The Heart Behind our Parenting Opinions – and Why It Matters

Today, with social media, it’s not uncommon to know another parent’s opinions but to know nothing of the heart behind it.  We read about other moms’ passions as we scroll past on our Facebook newsfeed, but the disconnection from her heart and her story makes her passions easy to dismiss and even easier to judge.

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Every parent has an area of passion when it comes to parenting; a mountain they are willing to die on, so to speak.

For some, it may be car seat safety.  For others, it could be limiting screen time.  Perhaps a friend of yours is adamant their children remain gluten-free, and maybe your neighbour down the way is equally as adamant that kids never climb slides.

Being a parent is very different today than it was 30 years ago when our parents were raising us; it’s not because they had less concerns, but because they didn’t have social media.  In those days, the only way you knew another mom’s opinions about parenting, was because she was someone who was present in your world; she was someone who you had over for coffee, or met through church, or had children at the same school as yours.  You heard her thoughts and ideas directly from her, and they were directly connected to her heart and her past experiences.   You knew and understood her and her experiences alongside knowing the parenting mountains she would die on.

Today, with social media, it’s not uncommon to know another parent’s opinions but to know nothing of the heart behind it.  Which, I believe, is why it’s so easy to get into the judgement game.  We all do it.

For example:  The thing I am probably the most passionate about when it comes to my parenting is what I am putting in my kids’ bodies.  Anyone who is friends with me on social media will know that I somewhat regularly share about current findings about what is good for our bodies and what isn’t, and I’m not a believer in conventional medicine.  But what you don’t know when you see my posts is the WHY behind my passion.

A few years ago, shortly after weaning my youngest child (she’s now 4), I had a major health crash.  I all of a sudden was hit with insane insomnia (and I never struggle with sleep), I had no appetite and lost weight, and just felt off.  The doctor shrugged and said I must have postpartum depression, because he couldn’t explain why an otherwise-healthy woman in child-bearing years would be experiencing these symptoms.  I told him I didn’t feel depressed or down, except maybe being concerned about why I was feeling this way.  I felt like this for a few months before seeking out some alternative health advice.  I was told I had a hormonal imbalance (they weren’t balancing themselves out after weaning) as well as lots of gut inflammation.  Long story short, I changed my diet (removed processed foods, decreased my gluten/dairy/sugar intake, and ate more whole foods), and felt great 6 months after the “crash”.  I’ve experienced first hand how food played a major role in both the cause of the terrible feeling, as well as the healing and recovery.  That’s a big reason I’m so passionate about what goes into our bodies.

Another “why” to my passion for healthy eating, is because shortly after my episode of not feeling well, we started noticing some strange behaviour in our one son.  He couldn’t walk more than a block without crying that his legs hurt.  He had no energy, was often grumpy, started developing allergies, and was completely insane if he had sugar.  I sought out medical advice just to cover my bases, but again – they had nothing to say about it.  This kid would have ended up on Ritalin if we had continued with that route.  Instead, we knew that outward symptoms are just a sign of inward issues.  And sure enough, with some help of a naturopath and some diet changes, we saw HUGE changes.  Other people saw the changes, too.  He started having energy.  He was calmer and happier.  He stopped wetting the bed.  His eyes were bright again.  All changes that came when we started taking crap out of his diet, and putting good stuff in.  His behaviour can still be affected by sugar and dyes, so we limit those as much as we can (but also let him be a kid as much as we can).  Anyone who has seen their child act like a drunken, angry fool simply because of what was put in his body has to start questioning if those things should be going into any of our bodies.  I sure did, anyways.

On the outside, maybe all you see is a health-obsessed mom who doesn’t know how to let her kids have some fun.  Maybe you roll your eyes because I don’t let my kids have Halloween candy, and you think I’m controlling.  Or maybe you think I’m ill-advised and jump on whatever health bandwagon comes my way.  It’s okay, you probably didn’t know my story.  Because we usually don’t, and so instead we judge.  We didn’t hear the story from our fellow mom as we sat on the park bench while our kids played; we read it as we scrolled past on our Facebook newsfeed, and the disconnection from another mom’s story makes her passions easy to dismiss and even easier to judge.

So here’s the thing I want to remember:  That mom that’s obsessed with car seat safety? Maybe she was in a car accident as a teenager.  That neighbour who never lets her kids watch movies? Maybe her only childhood memory of her mom is the back of her head while she watched daytime television all day.  That friend who won’t let her 10 year-old walk to the park alone?  Maybe she was sexually abused by her friend’s older brother under a playground structure when she was a child.  That mom from school who won’t let her kid touch food that’s not organic?  Maybe her dad died from a brain tumour and she can’t stand the thought of putting chemicals in her kids’ bodies.

And also, I want to be okay to own the reasons why my passions are what they are, but understand they don’t need to be other peoples’ passions.  I might be really adamant about limiting sugar, but you don’t need to be.  You might be really into keeping your child rear-facing until they’re 3, but I don’t need to be.

So even when I don’t hear the stories behind the passion, even if I might never know the “why” that drives it, I really want to learn to give grace.  I want live with the assumption that we all have reasons/experiences/beliefs that drive us to make the decisions we do as parents. And those things aren’t wrong, they’re just different.  I want to give more of this grace, and I’d like to receive it, too.  (But I’m pretty sure I know which of those needs to come first. 🙂 )

So what is your parenting “mountain” that maybe no one else understands?  And what is your “why”?

 

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Fighting Battles But Forgetting People

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Are we so busy fighting the big battles and the things that threaten the spreading of the Gospel, that we’re forgetting to actually spread the Gospel?

Lately I’ve see so many articles and posts on social media that are waging war on all kinds of hot topics: Divorce.  Abortion.  Substance Abuse.  Homosexuality.  Islam.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and it doesn’t sit right with me.  I’ve been struggling with the idea of us as Christ followers spouting messages about “abortion is a sin!”, and “make your marriage work!”, and “stand up against the muslims taking over our country!”, and most recently, “don’t let those school board heathens take verses from our Bibles!”.

I understand that we need to stand, we need to have convictions and believe in them. And we need to pray.  But in the wake of our social media convictions there lies a lot of carnage; carnage made up of broken human hearts.

Behind that divorce is an exhausted woman who needs some support.

Behind that abortion is a woman living in shame who doesn’t know how she can raise a baby on her own and how she can manage the looks of judgement.

Behind the social drinking is a person who is dealing with a childhood of neglect and abuse.

Behind the homosexuality is a person who feels judged and condemned.

Behind the hijab is a woman who fiercely believes in her Koran and doesn’t know any other reality.

Behind a school board decision is a person who has hurt from the church and is trying to do what she believes is the right thing.

And all of these people, what do they receive from Jesus followers?  They usually receive more shame, guilt, condemnation, and judgement.   These people won’t benefit from a Facebook post that further pushes them away from what they need most.

When I watch how Jesus walked out his short years here on earth, he never addressed the sin or the issue without addressing the heart.  He never did one without the other, except maybe when it came to dealing with those who were religious, the Pharisees.  (I think He knew their hard, proud hearts weren’t open, but the heart of a hurting person would be.)  When a woman was caught in adultery (a sin punishable by death), He restored her dignity in front of her accusers, treated her with love and valued her as a person, and THEN  told her to go and sin no more.  It’s a similar story with the woman at the well.  When He healed people, He never asked them what sins they committed first (though He DID rebuke his disciples for inquiring who’s sin made a boy blind – John 9:2-3).  He took the depravity of the human condition and put it up against the Love of His Father.  And that love won EVERY. TIME.

I really think we have it backwards.  We address the sin in peoples’ lives, and then tell them how to live opposite of that.  We tell them not to get divorced, that abortion is murder, that alcohol abuse is wrong and hurts people.  But we’re not really doing what Jesus did – appeal to the broken heart first.  When Jesus gave love and grace to the sinners he encountered, it was a given that they would turn around and do something different.  Because meeting Love in person form has a way of changing people.  Imposing rules and fighting big issues don’t.

Let’s not forget that behind the “big battles” are people.  People who need love, not hate. People who need what Jesus has to offer, not more of what the enemy offers (judgement, shame, guilt, isolation, condemnation).  What are we offering them when we share politically/racially-charged articles on Facebook?

What are we offering them when we’re fighting so hard for our rights to spread the Gospel, that we’ve forgotten to actually do just that?  None of these issues affect my ability to spread the love of Jesus where He calls me to: which is everywhere, at all times – I need to grow to that!  (Remember that the Gospel is being spread even in places where that very act is punishable by death, so surely we can get around any restrictions imposed on us.)  The big issues don’t stop me from telling one person about the love of Jesus and how He can change our lives.

The big issues matter, but Jesus is teaching me that they don’t matter more than a person.

Jesus fought the big battles by going after one heart.  Then another.  And then another. Let’s go after peoples’ hearts and the big issues will diminish.

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Hope

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Let me tell you a story of hope.  And a story about someone who’s lived without it.

Lately I’ve been feeling an urgency to bring Jesus’ love to the unlovable people in our world.  I’ve always had a passion for people living in the inner city, and particularly for women working in the sex trade.  I’ve been feeling challenged recently about what I’m going to do about that.  Am I going to walk out my passions?  Or let my life and my comfort overrule?  If I’m really head over heels for Jesus, why don’t I share it more often?  Why am I not walking on this earth as Jesus walked when he was here?  Fear.  Comfort.  Insecurity.  To name a few answers to that question.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”  (James 1:27)

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to walk this out in Edmonton’s inner city.  In my fear, in my wondering, in my insecurity.  But also, in Jesus.  In the confidence I have in Him.

Earlier that day our family had gone skating.  As we were piling out of the van,  my 6 year-old son piped up out of the blue and said, “HOPE.  That’s a nice word.  Hope.”  Our 8 year-old son agreed, and added that we should have named our 3 year old daughter “Hope”. We agreed it was a very nice word.  I honestly didn’t think much of it in the chaos of hockey bag and stroller and busy parking lot.

This was probably not the first time I’ve missed hope in the midst of my own agenda.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit obviously wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to miss the message this time.  He tried again.

When I arrived in Edmonton, I made a quick stop at H&M to grab a few items before heading into the downtown area.  I noticed the cashier had a 4 letter word tattooed across the fingers of her right hand.  I looked harder and saw – you guessed it – HOPE.  I told her of my kids’ conversation of just a few hours before.  She chuckled and said, “That must mean something!”  It must.

I drove downtown, and kept my eye out for whoever it was who God wanted me to minister to.  I felt a bit discouraged when I didn’t see anyone out on the streets.  After some twists and turns, I spotted a lady limping down the street.  She was really labouring just to walk, and her legs bowed out.  I parked up ahead of her a bit, then got out and went to talk to her.

I asked her if she had heard of Jesus, and wheezing and panting she said she did.  (She was not in good shape, she could hardly breathe.)  I asked if I could pray for her, that I had noticed she was having trouble walking.  I told her Jesus wanted to heal her.  She was totally open to being prayed for.  She asked if we could sit, so I helped her to a nearby curb.

I asked her name, and she told me it was Tara.  I told her mine too.  I asked if I could put my arm around her.  I believe that touch is so unifying.  It says, “I’m here with you.  I accept you.”  She agreed and leaned in.

We chatted about her legs.  She told me the pain in them were unbearable.  Then she told me she was angry at God.  I told her that was ok.   I told her He understood, and that He could handle her being mad at Him.

She paused for a few moments, and then said, “Can I tell you something?  A few days ago, I was in such bad pain I almost ended my life.  But you know?  Something stopped me.  I don’t know why, but something stopped me.”

I responded, “Or maybe someONE?”  She chuckled and agreed.

I said, “let’s pray for your legs now!”  I was excited to see what God was going to do.  I just knew He wanted her well.

I got down in front of her, and held her legs (checking with her that she was comfortable with that).  I thanked Jesus for this beautiful woman and then out of my mouth I heard the word HOPE come out – the Holy Spirit had me pray for hope in her life.  For a new season of HOPE like she hasn’t known in a long time.  What is life, what is a healthy body, even, without hope?  Now I knew why HOPE kept finding me that day.  You don’t realize how important hope is until you meet someone who doesn’t have it.

After speaking hope into her life, I rebuked the pain in her legs and commanded healing into them.  I looked up at her.  She was staring deeply into my eyes, and looked totally at peace.  She had a slight smile on her wrinkly face.  I asked her how her legs felt.  Sometimes healing doesn’t happen instantly.  I was ready for this and was intent on persevering until the pain was 100% gone.  To my surprise – and delight! – she said, “There’s no pain.  The pain has left completely.”  She smiled really big now.  “Praise Jesus,” I said!

I sat back on the curb with her.  She continued to tell me a bit about her life growing up in a foster home.  She told me how she meets some Christian girls around downtown and how our smiles look different than everyone else’s.  She said she could tell I was a Christian because of my smile.  She told me how her friend started hitting her and how her last boyfriend was the one who gave her the black eye she had.  She gave me a Kinder egg out of her bag.

I asked her what she really needed, what she really wanted, and what I could pray for her for.  She said she wanted not to smoke anymore, she wanted prayer for her family, and she wanted to have a place of her own to live, where she could watch TV by herself without roommates around all the time.  I said, “let’s pray for those things too”.  So I prayed for her again, bringing her requests before our big Daddy.  Afterwards, she smiled at me, and told me how much better she felt.  I asked if I could take a picture of her, to remember her.  She agreed, and I asked if I could take it of her hands, as I noticed how beautifully she took care of them and how she had done her nails so nicely.  We all need something to make us feel beautiful, don’t we?

We got up to go on our ways.  I asked how her legs were, wanting to make sure she went away with no pain.  She said they were great.  They had been throbbing terribly when I had walked up to her. Now they were fine.

She asked me where I came from.  I told her God had sent me to pray for her, that I had driven an hour to come find her.  I told her that God loved her so much He would do that for her.  She giggled.  She said, “you know, Sarah, I’m around this area a lot.  If you ever come back, you can find me down here.”

Oh, Tara, I’ll be coming back.

She pointed down the street and told me she was heading in that direction.  She asked for money for bus fare.  I gave her $5.  I know a lot of people would say, “She’s probably using that for drugs or alcohol”.  I say, I’m ok with that.  Why?  Because I’ve never known what it’s like to need drugs more than I need food.  I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in foster care and sell my body on the street and live in homeless shelters and be beaten by men.  If she did use my money for her next hit, I hope the Holy Spirit reminds her of God’s love while she taking that hit.  I believe we need to use wisdom and be lead by the Spirit in our giving, but I also don’t believe we are to judge.  Why would I expect an unhealthy, addicted, wounded, lost person to make a wise choice with my money?  I don’t.

She was very thankful for the money, and then gave me a big hug.  She headed down the street.  I got back in the car and drove away, past the building that was her destination:  HOPE Mission.  And then it hit me as I read those words:  God had sent ME on a Hope Mission.  A mission to bring hope to someone who had none.

My heart grieved as I realized those were the roommates she was referring to.  My heart grieved as I realized what a blessing it is to have a home, a place where I can watch TV by myself.  My heart grieved to think of her sleeping on the floor, surrounded by people on drugs, people getting sick, people acting out beyond their faculties just feet away from her, people who smelled.  My heart grieved to think of how this innocent little girl had been abandoned and so wounded, that she had ended up wandering the inner city in her middle age, instead of living in a home and enjoying grandbabies and hobbies and travelling.  My heart grieved as I recounted all of this to Kris, and asked him, “Where were all the Jesus-followers while she was growing up?”  One.  It could have taken just ONE person to have brought the hope of Jesus to this little girl before drugs and men and a life on the street became her reality.  But Jesus is all about redemption, and I believe that is still His plan for Tara.  And for all the Taras out there.

 

 

 

 

What it actually means to be pro-life

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To be pro-life means you are advocating for a life, not just a birth.

Abortion is one of those controversial topics that has a huge influence on the way people vote.  I can’t remember any election in recent years in which the “pro-life vs. pro-choice” issue wasn’t a part.  And there is certainly no shortage of passion coming from either side of the argument.

In all the articles that fill our social media newsfeeds, and all the televised debates, one question that always remains in my head is, “What happens to those babies?”

You might assume that this question is referring to all the fetuses cut out of their mothers’ wombs and disposed of.  That’s a real concern for many.  I certainly share the concern.

But you know what?  I have a larger concern for those babies who’s lives we are advocating for.  I’m asking about all the babies who live.  Where do they go?  What happens to THEM?

When a woman chooses abortion, she does not want a baby.  Simply telling her she should – or has to – remain pregnant and birth her baby solves very few problems in my mind. It’s great that she remained pregnant and gave birth.  But now we have a baby that wasn’t wanted.

A baby that wasn’t wanted, grows into a child that wasn’t wanted, and becomes an adult that isn’t wanted.

It’s all fine and good to fight for the life of a precious, innocent infant.  But when that infant grows into the behaviourally-challenged bully that targets your child in the classroom, or becomes the drunk, homeless man who stinks and begs you for change on your way to work everyday (“and why doesn’t he get a damn job like the rest of us do!”), it’s not so cute anymore.  It’s not so simple anymore.

We want babies, but we don’t want needy adults who are a drain on society.  We want babies, but we don’t want to get messy.

I’m not saying that every unwanted baby become a bully, a homeless man or a prostitute. Certainly that’s the extreme.  What I AM saying is that it is not right to advocate for lives just to the point that they make it out of the womb, and then think your job is done.  Regardless of the socio-economic status of the mother involved.  I am saying that to be pro-life means we stand for life – the mother’s, the infant’s, and whoever that infant becomes in the future.

Being against abortion means that we are going to have many babies – people – born among us who were not wanted.  Being against abortion means we will have women in our midst who need support and help.  Being against abortion means being willing to foster a child, adopt a child, or to simply step up to help a mom.  Maybe it means volunteering with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters.  Maybe it means supporting a single mom financially.  Maybe it means working with a ministry that helps street people find and secure jobs.  Maybe it means being available to babysit for the worn out mom who didn’t want another child.

One thing I know for sure, is being pro-life DOESN’T mean sporting a sign outside an abortion clinic or sharing a Facebook post to voice your opinion, without any intention to support a mother with an unwanted pregnancy or a child who WAS the unwanted pregnancy.

I know that I want to be pro-LIFE – and all that it entails – and not just pro-birth.   Lord, help me be okay to get messy.

 

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

-Sister Joan Chittister

The dishes can wait, but they don’t go away

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One of the pieces of parenting advice whose short-sighted thinking is positively correlated with its frequency of being heard is this:

“The dishes can wait; your kids are only young once.”

One part of that piece of advice is true.  And the other one… maybe partly true.  Yes, my kids are only young once.  And yes, I suppose dishes can wait.  But waiting dishes ≠ disappearing dishes.  Waiting dishes ≠ clean dishes.

No.

Waiting dishes multiply.  And smell.  And attract the kinds of critters my kids would love to keep in a jar.  In a jar?  A’ight.  On my countertops and sink?   Um no.

The same rule applies to a similar piece of advice regarding laundry.

“Leave your dirty underwear, play with your kids!” they say.

Sounds like in-the-moment-ridiculous-planning-oh-crap-I-have-no-clean-gitch-for-the-next-day kind of thinking.  How does not having clean undergarments for the next day – or clean bowls for the next morning – help my kids stay young?  How does a growing mountain of sticky peanut butter plates make more time for me to give to my kids?  How does ignoring a pile of clothes with last week’s spaghetti sauce crusted on it afford me more enjoyment and presence with my family?

It doesn’t.

It just delays the inevitable and makes me feel like I have just opened up a window of time.  It tricks me into thinking I’ve gained something I didn’t.  I certainly did not gain time.  But I suppose I did gain something: I gained more to do later.  I also might have gained ants in my house.  And I might have even gained some odours I wasn’t planning on.

Waiting dishes do not disappear or create less work for me.  Waiting actually creates more work for me, because it gives the oatmeal one more day to strengthen its resolve to never never never come off.

Sometimes leaving chores is okay.  Sometimes an adventure is calling and the benefits far outweigh the risks.  But that is not everyday, and that is certainly not a way to live all the time, at least not for me.  I’d rather a mole hill of laundry regularly, then a mountain that will drown me for an entire day.  Leaving a chore doesn’t mean it decides to stop demanding my time.  (If it did, I would certainly be game to heed this piece of advice!)

But I do kind of get it.  I think when older ladies say this, they are trying to say, “I worked and cared about housework too much while my kids were young, and now I regret it”.  The thing is, we all will do that.  I think all parents will look back and think, “I could have done more ____ and less____”.  It’s easy to look back and forget how tired you sometimes were, or how you needed a break (and staring into space while washing pots in the quiet ain’t half bad), or how much work it is to keep a home running and feed everyone.  I think lots of things about parenting are easy to say when you’re no longer in the throes of skid-marked underwear left on the bathroom floor and old cornflakes left in bowls everyday.

But the thing is, when you’re 60 and looking back on your life, you’re not remembering the laundry.  You’re not remembering the dishes.  You’re remember your sweet cherubs – who have now all grown up – as they slept in their beds, or the time you played memory and laughed all afternoon, or the time you read books and accidentally missed bedtime.  You wished you had done more of that, so the obvious solution is to skip the chores and just DO more of that.  But the reason you did the chores, is because they had to be done.  And you forget that.

I’m not advocating that our homes be pristine and we are constantly on top of things. Or that we don’t sometimes just have a “screw the laundry” attitude and go on an adventure.  But I do think we shouldn’t feel bad for having our kids wait to play a game until the laundry is in.  Or tell them that right now, our goal is to get the kitchen tidied.  Sometimes chores wait.  Sometimes kids do.  But as moms, we get to decide that, and we shouldn’t feel guilty when the pee-stained toilets win.

Like for all things in life, I believe in balance.  We can have (semi-)clean bathrooms AND kids who’s hearts are full.  We can make sure our clothes and dishes and toilets aren’t growing mushrooms or penicillin, AND make sure we spend time with our kids.  It’s not one or the other.  I want to teach my kids to have adventures and also honour responsibilities.  I want to teach them – and model – balance, character, and how to do hard things that we just don’t want to do.

And I will try not to tell them that their dishes can wait when they have kids.  I want to tell them that it’s okay to do the dishes first sometimes.  It’s okay if the kids are the ones to wait sometimes.  Heck, I’d love to be the older lady that says, “why not have your cake and eat it too?  I’ll come do your dishes, and you go do that paint class with your kids?”

So instead of those guilt-inducing memes about cherishing our kids’ childhoods (because, seriously, who isn’t trying to do that every.single.day?), how about a meme that tells us to not feel badly about washing stains out of our clothes and having clean plates to eat on and getting the sticky spots off our floor.

Because dishes CAN wait, but they don’t go away (unless the older lady who tells you that is willing to make them go away for you…!).

So moms, if you sometimes say “no” and choose dishes instead, don’t feel bad.  The dishes won’t go away, but neither will you children and your love for them.

Why Christians need to stop hating prosperity.

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“Health and wealth”.  “Prosperity gospel”.  Whatever name you call it, it usually is accompanied by a mindset that people who believe in wealth and prosperity from God are selfish, materialistic Christians who thinks God is a spiritual “Santa”, who is only loved for what He can give.  These are Christians who are wrapped up in money and riches and care about nothing else.

I recently read a really sad article that hasn’t left my mind.  In a nutshell, the author pleads with Christians to stop saying “blessed” when referring to a promotion, a nice home, or any other earthly blessing we might receive; the core of his argument is that by saying God has blessed us with those things, we are implying that the person who didn’t get a promotion or a nice house wasn’t blessed.  So we shouldn’t say that God has blessed us at all.  You know, lest someone be offended.  Which is the adult, Christian version of, “Why did he get new shoes and I didn’t?!” that I’ve heard from my elementary-aged children.

This attitude actually seems to be putting MORE emphasis on “things” and money, in my opinion.  If prosperity and wealth is wrong, then why should it offend someone if another person has it?  If it’s wrong, then Christians shouldn’t be accepting promotions, or buying houses, or getting new cars.  Right?  “Sorry, I don’t believe in prosperity.  I can’t accept that.”  If anti-prosperity Christians are right, then that should be their response, shouldn’t it?

The funny thing is, a lot of anti-prosperity Christians live pretty comfortable lives; lives that are a direct contradiction of their firm beliefs that say wealth is bad.  Or wait – maybe it’s that wealth from God is bad, but wealth in general is okay?

Back to the article, and being offended by the word “blessing”.  In my experience, the only people who get offended by another person’s blessings are those who are operating in a religious spirit, or who are more led by money than they are by the Spirit of God.  When I’ve shared how God has blessed me (and yes, even in material ways), it’s the unbelievers who are excited to hear all about it.  They don’t have a chip on their shoulder about the possibility that we have a good God who wants to lavish us with good things.  Seems a little backwards to me.

So who’s the source of the things we have, then?  If it’s not God who has blessed you with a good year in business, or a good deal at the grocery store, or with a home that your family can enjoy, then who is it?  There’s one of three options, as far as I can see it:

  1. You are responsible for the good things that have come into your life.  “I’ve worked hard for the bonus I got at work this year.”  God is not part of the equation here.
  2. The enemy has provided it for you.  (This is just silly, but I’m just going through the possibilities here.  We know the enemy is not capable of giving good things.)  God is not part of the equation here either.
  3. It’s just kismet.  Fate.  Good luck.  Again – God is not part of this equation.

Wait – so it’s not okay for me to say God blessed me with a house, but it IS okay to give myself credit for it?  It IS okay to think it just happened by coincidence?   It IS okay – and in fact, preferred (because watch out for prosperity teachings!) – to take God out of the equation when it comes to our earthly blessings?

There is something so, so wrong with this picture.  Either God is responsible for material blessings in our lives, or He isn’t.  And it saddens me that there are Christians in the camp that believes He doesn’t.  Which automatically puts them in the camp of thinking it’s either due to their own hard work (giving credit to self) or simply because of fate (giving credit to something other than God).

But what does the Bible say?  Well, the Bible says that Abraham was a very blessed man. In fact, he was extremely rich (Gen. 13).  Super rich in material things.  But it wasn’t just for him.  He was blessed, so that he could turn around and bless others (Gen. 12:2).  The Bible also talks about Job.  He was extremely rich too.  “Yes, but wasn’t all of that taken away?”  Yup, it was.  And then after the enemy messed with him, God blessed him with even more.  Even more material things.  God did that.

This reminds me of a common argument against prosperity, which is the following: “The blessings God gives us are spiritual blessings.”  Well yes, He does give us spiritual blessings.  And those are far greater than earthly ones!  In fact, it was Kenneth Copeland himself (yes, one of those “prosperity teachers”!) who said that financial blessings are actually the lowest form of the riches God has for us.  We can be rich in many ways: in our relationship with God and people, in our marriages, in our health, etc. etc.  But that doesn’t mean that financial blessing is bad, or isn’t a part of the deal.

In fact, Paul talked about telling the Gentiles about the “endless treasures available to them in Christ” (Eph. 3:8).  The Greek word for “treasures” in that passage is “ploutos”, a noun which means “an abundance of possessions and economic prosperity“.  I didn’t say it, the Bible did.

Another common thing that Christians will do in regards to material blessings is make their own judgement about what is enough or not enough.  Which means it all comes down to how you can justify the things you have.  “Well, I need this van.”  Actually no.  You don’t need a vehicle.  “I need a house to live in.”  Again, no you don’t.  You could live in a 100sq.ft. shanty.  So really, anything above being naked and having more than $5 in your hand makes you blessed.  So there – if you have a computer or mobile to read this on, you already are blessed.  Blessed beyond measure!  “Well, it’s okay to have a $200,000 home, but not a $400,000 home.”  Who are you to say that?  Either of those things are in excess when you think of the world at large.  So who’s to draw the line?  That is the issue with this type of thinking: You are making yourself the judge of what others have.  You have decided you are the plumb line for what is “necessity” (things that are okay to have) and what is not.  I know these things, because I did them.  All of them.

So here’s the thing.  Here’s the reason all of this matters:  Taking God out of the equation when it comes to my material blessings, means I am either taking the credit for it myself, or giving it to someone else.  If I think it belongs to me, I will not seek God as to what to do with it, and how He wants me to use it.  I earned it, it’s mine.  But if I see my wealth as coming from God, and ultimately still belonging to Him (I am just a steward of it), I will seek Him as to how to use it to further His kingdom.  I will ask Him what I should be doing with it, and how I can bless others with it so they can have the same good Dad I do.

And the bigger reason all of this matters, is because Christians need to be the pipeline of God’s goodness to others, not the voice that is speaking out against it.  How can we pass it on if we’re against receiving it ourselves?

It costs money to buy a car for a single mom when God tells you to.

It costs money to build an orphanage in Haiti.

It costs money to buy a new bike for the kid down the street who’s bike was stolen last week.

It costs money to put on a Christmas meal and invite homeless people.

It costs money to fly to a northern community to share the hope and love of Jesus with hurting people.

You don’t NEED money to bless people.  We should be blessing any way we can!  But as believers, I think we need to wrap our head around (and stop speaking against!) a God who wants to increase us and bless us, so that we can turn around and show Him to others in tangible ways.  So that we can be the solution to the world’s problems that we were created to be.

We have a good, good Father, and there is a hurting world out there who is waiting for the sons and daughters of God to reveal His goodness to them.  And the first step is believing in, and then receiving with gratitude, that goodness ourselves.

***

My heart in this is not to pass judgement.  If this is where you are, I get it.  I really, really do.  Part of the non-material blessings I receive daily is His abundant grace, which I also extend to you.  None of us have arrived, none of us know it all.  This is simply a challenge to look at what we believe and why we believe it, and then to look at the effects that belief has on the ministry of the church in our dark world.

 

What Do I Need to Let Go Of?

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When I struggle or I’m working through something (whether it’s a deep relational issue, cranky kids, or a pile of laundry), the first place my mind goes to is, “Okay, what do I need to do here to make this better?”

Usually the answers I come up with are along the lines of: be nicer to the kids, get that load of laundry done, try to change my thought and behaviour patterns, respond differently next time, etc. etc.

But I recently figured out that I’ve been asking the wrong question.

God spoke to me last week about this.  I was feeling overwhelmed and all over the place, and about to go over the same old mantras of figuring out what I need to do to fix it.  God gently said to me, “it’s not about doing, it’s about letting go”.

So He said that in those moments, I need to ask Him:

What do I need to let go of?

See, doing just puts more pressure on.  And typically, the only reason I am wanting and needing to do something different is because the pressure is already on.  Another thing to do really doesn’t help.

But letting go of something?  I can do that.  I need to do that.

Sometimes the thing we need to let go of is something concrete:  an added task that pushes your day over the edge, a toxic relationship, a box of junk that just clutters up your space.

And sometimes the thing we need to let go of is an expectation:  an expectation that my to-do list is empty, or that my house will stay clean, or that my kids will behave perfectly.

Doing puts pressure on.  Letting go takes it away.

Doing fills my plate.  Letting go clears it.

Doing makes me tired.  Letting go helps me to breathe again.

Doing is a burden.  Letting go lightens the load.

The great thing about this is that even when we don’t know the answer to this question, if we will quiet ourselves and listen, we have a good, good Father who will tell us.  He always knows what we have been holding on to that is not good for us.  He knows what we need.

So, what do you need to let go of today?

Trust me, you’ll feel lighter when you give it up.  🙂

 

 

 

 

Hate religion? Good. So did Jesus.

re·li·gious
rəˈlijəs/
adjective
  1. 1.
    relating to or believing in a religion.

One of my least favourite things is being called “religious”.  I know it’s done with good intentions usually, so it doesn’t make me angry, but I don’t like being associated with religion in any way.  I always reply with “I’m not religious.  Jesus hated religion.”

See, the main reason I don’t care for that title is because the definition above just doesn’t fit; I don’t believe in a religion.  I believe in a man named Jesus who died for me to have an abundant life.

Religion is man-made; Jesus was God-made.

The other, more important reason I really don’t like being labelled with this term, is because religious people were the ones who worked against Jesus.  They were the ones who were more concerned with how they looked on the outside than the true motives on the inside (Matt. 23:25-26), they were the ones who beaked from the sidelines when Jesus performed healings and deliverances (Matt. 12:9-14 is one of many instances), and they were the ones who tried to control him and make him conform to their man-made rules and traditions.  Jesus’ freedom ticked them right off, and they eventually put him on the cross for it.

Jesus and religion are not synonymous.  In fact, they are quite opposite.

A religious spirit is obsessed with appearance and rule-abiding; a Jesus spirit is concerned with the condition of the heart.

A religious spirit boasts about his maturity in Christ; a Jesus spirit quietly lives out maturity in Christ because he is always seeking more truth.  

A religious spirit takes pride in his doctrine and his knowledge of Scripture; a Jesus spirit humbly lives out the truth of what he has read.  

A religious spirit believes he knows all there is to know; a Jesus spirit is always willing to admit there is room to grow and learn.  

A religious spirit puts emphasis on doing, performing, and following rules; a Jesus spirit puts emphasis on what is already done, and is led not by rules but by the voice of the Shepherd.

A religious spirit speaks out against the works of Christ (healing, delivering, setting people free); a Jesus spirit believes God meant it when He said “these signs will follow those who believe” (Mark 16) and then walks in it.  

A religious spirit will skip around from church to church, because he is seeking power and control and church is about him; a Jesus spirit follows God’s leading about where he should be planted and then stays until God directs him differently.  

A religious spirit looks at a circumstance and then determines God’s will; a Jesus spirit looks at God’s will, and then determines what the circumstance should be.

A religious spirit is offended if he thinks you are saying he doesn’t have enough faith; a Jesus spirit will freely admit a lack of faith and take it as an opportunity to cry out, “Lord, increase our faith!” as the disciples did when Jesus rebuked them (Luke 17:5), or to declare, “I do believe!  Help me overcome my unbelief!” as the father of the sick boy did (Mark 9:24).  

A religious spirit condemns sin and makes you try harder; a Jesus spirit gives grace which empowers you to conquer sin for good.

A religious spirit repels the unbeliever; a Jesus spirit attracts him.

A religious spirit knows Scripture; a Jesus spirit believes Scripture and lives it out.

A religious spirit fears man; a Jesus spirit fears God.

A religious spirit binds people; a Jesus spirit sets people FREE!

Jesus really did not like religion.  And if he didn’t, then we shouldn’t either.

Think about it – Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, but hung out and showed grace and forgiveness to an adultress.  Jesus (and John the Baptist) called the Pharisees and Sadduccees “broods of vipers” on multiple occasions, yet he told a condemned man hanging on the cross beside him that he would join him in paradise that day.  The only group of people he consistently rebuked, and even turned his back on, were the religious. No wonder they hated him.  (Keep in mind, it was the spirit working inside of them that he rebuked, and he still loved them.  So should we.)

So if the thought of religion repels you – GOOD.  It should.  It is not a true representation of God’s heart.  He didn’t die on a cross so he could obsess over our behaviour, keep us powerless against the evil in this world, and keep us thinking we’re just lowly little sinners.  NO!  He came and made us the “righteousness of God in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:21) and “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:27).  He came so we could do what he told us to do (Mark 16) and be a solution to a sick and hurting world.

Religious Christians do not truly believe and live out the call to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1-2) and to follow his example (1 Cor. 1:11).  If we all did, then we wouldn’t have a problem with healing.  We wouldn’t have a problem with casting out demons.  We wouldn’t have a problem walking alongside society’s “worst”.  Religion has a problem with those things, but Jesus didn’t.  Jesus DID those things, and then told us to do them too.  In fact, he not only told us to do the same works he did, but that we would do “even greater works” after he went to be with the Father (John 14:12).  (Religious spirits really hate that one!  Good thing I didn’t author that – so don’t take it up with me!)  Religion keeps us arguing over the theology of such statements, but the spirit of Jesus at work within a person has them going out and doing them.

So, you see, it’s not about being good.  It’s not about rule-following and wearing a suit to church on Sunday and not drinking alcohol; it’s about being clean on the inside.  It’s not about memorizing Scripture and spouting off theology, it’s about allowing the truth of Scripture to change you from the inside out.  It’s not about knowing who Jesus was, it’s about knowing Jesus and then continuing His work to grow His Kingdom.  To help people.  To bring light to the darkness around us.

This world is dark, friend.  It doesn’t need more religion.  It doesn’t need more Christians arguing and fighting over theology.  It needs more Jesus.  It needs believers who will believe and obey His unadulterated Word, and who will then go do the works He called us to do.

I don’t want to be religious.  I want to be like Jesus.

 

 

Boundaries

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“You can’t control behaviour,

but you can control consequences.”

This quotes comes from the authors of the awesome book “Boundaries” by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.

Boundaries are an interesting topic.  Loved by some, hated by others, boundaries are – in the very least – a good litmus test of the health of a relationship (or a person in it).  If I put up boundary A with someone I love, and they respond with malice and spite, and are offended by my boundary, I now know that there are some issues of power and control at the heart of that relationship.  If I am being loved, valued, protected, and respected in a relationship, then a boundary should be something that I am encouraged to put up.  If it’s not understood, a healthy person will ask genuine questions to gain understanding.

I read a great analogy on the “Boundaries” Facebook page a few weeks ago that has been rolling around in my head since.  It was talking about how a boundary is like a fence that we put up around our property.  What is inside that fence belongs to us, and as such, we have a say as to what happens there.  As a silly example, I’d prefer if you didn’t pee on my lawn.  You can pee on the lawn outside of my fence – I have no say as to what happens there – but if you choose to pee on the inside, I will no longer allow you inside my fence.

The interesting thing, is that a healthy person will realize that they are the one who has caused themselves to not be allowed inside the fence anymore.  An unhealthy person will blame the person who put up the boundary, and say it is their fault they are no longer allowed.  Now, if you’re not wearing a shirt, and the store requires you to wear one, is it the store’s fault you have to remain on the street?  Or is it *your* choice not to adhere to the standards set by the owners of the property that you want to enter into?  The funny things is, a simple change of behaviour would allow that person back into the property (ie: not peeing on the lawn, or putting on a shirt).

An unhealthy person will not only make you responsible for their choice to continue in the disrespect that put them outside your fence, they might even go so far as to make you feel guilty and put a lot of negative pressure on you due to the boundary you’ve set out.  A lot of people in this situation take the bait, and to avoid the discomfort that has been created, will change their boundary and allow the person to come on in and pee on their lawn again.  Never mind, you’re right.  I was the problem.  Come on in and do whatever you’d like.

Now, the other person knows they have won, and can continue in the disrespectful behaviour on your property.  They thought you were the problem all along, and now you’ve just finally seen the light.

The question is:  How many yards has this person been peeing on?  Maybe dozens.  And you may be the only person in his or her life who has put up a fence and set out a clear consequence should the standards you have for your property be breached.  So clearly, you are now the problem.  “Bob doesn’t care if I pee on his lawn!”  Well, that’s fine.  Go to Bob’s house to do that, it’s not okay here.

Now obviously, most of us don’t have people clamouring around our yards wanting to pee on our lawns.  But we all have people in our lives who expect to treat us however they’d like, and we just keep the fence open.  “Come on in and treat me like crap!”  I’ve even heard people say, “well, Jesus was walked on.  So we should be too”.  Jesus died for the sins of humanity as a fulfillment of prophesy and to save us.  It wasn’t an issue of relational disrespect.  Jesus DOES however, tell us to be holy.  And part of being holy is being loving and truthful.  Allowing continual, unrepentant disrespect to keep happening without saying anything is neither of those things.  It’s not loving to enable someone to continue hurting you – or others – without saying something.

Everyone has an example of their life of someone who comes in and pees on their lawn.  I want to encourage you to be okay to put up a fence and protect your emotional property.  It’s okay to have a say as to what happens to your heart.  “You can’t control behaviour, but you can control consequences.”  You might lose family, you might lose friends.  But you will have peace inside that fence, and people in your yard who truly love and respect you unconditionally.  You will have truth, and honesty, and love, and respect.  And that fence is always open for people who are willing to come in and be nice.

I know that I want to be the kind of person who is welcome and safe to be inside other peoples’ yards.  And I also know that I want to model to my children not only the putting up of boundaries, but also the respecting of boundaries.  And the only way to do that is to walk it out as best I can, armed with His love and grace.