Author Archives: adamsjen39

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!

Boundaries

cyclone fence in shallow photography

Photo by Travis Saylor on Pexels.com

This is part 3!  Part 1 can be found here and part 2 can be found here.

To recap, once you know you’re in a relationship with an abuser and you’ve realized you need to hold them accountable, the next step is developing some healthy boundaries.

Boundaries are healthy and keep us physically and emotionally safe.

It’s so important to teach children about boundaries from a very young age. They don’t have a ton of property they own but they absolutely own their own bodies and have a right to decide how to use them. Don’t force a child to be affectionate with someone if they don’t want to be. Once your children are old enough to be independent in the bathroom they absolutely have a right to privacy! I’ve heard stories about dads who remove locks from bathroom doors because he doesn’t want to allow his children any privacy! Remember, abuse is all about power and control.

Abusers hate boundaries!

To protect yourself from an abuser you MUST enforce boundaries. They will do everything they can to convince you that you shouldn’t have boundaries or that your boundaries are unfair. This is further proof that you are dealing with an abuser.

I was watching re-runs of the Office last night and in the episode Jim was in Florida for work with some co-workers and his wife Pam was back at home. He befriended a woman but one night she came to his hotel room in a t-shirt and shorts with a story that they were fixing the heat in her room.  She wanted to hang out in his room while she waited. Jim said yes, but his guard went up immediately when she hopped right onto his bed. She continued to test his boundaries by taking a shower in his room, coming out in a robe and then snuggling up close to him under the sheets. That was the last straw and he finally jumped up and told her he was married and that her behavior was unacceptable. Before he finally confronted her we could see him growing increasingly uncomfortable and this is how we know someone is violating our boundaries.  We can feel it!

Other examples of boundary violations include financial “gifts” that people give expecting control in return. It is not a boundary violation for a parent to threaten not to pay college tuition if a kid can’t get his grades up, but it IS a boundary violation to only pay a kids college tuition if they go into the program of the parent’s choosing.

If a kid wants to be a teacher and the parents only will pay for med school, the kid has to decline the money and pay his own way or take out loans to get out from under the abuse.

As an adult, we leave our father and mother and become one with our spouse, therefore starting our own family unit. Your parents do not have a right to make demands of you and your new family that do not align with your values on your time, money or children. You have to say no to financial gifts that come with strings attached.

Back to my story with my abuser; one day he lost his job and arrived home drunk and he and his wife got into an argument and he took off on foot. Once again, many people were very worried about him and tried calling to check on him and he waited until the wee hours of the night before letting anyone know he was ok. I was finally at the point that I could no longer just accept his apology and pretend everything was fine.

I made it clear that I believed he needed to go through an intense, in-house rehab. Of course he had all these excuses for why he couldn’t go.  The truth of it was that he didn’t want to go. He wanted to apologize for getting caught again and then go back to hiding and lying.

When abusers are caught or know they went too far they often go through “compliance” for a bit to try to win you back. In their heart, they KNOW they have no real intention of changing but they know they need to be on their best behavior just long enough to get you to let down your guard again.

My abuser said he was sorry and started going to AA meetings and to a religious counselor with his wife. This is the same old song and dance he had been doing for years and I didn’t believe him. I had no reason to!  If someone is a repeat offender, they absolutely should understand that they have to EARN your trust back.  If they demand you to move on right away, that is PROOF that they are not changing at all.

So I stuck to my boundary. I told him he was not welcome at my house anymore unless he went to rehab or I saw some real changes in his behavior.

So a couple months passed and not spending time with him proved to be very good for me! I was less anxious, sleeping better and felt I was a better mom and wife without him in my space. He texted me one day and immediately my mood darkened. He said he had been sober for 8 weeks now and he was going to counseling and AA meetings, so couldn’t he come visit? That wasn’t my deal. He was trying to get me to break my boundary. I held firm.

So how do you know when someone is really changing? How does the church sometimes hurt instead of help when dealing with abusers?  I’ll cover that next.

You’re in an abusive relationship, now what?

close up photography of leaves with droplets

Photo by sohail na on Pexels.com

My last post was about figuring out you’re in an abusive relationship, read that post here. If you are in danger, please, please get help from the professionals. My experience is not so much about abusive partners, but relationships outside of my home, so that is the depth of my experience.

Get help if you are in an abusive relationship here.

Abusive relationships can happen with parents, siblings, bosses, friends, co-workers, neighbors or people within the church. Sometimes adult children can even become abusers to their parents. (Abuse is all about power and control of another person and starts in the person’s heart/mind)

I’m going to speak from experience here and talk about my particular case, though I will not be naming who the person is.

Some time ago, after my middle child was born I became upset with this person for a lack of communication issue. It was a completely forgivable offense on his part but I needed him to know that it put me in a difficult position and I hoped he would just apologize and we could all move on. Instead, he told me that none of it was his fault, started blaming others and told me he shouldn’t have to apologize to me.

My husband immediately came to my defense and this person started yelling at both of us, in our own home, in the presence of our children and telling us that we think we are better than everyone else, and going off about how he’s so tired about having to walk on eggshells around us with our perfect life. Then he took off.

This left a huge mess. Some people were crying and others were scared.

I thought I was doing the “right thing” by calling him and apologizing. I was wrong, and understand that now. This is just another way I was enabling the behavior by trying to diffuse what had suddenly become a very dramatic situation. So when I apologized to him, he didn’t soften his heart at all. He took it as another opportunity to further ridicule me. He said “Fine. I’ll come back but you know you really (expletive) me off and you need to know that I will not put up with that!”

So he returned and instead of coming in the house, he sat in our driveway in the car for 15 minutes. My husband had made dinner and everyone was pretty much not sure what his next move was so my husband decided to go talk to him.  (This is a power move too.  He knew that his presence in the driveway was intimidating and he was going to sit there until someone else came to him)

As soon as my husband got out there and asked him if he was ok he got out of his car and started swearing at my husband and throwing things around in his car in a rage. Then he drove off again. My husband was convinced he had been drinking and we should have called the police, but we didn’t. He turned off his cell phone leaving other members of his family completely stranded. My husband had to drive them home, 45 minutes each way, leaving me home with a 3 year old and 3 week old baby.

No one slept that night worrying about him, which is what he wanted.

I got a text several days later where he “apologized” for his behavior but pointed out that someone else in my family told him that my “postpartum hormones” were likely the cause and that he had no idea postpartum hormones could cause me to behave that way because his wife had NEVER had that issue!! So…basically, “I’m saying sorry because I know I have to, but really it’s all your fault, and in case you’re wondering someone else agrees with me about that too!”

This is abuse! He completely justified his behavior to himself! Instead of taking responsibility for his actions he made excuses and pretty much made it clear it was all my fault. And threw in another family member as evidence, causing me to then be upset with that person too!

But it’s effective. I had to ask my husband and tell a few other trusted confidants my story to ask if I was in the wrong or was he? Truthfully his behavior had been so outrageous that I was embarrassed to tell many people about it.  

Conflicts can occur in ANY relationship.  There is NOTHING wrong with telling someone that their actions upset you or caused you strife.  His reaction to my confronting him was the problem.  This had NOTHING to do with postpartum hormones.  We can own our tone.  I may not have expressed my frustration with the best tone, but that in NO WAY excuses anything he did next.  And women, we need to be very careful of people that will criticize us for bringing up any kind of complaint when we are pregnant or post-partum or have PMS.  Abusers absolutely will use this as an excuse to confuse us by telling us we are over-reacting, over emotional, etc.  Anything to take the blame off of them.  Its abuse.  Plain and simple. 

Now I made a huge mistake in letting him off the hook. I believed that I was doing the right thing as a Christian because we are told to forgive others, as we have been forgiven. This is absolutely true and it’s a requirement, BUT, and this is a huge BUT…forgiveness takes place between the victim and God, not the victim and the abuser!

To forgive someone it means that you go to God and give it up to Him. You don’t try to get revenge against that person and you don’t go around bad mouthing them to anyone that will listen. It means in your heart you have no malice towards that person, and you wish them well. That is forgiveness. Christians and even the Christian church get confused sometimes between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness as a Christian is REQUIRED, but reconciliation is not.

So the first thing you have to do once you realize you are dealing with an abusive person is to hold them accountable.

Once again, I will reiterate that this is specifically NOT in reference to those being physically abused. It may be dangerous for them to try to do these things. Also, if this person is your boss, you may not be able to hold them accountable so I highly recommend carefully looking for a new job.  If they catch wind that you are looking to leave they might do everything in their power to discredit you and tarnish your reputation.  Get out!!

By allowing my abuser off the hook so easily he did not have to go through the process of genuine repentance, and it’s no surprise that the relationship continued to deteriorate.

I told my abuser that he was forgiven, but I really wasn’t over it. His actions and even his apology were very hurtful and he seemed perfectly content to act as though things were completely fine, as though nothing had ever happened. I was not fine. Whenever he was around I started to feel very uneasy. And that feeling is very much an indication that everything is NOT ok!

Remember how I said that my husband and I both thought that this person had been drinking? Well he completely denied it and held tight to his denial. I wasn’t until a month later when he was caught red handed, that he finally admitted it. I absolutely believe 100% he would have NEVER told the truth about this if he hadn’t been caught. He felt completely justified in his lying because of that internal justification he was going through. Further proof that he was NOT convicted on his own and coming clean as a choice.

My sin, and yes, I do believe it was sin on my part that didn’t hold him accountable, allowed him to continue in his sin. And it started to take its toll on me.

Whenever he was around over the next year I became very anxious and uneasy. I was afraid to confront him about anything, which is exactly what he wanted. So when he was at my house and not following my rules with my kids I would speak to my kids about the behavior instead of confronting him directly. I would get so frustrated with him but I had no outlet.  I often took it out on my husband because my husband was “safe”. Instead of telling this person it was time for him to leave, and confronting him when he continued to get my kids all riled up and completely ignored my authority, I would tell my kid “Guys, I said it’s time to say bye!” I started to dread seeing him at all. I became anxious a lot of the time and at holidays and birthday parties, I became really uptight and had a hard time even enjoying these moments.

This is the result of forcing “forgiveness” before the proper conditions have been met. True forgiveness is a wonderful thing and can restore the relationship to a better one than existed before. The uneasiness and anxiety I felt around him were proof that this had not occurred.

So to recap, it’s crucial when dealing with an abusive person to label it for what it is, and hold the person accountable. Next, you need to create and enforce boundaries to protect yourself. I’ll write my next post about that.