Posted in Devotion

God’s Faithfulness

In the book of Joshua, over and over God reminds the people not to fear, and then he completely obliterates their enemies.

God is powerful, and he’s faithful to his promises.

God has promised modern Christians that he’s with them and coming again (Matthew 28:20; John 14:3). He says he works all things for his good (Romans 8:28). He also says he can do far more than we could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

There are situations I continually pray about: a friend who needs healing, family members who need to return to a relationship with God, students who are too angry to see God’s love, my future and relationship, and the list goes on.

Sometimes it feels as if God doesn’t hear or remains silent because I see nothing happening, but I have to remember his promises and his faithfulness. God is still working just like he did in the book of Joshua.

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Posted in Devotion

I’m Going To Sing

It’s allergy season in Kentucky, which means I find myself clearing my throat and waking up with a stopped-up nose. As much as I hate to admit it, I probably am an allergy sufferer. Just a few weeks ago, I had a bout that kept me congested and coughing for a week or so. This was right around the time of Easter, a time when I especially enjoy singing worship songs to God. You know how hard it is to sing when you can’t breathe? I don’t say all of this to gripe or complain. Even though singing praises to God was difficult and I probably sounded like a whale, I opened my mouth and let it out.

I sang because I have a reason to sing.

When I was younger, I sang unabashedly and considered myself to have a decent voice. Then I hit high school, and while my voice might have changed a little, my perception of myself suffered more. I convinced myself that my voice was nothing special and sometimes even unpleasant to hear. I didn’t want a career in the music world, but I also stopped singing with my whole heart.

God tells us to praise him. There’s an entire book of the Bible dedicated to songs about God and his greatness. If his human creations don’t praise him, the rocks will begin to sing praises to God (Luke 19:40). I’ve never heard a rock sing, but I sure hope that my singing voice is better than a rock’s voice. This is my reason to sing: God’s very being demands our praise, and he alone is worthy of that ability to demand praise. He’s worthy of our praise because he created all of us and this earth and the universe. He put everything in order. We humans messed up, so He gave us his son so that we could even communicate with him.

God deserves my unashamed singing voice whether it’s flat, sharp, clear, stuffy, low, or high.

Now I realize that praise doesn’t only come in the form of singing songs, and I practice other forms of praise and worship in my life. There’s just something powerful about raising my voice in song. I’m not one to yell much, so singing is a way to get loud about something that matters. Next time you hear a worship song on the radio, in church, or in your head, open you mouth and let it out loud and unashamed. As David said, we can become “yet more contemptible” in the world’s eyes than singing at the top of our lungs (2 Samuel 6:22 ESV). God deserves our loud and proud praise.

Posted in Devotion

Comparing Our Struggles.

***Re-posting from a year ago***

Maybe it’s that time of year (school year that is), but lately many of the conversations I have had with people start with a complaint, either from me or them. We’re tired, stressed out, overworked, physically hurting, emotionally spent, and ready for summer break. We don’t mean to be negative, but the fall in Genesis created a world where situations are hard and our bodies grow weary. Our sinful hearts want attention, and, for one reason or another, groaning and complaining garner attention faster than rejoicing.

I do not believe there is a problem with sharing our struggles with one another, but I think there are limits and ways to do it in God’s light. Galatians 6:2 reminds us to “carry each other’s burdens,” so we are meant to be open and honest with each other. This chapter goes on to say, though, that we should be careful and test ourselves lest we take pride in ourselves alone. It seems that at times our “sharing” of burdens becomes a form of pride in how hard our individual lives are. Galatians reminds us that while we are carrying each other’s burdens, we are still responsible for carrying our own load. We are meant to bolster each other up when we have burdens of sins and sorrows, but we are still meant to do the heavy lifting of our loads.

Sometimes we just complain to hear ourselves complain. God makes it pretty clear that he does not like a grumbling heart. Besides plainly speaking it in the New Testament several times, he also provides an account of how he dealt with the grumbling Israelites in the book of Numbers chapter 11. They complained that they didn’t have good food to eat, so God sent down fire. Then they repented, so God stopped the fire. It wasn’t long, though, before the complaints began again. God gave them meat, but he caused it to burn up and become a plague before they could consume it. That’s righteous anger and strong evidence that God does not tolerate whining and complaining. Before I speak my complaints, I want to test them to ensure that I’m sharing them for the right reasons. Ultimately I want to developing the rejoicing heart that Paul talks about in Philippians 4. When I meet trials, I want to be able to rejoice in the Lord rather than complain in the flesh.

This observation of my own conversation as well as the conversation around me also has made me realize just how easy it is to fall into the trap of one-upping one another with our problems rather than listening. Usually what happens when someone shares a burden or just complains for sake of complaining, the listener will share their own similar burden in an effort to relate, but it diminishes the other person’s burden. Just today while walking between classes, another teacher shared that she was suffering from a physical pain; rather than expressing sympathy or pointing her toward the blessings of God, I responded with my own physical pain. How does that kind of response help her at all except make her feel that her pain is less important? I don’t know her motive for sharing this burden with me, but my response should always be one that reflects Christ.

My response should be one that is cheerful and encouraging. Proverbs 17:22 says that a joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed heart dries up the bones. This doesn’t mean I diminish the person’s complaint by smiling and telling a joke. It means that in a loving way, I remind them of the goodness of God. This also means that when my flesh starts complaining to myself and hosting its own little pity party, I find a kind and loving way to remind myself of the goodness of God.

I am making two points here I believe. Firstly, we should test our own words before they come out. Before we speak a complaint, we should look into our heart and decide if we are sharing to allow someone to help or sharing because we want attention. If it’s a complaint, we should turn that complaint into a praise to God. Secondly, when someone shares a burden with us, we should respond with Christ’s love rather than one-upping or dismissing their statement. Don’t allow them to continue too long in a pity party, but be sympathetic and loving.

Posted in Book Review, Life, Literature

Books That Promote Thought

Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult is more than just another well-written court story. It’s a book carefully woven to leave questions in the reader’s mind. The basic plotline involves an African-American woman on trial after a white baby dies. The baby’s parents were leaders of the Pro-White Movement, which I didn’t even know still existed until this book. Reading this book sent me on an emotional roller coaster of disgust, anger, sadness, and elation mixed healthily with a lot of questions. Rather than spoiling the plot of the book, I’d like to take you through some of the questions in my mind.

Firstly I learned in this book that there is a Pro-White movement. The character claimed that Whites could become the majority. I’ll admit that at times I have questioned why there aren’t White History months or White Student Unions but never to the point that I would actually want those things established. I recognize that in this country and in most of the world, being born with Caucasion skin color puts you a little ahead in the game. I also recognize the injustice others may experience because of their skin color. I would rather appreciate my gifts rather than harbor resentment over a lack of White recognition.

But did you ever think our misfortune is directly related to your good fortune? Maybe the house your parents bought was on the market because the sellers didn’t want my mama in the neighborhood. Maybe the good grades that eventually led you to law school were possible because your mama didn’t have to work eighteen hours a day, and was there to read to you at night, or make sure you did your homework. How often do you remind yourself how lucky you are that you own your house, because you were able to build up equity through generations in a way families of color can’t? How often do you open your mouth at work and think how awesome it is that no one’s thinking you’re speaking for everyone with the same skin color you have? How hard is it for you to find a greeting card for your baby’s birthday with a picture of a child that has the same color skin as her? How many times have you seen a painting of Jesus that looks like you?” She stops, breathing heavily, her cheeks flushed. “Prejudice goes both ways, you know. There are people who suffer from it, and there are people who profit from it. Who died and made you Robin Hood? Who said I ever needed saving? Here you are on your high horse, telling me I screwed up this case that you worked so hard on; patting yourself on the back for being an advocate for a poor, struggling black woman like me…but you’re part of the reason I was down on the ground to begin with.” from Small Great Things

While knowing that my skin color gives me certain advantages is good, it still doesn’t answer what I do about those advantages. I wouldn’t ask for those to be taken away, and simply being thankful for the advantages doesn’t seem to solve the racial injustices. I don’t want to move to the point of feeling guilty for my position of birth, but I also don’t want to lord it over others. I also know that I can’t fix all of the problems by myself.

When it comes to social justice, the role of the white ally is not to be a savior or a fixer. Instead, the role of the ally is to find other white people and talk to make them see that many of the benefits they’ve enjoyed in life are direct results of the fact that someone else did not have the same benefits. From the author’s note.

Then I am moved to ask what I do about the direct racism in the world around me. While I don’t think I consciously treat anyone differently, blatant racism does occur. It would be easy to say that minorities are just making a big deal out of things that aren’t big deals, but I’ve never been followed in a store or told that I couldn’t achieve great things simply because of my race. I don’t know what that feels like, so maybe those seemingly little incidents are important because they add up in the life of a minority person. I also recognize that I can’t stop all of the racism in the world because I don’t cause it all. All I can do is watch my actions and thoughts very carefully to ensure that I don’t perpetuate the problem. In addition, I can teach my students and those around me to see people the way that God sees people. What God sees is a person’s heart, not their skin color. What matters to God is if they are following Him.

“Out of all the people who interacted with Davis Bauer at Mercy–West Haven Hospital during his short life, only one of them is sitting in this courtroom at the defense table: Ruth Jefferson. Only one person is being charged with a crime: Ruth Jefferson. I spent an entire trial skirting a very important question: Why? “Ruth is black,” I say flatly. From Small Great Things

Finally the court case in the book brought up the point of indirect racism. This happens when the question of race is ignored in a situation. I don’t think I intentionally treat anyone any differently simply because of the color of their skin, but I may unintentionally perpetuate the problem by ignoring that racism happens. I teach at a school with a very diverse racial population and a mostly homogeneous racial teaching staff. One of the questions on my application was “what do you think about race?” I think, as a 24-year-old, I answered something along the lines of saying that race didn’t matter to me because God loves everyone. While that is all good and well, ignoring racism in the world doesn’t help my students learn how to handle it whether they or someone else is being discriminated against.

I mean equity. Equality is treating everyone the same. But equity is taking differences into account, so everyone has a chance to succeed.” I look at her. “The first one sounds fair. The second one is fair. It’s equal to give a printed test to two kids. But if one’s blind and one’s sighted, that’s not true. You ought to give one a Braille test and one a printed test, which both cover the same material. From Small Great ThingsThis means I carefully choose the literature we read in order to bring up these questions of race and the general treatment of people. It means I don’t allow discriminatory talk of any kind to happen in my classroom. It also means that if a student accuses me of acting in a racist way, whether he is right or wrong about my intentions, I examine my actions to ensure that it wasn’t unintentional racism. It means that I teach my students to look for the similarities between us all as humans rather than seeing the differences while also celebrating the variety of cultures. Finally it means that I teach my students and those around me to love as God loves by demonstrating that love and humility in my actions.

While it may be a moot point now, I encourage others to read Piccoult’s Small Great Things. There is a little bit of language to represent the cultures in which the characters live, but overall wholesome thinking is applauded. The book provokes thought, creates complex plot, and develops characters at just the right pace. She really looks at the question of racism from every angle, and I haven’t really even begun to do this conversation justice. That’s what this book is: a conversation about race. So go read, then come back and converse with me.

Posted in Book Review

The Truest Pleasure

Sometimes books are about a plot line full of conflict and suspense, but other books quietly tell the story of a character. The Truest Pleasure by Robert Morgan falls into the latter category. Telling the story of a young Appalachian girl’s marriage and family, this book is full of wisdom and great characterization. The ultimate message, in an Ecclesiastical way, is to appreciate the important things in life. At first the narrator strives for spiritual connection and euphoria while her husband seeks pleasure in making money and expanding the land. Neither are happy; even though their pursuits are individually noble, their dreams don’t draw them closer. Only at the end of the novel does the narrator realize that the truest pleasure is to love those around her.

Posted in Life, Movies

Free Porn…and the consequences

The episode of Friends when Joey and Chandler find free porn on their TV bothers me, but it also reveals some truths about pornography. The two are afraid to turn off the TV because they are afraid the porn will disappear. Firstly this shows how addictive porn can be. This is not the only time the characters demonstrate their addiction to pornography. Just episodes before, Monica entices her friends to come hang out at her apartment by offering cookies and, you guessed it, porn. It’s sad how easily people are drawn to this distortion of God’s creation, but it’s scary how prevalent and addicting the habit is. The episode closes with Joey and Chandler turning off their television set. They are relieved to hear silence, but immediately they must turn the TV back on to see if they still the have free porn. It is addictive.

Secondly, the show reveals the effect porn has on the viewer. Towards the end of the episode, Chandler reveals to Joey that he was disappointed that the woman at the bank didn’t immediately want to have sex with him. Joey had a similar experience. Porn, and the habit of watching it, distorts reality. God created sex, so sex in and of itself is not bad, but God created sex for marriage. Pornography makes that sacred moment seem like a cheap side show. It could be likened to serving filet mignon at McDonalds .

Lastly, I want to point out that none of the characters have healthy, lasting relationships (aside from Chandler in very late the series). I don’t think that is a coincidence. Their view of relationships and intimacy is distorted by the culture around them, namely in this instance, pornography. While I enjoy the best show’s witty banter and Comic moments, I simply cannot approve of the lifestyles the characters lead. I shake my head and remind myself that they do not know Jesus. Their lives would be so much fuller if they did.

Posted in Devotion, Holidays

Forgive like a cat

My cat was angry at me tonight. First I took away his food this morning, so we could travel. Then I made him ride in his crate in the car. Finally once we got home I wouldn’t let him eat the TV cords or scratch the couch. To top it all off I clipped his toenails.

He wouldn’t even look at me. If I tried to touch him, he’d nip at me. He was angry.

Two hours later and a little catnip, he was back to snuggling. I think when Jesus talked about forgiving others, he could have used a cat as an example.