Sunday, October 19, 2014

Over-Spiritualizing Our Desires

Our pastor said something this weekend that I had never heard before...and that's saying a lot since I'm in my 40's and I have been in church nearly every single week, most of the time, two-three times a week, since I was six-years-old...I honestly thought I had heard about everything in regards to lessons and sermons...but this weekend, I heard something new...

We, as Christians, tend to over-spiritualize our desires...

I was like,, huh? Then he explained...and I got it...instead of using his example, however, I will use my own example to help you understand...

Last August, I needed a car...I had decided I would buy one for cash, and not go into debt...but, I thought, what the heck, maybe I can find something not too expensive, and the debt will be manageable...and I'll get a nicer car...I promised myself that I would only go as high as $250 a month...so, I went to a local car lot...and I found a little car that I loved...and I applied for it...and I got it. The miracle was that I got it...mainly because of a short-sale on our house in 2011, my credit wasn't great, and I thought I wouldn't be approved...but, I was...and not only that, I was approved through a local credit union, not a high-dollar finance company, and the interest rate wasn't sky high...I reasoned..."I need a car...God allowed me to be approved...God must be giving me this car...I should buy it..." ... and I did... I "over-spiritualized" my problem/desires... but, I failed to use wisdom... The payment on the car was $380...$130 over my "price" - plus, it was financed for five years...that's a long time! If I had used wisdom instead of the logic, "God provided this, it must be his will..." I wouldn't have found myself in the situation I did this year with a car I couldn't afford...and now no car...

I have used over-spiritualization over and over again in my life...telling myself that so and so wouldn't or couldn't happen unless God was behind it...but, I've been wrong...

How do you over-spiritualize your life? Our pastor's story was simpler and cuter than mine...he said that many in the congregation buy him baseball game tickets a lot...and every time he goes to one of the games (quite literally) he catches a fly ball...so, he told himself, "It must be God's will that I go to more baseball games, right? Since the church buys me tickets and God lets me catch balls." Simple...Silly...but oh, so true...

How are we "overspiritualizing? What have we convinced ourselves that God wants for us, or wants us to have, or wants us to do because we think He somehow magically made something happen...

Don't get me wrong...God does do miraculous things...He does open closed doors...but, I think much more often than not, we are assigning spirituality when it is just life...and whatever one's opinion about that, of one thing I'm sure...no matter how "magical" or "wonderful" something seems, if it is not wise...if it is irresponsible in any way --- "Oh, it's a great job, but it'll take an hour each way to get there, and I'll only miss a few more hours each day with my family...no big deal..." - "Oh, I should do this, it'll only take half my life's savings..." or "It's a great promotion; sure I'll have to miss church from here on out, but it'll be OK..." --- if it's unwise, it's not God's will...it's not God's provision...it's us, overspiritualizing it...

A hard lesson for someone like me to learn...but a valuable one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why is Truth so Difficult?

I am an honest person. I've said it before. I say it again today. It's no surprise. As I've been told, I'm so honest sometimes I make people uncomfortable, but in my estimation, truth is still the best way to go. After reading today's post on Kara Tippett's blog Mundane Faithfulness entitled "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made" - I am even more convinced of it. In her blog, Kara has been talking a lot about truth lately - and if I may be so bold as to paraphrase Kara - she says that her terminal cancer diagnosis has shown her that we, as humans, spend too much time NOT telling the truth - hiding it - saying the "right" things rather than the true things. She admonishes us to speak truthfully with love.

And I couldn't agree more - we should speak the truth. It brings so much more honor and glory to God than the false mouth-service we, as Christians, so often pay.

The Lord has allowed me the privilege (Yes, after all these years, I say privilege) of living an existence that has put me on the end of  Christian "truth" time and time again. Just three of the at least a dozen experiences:

 When I was fifteen, my church - yes, I say the whole church, because about 90% of the people involved were in agreement - believed I was a slut. They shunned me explicitly and implicitly. They whispered about me. They excluded me. They didn't want their teenagers to be around me. They told others to "stay away from me." Those things in and of themselves were bad enough, but the really hurtful part for me was not knowing why people were acting this way toward me...not having any idea what I had done wrong...not having any idea what I had done to deserve such treatment. I asked people. I begged to know, but no one would utter a word...they only continued to ostracize me. It was probably then that an already over-abundant sense of justice was triggered to new heights in me. I could not understand how "Christians" could do the things that were done to be...but more than that, I really couldn't understand how Christians wouldn't just tell the truth. Yes, I eventually found out, but it wasn't until years later...and the lies and omissions of truth hurt.

Later, in my 20's, my husband and I had a terrible time financially. We were truthfully quite irresponsible and just terrible with money. In that time, the church (a different one) we attended ostracized us - they had secret meetings about us. They talked about us behind our backs. The laughed at us. They refused to include us. One night, without knowing we were there, the deacons had a meeting about us...we were outside the room, quite accidentally and overheard part of their "Deacon's Meeting" - "They are terrible with money." "She's so bossy and tells him what to do." "She runs that marriage." "He's weak and not a real man." and much more. After the meeting, without letting on that we had heard anything, we talked to the pastor and deacons very generally about our situation, and were never once told the things that were said behind our back...although they continued to treat us like leapers in our own congregation...At least this time, I knew why, but not because of honesty, because of accidentally overhearing the truth no one was willing to tell us. The lies and the omissions of truth hurt.

Just recently, now in my 40s, life has thrown our family onto a roller coaster ride of turbulence, troubled finances, personal pain, and loss. While I have consistently viewed this experience as really just a bad situation made worse by uncontrollable circumstances, it has come to my attention in the past few days that many of my friends - my Christian friends - at least half of them - have seen our situation very differently than I have  - they have had hard, harsh, blaming, disdainful feelings towards me and my family for this situation - and if not specifically for the situation itself, then they have definitely had those feelings because I asked for help for us financially to get a better car because we had to give up ours and cannot afford to get another one.

And, again...the lies...the omission of truth hurts...

And I reiterate, it hurts not so much that my friends blame me for the situations of the past year (although that does hurt too) - but that they haven't been honest with me about how they felt until the issue was forced by one young, honest friend...

And I am brought back to the same thoughts that I have had for years and years...

Why don't people just tell the truth - especially Christians?? So much heartache would be saved if people, if Christians would.......it would be so much better for all involved if instead of pretending to "care" and be "OK" with an offending person and their actions --- then the offending person finding out that the Christians are lying about how they truly feel --- people just told the truth from the beginning.

However, regardless of the things I have been through. Regardless of my personal pain......the point of this post is not about that...this point of this post is to say to the people who read me..........

God is not honored with our fake kindness. God is not honored with our patronizing. God is not honored with our empty platitudes. God is not honored with our lies....No...God is honored when we tell the truth even when it's painful or uncomfortable...God is honored when we love one another enough to be honest...God is honored when we follow his directives in Scripture - Matthew 18:15, Colossians 3:9, Proverbs 14:5, I Timothy 4:2....and many, many more...



Saturday, October 11, 2014

Theater is NOT Life

I hate depressing movies. Most of the people in my life don't seem to understand that. They try, quite a bit, to get me to watch them. From "chick-flick" tear-jerkers to today's excuse for most superhero movies (which are actually more similar to Greek tragedies with special effects) to historical dramas - People assure me that I will be better for watching these movies...that I will 'like' them...that I will grow from them...that I will...blah, blah, blah...

You know what, I don't care what kind of personal growth I might gain from such movies, I don't like them. I don't want to watch them. I won't learn to like them. They won't warm my heart. They.Just.Suck.

Life has enough depression without Hollywood or Broadway adding to it.

When I was in London, nearly everyone wanted to go see War Horse, which was playing at the time...I can tell you, quite honestly, if someone had given me a free, front-row center ticket with back-stage passes, I wouldn't have gone to see it. I would have scalped it on a street corner and bought a balcony seat to see The Wizard of Oz or 39 Steps...why? It's pretty simple; I'd rather laugh than cry.

My son, TJ talked me into watching The Bucket List a couple of years ago...I may never forgive him for it.

Ray has talked me into a couple of movies that I may never forgive him for...

Tyler is desperate for me to watch Spider-man 2 - "Why," I keep asking him, "So I can watch Spider-man tragically kill his one true love?" I mean, what's the point, really?

In "real life" - I know people who are fighting cancer. I know people who are dying of cancer. I know people who have been through the most traumatic divorces one can think of. I have been through one of those divorces. I know people who have lost their children to terrible diseases and to horrible accidents. I know people who suffer with some of the most debilitating diseases on the planet. I read about people everyday who are being persecuted, killed, martyred...people who are being beheaded, sold into white slavery, raped, taken from their homes forever...people who are starving, freezing, dying of exposure and disease...babies being born with horrible birth defects, babies being born dead or dying within minutes after birth...babies and children being abandoned, being abused, being left to all the horribleness of this world with no one to give a damn...I read about all the hate and anger and slander in this world...everyday...I mean, isn't all of that sad enough...and even moreso because it's real?

So, WHY would I purposely put myself in front of a stage, TV, or movie screen - and at times even pay money - to see fictional heartbreak...and to cry more?

I won't do it...

I'm sorry my friends and family, but you cannot make me into a "chick-flick" girl...you cannot make me into a "drama" girl...you can't make me into a "tragedy lover" - it.ain't.gonna.happen.

I'll watch my comedies...you know, the ones that make you roll your eyes and say you're losing IQ points when I ask you to watch them with me? I'll stick with those...and you can keep your depressing, tear-jerking, fiascos...

I completely disagree with my high school theater teacher who said, "theater is life" and I especially disagree with Socrates and Plato who say that art has no merit unless it is for the purposes of catharsis...

Ugh.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why Do We Judge Others?

I know this is going to be partially a personal rant, and for that, I apologize, but there is some wisdom in here, I think, so for that reason, I ask you to read on...

We sit in judgement of others so very often, many times when we don't even realize we do...
  • "She's just not trying, you know. She'd be beautiful if she just lost some weight."
  • "He's just too lazy. He has such potential."
  • "There's just no way I could do what he did, but I guess he had his reasons."
It goes on and on. You know you do it. I do it. We all do it. We sit ourselves in the seat of judge, jury, and executioner at times...and it stinks!

I have dear friends who are gay. I have dear friends who are progressive liberals. I have dear friends who are fundamental Baptists. I have friends who are Muslim. I have friends who are Pagans. "Yeah, yeah, we know, Tammy, you always say that." Yes, I do, but every time I see and experience this phenomena of judgement, it bears repeating. Why? Because it shows we can be friends with; we can love; we can be close to ANYONE despite our differences. "HOW? How could we possibly do that, Tammy?" Easy, you QUIT judging others and merely accept them as they are. You quit posturing. You quit making uninformed decisions/judgments. You quit "knowing it all." Because, quite frankly, you don't. None of us do. We cannot judge where someone has walked for one very logical, very important reason - WE. ARE. NOT. THEM.

Period.

I came back to NC last summer, hoping to find employment and stay here with my family. I didn't find it. So I went back to Florida for the fall semester and taught there. I was finally offered a job back here in NC, so we came back, again...but in January, because I wasn't certified in Theater (irony, I know), I couldn't keep that job...so I began looking again...and I have looked, and looked, and looked...and still nothing. Many have made the insinuation that I haven't tried hard enough...that I haven't 'really' looked...that I have wanted to go back to Florida this whole time, and therefore didn't really try here...

Sigh...While I know the people that "need" to read this, probably never will, it does me good to just get it out...so here goes - this is a PARTIAL list of the companies and entities with whom I've applied in the past year (mostly the past five months) - please note that the school systems usually received 1-3 applications for various positions, not just one.

McDowell County Schools
Buncombe County Schools
Asheville City Schools
Haywood County Schools
Henderson County Schools
Guilford County Schools
Gaston County Schools
Wake County Schools
Mitchell County Schools
Yancey County Schools
AB Technical College
McDowell Technical College
Western Piedmont Community College
South College
Polk County Schools
Rutherford County Schools
Columbus County Schools
Catawba County Schools
Cleveland County Schools
Burke County Schools
McDowell Early College
Sunrise Nursing Home
Magnolia Nursing Home
Blue Ridge Hospital System/Nursing Homes
Missions Hospitals/McDowell Hospital and Doctor's offices
MAHEC
Food Lion
Dollar General
Hospice
Care Partners
Schools in SC
Schools in East TN
O'Charleys

(Education, Nursing, Retail, Secretarial, Administrative, Waitressing, and, and, and....

the list goes on and on...and? And? And..........

NOTHING...I had three interviews and got none of those jobs...

"Wow," you say, "Your work record and evaluations and references must really suck!"

Let's see...I have an LPN diploma, a BA in English from Montreat College, a MA in English from Mercy College, and a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Concordia University. I have a NC LPN license, a NC Teaching license in English 6-12, Elementary, and PreK, a Florida Teaching license in English 9-12 and  Elementary PreK-3rd. I have excellent references. I have the highest teacher evaluations one can have in Florida (Highly Effective) - only about 10% of teachers ever achieve this...and until this INSANE year, I have had an excellent work record...so, I don't quite think it's my fault I'm not finding a job...

But, I know, others are going to think what they want...most of the time, I've gotten to the point where I can move past it and not worry about it...but when it REALLY hurts, when it REALLY gets to me, it's because people VERY close to me (family and some friends) truly believe that I am just not trying...that I just want to "get back to Florida" by any means necessary...

REALLY?

Do you know the emotional turmoil I've been through this past year? Do you know the toll it's taken on me and my family? Do you realize all we've lost trying to make this work? Do you? No, you don't, because you have not walked in my shoes..and because you only see what you WANT to see in the midst of it all...

Sad...Very sad when people who are "Christians" think SO incredibly poorly of someone...even though the Bible clearly instructs "Love Thinks No Evil (of others)."

To those who have loved me anyway - Thank-you! To those who haven't judged me - Thank-you! To those who have been "real friends" and have offered help and support and even jobs during this time - Thank-you! (those job offers from friends were all back in Florida, just FYI; NO ONE in NC has offered even a temporary position for me during this time.) To my true friends, thank-you.

To the rest of you - Stop it. Stop judging other people. Stop thinking you know so much about others when you don't. Stop sitting in your ivory tower and on your high horse. Stop 'thinking evil' of others because you "just KNOW so and so and blah, blah, blah..." In truth, You probably don't really know anything at all about the situation. And just as a note, for those of you who "only share out of concern or to share prayer requests..." If you were really concerned about whatever or whomever it is, you'd quit judging and just try to help them.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Memoirs of a Recovering Fundamentalist

I have been doing a lot of thinking these past few weeks. I have had a great opportunity to as I have been in NC, and without a job since January...long story...but anyway, it has afforded me a lot of time to think - a lot of time to study - to do some "house-cleaning" in my brain...

I have long feared making decisions - perhaps that's why the last year has been so loopy for us - I could never make a final decision about what was right or wrong in regards to where to live, work, etc. But, that's another blog, because this one is about the fear of decisions...

Now, I'm not like my friend, who has the hardest time in the world deciding what to eat when we go out; no, my problem is much more serious. I have a hard time with big decisions, with important decisions...and even when I make a decision, I end up second guessing it to death...ever heard the phrase "beating a dead horse"? Yeah, I am out there still kicking the skeleton as it turns to dust most of the time...

So, where did this problem originate? As best as I can tell, besides some family issues that I faced - being incredibly independent with a super-strict mom - most of it came from being immersed in the Independent Fundamental Baptist church from the time I was about 14 until my early 20s...the church I attended as a teen wasn't always like that - but for several years, when some people split with another church in town - over I think the wearing of a bedroom shoe to their Christian school instead of a uniform shoe - they came and basically took over our church...and BOY, did things change...

They started teaching things like women can't wear pants, all music is wrong unless it's 'old-timey' Gospel music accompanied by a piano, the KJV 1611 is the ONLY version of the Bible in English that is "God-inspired," and on and on...I was immediately picked out by these people - and I never really understood why until I was older - as being a sinner - a "bad girl" - a slut... I wasn't, but they sure believed I was... and as I said, it wasn't until years later that it finally registered that they didn't like how outspoken and independent I was...I was a threat to their very way of church...what do I mean?

Well, see, a church like that counts on ONE thing to keep going - the submission of its members and the absolute authority of its leaders - and when you have one like me, who thinks for herself, who questions everything, who wants to know the truth - that is a threat...I wasn't "submissive" enough; I wasn't "quiet" enough; I wasn't "compliant" enough...so, in these peoples' minds, I MUST have been of Satan...

I eventually fell into that line of thinking, that there WAS something wrong with me...that I was somehow flawed - more than others - and not just with "sin" as all people are, but with something Devilish, horrible, and evil...so, what did I try to do? I tried to "fix" it - I changed who I was entirely...started wearing dresses all the time, started carrying my KJV Bible to school, changed my music, my readings, and on and on...and eventually, of course, wanting to be accepted and loved, decided to go to the "best" Baptist college there was (according to these people) - and I went to Hyles-Anderson College in Crown Point, Indiana...it was there the real damage was done...

We were told from the beginning how insignificant and horrible we were - how useless our Christian testimony was - (at least until we were in our 40s, then they MIGHT consider us to have some measure of success)...we were told that we had to do everything the leaders told us to do. We were told NOT to EVER think for ourselves, for if we did, we would just be tricked by Satan - since our hearts are desperately wicked...so, how were we to think? We were to gather a group of counselors - Fundamental Independent Baptist counselors - and always run what we were thinking or deciding by them, and only do as they said...we were worked for hours and hours every day. We attended classes; we went soul-winning, we worked in the bus ministry (bringing in the poor kids from the ghettos of Chicago to church), we had chapel five times a week, church three times a week, dorm devotions seven times a week, bus ministry meetings four times a week, and more...we were lucky to get 4-5 hours sleep a night. The cafeteria didn't cook or serve food on the weekends, (although NO ONE went home from the college), they figured they didn't need to since 98% of the student were working in a ministry - they made bag lunches that we could grab, but inevitably, we ended up giving out food to the bus kids who were poorer and hungrier than we..many of us got physically sick from all of that...and if one tried to leave? HA! Every chapel service, every church service, every dorm devotion, every bus meeting, every time there was ANY kind of group meeting for the month before Christmas break, the leaders either played a recording or read a letter from someone who had "left Hyles-Anderson" and it had ruined their life...if you knew someone was planning on leaving, you were encouraged to "turn them in" to the proper leaders so they could be "talked to." And I was turned in - and I was talked to - told that if I left Hyles-Anderson that I would be forever sorry, that it would ruin my life...that it was all Satan...I left anyway - had no choice due to money - Thank-God! (There's so much more to this, but we'll call this "part ONE" for now...)

I didn't realize it at the time, but that was brainwashing...it was a cult...

After years and years of removal from that situation (Thank-God he got me out), and after therapy, and after much soul-searching, Bible reading, and just observation - I realize that I was robbed of something in those years - I was robbed of ME...and it has taken me years to get even part of "me" back...I left Hyles-Anderson when I was 18; I am 44 now; and I am still recovering from it...

Many of my friends have laughed at me, teased me, said, Come on, Tammy, all that was stupid, get over it." But they didn't understand...I had honestly begun to wonder if anyone would ever understand...and while counseling with a dear friend, she said to me, "Tammy, have you looked at the horror stories from that place?" I hadn't in several years, so I did last night...and I was up until three a.m. - and started reading again this morning when I got up...

SO many people have been damaged not only by Hyles-Anderson, but by similar churches...so much pain, so much destruction...people who can't think on their own, people who can't function on their own, people who are broken - all because their very sense of identity was taken away...their very relationship with God was taken away...

Then the really horrible stories appear - the girls and boys who were molested, who were raped, who were taken advantage of because of these people...the pastor of the church from Hyles-Anderson, Jack Schaap - a man whom I admired, who was my Bible teacher while I was in college there - was sentenced to 12 years in Federal Prison for having sexual relations (and crossing state lines) with a sixteen-year-old girl...that's bad enough...but the part that makes me the sickest is HOW he did it...when she questioned him about it, he told her it was "God's will" that she be with him...that "Jesus Christ wanted them to be together sexually." He used his complete authority over her to convince her that he was "God's spokesman" and that she couldn't and shouldn't think for herself...that is sick...

And that is where I find myself...no, I was never physically molested by these people, thank-God for that, but my mind and soul was raped, I was brainwashed from a person into a shell - and it has taken 25 years to get to the point where I can even say that publicly. I wrote a memoir about it in 2006, but have shared it with precious few... Why so long? Fear...fear that Satan was tricking me, fear that God would kill me - give me cancer or something - that God would kill my children (that's the kinds of threats they use constantly)...fear of repercussions from these people, fear of losing people as "friends" that I have known my whole life...and truthfully, this post might "run off" some people - for I still know quite a few who adhere to that religion - they follow its leaders as if they were God himself...their leaders have had affairs, have been divorced and remarried, have been hateful and liars and arrogant...but yet, they still follow them blindly...truly believing these men are right...are God's spokesmen...and it's pathetic...

I am a recovering fundamentalist...it is still very difficult at times for me, but I will make it...and I will tell my story to help others out of that mind-prison, that brainwashing that steals your very self...

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Christmas Parable - Well, Kind Of...

I want to tell you a story...

When I was four or five, my mother tried to get me to leave up an old, holey sock on the fireplace (yes, for a few years, when Daddy was healthy, we had enough money to have a house with a fireplace, but I digress)...she tried and tried to talk me into putting this old, holey sock up instead of a real Christmas stocking...but I would not have ANY of it. I was petrified...(Yes, I remember it very clearly)...I was terrified that Santa would see that old, holey sock and NOT leave me anything...I was sure he would take it as a sign of meanness that I would dare leave such a thing hanging up for him...and try as she might, my mother could not convince me otherwise...so, she finally gave up and gave me the brand new stocking she had bought and said, "Here! I was going to surprise you and replace the old, holey sock with this beautiful new stocking after you went to bed so Santa could fill it up and so you'd wake up to a nice surprise. But, since you couldn't trust me, here."

I was devastated. Even in my 4-5 year old mind, I realized what I had done. I had mistrusted my parents...I had freaked out that they were letting me down with this silly idea...and I had missed one of the most amazing, magical surprises that I could have gotten at such an age...I begged my mom to take the stocking back and hang up the old sock, but she said, "What's the use now? There would be no surprise, you ruined it." I knew she was right. I knew I had pitched a fit and had ruined a perfectly delightful surprise...and I was so mad at myself...(yes, I've always been this self-aware, be glad you're not in my brain! It's a jungle in here!)

I have thought of that occurrence over and over throughout the years, and am always reminded of it especially at Christmas...When I'm shopping and see Christmas stockings; when I'm hanging up our stockings; when I hear Christmas carols that mention stockings...I am reminded of that selfish, mistrusting little girl that couldn't see past her own view of things to believe in magic...to have faith...to believe in something bigger than myself...and every year, I think....

How often are we like that with God? How often do we pitch a royal fit over things that don't go our way or over things that don't look like they're going our way? (Yes, I'm preaching to myself.) How often do we see nothing but an old, holey sock, and we scream and fight and wallow in self-pity...all the while, God is standing there with an AMAZING, beautiful, fluffy, packed Christmas stocking behind his back, just waiting for us to let go...to trust him...to say, "OK, Father....Daddy...your will be done." But half the time, we never do...and maybe God puts the stocking away and says, "OK, I'll try again later when your faith in me is a little more...when your trust in my goodness is more...when you choose to believe My Word and My promises..."

How often do we quote the the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths"; but fail to live by it? How often do we only see what is currently in our view and think, "Yeah, God's left me on this one...He's not going to help...He's not going to answer...He doesn't care..." Reminds me of the song from the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir - "How many times must I prove how much I love you? How many times must my love for you I show? How many times, must I rescue you from danger, for you to know how much I love you?" ........ How many times...and why do we continually mistrust Him?

I think I've missed a lot of blessings in my life because of an attitude like this.....have you? How often do you see a holey sock and freak out? Does God ever ask you to use the holey sock for a night...for a week...and you lose it...you think, "HOW could YOU do this to me, God???" And all the while, God's biding his time to see if we will trust him...wanting to pour out blessings, but being stopped by us?

No, not every prayer will be answered the way we want...the Bible clearly says that "This is the confidence which we have before him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we ask of Him." I John 14-15 -- but the Bible also says, "Without faith it's impossible to please Him." - how often are we without faith? How often do we miss the blessing?

I have been needing to share this with you for a few days, and in the quiet of this evening, it was time...I hope a lot of you read it and share it with friends...because I think we can all use a little more faith...a little more trust in God's goodness...a little more magic...


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Girls Today...Women Today...We're Failing...


I have a growing burden; I have had it for a while, and I want to share it with my Christian friends, particularly the ladies. I hope that you will take time to read this and say a prayer about how you might get involved.

Here’s the problem:

Many of today’s young people, even many who are Christians – have no idea how to be adults – they don’t understand what true love is; they don’t know how to be spouses; they don’t know how to be parents. Every day I teach college and high school-aged young people, and while they are not expected to be more than young adults right now, it only takes a few minutes of watching them to see that many of them are not anywhere near the point in their lives where they should be in regards to reality and maturity – in other words, they don’t act like young adults. Or worse yet, our adult generation is so immature that the young people are acting like younger versions of them. How do I know this? Am I just cynical? Am I just crotchety? Am I like every middle-aged person throughout history, bemoaning our youth? No, I am not. I love my students. I love spending time with them. I love teaching them. I have been doing it for nearly twenty years now (on and off) – And, every day in my life, I see the same thing; I see a generation lost. They have been raised mostly by the television, movies, and music. They have been far more influenced by friends than by family. They have learned what they know of relationships from reality TV and teenage “love novels.” They have basically been taught exactly the opposite of what God, in his Holy Word teaches. After all, who is trying to steal them? The Devil is – and the Devil is the master counterfeiter. He takes everything God has and makes a broken, wretched replica of it – then convinces people – sometimes even the believer – that his replica is the “real thing.”

At this point, some of you may be giving a few arguments to my claim. I imagine there are those of you who are saying, “Now, wait a minute, MY kids are NOT like that, I TAUGHT them…” Yes, I’m sure you did. I did not say every young person in the world is suffering from this problem – I said “many.” I imagine there are those of you who are saying, “Aw, come on, today’s kids are no worse than any other generation; throughout the ages, all older people have complained about the youth.” Yes, you’re right, but I contend this generation is in a much more precarious position than any generation of American teens have ever been. For the sake of argument, I am not going any deeper into history than the past two hundred years; because this is not an argument of comparison – of which time era or society is “worse,” but rather an argument of where this current generation is - period.

I do not want this to be an indictment of this generation. In fact, if I want to indict anyone, it is us – the adults – who have failed to do the things we should according to God’s Word. This is where I shift to my true burden – the girls of this generation – as an elder woman, I have a heavy burden for our  young women.

“…the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” Titus 2:3-5

It is necessary, in order to show my burden, to be more specific in what is lacking, what is misunderstood, what I see as a problem.

Today:

Love is misunderstood. Girls have accepted that love is merely a feeling, an emotion that one cannot control. Every day you will hear someone say, “Well, I can’t help who I fall in love with.” Or perhaps, “We just fell out of love.” That is a fallacy – a lie of Satan. Love is not a feeling – it is a choice. Infatuation is a feeling; attraction is a feeling; butterflies in your stomach and goose bumps are feelings that often accompany emotions tied to infatuation and attraction – but none of those things are love. Love, as defined in the Word of God is deliberate…in short, it is a choice. Tell someone that today, and not only will you be looked at like you have two heads, but you might get slapped. The idea of love as a choice is mocked.

Forgiveness is nearly non-existent – Girls have accepted the world’s view that forgiveness is weakness. They have accepted the feminist notion that a woman who forgives a man for something he did wrong is welcoming abuse or disempowering oneself.

“Fairness” is misinterpreted – Girls today have the idea that, “If he did it; I get to do it too.”  “If he says this to me, I have to say it to him.” While in one way, we are all like this in regards to “fairness” – the current definition of “fair” is not Godly. Besides, God is not about “fair”; he’s about justice. Fairness and justice are two distinctly different things in God’s book. In fact, I would contend that as far as today’s definition of fairness is concerned, God doesn’t care about it very much.

Run away is the norm – When things get touch, our first instinct is to run away, and that is so true of today’s girls. If things don’t go their way – they talk about leaving. If something difficult happens, they throw out the word ‘divorce.’ While it’s true that women have done this for decades, the fact remains that today; more women mean it than ever before. The divorce rate is America is over 50%, and more shockingly, the divorce rate among American self-professed Christians is nearly 75%.

Pleasure is the ultimate goal – Whether it’s spending too much money to buy things for oneself; whether it’s seeking sexual satisfaction in nearly any place possible; whether it’s drugs or alcohol; whether it’s laziness – pleasure and comfort is the ultimate goal of today’s world. Again, while that may have been true of other generations, today it manifests itself in neglected children, neglected homes, neglected marriages, and more. It’s easier to sit a child in front of hours of children’s TV than it is to make crafts with them, to play with them, to read to them.

Beauty is misjudged – Today’s idea of beauty or attractiveness is completely twisted. It is based on Hollywood, on magazine covers, on the music industry. The thinner a girl is the better. The fewer clothes she wears, the sexier she is. Girls look at magazine covers and photos and compare themselves to those pictures and hate themselves, more than ever are dealing with eating disorders. One of the biggest things the girls never realize – or even if they realize it, it doesn’t seem to affect them – is that the photos they see are heavily photo shopped. The pictures are not anywhere near a realistic depiction of the model – it has been retouched, her skin-tone fixed, her curves cut the way the editor wants, the flaws erased, the faces thinned, the butts and breasts made larger…there have been so many changes, the pictures are not realistic, yet we allow these photos to set the standard for our reality? And I might as well not even mention ‘inner beauty’ – today that is literally a phrase that is used to tell a girl she’s really ugly.

I plan on writing much more about this in the coming weeks. In fact, this is actually my next major writing project. I’m not sure where it will go, and I ask your prayers for that, but I am going to stop here because I want this to be a readable blog post and not a dissertation.

The point is – look around you, women. Look at the girls, the teens, the young women that God has placed in your life – not just your daughters, but your daughter-in-laws, your nieces, your friends children, young women at your church, young woman with which you work, etc. What is their idea of love? What is their idea of forgiveness? What is their idea of “fairness”? How much pleasure and comfort do they seek? Is their first instinct in the face of tribulation to run? Do they have a realistic view of the hard work and sacrifice that real love takes – not only with husbands, but with children? What is their idea of real beauty?

Will you share my burden for this generation? Will you pray? Will you become a small group leader? Will you take up the slack in your church and step in to create a ministry for these women? I am not sure what God will put on your heart in regards to this, but I can tell you one thing – if we do not “stand in the gap” – no one will, and even our Christian homes – are doomed.

“I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.” – Ezekiel 22:30.