Thursday, October 31, 2013

Yet another blogger talking about halloween

I can remember trick or treating with my older brother when I was probably 5 (this was the early 80's). I went as Raggedy Ann and he went as Raggedy Andy. (Stop laughing!!) :) That was the last year my parents took us trick or treating. After that, they decided that it was not a holiday that they wanted us to participate in. There were some years we had a fall party at church or with church friends, or even a fall party at home with just our family on halloween. I don't remember being really disappointed about not going trick or treating. We got candy plenty of other times of the year, and my parents gave us a wonderfully fun childhood. As I got older, I knew about the origins of halloween, and in some ways, I was relieved not to participate in it. I honestly don't feel like I got jipped out of a fun childhood because I stopped dressing up and getting candy on halloween.

Halloween has pretty much always felt evil to me. Because I have trusted the Lord Jesus as my Savior, I have the Holy Spirit dwelling in me, and I know the verse that says "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world." I'm not afraid of Halloween, but I just want nothing to do with it. One thing that greatly offends me is that many aspects of halloween make light of spiritual wickedness. Ghosts and witches are made to look harmless and cutesy. Immodest or vulgar costumes are portrayed as fun. This could be a way that we often become desensitized toward sinful things. (Obviously, we live in a fallen world, and we have to guard against this every day, not just halloween.) I've heard many people say that their family doesn't do all the spooky, scary stuff. I understand that, because that is what we did, too. But the problem is that I can't control what other people dress up as or use for decorations in their yard. I don't want my kids being exposed to a lot of the ghastly stuff out there. Look, I know that the world can be a scary place, but my kids are still very young, and they just don't need to be fearful because of seeing some images they can't get out of their heads.

Here are some things I often hear in support of observing halloween, along with my responses:

1. "Do you hate candy and fun?"  - No, I don't hate candy....or fun....or puppies.....or even sunshine. I give my children candy (in moderation, of course!:) all year long. And we plan many fun activities for our children to participate in throughout the year. Trust me, they get to experience a wonderful childhood...way more than I had, in some ways! And please do not assume that I am a stingy, miserly, pickled-sour Christian who just doesn't want to buy candy for kids I don't know. That is not the case at all.

2. "But halloween is could be handing out tracts with the candy, you know! - Let me ask you honestly, do you give out gospel tracts to your neighbors and community the other 364 days out of the year? Are you fully doing your part to share the gospel any time you can in your community? Halloween is not the only time you can hand out tracts, right? I'm not really against Christians handing out candy and tracts to the kids that come to your door. If you feel led to do that, I think it's great. If you are going to do that, I think Christians should buy the best candy, and give it out with a smile, a tract, and an invitation to their church.

3. "Why are you so uptight? Don't you know halloween is just a time for kids to have fun?" - It's not just something that USED to be associated with the occult. It STILL is. The whole time this holiday has existed, it has been associated with that. Think about the costumes. Are costumes getting better or worse?  MOST of the costumes I see are either grotesque or verrrry scantily-clad female costumes. Have you noticed that all halloween decorations are scary, spooky, or ghostly? Gravestones, skeletons, ghosts, witches, zombies, dead people, monsters, hacked off limbs, fake blood....I could keep going. Even jack-o-lanterns usually have a contorted face carved into the pumpkin, or a ghost, or a howling wolf, or something of that nature. I have researched some of the key elements of halloween and even something seemingly harmless like a carved pumpkin with a light inside was originally linked to the occult. I simply don't want any part of that. The devil appears as an angel of light, and one of his primary goals is to deceive people into thinking that sinful things are harmless. I'm not pointing my finger at you and accusing you of being deceived, but I'm saying that all of us have to be on guard against the devil's fiery darts of deception.

4. "You are going to alienate yourself from the world by refusing to participate. Then how are you ever going to reach the world with the gospel?" - I think we as Christians very often forget that we are SUPPOSED to be separate from the world. The world is confused when they see someone call themselves a Christian, but then live like the world. The world is going to make fun of us, ridicule us, not understand us. That is a given. I'm not suggesting we need to be as weird as possible. But we are supposed to be different. We are supposed to stand out. It's not going to be popular, but if done with an attitude of humility, it is the right thing to do.

5. "Who are you to judge? Aren't you being legalistic? Haven't you ever heard of something called Christian liberty?"  - Okay, judging. Sigh. Everything these days is, don't judge me! But what is judging? I got this definition from "To form an opinion or estimation of after careful consideration." We judge situations every single day. We judge whether we believe something is right or wrong. We all come to our individual beliefs based on whether we judge something to be right or wrong. We form an opinion after careful consideration. Our culture is so PC these days, people are afraid to stand up for their opinions because someone might be offended. I'm certainly not suggesting that we be rude or arrogant in sharing our opinions. But we have got to stop thinking that someone is attacking us when they simply have a different opinion. That goes for both sides.

Okay, now legalism. Sadly, when Christians are not telling others to stop judging them, they are labeling everything as being legalistic. It gets old really fast. The true meaning behind legalism is thinking that a person can gain salvation by adhering to a list of things to do or not do. I don't know of ANYONE that is truely legalistic about celebrating or not celebrating halloween. My faith and trust is completely in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross to pay for my sins. So no, I'm not legalistic about halloween. Now if by legalistic, you actually mean "like a pharisee," then my answer is still no. Just because I have a belief that differs from you does not mean that I am acting like a pharisee. Just because I do not celebrate halloween does not mean I think you are not a Christian if you do. Just because I do not celebrate halloween does not mean I feel like I should separate from all Christians who do. I can share with you my viewpoint, and that is what I am attempting to do here. No more, no less.

And finally, let's talk about Christian liberty. Wouldn't you agree that this issue can be boiled down to this: surrendering our will to God, and being willing to obey Him. Each of us should be surrendering our will to the Lord about EVERY issue and decision in our life. We should be seeking His will, and asking Him for wisdom to know how to handle these types of decisions. And then we should be ready to obey what He asks of us. I believe if every Christian - if I - would live like this every day, the world would see what true Christianity really means. Christians on both sides have got to learn how to be able to discuss this issue without blasting away everyone that doesn't agree with them. Making a Christian that celebrates halloween feel like they are participating in devil worship doesn't help one bit. Neither does calling Christians who do not participate "weak, judgmental, and legalistic." (Let me just be clear here, I have NEVER thought that Christians who DO celebrate halloween are trying to worship the devil or dabble in the occult. I honestly believe that the Christians I know who celebrate halloween are doing so just for fun for their kids!)

So you might be thinking, okay, so where do you get that it's wrong from the Bible? Well, I'm going to take a different approach than you might be used to. Most of the time you hear about the verse to abstain from the appearance of evil. Or the verse that says God has not given us the spirit of fear. Or even maybe the verses in the Old Testament about how under the Mosaic law, God commanded that witches be put to death. Those are all good verses, and we know that every verse is profitable for us. But I want to draw attention to 2 Timothy 2:4 - "No man that warreth entangleth himself in the affairs of this life: that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." As Christians, we are called to not entangle ourselves in things of this world that take our focus away from our relationship with God. This is one of the verses that I base MY decision to not participate on. FOR ME, participating in halloween would entangle me. No, I don't think dressing up and getting candy would be a gateway to the occult for me. (Although, I have heard stories of those that came out of the occult, got saved, and then wanted nothing to do with halloween. So I think we should be sensitive that there are those that DO really struggle with that side of halloween.) That's not what I mean. But for me, it is something I need to lay aside and not participate in. There are plenty of other things that I have also decided to not entangle myself with. And you know what? God is still showing me things that are in my life each day that I need to set aside so that I will not be entangled. It could be a TV show. It could be how I spend my time. It could be a financial decision. Aren't you so glad the Holy Spirit is a patient teacher? Boy, I am!

In closing, I'm going about my day today praising God that He is the One in control today, just as He is every day!

Friday, October 4, 2013

What I didn't know about hormonal birth control.......

When my husband and I first got married, we decided that I would take birth control pills. We knew other Christian couples who did this, and to be perfectly honest, we didn't really even question whether or not it was wrong. As far as we knew, birth control pills stopped ovulation, so there was no chance of getting pregnant. I admit that I didn't read the fine print on the birth control label, and I don't even remember praying about this decision. I noticed that I didn't feel very well while taking the pills. I think my body didn't respond very well to the hormones in the pills, and I often felt irritable and had symptoms of PMS almost all month long. About 9-10 months after we were married, I began to have some very serious abdominal pain that caused me to have to see an urgent care doctor. I had switched birth control brands a short time before that, and although I have no proof, I suspect the abdominal pain was linked to the birth control pills. The doctor could not find anything conclusive, and the pain subsided. One day at work, a friend of mine brought up the subject of birth control pills. She told me she had learned that there could be evidence that birth control pills had a failsafe built into them - if the pills failed to prevent ovulation, and sperm makes it past the thickened cervical mucus and fertilizes an egg, then the pills could cause the lining of the uterus to thin and become hostile for a fertilized egg to implant. I was SHOCKED, because I had never heard that before. I had rather mixed emotions - first shock, then horror, then denial, then horror again. Since I was not feeling well from taking the pills anyway, and because I was worried there was even a CHANCE that what my friend had told me was true, we decided to go off the pills almost immediately.

We made a decision not to go back on pills ever again, or any type of hormonal birth control. But I didn't really want to know the truth. I didn't really want to know if what my friend had said was true. I just decided that I wouldn't use that kind of birth control. Many years later, I did start doing some research, and I have been led to believe that there is a fail-safe built into hormonal birth control (pills and IUDs, and I believe it is possible in shots and the patch as well). I have heard of people getting pregnant while on pills or with an IUD in place, but I still believe these forms of birth control are designed to prevent implantation. It may not always prevent implantation, but I tend to think that is the exception rather than the rule. I believe that human life begins when an egg is fertilized by a sperm, even if it hasn't implanted yet. I know there would be many that disagree with me, but it is my personal belief that that is when life starts. Because I believe this way, I do not want to do anything to destroy (or cause rejection of implantation) the fertilized egg. My heart breaks that I did not know this information when I first got married, because if I did, I never would have used the pills.

The Bible is clear on how God feels about children - they are a gift and a blessing from God. The Bible doesn't say how many or how few children we are to have. I believe that the number of children you have is not an indication in and of itself of how spiritual you are. There are many examples in the Bible of believers who were barren (at least for a time), or who had one child. Take Hannah for example. She was barren for awhile before God blessed her with Samuel (and later other children as well). The Bible does not state that Hannah was living in disobedience or being punished with barrenness. Also consider Sarah, the wife of Abraham. She only had one child, Isaac. The Bible does not indicate that Sarah was judged on how much she loved God based on the number of children she had. I don't think it is a sign that you love God if you have 12 children. I don't think it is a sign that you are unspiritual if you have no children, or "just" 1 or 2. God allows some people to get pregnant very easily and have many children, and for others, He allows infertility, making it impossible, or near impossible to conceive. One of my greatest pet peeves is how some people make other people feel about the area of children. There are some that look down on couples with either no children, or 1 or 2 children and treat those couples as if something is wrong with them spiritually. But on the other hand, just as offensive is that some people look down on families with many children, and constantly make remarks about how crazy they are for having so many children.

However, as with any area of our lives, I think it is important for Christians to examine their hearts to see if they are seeking God's will in the matter of birth control. Am I surrendered to the Lord about what He wants for my life? Am I trusting Him in the area of fertility, to let Him choose the number of children I have? (Now, please do not misunderstand. I don't believe it is right for couples to have children that they honestly cannot provide and care for. But sometimes people take that too far, and say that they cannot afford kids AND the latest car, the most exotic vactions, the biggest house, etc. You know what I mean?) There have been times in our marriage where another child would have been very difficult to have because of some health problems I was having. While my heart longed for more children, we felt it best to wait until my health improved. There were other times where we were in between insurance companies, and needed to wait several months to get accepted and set up with the new company before having a child. There were other times where we worked to get our finances in order to be able to provide for another child. We decided on non-hormonal birth control during those times (when I say non-hormonal birth control, I am speaking about birth control that does not destroy or prevent implantation of a fertilized egg). I know there are those who disagree even with non-hormonal birth control, and I respect their conviction about this. We have asked the Lord for guidance about this, and continue to seek His will in this matter.

In conclusion, I want to share some links for further reading on this subject. What are your thoughts on this topic?
Link 1
Link 2
Link 3

Monday, August 5, 2013

Modesty Series, Part 1

Talk about a loaded word - modesty! It is often not a comfortable topic, but it is a necessary one. I have found that there are just so many different opinions about what modesty means in today's culture. Sometimes it even seems overwhelming because in Christian circles, people believe so differently about this subject. I'd like to offer some simple, straightforward ideas about this subject.  My goal is to simply write about my perspective, and not come across as a condescending know-it-all or a self-righteous judge. It is my personal belief that the Lord is the One that brings conviction for areas we are to change in our life. I didn't always know, understand, or believe the way I do now about issues of modesty.

 I don't have the belief that God hears my prayers because I wear skirts, but He doesn't hear yours because you wear pants. I don't believe that I will be getting a fancier mansion than you because I don't wear low cut tops, or short shorts, or spaghetti strap dresses, or fill in the blank. I don't believe that dressing a certain way earns me salvation. I don't believe that I have any favor with God because I wear or don't wear certain things. I don't believe God loves me more than you if your clothes are different than mine. And lastly, I don't believe I am some sort of judge over you that can dictate to you what you can and cannot wear in order to be right with God. I have some OPINIONS, and I can share with you MY EXPERIENCE, but what you wear is between you and God.

I grew up in the Midwest mostly. I was raised by parents who trusted Christ as their Savior shortly before I was born. They loved the Lord with all their heart, and it showed. They did their best to raise their children according to Biblical principles. My mother told me that when she got saved, one of the things that she was immediately convicted about was wearing very short shorts, dresses, and skirts. I never remember seeing my mother dressed immodestly a day in my entire life. My mom let me wear shorts and jeans to play in, but insisted I wear a dress or skirt to church. That's just what we did. That's what pretty much all the girls and ladies in our church did. We wore dresses or skirts to church because it felt like a way to show respect to the Lord by dressing up in our best clothes.

When I went to a large Christian college, I was told that pants were not allowed. I didn't have too big a problem with that, because it was only going to be for four years. There were times when it seemed annoying, but it wasn't too bad. But then I started hearing some chapel messages on why pants weren't a good choice for Christian ladies. I was speechless! Then I was mad! What????? What in the world are you talking about? How could pants be wrong? I didn't wear tight pants, like what the style was (well, tight pants during the 90's are nothing compared to the skinny jeans of today, but anyway). As long as my pants weren't tight, I didn't see a problem. I had surrendered my whole life to the Lord, and I didn't think I was holding anything back. I was in college to train to go the mission field. I was not living in open sin towards the Lord. So it made me actually furious to be told that I was perhaps doing something that didn't please the Lord. Perhaps some of you have been confronted about something you were wearing, and felt the same way. It doesn't feel good, does it?

But wait. As I look back, I see a couple things. First, my immediate reaction to being confronted with an area to consider was to become angry and defensive. That is not the mark of surrender to the Lord. I could have prayed about it, to ask God to give me wisdom on this subject. But I didn't want to do that. I didn't want to think that I could have thought wrong about this. I blamed the chapel speaker, and picked apart everything he said. I told myself he was just so condescending and judgmental that I didn't need to listen to THAT! So, I didn't. I closed my Bible during the chapel service, and sat with my arms crossed. How dare he imply that I, a good Christian girl, could possibly be wearing something that displeased the Lord!

The kicker is that I was planning to be a missionary to Africa after college. I had been two missions trips to Africa already, and I knew that is where I wanted to end up. I also knew that meant giving up pants, because I was planning to go to a remote village to share the gospel and work among the people, and I had already been told that culturely, pants would not be acceptable in remote villages. So, I was already planning to give up pants. Just not because I thought they were wrong, but because they were culturally unacceptable. Bottom line, I just didn't want to be told I COULD BE WRONG.

Fast forward several years. My husband grew up in a pastor's family of a Baptist church, and his mom and sister did not wear pants or shorts. But my husband was willing to let me continue to wear pants until such a time as I decided on my own that I preferred dresses or skirts, if that time came. I knew he would prefer me to wear skirts or dresses, but he honestly left if up to me. As time went along, the issue still nagged at me. I began to feel uncomfortable in jeans. The styles of the day were getting even tighter , and it was hard to find loose-fitting pants. The words I had heard in those college chapels came back to me, about how pants automatically draw attention to certain parts of a woman's body. I had scoffed at that idea when I was in college, but I had to admit that yes, pants did draw at least SOME attention to certain areas that skirts did not. As I looked in the mirror, I couldn't deny it much longer. My jeans DID seem revealing. I noticed that I felt more lady-like and feminine in a skirt. It also hid my figure more than pants did. No, I'm not saying I looked like I was wearing a potato sack. (See, a lot of girls think that there are two options - jeans or a potato sack. But ladies, there are PLENTY of cute, modern skirts out there that don't make you look like a pioneer woman.)

Now, my husband also became the principal of a Christian school around this time. I am sure that part of my uncomfortableness with pants was caused by realizing that my husband had a position of spiritual leadership, and as his wife, students and parents would be watching us. There is a fine line between fear of man (desperately trying to please everyone just to make yourself look better) and setting a high standard. This is not just true in Christian circles, but in the secular work place as well. When I was in high school, I was a cashier at a large grocery store. We cashiers had a somewhat relaxed dress code. If I remember right, we could wear something as basic as a tshirt, jeans, and sneakers. But the store boss wore dress pants, shirt, and tie every day. His position of leadership was easily recognizeable by his attire. It was expected that he dress more professionally than us. People do hold those in leadership positions to higher standards, whether you like it or not. As the wife of the principal, I felt I needed to hold myself to a higher standard, and I decided to put aside pants and  wear skirts or dresses.

So, this whole post has kinda gone on and on mostly about pants. Am I saying that pants are the biggest issue here? No. Modesty is so much more than "to wear pants, or to not wear pants." I am really just telling my back story so that you can maybe understand my perspective. I feel that I understand both sides of this issue, because I have been on both sides. I'll be adding part 2 soon, and I'll talk about more than just the pants issue!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go

(photo by me)
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

~ George Matheson

I love the line in the first verse that says, "I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be." What a beautiful picture of surrending one's life completely to God's will, allowing Him to choose how one's life is best to be spent.