Monday, October 22, 2012

Selling Jesus

Okay, so admittedly, the title is a bit far fetched.
Or is it?

But it has to do with a conversation my husband, brother-in-law, and I had Saturday night at the Matthew West concert. Now, mind you, I've been to a jillion (yes, a jillion) Christian concerts in my short 25 years. I've purchased CD's, t-shirts, posters, and the like from the merchandise stations in the foyers of said concerts and I haven't thought twice. Saturday night, however, as we walked in the doors at Victory Church and strolled past the merch tables on our way to find our seats in the sanctuary, my brother-in-law made the comment that he wondered how Jesus would feel about these merchandising tables, if He would overturn them like He did the money changers in the temple.
Matthew 21:12 (KJV) says, "And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves."

And that started a very interesting dialogue between us - mostly hubs and b-i-l at first because their questions and comments were making me think and I honestly didn't want to think. The conversation then turned to actually selling tickets to Christian concerts or even those labeled "Worship concerts," or selling "Worship CD's." The question arose, "Do we (as Christians) try to sell worship?" I made the point that you can't actually "sell" worship. Worship is an action and therefore something that you choose to do. A song is not an actual song of worship until you make it a song of worship in your heart. However, the point was made.

First of all, is it wrong for concerts that are held in a house of worship to have tables selling merchandise? Is that not like the money changers in the temple? What about those churches that have book stores? Honestly, I'm throwing out questions. I do not claim to have the answers.

Later that night, hubs and I started talking about how we as a Christian culture have marketed Jesus. We put Him on shirts, key chains, bumper stickers, bobble heads, you name it. Now I see the idea behind shirts that can create opportunities to share Jesus with someone who might make a comment about it. But have you seen Jesus bobble heads? That is  - ridiculous. Have we reduced the King of Kings to a bobble head? I used to hate those "Jesus is my homeboy" t-shirts that were so popular a few years ago. Was it a few? Could have been 10 years ago and at this point, that feels like a few. Anyway, I just thought they were downright degrading. He is the Name above all names, the risen Son of God, and we have the audacity to make him a trend on a t-shirt? And that's exactly what those shirts were - a trend. Friends, Jesus is NOT a trend. I just want to make that clear. He is, was, and always will be. End of story.

So I guess I wrote this in hopes that I'd get some feedback. What are your thoughts? Are we as a Christian culture trying to "sell Jesus?" Is it okay to sell artist merchandise at tables inside a house of worship? Let's dialogue. I don't claim to know the answers and I certainly don't want to start some nasty debate so if you're interested in leaving feedback, please be courteous. Scripture welcome too...


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Once Upon a Dream

As far back as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer. At a very early age I was creating my own stories. Mom tells me I never let her read to me. I would just take the book myself and come up with my own tale. I wrote numerous stories throughout grade school: mysterious alien abductions (yes, you can laugh), magical jars of sand, victims becoming friends with their bullies - you name it. It didn't matter, as long as I was creating some other world.

Somewhere along the way (I'm not sure when) the passionate writer in me fizzled out - bombarded by the mundane writing of an overachieving student. Don't get me wrong, I dazzled my teachers with my writing (or baffled with BS, either one). It was always on point - it just wasn't ME. It was academic. I don't like writing academically. I like creating.

In college, through one of my favorite professors (one of many), Professor DeBorde (whom I had the privelege of taking 3 classes with), I grabbed hold of that long lost passion. It was like finding an old pair of shoes that fit just right. I brought those "shoes" out, dusted them off, and tried them on realizing then how much the writing thing just fit me.

Herein lies the problem though: I get a great idea for a story. I run with it for a few months. I add to the precision of the plot, the complexity of the characters, the chaos of the conflicts, and things are going really well. The movie in my head is being transformed to words on a page and I am all in.


If you're a writer, you've been there. It's the worst feeling. It's a nightmare, and for some can take weeks, months, or even YEARS to claw their way through the darkness.

The BLOCK. The writer's block. It's a true thing, people. If you're not a writer, you don't understand this. You may struggle with knowing where to start writing something at times but a true writer's block can only be experienced by a true writer. Sorry, but that's the truth.

I have grandiose ideas for whatever story I am writing at the time and words are flowing steadily until one day I feel like I've hit a wall and I have no idea where to take the rest of the story. And that, dear friends, is the story of this writer's life. I have started so many stories that I have had the notion of turning into a novel or at the very least a novella and then I hit the block and it never does get finished.

For a while I became bogged down with comparing my writing to others and just thinking that it wasn't as good or creative or complex...but I've decided not to do that anymore. My writing is exactly that - it's mine. I have my own voice and my own way of telling things and I don't need to worry about how anyone else tells it.

Right now I have a book I've started and have allowed only a few people to read. I haven't worked on it in a while because I've been unsure of where to take it - the block, people, the block. I hate it. But I've decided to just write and discover as I go. I mean, I always have the revision process. I think what did it was when my hubby actually said today, "You need to write." For some strange reason, hearing that confirmation from him was like gasoline to an engine.

I do need to write. I need to write and finish this story I've been working on - a story of forgiveness, redemption, and unconditional love. I will finish it. I've decided to spend 30 minutes a night just working on it. Hubby has given me his blessing to do that (because I don't want to take time away from him) but I have to devote time to it for it to ever get done. So hold me accountable will you? Ask me periodically how the book is coming so I am forced to be honest with myself.

Perhaps in a few years, you'll be one of the first to own the debut novel of this aspiring author. That's the dream!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ugh Politics

Let me be real for a second: I hate politics. Don't understand them. Don't like them. And honestly, could care less. Now maybe that's ignorance speaking but that's just the truth. Try as I may, I have no interest in politics. I know how important it is to be informed and educated and I also know that you can't believe everything you hear in the news...after all, the majority of the media is liberal minded and if you know me at all, you know that I am so not.

Here's the thing though: this election is madness. Is it an important election year? You betcha. But let me tell you how happy I am during this time that we don't have cable - I am so happy I don't have sit through all the nasty campaign commercials where candidates bash each other and blah, blah, blah. Half the time they spend more money and more time on telling what the other candidate is doing wrong or has done wrong and not enough time on what exactly THEY are going to do to change the current situation in America.

I'll be honest, I don't support either candidate. If I didn't feel so strongly that it was my American duty to vote, I probably just wouldn't vote at all in this election. But I do feel that it is my duty and so vote I will...though not with much excitement. I already know where my vote will go and I don't need to broadcast that to the whole world, via blogger, facebook, or any other venue. And that's what I can't stand.

I hate reading facebook posts after a debate. People's true colors sure do come out. What is the point of calling other people stupid or racist if they don't vote for your candidate? You think that's really going to change their minds? Come on, now.

I know several educated and respectable people voting for Romney and I know several educated and respectable people voting for Obama. Do I think you are stupid, racist, or have no class because you might not be voting for the same candidate as I am? Absolutely not! It's quite clear that we simply have two different views, varying values, and unique opinions. Isn't that what this country is all about anyway - diversity?

It's been said by people before that you have to separate your faith from your politics. Really? If you call yourself a Christ follower, how do you justify separating your faith from ANYTHING in your life? There are certain issues that I am simply not willing to compromise on because of my faith and the Bible that I read. I can't separate my faith from my politics - it's simply impossible.

The thing is: politicians lie. ALL of them. Show me one that hasn't or positively won't in the future and I'd probably say let's elect him! Those who think Romney tells the truth all the time are blinded. Those that think Obama has told the truth and isn't lying about things he's done are blinded. They make empty promises that they won't, don't, or can't keep. As much as they would like to think they run the country, they don't. I may be ignorant toward certain issues (taxes, homeland security, economic recovery, etc.) but I am not so naive as to think that the elections aren't somehow rigged. Does my vote REALLY matter? Maybe, maybe not. I simply don't trust the government. That's the bottom line. I'm not a crazy conspiracy theorist...I just don't trust them.

So herein lies the clencher: whoever becomse president, whether Obama takes a 2nd term or Romney somehow takes the oval office, both will lie, both will break promises, and both will fail at something along the way. But God is God and Jesus is King and if we can just remember that and trust in HIM instead of a human, maybe we'd all be better off...and a little less mean and nasty during election time.

Just sayin'....

Worry? What's the Point?

So my devotion (in my 40 days to spiritual makeover book) this morning was on wearing the accessory of worry and how many of us wear it daily like an ugly purse over our shoulder. With each circumstance, situation, ordeal, or possiblility of any of the aforementioned, that purse or bag just gets heavier and heavier. And yet, we carry it like a heavy burden thinking illogically that it does some sort of good.

Hey! Incase you weren't doesn't! Worry does no one any good! I mean, Jesus even said, "Which of you by worrying can add one day to his life?" Worrying doesn't do anything but make you sick - mentally, spiritually, and physically.

Trust me - I've done my share of worrying over the last year or so. You know what it did for me? NOTHING! It did plenty TO me: it made me sick to my stomach, stressed me out, made me irritable, stole my joy, etc, etc, etc. But it never helped me.

I finally examined the areas of my life that I was worried about and there was a pattern: ultimately, those were the areas I had not fully surrendered to God. So you know what? I did surrender those areas. And peace has completely bumped worry out of its hold in my life and kicked its stinkin' butt.

Worry also means that you are not FULLY trusting God with whatever it is you are worried about. Believe me when I say that God can be trusted...He should be trusted.

At church the last 2 weeks, we have been steeped in the sermon series, "OVERWHELMED!"
It has been great! I am so thankful to be part of a body that carries each others burdens, that doesn't judge, and that prays.

Jason did not get the CSX job that he interviewed for a few weeks ago...was I worried? Nope. I had complete peace that God's will would be done and I was okay with either decision. The waiting was agonizing...I'm not very patient. But when the email finally came that he was not chosen, I was fine- completely and utterly at peace and not worried. God has always provided. He has always taken care of us. And I have no doubt, He will continue to do so.

With that said, we are still praying for God's direction in the job matter. But I know that whatever God's will is perfect. And so is His timing.

So's the simple part: Stop Worrying and trust that God will work it all out. He is the Master, Perfector, and Finisher of our faith and if He brings you to it - well, He'll bring you through it! Trust in that. Hold onto that. It's true!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Washed By the Water

Twenty years ago, as a mere five year old little girl, I knew that Jesus loved me and that if I asked Him into my heart, He would save me and I would go to Heaven with Him when I died. And five year olds do understand more than I think we sometimes give them credit for...but my understanding was still very basic and there have been many occassions in the last 20 years that I have tripped up, veered off in the wrong direction, been distracted by the things around me, and been anything but Christ like.

If I look back and am truly honest about my "walk" with Christ, my footsteps have probably been wandering more than in step with His. I think sometimes those of us who were saved at a young age and grew up in the church in a loving Christian home, those of us who don't have some rock bottom to mountain top testimony, and those of us who have just tried to live a good and decent Christian life...I think we lose the passion along the way. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade the life I had growing up for anything because it shaped the person I am today...but there have been times that I wish I had a more exciting testimony that would leave people speechless and amazed at what God has done in my life.

And that's the clencher. Looking back at what God has done in my life leaves ME speechless and amazed. So does it matter how it makes others "feel?"

With that said, I've struggled with my lack of passion for quite some time now. I'd lost the joy in my salvation. Have you ever seen a new Christian? I mean, a person who has just been transformed? It's an incredible thing...and so encouraging. But I have struggled, being a Christian for most of my life, to gain the same excitement in my salvation. In the last few months though, that excitement in my salvation has slowly been emerging. I've been learning so much more about what it truly means to be a Christian, a true Christ follower, not just a moral church goer.

So God laid on my heart that I should be baptized again. Now that I understand the real symbolism behind baptism and the significance of that symbolic burial to my old self.

And so I was baptized again on Sunday, by the man that I think I have grown the most from in the last few months and years. It's hard to describe the feeling of going under that water and rising up out of it. It's amazing. I really felt cleansed. It was like I could feel my old self just drown in that water and this new creation come up out of the water. I had plenty of old self...plenty of gossipy, lazy, negative, worrisome, old self to bury (all of that while a Christian!). Out of the water came a woman of peace. That's the best way to describe it...sheer joy and PEACE!

I let go of a lot in that water. I needed that. I craved that. I got that.

Washed by the Water....the Living Water. Ain't nothin' better I tell ya!