April 29, 2014

7 “Don’ts” for Those Getting Ready to Say “I Do”

‘Tis the season for lots of weddings.

And I love it. I get more excited for weddings now than when Collin and I got married.

Strange? Maybe.

But my understanding of love and marriage has grown over the past few years and makes me feel even more excited for couples who get to embark on the same journey. That while they are crazy in love with each other now on their wedding day, the best is always yet to come!


Collin and I have been married only a few years, not enough for me to be offering any sort of marriage advice. But I have learned a few lessons while being married. So I thought I would share them here in hope of encouraging others as they prepare for one of the shortest days of their lives, and one of the longest-living promises to keep afterward.

Here they are. 7 “don’ts” for those getting ready to say “I do.”

1. Don’t prepare yourselves for just the Wedding Day.
Thousands of hours of planning, thousands of dollars of parent’s money, and hundreds of days of anticipation go into preparing for a single wedding day. Everything is perfectly planned, from the dress to the photography to the little monogrammed cookies being served at the reception. But while a wedding is a 14ish hour event, marriage is a lifetime commitment. And preparing for it may need some of the same preparation and back work.


Whether you realize it or not, everyone enters marriage with expectations, and I learned that the first few years of marriage mean working through these expectations:
How will you care for your home?  (Neat Freak Nancy vs. Sloppy Sam?)
How will you pay the bills? (Please don’t say, “with love.”)
How will you split time between families? (Not-So-Happy Holidays?)
And dare I say it out loud, what are your expectations about sex? (!!!)

I realize many pastors and churches require pre-marital counseling, but if they don’t, it is valuable to find someone to help you hash out all of your expectations before you say “I do.” Being honest about your expectations now may prevent some uncomfortable discourse later.

2. Don’t expect your spouse to be “your everything.”
I don’t care if 98 Degrees sang “You are my everything” and it made you weep. They are a bunch of liars. No person can be your “everything.” Not friends, not parents, not even a spouse. The only ultimate and perfect love you will ever experience is from God.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.


We all have holes in our hearts. We all have an infinite amount of needs. Sometimes it’s tempting to think that our spouse can meet all of those needs. Maybe we want them to read our minds or relate to us like our girlfriends can. Maybe we want them to enjoy listening to how we would be a better coach for our favorite sports team like our guy friends can. But only God can fill all of the holes in our hearts and meet all of our needs. When we remember this it saves our spouse from a lot of pressure, and it saves our marriage from a lot of disappointment.

3. Don’t let “I Do” turn into “I Don’t Wanna Anymore.”
Even though we can never love other people perfectly, loving others is how we show that we love God. The way that you love, respect, and honor your spouse will be a reflection of how you love, respect and honor God. Your spouse’s needs may often differ from your own, and that will stretch you and teach you selflessness. But the way that you meet those needs and serve your spouse with a happy heart will be a reflection of your servant heart to God as well.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

4. Don’t only “Focus on the Family.”
Married couples are called to do more than just love each other. I firmly believe that God has a mission for every married couple, beyond themselves and even beyond their kids. God calls us to not only love each other, but to also love and bless the other people around us. The talents that God has blessed you both with will complement each other so that you can make an awesome team and spread God’s love outside of your own home.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. God is love…Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them...We love because He first loved us.

5. Don’t be surprised by a few “Wedding Blues.”
Maybe not everything will go perfectly on your wedding day. (It not only rained on our wedding day, it hailed. I realize that’s supposed to be a sign of good luck, but I would have rather had a few more pictures taken with our wedding party.)


Or maybe after the wedding day is over you feel a little blue. Months of being in the bride-to-be spotlight, months of your every thought and moment being consumed with planning, months of anticipation, are all over.

Or maybe even though you went through all of your expectations with your fiancĂ© before you got married, it’s still hard to live up to them or compromise with them. Whatever it is, it’s 99% likely that what you are feeling is completely normal and that others out there have probably felt the same way.

6. Don’t forget to “Leave, Cleave, and Weave.”
This was my favorite phrase from pre-marital counseling. As hard as it might be to imagine, Dad won’t be the #1 man  in your life anymore. And for grooms, Mom won’t be your #1 woman. (She won't be your cook or maid anymore either.) And depending on family dynamics, making decisions independent of your family may be difficult at first. Don’t get me wrong, parents are wise people with very wonderful advice, but as you establish a new family, you as a couple are to be the ultimate decision-makers.


This was a toughy for me, as I have always been very close to my family. But as harsh as this sounds, living far away definitely helped me learn to cleave from my parents and weave myself completely to Collin. Obviously Guatemala was an extreme move, but it was great for establishing “us.” Being away has helped us (me) learn to make decisions completely on our own, even when our decisions did not always thrill our parents. (Like having their grandbaby thousands of miles away in a third world country.)

7. Don’t let all of these “don’ts” keep you from getting excited!
Many people talk about how hard marriage can be and how much work it takes to keep it going. And they are right. But I hope that a lot of people are also telling you about how marriage is one of the most beautiful relationships to have with another human being. I hope that couples are sharing all of its perks and joys too:

Intimacy. Love. Sharing everything you have and everything you are with one other person. Living and growing together. Laughing, fighting, working through life’s tough issues. Supporting each other. Depending on each other. Experiencing a relationship that reflects how Christ so deeply loves us and cares for us as His church, His bride. Be excited for marriage!

 

Collin and I still have much to learn. And there are many other “dos” and “don’ts” that could be added to this list. (Don’t neglect prayer. Don’t forget to read the Bible and talk about it. Don’t forget to leave the toilet seat down. Don’t forget to clean your long strands of hair off the shower wall.)

But enjoy this time, this season of love. Put the back work into preparing not just for an awesome wedding day, but also for an awesome marriage. Keep Christ in your hearts. Surround yourselves with people who encourage you to serve your spouse (thank you, friends!) Look to those around you who model a Christ-centered marriage (thank you, parents!) Desire to follow God’s will for your lives. And of course, enjoy your awesome, exciting, life-changing day! 

Remember that even after the guests leave, the tables are cleared, and your dress and tux are put away, that you will have more than beautiful pictures, a stomach full of cake, and memories of a happy wedding day. You will also have a fresh marriage and a thrilling future waiting for you when you wake up the next morning.

Grace and Peace,
Kendra

(All photos taken by TAK Photography.)

April 20, 2014

Where's the "Happily Ever After?"

“You’ll be alright. We’re together now; everything’s going to be fine, you’ll see.” - Belle

The movie that saturated my childhood.

I spent countless afternoons dressed up in one of my mom’s vintage yellow dresses with a purple sash (for an extra dash of glamour) thrown around my neck. Belle Barbie doll in tow, I played for hours pretending to be Belle, longing to be Belle.

I wanted to be brave and beautiful just like her. I wanted to wear a pretty ball gown dress and sing pretty songs. I wanted to save someone, fall in love, live in a castle. I wanted this fairy tale with its romantic “happily ever after” to be my own.

And in some ways, my dreams came true.

I was brave enough to move to a third world country and have our baby here. (Which I found out doesn't require bravery as babies are born here every day.) My grandma has called me “Beauty” as long as I can remember. (And if a grandma calls you beautiful, that makes it true.) 

Every once in awhile I splurge on pretty dresses from the Target clearance section. (I miss you, Target.) I used to sing in front of church with my mom. (Until I reached an age where it wasn’t cute to sing off key anymore.) 

I save my daughter from owies with kisses. (Who knew Mommy kisses are like magical fairy dust?!) And I fell in love with a wonderful man and we live together in a castle (a.k.a. apartment with modern plumbing.)

All the major fairy tale elements are there.

The castle.

The Princess in her Sunday best.

But even so, sometimes it feels like the “happily ever after” is missing. 

Sometimes, the fairy tale elements get horribly lost in the daily grind; buried in loads of stinky laundry, stacks of dirty dishes, endless grocery lists, gobs of drool, and masses of squishy diapers.

And I am not always brave. The sweatpants I am in some days until noon are not always beautiful. The apartment we live in is not always sparkling. The King and Queen do not always communicate in complete harmony. And taking care of Baby Princess sometimes makes the Queen feel like she is going crazy. (Which she informs the King of when he arrives home from long days of hard work outside the castle walls.)

Here's a "bloggie" for ya. 
The Queen after getting her wisdom teeth out last week.
Am I still beautiful, Grandma?


The Princess is officially on the move.

And I am guessing there are others out there who feel the same way. Others who have dreams and desires for their lives, wishes they hope to come true. Who doesn't want their life to be a fairy tale? Who doesn't dream of having everything end up nice and tidy right before the credits start rolling?

The problem is that when we hear “fairy tale,” we are quick to associate “prince,” “princess,” “castle,” “riches,” “happily ever after.” But what we forget are the ferocious dragons, the epic battles, the long journeys, and the grueling hardships that all come beforehand. We forget that all stories, even fairy tales, have conflict.

What if Belle never had to learn to love someone so unlovable? What if Snow White never had to overcome the evil deeds of her wicked step mother? What if Ariel never had to sacrifice her voice to grow a nice pair of legs?

The tough truth is, we are living in a fairy tale, but right now we are deep in the "conflict.” Evil is trying to take over. It is delivering hardships we are all too familiar with: death, sickness, pain, loneliness, jealousy, greed, lust, poverty, injustice.

I know this, because this past Saturday we mourned with friends as they buried their three-year-old daughter. And mothers shouldn't have to bury their children.

I know this, because our friend who has suffered so much in the past year just found out he has leukemia. And I wonder why can't he seem to catch a break?

I know this, because a poor beggar wandered into church, and the people he sat next to got up and moved to a different pew. Poverty and those not in it can be so ugly at times.

I know this, because looking for a job from thousands of miles away is test of patience, trust, and obedience.

I know this, and I'm guessing you do too. Because you probably have hardships in your own life and see them in the lives of others around you. 

But that’s where hope comes in. 

Even when our hardships are so big that hope isn't a warm fuzzy feeling anymore, we still have the knowledge that hope is there. 

We know that someday the fighting will be over. Someday we will have a world without evil. Someday we will finally have our “happily ever after.”

Sometimes we get to see glimmers of hope in our completely broken world: encouraging friendships, incredible generosity, healing, a sponsored child, Christ-centered marriages, baby giggles, repentance, forgiveness, an empty tomb.

The Princess in a jacket and bonnet that her Great-Great Grandma made.

But the end of our story is not about having a perfect life here on earth: the perfect spouse, a dream job, successful kids, enough money to pay the bills and go on exotic vacations, a house that doesn't crumble, a car that doesn't pollute the earth (a.k.a a bike.) Those are all great things, but they don’t come close to the excitement and perfection that is to come.

So in the meantime, we have to be patient. We have to wait. We have to do battle and slay dragons and endure hardships. We have to be the good that fights the evil. We have to long for the end of the story, to pray Thy kingdom come. 

Because no matter how terrible the pain gets, the “happily ever after” is on its way. Our Prince is coming again. And He’s going to save us. 

He already has.

“You’ll be alright. We’re together now; everything’s going to be fine, you’ll see.”

Grace and Peace,
Kendra

April 14, 2014

I’m About to Get all “Apocalyptic” on You

Blood Moons

A "blood moon" is when there is a total lunar eclipse.

A tetrad is when there is a series of four blood moons.

Only three tetrads have happened in the past 500 years.



Scripture makes references to blood moons when talking about End Times.

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. (Revelation 6:12-14, emphasis added)

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy,  your young men will see visions,  your old men will dream dreams.  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.  I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Acts 2:17-21, which is quoted from Joel 2:28-32, emphasis added)

Biblical (Jewish) Feasts

The past three tetrads occurred during Jewish feasts. Each time there has been a blood moon during a Jewish feast, a significant event occurred related to the nation of Israel:

During the 1493-1494 tetrad, blood moons occurred on Passover and the Feast of Trumpets, and Jews were expelled from Spain.

During the 1949-1950 tetrad, blood moons occurred on Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles, and the first government took office in Israel after becoming a nation in 1948.

During the 1967-1968 tetrad, blood moons occurred on Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles, and Israel won the Arab-Israeli war to recapture Jerusalem in only six days.


The Passover feast is the first of biblical feasts. It is the remembrance of leaving a life of slavery. It symbolizes freedom from slavery to Egypt, and now also symbolizes freedom from our slavery to sin. Just as God led the Israelites to the Promised Land, He is leading us to new life. Jesus was crucified during Passover and fulfilled the meaning of transforming from slavery to freedom.

The Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, is about how our time on earth is temporary, but soon we will live forever with Jesus. It touches on the fact that the Holy Spirit now tabernacles among us, as our bodies are His temple, but soon we will be in that perfect place of tabernacle with God forever.

7 Year Cycles

On September 17, 2001 (the 29th day of Elul on the Hebrew calendar, the last day of the civil year), the stock market dropped 7%. 

On September 29, 2008, (the 29th day of Elul, seven years later), the market fell 777 points.

Some believe that these events are the fulfillment of prophesies in Deuteronomy 15 and Leviticus 25 where God talks about a seven year cycles and the wiping away of debts and the giving of rest to the land.

Why is all of this significant?

The next tetrad is predicted to happen in 2014 and 2015, with the first blood moon occurring tomorrow, on April 15. All four blood moons in this tetrad are scheduled to happen during Jewish Feasts: Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles.

The next tetrad to occur on Jewish feast days will not be for another 500 years.

And not only will blood moons be happening this year and next, but it will also be the close of another seven year cycle which began in 2008. The next “29th of Elul” will be on September 13, 2015.

What does this NOT mean?

This does not mean you will see me this summer standing next to the highway with a cardboard sign that screams “The End is Near!”

This does not mean you should mark September 13, 2015, on your calendar with “APOCALYPSE!!!” in bright red ink, and then cross out all the days after. (I think we can leave that to Harold Camping.)

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Matthew 24)

This does not mean you should fear. (Although, I will honestly say thinking about the End Times and all of its prophesied persecutions, economic collapses, and natural disasters sometimes makes me a little frightened.)

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16)

This does not mean you shouldn't look up these scientific occurrences, historical events, and Scripture passages on your own. There is a lot more information about this waiting to be researched and reflected on, and a broad spectrum of acceptance and criticism to it. Some say these are signs of the Apocalypse, others say it is signs of significant events to come that are more End Time "birth pains." Some (critics) say these are not rare occurrences at all because Jewish feast days are scheduled around a solar and lunar calendar, and some of these next blood moons won't even be visible from Israel.

So what does all this ACTUALLY mean?

All this means that history shows a pattern between blood moons, Jewish feast days, and major events occurring at the same time. So does that mean something big is coming during this tetrad? Well, of course we don't know now. But we can pay close attention and see.

In Matthew 24, right after Christ told his disciples that we wouldn't know the day or the hour of His second coming, He said this:

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

All this means that it’s time to prepare for what may come. It’s time to soak up the Word and its truth. It’s time we realize that even though Christ might not come during our lifetime, our lifetime is short.

No doubt we have seen "birth pains" happening in our time. Wars, earthquakes, famine, disease, etc. The book of Daniel also talks about how in the end times “knowledge will be increased.” And look how far civilization has come in just the past 100 years.

God’s Word is Living. It still speaks to our hearts today, and it still prophesies of what is to come. Some of the most scholarly people of Jesus’ day (the Pharisees) knew all of the prophesies about Christ’s first coming, most likely had them memorized, but still couldn't recognize the fulfillment of all of those prophesies when they were looking at Him face-to-face.  And now we have Scripture full of prophesies still waiting to come to fruition, and honestly could be fulfilled in our lifetime. Would we recognize them? 

I often see people write "Lord, come quickly!" as more news stories come out about abortion in America, euthanasia in Europe, etc., etc. And maybe He will! Or maybe He won't. We can only keep watch and be ready.

And when my friend first told me about all of this stuff happening…

I asked her,

What does this motivate you to do? Who does it encourage you to be? What changes have you made in your life, or what have you been doing differently because of this?

And she said:

I agree that when I dwell on the “what could-be's” for our future or the future of my kids, I can get anxious about it. Goodness knows Christians and Jews alike have seen some terrible days in history. But our care free days in America have been taken for granted. We have not seen persecution and that has been wonderful in ways, but a part of me is ready.

I am ready for people to stop having a "form of godliness."
I am ready for the millions of Christians to be slapped out of their apathy.
I am ready for days when people will worship and love God with all of their heart.

You’re right, it’s scary in ways. Especially when children are involved. But it's okay, we really don't need to be afraid. Let all of these signs and scriptures fulfilled be solid confirmation that our God is living and true, and that He has appointed these times before the foundation of the world. It will be AWESOME to see His power made known to every nation. Even if the wicked do not acknowledge it is His power, His Holy Spirit will be igniting a passion and fire into His Believers like there hasn't been in a long time. These days are hot, and His bride will be hot. The lukewarm will not make it.

So how has that changed my life? My heart and mind have been most affected.

Of course there are still bottles to give and trucks to play, and dinners to cook and dishes to do. So yes, that all carries on as normal.

But I think less about my future in ways of where we will live or what school {my kids will go to}. I think more about the future in that we could be coming up on days where those who claim the Bible as the only truth may be very disliked, if not in our day then possibly our kids’.

I need to pour everything I got into raising them to follow the Lord. I need to be diligent to drive rebellion from their hearts, because rebellion towards me as a toddler could grow to become rebellion towards God as a teenager. God has entrusted these kids to me and expects me to raise them with more passion than anything else in my life right now because it is only a small window that children are so moldable.

Of course the decision comes down to their own hearts, but I believe I'll need to prepare them for the not "lukewarm Believer" days. In a day where the culture is so loud and enticing, I need to start them from these toddler years to love God and never turn from His truth, even when others may call them hateful or intolerant for doing so.

Because nothing else matters. Our lives are just a small dot on a line that stretches out into eternity. Life is not about this life we see. That's so hard for people, myself included to remember. This small dot will come and go, even if it is full of trial and persecution or whatever else. It is a passing thing and then we will live forever with Jesus. This world has nothing to offer me.

I've started having {my son} bow with me in prayer every day, and I pray out loud with him. We also all spend some time everyday with worship music and praise.

I'm done assuming America will be left unscathed. It will only be a matter of time before God in His holiness comes to judge this land for the bloodshed, sexual immorality, greed, and selfish living it has been spewing for decades now. In fact I believe we are in that "matter of time." 

People tend to think "the End Times" in terms of months, years, even decades. But God is gracious and allows ample time to repent-- a birth pain here, another pain there- calling His people to recognize His voice and return. Personally, I believe many things have yet to happen before Jesus' return, but a part of those "many things" may mean life as we know it, America as we knew her, "Land of the free. Home of the brave. In God we trust." May undergo some drastic changes. 

We must be alert and put on the full armor of God, and above all else, remain deeply rooted in Jesus our Messiah and continue being built up in Him. (Colossians 2)

All that, and we just continue to wait and watch.

Grace and Peace,
Kendra (And my wise, loving friend)

April 7, 2014

Lost

Have you ever felt lost?

Like you have been walking aimlessly for hours just staring at the sidewalk, and when you finally look up you realize you have no idea where you are? Like you are driving through a new city without a map or even an address of the destination you are trying to get to?

That is the kind of “lost” I have felt recently.

Lost. A little confused.

That's not a good feeling, Mommy.

And it’s not the kind of “lost” where I want to just give up and keep going in the wrong direction either, or in no direction at all. My goal is never to move “wherever the wind takes me.” (I’m a little too Type A for that.) 

But it’s the kind of “lost” where I have a lot of questions. 

A lot of questions I haven’t asked myself in far too long and make me realize I have been wandering a little too aimlessly. Questions like:

How should I be reading Scripture? Do I just read random passages and hope my brain is interpreting it the right way? Do I look for commentaries and trust the author’s interpretations?

What beliefs do I have that are rooted more in human tradition rather than in Biblical truth?

How do I handle my convictions in a world (and church?) where absolute truth is being replaced with relevancy?

And even when I know my beliefs, how do I handle the times when they are in debate? What convictions do I have that are the kind where I can “agree to disagree," and which ones are non-negotiable?

What specific actions do my convictions require? In what ways am I being too passive or apathetic about the world that is so obviously lost and spinning out of control?

All of these questions (a results of some great conversation after the last post Black + White = A whole lot of Gray) make me realize that there are a few areas in my life where I have not been paying enough attention to recently. 

And all of the sudden I want to stop wandering and start steering again. Or more accurately, let Christ start steering again. (“Jesus, Take the Wheel,” anyone?)

But it's so much to take in and digest, so much to  think about. Which sometimes still leaves me feeling a little lost. Because where do I even start?

And then we went to church yesterday morning.

I realize that God is everywhere and not just at church, but there is something about going to church on Sunday mornings and all distractions being shut out. No computers (minus the pastor’s iPad that he preaches from), no phones (minus my pew neighbor who deemed it necessary to answer his during the service), and no to-do lists (minus the mental one that requires extra effort for me to turn off.)

Okay, so not all distractions are easily shut out. But today, I intentionally shut them out. I intentionally met God for worship, for a message, for communion.

And amidst all the feelings of being lost, of all the confusion of wondering where to go from here with all of my questions, I heard God’s promises washing comfort over me once again. Reminding me that when I am seeking answers to my questions, seeking Truth, I am never lost.

Acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you.

And as I took the bread and drank the cup, I felt God saying back to me, “You are found.”

You see, at just the right time when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Peek-a-boo. God found you.

Christ’s body and blood, His death and resurrection, they find me wherever I might be: totally lost, a little confused, or just wandering aimlessly. Like that one lost coin, that one lost sheep, He search, finds, and rejoices over me, even though I am far from worthy of such attention and love.

So I will continue to seek Him, resting in His promise that He will be found…that He will find me. I will search for truth, search for answers to all my questions written above.

How can a person stay on the path of purity? By living according to Your word.  I seek You with all my heart; do not let me stray from Your commands.

I will ask for wisdom. Because just as there is wisdom, there is folly threatening to sneak in and send me wandering.

Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths or walk in dark ways.

I will seek Truth. Because just as there is truth, there is deception threatening to grow up like a patch of thorns and choke the truth out of my life.

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me.

And will I knock, remembering Christ’s promise that the door will be opened.

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Grace and Peace,
Kendra

April 2, 2014

Black + White = A whole lot of Gray

Black

This entire train of thought started when I put on a CD of nursery rhymes for Jocelyn. I was expecting a little “Ba Ba Black Sheep,” but instead was thrown into complete shock by the song “Goosey Goosey Gander.” (And don’t let the silly title fool you.)


Goosey Goosey Gander where shall I wander,
Upstairs, downstairs and in my lady's chamber.
There I met an old man who wouldn't say his prayers,
I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs.

Just in case you didn't catch that, let me say it again:

There I met an old man who wouldn't say his prayers, I TOOK HIM BY THE LEFT LEG AND THREW HIM DOWN THE STAIRS.”

Oh. My. Goodness. Gracious.

Jocelyn was just as shocked as I was.

So of course, I immediately ran to Google. And sure enough, this “cute” little nursery rhyme has a history, based on a time when Protestants captured and executed Catholic priests, as well as anyone who harbored them in their homes.

Ugh.

Why is it that we (Christians) can't ever seem to get along? Why can't we handle issues between ourselves with any love, kindness, and civility? Why must the “holy catholic church” be smashed into 20,000 little pieces? (a.k.a. Denominations?)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.


Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye.

“Noah.”

World Vision.

Christian Education vs. Public.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

New issues every day. New fights, arguments, debates. New denominations.

And I find it ironic (shocking? completely fitting? awesome?) that not only did Christ choose to pray for us in the garden before our sins crucified Him, but also that His prayer was specifically for unity between His followers:

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

White

But I am also afraid.

Afraid of how we (the church? the world?) are recently defining and redefining Christian morality and biblical principles.

Marriage.

Heaven and Hell.

Materialism and idolatry.

I am afraid that even though God’s heart must break over there being so many denominations and divisions in the church, that the issues we are trying to unite on are things that Scripture clearly teaches us as wrong. Issues I grew up believing as “black and white.” 

I am afraid that sometimes, in the name of “peace,” “unity,” “tolerance,” or not being “judgmental” we seem to think we must let all conviction go right out the door.

I am afraid that we think we are just getting smarter with each new interpretation of the Bible. Afraid that we are being exposed to false teachings by wolves in sheep’s clothing. Exposed to deception that looks beautiful and sounds good, but might actually bring destruction.

I am afraid we forget that even though our Savior spent much of His time hanging out with “sinners,” that once they made the decision to follow Him they were told, “go and sin no more.” I am afraid we forget that He also told us, “Be holy, because I am holy,” and that “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life.”


How can I avoid being a "mean old church lady,"
but still be careful and wise?

I know we are encouraged to “put a face” to this. That we need to remember we are talking about people, not just “issues” or “statistics.” But sometimes I am afraid that we might be rewriting and redefining Scripture just so that everyone we like will be “in.”

So do I have it all backwards then? Is it my old-fashioned upbringing? Am I just not keeping up with the times? Or are we really becoming as lukewarm as it seems?

A whole lot of Gray

I said (Black + White = A whole lot of Gray) for a reason. I do not have all the answers to these things I am afraid of, all the answers I wish I had. But I do have a lot of questions. Questions that I need to personally answer when these things challenge my heart, my mind, and my spirit.

1. Do I believe that sins are equal?

Do I believe that a person who lusts is just as guilty of sexual-immorality as a person who has sex outside of marriage (hetero or homosexual)?

That a person who hates is just as guilty of murder as a person who has an abortion?

Like my sister Madison said in her post about abortion: “You won’t accomplish anything without LOVE. Casting judgment on {people} because they sin differently than you is NOT OKAY.”

2. Am I being self-righteous? Am I forgetting about the plank in my own eye? Am I just picking and choosing what I think is holy?

In his article “World Vision and the Sad State of American Evangelism,” Brandon Robertson writes,

The harshest warning that Jesus ever gave was not to those who believed or stood for wrong things. No, rather, Jesus’ harshest warning was given to those who stood for all of the right beliefs but neglected the one sacrifice that God requires of humankind: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

Isn't that the truth? If Jesus ever came close to hating anything, wasn't it the self-righteousness of the Pharisees, that “brood of vipers?”

And although I do not think the phrase “do not judge” means “do not decide if an action is ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’” I do think the phrase is our reminder (warning) that we have all “sinned and fallen short,” and that no man is more righteous on his own than another.

So what is “unholy” in my own life? The language I use? The media I watch and listen to? The way I treat people? The extra-curricular activities I partake in? My pride? My lack of compassion for widows and orphans? My apathy towards injustice?

Hmm...that's a great question, Mommy.

3. Do I (the church? Christians?) want to be known as someone who kicks too many people out or who lets too many in?

Is it better to err on the side of grace in hopes that more will hear the true Gospel and be saved? Do I want “all” and “every” to come to Christ? Because if that’s the case, if I am claiming to want to spread the gospel to everyone, then I should not have a checklist at the door to decide who is worthy enough to hear it.

And I should also always remember that people who do not believe in the Bible are not going to be living by its standards either. Once we are both Christ followers, only then can we walk the journey of “being a new creation” together, of being sanctified through our relationships with Christ.

4. What does the Bible say?

I know this may seem silly, but sometimes I forget to ask myself this question. Instead, I run to Google to find the latest articles and biblical interpretations. 

But it’s too easy to soak in articles and blogs without checking to see if Scripture actually backs up what is being said. I can’t forget to make myself sit down, read, and do a whole lot of praying for wisdom on whatever issue is at hand.

5. No matter what my convictions are, am I speaking the truth in love?

Anger, hatred, mean words, name calling, will not help, and will not further the Gospel. Kindness, love, gentle answers, encouragement, and a whole lot of prayer all go much farther.

- - - - -

I know that’s a lot of thoughts to come from one nursery rhyme. “Ba Ba Blacksheep” really would have been a much less complicated music choice. 

Yes. I'm still kind of confused.

But it’s never bad to remind myself of these things:

To tread carefully, to be on my guard against the Devil’s schemes, to test everything against Scripture. To avoid self-righteousness, to remember that I am a sinner just like everyone else, to above all else be Christ’s love to the world. To be holy, because God is holy. To hold onto my convictions yet do my best to preserve the unity of the church.

And of course, to stop “grabbing other people's left legs and throwing ‘em down the stairs.”

Grace and Peace,
Kendra

PS. I still am hashing out all of these thoughts in my mind. If you have any wisdom to kindly share, please do.