. And they're eager to learn. They want to learn. They hunger to follow, and believe, and learn and absorb. And they're humble. They don't claim to know the Bible. They don't claim to know whether or not baptism should be as an infant or as an adult; with a sprinkling of water or with submersion. They just know they want to know God and God's love. They want to hang on His every word. They want to be in His presence.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. (Matthew 18:1-5 NRSV)

When Jesus says "unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven", I believe He is wanting us all to become as I just described young children to be. He wants us to hang on His every word. He wants us to want to be in His presence. He wants us to trust and love Him with that same innocence.

There's nothing wrong with studying!


Please do not misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with learning the Bible, or theology, or doctrine. There is nothing wrong with studying these things, and learning the ancient languages. There is nothing wrong with debating these things with fellow believers. But there is something wrong when we allow our arrogance and pride to interfere. There is something wrong when we begin to act more like teenagers and less like innocent children.

----

Please Lord, help keep our hearts and minds as humble children. As we grow in knowledge and experience and wisdom, help us to keep our arrogance and pride at bay. Help us hunger to keep learning about You, and help us hold on to our humility through the process. Help us to always desire to hang on Your every word and to cling to loving and trusting You.

In Jesus' name, Amen

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Three (+100) Voices We Hear



This is so stupid. Why are we bothering with this?
Because it's important?
Why? Who really gives a shit?
Just shut up and...
I want a drink
Of course you do. You're a drunk
uh hello nimrod, you're me
Will you please just...
yeah yeah, shut up
Exactly
(silence)
...Oh c'mon, you know I wasn't serious
Maybe we should email him again.
No, maybe we should leave him alone
Why
Why not?
Stop guys! We need to figure this out!
Blah blah, emotionally detached
Blah blah, hyper-sensitive
emotionally immature
We don't care
I care
Stop trying to be an individual.
Stop telling me what to do
Think he actually cares?
...please tell me you're kidding??
Why?
Why not?
Knock it off! You guys are impossible
...improba...
Now's not the time 

-------------------

I Hear Voices:


This was an actual conversation that went on in my head just a few moments ago. It actually involved a few more voices, but it's hard to recall what all is said and in what order when they're all talking over each other. But regardless of how many are speaking, it's a common occurrence. In fact, it's pretty much 24/7.Yes, they may quiet down from time to time, but for the most part, it's so loud up there, I can't hear myself think.

While this may all be entertaining from time to time, there is one very annoying downfall - it's really difficult to hear God talking.

I read once that we all hear three voices whispering (and sometimes screaming) at us: God's voice, satan's voice, and our own. With the exception of the 100 voices whispering in my head, I can agree with this. But how do we know which voice is speaking?

God's Voice: 


In my experience, as humans, we always want to assume the other two voices are God's. I mean, wouldn't it be nice to think the voice telling us we're justified in smacking a moron upside the head is something God is telling us?

The easiest way to know if it's His voice - does what is being said match up with Scripture? From studying the Gospel, we know God wouldn't give us permission to smack people around. There's that whole "turn the other cheek" thing. So, voice doesn't match Scripture, therefore safe bet the voice doesn't belong to God. The more we delve into God's Word - reading it and studying it - the easier it is for us to ascertain if it's God's voice we hear.

Satan's Voice:


This one is the one we often like to believe just might be God. But, Satan's voice is pretty easy to differentiate. It's the opposite of God's. It doesn't line up with Scripture. It sounds nice...tempting... and we need to learn to ignore that voice.

My Voice: 


I, me, my, mine, myself...

Notice a common theme, there? Yup, yup... that voice is the selfish one. It's the fleshy, lusty, covetous voice. It's the one that wants what I want (whether or not it's mine to have), and is only looking out for me. It's self-gratifying, and not really caring who gets knocked over in the process.

And, quite often, this voice must be ignored.

How to know which is speaking... 

As I pointed out earlier, our best test as to which voice is speaking is to compare what is being said to what is found in Scripture. If it goes against God, it's not Him.

Pray, pray and pray some more! The more we engage in conversations with God, the easier it is to distinguish His voice.

Ask yourself:
Am I being told to do something that will hurt others?
Am I doing something that hurts myself or my relationship with God? 
Does it glorify God?
Does it go against Scripture?

Hold onto those things which glorify God and bring you closer to Him.
Ignore those things which harm you, others, or your relationship with God.

And those other 100 voices that just won't shut up? Well, if anyone has any ideas, I'm quite willing to listen...

God bless!





Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Let's Talk About Sex...


And now that I have successfully (and unfortunately) gotten the song "Let's Talk About Sex (Baby)" by Salt 'n' Pepa in my head...

Sex - Do we ever really talk about it? 


Oh sure, we debate certain sexual topics such as homosexuality. We discuss at times adultery, although, not nearly as often. When it comes to our children and premarital sex, the conversations usually involve either:

a) don't talk at all about it
b) throw 'em some form of birth control and be done with it
c) throw the Bible at 'em and let them know if they have sex before marriage, they're sinning and are going to hell.

Yeah, these are all really helpful. Is it any wonder we have such a high amount of teen pregnancies?

Kids need to understand their physical desires are normal. It's only by accepting their human limitations and recognizing that they need to turn to something higher than themselves that they are able to fight those temptations.

Sex - Have you had that talk with yourself recently?


Last night, I fantasized about having sex with you.

You aren't my spouse. I'm not yours. (But, in case you're wondering, you were great...).

Lust enters most (if not all) of our minds. Yes, some of us are better at burying it than others. Some of us are better at smacking it down as soon as we see it rear it's head. Just because lust enters ones mind doesn't mean that person drags out the porn and settle in for a nice romantic evening with him/herself.

It means we're sexual creatures. It means we're normal.

And, it means we need to have an honest discussion with ourselves as to our human limitations when it comes to lust and our desires; and we need to recognize that we need to turn to something higher; if we want to be able to fight these temptations.

Sex - Have you had that talk with God recently? 


The problem with lust is quite simple. When we don't recognize it within ourselves and admit to it and deal with it right away, it does not go away. It builds. It grows. It starts with just a thought.. "I wonder what it would be like..." and soon is a fantasy and a private, one person, romantic evening... and could quite easily become an intimate two-person evening with a lot of regret.

We must take it to God. We must openly share with Him these thoughts and ask His guidance. We must be willing to talk to God about sex. And well, if you think about it... God a) created sex; b) endorses sex in the right circumstances; c) already knows you've been thinking about it, and to what graphic detail; and d) knows when you've been having it, and to what graphic detail. So, you might as well just tell him.

Again, until we look honestly at our human limitations, and turn to God for help and guidance, we will not have the strength (usually... most of us...) to fight the temptations of lust.

So... everyone get on out there and talk about sex.

God bless!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Why We Should Never Say "It's Just Kids Being Kids"

Every now and then, I hear something or see something that quite simply makes me very sad...

Bullying 


Bullying is one of those things we're always hearing about. Children get bullied at school. They're bullied online. They're bullied at the playground, or on the bus. Even adults find themselves in situations of being bullied. They're bullied at work. They're bullied by a spouse at home.

What is bullying, exactly? 


It isn't just physical harm - although, it can definitely take this form. It's also verbal. It's calling another person names on a regular basis. It's excluding another person. It's making a person feel unworthy. It's intentionally hurting another person's feelings.

What is it not? 


It is not simply kids being kids. This was the thing I heard the other day that simply made me very sad.

"What am I supposed to do? I can't stop kids from doing what kids do."

This was said by a youth group leader, in regards to bullying happening by youth group members, but not during youth group events.

What is a Christian youth group? 


I've seen youth groups that are more Bible study groups. I've seen some which are basically just good-time groups. I've seen some very focused on service to others. I think there is value in each of these kinds of groups. I think it would be even more beneficial for kids to have some combination of all of this.

But regardless of the type of group it is, a Christian youth group should be a place where children feel safe. They shouldn't fear voicing their faith. They shouldn't fear sharing their opinions. They shouldn't fear sharing their troubles and fears. And they most definitely shouldn't fear being excluded or bullied by fellow members - within or outside the walls of the group.

And as leaders of these youth - whether as official youth group leaders, or just as parents of teenagers - we should not be dismissive of bullying behavior. And we should be focusing on making sure our children have a group of peers they can turn to for sharing their faith, hopes, pains and fears.

Are We Failing Our Kids? 


Many teens/young adults today are lost. They don't know where to turn when life gets ugly. They don't have that safety net - and part of this is because we are failing as parents and leaders.

We are so concerned with our children being socially accepted, that we don't prepare them for what happens when they aren't socially accepted; and we don't teach them what to do when someone else isn't socially accepted. We don't try to provide them with strong values. A good Christian upbringing doesn't just mean dragging our children to Church and Sunday School and Confirmation classes. It should be about teaching them to always reach out to those in need. It should be about teaching them to reach out to the marginalized... to always include people... to always be kind and show love, regardless of where you are.

Instead, once they're not in our home or our Church, we rid ourselves of the responsibility. We dismiss the concept that perhaps these children are being bullied. Or that they are the bullies. We just write it off as "kids being kids." We don't realize until it's too late that one of these children is suicidal, or depressed, or cutting him/herself, or starving him/herself, or doing drugs or drinking. We don't realize until it's too late that we have failed to provide a safety net for these children.We don't realize until it's too late that some of these children are causing harm to others, and that we haven't taught them how to be a safety net for each other.

Please Pray for the Bullied and the Bullies (and all the rest of the children...)


Our children are in serious need of prayer. Pray the bullied are able to find strength, and find a safety net of peers whom are accepting. Pray the bullies find the love and acceptance they strive so hard to find and keep. Pray for parents and leaders to stop dismissing bullying as just kids being kids. Pray we find the strength and wisdom to reach out to these children in love, and show them how to be a net for one another. Pray all these children find some peace.

God bless