All posts by Jude

Lose the Fish!

Engaging the Bible

If you are a proponent of prayer in school, but never pray at home or with your children, don’t talk to me. If you believe the bible should be taught in school, but never read the bible at home, don’t talk to me. If you think the bible should be the guiding principles in our country, but you never apply timeless biblical principles to your own life, or that of your children’s’ lives, don’t talk to me. You have heard it said, “some talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.” This directly applies here. If you have a bumper sticker that says “Abortion kills! What part of kill don’t you understand?” your ability to be a loving and caring Christ-like example to an unwed pregnant girl, could be in question. If you have a Christian fish on your car, and then speed through a parking lot while honking wildly at the elderly lady trying to park her vehicle, lose the fish! We live in a culture that easily disconnects their actions and words from what they proclaim to believe! It’s easy for all of us to talk more than we listen. Not only is this true of us individually, but it is also true of our political representation. Unfortunately, we are very keen on pointing out this shortcoming when it comes to our elected officials, but much less likely to see the truth of it in our own lives. Finally, it is especially sad and misleading when Christians choose to talk a talk that they just don’t walk. So back to the beginning of this messy blog. Issues like prayer in school, teaching from the bible, and the public display of the Ten commandments are all issues that in the last 20 or so years have often been at the forefront of town hall meetings, school board agendas and congressional lobbying. Many well-meaning and well-intentioned Christians have carried the torch on such issues as getting prayer back in school, creationism taught in the science curriculum and often feel insulted when they feel like Christianity is not accommodated either in politics or policy, or in the public venue in a way they think it should be. We have an organization/club at our junior high called “Cats for Christ.” This group conducts seemingly wonderful events like public “prayer at the flag pole.” My girls (the two who attended this school) never chose to participate in this club in spite of their own Christian faith. We were discussing it one day, and they were very frank in saying, “the kids we know who are members of this group,” commonly drop expletives in the hallways, treat others rudely, and have a general display of behavior that is absolutely contrary to the principles outlined in “Cats for Christ!” Of course no one is perfect, but consistent patterns of negative behavior with no appearance of regret or apology-let’s face it-probably isn’t who you want representing an organization that is supposed to point people to Christ, NOT confuse his message and mar his image.

But maybe a fresh look at real statistics of Christian adults and parents, might shed some light on why the actions of Christian junior high students in this particular situation IS what it is. One “Bible Engagement” study of 2900 Protestant Christians, revealed that 90% of those polled, “desire to please God,” but only a mere 19% of them actually admit to reading the bible daily or with any regularity whatsoever. (Christianity Today 9/7/2012). Another similar study concluded that of over 2 billion confessing Christians in this world, less than 30% will ever read through the entire bible. “The fact is over 82% of Christian Americans only read their bibles while in church on Sunday.” (Ponce Foundation 2013) And since in my own church on Sundays, I virtually never see a single parishioner carrying a bible, I am assuming that latter statement means they are either reading the bible from their electronic device in church (great resource) or (what is more likely), they are reading the scriptures on the projection screen referenced there by the pastor.
Another poll of Christians (evangelical and otherwise) reports on average, annual giving of only 2.4% of their income to the church! Some quick and simple math of my own family finances, revealed that just our monthly cable/internet and telephone/cell phones total about 2% of our income. Throw in a few coffee shop splurges, discretionary spending on entertainment and extra curricular activities for our kids, and the percentage of our disposable income DISPOSED on something other than charitable giving, becomes much much higher than the 2.4% donated on average by Christians. Lest you think this is only about church tithing, average charitable contribution By Americans (church giving or otherwise) according to their Federal tax returns filed in 2011 was about 2.1 percent of income. In actual dollars, the average was well less than $1200 per household, a number far far below what the majority of us spend on gourmet coffees, fast food, cable tv and data plans every year! (Urban Institute National Center for Charitable Statistics, November 2013) And what about serving others, sharing Jesus through selfless acts of love and benevolence? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2013 just a mere 1/4 (25.2%) of ALL Americans (Christians and others) volunteer their time throughout the year in some capacity. While it’s true that a large number of that 25% are “church goers,” it follows that well less than 1/4 of All Americans serving as volunteers in any capacity are actually Christians.
And those are individual statistics. Perhaps you are relying on your government’s efforts to spread the love of Jesus, particularly those of us who live in politically conservative states touting family values as paramount. In Texas, in spite of an often prolific political platform of conservative Christian principles, they still have the 3rd largest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. (Huffington Post March 19, 2014). Recently (2013-2014), Texas lawmakers have attempted to legislate an enormous decrease in the number of abortion clinics in the state. However, the number of state supported pregnancy crisis centers (many of them faith-based) supposedly offering girls and women alternatives to abortion have been riddled with problems. An independent study cited multiple violations ranging from safety to breaching of client privacy, while at the same time, little attention was allocated to the medical or emotional needs of their clients. Subcontractors at these centers often work in “counselor” positions that require no special training or certification. (ThinkProgress.org 2011) In my own beloved Sooner state of Oklahoma, a marriage initiative launched by a very conservative state government to combat divorce and strengthen families in Oklahoma, has, by all perceivable accounts, been an epic fail. After 14 years and 70 million dollars, divorce increased to 13.5% in 2012 up from 11.6% in the year 2000. There is a state contracted company who made a LOT of money from this initiative. However, Oklahoma still has the 3rd highest divorce rate in the country (Oklahoma Watch November 2013) And that-in spite of its geographical position, squarely centered in the middle of the traditional American bible belt!

What’s the answer? The answer has always been the same. It has never changed. Jesus! But how we message that to others, could prove to be either helpful or hateful! Bill Hybels said “The local church is the hope of the world!” I believe that could be your Protestant church, Parrish, synagogue, and most certainly your home. The church is not a building. The English word “church” comes from the Greek word kyriakos, “belonging to the Lord” (kyrios). Its defined as “an assembly, congregation, church; the Church, the whole body of Christian believers.”

Remember the study earlier discussed on “Bible Engagement?” Lifeway Christian Resources concluded that such an engagement with the bible was correlated to “Having been discipled or mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian.” It’s authentic relationships and daily spiritual disciplines that are going to compel us to serve others, give our money to the needy, love the unlovely, and give hope to the hopeless. This kind of religion can not be legislated. It cannot be canned into a program or sustained by your school board or town hall. And it cannot, by any measure, be mercilessly hammered into the heads and hearts of the opposition by a Christian who has not applied biblical principles and teaching in his/her own life. LifeWay president Ed Stetzer says “Bible engagement points people toward maturity and maturing Christians have practices that correspond to Bible reading. Almost all churchgoers want to honor God, but more than a third indicate obedience is not something they have done when it is costly to them.”

I know the way I started this blog, seemed harsh, but I am inclined to end it the same way. If you have fish on your car or a cross on your wall, or a bumper sticker that confuses Christianity with condemnation, and yet you don’t feel the need to seek God with your family inside the very confounds of your home or in serving your own community, don’t talk to me about your right to pray at the football game on Friday night. At some point, we have divorced ourselves from common sense Christianity, from grace and mercy- and instead have aligned ourselves with politics inside and outside of the church. I don’t really care if you pray out loud at school. But I do care if you pray at home with your family. It’s time as Christians we lead the charge in applying the scripture to our own life. Get a mentor. Be a mentor. Start practicing in your own daily life, in your marriage, and with your children what you claim you believe.

A True BFF

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9

BFF

My best friends aren’t my best friends because they make me feel good about myself-at least not all the time. Over the years I’ve been told by my best friends: “You really are kind of hard on your kids.” “He’s your husband Judy. His needs are as important as yours.” “You might want to pick your battles and decide if that’s a hill you really want to die on.”(parenting and marriage) “You need to be quiet and listen sometime.” “You should think about the concequences of your actions if you take that route.” In a world of very confusing messages on the expectations of motherhood, marriage, and the workplace, it’s often difficult to glean the good from the garbage; the cream from the crop; or the truth from the fiction. So that being said, it follows that surrounding yourself with one, two, or three well rounded, wise, imperfect but learned women, is unequivocally important for separating the truth in our lives from the lies which we can otherwise easily believe about ourselves and our present circumstances. On its face, this sounds like a plausible concept. Yes, cultivate a few close BFF’s so I can receive my daily affirmation. But the flip side of this storied union of gal pals, is the pervading question: Can you take it when they are not necessarily “affirming” you? Can you accept constructive criticism from someone you know and trust? True acceptance of critism is illustrated by a subsequent response of serious deliberation, and if neccesay, action taken as a result of the criticism. When my sister expressed her veiw, over a perceived lack of respect on my part for my husband’s feelings and position on a matter in our marriage, it wasn’t at all what I beleived she would say or what I wanted to hear. But as I mulled it over in my mind, this is what I did know about the source of the criticism: 1 This person has no hidden agendas. 2 This person cares for me unconditionally.
3 This person has my best interests at heart. 4 This person isn’t trying to fortify her own position in my life or in the given situation. (a personal agenda)
In fact, if anything, when a true “best friend” meets the 1st three criteria of this “measuring stick,” it’s highly likely that she knows she’s risking her relationship with you. She is taking a chance and trusting that you will, in turn, trust what you know about her, and therefore listen to her with that credibility in mind. So the next time you have a friend say something critical to you, first make a conscious decision to explore the truth in the criticism. Apply the measuring stick above. If you know or believe in your heart that the advice giver has an ulterior motive for taking this opposite stance, then glean what you can from her observations. Don’t respond in kind, meaning don’t respond to what you perceive as ill intent on her part. But consider this: while she may not be the person in whom you can put your trust for sound advice when the road is tough, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn something about yourself from what she said. But on the other hand, if your friend really does meet all three criteria on our measuring stick of credibility, and you Still choose to NOT listen to her, much less act on anything she says, then you might consider the possibility that you are unteachable. That is a strong word I know. However, over the years of my single, married, parenting life, and in the workplace, I have had my own share of unteachable moments.

Finally, if all you ever hear from your “besties,” is how much they totally agree with you, how wonderful you are as a parent, employee or spouse, then you might consider diversifying your relationship investments so to speak. Maybe you should invest some time cultivating a relationship with someone who has a proven track record of making mistakes and learning from them-someone who is full of humility and grace. These women can teach me a lot.

Okay, the truth is my best friends do hold me accountable. I fully trust and know if I left my husband, or dropped the proverbial ball drastically in parenting, they would be the first to call me (or tackle me) look me in the eye, and say “What the heck is going on?” And it’s highly unlikely that would be in a text message! Furthermore, if they knew something about my kid that I did not know, i.e inappropriate posting on social networking, or inexcusable behavior away from home, I would fully expect them to fill me in! BUT they are also the very first to comfort and affirm me. Remember the measuring stick? People who love us hold us accountable. So it just goes without saying, they will affirm and validate me as well.

None of us are an island unto ourselves. As much as I think I want to be sometimes, it’s not how God created me. I need my friends, and my friends need me. My family needs then to be in my life as well. And I need then to speak into the lives of my daughters with both their words and their actions. I am a better person-not perfect by any measuring stick-but better mom, wife, employee, thanks to their input. My best friends are made up of equal doses of love and truth, the two ingredients needed to make a great friend. They challenge me to be a better human being.

Marriage does NOT complete you!

wedding_rings_2

I still have the fondest memories of our wedding ceremony. I had memorized the vows. Paul had not. Our “special song,” went on a little too long so I decided to straighten his collar while we waited. We had a saber guard, and as we strolled under the swords during our exit, our friend Mike, (I thought), using his saber, gave the bride the traditional rear end swat with just a little bit to much exuberance! Really Mike, I thought it was supposed to be a light pat! I was a young 28 year old, Paul was a mere 27. (Yes, he is 6 months younger than me-a fact he loves repeating!) It’s true I kissed a lot of frogs before finding my prince. But that experience, though painful, helped bring me to a place of awareness about my relationship with men, and the importance I placed on those relationships in my life. In other words, there was a time when having a romantic-love like-relationship mattered to me more than it should have. It mattered at a time when truly, it shouldn’t have mattered at all! I was making decisions that were emotionally charged from an emotionally bankrupt heart, resulting in reckless judgement and decisions. I had not the advantage of a father or a mother to navigate me through adolescence with the unconditional love necessary for successful adulthood. Nor was there anyone standing in that emotional gap. I erroneously thought that love, and ultimately marriage, would complete me.

Now there are all kinds of reasons why people believe this marital myth. Though sad, but hardly rare, my personal experience is not meant to imply that only orphans or children of single parents harbor this misunderstanding. Young people from two parent homes with successful careers, steady incomes, and strong family values can also adopt this as truth.
But why?
Clearly and absolutely, parents need to demonstrate and model vibrant, healthy marriages for their kids. It is undoubtedly our responsibility to model marriages that deal with conflict effectively while enjoying intimacy and passion in matrimony! However, more importantly, parents are chiefly responsible for teaching our kids how important they are in the eyes of their Creator-that they live for an audience of One! The rickety part of that approach is that it does not guarantee marriage or grandchildren. Paul the Apostle’s words resound in my ear when he said in 1 Corinthians 7, “It is better to choose to be single, but if you must marry, better to do so than burn with passion.” As parents, our perceived “need” or desire for grandchildren, and/or our sincere and loving concern for our child’s future happiness and security, and/or our traditional beliefs that with marriage your salvation is sealed or somehow actualized, can often interfere with child rearing as we help navigate our kids through their teens and twenties. Any of these ideas, when over the years are peppered or infused into conversations, expectations, discipline, and other life decisions, send a message to our kids that without marriage (and/or children) well-you’re simply incomplete, fallen short of God’s glory, or out of His will. This couldn’t be further from the truth. And therein lies the myth, you must be married to be complete.

I hardly think Paul the Apostle was out of God’s will or not content (See Philippians 4:11-13). I love imagining an interview with Paul the Apostle on the evening news. It might go something like this:
Journalist: Paul how do you possibly get along in life and in your ministry single? No wife?
Paul: (Brow furrowed with quizzical a look) Don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. Don’t think I’m being harder on you than on the others. I give this same counsel in all the churches. (1 Corinthians 7:16-17 The Message)
Journalist: But since you are not married, don’t you feel a little incomplete spiritually?
Paul: Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me—a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others. (1 Corinthians 7:7)
Journalist: How are you qualified to lead others or to hand out marital advice?
Paul: In my judgement she is happier if she stays as she is (single), and I think I too have the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 7:40 NIV)
Journalist: (Sheepishly and sputtering) Well….I uh…wasn’t trying to imply that you don’t have the spirit of God Paul….

If you are married, read and reread 1 Corinthians chapter 7. There are terrific and timeless spiritual lessons for making and keeping your marriage strong and passionate.
If you are single, read and reread 1 Corinthians chapter 7. There are terrific and timeless spiritual lessons for making and keeping your life strong and passionate.

Marriage is a beautiful thing, so much so that in Ephesians chapter 5, our beloved Apostle Paul compared the relationship between Christ and the church to the love relationship between a man and his wife. And God may purpose this for you at 25, 40 or 60 years of age. Or He may have a better and even greater purpose for your life. The bottom line is (as parents especially) we don’t want to and should not pressure our kids into marriage, or communicate the message that somehow marriage saves them, completes them or makes them worthy. Only God can do this. And if we do, shame on us for derailing God’s efforts in their lives by perpetuating such a myth.

Just as we can never expect another person to “make us happy,” so we cannot expect the marriage union to complete us and make us finally “worthy,” of God’s mercy. Nor should we expect it to gain the love and approval from our family and friends that we so covet.

Finally, after he finishes admonishing married men and women for sometimes being so distracted by their marriage that they neglect God, Paul says to BOTH married and single folks, “I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:35 NIV) In other words, Paul knows the equation for contentment and happiness, and it is the latter, undivided attention to one’s Creator. Use your marriage for God’s glory. Use your single status for this also. And so be happy and content, full of life and compassion and passion. Full of hope and joy and love overflowing.

And isn’t that what’s most important? You want happiness? Completion? Fulfillment? And what about your children? Do you want these latter things for them more than anything else?
Then make sure you prioritize this teaching from Paul the Apostle in their life. Tell them they are precious in the eye of their Creator just as they are! I have three daughters of my own. The last thing I want is for those precious girls to believe that a boy (or a man) is the magic bullet for their happiness and worthiness. Give the job of finding their mate back to God.
Allow Him to mold them, unmarried or otherwise, the way He wants them to be-on the path He wants them to take. That job was never ours to begin with.

Sex before marriage? Reclaiming choices for our kids

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We live in a world that is having a one way conversation with our kids. That one way conversation is this: “You will have sex before marriage. That’s ‘normal,’ a given, the only question that remains then, is how soon will it happen?” Read the headlines of popular magazines while waiting to check out at the grocery store. Watch a Miley Cyrus music video. Watch just about any music video. Follow Lady Gaga on twitter. Read an article in Seventeen magazine. Read an article in Cosmopolitan magazine. Watch a movie. I challenge you to find one piece of media-TV show, magazine article, movie, any media vehicle, any tv ad spot, anywhere, anytime-I challenge you to show me one of these sources that simply says “Um….You have a choice. You can say no to sex….” Show me one. Okay, maybe the abstinence message built into my girls’ 6th grade health class curriculum. Or maybe the various “Let’s Wait..” programs found for teens in faith based religions. But from a media source? Show me one. We have taken a little bit of an unorthodox approach with our kids with regard to this subject matter. We actually told them, “Yes, you can have sex before marriage, undoubtedly, that is true. But, (and here’s the clincher), you don’t have to! And then we have followed that up with a healthy dose of unconditional love, boundaries, natural consequences for their behaviors, right and wrong, and a great big open door to come tell us ANYTHING. We fully understand that this ugly, self centered, self gratifying world that we live in-the one who craves immediate gratification in all of life, and sells that as a total possibility in advertising-is sending ONE message to our girls. “You will have sex before marriage. The only question is when.” Like I said, it’s a one way conversation. We realized quickly that we needed to make it a two way conversation. We did a simple thing, guided by our faith and convictions, and as importantly, a deep seated love for our precious daughters, we did the only sensible thing we could do. We gave them back the choice. We told them, “Oh and by the way, you can say no!” This is something that everyone can sink their teeth into, regardless of your faith, your belief systems, or your political position. Giving our kids a choice is certainly something we can all agree on. So why then do most parents conform to this cultural message about their kids, effectively taking that choice away? Because, sex in our culture is an easy sell. The message is embedded in a self gratifying culture that we live and function in every day, and therefore, in the very fabric of our lives. Sometimes it’s easier to go along with the “Jones,” than it is to have such serious conversations with our kids beyond the ones that just cover the day’s logistics. For instance, “I’ll pick you up from school at 3:00. Don’t forget you have a dentist appt. at 3:30 and soccer at 5:00.” But if we all know and agree that having sex too early, too young, and outside of a loving, intimate marriage relationship, is emotionally damaging to our kids, then why aren’t more of us making this a two way discussion? Why are we sticking our heads in the sand, and allowing total strangers to have so much power and influence over our children’s decision about their sexuality, their worth, and their potential to succeed in life? It may be because no one ever talked to us about this important subject matter. As children, many of us were thrown to the wolves when it came to learning about sex and sexuality. But that doesn’t mean we should perpetuate that cycle. It could be because we are too dang busy. Who has time for “special weekends,” family dinners at the kitchen table, board games, family vacations? It could be that we have allowed our children to watch Rated R movies and TV since, well, I don’t know when, and the mindset has already been set in stone. Maybe it’s a combination of all the above, and consequently, you don’t feel adequate in having this loving and honoring conversation with your son or daughter. Don’t believe that lie. No one loves your child like you do, with the one exception of their Creator. And God is greater than all of our mistakes. So wade into the waters with your babies. Be a spiritual leader in their life. Be their champion. For God’s sake, don’t give that job away.

So, say we don’t buy into the lie that almost everyone will have sex prior to marriage. What does that mean and what does it not mean?

1. It doesn’t mean you lie to your kids about your own sexual virtue. If you were not a virgin before you were married, for goodness sakes, tell them the truth when the inevitable can no longer be avoided. You can bet the question is going to come up. Lying to our kids is treacherous ground and makes navigating through life situations in the ensuing years very difficult. There were a lot of things I did as a teenager and a young person that I don’t want my children to do. I mean-think about it. If you are a recovered narcotics addict, would you say, “Well, I did it, so my kids will too!” I hope not! On the contrary, you would be all the wiser about those choices and their consequences. And you can and should share that with your kids at age appropriate times and in the right setting. You will know when it is right.

2. It also doesn’t mean you abdicate the responsibility of sex education for your children. C’mon parents! Put your big girl and big boy pants on, and talk to them. They want to hear it from you. They might not act like it. But if you want your girl to learn about sex and ALL that is involved in her sexuality from “Johnny boy,” the kid in her 9th grade biology class, then don’t tell her anything. “Johnny boy” will most certainly take care of that for you. Just know that if you don’t, sadly someone else will! And the likelihood of that being emotionally devastating for your son or daughter is great.

3. It does mean that if you are the mom, you designate a “special weekend” with your girl, just you and her. If you can, go out of town. If you can’t, do a day trip or have everyone else in the family leave the house for the weekend. Give yourselves time to prepare. Have her write down questions or listen to CD’s about sex and sexuality beforehand. Passport to Purity is a great source (milylife.com/find-help/key-resources/passport2purity#.UmrmwaXn2LE) But there are many! Google! Go out to eat. Shop. Do something fun. Send her the message that she is precious and special to you, that she is special to her Creator. I think 6th or 7th grade is a great time to do this with your girl or boy. It should closely coincide with onset of puberty. I wouldn’t do it much earlier or later than this. Likewise, it means if you are the dad, you do the special weekend trip with your son. Prepare in the same ways moms do with their girls. Tell him how special he is to you and his Creator. You answer his questions and talk to him about your expectations and you also teach him how to treat women, starting with his mom and sisters and then of course other girls and women. Buy a special small gift or piece of jewelry for your son or daughter at the end of the weekend which reminds them how much they are loved and cared for, and that their purity is honorable and healthy.

1 Corinthians 10:23 says “You say, I have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do everything, but not everything is constructive.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 says “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Verse 19 tells us “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

I see kids all the time who are disconnected from the people who love them the most. I have also seen unbelievable sexual text messages to my girls from other teens (boys and girls), and unbelievable sexual posts on social networks by tweens and teens. But I never see them lose their social networking privileges, and I see the posts over and over again. Be involved with your teen. They need to know there is no person on earth that loves and cares for them like you. For them to know that, we have to actually spend time with them. Passing them like ships in the night doesn’t give them what they need from us. Having conversations is a good start. And when it comes to their sexuality, love them enough to make this a two way discussion. Reverse this cultural message they get clobbered with every single day. Give them back the choice!

Top 10 advantages of being married to an airline pilot

Paul and Katie Ann
Paul and Katie Ann

 

My pilotTop 10 advantages (laments?) of being married to a commercial airline pilot:

10. When he’s gone 3 days- home 1-gone 3-home 1-gone 3-home 1-the phrase “one night stand”  isn’t really a bad thing!
 9. Showering is over rated
8.  The girls don’t mind frozen pizza for dinner.
7.  I have full command of the tv remote (if I only knew how to use it)
6.    (Refer back to #10) it’s hard to ever stay mad about anything.
5.  I can say “now when the airplane does this or that, what’s going on exactly?” And he always knows.
4.  I’m married to a guy who loves to travel. (good because I am a travel queen)
3.   I’m a sucker for a guy in a uniform.
2.   We have income and the satisfaction of knowing he loves his job!
1.   Family Pass Travel!!

Lost at sea! A story about what we will for ourselves vs. what God wills for us!

I read this new article and found it quite hilarious.  This family decided they want to leave the “ole” USA and live on an undeveloped tiny island where they might escape religious interference from their government.  Unfortunately, en route to that island of religious isolation (I mean refuge) they were lost at sea.  And who rescued them?  Yeap, that’s right the “ole” American government came to their rescue, saved them from terrifying peril and possible death-the same government which they apparently detest and were trying to vacate!  This story is replete with spiritual metaphors.  For one, this family was not only “lost” in a physical sense at sea, but seemingly lost spiritually in a sea of self righteousness and misunderstanding about what God really and truly wills for their lives.   Since when does the bible call for us as Christians to be isolationists?  It should be noted, I don’t know what religion this family adheres to; the article doesn’t specify.  But let’s just use this story wildly applicable to us as Christ followers to glean a few lessons.   Okay, maybe you aren’t doing something so drastic as putting yourself and your family on a boat and setting sail for a deserted island (what the heck was their plan for survival upon arrival?  Okay that’s beside the point. Let’s stay on task here.)-but we often isolate our Christian selves in other ways.  We hand pick our churches to suit our demographic needs. We hand pick our schools, social circles, social activities, maybe even our jobs using criteria that puts a perceived wall of “protection” around us and our children; I believe we orchestrate our lives sometimes in a way that God never intended.  I am not suggesting that you move across town and live next door to thugs or become a missionary in Africa (unless of course you feel called to do so), but I am suggesting that sometimes we create a padded world for ourselves (and our kids) that keeps us from having to be well-uncomfortable on so many levels. Confession: I live in a gated neighborhood. Well, I do. I have noticed that many of the folks who live in my neighborhood moved here for reasons similar to this family who thought living on a deserted island would give them religious utopia.  People in my neighborhood sometimes believe the gate is a mighty fortress between them and the “undesirables.”  But really it’s not. It’s all a facade.    In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commands us to take the gospel to ALL the world. We can’t do that on our manufactured spiritual islands. We can’t do it tucked away in my gated neighborhood. We can’t.  Jesus wants us to serve others (Galatians 5:13) and to love others ((Luke 10:27) We have to place ourselves intentionally and without apology in the path that leads us and our families to loving and serving others And I don’t mean only those who are “easy” to serve; I mean the ones who we may perceive as “undesirables.”  We should be serving people in our closest circles yes-but also people who look and think completely different from us.  Like this wayward family, we set our sails and chart our course for a place that WE decide is where we need to be without first asking God, “What do You want for me God and where do You want me to be?”  

 

http://normantranscript.com/headlines/x1084952531/Family-survives-being-lost-at-sea

What are we teaching our girls?

We need to let our girls read this. We need to remind our girls that the rights they have as girls-as women are not had by all. We need to teach our girls to be generous and compassionate, not shallow and petty. We need to teach our girls that what they have is secondary to what they give. We need to teach our girls that there is a big world out there, one where pain and suffering go hand in hand with the plight of oppressed and mistreated women. We need to teach our girls to never stop fighting, never quit, never give in, and to always hope!  What example are you laying down on the path in front of your girl as she walks and grows?  We should not be so naive, so apathetic as to read articles such as this one and compartmentalize. “That happens over there. It doesn’t happen here. Therefore, I won’t concern myself.”  Perhpas it behooves us to remember that the US State Department has recently reported that the good “ole” USA is the number one destination of human traffickers.  Human trafficking is a huge problem in this country, and it involves the lives of hundreds of thousands of girls and women.  Maybe that will bring violence against girls a little closer to home for us.  Malala’s story is incredibly sad and should do anything but render us all helpless.  You might ask “well, what can I do?”  If you have girls of your own, start with them.  Teach them what is important in life, and I can tell you that it really isn’t extra curricular activities or weekly allowance or choosing paint colors for the new house.  It is serving others, serving someone besides themselves. it is teaching them that God created them for a purpose, and that purpose involves making life better for those around them.  It is exuding hope, love, and compassion for others. It is teaching them justice. It is teaching them to stand up for themselves while respecting the rights of others. It is teaching them to never stop fighting against the struggle of abused and mistreated girls-girls just like themselves, like Malala.  Never stop fighting for justice. What are you teaching your girl? 


Malala Yousafzai’s Courage »

A vicious Taliban campaign against girls’ education crystallized in the cowardly shooting of a 14-year-old girl who fearlessly promoted going to school.

Change: Better or Bad?

Schierwaldenrath Bahnhof Schierwaldenrath, DE
Schierwaldenrath Bahnhof
Schierwaldenrath, DE

 

Here we go....
Here we go….

I told my husband nearly 19 years ago, that I would follow him to the ends of the earth. I never thought that involved Texas. You know how you say things when you are young and in love and all that?  Okay, okay…I said it. So that’s that! Short story: We just returned from a 4 year tour overseas. We lived in a beautiful area of rural Germany (not much of Germany isn’t rural) surrounded by wonderful neighbors, bike riding paths and running trails, cafes, and well-just a short 4 hour drive to Paris-(France, not Texas) Not to mention, we lived on the borders of Holland and Belgium. The Rhine and Mosel River valleys, Brussels, Amsterdam, and many other beautiful places were simply, a day outing.  Cobblestone and castles were icons in a place where-incredibly-history, in all its glory seemed eerily and beautifully frozen in time. Then my husband retired from the Air Force. He took another job based in Houston, and here we are.  I was devastated to leave Europe. 

When we lived in Germany, I used to get so put out with some of my American counterparts who complained constantly about cultural differences between the states and Europe. “No 24 hour shops, the roads are too narrow, the people here are so different, they don’t speak English” (most of them do actually), and the list went on and on. It was so very frustrating to hear such rhetoric when it was plain to see that one was enveloped by such incredible surroundings, diverse cultures, historical sites, and just plain jaw dropping beauty. My response was “This is not America. So it is not going to look like or act like America. These people are not Americans. They have different styles, demeanor, and YES, a different language. You are not trading in your American citizenship if you stop for a minute and enjoy your time here. Embrace it and open up your heart to the people here. Quit complaining! Enjoy the rare privilege of living and learning in diverse and fascinating cultures.”  Sometimes  you could get through to the “complainer.”  Other times, the wall of resistance was too tough.  What was their problem? Well, simply put, they were filtering their experiences through the wrong lenses. They compared everything to what they knew-in this case, their own country and its culture. They had no adventure lens, no curiosity meter, no ability or desire to stretch themselves outside of their emotional and material comfort zone. The result: their time was not as exciting as it could have been; their sense of adventure was null because they were always wishing they were back in the states; and their joy meter was pegged at an all new low! 

Wait! I think I just described myself. Since arriving in Texas on August 1, I have  constantly compared my new place to the old place: noise level, restaurants, schools, people, dance studios, men, women, drivers, sticker prices, dogs, cats-you get the picture-just about everything… I am no longer the antithesis of that close minded American that frustrated the daylights out of me in Europe. I have effectively become that person. Even my husband, whose patience has been stellar, finally spit out the proverbial statement, “Judy you aren’t in Europe.”  

There are so many horrible situations that so many people are suffering daily:  serious illnesses, lost loved ones, unemployment, estranged family members, betrayal, all things that make my recent transition pale in comparison.  I wholeheartedly embrace this truth. But we all know, when our attitude is poor and our hearts are broken, we cannot expect that we are doing all the work that our Creator has for us to do. We can’t be loving our families, serving others, and making positive impacts on our communities when we are immersed in the pit of self pity and whining about circumstances that cannot be changed. 

Answer: Change out those lenses.  I have to put on my adventure specs, get out there and get off my tuff, act like a grown up, and be who God created me to be-Right here. Right now. In Houston. And when I do, I am pretty sure everything’s going to be all right. 

Politics and Christians

2 Timothy 1:7 Says we were not given a spirit of fear, but one of love, power and self discipline. What concerns me the most about political posts (FB and otherwise)  I have seen lately, authored by Christians, is that they reek of fear, and yet-not “Yirah,” the Hebrew word for fear-the healthy fear of reverence and awe-found in Psalm 19:9, but rather this fear, Deilia, which in the Greek, comes from the word deilos which means timid and cowardly. God has been working in a sinful world for literaly 1000s, perhaps millions of years. Look at Roman history. Remember Constantine, Roman emporor in the 4th century? Before his reign, it was dangerous to be a Christian. After his reign, it was dangerous NOT to be Christian. Evil can come in many packages my dear friend. My point is this kind of fear-Delia, the sky is falling kind of fear, (and hear me when I say this) renders God (in our minds and in our actions and in our impact) absolutely helpless and hopeless. Yet, I believe with all my heart, that “the local church is the hope of the world,” Bill Hybels. There is not, nor has there EVER been a politician who can make such a claim. Study scripture. It was NOT via politics that Jesus did His ministry, touched, healed, transformed lives. Nor was it through the politics of the day that enabled his disicples to do so. IN fact, politics were against them. Yet they indeed were the hope of the world. We are too. Demonizing entire groups of people is done so out of Deilia, not Yirah. Does this mean to ignore your civic responsibilities? That would be absurd. Why can the two co-exist? Me being responsible politically, standing on my convictions, being strong, and yet not tearing others down in the process? Because my God is the Alpha and the Omega. He is able to do far more than I could ever dream possible. And why? Because: Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. And because I submit to Him, not this world, and not to the Father of lies (John 8:44)