Where Has Our Patriotism Gone?

Fireworks Pops on the River

Last night my family and I went to Pops on the River in Little Rock to enjoy the largest fireworks display in the state. Matt and I had gone every year before we had children, and I was excited to finally be brave enough to take the kids, 7 and 3, for the first time.

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We were excited about the fireworks show with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra playing in the outdoor amphitheater, but my best memory of past years was when the orchestra would play the anthem of each branch of our military, and past and present soldiers from that branch would stand.

Like a photograph, my mind captured a beautiful moment over a decade ago when “The Army Goes Rolling Along” played and two men in front of me, rows apart from one another, stood. One was a young man and the other could have been a World War II vet. Tears clouded my eyes. The crowd gave a heartfelt clap for these men as everyone sat respectfully absorbed in the moment.

This year was different. As the anthems were played hardly anyone around me took notice. I watched the crowd and most everyone was on their cell phones. Not that I have any room to be judge…ahem.

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Four hours was a long time to wait for the sun to go down, but I assure you when “The Army Goes Rolling Along” began to play, I was paying attention.

A young Marine stood when “A Marine’s Hymn” was played but my heart sank when he ended up sitting down midway through. No one was really paying attention and he knew it.

In fairness, I was sitting in a different place than I was a decade ago and I had to strain to hear the music, so I’m hoping my experience was as simple as no one was knew what was taking place.

But what if it really was different last night than over ten years ago? Then, patriotism was high as we had just entered war after having been attacked on September 11. Our boys being in harm’s way was new to my generation. We had pride in our country. We had pride in our men and women. And, maybe we didn’t all have cell phones to distract us but for darn sure we were paying attention during this honorable moment.

What has happened to us, that we would sit unaffected as a young man who serves our country stands and no one takes notice? Where is our pride?

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I don’t know the answer, but I’ll tell you what I observe around me. I see a lot of infighting between Americans and little camaraderie. We’re so busy fighting with each other that we don’t remember we’re still a very free nation with so much for which to be thankful!

Sure, I have my concerns about the future of my children in this nation – very real concerns regarding their religious freedom and their ability to prosper.  I, like so many of the younger generation, see the United States less as Israel and more as Babylon. So don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to paint the picture of a perfect nation.

But we are still a free nation. We still have three branches of government functioning with checks and balances as our forefathers intended. We still have young men and women putting themselves in harm’s way. Some don’t come home and others do with physical and emotional scars. We live in a nation we should still be proud to call our home!

If we raise a generation that lacks pride in our country, we are raising a generation that will hold little motivation to fight for it.

If we raise a generation that lacks pride in our country, we are raising a generation that will hold little motivation to fight for it.

Let’s argue with one another with respect. Let’s seek to dialogue as calm adults and not bickering children. And in the meantime, no matter where we fall – conservative, liberal, progressive, libertarian… let’s instill a pride in our nation in the next generation.

Because the future of our nation may depend on it.

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*Note, the beautiful fireworks and River Bridge photos were taken by my talented husband. 🙂

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Before You Buy That Easter Dress…

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Last month a friend of mine posted on Facebook that her family of 6 decided not to purchase new Easter attire but instead are using the money they would have spent on one of three nonprofit organizations who care for orphans.  The theme is to go “blue” instead of “new.” Their entire family – including their recently adopted adorable little girl – will be wearing blue on Easter Sunday.  Many in their church have joined the cause.

I grew up as most of you did. Easter was a big deal.  New dress, new shoes, new bow, the whole nine yards.  Even when I worked at J.C. Penney during college, Easter was big business.  And I thought nothing of it. Nothing but the best for Jesus, right?

We celebrate Easter because we celebrate Jesus’ conquering death so we can have life.  The resurrection is a BIG DEAL, and we should celebrate it with all of our hearts!

But this year, after God’s kind of messed with my worldview, and after reading my friend’s post, I started seeing the lunacy of the consumerism on that day.

Most of our closets are bulging with more clothes than we can wear, and we think nothing of buying more in the name of Jesus, while those he actually told us to care for are going without.

At the final judgment, according to Matthew 25, Jesus isn’t going to say, “You looked mighty fine in that dress on Easter Sunday! Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom!” Nope. We hope he’s going to say,

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.’ (Matthew 25:34b-36)

(Or, he might say something different.  Check out Matthew 25:41-46 for that response.)

I’m not going all legalistic on you and telling you not to buy new Easter clothes.  I am challenging us all to think carefully, though.  Do you need a new dress?  Do your children need new attire, or do they have something in their closet that will work just fine?  Could you wear something that’s already in your closet?  Could you purchase Easter clothes for your children at a resale store and donate the difference between that and what you would have spent?

What would please our Savior – the one we’re celebrating – the most?

If you decide to forego new Easter outfits or buy used and donate the difference, here are some ideas for you.

What about you? Will your family go “blue” instead of “new” this Easter?

A Baptist Girl Reading Jesus Feminist? What?

A few months ago I found myself reading a thoughtful, passionate, on point blog post from a blogger I hadn’t come across before.  As I was looking at her site, I noticed that she had just published her new book, Jesus Feminist.

What?  Isn’t using “Jesus” and “Feminist” in the same sentence an oxymoron?  After all, doesn’t feminism bear sole responsibility for the moral decline of America, for the dissolution of the nuclear family unit?  (I’ll let you decide how much you think I’m exaggerating.)  I decided I wasn’t going to entertain such a notion as a “Jesus Feminist” by reading the book, but I would continue reading her blogs.

Over the next few months, as I read Sarah Bessey’s blogs and as I saw her speak at IF:Gathering, this woman impressed me deeply.  She didn’t have some “I am woman; hear me roar” agenda.  I could tell how in love with Jesus she was. And her passion for loving people dripped from every word she wrote.

That’s when I decided to read Jesus Feminist. (Of course, it being on sale for $1.99 on kindle at the time didn’t hurt.)  I wanted to see what this beautiful soul had to say about the subject of women.

I was impressed that Sarah wove Scripture into this book as eloquently as any writer I’ve seen.  I could tell she had a high view of Scripture. She wasn’t one who held a viewpoint and twisted Scripture to support it.  In fact, she had such a high view of Scripture that she didn’t take the interpretative status quo but instead she sought wisdom and understanding beyond what I’ve seen most other authors do.

Growing up in church, I’ve always been taught, “Let Scripture interpret Scripture.”  I love how Sarah does beautifully this on the subject of women in the church.  She tackles the hard passages like ones commanding women to be silent in the church by making a case that these commands were for those women specifically for a specific reason (they were causing disorder, they were not educated to know of what they were speaking, etc.).  She brings out several examples of women in other passages of the New Testament speaking in the church, leading, and prophesying.  I also loved how she pointed out that Paul’s command for women, “if…they desire to learn…ask their husbands at home” was not as demeaning as it appears.  If understood in the context of the culture, where women were not educated, he is actually advocating for a woman’s education in theological matters, something completely unheard of at the time.

Although this book was a fascinating read and challenged my thought in many ways, my view of some things did not change. For instance, marriage.  I still believe in the absolute authority of Ephesians 5:22-33 regarding men’s and women’s roles in marriage.  Yes, men and women are equal in value; there is no doubt about that.  But when Paul goes to great lengths to compare marriage to the relationship between Christ and the church, where the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, I cannot dismiss the husband’s headship so easily.  However, I do believe that if we are going to take that passage at its word, we need to remember that Jesus came to serve.  He humbled himself completely and never lorded his authority over anyone.  Truly, in a marriage as well as in the church, we are to look one verse above at Ephesians 5:21 and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  It allowed me to see through a different lens into this subject of women and specifically the Bible’s view of women and how truly precious we are to God.  I was able to see how much of my own freedoms in life were fought for by the early runners of the feminist movement – which were, by the way, Christians.  I was able to see that feminism transcends the American labels we think of: equal pay for equal work, etc., and see that if women were viewed as equal in value as men across the world, victimization of women wouldn’t be as rampant as it is today.

This book is worth your read.

I’m going to leave you with some of the passages I highlighted from the book:

I pray that you would be given the gift of realizing you were wrong about some important things.

It’s dangerous to cherry-pick a few stand-alone verses, particularly when they are used as a weapon to silence and intimidate, effectively benching half the church in the midst of holy harvest season when the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.

The curse that was laid upon Eve – her desire would be for her husband, and her pain in childbirth would be greatly multiplied, even shows how patriarchy, subordination, and pain are a part of the Fall.  They were never part of God’s original intent; they are a consequence of sin.

If Christ is not at the center of the work, he is not the author of the work, the glory of the work, then it is often unfruitful and incomplete.

Stop waiting for someone else to say that you count, that you matter, that you have worth, that you have a voice, a place, that you are called.  Didn’t you know, darling? The One who knit you together in your mother’s womb is the one singing these words over you, you are chosen.

 

Defending the Poor or Warring Against One Another?

As I checked my Twitter feed yesterday morning and saw the World Vision controversy, I couldn’t help but sigh, thinking, “Here we go again.”  Just like with the Chick-Fil-A and Phil Robertson ordeals, I found myself neck-deep in a sea of opinions.

But this time it was different.  This time the controversy involved hungry children in conditions my mind’s eye can’t comprehend. This meant something to me because for a year, God has been getting my attention in this area. He has uncomfortably prodded my fingers from the grip of my narrow, comfortable, middleclass viewpoint into seeking to see the ones overlooked by society, to see the ones whose pain is hidden from the well-to-do, and to become a voice for the voiceless, no matter how limited that voice is.

Like many, my first reaction was outrage as I read tweets like these:

“Apparently, there are Christians who would rather a child go hungry than a gay person be employed. This is wrong.”  –Rachel Held Evans

“I think I’m going to call World Vision tomorrow and ask to sponsor a child dropped by someone in the name of Christ.” –Andie Redwine

“Your stance on same sex marriage should have ZERO bearing on whether or not you serve the poor & the least of these. ZERO”  –Nish Weiseth

And if I had blogged yesterday, you would have read something completely different than what you’re about to read today.

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This morning it was still dark when my alarm went off.  My husband didn’t have to be at work early, Drew is in Spring Break, and my body was unnaturally tired.  If any day had a license to sleep in, it was today. But something pulled me out of bed – the knowing that I desperately needed time with God after gasping for air in a sea of voices yesterday – including my own.

I’m currently reading in both Ephesians and Matthew. The Ephesians passage seemed coincidentally appropriate:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Here’s what I took from this passage:

  1. Our struggle is not with flesh and blood, despite what it appears.
  2. Our defense starts with truth – and to defend truth, I must be in the Word of truth.
  3. Our only offensive part of the armor is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, again another reminder of the importance of the Word.
  4. Our use of this sword is crucial.  It isn’t a weapon to bludgeon at our will but instead of let the Spirit guide so that it can be used to defeat the true evil – which again, is not flesh and blood.

Then I turned to Matthew to read the next passage in my journey through the book.  Can I pause to tell you, God knocks my socks off with things like this.

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”  (Matthew 26:6-13)

We know from John 12 that it was Judas Iscariot who presented this argument on behalf of the poor. It seems reasonable enough, even compassionate.  But Jesus saw right through it, and John explains Judas’ real motives: “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:6)

Sometimes defending the poor can be a masquerade cleverly hiding true intent.

In the World Vision controversy, I believe it’s possible that in some cases, the cause of the poor is a masquerade for picking a fight with the fundamental, conservative viewpoint.  And truth be told, I don’t think it’s intentional.  We truly care for the children.  We’re truly outraged when we see things like this:

But we’re truly so sick of the rhetoric that comes out of the fundamentalist camp sometimes that if we can engage them in battle in the name of the poor, that’s a fight we head into guns-blazing because we can win.

Using the poor as a weapon in our battles is not okay.  And again, I don’t think it’s intentional.  I think it’s deception and a product of the struggle that’s not with flesh and blood.  (Seriously, when the church starts making progress to unity, all the enemy has to do is prompt a reporter to ask a well-known Christian conservative about sin and then sit back to watch the fallout. Truly, is anyone coming to faith in Christ while watching His children bicker?)

We need to constantly be checking our motives.  I need to be constantly checking my motives.

Jesus knew that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and that wisdom comes from emptying ourselves – our motives, our biases, our preconceived ideas – at the feet of Jesus and waiting for him to fill us with his truth.  In the Matthew passage above, Jesus elevates listening to him even over providing for the poor.

Jesus knows that only from an outflow of this saturation in him can we most effectively and purely serve – and defend – the least of these.

 

Understanding the Other “Side”

Two years ago I hid several of my Facebook friends from showing up in my newsfeed.  A controversial subject was making headlines at the time, and in my perspective then, some of my Christian friends had gone “liberal” on me, posting views completely counter to mine.  I couldn’t understand why these friends – some with whom I had prayed with, prayed for, and studied the Bible with over the years – decided to “sell out” to the mores of the world.  Or so I thought.

The decision to hide their posts was made because I genuinely loved these friends and I didn’t want to nurture ill feelings toward them.  Perhaps I was weak, but that was the best way I knew to deal with it.

But something has happened to me in the past two years. Little by little, by the grace of God, I’ve come to understand in a small way where my friends and others with similar viewpoints were coming from.

To my conservative friends reading this, please hear me when I say, my understanding of this viewpoint doesn’t mean I agree. It simply means I understand better.

What I learned by seeing the person behind the viewpoint was that this view counter to mine isn’t always about bucking God or His Word or His truth.  In many instances, I saw my friends choosing love instead of condemnation.  I saw them exposing the hypocrisy my “side” seems to be blind to at times.  I saw them seeing the person as more precious than the issue.

In some instances, I saw them looking more like followers of Jesus than I do.

The issues themselves I won’t even name much less attempt to hash out here.  But here is the purpose of my post.  Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our own way of thinking that we don’t even attempt to see the heart of the person on the other “side.”  We don’t see where they’re coming from. We don’t take time to consider their viewpoints.  We don’t give them the benefit of the doubt and realize that beneath their stance on the “issue” there might be a really good heart there who is trying desperately to seek God and walk in His ways.

Let’s open our minds to the people behind the issues.

That doesn’t mean compromising our convictions. It means leaning harder on the Bible and the Spirit than ever as we wade through the murky waters.

It doesn’t mean watering down truth.  It means considering that perhaps we’re not 100% right, and what if we actually learned something?

It doesn’t mean giving up the fight on injustice.  It means conceding that we each fight injustice; we simply are fighting the war on different fronts. It means that perhaps, just perhaps, both “sides” might have more in common than we think.

We can learn a lot from one another while desperately seeking godly discernment and being on guard against the deception of the enemy.  Our struggle is not with flesh and blood after all.  But perhaps, in the humility that comes from seeing another’s viewpoint, we can more closely see the heart of God.

A Rare Rant

That was it. The last straw.  Simmering under the surface with only a few bubbles coming up occasionally, I can’t hold it in any longer.

I’m gravely concerned – okay, angry – that a Christian blog has become a battleground for professed Christians, and I’m mostly angry that this Christian blog has let it happen, and even encouraged it.

Her.meneutics is a women’s blog from Christianity Today.  I read most of its content because it comes in a link with a daily e-mail I get called “Encouraging Words Today: Your Daily Devotion.” Yet what I’m reading in some of her.meneutics’ posts are far from encouraging.

The blog explores opinions on a variety of issues pertinent to women.  Some of its posts are beneficial, like exposing the Fifty Shades of Grey book series for the poison that it is. It has also educated me on real, concerning issues such as human trafficking.  But more often of late, it’s a breeding ground for controversy.  In the past months, I’ve watched women use their computers to attack one another on issues such as a woman’s role in the home, whether a mother should let her baby “cry it out,” and most recently, how a Christian should feel about gay marriage.

The latter was the last straw for me, not because of the subject but because of the battle that ensued.  The conservative-leaning author had it coming on this blog whose commenters tend to slant toward the liberal side.  Many tastefully disagreed with the author’s stance and offered some valid counter points.  But eventually it started getting heated.  Growing tired of the hate spewing out of both sides’ mouths (or keyboards), I admit I started skimming and eventually just closed the window.  I had a sick feeling in my stomach watching professed believers abuse one another with their words. 

“The world will know you are My disciples by your love”?  (John 13:35)

Not by reading this blog. 

I don’t even want to think about what a non-believer would perceive about Christians – and about the Christ we profess – after reading this.  My heart aches.

But I don’t place the blame entirely on the commenters. I place blame the blog itself.

Understand that I work in Internet marketing, so I view most of these things through that lens.  What I do know is that blogs like these are businesses, and their ad revenue is determined by the number of visits to their page. 

So here is my problem.  Based on my watching of this blog’s subject matter over past months, this thought has come to mind frequently:  Is it possible that Her.meneutics is specifically choosing subjects that they know will be controversial because it will drive up visits?  

If so, it is done on the back of the very Church it claims to serve.  Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the temple for similar reasons.  We, as the New Testament church, ARE God’s temple now (1 Corinthians 6:19).  And whether intentional or not, I fear that this blog is earning revenue by sparking controversy within its own ranks. 

If this is the case, it sickens me.

Paul exhorts Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:23-26: 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Paul doesn’t tell us to shove the issues under the rug.  He says not to be quarrelsome (and this is what IS happening on this blog) and to correct opponents with gentleness (in fairness, I do see quite a bit of this as well).  I believe the issues that are explored on this blog are REAL issues worthy of discussion, but I shudder to think that some of these people would talk to others face to face with the venom that spews from their keyboards. 

In my opinion, if a Christian blog is not going to hold those comments to the Ephesians 4:29 and Philippians 4:8 standard, they shouldn’t post these blogs in the first place. 

On the “About Us” page of Christianity Today, they say they are an advocate for the church. If they’re going to be an advocate for the church, they need to put a stop to what tears it down.