Saturday, May 23, 2015

Disturbed People

Over the last few days, I've wrestled around with the idea of getting off of social media altogether. Funny thing is, I've gotten off for decent amounts of time... several times. I let the drama, rudeness, and stupid bickering get to me way too often. Well, it should bother me, but it shouldn't rule me. So, I've determined that social media can be used for good. Might be few and far between that this is so, however, I want to make my presence one that can be added to that mix.

I was all but nauseous the other day when I read about 20, of the 470, comments I found on a post about a previous minister that needs some severe help. For one, seeing his mugshot plastered on Facebook right next to a Peewee Herman meme, was enough to make me angrier than I've been in a while. What made it worse? Seeing comments of laughter and making fun of such a one... by others claiming to be like Christ. Crimes are never a joke. Sin is never a laughing matter. Hurting families should never be used as an easy target. Since his name was already broadcast all over the internet in a negative way, I would like to take this time to request prayer for him and his family. While I would never mention a name to destroy, humiliate, or embarrass, I would like to use this as a way to show his family that not all of us are basking in his trouble. There are some who are praying hard for a full recovery and the news that he has come back to the Lord. I still don't feel it necessary to say his name, because not everyone who reads this blog will know whom I'm referring to, and that's for the best. But, for those who do... The former holiness preacher was one of our brothers. He got sick and desperately needs help. For several years God gave opportunities to stop the sin, but people refused to accept it as truth and pushed it under the rug. Now that it is undeniable, he needs his name cried out to Jesus pleading for mercy... not to the world asking for solely harsh judgment.

Please don't misunderstand me... I think his actions should be punished by law. This has been an ongoing thing. However, I think it looks absolutely horrid for Christian people to rally together to bring him further shame. There were a few remarks made resembling this:
"This is a courtesy for people to know, so they can keep their family members away from him. We are just doing our part."

Really? Then, please, for all of us here in Kentucky, please look up every offender that's close to us. If you're really doing this with pure morals, if you're honestly just trying to keep us safe, please... do more research. But, that's not going to happen. It gets more attention and support when people with stones gather around to throw them at one they know. Sickening. While there were quite the number of people participating in the bash-fest, there were a handful making comments that reflected wisdom and compassion. I could not have been more grateful to see comments made by the said few. Comments that reflected not excuses, but a merciful heart. Words that exhibited sorrow rather than joy. Statements that showed concern for his precious loved ones over loose ones thrown around with no consideration. Phrases that looked a lot like Christ.

As if this wasn't enough, there's been another flogging party overtaking the country this week. Because the whole family is famous, saying his name seems relevant... Josh Duggar. Yes, I'm sure we've all heard his name in a negative way or two over the last few days. I understand this is a touchy subject. He did some horrible things as a young boy. His family handled it the way they felt best, and it obviously worked for them. He was very repentant and changed his ways. His victims were forgiving and were able to move on. Yet, some carnivore human had to dig deep for years to find one flaw in one of these family members. They had to dig 13 years deep to pull out an embarrassing time for all in any way involved. I would have to bet that this has caused the victims much more shame than the shame they experienced many years ago.

Before rocks are thrown my way, and without getting too personal on the internet, let me just say I know a little bit about this kind of situation. I know people that have been involved in this kind of horrendous act. I, myself, faced some things as a young child that wasn't entirely ideal. Broadcasting the situation and exploiting the family does not always make the situation better for the one who was traumatized.

We have got to sincerely ask for wisdom in how to handle situations. It is completely fine to handle a situation as it's happening. Protect the ones you love and keep the innocent out of the hands of the guilty. Just do it right! No one is above anyone else. If the tables were turned on your family, how would you want the drama handled?

My mind is now directed to Joseph and Mary. She conceived in a most miraculous way. It's never happened before nor after this occurrence. In that time, Mary could have been killed for being pregnant while betrothed to another. But, Joseph, "being a just man, minded to put her away privily."
That is my whole point. Do what must be done. But, as a Christian, or just a decent person, handle the situations of today in the same way. I can't help but think of this quote now: "Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something." I pray that I always fall in the former category.

This excerpt from Scripture, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?"makes me shudder at times. It makes me cry out for wisdom and for His spirit to shine through me. It makes me realize that it is possible to be deceived. Because there is a statement that He will have to say to some... "Depart from Me, I never knew you..." A lot of us think we already have the reasoning for this passage figured out. We just know it's to those who look different than we think they should. Maybe it's to those who are a little more charismatic. But, when I try to break it down, (and, no I'm not the greatest theologian), I try to think about what knowing Jesus really looks like.

The very first thing He teaches you is humility. For, in order to become saved, you have to know you need saving. The only way this can take place is for you to realize that you need Him, that you can't be "good enough" on your own. You have to understand that you have made mistakes and only He can help you overcome them.

The next thing He shows you is the necessity of asking forgiveness. Because, once you believe in your heart, you need to confess with your mouth. You need to verbally speak that He is Lord and that you need His forgiveness.

Once that has been done, you learn an awful lot about mercy. Daily He cries out on your behalf. When you have a bad attitude and say things you regret, He is there interceding for you. When you act upon something that's been hidden in your heart, because of His grace, one simple prayer can deem you blameless in His sight. When foolishness overtakes you and humanity is all too real, He can step in and make something good happen from a horrible mess.

When you pay attention to the constant mercy He passes on to you, you start to understand His love and compassion. I know if everything I've ever done or muttered or thought came to light, I'd be humiliated and most likely rejected by some. But, Jesus, knowing it all, pulls me closer everyday. He has never turned me away. He's never condemned me for my sin. He has gently shown me how much simpler life can be, how much more free I can feel, when He leads. Think about some of the most embarrassing or shameful things you've done in your life... How did He treat you?

Again, please understand that I do feel that crimes should be punished and wrongdoings indeed produce consequences. I truly uphold justice and believe that victims should feel supported and safe. I am also smart enough to know that the world as a whole will never handle situations in the best possible way. However, I do feel that my fellow Christian believers need to sincerely and earnestly seek wisdom and advice from Him on how to handle such life-altering situations. A lot of times, it's not the victims that are screaming out in anger or bitterness... it's people that haven't faced the situation. While it is easy to let your emotions get the best of you, and while you may have the right to feel angry, remember the right that Christ has over all of us. Sure, we sometimes have to face the consequences of our actions, even after being forgiven, and that's fine. You reap what you sow. But just as He handled your errors gently, provide others the same courtesy.

We were all born with a sinful nature. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. We are equal and no one is better than another. We've all messed up severely at times. I have. You have. So has the former holiness preacher and so has Josh. While we probably all agree that their actions should be punished, we cannot rejoice in that. If a situation has stopped and everyone is okay, we need to let it go. We shouldn't push for further humiliation. Would we want someone to do that every time we mess up?

I fully understand that not all mess ups are punishable by law. They don't all have the same effect on people's lives. Every situation is completely different. That's why this post is mostly aimed toward fellow believers. Although your sin may not have ever put you in a cell, your actions very well could have destroyed someone. Maybe they patterned their life after you because of certain reasons, and your mistake obliterated their faith. Someone on the fence about Christ may have had their eyes on you and your failure helped make up their mind in a negative way. Who knows? I may have had an attitude at one point that led someone into believing Christianity just isn't what it's proclaimed to be. That thought cuts right through me. The world's view on our faith right now is all but adoring. We have to get ourselves together and really get it right. I do things daily that make me cry out, "Ugh! Why did I have to sound so immature? Why did I let them get to me like that?" I never want to feel like I've reached perfection. But, I sure want to strive for it.

This post was not written to in any way make anyone feel bad about themselves or another person. It's just a "freely shared babbling of a somewhat opinionated nice gal." I am brokenhearted. I am ready to see His people reflect Him... The Bible says over and over that He was "moved with compassion." We have got to take on that trait. It is time that the world sees how Jesus really is. He is just, yes. But He is the very meaning of the word Love... and our generation sure needs to see a lot more of that.

There's enough disturbed people that give it a bad definition. It's terrible that our land is filled with pedophiles, murderers, liars, and deceivers. Why don't we get disturbed at the lack of Jesus? Why don't we refuse to rest until people truly understand what He's about? What if we took a stand that exhibited empathy along with justice? I am disturbed. I'm ready for good to outweigh the bad again. As humble as my little voice is, I'm still going to use it to try to make this world a better place. I could really use some help.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Problem with Worship Music

Before anyone applauds or rolls their eyes at my title, let me add... I can say that with a deep, truly felt confidence, the only problem with it is that there is one!  (The roles have suddenly changed, huh?) It is an extremely safe bet to say that there is a whole group of people who firmly disagree with me... but they really don't know why.

Of course, they think they do.

I've heard it all, I believe. It confused me then, it kind of annoys me now... to be quite honest. It seems rather silly that anyone of the Christian faith would make it a mission to discourage people from listening to... Christian music. But, oh... I forget, it's not real "Christian." How a song that solely lifts up Jesus Christ can be labeled as anything different makes absolutely no sense to me. But, apparently some have had divine revelation. 

There's this: "The lyrics may be good, but what about the music?"
I want to say, "Yeah, what about it?" But I already know the response.
"It's worldly." 
Ok. What classifies it as such? Is it the keyboard, the guitar, the drums? Because if that's the case, don't read Psalm 150. Maybe it's the melody those instruments deliver? Yep. I've heard that one.

The vast majority of those who bash Contemporary Christian music are in full support of Southern Gospel. Contemporary is a problem because it somewhat resembles, and I quote, "pop, folk, or rock-n-roll." Yet, the Southern Gospel realm sounds identical to the Country genre. I know tomatoes will be thrown now, but even most secular music can't honestly be classified as unnecessary. If the song promotes sin, sure, Christians should have a problem with it. But if your lyrics are pure and clean, why does a Country sound trump Jazz? Who picked which one was acceptable?

Before I continue, please let me say, I'm not looking to stir anything up... other than a little intelligence, and I truly don't mean that hatefully. I just don't understand it. People have said that they refuse to sing anything other than "old-fashioned hymns," because they hold true power and anointing. I don't doubt at all that they do. We listen to and sing them quite often. On the other hand, I do not downplay the truth that God inspires His people of today to pen incredible, sacred words for us in this day and age. If we limit our homes and churches to only music written 50+ years ago, are we saying He is unable to anoint now? That's putting Him in an incredibly small box.

How can we deny the power in these lyrics:

"Oh, the blood, crimson love!
Price of life's demand.
Shameful sin, placed on Him,
the hope of every man.
Oh, what love! No greater love!
Grace, how can it be?
That in my sin, yes, even then
He shed His blood for me!
Oh, the blood of Jesus washes me!
What a sacrifice, that saved my life.
Yes, the blood, it is my victory!" - Kari Jobe

"Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders,
let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
My faith will be made stronger,
in the presence of my Savior." - Hillsong

"The mountains shake before You.
The demons run and flee,
at the mention of Your name, King of Majesty.
There is no power in hell, 
nor any who can stand,
before the power and the presence of the
Great I Am." - Desperation Band

And forever my favorite-

If you think I'm missing the point, let me ask you, "What is your real, Biblical reasoning for deeming it wrong?" Just because something is new does not make it so. If that's your foundation, shouldn't churches stick with psalms? Why was it okay to advance to the early 1900's but never go beyond that time? Did God's Spirit suddenly vanish? Did the entire world literally lose the ability to progress in an acceptable way? Some stricter movements want to avoid people who "look like the world..." (I honestly don't understand that phrase.) Either way, Kari Jobe looks no different than Sonya Isaacs and Chris Tomlin dresses an awful lot like Jason Crabb. (I find nothing wrong with any of these artists, but I know some have found something to take offense at.) My point is... Why can you sing, "Through the Fire," but not "How Great is Our God?"

I've heard people say that churches that bring in "new music" are just trying to entertain. I take a small amount of offense to that. My church sings new songs, and the anointing falls every time. People fall to their knees... on their face. Tears pour from their eyes. People run to the altar. Elderly women do little jigs in their pew. Teens gather together with raised hands. Pastor weeps as he cries out for God's leading. This scene sounds so out of touch with His will, doesn't it?

Worship "entertains" no one, except the One in which those songs were written for, and I'm okay with that.

Until you've had the privilege of attending a service in which you are given time to sing about Him... not about Heaven, not about our trials, or understanding why we faced them one day... but just taking time to bask in His greatness... you will never understand why people hunger and thirst for it. He inhabits the praises of His people, and it's no one's right to determine how one should praise. All that matters is that it comes from the heart. 

I feel for the precious people who poured their love and admiration for the Savior out on paper to bring a glimmer of hope to this world. The very ones that should be standing in their corner, supporting such courage and faith, are their biggest opposition. Maybe that's a big factor in why the world is like it is today. If teammates don't work together, the common goal is simply in vain. We should be entirely grateful that people in this generation make it their living to add a positive message to the music industry. I love that people who walk this earth with me today are using their talents and abilities to write and sing praises to the One I love more than anything.

"He's everything to me, more than a story...
more than words on a page of history.
He's the air that I breathe, the water I thirst for,
and the ground beneath my feet. He's everything.
He's everything to me." - Avalon

When these words come out of my mouth, I think about Him. I don't think about dancing or what outfits they wore for the front of their album. I don't feel rebellion rising up in me. It doesn't put a desire in me to listen to perverted lyrics, and it doesn't at all make me want to leave the faith. It makes me realize how desperately I need Him. It makes me want to... worship.

While Christians are not of this world, we are in it. Right now. Why do we neglect so many of the blessings and beauty God placed here for us today? Why are the testimonies not as powerful? How come we feel the need to stay away from anything our grandparents didn't witness first? Is your relationship so rocky that a Christian song without a steel guitar and banjo could rip you away? He is just as present today as He was when He inspired our great grandparents' peers to scribble down sentences in their day. He is still doing great things today! He continues to use people today! There are amazing abilities and talents running through our land... that He is pleased with... today.

Let people use the talent God gave them. Don't encourage them to bury it in the ground. 

As much as I would rather write about something that felt more relevant, and although I would have loved to open up about another topic that people leery of church wouldn't laugh at, this conversation has been brought up so many times. It's foolish for Christians to reject Christian music. That line alone makes me look it over and over as if it shouldn't be sitting on this page... 
If you don't prefer it... so be it. But don't classify it as wrong. I mean, really... that's nothing short of crazy. There are much bigger wars that need to be fought. We don't need friendly fire. 

He adores when young people and old alike sing His praises. Do you truly, honestly, wholeheartedly believe He is leading someone to stop them from listening to music written about Him? Do you think He sheds tears over the fact that someone likes a more "modern" melody with those lyrics, rather than a bluegrass? I find that impossible to believe. We update everything from our wardrobe to our homes, our hairstyles to the cars we drive. Why must we never update and give Him the best we have in our world today? Let's just worship Him in spirit and in truth... however that is expressed! That's all that He's concerned with.  so, why concern ourselves with petty, insignificant issues?

Really take time to pray about this "issue." Don't just go by opinions you've blindly supported thus far in your life. If you make this younger generation, who wasn't raised up under your grandparents, feel condemned about Christian music today... If you force them into listening to what your mother and father liked in their time, you're going to hinder them, not help them. They WILL get tired of it... and if they've been told there is no difference between songs that uplift Christ and songs that encourage riotous behavior... who knows what they'll go to. You know deep down that there really isn't a problem with it... You just have to.

So, sing unto the Lord a new song!

"It's in the process of being worshiped that God communicates His presence to men." - C.S. Lewis

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

To Be or Not To Be... Married.

I saw this picture floating around on Facebook and instantly I felt a sting. I get the point they're trying to make, and I'm guessing it came about with good intentions. But, this quote is wrong on a couple levels.

For one, it is not a proper Dos Equis meme. I do not drink alcohol, but even I understand that when using this picture, you have to begin with, "I don't always..." and then proceed with, "but when I do..."  Come on, now. Show some respect for the guy. Get it right. (Glad that's off my chest. My inner sarcasm just could not get past this drastic error. Still, it is not what prompted me to write this post.)

Now, back to issues that actually matter-
I find myself defending marriage quite often these days, in more ways than one. Frankly, it irks me... but then, it saddens me. I can't help but take it a little personally.

I was married very young. 18 years young, to be exact. To be perfectly transparent, I got a lot of grief from people outside of my church world. "But, Kristi, you haven't even been able to really date." "You poor dear, you're missing out on so much." "You're going to regret not finishing college first." "It's never going to last. You're going to change so much." I heard it all. Of course, part of me was terrified. But, I was taught how to pray and find peace about a situation before just diving in . It came in handy. I had no doubts that I had found the man for me. Although we were young and dumb as they say, we didn't take the subject of marriage lightly at all, and we vowed to make it work no matter what.

And it really hasn't been that difficult a task! That's why this picture irritates me.

I understand that some marriages are rocky. People sadly get bored, or annoyed, maybe even embarrassed, or just flat out disrespectful. Horrible things take place, and I won't dare try to judge any situation that I know nothing about, nor will I try to lump all relationships in the same basket. I am smart enough to know that every single couple is different and they face various circumstances.
But, when marriage is talked about in such a way; when it's likened to a prison sentence... I mean, really? And what about the most overused line for people unwilling to commit... "Marriage is nothing more than a piece of paper." There has never been a falser statement spoken. Then I read another quote that stated, "Marriage, like life, is a constant struggle..." And the most offensive, "Marriage is like being handed a menu and choosing the same thing every day."

Umm, excuse me?

My marriage has been incredible. If I felt like something could be labeled as perfect, I would stick it on the last 8 years of my life. Am I saying that we've never argued or disagreed? Most certainly not. Am I trying to imply that we've only experienced sunshine and roses? Absolutely incorrect. Does this mean that everyday for a full 24 hours I have felt nothing but deep, dreamy admiration for my husband? Big fat no. As much as I love him, as sincerely as I respect him, and although I would consider him the best friend I've ever had, he has bugged me. He's angered me. He's hurt my feelings a little bit before. But you know what? I have plenty of flaws to work on myself. Still, I would compare our marriage to an amazing adventure over a prison sentence any day. People are so quick to allow their current feelings to dictate their desire to be married. The moment the "newness" wears off, they assume they've fallen out of love. The second a disagreement is discovered, they convince themselves it just wasn't meant to be. If they get busy, instead of making time to "date" again, they just decide the spark isn't there and they rush to ignite a new one. Amazing marriages are possible.

The Bible gives some advice on how to achieve peaceful marriages. Wives, respect and submit yourselves to your husbands. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself up for it. However, our culture completely disregards the beauty of such a union in almost all possible ways.

Women have been so caught up in proving their "equality" with men, that husbands have become so beaten down with disrespect and confused as to what role they're really supposed to fill. I'm sure there will be some females shaking their head in disgust right now, but it's the truth. If we would allow men to feel respected as leaders of the home, they'd be more apt to handle their wives with the gentlest of care. Don't belittle your husband. Don't call him out or humiliate him. If you offer him respect, he will strive to live up to it. Of course, countless men have totally ignored the damaging effect it has on their wives when they partake in pornography and things of that nature. Do you really think she's ok with it simply because it's a "natural" thing. (I'm rolling my eyes here.) It's lust. It's degrading. It's selfish. It's a sign of no self control. Get it together. Treat your woman like she's enough, and she will be.

Marriage is one of the most romantic, sacred things two human beings can experience together, and so many miss out on it... because of pictures like this one. I had a small moment of sheer joy when I read an article stating: "Divorce Rate at All-Time Low..." But, before I even had a chance to fully smile, I finished the sentence, "Marriage Rate Even Lower." To a countless number of folks living in the world today, marriage means nothing. Pre-marital sex is as common as a winter cold. "Shacking-up" is the norm in our society. We tell everyone we love them by date #3. You know it's true. Everyone places too strong an emphasis on the "perfect careers" and building the "perfect life" these days. I understand and support the idea of being responsible and somewhat prepared, but when you strive so much on being independent, the fun of marriage is non-existent. My heart breaks for you.

I would not trade my young marriage for the world. Call me old-fashioned; I will not mind. It's worked for me. We got married when we could only afford the bare necessities. We drove cars that stalled at red lights. We ate a lot of pb and j's. But, as time went on, we were offered promotions, and we celebrated together. Raises came; we applauded each other. We bought new vehicles, and smiled at each other through the rearview mirrors as we drove them home. We purchased our first home together and high-fived each other like crazy. We faced hurts, infertility, and death... but we held each other through it all. Building a life from the ground up with someone causes a bond that will forever be unbreakable. Picking up broken pieces from your life and making them fit perfectly with someone else's shattered reality, intertwines two lives into one amazing puzzle.

I love being a wife. I love having a husband. I adore the fact that out of all the world, when people see Aaron, they look for... me. When I'm out and about, people ask where he is. We just go together... not like cell mates... like Annabel Lee and her admirer. (If you don't know what I'm referencing, please look up Edgar Allan Poe's "Annabel Lee" poem.)  Marriage connects two people in a way that will never be matched. The only catch- you have to make it what you want it to be.

We laugh. We cuddle. We've had Nerf gun fights, snow ball fights, and pillow fights. We make fun of each other's dance moves. We decided to pursue weight loss and healthy living together.We call each other on every break. I talk to him about new d├ęcor ideas; he tells me about his sweet new fishing spot. We're not just partners, we're buddies. He'll bring a McDonald's coke home to me if I've had a rough day. If he gets overwhelmed at work, I show up with his favorite, Heine Bros. Mocha Iceberg. He's stood outside my door at work in the rain with an  umbrella to walk me to my car. I cook a special breakfast on his big days. He fixes supper if I work late. I could list a million more reasons (easily) why marriage is incredible. It's fun. It's sweet. It's romantic. It can make you feel like the most special person in the entire universe.

All the movies that end with sappy love stories that have girls snotting all over the place... They are my life.

And what's awesome is they can be yours, too.

Don't let the world convince you that marriage means nothing... They are severely mistaking.

It's the best!

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