Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Slaying Sarcasm

This post is probably going to be a hard pill to swallow for some people, including myself and some of the people I care about most.

I feel like there's a clandestine killer entering a lot of our homes and relationships. But we don't look for the murderous beast and try to eradicate it. We treasure, coddle, and prune it.

What's the name of the beast?


I know. Shoot me now.

I actually read a blog post years ago in which the author tried, in vain, to convince the readers that sarcasm really has no place in the Christian home. I balked and pushed it aside.

Whatever, I thought. People who don't appreciate the beauty of sarcasm are humorless half-wits, right? What kind of spineless Christians are we growing if they can't even handle a little sarcasm?

But obviously, the Holy Spirit kept it in the back of my mind. He knew I'd come to a point in my spiritual growth where I'd see the truth...and now I'm the crazy blogger trying to convince you of the evils of sarcasm.

Fantastic. God be with me.

First, let's define sarcasm for the purposes of this post. See the line right above this one? The one where I said, “fantastic”? I obviously did not MEAN that was fantastic. I actually meant, “this is probably going to be crappy and hard.” That, my friends, is irony.

Simple irony hurts no one. It's merely saying the opposite of what I actually mean.

Then, there's sarcasm, and the definition alone may convey my point better than the rest of this blog post:

the use of irony to mock or convey contempt.
    "his voice, hardened by sarcasm, could not hide his resentment"
derisionmockeryridiculescorn, sneering, scoffing; 
"well, it's easy to see that she got her biting sarcasm from her mother"

OUCH. Did you see that example? That, my friends did NOT come from me. Google the word, and that's what you get: Well, it's easy to see that she got her biting sarcasm from her mother.

Sarcasm isn't just irony. It is NOT just saying the opposite of what you mean. Instead, it's using that device to mock or convey contempt. OUCH.

Now, let's look at how we use this in our homes?

Mom to son: Well, THAT was smart.
Translation: That was really stupid.

Father to daughter: As always, we can depend on you.
Translation: You are not dependable and incapable.

Mom to Dad: Great job, genius!
Translation: You are a moron!

These are simplified and obvious examples, but they're powerful. Children understand this at a very young age. Are these really the messages we want to send to them?

You're stupid. You're incapable. Your other parent is moronic.

Now, if you need more proof, let's take a look at how scripture says we should and should not be speaking to one another.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Proverbs 18:21

Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths,
but only such as is good for building up,
as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart,
and this defiles a person.
Matthew 5:18

The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 12:18

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Colossians 4:6

But I tell you that everyone will have to give an account on the
day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.
Matthew 12:37

These are just a few among so many. While we may dismiss our words as unimportant, God has seen fit to address the issue time and time again in His word. HE says our words are of extreme importance.

God says our words hold either life or death.

In essence, when we use sarcasm, what we're really doing is placing ourselves above the person we're speaking to. We're talking down to them.

Sarcasm, at it's core, is haughty and prideful.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourself.
Philippians 2:3

I think the reality of the situation is clear. It's a hard pill to swallow, though. There's no doubt about that.

I also want to clearly state that, while I have been convicted about this, I understand some of you may not share this conviction...yet. I think this one takes time, and I'm not judging anyone who isn't on the same timeline.

Nevertheless, unlike my clothing convictions (that I've SO poorly kept to since pregnancy), I do feel this lesson applies to everyone. The Bible is clear, but the question is this:

Will we heed the words of our Creator and slay sarcasm before it has left our tongues, or will we continue to use this weapon to slay the people we love?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Let's Talk About Sex: The Purity Principle

Apparently, sex has been on my mind A LOT lately. (You can go ahead and insert your own joke about me being in my sixth pregnancy here).

About a month ago, I posted about Cheap Sex and How It's Killing US, but for some reason, that didn't quite get to the heart of what I wanted to say. Something keeps lurking in my head and heart.

I am an analytical person. I want to know why. I look back on my past, the sins and failures, and I desperately want to try to take apart WHY I made the decisions I made because maybe, just maybe, I can understand the WHY, I can help the next generation make better decisions. 

I don't think it's enough just to tell them where we went wrong, but for them to understand WHY.

So today I want to talk about The Purity Principle.

The Purity Principle constitutes a large portion of our youth group time and discussions. At least, it did when I was younger. Maybe it's because that's at the forefront of most teen's minds, or maybe because it's one of the major temptations they'll face as they forge their way into adulthood.

But...I can't help but think we may be doing them a disservice in HOW we communicate about the subject. Here, I'll address some of the issues I think we, as the Christian body, face when communicating about purity. You might agree, you might not, but at least hear me out...

Let's Talk About "Sex"

When I said, "purity" earlier, let's face it, you immediately knew I was talking about "sexual purity." That's how we talk about it right? Because who wants to talk to kids about "sexual purity" in church. Nah. We can just  be general and call it "purity" right? Slap a "purity" ring on that finger and talk about being "pure." We don't have to say "sex" to them...it's implied.

Um...no. And let me tell you WHY....

You can be sexually pure, and still be impure...thoughts, speech, actions. Actually, according to Isaiah 64:6, we're ALL impure. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of the NLT, but I think this REALLY gets to the heart of it:

We are all infected and impure with sin.
When we display our righteous deeds,
they are nothing but filthy rags.

Harsh. But accurate.

If you want more evidence of our impurity, read through Romans 1-3 for a bit. No matter who you are, you fall into a pretty "unclean" category. We're dirty. We are never pure apart from the blood of Jesus Christ. That's why we NEED a Savior. That's why God gave the Law, to show us how much we need him, how much we CANNOT do it on our own:

Therefore, most of Romans 1-3 sets up how dirty we all are, but then:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law,
although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
For there is no distinction:
for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,
and are justified by his grace as a gift,
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
whom God put forward as a propitiation through his blood,
to be received BY FAITH.
Romans 3:21-25a (emphasis added)

If you're pure, you better sing praises to God because it is ONLY because you have been given that GIFT through FAITH in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing you can do on your own to be pure.

So, if we're going to talk about "sexual purity" with teens, or anyone else, then let's just bite the bullet and us the word "sex" because that's what we mean. 

Why is this important, you ask? Because we have a whole slew of self-righteous Christians flaunting their "sexual purity," but wallowing in the muck and mire that is sin: gossip, lying, haughtiness, lust, wrath, crude talk - you name it and they got it. But they're blinded by that because they grew up in church believing if they hadn't had sex outside of marriage, they hadn't lost their "purity."

The lust in that list leads me to my next point...

Purity ≠ Virginity

I first kissed a boy at the ripe, old age of 14...and in that, I was somewhat of a "late bloomer," according to my peers. Now, as my Emily prepares to turn 13 in a couple days, the thought sickens me, not because of the kiss necessarily (although it was AWFUL), but because of what followed. Ironically, I was saved and baptized at 14, as well. 

A kiss led quickly to making out, and that led to some pretty heavy petting. It was allowed though, right? Part of growing up? And everyone was doing it. It's what the guys wanted, and the guys in youth group were no exception to that rule.

Nevertheless, we all clung to our "purity," knowing that we had kept safe the golden crown of virginity. We were safe.

Closer and closer I crept to edge of the cliff, just knowing my belief in Christ would keep me from jumping, But dear friends, I'm here to tell you, the cliff is an illusion. It's not a plummet when you lose your virginity, but a slow, steady, dangerous decent into sinful behavior.

And that's where Satan has us all fooled. God, on the other hand, is not confused in the least.

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
"I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,
to give to every man according to his ways,
according to the fruits of his deeds."
Jeremiah 17:9-10

He knows your heart and your mind. He sees the lust in your heart. By the time the virginity is lost, before or after marriage, a whole host of sins has paraded through the mind and, thus, the heart. 

Jesus said this:

You have heard that it  was said,
but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her
has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
Matthew 5:27-28

Before our bodies have ever gotten to the deed, our hearts are drenched in it.

Once again, why is this important? Because our thoughts lead to our actions, so if we're going to talk about sexual purity, we need to be discussing our thoughts first...renewing our minds, taking every thought into submission.

And also..because some will make the mistake. There are some who will give into temptation, and if virginity equals purity then they are lost.

I was.

I kept the illusion of purity from ages 14 to 16, until I finally convinced myself that the only way to keep the man I was dating at the time, the man I thought I "loved" was to give every part of myself to him. That's what we do with the people we "love," right?

So, I gave into temptation...just once. The next day, when guilt set in, I refused him...and didn't see him or hear from him for months.

But, I thought, it was too late. I had fallen.

I went to youth group one time after that, but my I was overcome with my own guilt, and I was sure my "pure" friends would never understand if they knew. Overnight, I had become an outsider; so, I drifted away.

I found friends who would never think I was dirty because I had failed. Heck, in truth, I found "dirtier" friends, people by whose presence I could be comforted because while I might have fallen from grace, they were FAR worse.

All an illusion of course; no one is any better or worse (see the verses above). But misery loves company, so eventually, I decided to just wallow in the mud with rest.

I was saved by grace, but living in the flesh. Lord, forgive me, I grieved the Holy Spirit inside of me.

But what if...what if I had been given a different perspective? 

Goodness knows, I'm baptist! We definitely preach grace and mercy through the Lord, Christ Jesus (AMEN!), but somehow we're missing all that in our "purity preaching," treating it like the unforgivable sin. As a consequence, we're leaving behind any poor soul who falls down, in the name of trying to keep safe the rest. We're abandoning the lost in our flock.

How NOT like Jesus is that?

Last, and probably most importantly, let's really get to the WHY...

It's a Beautiful Life

I have a tendency to be a bit of a "because I told you so" parent. Probably, one of my biggest flaws. I don't know if it's because of how I was raised or a result of a good deal of just trying to survive parenting the first decade or so, but I often find myself skipping the explanation of WHY, and simply expecting compliance through dictatorship.

Sometimes, that's necessary. When there really isn't time to explain "why," but serious consequences will follow if the child isn't compliant, then  "because I said so" must prevail. Nevertheless, if children can begin to understand the "why," then it becomes easier, at times, to comply.

God is the Heavenly Father, the only perfect parent. He doesn't just give a command and a "thou shalt" or "shalt not" because he likes to control what we do. He gives us boundaries because they are good for us. 

And sure, let's face it, there are a ton of ways we can be hurt by sex outside of marriage. Did ya'll see the pictures of STDs in high school "family life"?? EW. Did ya'll watch the films on teenage pregnancy, too?

But, like men trying to build the tower of babble, society decides it's going to be smarter than God, so it creates ways to skirt the physical consequences: condoms, the pill, etc.

But we're so obtuse.

God, alone, knows our souls, and as much as we might try, the damage we do to our souls through sin, in this case sexual sin, is TRULY the tragedy.

But why? Why does it kill our souls to give away our bodies?

Because sex is not just a physical act.

And Adam knew Eve his wife; 
and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said,
I have gotten a man from the Lord.
Genesis 4:1

Now, let's face it, none of us are under the assumption that they had a baby because Adam became cognitively aware of his wife. They got it on. That's what "knew" means in this context.

Oh...but it's so much richer than that.

When I was reading Sacred Sex, by Tony Evans, he revealed that the word, "knew" there is the Hebrew word, "yada," and it means SO MUCH more than just a cognitive awareness OR having sex.

Over and over in the Old Testament, "yada" is used by God to show us how we're to KNOW Him and His commandments, and how deeply He KNOWS us.

It's a deep, intimate, spiritual connection. It's sharing your SOUL with someone.

And THAT, my friends, is the WHY.

That's why it's something that God says we should only share with someone with whom we have entered into the holy covenant bond of marriage. 

SEX IS HOLY. It is good, and set apart, and we are to set ourselves apart for because of its beauty.

Cosmo is not teaching this to kids. They're certainly not learning it in school.

The only place they can get this knowledge is from the body of Christ. Now, hopefully, their parents are part of the body, but maybe not. So the body is going to have to up its game.

The Bottom Line

Look, I'm not saying that we shouldn't be teaching that sex before marriage is a sin. That's some namby pamby, wishy washy nonsense. It is sin, so let's call it that.

However, what I am saying is that it should be taught to our youth as what it is, one sin in a sea of many, and often one leads to another. Let's teach it context of the bigger picture of the great and glorious gospel. Let's teach them about the beauty of sexual intimacy in the context of marriage.

Then, I think, we may start making some headway into the hearts of our youth; they may begin to understand their worth, and we might begin to communicate their value, to us, and more importantly, to the God that created them.

I really want to hear your feedback on this. How was sex presented to you? In the church and outside? Did you understand its beauty? What were you taught about The Purity Principle?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Cheap Sex and How It's Killing Us

Yesterday, sweet Emily was asking me questions about her father and I and how our marriage started and when we got married. I try to be as forthcoming as possible about these things because I may be able to protect her from some of my mistakes by sharing them.

At one point she said, but you were living together when you got pregnant with Destiny, so you were basically married, right?


I quickly corrected her. No, sweet girl. It's not the same. It's not the same at all.

I understand where she's coming from. I really do. She's seen A LOT of couples in her life that have chosen to live together without marriage. She doesn't want to think they're wrong. She doesn't want to think I was wrong.

But I can't have her holding that viewpoint. She needs to know Mama made a mistake.

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

First, (after more questions from her), I had to clarify that it isn't actually living with someone of the opposite sex outside of marriage that's a sin, but sexual relations outside of a marriage. Whether you live with someone or not, sex outside of marriage is wrong.

I highlighted Jesus's conversation with the woman at the well. He didn't say, Where's the guy you're living with? Instead he asked where her husband was, and when she replied that she had none, he said:

You have correctly said, "I don't have a husband," Jesus said.
For you have had five husbands
and the man you now have is not your husband.
What you have said is true.
John 4:17-18

It's just not the same.

So, we talked. We talked about marriage as a covenant and what covenant MEANS. Biblestudytools.com says this about covenants:
The covenants referred to above were between two equal parties; this means that the covenant relationship was bilateral. The bond was sealed by both parties vowing, often by oath, that each, having equal privileges and responsibilities, would carry out their assigned roles.
These contracts are important. In Genesis, even after God called Abram (Abraham), he still needed reassurance of God's promise. How did God do that? He made a covenant with him; a binding, unbreakable oath (Genesis 15).

Emily and I didn't have much more time to talk after that because I was dropping her off, but my heart was still heavy. It was my second conversation that day about sex outside of marriage, and I couldn't shake them.

What is missing in our conversations about sex and marriage??

The value of sex.

In our society and culture, sex is looked at in a lot of different ways: recreational, procreational (made that word up), or simply part of the "mate-choosing" process...like, test driving a car or trying on a pair of shoes.

We've devalued sexual intimacy to the status of shoe shopping...or even worse, shoe rental. We've perverted it's original intent.

It's kind of what we do best.

God created the world, and He placed Adam in the garden of Eden. He told them they could eat of any tree they wanted except for one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The fruit wasn't bad. God created it, and it was good, but it wasn't intended for Adam and Eve...but that didn't stop them.

And typically, that's just what we do. We jump in over our heads, trying to make ourselves into our own gods, and we jack everything up in the process.

The same thing goes for sex. God created sexual intimacy between partners, and it was and IS good. We've just cheapened it.

The first real reference to sex (I think) in the Bible is IN Genesis 4:1:

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain,
saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord."

Obviously, by "knew his wife" the Bible means they had sex because it led to conception. Oh, but it's so much more than the act.

The Hebrew word there for "knew" is the word yada, and it's not just used to indicate sexual intimacy but so many times throughout the Old Testament it's used to indicate God knowing us and us knowing him. It's indicative of a desire for a deep and meaningful relationship.

That's what God meant for sex to be: a deeply intimate exchange, one in which we are fully known.

And that, my friends, is why God would have us experience sexual intimacy only in the context of covenant marriage; it's such an intimate exchange, so dear and valuable, that to experience it outside of that is tantamount to going mudding in a Ferrari or rolling around in the mud in your wedding dress before the wedding.

Only WORSE...because what we dirty and destroy isn't a car or a dress, but our souls, our spirits. It's not outside of God's infinite mercy and grace, but like all other sins, the consequences leave scars far after our slates have been wiped clean.

So, my answer to dear Emily was, no. No, having sex and living with her father before we were married was NOT the same as being married.

My prayer for her, and all my children, is that they would know all the beauty and joys of sexual intimacy only as God intended. What that will mean, is that I've taught them not just to value the exchange, but to value themselves as they are valued...by me, bot more importantly, by God.

Because that's what God truly cares about: us. The act is sacred, but He created it because He loves the participants.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why I'm Getting DRESSED

As I'm sure some of you know, for many years, fall and winter have been "hoodie season" for me. I love me a good hoodie...the bigger, the better.

At the first hint of crispness in the air, I grin and dance and think of all things pumpkin spice...and don a hoodie and a pair of jeans.

It's what I do...it's what I did.

A month ago today, as I was getting ready to go to a meeting with Josiah, I had a conversation with God. I was not a happy camper.

I felt, deeply, that he was asking me to get rid of the hoodie and jeans. And so...right there in the shower, I got teary-eyed and angry because, God, you don't seem to understand. It's hoodie SEASON!

I got teary-eyed over a hoodie, y'all.

It had been a long time coming, actually. I felt the Lord leading me to Scriptures that highlighted femininity and the differentiation of the sexes. I felt Him pressing upon my heart.

Finally, that day in the shower I said, Fine. FINE! I'll try it...and I'll talk to Josiah about it, but God, if he thinks this is stupid, then I'm throwing this out the window and putting on a hoodie and jeans.

He did not think it was stupid...at all.

God has been showing us BOTH lately how backwards our culture is: men becoming increasingly less masculine and women becoming increasingly more masculine. So, apparently, He's asking me go against the grain and be more feminine in my dress.

For me, that means dresses and skirts...pretty much all the time outside of the house. That's what it comes down to.

Ladies, we HAVE to reclaim femininity. Go on, women's libbers...ROAR. But it's true. The farther we, as women, get from being feminine, the more we deem it necessary to take control, to rule, to dominate. Likewise, because we're willing to take that control, men take a backseat.

Then, we complain there are no more gentlemen in the world and chivalry is dead. I don't think that's true at all, but if it is WE killed it.

God called men and women to be different, not better or worse, but different. We're just not embracing that anymore.

For a long time, though, I didn't look as my dress as being unfeminine. I just thought it was...humble. I obviously wasn't looking to get any attention like that, right? I looked at verses like the one below, and thought they meant "hoodie season is good":

Your beauty should not consist of outward things
like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes.
Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart
with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is very valuable in God’s eyes.
1 Peter 3:3-4

What's less elaborate than a messy ponytail?! What's less fine than a hoodie and jeans?! It's what's in the heart that matters!!

And actually, those statements are absolutely true. God DOES want our beauty to come from the inside. We shouldn't seek to be considered beautiful because of the superficial. And yet...

I have found the second part, the gentle and quiet spirit, much more attainable in feminine attire.

Think about it like this, many businesses have certain dress codes for their employees because they want them to behave in a certain manner, right?

Many corporations want very business-like attire because, generally, people have a tendency to behave in a more business-like manner when they are dressed accordingly.

Conversely, some of the younger "dot com" companies have much less rigid dress codes and encourage creativity in dress and culture because they WANT their staffs to be creative.

Likewise, when I'm dressed like a lady, I have a tendency to behave more like one. Even more shocking, I've also discovered that when I'm dressed like a lady, I'm treated more like one.

It's a cycle, folks. 

The few people I've told about this, thus far, have reacted in a variety of ways. A few women from my homeschool group (NONE of whom wear dresses frequently) were very supportive. Others, questioned whether I thought this was for everyone, and others wondered if a lot of ugly denim skirts were coming.

So let me answer a few of your inevitable questions:

Are you saying all women should be wearing dresses and skirts?! 
No. I don't believe that. We've been set free from the law. Yes, it says in Deuteronomy that women shouldn't wear men's clothing. However, it also says Hebrew people shouldn't eat pork...and MMMM, bacon. This is a very personal conviction, and I don't expect anyone else to hop on my bandwagon (so, yes, we can still be friends).
Are you wearing dresses ALL the time? 
Um, no. I'm sure a few of you have seen me at the gym or at Zumba lately, and I have not worn a skirt over my workout clothes. I'm also wearing jeans and sneakers if a particular situation calls for it, like weeding flower beds or any other yard work. I'm not being "religious" about this, ya'll (haha). Right now, I'm wearing a hoodie and sweat pants because I'm in my house and it's 6 a.m. and it's chilly; the situation calls for it.
So, when ARE you wearing dresses then?
Pretty much anytime I leave the house. Even if I'm just running to Wal-mart, I'm actually taking the time to get dressed. It just doesn't take all that long to throw on a skirt and a sweater and make sure my hair actually looks decent.
Are you going to start wearing denim all the time?
No, but I do have a couple denim skirts I really like. I completely understand why certain denominations feel somewhat homely dress is the way to go, and I respect that...but I'm just not there. Quite the opposite, actually. I feel more like God wants me to show that I can dress with femininity and modesty and still have fun with my clothes and feel good in them!
 Do you think ONLY dresses and skirts are feminine?
I KNOW someone is going to call me on this, so I might as well get it out there: you can look gorgeous and feminine in pants. I know people who do it all the time. They wear jeans and slacks and look AWESOME. They look very pretty. So, no. I don't think that's the case. I do, however, think God is calling ME to do it a little differently. That may be because it's a slippery slope for me. Only God knows.

I hope than answered a lot of the more immediate questions. If you have more, PLEASE message me or leave a comment.

I'm really starting to embrace the change, now. I'm having fun actually putting decent outfits together, and I'm really looking forward to expanding my wardrobe here and there, as the budget allows.

There's also a certain level of self care that comes with actually getting dressed decently every day. As a homeschool mom, if I'm not careful, I can spend just about every day looking pretty haggard. I really don't want this to be the way my husband and kids see me and remember me. If I'm running out to Wal-mart, but I'm actually putting on decent clothes, I'm much more likely to spend another 5 seconds making sure my hair looks halfway decent, my mascara isn't 2" under my eyeballs from the day before, and I've actually brushed my teeth already. (Just keeping it real.)

So, there you have it. I do feel like a bit of a freak. Even in my Christian conservative circle of friends, this is not a common conviction.

Nevertheless, God has asked people to do "stranger" things, so for right now, I'll just be happy His call for me is to look decent.

It is my hope, that this outward change in me is more reflective of an inner change. I pray God is not just helping me put on dresses and skirts, but that He's aiding me in clothing myself with strength, dignity, and faith, along with a gentle and quiet spirit because that's what is truly valuable.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

An Apology and an Entreaty

There are times, in life, when you just don't know, when someone tells you something, but you're just not quite able to grasp the reality.

This weekend was one of those time...or the realization, at least. And man, do I owe you ALL an apology. 

Mea Culpa. Mea Maxima Culpa.

Earlier this year, when Josiah and I met with Keith Tully of FamilyLife about the church's marriage ministry, he was insistent that we should bring a group to the Weekend to Remember in Williamsburg this year (which just took place). 

We told him we'd love to take a group, but it just wasn't in our budget right now. That's why we do The Art of Marriage! It's way cheaper to put on at our local church. And The Art of Marriage is JUST like Weekend to Remember anyway, right? That's what I thought, anyway.

Keith persisted in his wish that we experience the event, and even offered to sponsor us. HUGE gift. Of course! we said. Why wouldn't we go if it was sponsored?

We started a group (CompassMarriage) and started advertising for the event. We posted on facebook about it many times and talked to some people in church. We invited...enough to say we invited.

Even when Keith sent us a message and challenged us to share just as dynamically about the Weekend to Remember as we do about our Thrive business.

And I tried...I really did.

Here's the deal though: I can REALLY only share passionately about something like that if it's had a serious impact on me. There's a REASON I didn't really sell anything before Thrive...no product had ever changed my life like it has

Well, that's no longer the case. I can now share PASSIONATELY about the Weekend to Remember because Josiah and I walked out of there transformed.

Generally, Josiah and I attend these events knowing we'll get tidbits and knowing we'll come out a little closer, but generally, our marriage is pretty good, so we don't expect anything mind-blowing.

Oh, how we belittle the power of our MIGHTY GOD.

Maybe it was the powerful anointing given to the speakers. Maybe it was the prayer that came from scores of people before and during the event. Maybe it was the relevance of the material. Maybe it was all those things.

All I know, is we are changed. Our marriage was already great...and now it's better.

But more than that, I can feel a peace deep within both of us and in our home. 

I think the largest change is in Josiah. I hope he doesn't mind me saying that.

He came out standing taller, ready to lead our family and our ministry. He came out equipped. And I am grateful.

He's already typed out pages upon pages of notes, revelations from the Holy Spirit throughout the weekend. Look for blogs from him coming soon.

So, my dear friends, I owe you an apology. I am so grieved that I didn't share MORE with you; that, like I have with my Le-Vel business, I didn't message so many of you to invite you personally. I'm so sorry I didn't put exponentially more time and effort into sharing this experience with you so you could walk out changed with us.

By the grace of God, it isn't too late. 

There are at least two more in Virginia coming up. The first is in Virginia Beach on Valentine's Day weekend. What a great gift?! There's also one in Reston, VA in April.

You definitely want to GET AWAY for the event, so why not take a look at the FamilyLife calendar and see if there are any other locations and dates you'd love? (and be sure to use the group code "CompassMarrage" to get a discount!)

Let me illustrate how intensely powerful this event was for us: Josiah and I are considering forgoing the Le-Vel Lifestyle Getaway to Las Vegas (which we should qualify for), and instead, helping the local volunteer team in Virginia Beach that weekend. 

We haven't completely made up our minds, and a paid vacation together would be awfully nice, but we also feel so incredibly compelled to share the experience we had with others. 

It's a tough one.

I urge you. I am pleading

Do not let this valuable opportunity to enrich your life, your marriage, and your walk with God pass you by.

Could I be any clearer? 

Josiah and I are so grateful: to Keith Tully, the voluneteer/prayer teams, the presenters, FamilyLife, and most of all, God.

If you have any questions about this, please contact me. I don't often say things like that on my blog, but I would love to help you with this.

So now, dear reader, I end with a prayer for YOU:
Heavenly Father, 
There is no way for me to know who You will have read this, but I pray, if they are married (happily or ready to leave), engaged, or even thinking about marriage, that they will pursue this opportunity. I pray they will boldly take this step to fight against the powers that wish desperately to tear their relationships apart. I pray they will RISE UP and become people who FIGHT for their marriages and the marriages in their communities and all over the world. 
I pray these things with confidence, knowing You will answer my plea. 
I praise You God, for all that You have done, all that You will do, and all that You are. 
In Jesus' holy name I pray. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Quick and Dirty: Are you a GOOD Christian?

(For those of you who are unfamiliar, a "Quick and Dirty" blog post here at Life Under Construction, is written on the fly with very little editing. Every now and then, it's just gotta get done.)

Every now and then, circumstances line up that give you an epiphany. 

This week, people everywhere have been talking about the Syrian refugee crisis, and more than once I've seen someone say, "I don't you telling me I'm a BAD Christian because...." A bad Christian.

Let's face it, no one wants to be a "bad Christian." We all want to be "good Christians," right?

I've also been reading Victory over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson lately (which I wrote about here) about really KNOWING what your identity is in Christ.

Now, these two things would have coincided without me noticing, BUT THEN...

Yesterday, I was thinking about a situation. It's one where I was trying to FEEL differently because I was trying to FEEL the way I know a "GOOD" Christian should. But I couldn't...

So...I said, "that must mean I'm a bad Christian."

And that's when it hit me...there's no such thing. There's NO SUCH THING as a "good" or "bad" Christian. That's exactly what Mr. Anderson has been expressing in the chapter I was reading, it just took me a while to figure it out.

Christ died to save EVERYONE. If you've claimed Jesus Christ as your Savior, you're a Christian.

For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten son
that whoever should believe in Him
shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

If you've put your faith in Christ, then you're a Christian.

I know what you might be thinking: Um...Alissa...there are bad Christians and good Christians. I've seen them. The man who's a deacon and studies his Bible all the time, that's a good Christian. The girl who's partying it up on Friday and Saturday and sitting her butt down in the church pew on Sunday, that's a bad Christian.

I know you might think that because that girl, the latter example, that was me for a while.

I've even thought to myself, I'm so different now...what if I was never even saved.

But that doesn't seem to make sense either. I've felt Jesus with me for as long as I can remember. I have him my heart long ago. Why, then, did I behave so foolishly at different points?

Because I didn't understand my IDENTITY in Christ. I didn't know WHO I was. I didn't realize my value.

I still don't...not all the way, anyway. 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

There's no middle ground. You're new or you're not.

So what happens?

Think about these 2 scenarios:

  1. You have a benefactor that sends you money each month and takes care of your needs. You may know his name or a little about him, but that's about it. You just know the check comes every month.
  2. You have a Dad. You love Him. He loves you. There's a relationship there. He would die for you; you know it, and you'd do anything for him.
In which scenario are you more secure? The money could always stop coming in the first, right? What if you fall out of grace?

See, Satan wants us to THINK that can happen to us. He wants us to think we're just one mistake away from too many. 

But that doesn't happen. He's our Heavenly Father, full of love and grace for His children.

Somewhere (and I don't have time to look it up at the moment) it says that the blood of Jesus has washed us clean. If you're a Christian, you now stand in front of God spotless and pure, no matter what you've done (Romans 3 maybe?).

I didn't get that. Every time I made a bad choice (and it was frequently because I wasn't looking to God for guidance). I hid my face in shame. I wasn't worthy.

The tricky part is, the more I hid my face in shame, the dirtier I felt, the worse my decisions got. 

I've said before that meeting Josiah and his family changed this for me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on HOW. Now, I know...they started to show me that my identity was in WHO I am, not what I had done.

When I understood that, I was able to look God full in the face, to begin to feel His grace. To understand that, no matter what, He wanted me to open myself up to Him...and He wanted me to get to know Him.

Anderson says it's being able to differentiate relationship from fellowship. You will always be your father's child. You can go to Timbuktu or Kalamazoo, and that won't change. Ever.

However, there can be a break of fellowship between you and your father. If you defy him, resist him, or run away from him, the relationship doesn't change (he's still your father), but things aren't right between you.

God is the perfect father. He's ALWAYS waiting for the prodigal to return, ALWAYS waiting for the stray sheep, ALWAYS seeking a return to fellowship with you.

You just have to be soft-hearted enough to receive Him.

So, if you're ever wondering if you're a good Christian or a bad Christian, wonder no more: there's no such thing.

You're just the same as the deacon with the Bible AND the girl doing the walk of shame on Sunday. 

Positionally, we're all the same.

But I URGE you to seek true fellowship with our Father. Walk with Him. Spend time with Him. Learn from Him. 

There's nothing like it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Faithfulness and Failure

Let me ask you a question. In which of the following two scenarios am I more successful?

  1. I'm faithful to my husband and try to be the best wife I can be, but I don't get the attention I want from him; OR
  2. I'm unfaithful to my husband, but I find the attention I seek in others?
I think most people will SCREAM at this point, FAITHFUL TO YOUR HUSBAND! ARE YOU INSANE?!

Never fear. I have not lost my mind; I am not unfaithful; he gives me plenty of attention.

Nevertheless, I've been having a REALLY hard time lately emotionally, and the above question is a mediocre metaphor for what God has been showing me. (I'll explain, I promise.)

When I say I've had a hard time, I mean to say engaged in full-on spiritual warfare. 

I had been praying and sobbing my way through it for days, when finally, I hid at church Sunday, crumpled on the floor of the dark, abandoned sanctuary. 

The church pianist found me there, bawling and praying. She prayed over me. Then, once she left,  I quite literally prayed through Romans 8 and Ephesians 6 (particularly the part about putting on the armor of God).

Why, you may ask, was I struggling so horribly? Was someone dying? Had my husband been unfaithful? Had my kids been hurt.

Nope...I felt like a failure.

It sounds so silly, right? Nevertheless, it was what I felt, and it was crushing me.

The enemy whispered in my ear over and over, that I wasn't successful in ANY area of my life: wife, homemaker, leader, businesswoman, writer...FAILURE.

The name followed me around like a cloud; it pressed down on me. It was suffocating.


The prayer session on the sanctuary floor FINALLY lifted the dark veil, and I felt happier than I have in quite some time during the worship service.

Let's face it...this hasn't been the only time I've been reduced to blubbering lately. God has been working in my life in big ways, and sometimes, that can be painful...but MAN, it's worth it.

That night, during some much-needed time away from everyone, I started a book called Victory Over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ by Neil T. Anderson. This morning, I read Chapter 2, and shed tears of joy as I read aloud who GOD says I am...

and let me give you a hint, it's NOT a failure.

Yesterday, I went to a Zumba class at the Y. During one of the last songs, I stopped early on the squats. I hate when I do that, I thought. I feel like such a failure.

I chased the thought away, immediately. I've had enough of the failure nonsense over the last week.

I said to myself, Alissa Shea, you have just completed a class you walked out of 6 months ago. You are walking out happy, with your head held high because you were faithful and came to work out.

Did you catch that? I was faithful because I showed up and did my best.

It was in that moment that it hit me: 

I have been looking at whether I'm a success or failure based upon my perceived outcome, instead of my obedient action. I was tied up in whether people were responding to what I was doing, instead of focusing on the fact that I'm just doing what I've been called to do, despite the outcome.

Do you see the similarity in the introductory example now? It's obvious to just about everyone that being faithful to my husband makes me more successful than getting attention, but that's not how we think most of the time is it?

When the blog doesn't get enough hits...
When my husband doesn't tell me I'm beautiful...
When no one notices what I've done...
When people don't respond to my Thrive messages...
When me team doesn't perform well...
When no one shows up to the study...

At various times, and definitely recently, I've looked at each of those outcomes and taken them personally. It sounds so shallow doesn't it? Well...it is, but it's the truth.

However, if I've been faithful, if I've done what I truly believe God wants me to do, then I haven't failed.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things?
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31

Here's the bottom line: I know Whose I am. Each and every day, I'm praying that He will guide my paths and make them straight.

For you are all children of God
through faith in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:26

In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:6

And no matter what, even when I misstep, even when I feel like I've failed, He can use it for my good.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28

Even when I let the deceiver fool me into feeling like a failure, God can take it and use it for good in my life. And I'm hoping, through my sharing, He can use it in yours, as well.

I foresee a lot of blog posts about this in the coming weeks as I work my way through the book. I would challenge you to come along with me. 

Do you fully understand your identity in Christ? Do you fully appreciate the miracle of what's been done for you, and the position it's put you in? Do you fully understand what it means to be adopted as a child of God?

I don't think I do yet. But I'm on my way.