Monday, November 9, 2015

I am the choir. Sing to me.

I know it's been awhile. I've decided to write only when I'm feeling strongly enough about a subject to use some of my limited mental energy.

On my mind this morning is the idea of preaching to the choir.

But let me go back and give you the background. Many months ago, I wrote about my struggle to finish a novel I believed God wants me to write. Since then, I have had friends, acquaintances, and random people online tell me that Christians should not make art tailored to a Christian audience. That it is more important - and a higher calling - to make art that appeals to secular society while still containing the general truths of God, in order to draw the unsaved to the Lord. 

More than one person said to me that tailoring our art to a Christian audience is like preaching to the choir. 

Which sounds true and it makes sense. Kinda. 

But I think that message has been holding me back. 

I have thought that my calling as a writer is to challenge complacent Christianity and unbiblical messages that have seeped into the Christian culture and skewed the way we apply the principles of the gospel. In short, to admonish myself and other Christians through my writing. I add myself in there because I often write about the things I also need to hear. 

That's never been a problem with my blog posts or articles I've written that preach Christian truths using the language of Christianity and openly discussing Christ, salvation, holy living, etc. But when I engage my creative brain to write fiction that conveys these same messages, I am somehow no longer doing something worthy - or as worthy. 

No one would tell the pastor's administrative assistant that he or she should take a secular job instead of sitting in church all day interacting mostly with other Christians. We don't tell the people who support and train the missionaries their job is not as important as being out on the mission field. We would never consider telling Billy Graham or Oswald Chambers that their writings don't appeal enough to a secular society. 

So why do we put this burden on our artists? Why do we expect all musicians who follow Christ to be like Switchfoot (a group who chooses not to sing "Christian" music)? Why don't we want our musicians to sing to the choir? And relating it back to my art - why don't we want our novelists, short story writers, and poets to write to the choir?

Here's a secret-not-secret: 

I need preaching to. 

I need my pastor to teach me the Word and help me to apply it to my life, yes. But I also need to read stories that openly preach.  I need to listen to music that reminds me I am a child of God, reminds to pray, reminds me to share the gospel with the broken. 

Sure I like to listen to Matt Maher sing about how love is a powerful force without need to mention God or Jesus specifically. But sometimes I need to listen to Casting Crowns remind me that I -and this world - need a savior.  I enjoy Needtobreathe songs like "Brother," but I also like to sing overtly Christian lyrics like those in their song "Multiplied." They are both on the same album, by the way. 

I like to read Ted Dekker thrillers, but sometimes I need the messages contained in books like his "Blessed" series. 

Ultimately, what we need to understand and accept is that there is a place for both types of artists/messages. There is a place for art that draws the secular world gently to Christ and there is a place for art that uplifts the Body of Christ with overtly Christian messages. Neither calling is more holy or important than the other. 

The most important thing for a Christian artist is to do the work God draws you to. Share your message in the way God has asked you. 

Create your art for the audience God has put on your heart. 

And do it for His glory. 

Now… if you'll excuse me, I have a novel to write. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

You Should Be Friends With Those People

This isn’t a post about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. Nor is it about keeping people around to fuel your addiction to drama and debate. 

This is about learning to love and seeing others as complex human beings. 

I am a conservative Christian who believes in the humanity of the unborn, the 2nd Amendment, that true marriage is between a man and a woman, and most other so-called traditional values. I am a proponent of small-government and a critic of public education. I do not like President Obama, and honestly think he’s bad for the country and kinda evil. However... 


There are people in my life that I love that completely disagree with me on much of that or even all of it. Friends who put Obama stickers on their cars. Friends who are die-hard feminists who would gladly volunteer at an abortion clinic if they had the time. Friends who support Socialism as a form of government. Friends who don’t think private citizens should own guns. Friends who are - horror - atheists. 

And I am a better person for it. 

And I am a better person for it. 

That was an intentional repeat, by the way -so you don’t miss it. I got to know these people through various shared life experiences and/or common interests. I allowed myself to know them and care about them and, in the process, see that they are moms and dads who love their kids like I love my kids, husbands and wives who want to make their marriage work like I want to make my marriage work, people who care about the suffering of others like I care about the suffering of others. They are complex human beings just like I am. 

In his book You Are Now Less Dumb, author David McRaney, speaking about the illusion of asymmetrical insight,* writes:

[It] clouds your ability to see the people you disagree with as nuanced and complex. You tend to see yourself and the groups you belong to in shades of gray, but others and their groups as solid and defined primary colors lacking nuance or complexity.

No one wants to be labeled and then evaluated only through that label. Nor does anyone deserve it. But we do it, and then we stop seeing the people behind the opposing viewpoints. 

Once we do that, we can’t have honest, respectful conversations because we can't acknowledge the valuable humanity of the person we’re talking to. 

We start using terms like “those people.” 

Oh, I’m still guilty of this. But by remaining friends with “those people” instead of writing them off like they’re cardboard characters in this world just to annoy me and squash my beliefs, I know that I can continue to push back against that natural tendency. And I can see people as people. 

Because Jesus loves them as much as he loves me.

Thank you to all my friends who challenge me to love outside my comfort zone. You know who you are. 

*The illusion of asymmetric insight is the misconception that "[we] celebrate diversity and respect others' points of view," when the truth is that "[we] are driven to create and form groups and then believe others are wrong just because they are others." 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

human love doesn't conquer all

Today I have a guest post up at the Sisters in Heart blog. I'm honored that they let me be a part of the great work they are doing. Jump over and read my take on the concept of human love healing the broken. In a way, it's a follow up to my last post.

Human Love Doesn't Conquer All

Friday, February 13, 2015

what if it were your daughter?

Over the past few days as the country has geared up for the release of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey, I've become increasingly dismayed at the number of Christian women defending the movie and the books. The most common defense is that the Fifty Shades trilogy is a redemption story. Christian Grey is a lost and broken person, and Ana's love helps him heal and become capable of real love.

My first question, dear Christian woman, is how can it be a redemption story when it is built around an extramarital sexual relationship? How do you even begin to rationalize that it's a good story?

Aside from the fact that this sexual relationship is immoral from the beginning, the relationship is also incredibly disordered and abusive.

Psychologists have come out against the books and movie for glamorizing pervasive domestic abuse and identity harming. I'm going to give you the link to a study. But, here's my warning. This contains possible triggers for survivors of abuse. Also, there are sexually-explicit passages from the book in the sexual abuse examples.

It's not any shade of grey. It's all black. Their relationship is dysfunctional from day one.

So here is my next question for you. What if it were your daughter? What if Ana was your daughter and she came to you and told you all about her new relationship? What if she said things like:

He doesn't like my friends and doesn't think I should see them.

I feel threatened by his behavior. Sometimes it seems like he's stalking me.

He gets angry at me and threatens me a lot. 

He scares me.

He wants me to do sexual things that scare me.

We have a sexual arrangement. He says he doesn't do love. And, by the way, I'm not supposed to tell anyone about our arrangement. 

He's controlling of what I eat and threatens to punish me for being bad, like he's my father or something.

Our first sexual encounter, he gave me lots of alcohol, yelled and cursed at me for not telling him I was a virgin, and then he was really rough with me.

Mom, I'm not really sure about this situation. He's so broken and I just want to love him. I'm sure if I just love him enough I can change him. I should stay with him, right?

How would you answer her? I know what I would say.

NO WAY. Run away. Fast. I will protect you. 

That is not what scripture means when it says to love the unbeliever so he will be won over by you. 

And I'd tell her this:

Jesus is the way of redemption.

Jesus makes the damaged person whole.

The love of Christ changes people's hearts and teaches them how to love.

Not you surrendering your identity and your body to a man's every whim in the hopes that you will change him.

Unfortunately, in real life these stories rarely end well. And the spiritual truth is that this relationship does not honor Christ in any way. Not. in. any. way.  Stop defending it. Stop glamorizing it. Stop rationalizing it. Stop allowing yourself to be deceived.

Stop calling what is evil good.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

why I'm not praying for the purity of my children's future spouses

Every Christian thinks about what kind of people they would like their children to marry. And if we're "good" parents and "good" Christians, we pray for those future spouses. We pray they will be good people, and that they will follow the Lord.

And we pray they will be pure until marriage. Don't we? I mean, aren't we supposed to? Isn't that what we all want?



Go off on a tangent with me here… I promise I will bring it back around.

I teach a childbirth education class for Christians. But it's not like stages of birth, what to expect, etc., except in how those things relate to the main focus of the class.  And my main focus is this: keeping Christ at the center of your birth. Christ. At the center. Every decision, every time.

And also at the center as it relates to outcomes. What's a good outcome for childbirth? The only right answer is: Whatever God allows. Whatever. he allows.

Not healthy mom, healthy baby. That's not the only good outcome. Sure, we'd all like that. Nobody wants their childbirth to be complicated or tragic. But until we accept that God causes all things to work for good - including any outcome in birth - we have not surrendered our all to him.

So what does this have to do with spouses for our children and purity?

Simply this: I want my children to find and accept the person God has for them. Period. That's the good outcome. That's the goal.

Christians hold "purity" up so high. And with seemingly good reason. We want marriage beds undefiled. We want to protect our kids from the heartache and suffering that can come from intimate relationships outside of marriage, including the baggage they can bring into a marriage from that.

But do we want to teach our kids that only virgins are worthy spouses? Do we want to teach them that if that boy or that girl has a history that includes kissing or other intimacies that they don't deserve a holy marriage? Or if they themselves make a mistake that they don't deserve a holy marriage?

Or do we want to teach them that Christ's sacrifice covers a multitude of sins? That his blood purifies? That that man or woman who made mistakes in the past is now pure in God's sight?

Do we want our children to look for a virgin or do we want them to look for someone who loves and follows the Lord?

You already know my answer. I pray that my children find someone who loves the Lord and is willing to go all in, for better or worse, until death do them part. Someone who is committed to purity in their relationship with my child. And that's it. Because the man or woman who follows the Lord is pure in his sight, who are we to see them otherwise?

Nothing is more important than this truth: Christ came to seek and save the lost. Christ came so that we all might have forgiveness for whatever sins are lurking in our past.

I won't teach my kids to look for sexual inexperience.

I won't pray that my kids will look for sexual inexperience.

I pray that they look for Christ.

UPDATE: After getting some feedback yesterday, I felt I needed to come back and add something. This post was not meant to discourage you from praying how you feel led. I can't make those decisions for you, and I would never want to keep you from following the prompting of the Holy Spirit. For instance, one person told me that she feels led to pray specifically that her children's future spouses do not have a problem with alcohol. Because people in her family have that problem. Because she knows the heartache and the struggle and doesn't want that for her children. And that's wonderful. She is listening to the Holy Spirit.

And maybe you do feel led to pray for the purity of your children's future spouses. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Pray as he leads you. But as you teach your children how to pray for their future spouses, make sure they understand that it's because you feel led, not because that one virtue is not the be-all, end-all.

And make sure you aren't praying a certain way because some "good" Christians told you that you must.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Costco shopping on a modified GAPS diet

Hey everyone! I'm back again! Did you miss me? 

Well, I'm easing in. Nothing too controversial. 

But don't worry, that's coming. Today groceries, next up… well, I have some ideas that are sure to stir up some trouble. 

So I started the GAPS diet in February of 2014. It's been a long, hard road, as cliche as that sounds. (Hey, someone tell me how to get that accent mark over my e!) I'm happy to report that I feel better than I have in 15 years. Yay for a healthy, whole-foods diet! 

GAPS is pretty restrictive, though as my healing progresses I do get to add more foods. But people often ask me what I eat, and I thought I'd share the typical things I buy at Costco. 

Part of GAPS (and really any whole foods diet) is eliminating processed foods. We do eat some when they have limited ingredients, like the applesauce I bought today. However, it has ascorbic acid, which is not preferable. I won't be eating it, but I'll let the kids have it because their systems aren't as sensitive as mine. 

With two teens in the house, food disappears fast! 

Okay, here's the list:

The aforementioned applesauce. 36 individual cups, organic, no added sugar. 
Organic chia seeds. I just started eating chia seed pudding, and I'm hooked!
Frozen organic strawberries
Kerrygold butter
Dried dates 
Dried figs
Organic baby cut carrots
Organic large carrots
Sweet onions
Organic raisins
Coconut oil
Avocado oil
Canned wild Alasken salmon
Raw almonds
Sea salt
Himalayan salt
Pure maple syrup

You'll notice there aren't a lot of fresh vegetables on that list. It's not because we don't eat them; it's because there are very few that we eat frequently enough to justify buying in quantity. 

Could you put together a meal or two from that list?