Category Archives: Faith

We Can’t Always Choose The Music Life Plays For Us, But We Can Choose How We Dance To It

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Once Upon a time (365 days ago to be precise) we all stood together on the precipice of a new year. We sipped champagne and shared midnight kisses,  cheered and threw confetti, talked excitedly about future plans and resolutions.

I’m not sure 2016 turned out the way any of us anticipated, and it’s likely to go down as a year many would like to forget. 2016 is the Voldemort of years- the one of which we shall never speak again. When someone attempts to  begin a sentence, “Do you remember back in 2016 when-” we will all shush their mouths as quickly and gently as possible.

I’m turning 45 in 2017. I’ve seen some years. I have never seen a year like this one. Between democalypse 2016 (we miss you, Jon Stewart), increases in race-related conflict, police brutality and police under attack, increases in hate crimes, reduction of interpersonal civility, global unrest, terrorism, and humanitarian crises, this year was already a stinker. Add in a larger than normal amount of iconic celebrity deaths and it was a cesspool of ugly.

But it wasn’t just that stuff that made this year so hard. I lost 2 people significant to me and to people I care about to cancer this year. I attended the funeral of my friend Jason on a Saturday and 6 days later I was comforting my sister and her children over the unexpected passing of her long time significant other John, my nephew Luke’s father.

All year the people I love struggled through loss and grief of various types, fought to keep their heads above water, as one said to me, “I’m operating in 15 minute increments, putting one foot in front of the other.”

This year was just plain hard. Was it harder than other years? Can we statistically prove that? Who knows, but that doesn’t really matter. With a few exceptions, most of my friends and family are ready to be done with 2016.

However, it’s not in me to leave it there. The Pollyanna in me wants to know that there was beauty in the pain, lessons learned, strength gained.

So, in order to not let this shitastrophic year get the best of me, here, in no particular order, are the joyful moments that in some way managed to redeem the rest:

 

In January I went on a three week Facebook fast, which I will be repeating this year . I started a Bible study on gratitude and spent every day looking for beauty around me. I focused on my family, my writing, my spiritual development. I had lunch dates and coffee dates and was present in my life. I connected with those I love.

In March I was able to celebrate my sister Shannon’s 50th birthday with her by going to visit our sister Colleen In Southern Cal. We sat on the beach in Laguna and talked and laughed. We surprised my niece as she performed for the last time at her high school cheerleading expo. We went out to Palm Springs and sat by the pool and connected.

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In an effort to simplify, I let go of some of my “have-to’s” and focused instead on my “want-to’s.” Turned out I didn’t have to do most of my have-to’s, they were simply burdens I needlessly placed on myself. Holidays had less pressure, and I was able to just be with my people, and we connected.

We spent our spring break at beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene. We rode four wheelers and got dirty and explored and we connected.

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Parker rode on a camel at the fair, Zoe played a dwarf in her school production of “Shrek,” and an unusually warm spring meant lots of days enjoying Lake Washington and the stunning place we live.

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Sydney and I sung together for the mother’s day tea, Parker bet on the ponies at Emerald Downs, We celebrated Papa Ted’s 90th birthday,  and my birthday surprise was a giant poster Parker unfurled at the school concert.

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Jeff and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary in St Pete Beach, Florida and missed the hurricane by 12 hours.

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Nathan graduated from high school and became a freshman at Washington State University.

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Zoe, Parker and I went to Harrison Hot Springs, Canada to go in search of Bigfoot

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(We didn’t find him)

We saw Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie in concert, Zoe got to go to Disneyland, Nathan took a graduation road trip with his friends and we spent much of the summer on the sidelines of a soccer field.

In the fall Jeff and I got to celebrate our friend and neighbor Brian’s 50th birthday in Las Vegas and then just a few days later I was making the rounds in Socal, seeing my sister and her family, old friends, newer friends and spending time with my extended family at our reunion.

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In all of these moments the priority was connection.

Zoe added volleyball to her schedule which, as an indoor sport, is a nice change. Nathan leaving for college was hard, but watching him thrive on his own is amazing.

Birthday week was a 6 day extravaganza of celebrating Zoe’s 13th, Parker’s 11th and Sydney’s 22nd.

We spent Thanksgiving with Shannon and her family in Spokane, celebrated the holidays with friends and family at various events, culminating in Christmukkah at our house.

And now, as I sit here typing this, my kids are gathered ’round the table. It’s snowing outside. And we are connecting.

So as it turns out, the reason 2016 can’t beat us is because we are stronger together than anything it tried to send our way. In the midst of pain was blessing. In the midst of struggle was joy and growth.

I’m not sorry to see this year come to an end, there’s no doubt. However, the reason I’m most looking forward to 2017 is not because 2016 didn’t have its moments. It’s because this year Sydney will embark on a new career path. It’s because Parker will finish elementary school and enter middle school. It’s because Nathan is making plans for moving into an apartment with his friends for his sophomore year of college, one step closer to the rest of his life. It’s because Zoe will have my calendar filled with activities as she lives each moment to its fullest.

Jeff and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage this year. This is our 24th New Year’s Eve together, and we have all sorts of plans for the future.

Even if none of those plans come to fruition, there’s one thing that will matter in 2017… how we connect. If I have a resolution, it’s to be better at connecting, to be in the moment, to find the beauty in simplicity of sitting face to face with someone in our shared humanity.

So here’s to fresh starts… and real connection. Like the quote above says, we can’t always choose the music life plays for us, but we can choose how we dance to it. May 2017 be a year of dancing.

Cheers!

(I picked this photo to end my last post of 2016 because somehow an Alan Alda quote with a typo superimposed over a dolphin seemed to fit exactly right. )

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Faith In Action: Democracy, Hypocrisy and the Pomegranate

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When I started this blog three and a half years ago, I intended it to be a light-hearted outlet for my writing. I believe my second post was about bananas. Some of my readers started following me because I was attempting a modicum of humor on a regular basis. I’ve probably lost a few followers recently because of a change in the tone and seriousness of my writing, but that’s okay with me. I’d rather lose readers than stifle my needed expression.

 

About two years ago, I entered into therapy. I highly recommend it, by the way. So much so, my 13 year old has gotten into trouble with her friends by suggesting they see a counselor. I had to explain to her that simply because I extol its benefits without shame or embarrassment, that doesn’t mean everyone appreciates that type of advice.

Counseling has changed me, and I’d like to think for the better. It’s allowed me to see myself more clearly, it’s freed me from bondage that has impeded both my personal growth and my spiritual growth, and it’s helped me clarify what really is important to me.

As a result, you’re much less likely to find silly blog posts here. (Also, since I’m in the process of writing a book, you’re much less likely to find ANY blog posts here. ) That doesn’t mean I’ve lost my sense of humor, it just means that I’m finding if I’m going to exert the energy to write something, I want it to be meaningful; Worthy of both my time and yours.

So, now that those disclaimers are out of the way, I’m sure you’re waiting with baited breath (ha!) to hear what has roused me enough to break from writing my novel and post my first blog in months.

It’s fruit. Pomegranate, specifically.

 

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Did you know that pomegranates are filled with vitamins, antioxidents, and anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and pro-heart health properties?

If you’ve ever eaten a pomegranate, you know that the seeds can be difficult to reach. They’re a combination of both sweet and tart. They can get messy. Really messy, but so worth it.

Jewish tradition holds that there are 613 seeds in a pomegranate, and it is often consumed on Rosh Hashana to symbolize the desire for fruitfulness in the upcoming new year.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he describes the Fruit of the Spirit. These are all the qualities that should be born out in a person’s life as a result of the Spirit living within us, and as a visible manifestation of our faith.

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These are all great qualities. I like to think I possess them. However, the past several days (probably even the past several months) have challenged me on whether or not this is true.

On Tuesday our nation elected a new president. While the majority of people voted for the candidate who lost, our system is set up not for a majority rule, but with a less-direct version of democracy, the electoral college. Apparently our founding fathers feared a “tyranny of the majority.” As to why each state but two has a “winner take all” electoral allotment system, I don’t have an answer to that.

Regardless, the outcome has been decided, and truth be told, I’m having a really hard time understanding it. When you don’t understand something, it’s much harder to accept it.

I’ve struggled to understand how people could hear the hateful words that I heard, and still want that person to represent them, represent us. I have struggled to understand how people who are proclaimed followers of Jesus, the most inclusive, loving, generous, immaterialistic, peaceful man to walk to planet, heard the things I heard and chose to look the other way, or worse- excused it and picked that candidate. I’ve struggled to understand how the American church has become so co-opted by a singular political party and hateful rhetoric of the “opposing candidate” that as a whole, was completely unwilling to extend grace to one side, but was able to extend so much unmerited grace to the other. Or, barring either candidate being consistent with Biblical values, conscientiously abstained , voted third party, or as I did, picked a write-in candidate.

And I have asked questions. Lots of them. I’ve attempted to understand. I’ve seen lots of Facebook posts decrying the accusations lodged against them of being racist, unintelligent, hateful, and a whole number of things. It saddens me that they have been attacked. They have cited a myriad of reasons why they voted the way that they did, and most of them have to do with party platforms rather than the person they actually elected.

For me, though,  this wasn’t a choice of politics, it was a referendum on civility. I believe everyone lost on Tuesday, whether they realize it or not.

HOWEVER… and here’s where I start to get to the point of this whole convoluted thing.

In a conversation about the election with a friend of mine whose life is devoted to ministry, previously as a pastor, currently as a global missions director for a charity that does a whole lot of good in the name of Jesus, he accused me of assuming that I have taken THE moral high ground.

He’s absolutely correct. I have assumed that.

But his statement has stuck with me. It’s gnawed at me. It’s caused me to look at my own life and my own “belief” system.

If I say I believe something, but have no actions to back it up, it’s not a belief. It’s an opinion. And boy do I have LOTS of opinions. I’m a writer, it’s how I express my thoughts. If I were to compare the amount of words I have expended vs. the amount of effort proving those words with actions, there would be a giant discrepancy.

When I was younger, I was always a little nervous about the verse in James that says faith without action is dead. Because I was brought up with the doctrine of grace, “works” was almost a dirty word.

The reality is that it left me without a clear understanding of either.

Jesus told us that faith was a visible thing, not just things you think or feel. The only way your inner beliefs can be seen is through action. Loving people is a verb. Mercy isn’t feeling pity, it’s compassion. Compassion is a verb, exhibited through extending help and forgiveness .  Sitting in a pew on Sunday morning, reading the Bible or spouting off on Facebook about morality isn’t faith. We don’t ask, “What would Jesus think?” We don’t ask, “What would Jesus feel?” We ask “What would Jesus DO?”

I can have all sorts of thoughts and feelings about the poor, maybe even write a post, or share an article about the tragedy and injustice of it, meanwhile my mother in law is quietly serving at the soup kitchen every week– who then is the one who truly BELIEVES helping the poor is the right thing to do?

This morning I studied this concept of living my beliefs through my actions, and it was a heartbreaking indictment.

The following, in no particular order, are the verses that convicted my heart today:

Matthew 12:36 “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgement day for every idle word you speak.”

Idle: without purpose or effect, pointless.

John 21:16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said. “You know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

Revelation 2:19 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. ”

Philemon 1:6 And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.

James 2:14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?

James 2:22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.

1 Peter 2:15 For this is God’s will, that you silence the ignorance of foolish men by doing good.

Matthew 25:34- 45 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me a drink, I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ Then they will reply , ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and not help you?’ And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ “

And finally, back to the pomegranate.

Matthew 12:33 A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.

Or non-existent.

Have you ever planted a tree or vine that didn’t bear much fruit, if at all? Last summer I planted a raspberry bush. Number of raspberries it bore year one? Zero. Year two? Three. So instead of providing me with the joy and sustenance of its berries, all I’ve got is an overgrown bush covered in thorns.

Sometimes in my way of living and interacting with others,  I’m that raspberry bush. I give a couple measly berries and an armful of scratches for your trouble.

I want to be a pomegranate tree, and not because those suckers could bean someone on the side with the force of a baseball to get their attention, although at times it’s tempting.

If my life is bearing pomegranates, that fruit is not only providing goodness, it’s also filled with a multitude of seeds that can turn into more trees.

It doesn’t matter who is in the White House, as long as I’m producing fruit, sharing it with others, seeding new trees.

I need to put my preaching into action, starting with the very people in whose choices I’m disappointed. Love, compassion, mercy, grace… if I am only willing to bestow these things to those who agree with me, I am a fruitless pomegranate tree. If I rail against injustice, poverty, bigotry, but it’s limited to a blog post and a Facebook rant, I am a fruitless pomegranate tree.

If I want to see pomegranate arils permeating this country, my friendships, my government, my family, I’ve gotta first fertilize my own tree.

 

For Such A Time As This

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Yesterday, March 23, 2016 was the Jewish holiday of Purim. For those who are unaware, Purim is the commemoration of  the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. At the time, the Jewish people were exiled in Persia, and were not masters of their own fate. Esther was singled out by the King of Persia to become one of his wives, much to her dismay. But the king truly admired Esther, so when her uncle Mordechai discovered Haman’s plot, he urged her to speak up for her people, even though it put her welfare at risk.

Long story short, she did, the king put an end to Haman and his plot, and the people were saved.

Zoe and Parker attended a Jewish preschool, so we observed Purim every year we were there. I hadn’t heard of it prior, despite growing up in the Christian church, where I knew of the story of Queen Esther.

Purim in the Jewish community is akin to Halloween. Every year there was a carnival, where kids dressed up in costumes, played games and ate treats, such as hamantaschen ( a pastry). During the week leading up to the carnival, the kids also wore costumes and took treats to the neighboring Christian preschool.

One year, the year “Enchanted” came out, Zoe insisted on the wedding dress from the Disney Store.

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It should be mentioned that at this same time, Zoe was in looooove with an older boy named Sammy from the preschool. She was 4, he was 5. She had decided she was going to marry him, whether he liked it or not.

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He looks thrilled, doesn’t he?

While any costumes were acceptable, most of the girls preferred to dress up like Queen Esther.

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The year before the wedding dress.

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Zoe and all of the Esthers. (And one Alice in Wonderland)

That phrase “for such a time as this” has echoed through my mind often over the past several years. Recently the echo has become louder and more frequent.

This is a troubling call for a person like me. It’s a call to be brave. It’s a call to stand up for what’s right in spite of the inherent risk. It’s the prompting towards a life of purposeful resistance rather than silent acquiescence.

While I like to think of myself as one who rises to the challenge, many times in my life I have balked at the road less traveled. I have opted for comfort rather than controversy and harmony over conflict.

I can’t count the number of times I have stood on a precipice and wavered.

My m.o. is to keep expectations low, lest someone (typically myself) be disappointed when I fail to meet them.

I’m the person who has 3/4 of a college education for fear of what might be required of me if I ever finished.

When I went to summer camp back in elementary school I was required to take a swim test to participate in the majority of water activities. The swim test was simple- swim the length of the pool and back, and then tread water for 3 minutes.

I started at the shallow end, swam to the opposite side and back. I began treading water in what probably was no more than 3 feet. One minute prior to completing the test, I told the test monitor that I was quitting.

She said, “You can’t quit! You’re only a minute from being done! You can do this!”

“I can’t.” I said. I climbed up the ladder and out of the pool.

The truth is, I was terrified; Terrified of what might be expected of me and if I was up to the challenge. Terrified of making a fool of myself, I chose the safer option. I sat in a canoe with the other “non-swimmers” in our life vests, watching the majority of campers doing all sorts of fun activities. I was embarrassed and ashamed. But I was “safe.”

As some of you might have read in my blog Facebook post the other day, Zoe was walking behind one of her fellow 6th graders and his 8th grade friends when the 8th graders began bad-mouthing and making fun of another boy in her class. Her friend calmly replied, “Did you know he’s a foster kid? Do you know what he’s been through? Did you know that he lives with a girl at our school and if her family hadn’t let him stay with them he’d be homeless right now? That he has no family? He’s goofy, but he’s not special needs. He’s my friend and it’s not okay to talk about people like that.”

It takes a certainty of identity to live that kind of courage.

We all are provided multiple opportunities each day to be the person we were created to be, to live the life God intended for us, whether it be in our career choices, our hobbies, our passions, our family life, our friendships, our romantic life, our spiritual life.

My friend Yolanda said to me today, ” I do not want to waste one more day not living in the identity God has intended for me.”

I don’t believe in happenstance or coincidence. I believe we each have been put in position “for such a time as this.” For each of us, the “this” is something different.

Currently our country is in political upheaval, we are a divided people, in a world filled with fear and violence. If we allow it, there is much to fill us with great insecurity.

However-“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Tim 1:7)

The tools are right in front of us. The Power Source is waiting for us to put in our plug. The Source of all love wants to lavish it upon us so that we can then in turn lavish it on those around us. The Spirit longs to free us from all sorts of bondage by enabling us to exercise self-discipline.

Whenever we face a challenge, both internal struggles and external circumstances, our best hope is to remember that it’s no accident we are there, and we have the ability to effect change in “such a time as this.” Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous. You never know whose life you might save. Maybe even your own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep your Friends Close, And Tell Your Enemy To Go Away

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I’ve long ascribed to the phrase, “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” In my mind, it’s been important to keep an eye on those I do not trust, in order to protect myself. Recently I have started to realize that those I might perceive as such aren’t really my enemy, they are only broken people like me, hurting people who use their personal pain as a weapon against others.

In truth, I only have one enemy. And I have allowed him to remain close to me.

Here’s what happens to you when you allow proximity to your enemy: He whispers in your ear. He tells you things that warp your perception of yourself and others. His lies are so precise that they feel true. He takes your true identity, your God-given gifts and your designated purpose in this life and warps them just enough to render you ineffective, full of self-doubt, sometimes even self-destructive.

Priscilla Shirer said, “Your mind is the spiritual expression of your brain. What the brain is to the body, the mind is to the soul.”

The lies that we believe when we allow the enemy to whisper in our ear change everything about how we interact with the people and the world around us. The way we think becomes how we behave. How we behave reinforces what we already believe about ourselves. This is true of both positive and negative thinking.

I’m not sure who said it first, but my friend Lisa says her father’s favorite phrase is, “You can’t keep the birds from flying overhead, but you certainly can keep them from making a nest in your hair.”

The same is true with our thoughts and feelings (or more accurately our thoughts about our feelings and our circumstances.) When we actually believe and know that the enemy is the father of lies, we won’t let those lies “nest in our hair.” When we give him access to our thoughts, when we doubt the truth about ourselves and believe the lies, that’s all the invitation he needs to set up home.

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In Ephesians, Paul talks about the helmet of salvation. While the helmet is supposed to evoke an image like this:

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For me, I think of it more like this:

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Someone is trying to take control of my mind. He wants to control me, he wants to inhibit me from the life God has intended, he wants to intimidate me, and he wants to keep me in bondage to the thoughts that rob me of peace and joy.

Without my protective tin-foil hat, without the protection that comes from the barrier of truth that God has given me,  my mind is wide-open to attack.

The enemy whispers, “You are unworthy.”

God says, “You are MY child, and your worth comes from Me.”

The enemy whispers, “You are weak to your desires.”

God says, “I’m strong, and I have equipped you with my armor.”

The enemy whispers, “You cannot overcome.”

God says, “I have ALREADY overcome.”

In the ancient world, armor was an essential part of fighting the battle. However, can you imagine the leader of the army inviting the enemy into their camp to give the soldiers all the reasons why they were likely to fail? Can you imagine the impact such access would have on morale?

You know who the enemy is, don’t let him into your camp. Don’t allow him to undermine your mission by giving him influence or a platform.

Keep your friends close because they will speak truth over you. Keep your friends close because they want to see you have victory. Keep your friends close because they will fortify you.

Keep your enemy as far from you as possible.

 

 

Grace, Love And The Politics Of The American Church

I have yet to decide if I’m actually going to post this blog. If you’re reading it, that means I have decided to go ahead and do it, knowing that the result may be alienation of my readers and even some of my friends. Please know that I have not made this decision lightly, but thoroughly and prayerfully.

You should also know off the bat that my intended audience for this particular post are my readers who have a proclaimed affiliation with Christianity. While my atheist and agnostic readers are more than welcome to read what I have to say, please don’t use this as  fodder or a platform for the bashing of my faith.

What this also isn’t, since I’m already in the process of clarification, is an exegesis of current religious and political hot topics. I don’t have the scholastic credentials  to tackle theological apologetics on any issues beyond the basic tenets of the Bible.

Neither, I suspect, do many of you.

Which is sort of my point in writing this in the first place.

My heart has been deeply burdened of late with grief over the politicization of the American church, the statements and actions made by some church leaders (I’m not just looking at you, Franklin Graham and Creflo Dollar, but you’re at the top of my list right now), and the conversations, both in person and on Facebook that I have witnessed among my acquaintances, my friends and family who are self-described followers of Jesus.

My “Arugula!” warning signals are already going off in my head. I know that what I am about to say isn’t going to win me any popularity contests. While there was a time in my life when I actually thrived on debate, my desire to live in peace has tempered that part of me.

What God has been revealing to me over the past few years is how hurtful my approach has been, how my desire to prove my point came at the cost of relationships. He challenged many of my long-held beliefs, and even more so, challenged my attitude towards people who view the world differently than I do.

I have had some moments when I felt like everything I thought I knew was being tossed on its head, and I had to re-examine each thing to determine what was truth and what was an opinion based on my own personal experiences or beliefs.

I’m not claiming to have discovered irrefutable truth; Quite the opposite, actually.

I have come to believe that the smartest thing Albert Einstein ever said was, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

I have said often I am by nature a very black and white thinker. http://kbjackson.com/zero-shades-of-grey-confessions-of-a-black-and-white-thinker/

I can see by many things I have heard and seen posted recently that I am not alone in that.

Everything must go in a bucket:

Good/Bad

Right/Wrong

For those of us who subscribe to what is by definition the pretty narrow lens of the Christian faith, this auto-labeling carries with it a significant implication for most issues and those who fall on either side of the spectrum of opinions.

And it often leaves very little room for grace.

People who have an agenda to control and manipulate the thoughts, feelings and actions of large quantities of people really like black and white thinkers. They need people who adhere steadfastly to absolutes because they know that with the right approach, once they get a black and white thinker to place an issue in their desired bucket, it will remain there, tenaciously defended regardless of any argument that may be used by someone of an opposing viewpoint. Black and white thinkers rarely change their mind.

Adhering to the ideology of Christianity appears to be one of those black/white right/wrong sort of scenarios.

Only, guess what? It’s not. Not really.

The Bible is filled with rules. It’s true. Some rules are given more weight by people than others, just as we like to weigh some sins heavier.

However as many “rules” as there are in the Bible,  there are many more declarations of  the unfathomable love of God for ALL mankind and  the unwavering command and admonition for His children to love others.

Why did God create rules? Is it so he could gleefully pour out his wrath on those who cannot/ do not abide by them? To give ammunition for believers to bash “sinners” over the head?

No. He created rules for two purposes:

1)To protect us from the natural consequences of our sinful choices

2)To make it crystal clear to us how incapable we are of following these rules on our own and how much in need of His grace and salvation we truly are.

He wrote the rules knowing we would break them. ALL OF THEM.

And He loves us anyways.

Out of that understanding of our depravity and His undeservedly lavish love we are to go out into the world to tell of the good news. The GOOD NEWS. Not the bad news. THE GOOD NEWS.

Instead, we fill our Facebook feeds with a version of “Christianity” that in no way sounds like anything resembling good news, or, honestly, that sounds like the words or example of Jesus Christ.

 

Did you know…

That God loves both Republicans AND Democrats?

That the message of the cross was as much for the Muslim as it was for the Jew, the Atheist and the American Christian?

That the good news of the gospel is as valid for both homosexual and heterosexual? (Also that sexual sin=sexual sin=sexual sin , and accordingly, sin=sin=sin)

That Jesus’ sacrifice was as much for those who would willingly accept him as those who would continually reject him?

That salvation is a gift of God, and the ONLY people it is intended for are sinners? (Know anyone who doesn’t fit into that category?)

That the grace that saves is enough to break the bonds of ALL religion, ALL sin, ALL human failings?

The beauty and the message of the cross is for everyone- even for those who have deemed all of the above unworthy to receive it.

I believe in democracy and I value and assert my right to vote.

However you will never find me affiliating with a political party again. I will examine each candidate and issue with prayerful consideration on their own individual merit, making my decision based on the values espoused by the only man to walk this earth blamelessly.

I refuse to accept that either political party represents these values.

How republicans and democrats can have opposing viewpoints and still both be inconsistent with Biblical values is why many like me find ourselves in political limbo. Abortion, gay marriage, government programs for the poor, government programs for the rich; you can be on the technically “right” side of an issue Biblically, but a lack of compassion can still make you wrong. And Christians, we’ve been getting these issues wrong.

The democrat party has made inclusiveness its religion, to the point of having little-to-no moral compass. The leadership uses the fears of the poor to manipulate and control. They exploit gender issues for political gain. Obama may or may not be everything those on the right say he is. (Of course it depends on the day. Sometimes he’s a total incompetent, other times he’s an evil mastermind.)

 

However, I am truly appalled that the American church has allowed many of its pulpits to be co-opted by the political agenda of a party that spews hateful rhetoric on a daily basis.

Nothing that is coming out of the RNC or its leadership, or frankly the people I know who have conservative political leanings are consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Whether or not it was your intention, here, in no particular order,  are the values expressed through the posts and re-posts I have witnessed over the past few years by my politically active Christian friends:

>Racism/lack of understanding of systemic racial problems in America

God says-

Mark 12:31

“The second is this:’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

>Demonization of the poor

God says-

Psalm 12:5

“Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says the LORD.” I will protect them from those who malign them.”

>Hatred for those of other faiths, particularly Muslims

(Fox news recently ran a story which attempted to paint Vlad the Impaler as simply a patriot hero fending off Muslim attackers. You’ve got to hate a group pretty bad to justify the actions of a man who roasted children and fed them to their mothers)

God says-

Luke 6:35

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

>Disdain for those with differing political views

God says-

Proverbs 10:12

“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.”

>Support for unbridled greed

God says-

1 Timothy 6:10

“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

>Hateful speech, passing judgement on external sin,  particularly  homosexuality  while ignoring sins of the heart

God says-

Mark 7:20-23

“And he said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

>Disregard for anything that might be considered “environmental”

God says-

Genesis 2:15

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden  to work it and take care of it.”

>Lack of compassion, grace and mercy for anyone who isn’t white, conservative, affluent, Christian, American

God says-

1 Peter 4:8

“Above all love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins.”

Whether you disagree with his political viewpoint, the vitriol spouted against our current president is sin. It just is.

Justifying personal and corporate greed as “capitalism at its finest” but shaming the single mom who chose not to have an abortion and needs financial help to care for her child is sin.

Focusing on one type of sin and making those who struggle with it feel unwelcome in the body of Christ is sin.

Pride in your “lack of sinfulness” is sin.

Hateful speech of any kind is sin.

Racism is sin.

Lack of compassion and mercy is sin.

Gluttony is sin. (I’m still not over the “gorge yourself on chick-fil-a to support the anti-gay marriage stance of the owner” protests. To me that whole incident said “we hate gay people so much we will shove fried fast food in our faces to prove it.” How many hungry people did they pass on their way to and from their “protest? )

Creating fancy churches to house our obese rear-ends and buying our “leaders” fancy jets so they don’t have to fly coach is sin.

We continuously focus on the speck in the eyes of others while ignoring the redwood forest growing in our own.

Brothers and sisters, I urge you to cling to the Word of God, the only real truth in this world, and leave behind the political agendas that seek only to divide us and distract us from our true purpose on this planet- to love our God and to honor Him by loving those He has made. It is possible to be unwavering in your beliefs and still be loving and compassionate towards those who don’t share them. It is impossible to follow the values of the world and do the will of God.

I’m not saying you can’t be a Christian and vote republican. But I do object to the idea that somehow those two things are congruent. Because they aren’t. They aren’t any more congruent than any other political party.

Please view everything you read and hear through the lens of the gospel and the Word of God, not through the lens of those who feed hate, fear and lies. Be conscientious and diligent in testing everything against the example set for us by Jesus.

Jesus came into a political and religious climate not unlike the one we live in now. The people felt oppressed and overtaxed by the government. (Legitimately I will admit). The religiosity of the people overshadowed every aspect of their daily lives… except their hearts.

Jesus said, “The government isn’t going anywhere. Deal with them the way you have to, but that really is no concern of mine. My issue is your hearts, and boy oh boy, you guys are really missing the point.”

(That was a paraphrase, in case you couldn’t tell.)

If we were busy serving the poor, the widows, the orphans, the hungry, the elderly, the sick…. would we have a moment of time or an ounce of desire to gripe about politics? Would we spend our time freaking out about whether someone else is gay? If we were telling people the good news, would we be taking the time in the middle to complain about health care legislation?

There’s a good chance that this whole thing has come off self-righteous and judgy. If it does, I’m sorry, it is not my intention. I am guilty of all of this and more. I include myself in every category of where I see us failing as God’s ambassadors to the world. We must be very cautious with whom we choose to affiliate ourselves.

We only have a short time on this planet in the scheme of things. Do we want to spend that time disseminating political propaganda or loving on people?

That’s all I’m trying to say. Pick the path that leads people to the cross.

 

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