Identity Crisis

The dictionary defines the word crisis as “a time of intense difficulty, trouble or danger; a time when a difficult or important decision must be made”. Most everyone, at some point in their life, will face some sort of crisis. For some, it will come in the form of a financial crisis. A sudden job loss or a stock market crash results in financial ruin, maybe even to the point of bankruptcy. For others, it may hit as a health crisis. A routine physical reveals something that is unexpected and unwanted. Perhaps that undesirable revelation occurs in your child. You are forced to stand by and watch your child suffer, and with each treatment, each needle stick, each test, you cry out to God to allow you to be in that place instead of your baby. Sometimes what is defined as a crisis is not quite so dramatic. We’ve all heard of the mid-life crisis that many go through. A man or woman reaches a point in life where they have raised children or they have reached the pinnacle of their career and they wonder what might be next. They remember with rose colored glasses the past and how wonderful it was to be young. Some try to recapture that youth by things such as buying a cool sports car. That will make them feel young again—cruising the freeway with the convertible top down and some 80’s classic rock blasting from the stereo. Others take a more drastic approach and decide that their spouse, the one they once looked at with desire, is now old news (literally). They decide to find someone younger who can give them that spark they once had. For some it is a secret affair while others outright divorce and go out and play the field again. There is one particular type of crisis that I was thinking about last night. It is that crisis that plagued me throughout the night and into today. I’m not sure the name I assigned it is exactly correct, but it seems to be a good fit. I am talking about an identity crisis.

It started yesterday afternoon as I was reading the blog of a friend. The following is an excerpt from his post and it is this paragraph that got in my head and under my skin, causing what I am calling an identity crisis:

Are we all ready to meet Jesus?  Are we all ready to give an accounting of what we have done with the talents He has given us?  Are we all satisfied with number of disciples we have made in Jesus’ name?  Are we all ready to give an accounting of our works done AFTER salvation to the Creator of the Universe, Jesus Christ? If not…what are we waiting for? (thetrumpetblows.blogspot.com)

The paragraphs before this discussed the events that took place last week around the world. Specifically, he was discussing the legalization of gay marriage by the United States Supreme Court in this part. His premise was, and always is in his writings, that Jesus told us in His Word to expect the acceptance of blatant sin. In Matthew 24, Jesus told His disciples, and now us, that “as it was in the days of Noah”. If you know anything about the Bible, you know that in the days of Noah, the sins of the people were so great and so blatant that God decided to destroy His creation and start over. He saved Noah and his family and two of each kind of animal by instructing Noah to build an ark. Everything else was destroyed in a flood that lasted forty days and forty nights. After the water had receded, God promised he would never destroy the earth by flood again. His symbol of that promise was a rainbow. I find it interesting that the LGBT movement has hijacked a symbol from God as their own symbol while they blatantly mock God by their sin. Hitler hijacked the cross in the same way as he mercilessly destroyed millions of God’s chosen people—the Jews.

That’s for another time, though.

As I read the words written by my friend, I couldn’t comfortably say that my answer to his questions, with the exception of the first one, would be yes. I am definitely ready to meet Jesus. I know that if the trumpet blew today and Jesus was to return to gather his church to be with Him, I would be included in that gathering. I spent the greater part of my life wondering about the answer to that question, so I am very thankful that I now have the assurance of my salvation. The remaining questions, though, I was not satisfied with the answer I would have to give. As I lay in bed last night, thinking about my life, I grew depressed and upset over my lack of spiritual resume. I thought about what I had done with the talents God gave me. And I came up with precious little. In fact, I couldn’t even think of one talent that would count. I thought of our pastor and how every Sunday, he delivers a message from God’s Word that challenges and inspires growth. He planted this church with a small handful of people and no staff. He now leads a staff of several and preaches to an almost full auditorium every Sunday.

I can’t do that.

I thought about our worship pastor and how every Sunday he stands on stage, surrounded by a team of talented musicians, and leads that full auditorium in amazing worship to our God.

I can’t do that.

I thought about people like Beth Moore and James MacDonald who write Bible studies and lead conferences that challenge others to grow in their faith.

I can’t do that.

The more I thought about all the people around me that I see impacting the world for Jesus, the more discouraged I became. Once again, tears stung my eyes. What will I offer God on that day when I see Him face to face? Will I hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”? I am scared I will not. I live in a country that, for now at least, allows me to believe in God and read His Word without persecution. I do not fear on Sunday mornings as I drive to church that someone will walk in and kill me because I worship God. I know there are people in heaven right now who are there because they lost their lives for believing in Jesus.

I am struggling with what God wants from me in terms of service to Him. It isn’t that I don’t know I should serve Him; it’s knowing how He wants me to serve Him. What are my talents? If I am not a good leader, a good singer, a good speaker, etc. then what is left that I can do to serve the God I love?

I am smack in the middle of a spiritual identity crisis.

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SCOTUS laughs at God

This morning, in a decision that most likely surprised no one, the Supreme Court of the United States spit in the face of God and gave the LGBT movement a victory by declaring gay marriage to be legal in all fifty states. If you’ve read some of my writings, it will not come as a surprise to you that I disagree vehemently with this decision. To begin, I am unashamedly a Christian. I believe in God, I read His Word, and I believe with all that is in me that you cannot be a Christian and be in favor of gay marriage. The two are NOT able to coexist. Oh, I know there are those who twist Scripture to make it agree with whatever they want to believe. The truth, though, is they have been deceived and are deceiving themselves if they really believe that Jesus would condone homosexuality. I once had a friend was convinced of this very thing. The problem with that line of thinking is that for Jesus to approve of homosexuality and gay marriage, he would have to disagree with his Father’s definition of marriage. Marriage was defined and instituted by God in the very beginning of creation, for it was then that God created a WOMAN for Adam and declared this union to be good. The old cliché is “God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.”  God said that a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife. That sentence right there is chock full of evidence that marriage, by God’s definition, is between one man and one woman. God also commanded the marriage relationship to be one where humans could reproduce. “Be fruitful and multiply” God told Adam and Eve. His design and purpose for marriage was and continues to be reproduction so that parents can raise up a next generation in the ways of the Lord. Jesus would not go against His Father’s design, regardless of how those in favor of this abomination would twist His words to say otherwise.

How did we get to this place of acceptance of blatant sin?

I believe it started when we decided that we all have the right to be our own God. We bought into the lie that we deserve to be happy and that God would want us to be happy. That is an obvious lie, for if we go back to the Bible, and those who claim to be Christians who support gay marriage also claim to believe the Bible, so this argument would apply to them, we see many instances where God’s people were not happy. They didn’t always have what they wanted. Job lost all he had. He wasn’t always happy about it. Jesus willingly went to the cross even though he pleaded with God to take that cup from Him. But somewhere along the way, and I would be bold enough to say it came with preachers like Joel Osteen and Rob Bell, the idea that God really desires for us to always be happy seeped into the Christian teachings, and many churches let their guards down and agreed with this prosperity gospel, and the slide down the slippery slope was started.

Why is it such a big deal that homosexual marriage is now legal?

Sin is never content to stay small. Ask any recovering alcoholic—and I put myself in this category—how they got to that point where alcohol became their master. None would say that they woke up one morning and decided to start drinking uncontrollably. No, it happened little by little. Perhaps they started out with something simple like a few beers or wine coolers. When the buzz needed or enjoyed no longer came from that, they progressed to something harder. Then the harder stuff had to be consumed more often. It didn’t take long to “need” the escape more and more and the slide down the slope was unstoppable. Sin never looks bad at first. If it did, we would not struggle with it. No, sin parades as innocent and glamorous and harmless. Once its hooks are deep enough, though, it is too late. Even if one recognizes their predicament, and many do not, it is often too difficult to break ties with the sin that entangles. That sin becomes a millstone around their neck that will certainly be their demise unless they allow Jesus to intervene. Yes, Jesus loves the alcoholic and the homosexual, but His goal is to deliver them from that sin—not to pacify them into thinking it is okay as long as they are happy. I also think the officials that the American people have elected have contributed to the downfall of this country.

Where will the slippery slope end?

I believe the only answer to that is in the mind of God. We know from Scripture, and again, if you call yourself a Christian you admit that you believe the Bible, that God will judge this earth. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for sexual immorality. I believe this is only the beginning of the immorality of this nation. I have to almost laugh at people who dismiss with naïve arrogance that marriage between a man and his horse or a man and his twelve year old niece will never happen. Seriously? Do you not see the handwriting on the wall? Look back at Hitler’s dominance of the German people. He started with the schools, for Hitler knew if he could indoctrinate the children to his agenda, then it wouldn’t be long before he would have the entire country under his thumb. History doesn’t lie and rest assured, it does repeat itself. America has allowed the indoctrination of the LGBT movement into its schools. Days of silence in support of this movement are held nationwide. “Bullying”, which often is not really bullying at all, is said to have zero tolerance in schools, but this only holds true if this is directed at any who identify with the LGBT movement. It’s acceptable to hurl insults at “Jesus Freaks” or those who bow their head to pray before lunch or carry a Bible. Where is the zero tolerance in these instances? It does not exist and each time someone gets away with putting down a Christian student, more indoctrination takes place. Why would we question how we got to this place, where men can carry on shameful acts with men? Why would we be ridiculous to envision a day when a forty year old man says he is attracted to ten year old girls and will be allowed to do what makes him happy? If God withholds judgment long enough, that day will come.

It is time for TRUE Christians to stand up for what the Bible says is true—that homosexuality IS a sin, that God does not condone it, and that God has not nor will He ever change the definition of marriage. Perhaps God will have mercy on this nation. My hunch, though, is that will not be the case. God is a just God and will only tolerate His creation spitting in His face for so long.

Even so, Come Lord Jesus.

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An Unraveling

The other day I was doing laundry. As I transferred the now dry clothes from the dryer to the empty laundry basket in order to fold them, one of the socks had a thread dangling from the top of it. I tugged on the thread in the attempt to pull it off. Instead of ending up with a small piece of thread in my hand, the once short piece of thread grew longer and longer as the entire top of the sock came unraveled. Before I realized what was happening, the top of the sock was completely void of any elasticity to hold it in place on one’s leg. One small piece of loose thread led to the sock being rendered useless.

Lately I feel as though someone has pulled loose threads in me and around me.

The daily challenges of living with any illness can prove to be difficult. I am the first to admit that the path I walk is no way comparable to the path that some have had and continue to have to endure. My body is not subject to harsh chemical treatment as one who is dealing with cancer must do to their bodies. I do not pretend to know the grief a young mom must feel as she is told by the military chaplain that her young husband and father of their children did not survive the helicopter crash. I do not know what it is to cower in fear because Christian music is playing on my radio station. While none of these things pertain to me, I do understand the difficulty that getting out of bed each day can bring because one’s body is wracked with pain or one’s world looks so dark and lonely that even the brightest light seems unable to penetrate the depths of sadness. With each medical test result that is unfavorable, I find that I am feeling my world unravel. Each day spent battling my own thoughts and finding myself weary from the battle to keep my head above water is more unraveling. Each relationship that has changed–and not for the better– because life has brought me to a new location and loneliness now lives where friendships once resided has contributed further to the sense of unraveling.

Looking outside myself, I see a world around me also unraveling.

A man, once lauded as being one of the greatest athletes of all time, is now lavished with attention for becoming a woman–something he said he always felt anyway. And the attention is not coming from a negative vantage point. No, it is just the opposite. He is being praised for his “courage” to be true to who he really is. Seriously? Fifty years ago, the attention received for such acts was anything but positive. In addition to that, in all likelihood, the highest court in our land will soon rule favorably for homosexual marriage–something that legally they have no right to do but are taking the liberty to do so regardless of what our Constitution states about the constraints of what this court is allowed to rule on. Fifty years ago, no one would have ever predicted that the blatant sin of homosexuality would not only be tolerated but also encouraged.  On the opposite of the spectrum, it is now illegal to have the Ten Commandments displayed on public property. (yes, there are areas of the country that are exceptions) Placing a nativity set on state owned property is sure to cause an uproar by those who are offended by  the Baby Jesus. Praying in school or holding an after school Bible study in an available classroom is now forbidden by school authorities, yet they allow an entire day of silence devoted to the advocates of the LGBT movement.  An unraveling of morals is taking place.

If you’ve ever watched the television show “All in the Family”, you probably remember the lyrics to its theme song:
“And you knew where you were then,
Girls were girls and men were men…”
In too many families, men are no longer taught to be men. Instead, they are taught to be whoever they feel inside they should be.  Gosh, I think maybe I identify more with cats than I do people, so maybe I should change my identity to that of the feline persuasion. At the rate things are going, I may soon be able to do just that. After all, no one but me really knows how I feel, so I can legitimately feel any way I desire.

In my own life and in the world around me, the unraveling can be frustrating and scary. I don’t pretend to know where it all will end in either case. In the case of my sock, it ended with the sock being useless. In my personal life, because I am not a sock but rather a child of God, I know that I won’t be useless until God makes that clear by calling me home. In the meantime, while I struggle greatly with the effects of illness and depression, I am being forced to lean hard on Him to get me through each day. I see His hand in my life most days–when I wake to rain and thunderstorms instead of hot sunshine, when summer gives way to cooler temperatures of autumn, when my daughter comes and she and my sweet little grandson spend the day with me, or when my kitties jump up on my lap and purr as they fall asleep. Some days I struggle to find Him. My heart longs for some kind of reassurance that just doesn’t come. Even in those times, though, I can remind myself that just because I cannot see Him does not mean He isn’t here.

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The Eagle’s Nest

Enjoying the Word of God is fairly new to me. Although I am familiar with its stories, it is only within the last few months that I have found myself longing to spend time in it. With the exception of Psalms and Proverbs, I never really paid much attention to the Old Testament. Then, this past year, I participated in a Bible study that went through the life of Moses. That meant I had to read the first five books of the Old Testament. Yes, that meant reading even the book of Leviticus! Truth be told, though, I learned so much from those first five books. Of all the stories and verses that are contained in those books of Moses, one small section in particular really caught my attention. As I studied it more, I was touched by how God really cares for us as His children.

Deuteronomy 32:9-11 says, “For the LORD’S portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, And in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, That hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.”

These verses are part of a song of praise that Moses was singing to God. Moses had led the often rebellious and whiny Israelites for forty years through the wilderness after God had rescued them from bondage in Egypt. The book of Deuteronomy is mostly a retelling of the events that took place from the day they left Egypt until the death of Moses. It was verse eleven, though, that made me want to dig deeper. What did Moses mean when he compared God to an eagle stirring its nest? Since research is one of my favorite things to do, I decided to learn more about the ways of the majestic eagle. What I found struck me anew with love and awe for my God.

To begin with, eagles typically mate for life. From what researchers and naturalists can determine from eagles that have been banded and studied, an eagle will only stray from its life partner in the case of the death of its partner or a partner unable to reproduce. The eagle newlyweds build large, sturdy nests, comprised of sticks and lined with softer materials such as grass or cottonwood. Eagles’ nests are thought to be the largest nests of any bird. They build these nests high up in trees, usually near water.  Each year, the male and female eagles produce two eggs although sometimes only one is produced and sometimes three are produced. The eggs are tended to by both mom and dad eagle. For the first two weeks after the eggs have hatched, one parent is constantly with their offspring. Both mom and dad hunt for food to bring back to the nest to feed their new little ones. They tear the food into pieces and feed it directly to the little birds for the first few weeks. Eventually, they just drop the pieces in the nest and the little birds feed themselves. Baby eagles are ready to fly around the age of ten weeks.

Here is where the majesty of God and the beauty of Moses’ song come in…

A baby eagle is pretty comfortable in the nest mommy and daddy built for it. The baby is well protected from predators not only by the location of the nest, but also by mommy and daddy keeping a watchful eye on their offspring. Eagles, though, weren’t designed to sit in nests all the time. In fact, one of the most majestic sights one can witness in nature is that of a bald eagle soaring through the sky, showing off for a potential mate or hunting for food for its family. The eagle parents know that it is going to take a little persuading to get the little one(s) to try out their wings. So, momma goes through the nests and “stirs” it. She pulls some of the sticks out of their carefully intertwined design so that they protrude into the inside of the nest. Enough sticks are disturbed that whenever the baby eagle, which by now is almost too big for the nest, moves, it is poked by the end of a stick. Home is no longer as comfortable as it once was. The small eagle may still be reluctant to leave the safety and security of the nest, so mommy and daddy give it some help by nudging it out of the nest. Of course, momma loves her little bird so she isn’t really going to allow it to fall to the ground, but she desires her little one to learn how to use its wings so it can survive in the world in which it has to live. The little bird frantically flaps its wings but does not have the strength yet to prevent a crash to the ground. No worries, though, for momma bird is watching closely and swoops down to grab her little one and carry it in the protection of her strong and developed flight wings. After several exercises like this, the little bird gains strength and learns to use its wings to fly on its own power.

As I read about this process and compared it to the verses found in Deuteronomy, I was struck by how Moses likened our God to the protective mother eagle. Sometimes, God has to “stir” up our nests to make us uncomfortable. Maybe we’ve allowed our walk with Christ to become nothing more than routine habit. We read our Bibles because it is the first (or last) thing on our to-do list. We go to church because it is what a “good Christian” is supposed to do. We sing because it is expected of us. Our prayers have become nothing more than a laundry list of things we bring to God to make our lives more comfortable. But, like the mother eagle, God knows that our comfort is really a disservice to us. Then, after stirring our nest so that we get poked by sharp sticks and we are not quite as comfortable, God takes us a step further and nudges us completely out of our comfort zone. He refuses to let us stay where we are, for He knows we need to learn to survive in this world in which we live. But be certain, God does not push us out of the nest and then watch as we fall helplessly to the ground, scratch His chin and say, “Well, I thought she was ready. Guess not. Oh well. I have other children I can work with.” No. God doesn’t do that. Instead, He keeps a close eye on us and, like the eagle, will rescue us and protect us under His wings. He will not let us crash to the ground.  Time and again, God will push us out of our comfort zone in order to strengthen our wings—our faith. Each time He rescues us, we are reassured that He is there, He is in control, and He loves us.

What “push” has God applied to your life? What has happened that made you think that you would for sure crash and burn, yet here you are, still standing because God rescued you? I’m not saying that every difficult and uncomfortable event in our lives is caused by God. We live in a world that is full of evil and pain and sadness. But, nothing comes into our life that isn’t filtered through the hands of God. He may not cause it but, for whatever reason, He allows hard times to fall on all of us. He wants us to turn to Him during those times of discomfort—He desires that we trust Him to rescue us and protect us under His wings. Sickness and disease and pain may permeate our bodies. Anguish and sadness can torment our emotions and mind. Anxiety and fear can paralyze us.  The ground is still there. The storm rages on. The nest is still uncomfortable. But under the loving wings of our Savior we can be sure of one thing—we are safe from ultimate harm.

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Grandma Prays

I read a quote the other day on Pinterest that really caught my attention. It said:

“Grandma’s prayers are the reason a lot of us are still here.” (No author credit was given)

Almost twelve weeks ago, I entered into a new stage of life. I became a grandma to an absolutely perfect little boy. He is named after his great grandfather, he looks a lot like his daddy but has his mommy’s eyes and a little of his Uncle DJ in him too, and he surprised us all by deciding to make his appearance three and a half weeks early. He has ten tiny little fingers and ten tiny little toes and more hair on his head than his grandpa Dave has. :)  I knew I would love him; what I didn’t realize is just how much my heart would be full of love for my grandson. I treasure the moments I can hold him and sing to him (he doesn’t mind the fact that grammy doesn’t have a very good singing voice) and read to him (yes, I have read to him already). I don’t look around my house and panic because there is so much to get done. I don’t care if there is. I know from experience that this baby will grow to be big way too fast. I don’t want to miss it. That’s what is so awesome about being a grandma–I have the time now to cuddle and rock and sing and love and teach without the stress of siblings and housework and obligations.

Yes, I absolutely love being a grandma.

I am also finding that, often as I hold him, I am praying for him. A grandma has time to pray–especially a grandma who has an illness that keeps her sitting a lot anyway. I pray that God will protect him from harm. I pray that he would learn at a very young age that Jesus loves him SO much. I pray for his mommy and daddy that they would have the strength to withstand the sleepless nights now and those to come. I pray that he will come to know Jesus at an early age and desire to follow Him. I pray a lot for him. Don’t get me wrong–I prayed (and continue to pray) as a mom too. I ask God for many of the same things for my now grown children and I did pray for them as they grew up although not nearly as often as I should have. I didn’t understand prayer very much back then. I didn’t realize how important it is. As I have come to know Jesus in the last couple years, I have been learning more about the importance of prayer. Because of this, I find my prayers for my grandson to be so much deeper than how I used to pray as a mom of young kids.

I did not have the benefit of a grandma who prayed for me. I only knew one of my four grandparents. The other three had passed away long before I was born. The grandma I knew was nice enough. She even lived with us for a while. I remember one time she gave my friend and me money for the ice cream truck as it came down our street. She watched TV with me. But she didn’t go to church. She never talked about God–at least not in a way I could repeat. She respected those who desired to pray before meals or before bed, but she never initiated it. I’m not sure she really knew Jesus personally.

I do not want to be that kind of grandma. I want my grandson to know his grandma prays for him, for his mommy and for his daddy. I want him to know who Jesus is. I want him to know Jesus has a special plan for his life. I want him to understand that without Jesus, his life will not be complete. I want him to grow up knowing that his grandma, above all else, loved Jesus more than anything this world can offer. As I softly sing “Jesus Loves Me” to a little boy who already fights sleep (just like his Uncle DJ used to do), I pray that some day he will remember and know without a doubt that Jesus does love him.

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Cut the Lawn, Shovel the Snow

This picture is something I used to look at when, as a child, Wheaties was my favorite breakfast cereal. I always read the box as I ate. I was a kid who loved and looked forward to the Olympics. While the winter Olympics were my favorite, I watched with enthusiasm certain events of the summer games as they were projected into my room via television screen. I remember the medals won by Bruce Jenner during the summer Olympics. Over the years many faces appeared on my Wheaties boxes. I don’t remember many of them, but his I remember. That was the real Bruce Jenner–a gifted athlete and also an actor who I remember watching ride alongside Officer Jon Baker every week on the show CHiPs. I loved that show and had the biggest young girl crush on the blond Jon Baker.

But I digress.

Lately, every time I turn on my computer, an image of Bruce Jenner appears somewhere on my home screen. If I happen to catch any entertainment news on television (which is very rare), his picture appears there as well. Only, this is not the Bruce Jenner I grew up liking and respecting. When I first heard the news report that he was transitioning to a female, I thought perhaps the reporters had gone crazy. Bruce Jenner was a man–no doubt about it. He ran track with the men’s Olympic team. He was referred to as “Sir” on CHiPs. Although I wasn’t present at his birth, I’m pretty sure when he was born, the doctor told his mom that she had given birth to a boy. I don’t think his mom would have named him Bruce if that had not been the announcement made. It seems, though, that all these years “Bruce” didn’t feel like a male. Instead, he felt more like a female and finally decided that his feelings should be what dictate his life.

Imagine if we all felt that our feelings should dictate our lives. I, for one, would certainly have been arrested by now for assault if not full blown murder. One drive down the highway that takes me to my home would take care of that charge! I can’t count how often I have felt like ramming into the car in front of me driving below the speed limit in the left lane! Or swerving into the next lane to get the guy next to me to stop sitting in my blind spot. I probably would also have had my children taken away from me for neglect, for there were many mornings I didn’t feel like getting out of bed and facing the cries, the squabbles among siblings, the mountains of laundry, the pile of dishes, and the heat of a hot stove cooking a dinner that most would probably complain about anyway. Who wouldn’t rather stay in bed when faced with all that? I know for sure I would have been divorced by now had I allowed my feelings to dictate my life. Marriage is hard work! Very often I didn’t feel like saying sorry to my husband or allowing him to have his way.

Regardless of what Bruce Jenner claims, he may even go by the name Caitlyn Jenner, but female he is not. He can claim all he wants to and be applauded by the delusional who actually think that because of some medical procedure his gender is changed, but the reality is that just is not true. God created male and female at the beginning of time. For thousands of years, every birth resulted in a pronouncement of “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” (Yes, I realize that there are some instances–very rare–where a baby is born with both male and female parts. Again, this a very rare occurrence.) Along with the creation of male and female as different yet complementary, God mandated that His creation follow a certain set of rules. Males were supposed to marry females. It has been since the beginning of time that a “man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife”.

Allow me to make a comparison.

Where I live, the summers are warm and sunny. The occasional rain during those months causes the grass to grow. When the grass gets too high, most people get out the lawn mower to cut it. Given any summer weekend, on a walk through a neighborhood, one can hear the sounds of running lawnmowers and the smell of freshly cut grass. The converse of that is the winter months here. During those months, you will not hear lawnmowers or smell cut grass. In fact, you most likely won’t even see the grass as it sits dormant under a blanket of white snow. People don’t worry about snow on their lawns during those months; however, they do tend to deal quickly with the snow found in their driveways. During those times, lawnmowers are put away and snow shovels can be found in nearly every garage.

A lawnmower isn’t any help in clearing snow from a driveway. That wasn’t what it was designed for.

Likewise, a snow shovel isn’t any help in cutting the grass. That wasn’t what it was designed for.

The obvious here is that ultimately, nothing functions correctly unless it is used in the way it was created to be used. If you saw your neighbor using his snow shovel to try to cut the grass, surely you would think something’s wrong.

This same principle applies to Bruce Jenner. He is a HE regardless of what the cover of Vanity Fair proclaims. Human beings do NOT have the power to change what God has made and defined clearly. Bruce can wear women’s clothing, put on make up, ingest artificial elements that will make his body produce female hormones, and even change his name to that of a female. None of it matters. Some day, Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner will stand before the One who created him–the One who formed him and knew him before he was even born–and he will have to face his maker. We all will. In the mean time, it is not our privilege to change what God has made. Our culture has come to accept homosexuality and transgenderism as acceptable. In fact, Bruce Jenner is being lauded as a hero. Seriously? A hero? For what? For not being responsible enough to seek the help he needed? Since when does following your whims and feelings make you heroic? Did we applaud the Boston bomber because he felt he needed to kill Americans? Did we give him the status of hero for following his feelings? No! And rightly so. Bruce Jenner should NOT be held up to America as a hero. He should not be awarded any type of recognition for rejecting what God made him to be. Let’s call it what it is–sin. And, as one writer I read this week said, let’s stop paying so much attention to a man who wants to play dress up when there are things happening in this world that are of far more importance. Let’s look for real heroes and recognize them and their actions and give our children real role models to look up to.

Bruce Jenner is certainly not in that category.

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The Good or Bad Shoulder?

I was thinking about old cartoons I used to watch as a kid. Often, the main character would face a dilemma–a choice he or she needed to make. With a poof of smoke, on one shoulder would appear a little figure wearing a halo. This figure represented the right choice the character should make. The angelic-like figure would plead his case to the character, trying to invoke what was the obvious right choice. Reasons may be given as to why the choice should be considered the right one. In the middle of one of the angel’s sentences, another poof of smoke would appear on the other shoulder. There, a devil-like figure would stand. He would have horns on his head and a pitchfork in his hand. He would use different tactics to make what was the obvious wrong choice look good. Usually this was done by appealing to the character’s wants or weaknesses. The character would go back and forth between the two shoulder riding figures. When a decision was made, it was usually the devilish little guy who would win. That made for a good story line since a wrong choice would require consequences that could add to the humor of the cartoon character’s plight. Regret usually followed as the character would pay the price for making the wrong choice.

Every day we are all faced with choices. These range from the simple that have little effect on our daily life, such as whether we should wear the blue suit or the brown one, to more complex decisions like whether we should invite the beautiful new coworker out for a few drinks after work. In the case of the suit decision, no angel or devil would be needed to depict the importance of the decision. The fact is, that decision isn’t really all that important. On the other hand, in the latter example, we can easily picture an angel on our right shoulder, admonishing us that gossip is wrong and to abstain from being a part of it. Opposite of this angel would be our figurative devil-like character egging us on to be a part of the conversation. Mr. Devil may give what sounds like valid reasons for participating. He may whisper something like, “Invite her! That will show her that you are a caring person.” Mr. Devil may continue. “It’s not like you need to rush home tonight anyway. Remember, your wife has women’s Bible study so she is going to be late. There’s no harm in a few drinks or a bite to eat. You have to eat, right? Besides, it isn’t like you’ll be alone with her. It’s a restaurant for crying out loud. There’ll be lots of other people around.”

The angel and the devil on our shoulders put us in quite the conundrum. On one hand, you know your wife wouldn’t think highly of the idea of you taking a female coworker out after work, regardless of whether your intentions were pure and especially if they were not. On the other hand, there is truth to the fact that your wife is gone anyway. In fact, when you stop and think, maybe your wife has been busy nearly every night of the week. If it isn’t something at church, it’s something with the kids. It isn’t like she is making you high on HER priority list. Why should you worry about one evening out, especially knowing there will be others around? The moments you spend thinking about the choices are critical. The way you think about them are crucial.

Lately I have had more than my fair share of angel/devil moments. Although mine have nothing to do with the temptation of doing something behind my husband’s back, they still hold the potential to affect my life. Choosing the right side, the angel, will produce a positive result. Choosing the wrong side, the devil, will result in negative consequences. Most of these moments, for me, come in the form of choosing what voices to listen to in my own head. Yes, I just admitted I have voices in my head. These are not the kind of voices that make a psychiatrist whip out his prescription pad, though. No, these are voices that battle what the world says about me compared to what God says about me. The negative voices are fueled even more by the world around me. Television, radio, even people I know, contribute unknowingly to these voices.

It’s a daily battle. Sometimes it’s an hourly battle.

At the end of 2014, I set some goals for myself to be worked on in the coming year. I shared them with no one for fear that, if I failed, it would just make clear to everyone what I already knew–regardless of how hard I try, I will never measure up to some standard set by someone else. I was not as hard on myself as I usually am in terms of a time frame to accomplish these goals. In fact, I knew that my life was going to be turned upside down with stress the first part of the year, so I put off really working on any of them until life had a chance to settle down. What I didn’t count on was the difficulty that those same events would cause me in terms of accomplishing any of these goals at all. By far, the biggest and most difficult event that has stopped me from making much progress has been moving. I went into this move with eyes open; I knew after twelve years in one spot that relocating would not be easy. What I could never have anticipated was just how NOT easy that would be. (I realize that syntactically the previous sentence has issues. Normally I freak out about stuff like that. In this case, I am okay with it because it stresses my point in a way no other words can.) Moving has caused me to feel extreme isolation. It has caused the devil to appear on my shoulder and whisper things like, “I told you that moving would ruin your life. You didn’t listen to me. I knew you’d end up leaving friends behind and not making new ones. You should have been more stubborn in making the case to stay where you were…” The angel tries hard to counter that with words like, “You know this move was the right thing. Your husband is so much happier now. You have less space to clean…”

The problem is, most of the time, I can only hear the voice of the little devil-like guy. I sit alone, very often, and replay his words over and over. Like Alice falling in the rabbit hole, I spiral downward until I am simply miserable.

This morning I wrestled some in prayer with God. I wanted to know if loneliness is really what He is calling me to right now. Or, am I not doing something I could or should to relieve some of the loneliness? I prayed. I cried. I prayed some more. I think I even dozed off since the hour was very early for a non-morning person like me. I thought of Job and how lonely he must have felt when he lost all he had. I thought of Jonah in the belly of the fish and how lonely it must have been for him there. I thought of Elijah as he hid from Jezebel and how lonely he must have felt, isolated from everyone else. I thought of Paul under house arrest and how lonely he must have often been. Perhaps loneliness is just part of life. Perhaps it is what God is using to bring me closer to Him. After all, no matter how lonely I feel, I know I am not alone. God promises to never leave me. He promises to hold me with His right hand. He promises to be my strength when I am weak.

As I thought through all of this and reflected on the goals that I set for myself, I didn’t come up with any miracle answers. What I did come up with, though, is reassurance from God that He hasn’t forgotten me. He knows the goals I set and He sees the slight–ever so slight– progress of them. Five years ago, I would have flicked the angel off my shoulder and the devil and I would have had a pity party together. Instead, this morning I flicked the devil off and went to God’s Word. I read of others who felt the pangs of loneliness and read how God was there even when they didn’t feel like He was. Oh, that pesky devil came back. He is persistent like that. I’m hoping with a little practice, to get better at ignoring his voice when he returns time and again.

In the meantime, maybe an earplug in my left ear would help a little.

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Prison Escape…Hopefully

I am a prisoner.

I am being held captive against my will. Kind of.

My prison isn’t much fun, but I guess most prisons fit that description. After all, if a prison experience was fun, inmates wouldn’t risk their lives to escape. Not only that, people on the free side of the bars may clamor to get in. No, prison is designed to be a punishment for something done wrong, and everyone knows that punishments are not fun.

Perhaps when you think of prison, you get an image of hard concrete floors, a small, thin mattress in a corner, and bars to keep one inside the cell. I’m sure you’ve seen prisons on television shows and movies. Shawshank Redemption is the first thing I think of when I think of prisons. I think we’ve watched that movie at least one hundred times. The story line is fairly typical. A man is put in prison, uses his charm to get on the good side of the warden all the while planning his escape from a place where escaping means certain death. Of course there is more to it than that, but like most prison movies, that’s the basic plot.

The bottom line, though, is no one really sets out to become a prisoner. If you go to any elementary school and ask a class of third grade children what they want to be when they grow up, you’ll hear things like fireman, policeman, doctor, veterinarian, teacher, author or any other typical dream of an average third grader. But none of those children would raise their hand and say, “I want to be a prisoner when I grow up!” It just isn’t something that is intentional.

So how does it happen? How does one of those innocent eight year olds, dreaming of being the person who saves animals or people, end up locked in a cold prison cell?

Of course there is no easy answer to that question. Psychologists have been studying criminal behavior for years, trying to pinpoint exactly what goes wrong in the mind of a person who chooses to commit a crime bad enough to land them in a miserable prison. Those psychologists have blamed socioeconomic status, divorce, and mental illness–among other things–for the good kid choosing the wrong path. Some people act alone in their crime while others find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. My father used to tell me, “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you what kind of person you are.” Regardless of whether you believe that completely or only in part, you have to admit that people will do things in a group that they would not do on their own. The Bible has something to say about that. Paul warns his readers,

“Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

Solomon issues a similar warning in the book of Proverbs:
“Whoever walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)

How does all of this relate to prison? And, more specifically, how does it relate to the fact that I stated I am a prisoner?

For sure, prisons can be a brick and mortar place like one sees on the screen. That is not the kind of prison that I am being held in, though. The truth is, there is another kind of prison. This prison has no bars on the doors–at least not visible ones. This prison isn’t guarded by men with guns and large dogs with teeth ready to tear into flesh of any trying to escape. No, this prison is invisible to those around me. From the strangers I pass in the supermarket to the friends I see in church every Sunday, none can detect that longing inside me to be free from this prison.

The name of this prison is Fear. Sometimes it aliases under the names of Worry or Anxiety. Regardless of what name it presents with, it is a prison that too often wraps its cold bars around my heart and mind and renders me paralyzed. Of course, I realize that as a Christ follower, I have nothing to fear. The Bible uses the phrase “Fear Not” or something similar about 112 times depending on the version being read. There are other mentions of fear in the Bible, but many of these do not pertain to the type of fear I am describing here. (Example–fearing God is a different fear than this) Over one hundred times God found it necessary to chronicle in His Word the fact that I should not be afraid. Some of those verses I even have memorized. Psalm 23 comes to mind:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” (23:4)

Another Psalm I just finished memorizing because of its mention of fear is Psalm 27:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?” (27:1)

Jesus said in the book of Luke:
“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7)

It’s pretty clear throughout the Bible that since I have Jesus by my side, I have nothing to fear. Still, my heart and mind find themselves paralyzed with fear at the slightest of instances. A noise in the night sends my imagination to places commonly found in murder mysteries. A news story telling of a tragic accident instantly sends waves of panic through me as I fear the same could happen to someone I love. A phone call from an unknown number showing up on my cell phone will cause panic as I wonder if it is a hospital somewhere calling to tell me one of my kids has been brought there for some horrible reason. Lest you think these are just thought patterns that need to be changed, let me say it isn’t just my mind that gets lost in an enveloping fear. Sometimes the worry, anxiety, or fear over a possible event will keep me from leaving the house. I can be looking very forward to attending a social gathering scheduled for an evening and end up staying home because the fear of driving at night is overwhelming. A coating of snow on the roads–something very likely six months out of the year where I live–will make me stay home even if that means missing out on something important or fun with my husband.

I could go on and try to put into words what it is like to live this way, but I don’t think words can really convey that to anyone. The fact of the matter is that I hate living like this. I hate that I know I’m not supposed to fear, yet I do. I hate that in the middle of the night, a slight noise will keep me awake for hours as I visualize all sorts of horror stories in my head. When one is the owner of two cats, nighttime noises are going to happen. I know that. It makes sense when the day is here. I scold myself for being so scared, for not trusting in God enough. Yet, as soon as darkness returns, those same paralyzing thoughts come with it.

I’ve always been honest in my writing since I write more for my own processing than for others to read what I’ve written. That said, this has been an entry three days in the making. There are some things in my life right now that have put a streak of fear deep inside me, and I am realizing, maybe for the first time, that I can’t live like this anymore. I can’t continue to allow fear to dictate my life. I am frustrated with this prison I am in, and I am desperate to escape the bars that hold me prisoner. BUT, I am unable to do this alone. I have tried. I have repeated words to myself in times of deep fear, reminding myself that God is here and in control. I have memorized Bible verses and often, when gripped with fear in the middle of the night, will lie in bed repeating them over and over in hopes of falling asleep in calmness. I have read books by respected Christian authors about fear and why we don’t need to be enslaved to it. I have talked to professional counselors about it in the past. I have tried to dull it with alcohol. All this to say that this isn’t something I have sat back and excused as simply part of who I am–although to some degree I believe that to be true. I was taught fear at a very young age. That’s for another time, though. Still, God can change me. I know He can, and I believe He can. And, I am willing for Him and wanting Him to do just that. Yet it seems I pray and recite verses and read to no avail. The bars are thick and strong; I am weak in my ability to break free.

Perhaps, and this may give me a small glimmer of hope, the fact that I am recognizing just how much fear controls my life and how little I let God control my life, is the step I have been needing to take for God to finally work in my heart to rid it of this powerful fear. I wonder if David was afraid when he stood up against the giant Goliath? I wonder if Joshua was afraid when Moses died and he was left in charge of the ragtag group of Israelites as they wandered in the desert? I suspect in both cases the answer was at least a small “yes”. God still worked, though. I recently read that God does much of His work through the people He puts in our lives. If I believe that to be true, that means I need to let others in on the fact that I am a prisoner to something that God says I don’t have to be a prisoner to. Hence this entry.

I am ready–needing–to change my intense fear into trust in God. I am needing to understand that no matter what happens, God is here. If an earthquake like the one that struck Nepal a few weeks ago hits my hometown and I lose everything I have, I will not lose God. If my health continues to decline and I lose some abilities that I possess, I will not lose God. Jesus said to not fear the man who can harm the body, but to fear the one who can harm the soul.

The prison bars are still thick. They are still strong. But, there is an ever so small glimpse of light coming into the cell of my mind for the first time. God holds the key to my prison doors. God is stronger than fear. I need to let Him be stronger than its grip on me. But, I am unable to do this alone…I need people to help, encourage, and pray for me as I attempt to break free, with God’s help, from this prison cell of fear. I am trusting God to provide a few of those people in my life.

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Reblog from a friend

I’m reblogging a recent post of a friend of mine. I’m sure many have seen the potential implications for Christian colleges if they refuse to admit gays. I have to wonder–if there were a college strictly for gays and a Christian couple wanted to enroll there, would they be allowed to?
The answer is obviously, NO.
Another question: Why would a Christian couple want to enroll in a college where no one believed the same thing they did?
The answer: They wouldn’t.
That’s an important difference. It seems that those who are in favor of gay marriage purposely seek out Christians to do some type of service knowing they must refuse based on religious convictions and then they can cry “Unfair” and sue. Tolerance is NOT a two way street in this country. If you agree with me then great–you are being very tolerant of me. If you disagree with me, then you are being very intolerant and not Christian–yet, aren’t those who claim this just as intolerant for not tolerating my views?

Gosh. Debating with liberals is like trying to have a logical argument with a 3 year old.

Anyway, you can find my friend’s entry here:

http://thetrumpetblows.blogspot.com/2015/05/religious-colleges-may-lose-tax-exempt.html

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Gender Absurdity

This morning I read a blog post from a pastor friend. I will include the link to it at the bottom of my post so you may go and read it if you desire. He reiterated what I have been saying all along about homosexuality. One particular paragraph caught my attention. It reads:

“The Bible warns us that when we flaunt sin, we are in danger of the wrath of God.  If you read through the book of Leviticus, sexual sins were among those most abhorrent to God – and the penalty was always death.  Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed – why? because of their sexual perversity, including homosexuality.  The tribe of Benjamin was nearly destroyed – why? because of their sexual perversity, including homosexuality.  Perhaps it is time that we begin to teach our young boys what it means to be a man and to teach our young girls what it means to be a woman.  We have become a culture that has emasculated men causing men to be confused as to what it means to be a man.  It is time we stop and rediscover what the Bible says about the roles of men and women.  God created them to complement each other, not to conquer one another, or to become confused with each other.  It is time to wake up before it is too late.”

This wasn’t the first time this same thought has gone through my head. Boys are no longer taught to be men–for the most part. Of course there are exceptions. Thank God for those families who still hold to traditional values and truths. But, as more and more are buying into the lie that gender does not really exist and that if you were born a male but feel more like a female, well…that is okay. You just decide whatever feels right to you. Seems to me there is a lot of self-centeredness there. Well, I feel that I deserve to have more money than my neighbor so it is okay if I go and steal to make sure that happens. Or, I feel that love shouldn’t be regulated to an act between humans only. I am attracted to my neighbor’s horse, so since I feel that way, I should be able to gratify my feelings. Again, people, and increasingly churches, are completely blinded by Satan. Even as they proclaim themselves to be Christians, they are carrying out the deeds of Satan…if not themselves participating in these evil acts then by encouraging those who do by saying that it is okay in the eyes of God.

It is NOT okay in the eyes of God.

What happened to teaching children the correct differences between males and females? When did it become okay for a dad to allow his son to act more like a female than a male? What happened to moms teaching their daughters how to be a wife, a mom, a help mate to their future husbands? This isn’t about women in the work force, although I believe the slide down the slippery immorality slope had its start, at least somewhat, when women left the home and surrendered the raising of their children to day cares and government run centers. This is about moms and dads, regardless of whether they are at home full time or not, being responsible to teach their sons and daughters how to be men and women of moral character.

I used to listen to country music on a regular basis. (I don’t anymore for various reasons, the top one being that some of the lyrics had a detrimental affect on my thought life) One song I used to like was by Brad Paisley. The song was titled, I’m Still a Guy. In it he highlighted the differences between how he views something as opposed to his female companion. For example, he sang,

“When you see a deer you see Bambi, and I see antlers up on a wall.
When you see a lake you see picnics and I see a large mouth up under that log.”

Men and women were created differently–physically and emotionally. Somewhere along the way, it became taboo to teach young boys what it means to be a man. Somewhere along the way it became acceptable to tell young boys that it’s okay to not like girls and instead to like other guys, and, it’s even okay to “marry” those other guys…and I use the quotations marks because regardless of what man says, the definition of marriage in GOD’S eyes is one MAN and one WOMAN.

This country is destined for judgment for many reasons. Homosexuality and its encouragement and acceptance is just one of them. As my friend says in his post, it is time to wake up–arise from your slumber and open up your eyes to the immorality that is rampant all around us. And once your eyes are open to it, stand against it and stand for Christ!

(If you want to read Max’s post, it can be found here:
http://maxmarlys.blogspot.com/2015/05/gender-absurdity.html

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