Monday, November 6, 2017

Faith vs Fear Pt 1

Fear is not your friend.  We all face fear every day in some form.  It is probably the greatest tactic the enemy throws at us. In this part I am going to focus on the fear that causes us to make choices that go against our own values.  These thoughts were sparked by the recent sexual assault accusation explosion in Hollywood.  People are asking why no one came forward earlier, why they won't name names.... 

I have spent my life observing people, so most of my thoughts on this come from that place.  Maybe a little from tv and movies too.  I enjoy ethical dilemmas in fiction.  I enjoy pondering those seemingly no-win situations.  What is the right thing to do? 

How many times have we heard someone say "I know it was wrong, but I didn't have a choice!" ?  I'm sure many of us have been there.  I want to suggest that we always have a choice.  The choices may not look good to us, but we always get to choose. 

Let's start big.  Gladiators.  They are slaves, stripped of all rights, thrown into a fight with the choice of "kill or be killed."  Tough choice.  Most would fight and try to be the one left standing in the end.  But is that right?  Fear of death spurs most people to defend themselves.  I wonder if that justifies killing another human being? 

I watch a lot of crime tv shows.  Many times the murderer ends up admitting they killed the person because they were about to rat them out for something.  Fear of getting in trouble for something smaller led them to commit murder. 

How about fornication?  How many times have we heard of a girl who slept with her boyfriend because she was afraid he'd leave her if she didn't?  Fear pushed her past where she was comfortable.  What about abuse?  Why do people stay with their abusers?  Fear of being alone is a big one for most of us.  We will stay in horrible situations because at least we have someone to be with. 

Our school experience presented us with the idea of peer pressure.  Drink this, smoke that, wear this, don't wear that....  No one wants to be rejected, so we learn quickly how to fit in, blend in, don't stand out, don't be yourself.  The fear of what other people think of us probably shapes our behavior more than anything else.  We don't want to be rejected and outcast. 

Lies are easy.  Have you ever lied to keep from getting in trouble?  Probably.  I know I have.  I think we would all say that lying is wrong, but yet we've all done it.  Why?  Fear.  Fear of getting in trouble is often the reason. 

I think a lot of us break our own moral codes at work for fear of losing our jobs. I know I've been asked to do things I didn't think were right.  There were times when I caved, and times when I stood firm.  When corporate comes to visit and inspect, we are expected to pretend everything is going according to the standards.  We hide the mess, we make everything look perfect.  It's all a lie.  I ran a department for a time, and when the visit came, I told the truth.  It got my bosses in some trouble.  Next time the visitor came, I was cornered beforehand by two bosses trying to coach me on what to say.  They realized I wouldn't lie, so they were trying to give me ways to tell the truth that would still sound like a lie to the visitor from HQ.  I had to reach a place of trust in God that kept me from that fear of being fired.  Once that fear is gone, you are free to do what you think is right. 

I think you get the idea.  Fear of so many different things can cause us to go around the boundaries of morality that we believe in.  But what if we held the line?  What if we chose to do what we know to be right, even if it costs us? 

Jackie Robinson is my hero.  He was so much more than a baseball player.  Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers, asked Jackie to play ball and have the courage to not fight back.  If you've seen the movie, you know just a small picture of the abuse he took on the field and off.  All of us would probably consider it justified if he did fight back.  But he didn't.  And he won.  He won their respect and acceptance by "doing the right thing."  If he'd lost his temper and hit someone, even one time, I don't think he would have accomplished what he did.  I think it would have been years before another black man would be given a chance to play. 

 Fear will not lead to anything good in the long run.  Fear is simply a tool of the devil.  His plan is to destroy you, so why play his game? 

It is my belief that we would be wise to take a look at our own idea of what is good and what is important.  Work with Papa God to determine what your priorities are in life and then determine to not violate those priorities. 

When I moved to Redding, I did so to attend Bethel church.  My job had me working at 4am, so my ability to go to evening services was hampered.  I had a choice.  Church or work?  I could skip church so that I could work, or I could go to church and be really tired in the morning at work.  I was not very consistent with that choice, eventually I just skipped evening services.  I got a second job that kept scheduling me on the night I had home group.  I quit that job because it violated my priority of connection with my home group family.  I needed the money, but I chose my priority of relationship over money. 

If you are a parent, do you choose time with family, or working more hours to earn money to support your family?  That's a hard one.  Does your job ask you to cheat or do things that are illegal or dangerous?  Do you refuse?  How many horrific events in history could have been stopped by someone who chose to stand up and do the right thing instead of "just doing his job?"  How many times has fear of being fired or worse kept people quiet?  How many of those young starlets in Hollywood slept with some creepy old man because their aspirations to fame were bigger than their disgust at this man?

Knowing what is most important to you and determining not to violate those things will help you to stand strong in the face of fear.  I'm not at all belittling the power of fear, but I'm choosing to put my eyes on someOne that is way bigger!

In the next part I will share some of how I have learned faith over fear in a couple areas of my life.  I still have many parts of my life still bound in fear, but I hope that in reviewing the times it's gone well, I will be motivated, and hopefully you will be too, to trust God with everything. 

Faith vs Fear Pt 2

What does it look like to trust God?

Since I moved to California in 2012, I have been on a journey of learning what it means to walk by faith.  I'm nowhere near perfect in it, but I am learning in small bits how to apply faith to my life.  I've been feeling prompted to write this for awhile now, and finally I am up at 4:00 in the morning because I can't ignore it anymore.  This is a part of my life I don't share often because "that don't preach."  This is a hard path, but I want to share how the hard path has worked out for me. 

A lot of the perception of faith is that we just believe stuff with no evidence. That is not true.  I've heard it said "faith is an action" or "faith is spelled R-I-S-K." This I have come to understand.  In part.  It means to take what the Bible says and step into it before you see the proof.  To do what He says to do, when we have no control over the outcome. 

My journey began with a trip to the dentist in July 2012.  I had discovered a small painful bump on my gum, just above my front tooth.  Root canal.  I just knew it.  The diagnosis came as I expected it would.  I've had two other root canals and they cost around $1800 without insurance.  This time it would be more.  This tooth that was in trouble held up one end of a bridge, so not only was it a root canal, but an entire bridge replacement, three new teeth.  I had dental insurance, and even so, the estimate I was given was $3500.  I was new in town, working very few hours, barely making it.  No way I could come up with that much money.  Scary.  What will I do? 

The thought came to my mind, "this is an attack on your finances."  I have been moving toward living in Uganda full time, so I had to pay off my credit card debts before leaving.  Adding $3500 to that debt would not be helpful.  In that moment, I had the idea to say no to the diagnosis.  I made a choice to trust God with this situation.  For me that looked like refusing to go back to the dentist, and going to the Bethel Healing Rooms every Saturday for prayer.  I also cancelled my dental insurance.  My actions were faith.  I was saying, "God, all my eggs are in one basket.  I'm trusting You to take care of me like You promised." 

It has now been over 5 years and I have not returned to a dentist since that day.  Sometimes that tooth flares up and hurts, but it usually can be prayed away quickly.  I've had other teeth get cavities, and then get better.  Each time something shows up, I re-up my statement of faith in God's provision.  I'm doing my best to take care of my teeth, and trusting God to do the rest.  My teeth are by no means perfect, but I'm not in pain very often and I see progress in their healing.  And I didn't pay $3500. 

In the summer of 2013 I had to find a new home.  I had my cats with me, so every place I answered an ad for told me no.  I was in a temporary place until mid August.  I had a specific date I had to be out by.  About two weeks before that date, I felt God say "stop looking, stop responding to ads."  That was a very difficult thing to hear.  But I listened.  Highly stressful time.  I can't say it was my high level of faith, because this was a crazy difficult two weeks for me.  But something in me believed God had spoken, so I was acting (or not acting as the case may be) on what I'd heard. 

The day came where I had to be out.  I had all my stuff packed and my friends were coming at 4:00 to get my stuff out.  I sat there with no idea what I was going to do.  At noon I got an email from someone I didn't know.  Apparently I'd contacted her about a room in the early part of the year.  She asked if I still needed a place.  I ran to meet her roommates and the place was great, the people were great, and they said I could move in!!  No cat deposit, no rent due until the next month...  Awesome! 

The next test came in regards to my finances.  I think it was sometime in 2013 when I felt God was prompting me to stop using credit cards all together.  When you only get scheduled 12 hours at work, the credit cards are what hold you over.  Not using them was a scary idea.  There have been multiple tests since then.  I'll just stick to the two that stand out. 

I was saving money to go visit my best friend in Hawaii in 2014 when my car started acting up.  It felt like a transmission issue which I knew could be very spendy to fix.  Credit cards jumped to mind, but I felt like God was telling me to get my Hawaii money ready.  That was heartbreaking.  Going to visit my best friend was so important to me.  I took my shoebox full of cash to the auto shop with me, ready to sacrifice something I wanted more than anything in order to follow God's prompting.  After a stressful time in the waiting room,  the mechanic came back and handed me my keys.  All done, no charge.  ???  He said there appeared to be some brand new hoses installed in there.  I had not had any work done, and no hoses that I knew of.  So.... did God just fix my car?  Maybe.  :)

Fast forward to 2017.  Tax time.  I had been hired as an independent contractor, so I was self employed and I didn't know all the money I was supposed to be holding out from my paychecks.  I had my taxes done mid-March and ended up needing about $1000 more than I had set aside.  My paychecks were not giving me much extra at that time, so I didn't have room to cover that much.  I looked at my credit cards, decided which one to use to pay my taxes.  But wait.  I''m not supposed to use them.  In another leap of faith, I went and paid the tax guy his $200 fee and placed my faith in God to provide yet again.  I started driving with Lyft to try to earn more money.  Within that next month, I paid my taxes, I paid the quarterly tax that was also due the same day and we'd not expected to be able to pay that at all, I paid the tax guy, and I bought 4 new tires for my car.  In other words, in one month, aside from my regular monthly expenses, I paid out $2200 that I didn't previously have!!  I can account for about $700 of it with Lyft and some gifts, but that is it.  The rest doesn't make sense.  But God. 

I'll stop there with my examples.  I hope I've given a good picture of what I think it means to live by faith, at least in part.  I only have done this in these couple areas.  Money and health.  Other areas I struggle a lot.  But I hope to take what I've learned and find ways to transfer that faith into other places in my life. 

Our choices matter.  I  think that what I get out of all this is that God will let us take care of our own lives as long as we want to, but when we decide to lay it in His hands, we get to experience our Good Father taking care of us.  We can work harder, sacrifice more, hurt more, and carry the stress of life on our own shoulders if we want to.  Or we can exchange our yoke for His and let Him carry the load.  The Bible says we are to have Faith like a child.  Does a little kid worry about paying the mortgage?  No, he trusts that his daddy has that covered. 

The trap in this life is the lie of "I can do it myself."  Maybe you think you can.  Maybe you have been.  But I am suggesting there is a better way.  Maybe I could've picked up a second job and worked hard to pay to fix my car.  Maybe I could keep using my credit cards and just hope to get out of that slavery some day when I get a better job.  Instead, when  I chose to listen to Holy Spirit, I got to see my Heavenly Father step in and provide for me.  That is truly a miracle!  What I'm suggesting is that we don't see a lot of miracles because we keep trying to do everything ourselves.  We have too many back up plans here in this country.  Too many other options before we even think about going to God.  I think that when we remove those things as options, we open the door to see what God can do.   

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Life of Adventure

Some people say Christianity is boring.  I would counter that if Christianity is boring, you're doing it wrong.

Let me lay out some of my life story.  I was pretty content in my small Washington hometown.  I never wanted to leave.  I figured I'd just stay there forever.  When I was around 19, life took a bad turn.  I had a major internal crisis and I realized I'd reached the point of having to make some decisions.  I had grown up in church, but when the rubber hits the road, what we believe comes to the surface and shows us what is true and what isn't.  This was the season of my life that I decided to own my own faith.  I decided that Jesus was the only way.  Thus began my personal adventure.  I'm not going to talk about the spiritual, personal, internal stuff, I'm going to tell you about the external adventures I've had since I started following Jesus.

When I was 25 I moved over to the Seattle area to do a ministry school called Master's Commission.  I spent a year with about 20 other young people, learning, serving, and growing in our faith.  During that year we worked at Microsoft conventions to help pay for our year.  We got the comp rooms from MS in the nicest hotels in town.  I got to do this in Anaheim, Dallas, and twice in New Orleans.  Pretty cool huh?  We got to spend some time at 6 Flags New Orleans for free with hardly anyone in the park, so we didn't have to get off the rides at the end of a cycle.

At the end of our year, we hopped in 4 vans and took off on an amazing 6 week roadtrip around the USA.  I believe we touched 39 states on that drive.  We were running on very little money, but we still got to see some amazing stuff.  My favorite was Niagara Falls, which we had the pleasure of viewing from the Lady of the Mist boat.  We were also in Washington DC for the 4th of July, so I watched the fireworks from the front lawn of the Lincoln Memorial.  We hiked a land bridge in Kentucky, we visited an aquarium, visited a beautiful waterfall around Ithaca NY, and we drove thru downtown NYC.  We saw lots of cool stuff from the road, but these are some of our stops that stand out in my memory.

During that year we also worked as camp counselors at a soccer camp.  The man that ran that camp was a great guy, and I connected with his vision.  After I graduated, he let us know that he was taking a group to Uganda for a soccer based mission trip.  I signed up.  After some time it hit me how crazy that idea was.  I don't like new things, I don't like being dirty, I don't like strange food, I'm no good with interacting with new people.... the list went on and on.  I tried to get out of the trip, but that didn't happen.  So I ended up flying across the pond to a whole new world.  We ran into London during our layover, so I saw Buckingham Palace and rode the Tube.  Uganda was a shock.  So unreal.  Ended that trip with a safari.  I'm sure I don't need to explain how incredible that was!  Not just the Savannah, but a boat safari on The Nile River.  I didn't totally enjoy the trip, but God had planted a seed that would grow up later.

6 years later I ended up going back again, this time for 6 weeks during the South Africa World Cup.  This trip wasn't long enough.  I fell in love with the people and the village where we spent most of our time.  We did another safari, and on the way back I spent a couple days in London alone.  I was able to take the Tube into town and walk all over taking pictures.  I even saw the Lion King (broadway version) !!

A couple years after that I was led to move to Redding California. Another crazy adventure.  As soon as I got there, I got signed up to go back to Uganda with a team from Bethel church.  That trip was quite different, but again one of the most amazing two weeks of my life.  I got to take a short day trip back to the village from 2010 with my brother Alex and meet his then 4 mo. old baby Elijah.

2015 I moved further south to Yuba City and quickly quit my long time job at Target.  I decided to just chill for a few months and figure stuff out, and ended up cashing out my 401K money and flying to Uganda for 2 and a half months and building a house.  This time I lived village style, no western comforts like toilets and running water.

Along the way I've made stops in South Africa, Ethiopia, Canada, Rwanda, and Rome for my flights, no exploring though.  All this for a little girl that planned to stay in Wenatchee all her life.

What am I saying?  If I hadn't chosen to go where I felt Jesus was leading me, none of this would have happened.  I didn't know that I would love traveling the world because I'd never done it.  I didn't know that I would end up going to Uganda 4 times and planning to live there.  If I'd let my fears stop me back in 2004, where would I be now?  What would my life look like?  

I write this all as a way of expressing my gratefulness to Jesus for knowing me better than I knew myself and leading me into a life of crazy awesome adventure!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

What I learned this week

I have had some eye opening but difficult revelations over the last few days.  It started when I was asked to do a 3 day fast before a prayer/counseling meeting.
Ug.  I hate the topic of fasting, I don't really get it, and I really like food.
 I've tried fasting and it didn't work, I didn't make it...
What's the point anyway?

I've never understood the reason, so that made it really difficult for me and I usually gave up after a few hours.  I felt like I was trying to gut it out on will power alone, and that seemed silly.  It just seemed like we were supposed to sacrifice in hopes that God would do something we were asking for.  That is manipulation, and probably not a good plan with God.  I've heard so many different teachings, I wasn't sure what to think, so I gave up on it.

This time was different.  The lady that asked me to do it was going to meet with me to talk about it first, but when that time came she said she felt like I was supposed to pray about it myself and see what God would reveal.  The day before I was supposed to start, I hadn't really looked into it, I'd just decided on some things to fast.  But then... I was on You Tube and a video came up on my suggestions called "The Atomic Power of Fasting" by Dan Mohler  Ok then.
- If you're interested.  It's long, but really good.

It was long, so I'll just share what I got out of it.  I am a slave to my carnal self.  I have a job, but outside of that, I pretty much just sit around doing whatever I want.  I seriously lack motivation to do anything other than whatever I feel like at the moment.  I live a comfortable life.  While there are plenty of angles to this, I suddenly saw more clearly how self focused I am.  I have a ton of free time at this point in my life and I use it to watch tv and do other similar mindless pointless things.  I don't see anything wrong with those activities by themselves, but my constant feeding on them is not good.  As I listened to the teaching and began to see, I was reminded of good ol' Romans 8 (Thanks Pastor Kevin for making us memorize that one)  vs 5-8

  Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.  The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Whoah.  That's intense in light of what I'm now seeing!  I had just recently tried to do some basic physical exercises and found I could no longer do them.  My body was showing me the results of sitting on my butt for months.  It is shutting down.  That was a physical demonstration of this truth, but I'm pretty sure it applies in many areas of my life.  

So I went into my semi-fast with this in mind and quickly found myself feeling better, my hope levels lifted, I felt motivated to do something!  I didn't do a full food fast, I just had a small breakfast, a salad for lunch, and then skipped dinner and all snacks.  I also chose to cut out tv/movies and attempted to stay off Facebook.  I added to my life more trips to the gym.  I think that even that little effort was beneficial.  I had fallen into a stupor.  I had become a slug.  Breaking away from that for even just these 3 days was a big deal for me!  Where before I had been feeling awful, hopeless, unmotivated,  tired....  I made a quick turnaround and now I see a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak.  

Back to my title, what does this have to do with Christianity?  I think a lot of us got into it for selfish reasons.  To feel better, to go to heaven, to fix our problems, to get cool stuff....Yet the message of the gospel is the opposite of that.  Jesus told His disciples to lay down their lives, pick up their cross, deny yourself, die to yourself...  It's not about us.  It's all about Him.  Loving Him, serving Him, serving other people.  In fact, one of the few places I can think of where it talks about fasting it says...
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" Isaiah 58:6-7

What?  To choose to do something other than meeting your own needs.  That makes so much more sense in light of the whole Bible than starving yourself in order to manipulate God!  It's the whole point of everything!  We were saved so that we could love others.  It is for Freedom Christ has set us free!  Not so we could indulge in every carnal desire that crosses our minds.  We have to break free from the chains of the flesh.  Wow.  

So I know that this isn't new to many people, and not even new to me intellectually, but as happens sometimes, it just hit me fresh this week and really lit up my inner lightbulb.  Being a Christian is not marked by church attendance, tithing, missions trips, moral behavior, a cheerful disposition, or a perfect life.  To be a Christian, a follower of Christ, is to lay down my own desires and take up His heart of Love.  That's what Jesus did.  He is our example to follow.  He set aside His Godhood, became a tiny baby, born in a stable and grew up, lived the human existence and owned it.  He loved the people that society scorned, He took abuse from the religious leaders, and ultimately died the most painful death for the sake of mankind.  If that is our example, how can we imagine that Christianity is just about getting us to heaven?  How can it just be about fixing life's problems so we can be happier?  This is hard.  Simple, but hard.  But I hear it's worth it.  :)

This is what I learned this week.  Now the hard part, walking it out.  I've been on this journey with God for about 20 years now.  I grew up in church, but 20 years is about the time I began to own it, not just go to church because my parents went.  I have believed in God my whole life, but the Christian life is a journey.  It's been tough, it's been fun, it's been painful, and it's been full of joy.  Like any adventure, it varies from season to season.  What will the next season hold for me?  God only knows.  I'm choosing to trust in Him  to mold me into the person He designed me to be.  

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Truth? Who has it?

These days truth seems to be highly questionable.  We are bombarded with information from all over the world, but a lot of it is contradictory.  How do we decide what to believe when there are so many options?

Science is a wonderful thing... when it is true science.  All too often studies are done with agendas and bias, so how do we know which ones we can trust?  The one that confirms what we already believe to be true?  I'd bet that is what most of us do.

We all live life and experience a variety of events.  Our experience forms and molds our beliefs.  That's the best we can do.  Personal experience and observation is the best place to start.  The problem is, we can't all experience everything for ourselves.  What do we do then?  We have to rely on others' research and second-hand experiences.  This is where truth gets murky.

We see "scientific reports" in the news constantly, but how do we know if they are true and unbiased?  The 30 second news spot doesn't tell you the method used for the study, who did the study, the pool of people used, or what their original hypothesis was.  They just say "scientists have discovered."  And we're supposed to just believe it.  Sorry, too many "scientific studies" contradict what I already believe to be true based on my own personal experience.  That's a problem.

I've reached the point of ignoring all "news articles" about most topics.  I have lost all faith in the news agencies to report truth.  (Not to mention the disgusting nature of the comment section on everything these days.)  All I see is their information leading to fights.  People everywhere are digging in their heels and fighting against those perceived as 'other.'  There is no science anymore.  The search for truth has ended.  What we are left with is war.

The only solution is for everyone to lay down their pride and enter into open minded discussion.  Hold your truth loosely.  Be willing to look at another idea, another point of view.  Be willing to listen to someone you have labeled as a "truth-denier."  Stop thinking of others as 'evil idiots bent on destroying the world.' Think of them as a human being like yourself that has different experiences than yourself and thus, a different set of beliefs.  See their heart, see their character, see them as more alike than different.  Constantly attacking and mocking the beliefs of others is destructive to the peace we all claim to seek.

I have friends on the other side of the aisle in some areas.  They voted differently than I did in every election I'm sure.  People I worked with.  People I like.  People I respect.  I can't suddenly think of them as evil when I learn how they voted.  I choose to remember what I know of them from personal experience instead of applying the ENEMY label to them and assuming they are pure evil.  I have to conclude that they are good people who care about the world, they just have a different set of beliefs on how to get to a better place.  If we sit down and talk about why we believe the way we do, keep our minds open and listen to understand, not to argue our point, we may just learn something.  We may be exposed to new ideas, new evidences, new ways of looking at situations.  That is the only way to find TRUTH.  Be open to new ideas.

I have had my long-held beliefs challenged a lot over the last 5 years.  Some things I've kept the same, but others I've had to shift my perspective and allow my understanding to grow as people around me shared why they held the beliefs they did.  Stubbornness gets us nowhere.  Labeling other people as the enemy only leads to war and destruction.  Assuming what other people believe based on a label they wear is a great way to stay ignorant and lose out on knowing a potentially great person.  We can't let the media tell us what is true.  We have to get out there and experience life personally and interact with people who we thought were so different.  Maybe, just maybe, we can actually find a better world that way.  :)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Are you Open-Minded?

I am seeing a surge of intellectual dishonesty.  With this highly charged political atmosphere, I want to bring this to light and challenge my friends to consider how they are intaking information.  Are we truly being open minded and 'scientific' as we form our beliefs?

I remember vaguely reading about early childhood developmental stages.  One in particular had to do with learning that people are not "all good" or "all bad."  It had something to do with how a child can think mommy is the greatest thing in the world when she's meeting his needs, but as soon as she says no about something, she's the devil!  It takes a level of growth to realize that people can be both.

I see too much of a lack in this stage in the adults out there.  It seems that we have our beliefs, and any evidence that comes to our attention that seems to counter that belief is immediately thrown out as false.  I'm not even referring to one particular issue or side of any issue.  This is all over the place.

If we are mature and open minded, we must acknowledge that every person has some good and some bad in them.  We all make mistakes, and hopefully we all try to be good people.  Can we possibly assume the same is true of our presidents?  Being a mature open minded adult means viewing each event separately and judging it for itself.  It's ok to dislike someone and find that they have done something good.  It's also ok to like someone and find that they have done something bad.  Both are involved in any human being you will encounter in life.  The same must hold true for those who voted for particular candidate.

For myself, I try to avoid clicking on any articles that have a blatantly biased headline, or one that tries to prey on our curiosity, or tries to get us enraged.  "you'll never believe..." "conservatives are livid..." "drops a bombshell"  These are just a few examples of sensational headlines.  The actual article rarely lives up to the hype.  I think our tendency is to click on things that speak to our already formed ideas and beliefs.  This just further fuels our need to believe someone is all good or all bad.  Making a judgement on a person based on a single photograph, or using said photograph to pad your idea of who someone is is also dangerous.  This has been a thing this week.  Extra photos and videos have later surfaced to show that maybe things aren't quite as the first photo led us to believe.

Do you know that not everyone who voted a certain way is exactly the same?  I happened to choose Trump this time around.  This does not mean I suddenly became a racist, it does not mean I am a mysoginist, and it certainly does not mean I think he is a wonderful moral man who will save the universe.  It means I read the campaign pages of the two candidates and chose the one whose stance on the issues most closely aligned with my beliefs.

I'm sure everyone who voted did so based on their own set of criteria and I choose to think the best of people.  I choose to believe that we all made the best choice we could based on our personal experiences and beliefs.  Our life experiences are all different, and those experiences shape our beliefs.  What if we talked to someone about their experiences in order to understand their beliefs?  I refuse to villainize those who did not vote like I did.  I choose to remember that I thought they were good decent people before, and they most likely still are.  That is called being mature and open-minded.  If my vote angers you to the point of shouting me down and calling me names and smashing in my windows, that's a pretty good sign that you are not walking in maturity and have believed the propaganda.  It is very possible for adults to have a civil conversation and discuss their views and for both to come away from the conversation having learned something and hopefully gained compassion.

What if we all stopped, cleared our preconceived notions, and started fresh today?  What if we could look at each individual event and decide if we agreed with it or not?  What if we listened quietly to why a person believes the way they do?  What if we could view a story without knowing who did it or who said it?  I wonder if our beliefs would change?

We can also take it outside the political arena.  What about the "scientific community" that has presented us with a certain belief system about how the world came to be and how it has operated ever since?  Are you aware that evidence surfaces all the time that contradicts that view, and the powers that be squelch it or destroy it because it goes against their narrative?  Have you ever seen the giant humanoid skeletons in any scientific exhibit?  There are quite a few old newspaper clippings reporting that archaeologists found them here in the US back in the late 1800's and early 1900's. They report sending those bones to The Smithsonian never to be seen again.... If this is true, The Smithsonian is participating in intellectual dishonesty by throwing out anything that points to something other than the established "facts."

What about aliens?  Vampires? Bigfoot? God? etc.  Most people will laugh off claims of personal encounters with these types of things, but if you look into it, the numbers of people reporting such encounters are staggering.  Considering how people are generally mocked for saying they believe in these types of creatures, why would so many actually report them? (and how many more have not reported for fear of being mocked?)  I think that a person who has always been sane and respectable doesn't suddenly become crazy because they report seeing something we don't believe is real.  I think the nature of a person before a report should lead us to question our own reality.  Do you know that 13 of our astronauts (people who go thru crazy amounts of screening before being selected) have reported seeing aliens and spaceships while up there?  Since you can't prove that something doesn't exist, it is arrogant and foolish to insist so strongly that you're right in believing they don't.  Now I'm not saying all this is real or even that it is what it seems to be, but I think being open minded means that we should look deeper instead of writing them all off as crazy just because they've said something outside of what we believe to be truth.

As always, I challenge you to think about how you think.  Are you really open-minded?  Are you intellectually honest?  Can you handle the idea that there are both good and bad pieces to every individual?  Can you hear the firsthand story of a person that you know and consider it even if it goes against what you currently believe?  Are you willing to grow? I hope so.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Judge Me By My Sin Do You?

This has been on my mind this morning.  Certain people who call themselves Christians have a nasty habit of shunning a certain other group of people who identify themselves by their sin.  Can I offer a change of perspective?

The Bible says we ALL have sinned.  I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I'm included in that statement.  I have sinned.  I know that the sins I could tell you about in my life are places where the enemy of my soul has lied to me or caused people to wound me.  Now if that is true in my life, I think it's a pretty safe bet to assume it is true in others.  If we see a person who is displaying an obvious sin and we choose to attack them over it, or turn our noses up at them, or boycott their business....  What are we accomplishing?  If you see a person with a gaping wound in their skin, do you go rub salt in it?

Sin is evidence that the enemy is attacking us.  So if we see someone's sin and we join in the attacking, whose side are we on??  I'm so sick of them old excuse "we have to tell them the truth."  Sorry, no you don't.  It's not your job.  Our job is to lead people into an encounter with the ONE who can save them and clean them up.

When you came to Jesus, were you perfect?  Had you cleaned up your entire life so that you no longer had any sin on you?  Don't think so.  You've been a Christian for 40 years?  Are you perfect yet?  Doubt it.    I know that as I've walked through the process, the big obvious sins weren't the first things He dealt with.  Jesus has been faithfully working in my heart to heal the wounded places and expose and evict the lies I have believed.  As He did that, the way I acted gradually changed.  I didn't have to do the work myself, He did it.  Jesus changed my heart as He healed it.

If you consider yourself a follower of Christ, I beg you to consider how you think about the people you label as "sinners."  Can you see anything beyond their sin?  Does their sin mean they are a bad person?  Or can you realize that sin is our enemy and that is a fellow human being that is under attack and needs your love and compassion?  It makes no difference what their sin is that you think you are seeing.  You have no idea what they've been through that has led them to this place.  Love covers all types of sins.  Can you see the person through the mud?

I think specifically of Ellen.  Christians love to hate her.  That pisses me off!  Ellen is a wonderful human being!  She has devoted her life to making people laugh and giving generously to those in need.  Can we say the same thing about ourselves?  Sounds like her actions are more Christian than a lot of church people I know.  She has sin in her life just like the rest of us and it doesn't matter which kind.  No one sin is too big, no one sin matters more than others.  Ellen should be encouraged for all the good that she does, and for the amazing person that she is.  She is created in the image of God, just like you and I.  All the pushback and hatred that she experiences from church people is only serving to push her further from God.  If you truly care about her eternal soul, you will not be a part of the attack on her, but instead, you will show her love as Jesus would do.  Pointing out sin and scorning the sinner will never lead them to Jesus.  Remember, it is His kindness that leads us to repentance.