Can’t worship…

Here’s another installment of the “Facebook ain’t always right” series from me and Neal Jackson.

When I sent him the graphic for this post, I was imagining a short quote I could post surrounded by how I feel about this one, because I feel quite strongly about it (go figure). But, what he sent was just so doggone good that it really needs no additional commentary. He hit the nail on the head. So, here it goes:

The main problem I have with this one is its intent. Every time I’ve heard it spoken, it’s used as a tool to guilt someone into changing their behavior. Sometimes it’s subjective depending on one’s definition of being treated like garbage (some people think you’re being mean if you don’t agree with them). To me it’s the same as the phrase, “you’re supposed to be a Christian but…” I oppose manipulative statements that produce guilt rather than true repentance.

Biblically speaking you can, in fact, treat people like garbage and still be a worshiper of God. David did it. Paul did for years until God knocked him off of his horse. Peter, the super apostle, did it until Paul checked him on his racism.

All that said, there is a sliver of truth hidden in that meme despite its manipulative tone. A freshwater fountain doesn’t produce salty water. We know the tree by the fruit it bears. What makes the difference is the heart. Those men I listed above, when confronted by God’s Word concerning their behavior, softened their hearts and changed their minds because of their relationship with God.

Now, if I’ve somehow thought way too deep into this one and “worship” in the meme [refers to] standing in the presence of God, hands raised, with music playing, then by all means go for it, no matter how you treat people. I can think of no better place to be transformed than in a mode of worship.

N. Jackson

Mic. Drop.
Thank you very much, Bishop Jackson.

What does Jesus think about extracurricular activities?

I scroll Facebook a couple times a day, just like everybody else. And, I see things, just like everybody else, that I want to share because they’re funny or thought-provoking. But, sometimes I come across something that makes my thumb stop and my brain say, “…what?!” Therefore, the “Facebook ain’t always right” series was born.

When I had the idea for this series months ago, I started saving things from Facebook that made me stop and think, truly think, about whether they were founded in Scripture or if they were material that made for good preaching but bad theology.

Something I’m seeing time and again is the idea that allowing your children to participate in sports and extracurricular activities on days that are historically held as church days is equivalent to teaching them that those things are more important than church.

My sister and I were both on the cheerleading team in middle and high school. Middle school football games were on Wednesday nights when I was a pre-teen. Thankfully, my parents understood that a very short middle-school football season was not going to nullify my salvation and all the teaching I received in church on Sundays because I went to a football game on a Wednesday night. I’m grateful for that. And, if I remember correctly, my Mama took some flak for it. Not many people intimidate my Mama, so she let a lot of it roll off her back. Thankfully, she had some sound teaching from a former pastor’s wife who knew the Word and had wisdom.

See, this is the linchpin: my sister and I were taught about the Word in our home; my parents didn’t rely on the church to do that job for them. Because of that, if we missed six weeks of Wednesday night church, it wasn’t detrimental. Why? Because our parents taught us that our relationship with Jesus was deeper and broader than a church service or a gathering place.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Church was important in my upbringing, and I will forever be grateful for that. It framed so much of who I am and who I will always be. It’s still important; corporate worship can’t be replicated. But, devotions at home and turning off the TV to play worship music at home are also lessons my Mama taught me that I’ll never forget. Getting the Word into your heart and your soul is not only done in the four walls of a church. Learning about who Jesus is as a young child can’t be contained to Sunday School and Wednesday night Bible study.

When I decided to do this series, I asked my friend Neal Jackson to weigh in on these topics with me for two reasons:
1. He’s knowledgeable in the Word.
2. He has a Kingdom mindset.

Here’s his take.

[We are] 2000 years removed from the cross of Christ and we Christians still hold onto the belief that God is limited to a building once a week. An interesting thing happened when Christ was going to the cross that I’d like to share, though it’s interpretation may seem controversial to some. Jesus, on His way to the cross, told His disciples, “I am going to prepare a place for you that where I AM, you may be also.” Of course that’s often relegated to a future heaven, but I believe Jesus spoke in the present tense for a special reason. Those that are in Christ are always in Christ. We are where He is because He prepared a place for us in the house of His Father. It may not be popular to say, but contrary to what this [ideology] implies, If we deify the church building at the expense of time with our family, we’ve missed the reason for our calling in a big way, and yes, even if that time spent was during the Superbowl.

My point, in case it got lost, was that we are the church, the ones in whom the Spirit of God lives, so providing our eyes are on Him in everything we do, we never actually miss church.

N. Jackson

I’d follow that up, but what else is there?

Facebook ain’t always right…

Well, I’m sure you guys know that anybody and everybody can own a Facebook page. And, as such, anybody and everybody can post their opinion. Please understand, I’m very well aware of the irony of this post seeing as how I’m posting my opinion about Facebook on my Facebook.

But, here lately, there’s been a lot circulating regarding God and religion and Christianity, and I have a good friend on the book of faces that tends to have opinions on several of these issues as well.

So, I decided we’d weigh in on these memes and quotes and posts, and we’d give you something to think about.

The first one is below.

You cannot raise your children the way your parents raised you. Because your parents raised you for a world that no longer exists.

3am thoughts

The premise of this seems pretty straightforward. It seems like it makes sense and it certainly sounds good because it takes the pressure off of us as parents to be “as good as our parents were”. For me, I deal with guilt and fear as a parent. These are the two areas that the enemy uses against me the most, so I read this and my flesh immediately thinks, “yes! This is the out I’ve been looking for. I’m not as good of a mother as my mother was, and here’s my scapegoat.” But, then I put my spiritual magnifying glass on this idea, and I see that this is not entirely accurate.

Does the world in which my children live differ greatly from the world in which I grew up? Absolutely.
Does the way my parents raised me look very different from the way I parent? Yeah, some parts of it.
Is that because the world I lived in no longer exists? I don’t think so.

And, neither does my friend Neal Jackson. Here’s what he had to say about it:

It looks good and well thought out on the surface, but to me it implies that principles are fluid and you kind of have to follow the culture in order to know how to raise your children, as if truth evolves. The Bible, and common sense for that matter, confirms that people are given dominion to shape the world, not have the world shape them. If our parents raised us in the admonition of the Lord with integrity and love, then we can by all means raise our children the same way in any generation. It may dress a little differently in 2020, and some details may get tweaked, but the principles of sound teaching remain through the ages.

N. Jackson

He points to a very important concept in his thoughts:

We, as humans, have dominion over every earthly thing. When God created Adam, He told him that whatever he called something, that’s what it would be. He was made in the image of God. He was made to create with his words. This translates to us in present-day life.

Raise your children to believe that God is the creator, Jesus is His son, slain before the foundation of the world for the remission of sins, and the Holy Spirit is our comforter and guide through this life that looks so different from when Adam was walking the earth, when Jesus was walking the earth, when your great-grandparents were walking the earth…but it still belongs to God’s chosen people.

Speak to it, speak to your children, speak over your children. Create the life you want with your words; the life that submits to God’s will. Just because the world you grew up in ceased to exist doesn’t mean the God you were taught to believe in has changed.

It IS the will of God…

Four years ago when Eli received the autism diagnosis, I thought I would fall apart. Not because I couldn’t handle it, but because I didn’t want my baby boy to have to deal with life being different. I didn’t want him to struggle, because I knew then and I know now how hard life is without the added pressure of a “difference” or an “abnormality” in life.

Then, God promised me wholeness and healing for my boy, and, then, here we are four years later. Progressed, yes, but still dealing with the daily issues that autism brings into his life and the lives of those around him. Still dealing with the difference.

Do I not trust God enough?
Did I hear Him wrong?
Is it just Eli’s “lot in life” to be atypical?

Well, in all transparency, maybe my trust falters and waivers a bit in the tough times.
Maybe my flesh faints when I’m waiting on a promise just like the Israelites.
Maybe my eyes are focused on the water instead of the Water Walker.

But, no. I didn’t hear God wrong. And, no. It’s not Eli’s plight to be broken; disjointed like a puzzle missing a few pieces.
It IS the will of God that my son be healed.
It IS the promise of God that he is already healed.

Psalm 103:3 tells us that He is the God who heals all our diseases.
Psalm 107:20 says, “He sends forth His word and heals them…”
Isaiah 53:4-5 foretells Jesus’ suffering at Calvary for the express purpose of salvation and healing.

But, one verse that is very telling of the will of God is the verse in Matthew 8 when the leper came to Jesus. First, the leper worshiped Jesus, and said, “Lord, you have the power to make me well, if only you wanted to.” [Matthew 8:2 CEV] Jesus, in His infinite mercy, replied with some of the greatest words to a sick body, mind, or soul:

Jesus put his hand on the man and said, “I want to! Now you are well.” At once the man’s leprosy disappeared. (emphasis mine)

The thing that makes me so hopeful and joyful about this verse is found in another portion of scripture:

34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality…”

That means that if Jesus wanted to heal the leper, He wants to heal my son. He wants to heal you.

So, today, as I go about my day, I’m going to adopt an attitude from an evangelist with healing anointing, Dr. Danny Johnston. He said when people ask him how he is, he only speaks in Bible verses. If you see me around, and you ask me how Eli’s doing, you’ll only get one response from me:

He is the healed of the Lord.

Vivid Memories…

About a year ago, the Lord gave me an idea for a devotional book for those of us in the Church that have been through some really hard stuff. Things like divorce and broken families. Things like addiction and bitterness.

Things like abortion.

Because I have no understanding or knowledge of some of these issues, I knew I’d have to go outside of myself to gain insight. So, I asked a friend who’d been through abortion to tell her story for me, and I’d like to share it with you. This whole story won’t go into the devotional, so I wanted you to hear it straight from her.

Y’all give Alicia Johnston some love. She’s boldly telling about a decision she made and the consequences she’s faced since.

I remember most details from this day more vividly than any other day in my life.
I remember the car pulling in between a large metal gate that was lined with people yelling and holding signs that went all the way around the block.
I remember getting out the car and just standing there, paralyzed with fear, but trying not to feel anything.
I remember walking up the sidewalk, and hearing a woman scream that I was a murderer. I stopped walking for a second, before I was prompted to keep moving.
I remember the biracial couple walking in front of me. The man turned around and said, “They aren’t paying to raise your baby, so don’t listen to them. You’re going to be ok”.
I remember thinking that was such an odd thing to say. Raise my “baby”? I thought it wasn’t a baby… I’m going to be ok? That was the first lie I heard that day.
I remember the paperwork. And how the worker who handed it to me never looked me in the eye. In fact, no one looked me in the eye that day.
I remember having to talk to multiple people before the procedure, including a pastor. I remember him telling me that “God understands”. At that point in my life, I didn’t care who understood. What was there to understand? I most certainly wasn’t concerned with some man in the sky and what he thought or understood.
I remember going in to have the ultrasound and I asked the woman if the baby feels it. Her response was, “It’s not a baby, honey.”
Oh. That was the second lie I heard that day.
I remember walking into the procedure room and thinking about how shockingly cold it was.
That is the last thing I remember for a while. It’s a blank hole in my memory. I honestly think that I’ve subconsciously removed it.
I remember laying in my bed that afternoon, and for the first time in the whole situation, I cried.
I can’t remember how many days I cried.
I realized I made a mistake. I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t change it.
Someone’s heart wasn’t beating because of me.
I killed someone.
I hate going to the doctor for annual checkups, and they ask: “How many times have you been pregnant?” There’s always a hesitation…
And then awkward silence. Every time.
The reminder. Every time.
There’s so many lies surrounding abortion.
“It isn’t a baby”
“It’s your choice”
“You’re going to be ok”
Satan is the father of lies. God does not make any mistakes. Humans do. Absolutely. But God doesn’t.
Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…”
“…I knew you…”
God KNEW my baby. He knows ALL of the babies. Every single one who doesn’t make it out of the womb, along with those of us that did.
Unfortunately, it took my abortion to understand that.
It took my abortion to help me understand grace.
It took my abortion to understand that God doesn’t make mistakes.
It took my abortion to become pro life.
It took my abortion to see that it is ALL a lie.
No one told me that 13 years later I would still think about it every single day.
No one told me that 13 years later I would still have nightmares about it.
No one told me that 13 years later I would still feel a gaping hole for my first child.
Abortion changes you. It changes everything.
It breaks you in a way that nothing else on this earth can. It tears into your soul and all you can do is cry out to God for His forgiveness and mercy. For years, I dealt with shame and allowed Satan to use this as power over me. Shame to tell anyone, for fear of judgement and ridicule. Shame that could only be removed at the foot of the Cross. The Cross that gave so much, for someone like me.
Thankfully, so thankfully, God forgives. He delivers. He shows new mercies every day.
He has healed the large wounds that came with it. But, during certain seasons of my life it gets difficult again.
I am so thankful that God allowed this to change me, and has given me a voice for the ones who cannot speak for themselves.
“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.” Psalm 40:1-3
Read the rest of Alicia’s posts on her blog here.

Well, y’all…

…I’ve personally confirmed that there is very little in this world that is worse for a parent than having a child hospitalized. The fight to get an IV started, the struggle to sleep, the inability to get over the self-doubt and blame we place on ourselves as parents…especially moms….it’s both terrible and terrifying.

Over the past 5 days, our baby girl has been through the wringer. Diagnosed with the flu on Monday, high fevers for over 48 hours, and finally admitted to the hospital on Thursday afternoon for severe dehydration. Whew, y’all. Mama is tired.

To top it all off, Friday night, my Mama got up to check on us (proof motherhood never truly ends), and realized Elly had somehow disconnected the line feeding the fluid into the IV. The nurses came in and tried to flush the line, and after a minutes-long battle that seemed to last eons, they realized it wouldn’t flush. There was a clot somewhere in the line from all the moving and shaking Elly had been doing.

They left the room to get the charge nurse, and Mama and I began to pray. I didn’t ask her if she prayed. She didn’t pray aloud. But, I knew. She was praying, and so was I. The charge nurse came in and said, “I’ve called the doctor and he has no problem with us taking the IV out. Her fluids are fine. She won’t have a problem.”

I silently rejoiced, and she slowly and methodically began removing the IV from my baby’s arm. She fought a bit, but once it was out, her little body relaxed and she went almost immediately to sleep. I laid down next to her and took a peek at the clock just as a mental note as to what time all this had happened. It was 11:50.

And, in that moment, the Lord spoke into my spirit, “it’s just about midnight.”

I’m not sure what life has put you through this week, this month, this year…shoot, this decade. But, the Lord sent me to tell you, “it’s just about midnight.”

The chains that have bound you for far too long…
The shame you’ve lived behind because of something in your past…
The guilt you can’t let go of because of something that was done to you, not something that you did…
The fear that you’ll never measure up…
The crushing grief of losing someone who’ll never return…

It all ends. But there’s one stipulation. Praise.

“But about midnight when Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; suddenly there was a great earthquake, so [powerful] that the very foundations of the prison were shaken and at once all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.” Acts 16:25-26

Praise Him when you can’t see the way out.
Praise Him when the options are taken away.
Praise Him when the walls are closing in.
Praise Him when you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
Praise Him for the salvation of the person your flesh would love to see pay for what they did.

Don’t let the jailor win. Instead, win Him to Christ, praising God…right about midnight.

First tip to look after your husband:

Have dinner ready.

The 1950’s article I mentioned in the intro to this series goes on to say that meals should be planned ahead, maybe even the day before, so that the meal is on time and ready when he enters the house. This is one way to let your husband know that you have been thinking of him and are concerned about his needs. A good meal is a welcoming thing.

I married a planner. He likes lists and goals and things you can measure. It’s part of his nature, but it’s also a product of his occupation. He manages a lot of people and equipment and systems in 7 cities in our region. That’s a big job with big responsibilities. He lives in planning mode. So, when he gets home, he doesn’t want to have to plan supper or make a choice about what to eat. He’s made decisions all day long, and he’s usually trying his best to get out of what we call “work mode” and focus on me and the kids for the evening.

So, at 5:30 when he walks in and I haven’t even begun supper, or I have no clue what we’re gonna eat, it’s a major letdown for him. It’s not because he expects a hot meal every single night. It’s because he’s tired, he’s hungry and he’s ready to relax.

The really cool thing about that is this: he knows that when he gets home, I’m tired, I’m probably hungry, too, and I want to just breathe a minute now that I have reinforcements. It’s probably why he gets so frustrated when I don’t have a plan for the evening or when there’s very little consistency in how the school nights go in our house. In his mind, a planned day is a good day.

But, see…my brain doesn’t work that way. I’m not a planner by nature. I’m a “let’s see what happens today” kinda girl. He knew this about me before he married me. We’ve known each other a while, and I’ve even worked for him in the past. He knows my tendencies. He knows that I can be extremely lazy in a lot of areas. He knows that if Emily doesn’t want to do it, it probably ain’t gonna get done today. (Sad, but true.)

But, the important thing is that he sees the potential in me. He sees the ability to put my focus into something and do a great job. He sees how diligently I take care of and love on the babies, sometimes to the detriment of the house or other needs. He knows that I can do it all, but he knows that I don’t try as hard as I should sometimes. He loves me as I am, but he desires for me to be better.  

I get frustrated because I don’t want to plan things down to the teeth. I could care less what order we do things in, as long as they get done. But, if I’m honest, I know that if I don’t plan, things normally don’t get done. I love his planning nature, but it drives me crazy some days.

That’s the thing about submission – Biblical submission. It’s a two-way street.

Wives, submit to your husbands…

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church…

I fix my husband’s plate 99% of the time, I get up from my plate to get him whatever he needs from the counter or the fridge during meals, I go back into the kitchen from the living room during the evening and get him a drink or a snack so that he doesn’t have to get up…all these things are me submitting to my husband. Not because he requires these things of me, but because he loves me enough to work a hard job that allows me to be there every day to pick up the 7-year-old with special needs. It allows me to watch the 19-month-old grow up instead of paying someone else to get that joy.

So, what do I do in return? I have dinner ready, or at least in the process when he walks in. I make a decision about what we’re going to eat so he doesn’t have to, and I try my best not to ask if that’s okay with him. (Because, one: it’s one less decision for him, and two: I’m trying to take authority over my domain.) Do I get it right every day? No. I’m not perfect. But, I’m pressing towards the goal of “better”. Not because I need to be good enough to make him happy. Not because it’s a requirement. Because submission is about love, not domination. About knowing the other person’s needs and wants and doing everything you can to meet them.

I love you, Michal Ferber. “Looking after you” is a joy.

Submission…part two:

I need to preface these posts by saying two things: 

ONE: I am a stay-at-home mama. While that is, in my humble opinion, the hardest job on the planet, it does have its advantages in certain areas. So, these comments are coming from that perspective. That doesn’t mean that wives that work outside the home can’t take anything from this, but it is probably skewed in a working Mama’s mind.

TWO: When I started fleshing out the jotted notes and thoughts I have on this subject, it really began to get much broader than I originally planned. This may be a lot longer of a “series” than I anticipated.

In 1950, the divorce rate was around 25% in America. What that really means is that far more people were staying married than were getting divorced. Now, a segment of the population that feels that women are the same as men probably blame that on what they perceived as the oppression that men kept women under for millennia.

Please hear my heart. I do believe that there were some men who abused the power society afforded them. They believed women were to be seen and not heard. Women were there as ornaments to make them look good and successful and powerful. There are still men who believe that way, and that truly is oppression, and it’s wrong in every sense of the word.

But, I believe as a society, we have gotten gender identities so skewed from what the Creator intended. Bishop Tony Miller says it best: “If you want to know the purpose of something, ask the One who made it.” There’s no clearer picture of how God intended man and woman than the one of Adam and Eve in the garden before “the fall” – that is, before they ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.  

The second chapter of Genesis tells us that God wanted Adam to have a helper. Since Genesis 1:27 already told us that male and female were created and were in Adam, he didn’t have to create Eve. He only had to pull her out of Adam.

Male and female have always been, even before Adam and Eve, and male and female were created in God’s image, so male and female are within God. Being infinite, God had no issue containing all of “male-ness” and “female-ness”. Adam, as a finite being, needed help. The age-old joke is that if God had created Eve first, there would have been no need for Adam. Don’t we women wish we were that good? It’s not possible. God created male and female to have distinct identities, and neither gender could have held it all.

So, he pulled the rib from Adam and shaped it into Eve’s form. He put on her the attributes “corresponding” to Adam’s. He split the characteristics of mankind into two very specific categories. But, just because the categories are specific, doesn’t mean they’re clearly defined. This is where most people who believe as I do have trouble. This is where I have trouble.

How do I reconcile life in the 21st century with life in the 1st?

To be continued…

Last night, as I was praying for my husband …

…before I went to bed, I felt the Lord urging me to do a very odd thing. I kept hearing in my spirit, “Go lay at his feet and pray.” That was really strange to me, so I asked the Lord to repeat Himself, you know…like maybe He changed His mind. There it was again. That prompting to go and lay at my husband’s feet and pray.

So, I did it. I laid on the floor at the end of the footboard on his side of the bed and I prayed. I prayed about the recurring arguments we have. I prayed about the prophetic words and words of healing that my family received this past weekend. I prayed that he would be more understanding and have more patience with me.

And there came the prompting again. This time, it was something along the lines of this: “Quit praying for what you want and pray for what he wants.”

At this point, I was kinda over being told what to do and then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks on the head: I was doing what the Lord asked me to do, but I was using the opportunity for my own gain. I was praying that God would change things in my husband that I don’t like. What I should have been doing was praying that God would get my attention a little more often and teach me when to shut my mouth and listen.

I wasn’t submitting to the authority of the Lord, and because that relationship was out of order, my relationships in the natural were, by very virtue of the law of how life works in the Kingdom, out of order.

I ran across a clipping from a Home Economics book a couple years ago on Facebook. It was getting shared like wildfire and ridiculed mercilessly. You probably know the one I’m referring to; you may have shared it or at least read it and scoffed, thinking life has changed so very much since then. But, as I began to read it, the Holy Spirit was ministering to me in a way that changed my viewpoint of a topic that many deem “icky”: submission. It was beyond recognition as opposed to my former perspective.

Over the next few posts, I’m going to break down this clipping and try my best to relate to you the revelation given to me by the Holy Spirit. He’s a better teacher than I, so, please take what I’m saying in love, chew on it, marinate in it, and if it works for your life, put it into practice. I’m truly preaching to myself with this information, and reproof isn’t easy or fun. But, it certainly makes life easier when you learn how to get right those things you’ve been repeatedly getting wrong for a lifetime.

I promise. I see the irony here…

…in the fact that the last time I posted, it was to inform y’all that I deactivated my Facebook.

I was so over the drama within those four edges of my phone screen. Never had I ever witnessed so many adults whining and complaining about things that don’t amount to a hill of beans in the big picture. So, early in May, I clicked that big blue button with excitement! Then, yesterday happened.

I was honored to be in two church services yesterday with some of my favorite people on the planet, and the Sunday evening service’s song service and sermon were all about healing. The Lord began to drop little nuggets of conviction into my spirit throughout the night.

“You see it as complaining and whining. I see it as an overflow of a hurting, broken spirit that desperately needs someone to reach out.”

“You see the bickering and arguing as immaturity and ridiculousness. I see it as an outcry for someone to pay attention to their pain.”

Isn’t it amazing what a shift in perspective can do? Isn’t it amazing how the enemy can rob us of ministry opportunities by fostering the selfish nature within us?

So, yes. I reactivated. I’m back. My flesh wants to delete it again already. I’ve already seen and heard some pretty tough stuff. But, instead, I’ll use it to fuel the fire of ministry within my heart, and hopefully, I can be a blessing to those who are so deeply craving the touch of Master’s strong hand.