Friday, July 31, 2015

You Can't Be A "Good Christian."

As Christians, we are told, "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16 ESV)

We are also told, "let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel." (Philippians 1:27 ESV)

A life of integrity. 

Glorify God with your life. Be pure of Heart and mind. Modest and kind. Humble. 

Humble... Yup. 

I want to tell you a story... A story about a joyful little girl who grew up in the ministry. A PK (pastor's kid). Some people hear that backstory and immediately respond, "Aw... what a perfect life to grow up in - good influences, good family, good atmosphere. Talk about training up a child in the way they should go!" While others cringe. 

Either way, this little, joyful girl loved being a PK. She loved everything about church. It was fun and the people were nice. Everyone knew and loved her. 

But it was easy when she was little. 

Everyone expects little children to misbehave sometimes. It was allowed. 

But something changed as she grew older. 

Having grown up in church, she knew a lot of scripture. She only wore modest clothing. She didn't cuss. And she only watched family-friendly movies, and of course, only listened to Christian music. 

She was glorifying God with her life. 

Hmm... all the right ingredients. Right?

But oh! What a burden. The whole world was a stage, and she knew her lines. Whether or not the world was watching, she felt eyes on her. And slowly but surely, she became afraid of making a mistake. She had to be perfect. She had to be a good pastor's kid. She had to be an example. Glorify God... right?

Then it happened... 

She messed up. One mistake... then two... maybe three. Thank goodness, no one saw. The facade wasn't broken. No one knew. But in that moment of failure... she felt the weight and the fear of someday, letting down God. What would happen if she failed to glorify him with her life? Was she still a Christian if she couldn't uphold the statutes of a Christian life?

No... that would make her a failure. 

Failures couldn't represent the Gospel. Failures were sinners... and sinners weren't Christians, they were separate. 

The little girl was terrified. 

So... She put on a smile and tried to keep up her God-glorifying life... but this time, she carried around a small, little train of thought... would she mess up in public? Would they call her a hypocrite?

The fear was crippling at times. No longer was it just about her Christian life... but everything else too. Anything new was frightening... what if she failed... trying something new? She couldn't fail! Not in front of others. 

But you want to know something?

It's impossible to be perfect. 

And most people have failed at something... even something they're good at. How could anyone even relate to perfect if no one has ever managed it? Perfection is impossible to find. Not in ourselves... and certainly not in others. 

Yet we hold ourselves to this standard... why?

I think it's because we are VERY aware of God's holiness. So we try and wash ourselves clean, hoping that he'll find us acceptable. That others will look at our lives and say, "I want to be like that," and join us in our impossible quest. 

But even if we got within a hairsbreadth of perfect, it still wouldn't be enough. 

it's not enough. We're not good enough. 

You're not good enough. And you never will be. 

No amount of seclusion from the world and its idols. No wardrobe of modest clothing or itunes library of Christian music will ever suffice. ITS NOT GOOD ENOUGH. 

Jesus is good enough. His perfect, PERFECT blood is enough. 

So, dear Christian, why do you keep trying to add to what Jesus has already purified?

With Him... and ONLY WITH HIM. Are you good enough to be in God's presence. 

When God looks at you, He sees His beloved son, and His grace and love abounds to us. 

This is not to say we should go on sinning, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:1-4 ESV). 

Sin is like poison. It's no good to you - and certainly no good for anyone else. It's that selfish, instant-gratification, that's leads to temporary pleasure. The only lasting pleasure and joy to be found is in Christ. 

BUT. It's impossible to live a life that glorifies God on your own. In fact, if you were to live a holy life on your own strength... that wouldn't bring God any glory at all. 

You know what does bring God glory?

When the most unlikely, broken, sinner of sinners does impossible things. Of course a "good person" (if there is such a thing) will do good deeds. But when a "bad person" does good things... well that's a miracle. Only through God is such a thing possible. 

He's in the business of loving the ones who don't deserve it and using them for His glory. 

Rahab - a prostitute - is in the family line of Jesus

King David - an adulterer and murderer - (also in the family line of Jesus) is remember as a Man after God's own heart

Joseph (techicolor coat guy) - was prideful and arrogant - but he saved his family from famine

Mary - pregnant teenager - was picked to raise God's own son. 

Paul - Christian killer - became one the the most well known missionaries of the early church. 

God likes to use the least likely of people for his work. 

So don't for a minute think your failures could ever separate you from the love of God. 
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 ESV
Something I've realized... You don't have to clean yourself up before you approach God's throne. Jesus has to do that for you. 

Remember that scene in "Voyage of the Dawn Treader?" That CS Lewis book. (Comes after the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Prince Caspian). That one. Anywho. The Pevensies' cousin, Eustace Clarence Scrubb (and he almost deserved the name) is turned into a dragon while on "Dragon Island" and after he grows tired of being one, he tries to shredd the scales from his body. But layer after layer, he can't dig deep enough. So Aslan (the great lion) intervenes. His claws go deep. A thick layer is peeled back, bearing the boy clean and returned to his human state (and a better version, might I add). 

It is only with God's intervention that we can live lives that honor him. And you know what? The fact that you're not perfect? It's relatable. People understand weakness. It's the common plight. 

And believe it or not... God's power is made perfect in our weakness. 
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)
So stop trying to uphold God's perfection on your own two shoulders. That doesn't bring him any glory. Sinners upholding God's standards? That's just downright awesome. Sometimes they stumble, sometimes they fall, but Jesus picks them right back up again, dusts them off, and says, "I still love you. You still have worth to me." 

And isn't that just amazing?

I'm not sufficient in and of myself, but with God? He's all-sufficient. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13). 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I Don't Think Courting Means What You Think It Means

At our house, Saturday is chore day.

But I'm one of those people who conducts dialogues with myself while I'm cleaning - history, writing, movies... I ponder it all. And today's topic is Historical Courting.

Not courting.

Historical Courting.

Because, as I'd like to point out, there's a difference between what a lot of folks would like to call courting and the idea from which it originated.

Something I've begun to notice from many Christians who are discouraged with the world we live in today, is a desire to return to bygone days - the "It was better back then" mentality. But the past is subjective to its own circumstances. Humanity doesn't change, just it's circumstances. They had murderers back then too.

Likewise, the idea of courtship is vastly dependent on the participating culture aa well as the era.

But to keep things simple, I'd like to point something out (I'm using a mid-late 1800s example).

Did you know that the word, "Chaperone," DID NOT refer to someone who followed you on your date? Chaperone was actually more commonly used in place of the words escort, date, or companion for the evening.

Yes, I did say date. As is the male love-interest.

Think of it in this context. No matter what, as a girl, it's good to take precaution when you go out. If you're by yourself, don't walk into dark alleys, and best case scenario, take a friend with you.

Same concept.

If you're going to a party, you go with a date right? Your date is responsible for taking care of your for the duration of the evening and returning you home. This could be a brother, a male friend or another male family member.

In the movie, "Meet Me In St. Louis," Esther Smith (Judy Garland) is escorted to the Christmas Eve Dance by her grandfather. Her sister Rose (Lucille Bremer) is escorted by their brother. However, both girls meet up with their beaus at the dance, who bring them home at the end of the evening.

But here's what I really want to get at.

You've all read L.I. Wilder's Little House books, right? And I don't mean, "seen the TV show." That TV show is horribly inaccurate. So don't use it as a source of knowledge for the books.

The second to last book, These Happy Golden Years was written about the time during which Laura and her husband were dating (the mid 1880s - they married in 1885). This is the Victorian Era, if you were curious - the days of bustle dresses (my personal favorite).

So anyways... I've heard a lot about some more modern concepts of courtship, but it doesn't exactly match these idealized days of dating. In fact, it was more reminiscent of something my dad once said to me when I was in junior high.

He told me that if a guy wanted to date me, there was a written test and an interview.

I laughed.

But really... If you HAVEN'T read Laura's books, I would like to share some details.

  • Laura met Almanzo officially when he offered her a ride home from school (though she did run into him shortly after moving to their homestead in De Smet)
  • Almanzo was 10 years older than Laura and her father's friend.
  • Almanzo would drive Laura home each week from the school she taught at because he was better able to than her father. 
  • Most of their "dates" were what Laura called their, "Sunday Drives." She and Almanzo would go on long buggy rides after church. 
  • Some of their dates were in groups, such as buggy rides with Ida, Mary and Cap, or the period of time during which they attended "singing school." 
  • Almanzo did ask Pa's permission to marry Laura before proposing. 
  • Laura's and Almanzo's first kiss was upon their engagement. 
  • Laura was 18 and Almanzo was 28 when they married.
Anyways... while I was throwing around these ideas, you can see where a lot of modern courtship ideas come from, such as the waiting to kiss and asking her father's permission to marry her. However, I would also wager that their "courtship" also looks an awful lot like modern dating, as well.

Actually, I would say that this Historical Courtship looks more like common sense.

Remember what I said about the written test and the interview? Honestly, I think that more stems from the idea that your parents ought to have met your date. Think about it... Almanzo was a trusted friend of Laura's family. When he began asking Laura to go on rides with him, Ma and Pa trusted him to take care of their daughter. But it's more similar to that age old idea of your date coming inside to sit with your father while he's waiting for your to come downstairs. Dad asks a few questions, says something about the shotgun he owns and what time to have you home.

You know, the more I think about it, even when girls aren't living at home anymore, they tend to talk a lot about the men they're seeing with friends. Advice and insight from friends can be incredibly valuable. The same can be said for dear old dad's impressions.

So, if your escort/date presents himself as a nice guy, then I think, as long as you avoid alleyways, closets and dark rooms, he can to trusted to chaperone you when you go somewhere. To keep you safe from miscreants who might try to steal your purse.

But even Laura went on group dates. Friends make good company. They can help judge character and encourage everyone to keep their hands to themselves (aka PDA).

Something interesting about the way Laura and Almanzo starting dating, though... It's hard to tell at first. There are no declared intentions, just a gradual increase in awareness of one another. Almanzo begins changing their outings to specifically reflect Laura's preferences.

This is most certainly not to suggest that These Happy Golden Years ought to be the model for every relationship. I certainly would like to marry someone a LITTLE closer in age than 10 years. But I think the book certainly offers a good perspective on what dating used to look like.

And what it DOESN'T look like, is our modern courtship.

It's a new day. A new era. A different time. And our definitions are affected by our own culture, just as their was affected by the conditions of the 1880s in South Dakota.

So please, don't use the, "it was better back then," line unless you really know what it was like then. Because modern courtship is NOT a revival of historical values. It's a response to our own time and culture.

#petpeeves #historymajor

Saturday, July 11, 2015


Tom Welling (CW's Smallville)
Earlier today, I read a post on facebook about Heroism.

The only problem is - I think we're beginning to forget the basic idea of how to join the "hero" industry. It's easy to throw around the word "hero" when you've deleted the defining factors from memory.

I'm sure you remember in school, someone likely asked you, "Who's your hero?" But they may have easily exchanged the word, "hero," for, "idol."

Who is your idol? The person you've put on a pedestal? Who can do no wrong in your eyes? Who you emulate? Strive to be like?

Who is your hero? The person you saved you at some point? Who put themselves are risk for your sake? Who practices self-sacrifice and bravery?

A hero is personal. An idol is not. Heroism requires connection. Action. Intentionality. But above all: it requires Humility.

Stephen Amell (CW's Arrow)
You see, there are many things we can do in life that come with a certain measure of ease. It's apart of our makeup. What makes you YOU. Your gifts, talents and abilities. But how do you put that abilities to use? It it because it gives you a certain amount of satisfaction and joy? But what about other people?

What about when your grandma cooks dinner, or bakes cookies? She loves to cook, but you benefited from her cooking, correct?

I'm going to challenge you with something:

She's still not a hero. Not yet.

Not yet.

You see, even though she put her talents and abilities to work for your pleasure, she hasn't sacrificed anything but her pocketbook and an hour or so of time.

Heroism is costly.

It's sacrifice - and not only sacrifice but self-sacrifice. It's selfless, not selfish.

Grant Gustin (CW's The Flash)
Heroism is NOT ABOUT THE HERO. Not his personal agenda, not his pride. Heroism is about THE PERSON SAVED.

Gory is merely a side effect.

You see - in every Super Hero story you will ever see/hear/read - the Hero never self-labels.

The hero isn't the first person to call themselves a hero.

And in every story, becoming a hero is always to their own risk.

Think about it - sacrificing normalcy, facing mortality, rejection.

Becoming a hero really isn't to their own benefit. But the hero realizes something - People need heroes. So they set aside their reservations and fears to do incredible things for the people around them. And more often than not, they keep it a secret. It's not about getting personal glory.

Do you realize how gifted you are? You have a gift. Of some kind. But how to you plan to use it?

How do you plan to use your life?

Is your life about you? About your own happiness, wants and safety? Because, dare I say it, you're no hero.
Melissa Benoist (CBS's Supergirl)

Do you know know is a hero? Look around you.

Think of someone who makes sacrifices.

Think of someone who stood out when the rest of us cowered.

Someone who is selfless.

Who isn't about their own happiness, but about the happiness of others?

Because guess what? The best kind of happiness, is when your actions bring joy to another.

Happiness is community.

Because selfish people come in two varieties - putting others in danger, and therefore, becoming villians. And then, there are the isolationists. And neither leads to happiness.

So let's hold fast to heroism.

The next time someone asks you, "Who's your hero?" Don't tell them who your idol is. I'd be willing to be your idol likes the attention. But your hero? They probably don't even know they are one.

When I was a freshman in high school, I did something rather stupid. I'm sure we all have stories. I told one of the girls in my PE class to participate (she was texting in the middle of a volleyball game). Bad idea.

She sent her friends after me. They stalked me, pulled my hair. Bullied me. I needed a hero.

I was terrified. (You try feeling brave after someone pulls your hair).

So I found a friend. She stayed with me. Walked me out of the locker room. Kept close.

She didn't have to. She even told me she happened to be friends with the girl I offended. But nevertheless, she played the part of a hero.

And you remember that example I made out of grandma? Funny thing about grandmas - a lot of the ones I know are widows. Life can be hard without other people around you. But I can't begin to tell you how many widows I know who have the biggest hearts. Who put their limited resources on the line to make others happy. That's a hero.

Who's your hero?


On the topic of heroes. I just want to say - I found out the other day that Dean Cain and Helen Slater are joining the Supergirl team. You can't begin to know how happy that makes me. 

If you ask me who my favorite Super hero is, I'll say superman every time - because the superman community tends to be fairly amazing and close knit. Since the CW's Smallville, staring Tom Welling as Superman, previous stars have started making cameos, such as the infamous Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent) and Margo Kidder (Lois Lane), Annette O'Toole (Lana Lang), Dean Cain (Clark Kent), Teri Hatcher (Lois Lane), and Helen Slater (Kara/Supergirl). 

So now, you can understand why I'm so excited to see CBS carrying on the tradition of cameos with the 90's superman and the 80's supergirl. 

By the way - Dean Cain was apart of a show called, "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." If you're curious, it really was well constructed. I loved it. However, it definitely places more of an emphasis on the relationship between Lois and Clark, not on the action (traditional to superhero shows).