Your voice matters

The weekend before last, my 8 year old had a soccer game. While we were there watching, something very strange was happening. There were two adults roaming the fields policing the mask policy.

This is not a post to discuss the merits of wearing a mask or whether or not you agree with the policy. The two individuals that were on the soccer field that day were going above and beyond any requirements. Here’s a run down of what happened.

My mom, who is someone I consider a mask wearing advocate if you will was sitting outside, more than 10 feet away from anyone else when we arrived and she was sipping her coffee. The lady approached her and reprimanded her for having her mask pulled down and told her she needed to pull it up in between sips.

My daughter, when she was sitting off the field during her rest period, outside and not near anyone and who had her mask pulled down to get some fresh air (she plays soccer with a mask on, which I am not a fan of but we comply) was reprimanded and told to pull her mask back up.

My husband (the coach) was wearing a black gator type mask (he’s running during the games up and down the field too) was handed a medical mask by the man and told her needed to wear that instead of the gator.

I had brought food and was snacking on our blanket, again, outside and seated no where near anyone else and was told I needed to keep my mask up in between bites and then the woman stood off and stared at me for a couple minutes to make sure I got the message.

Many other spectators were sitting spread far apart and were also harassed and one of the girls on my daughters team was distressed watching her grandpa argue loudly with the two Individuals before he was asked to leave.

The whole experience left a very bad taste in my mouth. Again, this is not about the merits of mask wearing to prevent the spread of Covid. For the most part, everyone at the game was complying with the rules. It felt like the two individuals were there to “get people”.

I used to work as an official for the state high school track meet. I remember clearly, the head official telling us all that we were not there to try to “get people out”. We were told to always give warnings to athletes and only disqualify someone when absolutely necessary to ensure fair play. It was supposed to be fun competition and if we did our jobs, most of the time no one knew we were there.

So I go back to the soccer game. Kids and parents are there trying to have fun and the two individuals turned it into something completely different.

My husband sent an email to the organization and apparently many other parents did too. Enough parents complained that they scheduled a virtual meeting about it that very week. My husband was very kind in his email. He just asked for clarification on what exactly the rules are and where they were coming from. He tried to find some of them that people were being harassed about on the soccer page and the health department page and couldn’t find them.

Other parents had these same questions and wanted to know what organization the two individuals represented. We are not involved in baseball or softball but some parents have kids that play baseball and softball too and pointed out the difference in enforcement at the ball fields.

The day after the meeting the soccer organization sent out an email admitting that it was not the county health department enforcing these rules but rather volunteers from within the organization that took it upon themselves to be the mask police under the guise of trying to not get soccer shut down by the health department. They told us they would no longer be roaming the fields, and indeed the next Saturday was a much better experience for all. They then requested that we all follow the rules because the county health department could show up at any time.

This is exactly what happens when people take it upon themselves to be the authority in righteousness. Churches have long been criticized for similar tactics. It’s like this with raising children too. If you try to be too authoritarian, you may win the particular battle but eventually your kids will resent you if your rules are harsh and serve no purpose. They will learn how to not get caught and take pleasure in defying you. However, if you take a more authoritative approach and let your children have as much freedom as possible while also keeping them safe and healthy they will feel respected and in turn have more respect towards you if they feel your rules were fair and that you weren’t just trying to control them. I try to even let my toddler have as much freedom as possible. If it’s not that big of a deal, I give him choices and save the things that are non negotiable for the times I have the authority.

People like to be treated with respect and allowed the maximum amount of freedom to make their own choices. My opinion is that these two individuals are particularly strong advocates of mask wearing and that people who do not want to wear masks in all situations really bother them. They feel they are carrying out some moral responsibility by policing people as though their lives depended upon wearing masks while seated more than 6 feet away from people while outdoors. They are not following the science and they further work to divide people by proving to those that are already against blanket mask mandates that they are more concerned with the morality of it than the science and health.

I think we all need to do our best to lower the temperature. We should speak up when something isn’t sitting right with us, like my husband and many parents did. It should always be done in a respectful way, and then I believe it really does make a difference.

Memory Lane

I went for a run tonight and I ended up running a route that took me back in time.

My house was built in 1991 but many of the houses in the older parts were built in the 80’s and there was something about them that was just calling me tonight. They are clearly older homes from a style long gone. The homes are much smaller, but the majority of them are very well kept and interesting to look at. The landscaping is often elaborate and there are very large trees throughout. It just gives the whole area more of a feel of being in nature.

The newer neighborhoods that I sometimes run through have much bigger houses and everything about them is “new”. I often find it kind of boring scenery with the houses all similar shades and decorated in the new “clean” style. It’s not that I don’t like these new homes, I actually do like them. It’s just that there’s something about this old style that tugs at my heartstrings and makes for a better run.

Maybe it’s because it reminds me of “simpler times.” Sure, I know the 80’s had plenty of its own issues, but looking back on it now, it sure seems better than what’s going on today.

We never had air conditioning when I was a kid. My kids don’t know how we all would grab sleeping bags and sleep in the basement on hot summer nights or how a heavy rain would bring out all the neighborhood kids to go dance. We spent most of our summers outside and the neighborhood kids were our best friends. Our homes weren’t big and beautiful but we didn’t really care. I can still hear the sound that our screen door made as it shut because we literally ran in and out of each other’s houses all day.

But there was something else missing back then too. I’m reminded of it as I pass a house with a sign proudly displaying the families ideology. In this side of the hood, it’s the first and only one I see. Over on our side, it’s more plentiful. I can’t remember a time from my childhood that people posted their ideologies in their front lawn. If I look back, I doubt we knew any of our neighbors political beliefs other than the signs in support of a person in the weeks leading up to an election. I definitely don’t recall my parents ever talking about our neighbors politics.

Today, in this world my children are growing up in, every aspect of life has been politicized. It’s not just outside people’s homes, it’s in their social media profile. It’s in the comment section of every local news story. It’s in the products you buy, it’s in the tv and movies you watch and even medicine has been politicized, and it’s just too much.

I had to wonder at all that’s changed in the last 30 years; the technology, the political divisiveness, the size of our homes. Has it made us happier? It doesn’t seem like it has. People seem angrier than I’ve ever seen in my life. Are our children happier? I’m trying as hard as I can to give my children the kind of childhood I had and I’m so thankful I live in a neighborhood where it’s a reality.

It was nice to take a jog down memory lane and think about the direction our country and the people of it have taken. Maybe it’s wishful thinking to hope our country gets sick of all this polarization and can get back to just respecting one another and leaving politics for the voting booth.

One of my favorite movies of all time, Forrest Gump was from the 90’s. If you watch it today, it’s the ultimate movie of the two “sides” coming together with the marriage of Forrest to Jenny. They were a surprisingly good couple because they balanced each other out. It’s something that seems impossible today. I myself have always been able to see other people’s ideas and beliefs that differ from my own in the light that they are good intentioned. Lately however, I’ve been having a harder time as it’s entrenched every aspect of our entire lives. My husband and I don’t even watch any tv any more. All our favorite shows have some political message or are just a reflection of what’s going on currently and I just feel like I need a break from it. We watched tv for entertainment and to escape reality, not be reminded of it 24/7.

I don’t know where things are headed but if people don’t really change their ways and keep dividing, I fear the great things about the generation I grew up in will be gone forever. I keep thinking “it doesn’t have to be like this”. For us, we will try to raise our children well in a mixed up world. We’ll try to allow them the innocence of their youth as much as we’re able. Childhood is short. I want ours to enjoy it.

A note on political shaming

I don’t know who will hear this message but I need to say it.

This is aimed at those who consider themselves Christians. I have seen too much hate and division and I’ve seen it coming from Christians and even from religious leaders and “Christian” publications.

As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man to kindling strife. ——Proverbs 26:21

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? —James 4:1

Hatred stirs up trouble, but love forgives all wrongs. —Proverbs 10:12

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. —Proverbs 13:10

What is it that sets us apart from non believers? Is it the great works we do? Is it the way we carry ourselves, far above our less than holy brethren? Is it our excellent wisdom in who we vote for? Is it our ability to use Bible quotes to try to shame those who vote differently than we do? Is it to share articles that support our views and bash those that don’t? No.

What sets us apart is that we know Jesus died in our place. Jesus died because of YOUR sin and because of MY sin. This is what makes us Christian. Not the works or service we do. Not because we wear a mask or because we didn’t vote for this terrible person or with THAT particular issue.

So now that we’ve cleared that up, here are some other truths. The most loving thing we can do for others is get them to believe the gospel truth. That is how we care about their eternal soul.

Taking care of people in this life is nice too, but it is not near as important as taking care of their soul and we do that by sharing the gospel.

“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

As Christians, our love for one another should be so extraordinary that those who don’t know the gospel will know that it can’t be from man alone and they will believe.
It’s not easy to love everyone. Sometimes it’s beyond what we are capable of doing. That’s where God comes in. That’s what should definitely set us apart. Love doesn’t mean not holding people accountable. People who commit crimes should be held accountable to their actions, this IS love. Love looks like giving them a fair trial and punishment that doesn’t strip away their dignity.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.— Corinthians 14:4-8

When we tear other people down over the way they vote or the reasons they vote, we are not loving them.

In 2020, these were the presidental options Christians had:
1.) Do not vote for a president because all choices are evil in some way or another
2.) Vote for Donald Trump
3.) Vote for Joe Bide 4.)Vote for a third party candidate or write in

That’s it. Those were your choices. Those were everyone’s choices. Can anyone tell me that among those choices there is one of them that brings the voter salvation and one that does not? There’s not. Because who you vote for and your reasons for that vote are not what saves you. With choices like the ones listed above, thank God for that!

Thank God that our salvation does not depend on any of the things we do except accepting Jesus as our personal Savior.

Now, if we want to bring others to salvation, shaming them for how they voted in the 2020 election for whatever reasons they made that choice doesn’t seem to be an effective way of going about it.

Sure, there are times that we as Christians are to correct our brothers and sisters in Christ from erring with Biblical truth. Since the 2020 election and the correct choice are missing from the Bible, I don’t really see how someone can legitimately point out to their brethren, what the wrong choice is. There is no perfect choice because we live in an imperfect world. Some may argue well this is the least evil choice, but that’s all personal opinion based on what is most important to your imperfect heart.

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it? —Jeremiah 17:9

If we want to change people’s hearts for the better, why not allow the Holy Spirit to do that work in them? Again, the best way to do that is to let them hear the true gospel message.

We should be very careful as Christians that we are not slipping into the hearts of the religious elite that Jesus warned us about. Remember the prayer of the sinner?

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” —Luke 18:10-18

Once people have received the Holy Spirit, they will want to do good works. However, we need to be careful that we don’t feel righteous by the things we do or believe. Even good works when done for the wrong reasons will be counted against us. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son?

In the parable, a father has two sons. The younger son demands his inheritance and leaves his home to pursue a life of wild pleasures. He spends every last dime on drinking and women and gambling. When he runs out of money he goes back to his father.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

The son who had worked diligently with his father all along was angry that his father would celebrate and throw a big feast for his brother when he had been there working and living rightly all along.

This is exactly what we do when we think we are justified by our good works and good causes against those who live differently than we do or even think or vote differently than we do. Our works are good but there’s no love in our heart or grace or mercy for those that we feel are less deserving.

The true believer extends grace to all sinners because they humbly know that they too are undeserving of grace, but that it was given to them anyway.

I know it’s not easy to love people who act in ways that are hateful towards us. Remember, loving someone does not mean we invite them into our lives and let them spew hate at us. We should have loving boundaries but it does mean treating them with kindness and dignity when they are not doing the same for us.

I’m fortunate enough to have some good women in my life that remind me of these Biblical truths when I want to bite back. Instead they remind me that I need to be praying for these people and they are so right.

So you may feel good in the moment slamming someone else’s political view on social media. You may feel righteous sharing that religious article that agrees with your viewpoint to try to show others they are wrong. But maybe the best thing you can do is pray for those that hate you and pray for your own heart as well. I ALWAYS think I’m right. So I’ve learned that I need to pray for wisdom to know when my heart is deceiving me and for the humility to admit it.

If anyone wants to know more about the true gospel of Christ, I would love to talk to you. If you are curious or maybe have had a really bad experience with “Christianity” you are not alone. There is much out there that’s fake or false. I am more than happy to help you find the truth. Hint: it’s in the Scriptures.

Much love to all of you, even to those with whom I disagree.

Exodus part 3

The first part of this post can be found here, and the second part here.

So we left off with God showing up to Moses in the fields he’s working for his father in law Jethro, a priest of many gods. Moses is married to Jethro’s daughter and they have two children. As far as we can tell, Moses is living a happy, simple life.

God says incredible things to Moses. He says that He’s heard the cries of His people and has compassion on them and plans to lead them out of slavery with Moses’s help. And how does Moses respond? Like a noble leader who is brave and ready and honored to do his part for the good of his people? No.

Moses basically tells God that he’s not up to the challenge and he comes up with plenty of excuses why he can’t do it.

And I have to wonder, even though Moses doesn’t SAY he is comfortable in his life and just doesn’t WANT to, if that’s more or less what was going on in his heart. And far be it for me to judge Moses for this. I can only try to imagine myself, while washing dishes one day hearing the voice of God telling me these things and thinking I wouldn’t respond the same way.

So it gets me back to what I really wanted to write about as the thoughts came together for me while reading in Exodus this time. How often are we unwilling to do what we should do because it seems overly burdensome in our comfortable lives we lead?

I know for me personally, several years ago I would NEVER have shared my thoughts on faith publicly because I was worried about the way I would be perceived by my peers. But sometimes we get to a place where we realize we have to speak out and believe that God will be with us when we do. This is also spiritual maturity. The story of Moses is also a great story that illustrates spiritual maturity.

So going back to Moses; To all his objections, God tells him that He will be with him. Yet Moses still resists. This kindles God’s anger.

How often have we been there? We feel this tugging in our soul. We KNOW that God wants us to do something that is for our good but we resist. We come up with excuses because it’s hard. For me, there are so many times in life I’ve been where Moses was. One time was when I knew I needed to read the Bible every day to grow spiritually but it seemed like I didn’t have the time. I had all these excuses. I don’t have more hours in my day now than I did back then, but I finally made reading in my Bible daily my priority.

There’s someone in my life that I won’t name that confessed they wanted to give up drinking. Not permanently but for a period of time to try to rid themselves of the crutch it had become. Yet, the night before they intended to give it up, they wanted to have a few drinks, and this was how I knew they weren’t serious. It’s why the sign “free beer tomorrow” is so funny. Because it’s easy to say you’re going to do something hard tomorrow but it’s hard to start today. I told this person if they felt they needed to remove alcohol as a spiritual road block, if they were serious, they would start today. By thinking you need “one last fix”, I don’t really believe someone’s heart is really prepared to let that thing go.

With the addiction that ruined the relationship I had with someone in my family I could very easily see this struggle. I honestly don’t think he wanted to be a slave to alcohol. Yet he could never seem to get to the point where he could put in the hard work today. The alcohol was too much of a comfort to him and even though God would be with him, he couldn’t let go of the bondage it kept him in.

So, again we go back to Moses. God is angry with him, but tells him that his brother Aaron can be the one to speak since one of Moses’s excuses was that he was a poor speaker. God also tells him that all the men that wanted to kill him for his murder of the Egyptian are now dead.

So Moses takes his wife and kids and starts heading back to Egypt. Here it gets interesting again. It says on the way that the Lord met Moses again and sought to kill him. Why??

Well, we see next in the text that Zipporah, his wife, took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son, and threw it at Moses feet and said, “Surely a bloody husband ART thou to me.” So God let Moses go, and then Zipporah says, “A bloody husband THOU ART.” Because of the circumcision.

The first time I read this, I was wondering what in the world was happening! I searched out some help online and think I understand it better today. I think it’s another example of where Moses was spiritually at this time.

It was already a custom among Israelites to circumcise their men. The book of Genesis talks about Circumcision of males by their 8th day of birth as part of the Abrahamic covenant with God. So the fact that Moses had moved off to Midian and had children there but had not circumcised his own son yet, seems like it became a problem.

We can’t tell from the text if God had told him to do this and Moses disobeyed or put it off or what. What we do see is that Moses’s disobedience was literally killing him. His wife, though not one of God’s people herself, was quick to act to save her husband by performing the Circumcision on her son. And her act did save Moses.

Sometimes our actions or inactions are so destructive to us that people outside our faith can plainly see it too. Moses had a long way to grow spiritually, but we can see throughout his life, God was with him, putting many people in his life (regardless of whether or not they were Israelites or not) that helped him along.

Exodus part 2

I’m writing about my reading in Exodus and the wisdom I’m gaining from doing so. The first part, I gave some history on the tribe of Levi, which is where Moses descended from and I think it’s important to know that history going into the story of Moses. You can read that here.

In the beginning of Exodus, we read that a new king was ruler over Egypt where the Israelites lived because of the great famine that had occurred. This new king did not know Joseph, who was Levi’s brother, that had saved Egypt from the famine.

This new king greatly feared the Israelites that lived among them because they were very “fruitful” and were growing in number greater and mightier than the Egyptians.

He took a heavy handed approach and it backfired as things things so often do. He told his taskmasters to work the Israelites harder and make their labor excruciating and exhausting. The Israelites waxed even mightier the harder he worked them. The very thing meant to weaken them ended up making them stronger.

We see this specifically repeat throughout history. The Christian religion did not die with the murders of the disciples. The US government tried to blackmail Martin Luther King Jr and it didn’t work. Further, his assasination did nothing to stop the movement he had started but further propelled the change.

We see it again and again. These leaders get scared of a perceived threat so they oppress and oppress hoping to eradicate the threat, but history teaches us it doesn’t work.

So when the heavy handed approach didn’t work, he doubled down and turned to murder.

He first asked the midwives to kill baby boys during labor. This makes me think that he didn’t want people to know what he was doing because, I’m thinking people probably wouldn’t have gone along with it. It’s one thing to work people to the bone but it’s another to start killing off people’s babies. Maybe he promised the midwives special privileges for carrying out his evil deeds? It doesn’t say so we can only wonder.

Either way, the midwives wouldn’t do it. They feared God more than they feared this king. So then once again, the king responded by telling “his people” to drown any boy babies in the river.

Much is NOT said about how they went about this. Was it done by force? Were male babies ripped from their mother’s arms and just thrown in the river? We don’t know for sure because it’s not explicitly stated but there’s some clues in the surrounding text that lead me to believe that it was possibly still done in a covert manner.

I mean, for one thing, if you are mightier than the Egyptians and they start murdering your children, I would think there would be a great deal of pushback. What if it was carried out in secret? But people started to notice that all the male babies were mysterious going missing and they knew that something wasn’t quite right? Again, we don’t KNOW how it happened so I’m just trying to figure out what life was like for the Israelites. Were there whispers? Were people afraid?

Moses’s mother, a descendant of Levi, gives birth to Moses and it says she saw that he was a “goodly child” so she hid him for 3 months. Again, the text is so interesting in what it says and what it doesn’t say.

His mother clearly knew she needed to hide him, but how did she do it? Again, this makes me think that babies were not openly ripped from mother’s arms but something happened that they all were more or less suspicious or aware of.

So she made a basket and he floated over to where the King’s own daughter would be bathing. And it was the King’s own daughter that had compassion on the babe and raised him as her own. It says she knew he was a Hebrew baby, and she even hired Moses’s mother as a wet nurse. Do you think she knew it was his own mother? Again, we don’t know for sure but as a mother myself, my thought is that she did know. The baby bonded with his mother for 3 months and my thinking is that it would have been obvious to the princess to see how the baby responded to his own mother.

The princess was not afraid to raise a Hebrew baby, so again, it doesn’t seem as though there was obvious murder of Hebrew males that all the people were aware of. But I could be wrong about that.

Later, as Moses grew, he definitely knew he wasn’t an Egyptian. He comes across a taskmaster beating a Hebrew man and the words used here are “his brethren” to describe the Hebrew man. Here’s where Levi comes back to mind. Remember how Levi was prone to acting in anger? Moses kills the taskmaster in his anger. He later realizes that his murder is known so he flees to escape punishment.

Why is this mentioned in the text? I think for a couple reasons. One, we see that Moses very much has some of the same weaknesses to sin that his ancestors did. Since he identified the Hebrew man as “his brethren” that was being beaten and berated by the Egyptian, we see that he acted on his pride and on his anger. Killing this one mean taskmaster did nothing to help his people.

The other reason I think it’s mentioned is because God used Moses, a murderer and someone prone to pride and sinful anger and violence to free His people from slavery. The lesson for me is that sometimes God uses unlikely leaders with sinful pasts to accomplish His plans.

So Moses flees and ends up working for a man named Jethro who is a minister of many gods. It was very common for tribes of that time to practice religion that worshipped many gods and the Israelites were separate from this because they worshipped the one God, the God of Abraham.

Jethro likes Moses and gives him his daughter to marry and they have two children. The story tells us that Moses seemed to be doing just fine out there with his new family, seeming to have escaped from his past when God starts talking to him one day and changes everything.

Exodus

I’m currently reading in Exodus and must say that each time I read it, I realize how relevant it is today and also something new always jumps out at me that gives new meaning to getting to know God and putting it all together.

I highly recommend Christians read in the Bible daily and recommend reading all of it. Not just the New Testament or the same verses that help when we’re struggling, because reading the entire Bible over and over again is like seeing the entire picture and putting all the pieces together.

I truly think even secular people can find value in this. The Bible is not just rules and regulations but it’s beautiful stories and poetry and it’s quiet amazing how it nails human nature so perfectly.

Before I dive in, I have to give some character background. These are some of the pieces you put together over reading the entire Book and it can help give context, especially to those not familiar.

Let’s start with Abraham, who is the one who God made His covenant (agreement, promise) with that God would make a people from him that would outnumber the stars.

God carried out this promise through Abraham’s son Isaac, and through Isaac’s son Jacob.

The Exodus, is the story of Moses. Even if you didn’t grow up in the church like I didn’t you probably have heard about Moses and possibly watched the movie that was on tv as a child like I did.

Moses was a descendant of Levi and Levi was Jacob’s son. Jacob was later named Israel by God, and his 12 sons are the 12 tribes of Israel.

One of Jacob’s 12 sons was Levi. Levi was one of Jacob’s sons by his first wife Leah.

There’s something interesting about Leah. Jacob wanted to marry Rachel, Leah’s sister. He worked for their father Laban 7 years under the agreement that he would get to marry Rachel.

The day of the wedding they have a big party and Laban basically gets Jacob drunk and then places his older daughter Leah (that we are told was not as beautiful) into the bridal suite.

The next morning Jacob realizes what’s happened and confronts his father in law and Laban basically tells him that he will give him Rachel also, for another 7 years of work!

So Leah, the unloved wife, kept having sons hoping that it would win her husband’s love. One of these son’s was Levi.

The whole thing with Leah and Rachel ended up causing issues among their children as we see how sin passes down from generation to generation.

Rachel’s son Joseph ended up being Jacob’s favorite among his 12 sons. This (and probably the unequal treatment by Jacob of their mom compared to his favorite, Rachel, made his brothers hate him (and it didn’t help that Joseph kept telling his brothers that he had prophetic dreams that he would rule over all of them). Additionally, their dad gave Joseph lavish gifts, making the favoritism well known.

So the brothers, including Levi, plotted to kill him but instead realized they could turn a profit by selling him to Egyptians. They poured blood on his coat and told their father he had been ripped to pieces. And then they all let their father believe for years that he was dead and watched him grieve. Yeah. Pretty wicked stuff. And it shows that even what we think of as “minor sins” like having a favorite child can have unintended disastrous consequences.

Levi also ended up killing an entire town of men after one of them raped his sister. He first got all the men to circumcise themselves by deceiving them and when they were sore and recovering he and his brother slaughtered them all and their animals. Their father Jacob (Israel) is angered by their actions. When confronted, instead of humbling himself, Levi gets defensive and says that the men treated his sister as a whore and he was not to let that go unpunished. His comment shows that his rage was not so much fueled by his sense of justice but rather his own pride.

When Jacob (Israel) is giving a blessing to his children at the end of his life, he has this to say about Levi and his brother that killed the men with him, “their swords are weapons of violence”, “they have killed men in their anger”, “cursed be their anger”, “I will scatter them”, and we can see it holds true as we learn the full story of Moses.

Some of the things we learned about Levi are that he is taken over by his anger and passions and he is a deceiver. He suffers from jealousy and pride and he let his father think his brother was dead!! I’ll talk about how the sons of Levi passed down to Moses next.

The beauty of depletion

Though I’m not exactly logging lots of miles these days, I can still remember very vividly the long miles of marathon training. There’s something that happens at the end of a 20-22 mile run that is downright beautiful.

Those last couple miles are hard work. You’re tired and likely running low on fuel. Your legs and lungs maybe burn as you push yourself to your absolute limit, knowing that it will all be over soon.

Once finished, you experience that complete and total depletion. You’ve left it all out on the road and now your body is completely empty. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s sort of this wonderful feeling. It takes effort to walk around and stretch your aching muscles and that moment right before that first sip of water or first bite of food is sort of magical. It’s that emptiness and depletion and knowing you’re about to replenish, and that you’ll be better than you were before…

And the next time you run further, it’s because you gave all you could before. It’s this emptying and rebuilding stronger that makes it possible to get through 26.2 miles. You don’t decide to just run a marathon one day and go out and do it. You must go through the depletion and rebuilding, over and over again to get strong enough to run the whole thing.

This depletion has happened for me in other aspects of life too. I went through most of my life as some what of a watered down Christian. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. When I finally was ready, I took it all in. I had to go through that same depletion in order to really build back better. I had to give up everything I was and everything I was holding onto that was holding me back to let Jesus’s saving grace make me new. I can’t begin to explain how refreshing it is to feel completely wiped clean and start over without any baggage.

The last several years I’ve been going through this process. Tearing down so many of the walls I had built up because of my past and my misguided understanding of it. Healing takes time, and it involves the constant depletion and building back anew.

2020 was a different year for all of us and it’s interesting to see where it takes people. As we go into the new year, I’ve felt this depletion going on inside of me for some time. And, if I’m honest, it feels just as magical as it did after those long runs so many years ago. I feel like 2020 finally gave me the courage to get rid of so many of the things I had been holding onto for too long.

I took a couple of breaks from social media and learned a lot about both social media and about myself. I noticed how much I had been censoring myself because I didn’t want to offend anyone or for anyone to be upset with me because my opinions are not necessarily in agreement with theirs. But I’m done with that.

I’ve found in my little community people that love me exactly the way that I am and I enjoy it so much because I’m 100% myself. It’s so freeing.

So I’m planning on saying goodbye to the unnecessary guilt, the second guessing, the worrying if I’m liked enough by people that I maybe don’t even like myself. I’ll apologize for my mistakes and not wallow in guilt afterwards. I’ll spend time with people who accept me, all of me, for who I really am, and not some image I portray myself to be to appease them. I’ll speak the truth, even when it’s hard. I’ll be kind, even if people are not being kind to me, and even if I’m still telling an unpopular truth.

I’ll let myself be emptied of all the negativity and fear and humiliation and mockery. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks of me, it matters what God thinks of me and only He knows my true heart. I’ll allow myself to be replenished only with truth and light.

In 2021 it’s none of my business what anyone thinks of me. And I’m not going to worry about it. I encourage others to do the same. Let yourself completely be emptied of all the judgments and false guilt and responsibilities you’ve taken for other people’s lives and happiness and fill yourself back up with the things that will allow you to build up better in 2021.

This world has become a completely toxic place. Acknowledge that fact, and things will be easier. You can’t change it or fix it, but just knowing and accepting that it’s toxic will help you to not let it abuse you too. Stay away from the toxic things that want to suck you in and build the things that are light and truth. For me, that looks like God, family, friends, exercise, nature, knowledge and giving/volunteering.

Cheers to the new year!

Preparing our hearts

When I started maturing spiritually, initially, things in my life seemed to be getting much better. Relationships improve when you’re able to humble yourself and see your own faults and then able to truly love those around you. Then something unexpected happened.

Sometimes when we start growing spiritually and feel convicted of so many of the issues in our own hearts like pride, envy, and greed just to name a few, we also start to see with a new clarity these same struggles in others.

This is where another trap is set to ensnare us in pride and self righteousness. If we take the bait and allow ourselves to condemn others. Again though, if we are living in the Spirit ourselves, we should know this too is wrong. So what do we do when we see our loved ones getting caught up in sins that our eyes can plainly see but theirs cannot.

This was truly something I struggled with as my faith was growing. I didn’t want to be judgmental as I knew I too was guilty and in truth still struggle with those same sins. I started having this internal struggle in some relationships where I realized things were maybe not as they seemed.

What kind of things am I talking about? Well, pride is definitely a big one. It has been one areas I’ve felt convicted of maybe more so than any other. It is pride that causes us to resist loving correction and justify our own faulty thoughts and actions. Once I could see it in myself, I started to really see it in others. People that will not submit to Jesus or to anyone else, so convinced they are in the right.

I also see a lot of idolatry. No one I know is worshiping a golden calf but they definitely have their hearts set to the gains in this world more than they do for pleasing God. Vanity, wanting the approval of men and boasting are all things that have come to light in some of these relationships and I’ve struggled with how to deal with that.

The Bible tells us that we should first remove the log from our own eyes before removing the spec from our brothers so I believe we need to take a harsh look at ourselves first. If we feel convicted on these things and continue to strive to overcome our biggest struggles I think we have a right heart for wanting to help others.

The Bible also tells us that we should deal with these issues with the person directly and if they don’t listen, we should bring other witnesses. This is what’s hard. I truly can’t imagine pulling some of these people aside and saying “I really love you but I think your faith is severely lacking”. I really just can’t imagine that going well. Now if a friend were caught up in some truly horrible scheme that seems very different but I’m talking about these things that are so hidden from their hearts that I truly don’t think I or anyone else can convict them on. I know how it would have gone over had someone approached me years ago about these things. Not well. I would have justified my own faults all the more and thought them to be rather arrogant.

So what can we do in these relationships? Here’s what I think.

1.) Pray. Pray for these people you care about to have their eyes opened and to feel convicted of God. Pray hard and pray specifically for these things and leave it in God’s hands.

2.) Try to lead by example. This goes back to making sure the log is out of your own eye. If you are living a life that doesn’t worship these false gods it can be a motivator to those around you. You may not see it having an affect but remember that God holds the power to soften someone else’s heart and we never know in what way He May use us.

3.) Speak truth, not flattery. When we are around these people make sure we are staying in the light. If they start gossiping near you, walk away to send a message that you will not participate. With your tongue do not speak harsh words against someone else. Do not try to show off with your friends or boast. Be kind with your words without flattering just to be liked and accepted.

4.) If you find yourself tempted in these relationships to fall back into old patterns that are harmful you may need to make some difficult decisions about what relationships you can stay in and which ones you may need to move on from. You can still act lovingly to people and not allow them to harm you spiritually by setting good boundaries.

I hope this helps someone. It can be difficult growing spiritually while others in our life remain stuck but with the right heart we can love them and love God.

Finding truth

These are my thoughts. You may disagree with them. You are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mind. I will respect your views, please also respect mine.

As the contentious election draws nearer and nearer, I see so much negativity all around. People are suffering because it’s just a lot to handle. Families and churches are fighting. What for? Is it really worth it? I see Christians using Scripture to back up their opinions on both sides and it’s easy for people to feel lost and alone.

This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Just let that sink in for a minute. It’s not.

I’m going to talk religion here for a bit. The number one thing we as Christians are supposed to do is LOVE! Love God with our whole hearts, and then to love our neighbors. Not love our neighbors that are good people. Love ALL our neighbors. I can almost here the objections piling in. Love our selfish neighbors? Umm, yep, now let me explain.

Loving someone doesn’t say becoming friends with them or breaking bread with them. It doesn’t even mean we have to try to persuade them to our views of things. Loving someone means treating them with dignity, as a human being created in God’s own image, even if we are arresting them or holding them accountable. So for example, I can abhor someone’s views and still love them by removing them from my life if need be, but not calling them names or talking about them behind their backs, etc.

We’re fighting about masks and about politics and people are making it about who is a better person and they are justifying their own unloving and degrading behavior towards others because they hold their positions to be morally superior!

But have some of you fellow Christians asked what Jesus would actually do if He were here on Earth today? I have. I’ve seen some people say Jesus would wear a mask and I honestly don’t see why? If a masks purpose is to protect others from the wearers germs, why would He need to wear one? He healed the sick, did not spread disease. And we know that He couldn’t GET sick from anyone else! Don’t think that means I’m anti-mask! Hold on a minute!

As Christians, I believe we should feel compelled to do everything we can to protect life and the sanctity of it. We are not Jesus and are not immune to catching or spreading the diseases of this world! So I believe in some situations it IS the right thing to wear a mask. But everyone has different ideas of what those situations are.

The issue has become so heavily politicized and I see so many Christians acting like Pharisees, putting on their masks when no one else is around them and posting pictures on social media just to show how good they are. They complain loudly on social media about those who don’t wear a mask and blame them solely for the spread. God sees their hearts.

I have a son who is too young to wear a mask (and good luck keeping it on him even if it was recommended, I can’t keep a hat on his head when it’s 40 degrees out). When we go indoors, my family physically distances from strangers to prevent the spread but that didn’t stop me from getting mask shamed by a woman who I never got within 12 feet of. And I’m not the only one this has happened to.

Suddenly, having children that 100% comply with the mask requirements is a sign of being a good parent. My girlfriend witnessed me carrying out my 4 year old literally kicking and screaming from a store on vacation because she just would not wear the required mask. I guess that makes me an abysmal failure as a mom because Karen’s two year old is trained to wear his perfectly.

Kids are kids. Sometimes they make us proud and other times they are embarrassing the heck out of us. There is also a full spectrum of children with conditions like ADHD or autism to sensory disorders for which complying with the mask mandate may just be impossible.

I also know medically fragile adults that are not supposed to wear a mask yet do because they don’t want to face all the hate.

We should all do our part to not contribute to the spread of Covid 19. Understand that this may look quite different for some people than it does for others. Be loving. Question your own heart and what’s really driving the bitterness beneath it.

The media is pitting us against each other. We have this 24/7 news cycle that is constantly telling us to hate. We don’t have to abide. We can again, question the feelings of our own hearts when we start getting angry at a group of people for whom our views differ. We can listen to the other side instead of talking so much.

My son cut his upper lip a few weeks ago and it looked really bad so I took him to the ER. He was SCREAMING the entire time we were there, and wouldn’t let me set him down so he was screaming right in my ear! As the doctor was trying to talk to me with his mask on while my toddler was screaming in my ear, I couldn’t get anything he was saying and I was pretty close to tears myself! When he left, I was in the room with the nurse and I was trying to listen to her and my son kept angrily pulling down my mask. I looked at the nurse as I kept trying to fix it and apologized and she smiled at me with kind eyes and said “don’t worry about it. I don’t care if you have your mask on right now, you are dealing with a lot!” And she saw me as a human and she saw me as a mom and this is why I love nurses.

Jesus ate with the most obscene of society and was hated for it. Because the religious elite at the time couldn’t stand His message that the content of their hearts was of more concern than the things they did. And a dirty sinner that knew he was a dirty sinner and needed saving received the bigger reward than the religious elite that did everything right but was arrogant and had hate in his heart.

What’s in your heart? Are you contributing to the hate and negativity in the culture or are you giving out love and grace? I know I need to be reminded constantly of what my priorities are which is why I have to value reading the Bible and hearing the Word over reading the news.

Fall is here, back to school?

“If you had asked me 20 years ago if I would ever homeschool my kids, I would have laughed.” I was telling my high school friends this just last week. Welcome to 2020 and all the other crazy things I never would have believed would happen this year as I stared it down December 31st of 1999 when everyone was freaking out about Y2K!

I have decided to homeschool my 2nd grader this year. It was by no means an easy decision. If you see the dark circles under my eyes, a lot of it is from lost sleep over this decision. That said, as we edged closer and closer to the start of school in some form, I’ve felt more and more confident that it’s the best for our family.

There are many reasons that in person school didn’t feel right to us this year. There were also a lot of reasons the online option didn’t appeal to us. Now that more information has been released, it’s even less appealing. To be clear, I’m not blaming teachers, administrators or schools in any way for their decisions. Family and friends of mine are teachers and I know some of what they have been going through lately too and wish everyone could understand the impossible situations they are facing.

I thought our teachers did a fantastic job this spring with no training and no time and many of them small children at home to take care of. Even with the fantastic job they did, the online format just did not work well for us. For one thing, we don’t have reliable, fast internet. It seemed with Tim working from home and using it too, we had daily issues.

Then there was the whole computer aspect. If Alex accidentally clicked something I would have to help her get back to wear she was.

Then there was just the fact that she hated watching videos. She’s a bright girl and I don’t say that to brag at all, rather to try to explain the depth of the frustrations she faced. She hated watching a 15 minute video lesson when she knew how to do it. I would catch her yelling at the screen.

We also don’t do a ton of screen time and it’s not an exaggeration when I say that I saw some very clear anger issues rising up that I believe were a direct result of all that screen time. For older kids, the online learning might be better, but for my very active 7 year old, it’s just not what she needs.

So I never thought I’d be homeschooling but here we are! Now let me talk about the positives. Maybe this can help another parent who is struggling with what to do. Maybe I can encourage someone that they can do it!

The first positive is that I live in a wonderful neighborhood with amazing neighbors, many of whom will be homeschooling for the first time too. Not everyone has that so I feel so very thankful. My kids will still be able to socialize during the day.

Next, I can work to her pace. In an online setting the teachers can’t tell who is following along and who is stuck. I can take extra time on the areas she is struggling with and also move more quickly in the areas in which she is excelling.

It’s not as much “work” as I thought. When you remove riding the bus, having the kids stop by their lockers, getting the class ready to learn, moving to and from recess and specials there is a lot of time spent on that that doesn’t happen at home. For second grade it’s about 1.5 hours a day of schoolwork. Not 6 hours. And there are so many parts we can make fun. So much learning happens in just living. And if you are very intentional about it, you can turn many every day activities into learning. My kids love exploring nature and I’ve been more conscious about the conversations we have.

Our set up will not be affected if the schools need to shut down again. We won’t be thrown into a new online program and trying to change our home dynamics completely again. I do anticipate this new adventure will be difficult at times. I don’t think it will be easy. That said, I don’t anticipate it to be more challenging than the spring was for our family.

Finally, my daughter’s and our family’s mental health is a huge consideration. While I noticed some times of stress in Alex during the online schooling in the spring, as a whole, she has been thriving. I say this with humble gratitude of the neighborhood community in which we live. If I was upset or stressed out about the state of our country, my kids didn’t know it. I’m not saying they don’t know there’s a pandemic going on, they do. It’s still affecting many aspects of our lives. However, I don’t believe it benefits them (or really any of us) to live in that constant cycle of stress.

Also, our family has the flexibility to travel as we wish without worrying about her being pulled out of school. We purchased a new camper this summer and there are plenty of great fall camping opportunities both near and far and sometimes when the stress of the world is getting to be too much, it’s been great to get away and unplug for a bit.

I’m getting more and more excited the closer we get to starting! I know there’s a lot of strong opinions about what parents should do. I want to stress to other parents that there is no right decision and there is no wrong decision. You have to do what works best for your family and not allow others to make you feel guilty for your choices. I know some people won’t like that my daughter is not going to the public school. Hopefully they will be happy to know I’m doing a partnership. What this means is that my daughter will count for the school to receive money from the state and in return the school pays for a couple of classes. We chose for Alex to take a ninja class once a week (this is entirely dependent on the facility being able to hold classes which has not happened yet) and then we chose a monthly box subscription. The subscription box is a nature kit and we just received the first one and it’s so cool!

I plan to write about and share some of our experiences, hopefully to encourage others! One of the things I’ve found is that the homeschooling community is amazing and the parents that have been doing it have been more than willing to help us first timers get started. They are so so nice and welcoming!

For those reading who are not making these difficult choices, my only request is just to be supportive of the people in your life that are making these decisions with their kids. Their choice may not be what you would do, but trust that they know their kids and family dynamics the best and that likely there is no perfect option. I do get emotional when I think about my daughter missing out on art and music and PE class. I think about not hearing her sing at Christmas, and how she was so brave to go out for and sing a solo last year. I think about the football games she went to and the various parties and events we went to. Then I remind myself that these things are likely not going to happen this year if she were going to school anyway. We are all doing the best we can with a very difficult situation. I’m hoping that we end up having lots of fun and enjoy some extra family bonding and make the sweetest lemonade from these sour lemons.

Lastly, I’m thankful. It’s worth saying again. The children and teachers very much need our love and support and prayers right now. Nearly 4 years ago when Tim and I were thinking of me leaving my career and staying home this was not a situation we ever thought we would encounter. I remember something my aunt said to me, “The Lord will provide”, which I clung to during those first couple really tough years. Additionally, when I look back at us purchasing our house 12 years ago, we just liked the house and yard and the fact it was in a court. I couldn’t have imagined then how our neighbors would become like family to us.

Parents, I wish you all the best this school year with whatever you chose!