Tag Archives: truth

Beyond Holy Week

While I was on my spring blogging break, I checked the feed during Holy Week to discover the internet was in shambles.  

window bride

window bride

Lines were drawn in the sands across America. The days leading up to Easter saw pundits throw off their gloves to strangle each other in hand-to-hand combat. Facebook profiles hemorrhaged red equal signs matched by a flow of crosses. Twitter burned with the carnage of our civil discourse about gay marriage.

People ridiculed the Bible and took cheap shots at my faith. Folks in some religious circles seemed to suggest Christians just sit this one out. Political strategists advocated surrender, declaring the issue a lost cause in a zero-sum game. Do we want to be right or win elections? 

Scant little was said about how we might address the actual issue: Can we as a nation find a way to extend legal protections to long-term, monogamous gay couples while at the same time protect the religious liberty of those whose faith prohibits homosexuality? I could have missed it, but I haven’t heard much from either side about an equal-but-different, civil-union-type solution.

Maybe we don’t want a solution as much as we want a fight and a Supreme Court verdict like Roe v. Wade. Forty years later, we all know how well that settled the abortion debate.

My sweet father-in-law served two terms as a county commissioner. During his first campaign in 2000, we discussed Roe v. Wade. He expressed to me the frustration of pro-life Christians who felt blindsided by the 1973 Supreme Court ruling. “It happened,” he said, “and we did nothing.”

I naively thought this marked his generation’s legacy with silence and inaction. After Holy Week this year, I think I understand a little more of how he feels.

Proponents of gay marriage think they’re right and that this is a question of equality. If you express a different opinion, you’re labeled a bigot. On the other hand, many Christians think gay marriage is a threat to First Amendment freedoms and that this as a question of religious liberty. If our federal government “redefines” marriage to legally include both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, where does that leave the church? Where does that leave religious schools and institutions?

Will there be exceptions? Or will the state cross the line and require all churches to perform same-sex marriages, hire homosexual staff, and censor the first chapter of Romans or face prosecution for discrimination and hate crimes? Think it could never happen? Private sector examples like Hobby Lobby, Sweet Cakes Bakery, and Arlene’s Flowers show how eagerly religious liberty is being challenged. Is this too a zero-sum game?

The tidal wave of little equal signs and crosses on Facebook and the tumult of mainstream media bias during Holy Week chilled the dialogue of regular citizens. This debate has instilled fear in people to voice their convictions.

But bullying the opposition into silence isn’t progress.

rick warren quote

image from Pure Purpose on Facebook

Some of us are straight. Some of us are gay. All of us defy GodWe’re all guilty; that’s why we’re all in need of Christ. No one is in a position to condemn. But what does it say about my faith if I’m scared silent to speak what I believe?

EstherShadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and Daniel are in the Bible for a reason. So is the account of Jesus before Pilate. There is Truth that stands alone and isn’t relative to our whims, preferences, culture, courts, or circumstances. 

flag in Reagan National

flag in Reagan National

I disagree with the idea that engaging in the political process and conversation means you’ve traded faith in Christ for faith in government. God has blessed American believers the gifts of freedom of speech and religion, among the many other gifts of our Constitution. We are called to be good stewards of those gifts as much as we are called to be good stewards of all the resources God has given us. Use it or lose it.

No one enjoys being the object of ridicule, spite, and retaliation. We hope bullying doesn’t happen and we answer it with grace as best we can when it does. Christ promised that people would hate Christians the same way they hated Him. In all this, God is sovereign; His plans will be accomplished.

Americans may never unanimously agree on social issues like gay marriage and abortion. But I hold out hope we can find ways to live alongside each other in peace, with respect for our different beliefs, and under the protection of our Constitution. 

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. John 18:36-38 NIV

How are you processing the events of Holy Week?

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Dare to Hope

I love Christmas. Really, I do.

pink poinsettias

it’s beginning to look a lot like…

I love that our culture still reserves a time to celebrate Jesus’ birth. But the churning of the holiday season is a mixed bag for me, and I’m not the only one.

After I published the bah-humbug-ish post Saving Duck this past Tuesday, my best friend, my closest cousin, and my brother all contacted me within a three-hour period. These people are more dear than I deserve, so their concern could be a coincidence. Just in case, I thought I better clarify.

First, I’m okay. You’re okay. God willing, we’ll all make it through.

Second, this is not a retraction of my thoughts from my last post. The unrealistic expectations of a perfect Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s are destructive. They steal our joie de vivre and drain our bank accounts. We question our faith and our sanity.

Now I know there are a few of you who would prefer I only write about shiny, happy things. I appreciate that, and I wish I could meet your demands.

But I can’t.

It’s not my intention to be a negative Nelly. I do write about fun stuff as well from misread song lyrics to missing underwire, from discontinued lipstick to dismissed hair accessories. But to me, it wouldn’t be honest or helpful to present as if everything is sunshine and roses (or pink poinsettias) when it’s not.

Yesterday I hung out with some Christian girlfriends. One caught my attention when she said, “I don’t really like this season. I mean I like Christmas, I just don’t care for all that goes with it.”

Her courage struck a chord. One by one, every woman recounted personal stories of how painful the holidays can be. My December dread didn’t seem so abnormal after all.

The wisest of all the women shared a story from when her kids were younger. She and her husband piled their little ones in the car and drove across three states to visit a relative for Thanksgiving. The trip wasn’t a surprise visit; the relative knew they were coming. Imagine their shock to arrive just in time to stand in the driveway and wave good-bye.  Grandma had made other plans to go out with friends for Thanksgiving dinner instead.

chocolate turkeys

don’t be a turkey

“We laugh about it now,” said my friend. “We joke and say, ‘Remember when Grandma left us on Thanksgiving?’ But at the time, it wasn’t funny.”

This is in part why we need other people in our lives. It’s why we need to tell each other the truth. It’s why some of us write and read and comment. How good to know we’re not alone. Others have walked this road or on it with us now. Many have survived. Maybe we will, too.

Walk on, pilgrims. Walk on.

Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease. Lamentations 3:21-22 NLT

He Walked a Mile by Clay Crosse. An oldie but a goodie.

Do you still dare to hope? Tell me more.

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Meet the Skeptic

Today is the National Day of Prayer. There’s a lot of hubbub surrounding the alternative National Day of Reason—as if faith and reason are mutually exclusive. Seems fitting to turn our attention to the skeptics, people who express disbelief of Biblical truth. For that, we call in an expert.

Meet the Skeptic by Bill Foster

Meet the Skepticby friend Bill Foster, reached number one in Amazon’s Science and Religion category earlier this week. Congratulations, Bill!

In Meet the Skeptic, Bill presents skepticism as an opportunity to see where the need for truth lies in each individual. Bill is Gen X, so expect references to pop culture alongside illustrations and Biblical support. All this is packed into a mere 144 pages. You can read that in one sitting, people.

I asked Bill a few questions about his book. He was gracious to share these answers with me.

What inspired you to write this book?

Bill: Two main things. First, my own frustrations in talking with skeptics and feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere even when I had answers. Second, realizing there are a lot of apologetics resources out there but people are intimidated by many of them.

What makes this different than other ways to share the Gospel?

Bill: Meet The Skeptic is more about asking the right questions to get underneath surface-level objections than it is about trying to answer every objection. It’s more about understanding worldviews and where a conversation will likely go than it is about regurgitating data. Facts and evidence are always valuable and the more knowledgeable we are about a subject the better. But I think the evidence is best used as supporting information after the skeptic’s worldview is uncovered rather than as lead-off material.

What one thing would you like people to know about sharing the Gospel with the skeptic?

Bill: We don’t need to “win” the discussion. Intellectual arguments alone will never convince anyone, only God can do that. When we engage skeptics and really try to find the deeper obstacles to their faith, we have a better chance at seeing whether or not God is working on them. If He is, great! They may be receptive to truth. But if He’s not, it doesn’t mean that He never will. It just might mean that on this occasion we’re only scratching the surface of hard ground rather than gleaning the harvest.

Find Meet the Skeptic books and study resources on the book’s website and on Amazon. God bless you, Bill, as you aid in the harvest.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:2-3 NIV

I’m For You by TobyMac.

Bill Foster and his wife Karla live in North Carolina. You may remember Karla from Don’t Save the Marshmallows.

In addition to writing and speaking about apologetics, Bill is an accomplished graphic designer, business owner, and publisher.

Follow Bill on his blog, Facebook page, and Twitter @meettheskeptic.

Are faith and reason compatible? Do you consider yourself a person of faith, reason, or both?

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The Truth About 150

Yesterday my first grader explained to me a squabble he was having in school.

school bus

“George (not his real name) says one hundred AND fifty,” he said. “I told him it’s one hundred fifty.”

“Yes,” I said. “It’s one hundred fifty.”

“Yeah, but then everyone said, ‘Nu-uh! It’s one hundred AND fifty,'” he said.

I grabbed a piece of paper to illustrate.

“You write it like this: 150,” I said. “Not like this: 100 AND 50. See?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“So you say it that way, too,” I said. “One hundred fifty.”

“Well, George says it’s one hundred AND fifty,” he said. “I’m going to tell him again he’s wrong.”

“Honey,” I said. Deep breath. “You can tell him, but he may not believe you.”

“Yeah,” he said. “He probably needs to hear it from his parents.”

“Unless his parents also think it’s one hundred AND fifty,” I said. “It doesn’t matter. You know what’s right and you told him. Even if the whole class disagrees, it’s still one hundred fifty.”

My son was quiet.

“I’m going to tell them it’s one hundred fifty,” he said. “And then when they say, ‘Nu-uh! No, it’s not!…'”

Pause.

“I’ll just say, ‘Oh, forget it.'”

He has a point.

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6 NIV

Forget About It by Alison Krauss and Union Station. What unforgettable talent. Enjoy the weekend!

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Missing Alex

Was reminded this week of one of the many reasons why need each other and the blessing of friendship.

dillon’s daffodil

Friends speak truth into my life. Truth that may be obvious to everyone except me. Truth that frees me indeed.

Alex was that kind of friend. I remember the first time I saw him in my old neighborhood. A cheerful, elderly gentleman walking his dog Bo.

He reached out. Always had time to speak and to care. Left anyone he met along the way with a kind, “God bless!”

Alex refused to talk politics or religion with me. The fall we met nearly 10 years ago, I was knee-deep in a rigorous study of the Old Testament history of Israel. Alex was Jewish, and I was dying to dish with him. But he wouldn’t have it. Didn’t want anything to risk a rift between neighbors.

Fast forward to the next fall. After years of infertility, my husband and I were thrilled by the birth of our son. Then colic put a quick damper on our joy for the beginning months.

By spring, the colic was over and all was well again. I was out with the baby one day when Alex came by with Bo. He stopped and talked with me in my yard among the daffodils and hyacinths.

I told him about the discouraging experience of dealing with a colicky baby. How my son cried and cried. How there was no way to comfort him. How I felt like a bad mom.

“It’s sad for you after waiting so long for a child,” said Alex, “to lose the first months with him to colic.” His wise eyes soft with empathy.

No one had said that to me until then, at least not in a way I could hear it. No one had tapped into the emotion of the experience and spoken the truth of it. Colic is sad, even devastating. For the baby, yes. But also for the parents. Also for me.

The content and care of his words was powerful. Alex called out what happened. Gave me permission to feel the pain. Freed me to move on.

Other friends—new and old, close and far—have done this throughout the years and even this week in matters big and small. Probably without realizing it.

Out of nowhere comes that lightning bolt sentence. That straight shot of truth.

It was legalism. You were hurt in ministry by legalism.

Look at the color! It’s perfect! I love that cranberry.

I cannot imagine losing my mother at 25 (or ever).

Alex died the April following my son’s first birthday. I still miss him, especially as spring approaches. How could I not miss my friend?

There are “friends” who destroy each other,
but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 NLT

If you do nothing else today, listen to this song. Then go hug a friend. Or send them a link to this post. Click to hear Sara Groves, Every Minute.

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How the Government Can Save $3.14 Million This Year

June 18, 2011

With all this hoo-hah about the national budget, or lack thereof, I have an idea to save our country money. You know those Social Security updates we all get once a year?

Somewhere there’s a printer whose sole purpose is to produce these. And they do a nice job: 11″ x 17″ black and white plus one color, personalized with individual taxpayer information and address. One notification every year for each of the 157 million taxpayers who currently pay into Social Security.

Let’s conservatively estimate each notice costs one cent to print and personalize and one cent to mail. Yes, I know it costs more in real life, but we’re using our imaginations. We’ll give the federal government the benefit of the doubt here.

Two cents for each statement times 157 million taxpayers equals at least $3.14 million saved within the next year if the government stops printing them now. Paltry in comparison to our debt, but every little bit counts.

Then we’ll do what the government loves to do. We’ll forecast the estimated savings for the next 20 years: $62.8 million.

We can’t stop sending the notifications without notification! I have an idea for that too. The federal government can send one final notice.

Let’s print each taxpayer a simple 3″ x 5″ black and white postcard. It’s smaller than the 11″ x 17″ page, has no personalization except the address, and has no color. Let’s say it costs one cent to print and mail. We’ll still save at least $1.57 million within the next year.

The postcard will read:

We regret to inform you, the money is gone. You will not receive anything from Social Security when you retire. It will do you no good to sue us because there is nothing left and there is no clear defendant to name.

Since you will have to fend for yourself in retirement, you will pay a reduced rate of Social Security tax on what you earn effective immediately.

This rate will continue to be reduced incrementally during the next five years until it is cut to a reasonable, flat rate for all taxpayers. Any revenue collected for Social Security going forward will be used only for Social Security.

That’s it. No blame shifting. No grandstanding. No campaigning.

What about the shortfall when we pay less Social Security taxes into the system?

The way I see it, there can be no shortfall if there is nothing to begin with. Something’s got to give, people. No money, no spendy. That’s how it works in our house. And it hurts.

Telling the truth is another house rule. Sometimes that hurts too. There will be no Social Security for Gen X, and probably not for all the Boomers either. This isn’t a surprise. The emperor has had no clothes for quite some time.

I bet we could think up a hundred more ideas like this to save money. It’s time to talk truth, cut our losses, stop spending, and get creative to rebuild the wealth.

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1 Timothy 6:7 NIV

Dear Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, and members of Congress, Honesty is mostly what I need from you.

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Ahab and the Unfairness Doctrine

The Waltons, image used with permission from sitcomsonline.com

Much as I hate to admit it, we don’t have daily family devotions. We don’t live on Walton Mountain either. Great if you do. I confess we don’t.

But we do love God and the Bible at our house. We’ve shared Bible stories with our son since he was itty-bitty.

Noah’s ark was his favorite for a long time. I told him how God brought two of every animal to the ark, a mommy and a daddy. He wasn’t satisfied.

“And the babies,” he said in his tiny three-year-old voice. “The mommies and the daddies and the babies.”

“Well, the Bible says a mommy and a daddy of each animal,” I said.

“And the babies,” he said. I dropped it, granting him liberty. No sense arguing with a three-year-old. Certainly there were babies when they departed the ark.

He’s six now. The Bible stories he likes are the bloody, gory, fighting ones.

We were running early one morning, so at breakfast I said, “I’ll read you a Bible story. You pick!”

“Read about when Queen Jezebel died,” he said.

I turned to 1 Kings 21, the story of Naboth’s vineyard. How King Ahab wanted it for a vegetable garden, but Naboth wouldn’t sell it to him. How King Ahab pouted and refused to eat.

My son’s favorite phrase these days is It’s not fair! No matter what it is, if he doesn’t like it, we hear the refrain It’s not fair! My husband and I are about to pull our hair out over It’s not fair! No sense arguing with a six-year-old.

So that morning I read the story my son had picked: His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?”

As my child listened and munched cereal, I smelled a teachable moment.

In the whiniest Ahab voice I could muster, I said: “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard: or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.'”

Then—God, forgive me and grant me liberty, I said: “It’s not fair! It’s not fair!”

Out of the corner of my eye I could see my son’s head pop up from his bowl.

I continued reading: Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

As it goes, Jezebel had Naboth killed, Ahab took his vineyard, and Elijah caught the king and queen red-handed. Elijah spelled out God’s judgment against them saying dogs would eat Jezebel’s body. Told you it was gory.

We turned to 2 Kings 9 where the prophesy came true: But when they went out to bury her, they found nothing except her skull, her feet and her hands.

My son was quiet.

“It came true,” I said, “because God does everything He says He will do.”

The Whetstines

Then I dropped it. No sense arguing with that either.

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is My Word that goes out from My mouth:
It will not return to Me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11 NIV

Proudly presenting The Waltons Theme Song by Jerry Goldsmith. Loved that show. What a week and what a way to end it!

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