Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Torn Between Two Duggar Petitions

"We were reaching the gays?" -Jim Bob


The Duggar family is in the news this week.  Nope, nobody's pregnant.  Yet.  There are two petitions out.  One calls for their show '19 Kids and Counting' to be canceled.  The other is one in support of keeping the show on the air.

This put me in a major predicament.  I say major, but I guess it wasn't all THAT major.  It did pull me in two directions though, not just personally because of my affinity for all things Duggar, but with people I care about.  There are strong opinions on both sides, from people I respect and love.

My Duggar fandom all started a few years ago while I was still working in the music industry.  While picking up some sweet swag one day at a conference (FREE GAITHER CDs?!?  HOLLA), I was gifted a DVD of the Duggars' first season.  I was hooked.

There's no swag like Duggar swag, amiright.

I loved the idea of a family living for Jesus in the spotlight. I wished that I could talk to my kids in the soft voice Michelle uses instead of the bellowing I tend to do up the stairs.  I was frustrated with their harsh critics.  I loved the idea of a big family.

And then the show kind of started bothering me.

There were things I didn't LOVE about the show or their lifestyle, but there really wasn't anything so heinous that I'd stop watching.   I couldn't put my finger on why the show was losing its appeal.  I realized eventually what bothered me the most.  The Duggar family has such a rare opportunity to show Jesus to the world.  Not only do they have an amazing outlet to spread the message of God's lavish love, they have finances and a ginormous posse at their disposal to be reaching the world...

But that's not what I was seeing.  I felt like what I started to see was a family turning into a corporation.  I saw that this family really keeps to themselves and doesn't have much to do with the world around them.  I saw so many missed opportunities.  They present such a narrow view of God and Christianity that I think sometimes it's actually harming the Kingdom.  They have all the answers and they know what's best for everyone.  They speak out on a lot of Christian 'pet sins' like abortion and homosexuality and not enough about radical love.  They have gotten louder and louder with the voice they've gained from being on television.

What are they doing with their voice?  They are discriminating, yet believe that they are being discriminated against and that they are the ones being targeted.  The problem isn't religious intolerance.  I don't think anyone out in the world cares if we love Jesus or Buddha, read our Bibles or don't.  They care about how they are treated.  The problem is that religion has been used as a weapon for so long against so many (minorities such as women, gays and African Americans) that there is a perceived need to protect the world from Christians.  Isn't that so backward?  Shouldn't we be treating people SO WELL that others want to follow Jesus?  And feel loved like crazy by us and God?  But that isn't what we are getting across at all and I believe the Duggars are a part of that.

The Duggars do not get to decide for the world what 'family values' are.  I do not think it's a family value to call people murderers.  To act as though homosexuals don't have a right to exist in your world.  To say that anyone is asking for 'special rights' when they don't enjoy the same freedoms you do.  Those things cloud the view of the Gospel.  It's majoring in minors and it is hurting people.  How can we reach people in Love if what they hear is hate?  If we don't even reach out to them at all, but shut them out?  The speech and actions of the Duggars only bring people like them closer and push different people further away.

There is a way to do things so that you are treating people well and showing love, even if there is a disagreement in how things should be done.  Above all, aren't we commanded to love each other?  People don't see love in a lot of the Christianity that is publicized.  They don't feel loved.  They feel condemned and they feel threatened.  How will anyone ever reach non-Believers if they slam the door in their face?  If their differences aren't welcome in their world?  Christians should have friends of all kinds.  We should be the first ones reaching out to anyone who feels marginalized.

If Jesus was a baker, would He bake a cake for a gay wedding?  I think He would.  He would get to know the couple and their family and treat them better than anyone else had ever treated them.    Would Jesus rather a child grow up in an orphanage in some poverty stricken or war torn country than be adopted by a gay couple?  I don't think so.

For the record, I didn't sign either petition.  I still enjoy the show, and I agree with a lot that they do.  To ask TLC to kick them off the air would be doing the very thing I want to change about the whole situation.  But to sign for them to stay on, especially with the phrasing used in the petition, also goes against my beliefs.

I am not asking for Christians or the Duggars to change their views.  The fact that I may hold different ones doesn't matter.  What I am asking for is a change in our conversation.  A change in what we show the world of Jesus and Love.  True  Love.




Monday, November 24, 2014

So apparently I'm a toddler...

So, after more than a decade of wanting my nose pierced, I broke down and got it double pierced a few weeks ago.  My piercer (who is now like family...I make close relationships with strangers really easily...) said DO NOT TOUCH IT.  At first I left it alone and it was healing up really well.  And then I started messing with it.  And it's been red and swollen ever since.  BUT I CAN'T SEEM TO STOP.

So I thought I'd try an "out of commission out of mind" solution with some clearanced Dora bandages I'd gotten.  Can I just say (off topic) that I don't like Dora?!.  She is always hollering!  Her clothes are too small and she has no supervision!  JTTW  Anyhow, here was the super hot look this resulted in...



Putting it on just let me know that I have zero ability to keep my hands off of what I shouldn't be touching.  Don't touch?  *touch touch touch* is my really mature response.  The bandaid lost all of it's stick within ten minutes because I'd readjusted it and played with it so much.

I have zero self control.  This is something Jesus and I will have to work on, I guess.  Now you know something else about me!  Where do you struggle with self control?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Broken Cross? Peace out, man!



"Oooh, Gracie, your Mom _______!"

Fill in the blank with whatever- my kids get this a lot.  I've never been like the other girls and we all seemed to grow up in a way congruous to this and so now I am nothing like the other moms.  No matter how much I try, it just doesn't work out.  That's okay.  I've come to terms with it, and I'm used to their opinions and funny kid opinions coming home via my kids, but the other day I was surprised at the new outrage headed out direction- the peace sign sticker on my car had caused a big stink after it had been spotted at pick up.

"Mama, they say you have a broken cross on your car!" 

"______'s grandma reads the WHOLE BIBLE EVERY DAY and she says the Bible says your peace sign sticker is evil."

So I asked my little girl what she thought.  She pondered it for a minute and said "You read the Bible too, and I trust you.  You wouldn't put anything evil on our car."  Atta girl.  Not that I'm infallible; my kids know this more than anyone; but she thought it through for herself and came to a logical conclusion that wasn't swayed by the many opinions of the second grade.

Little did she know that I've had a dog in this fight for a long time.  It started in sixth grade, when I wanted peace sign shoe laces.  My grandmother wouldn't buy them for me.  "It's a broken cross!" she exclaimed.  I'd already learned my lesson to listen when my Nana talked about fashion/spiritual matters.  We'd had an incident earlier that year when I picked out a pair of gold cross earrings to wear to my Dad's wedding.  "No, those are SO GAUDY" she said.  "But it's IN A CHURCH" I countered.

I didn't get the laces or the earrings.

But I did get inspired to find out what the history of the peace sign was.  I didn't use it to signify a broken cross, and that was enough for me to think it was fine to wear...but if that's really what it was, I'd forgo it.  (I did end up finding out what gaudy meant BTW)

It turns out that it's pretty innocuous.

In 1958, British artist Gerald Holtom drew a circle with three lines inside, intending the design to be a symbol for the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC). The design incorporates a circle with the lines within it representing the simplified positions of two semaphore letters (the system of using flags to send information great distances, such as from ship to ship). The letters "N" and "D" were used to represent "nuclear disarmament." (The "N" is formed by a person holding a flag in each hand and then pointing them toward the ground at a 45 degree angle. The "D" is formed by holding one flag straight down and one straight up.)

There are similar images that have various meanings, good and bad. And certainly, people will always find ways to try and corrupt what is good.  But I don't think we need to dig into everything so deeply.  Specifically, the peace sign wasn't intended for evil.  Specifically, I don't like the peace sign because of any mystic meaning.  To me, it is a great representation that everyone can recognize, of one of my favorite characteristics of Christ.

Every day, we make choices that either bring us closer to God or further away from Him.  I don't think the peace sign falls into either of those categories.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Sharing soup...

You know those perfect weekday mornings?  Everyone woke up on time.  Nobody forgot their lunch or their jacket.  Everything is peaceful.  Everyone makes it on time to school, you feel rested and relaxed...you even had time to grab a banana as you headed out the door...

Yeah.  I didn't know those existed either.  I am the mom who is corralling everyone out the door usually five minutes later than I planned, wearing my pajamas and no bra (praying that I don't get pulled over or into a car accident), running back in the house three times to grab things that the kids or I forgot...turning into the school parking lot on two wheels.  We may or may not have eaten breakfast and there were probably already some tears.  From the kids usually, but moms aren't exempt in our house.  Mornings are hard.

But this morning was different.  It was the perfect weekday morning, complete with my banana.  I'm terrible about feeding myself, especially in the mornings when there is so much to do.  But on this morning, I had gotten everybody ready and out the door and where they needed to be- on time. I was even fully dressed WITH a bra on!  I even had time to grab everything I needed to take a swim class at the gym. I'd remembered that our Schnauzer Brinkley had a grooming appointment, and I'd even remembered to grab him.  It was glorious.  And rare.  Like observing a lioness give birth in the African savanna.  The fact that I had a) joined a gym in the first place b) planned to go c) made the dog an appointment and d) remembered was all momentous.  This will be a day to go down in history.

As I drove to the groomers, I was marveling in this morning.  What had happened?  It was like the Heavens had opened and a hand had been shoving me around all morning GETTING STUFF DONE.  I felt like a beast.  I also felt a little lost.  I had an hour until my class started and I wasn't about to haul myself home because I knew I would never make it to the gym if I got laundry rotated and then settled in with a cup of coffee and last night's Tonight Show.  What was I going to do with this time?  Free time?  What is that?

There's a Mexican mall that I pass on the way to the groomer.  I don't know if it's okay to call it that.  I'm sure non-Mexican people can go there, but it is painted with the Mexican flag and all the stuff is in Spanish and it never looked open.  This time there was a large FOR SALE banner across the front.  As I saw that, I noticed a bunch of bundles under the overhang of the mall.  I couldn't make out any people specifically, but I could see the shimmer of sleeping bags and I was pretty confident that this was a gathering of homeless people.

I live in Texas.  The weather is always unpredictable but it's usually a toss up between hot and hot/windy.  But it has been FREEZING here.  Like, I nearly cried it was so cold this morning in the car and my daughter said "You're whining like _____ in my class, Mama."  She was not impressed.  So of course, seeing this new congregation of homeless people in my neighborhood was shocking and instantly hit me in the feeler.  It is way too cold to be sleeping outside.

Suddenly I knew what I was going to do with my extra time.  I called John because I was alone and the mall is set back really far away from the road and is totally deserted.  He didn't answer and I took that as an opportunity to DO WHAT I WANT.  Don't get me wrong.  He isn't some lord and master over me.  This is 2014. I am a grown woman.  I do what I want.  I recognize though that I am really naive and I really  trust his judgment and so there are a lot of things I like to run by him.

I pulled up and I was right- there were people under those mounds of bedding.  One woman was too cold to come out from under her blanket.  I can't imagine being so torn between cold for the moment to have food or slightly warmer for a moment and hungry.  But that's what she was having to decide.  Thankfully a man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth was willing to speak for everyone.  I asked if they needed anything or would like some food or coffee.  They'd already eaten that morning but coffee sounded great, he said.  I got a head count and headed for the nearest gas station.

Now, I am not a regular visitor of gas stations.  I like the discount I get at the Walmart station for using my card and they don't have an indoor store.  Plus, I hate pumping gas.  So I wandered in feeling determined but a little unsure.  As I looked at the prices of everything, I was a little taken aback.  Yeesh.  The image of the cigarette hanging out of his mouth came to me as I shopped.  A little voice inside my head said "If Philip or Gracie were homeless, would you want that to keep someone from helping them as much as they could?  They are someone's kids.  They're people."  So I grabbed a basket and hunted for high protein, filling stuff. I grabbed some cough drops.  They only had little pocket tissues which was frustrating.  I don't know how YOUR nose runs, but mine is legendary.  That pocket pack would do nothing.   Did you know that gas stations have great deals on coffee?  It almost makes it worth it to go in there.  They had these ginormous insulated cups- you pay once for the cup and fill it up for free, and it comes with a bunch of coupons for more free fill ups.  I got a bunch of those and I asked the manager if I could load up on free creamers, etc. 'since I wasn't sure what my friends like in their coffee' and he said yes.  NO SHAME.  They're 'free'.  That's why a pocket pack of tissues costs as much as my mortgage payment, people. (This is a lesson I learned from John.  It goes back to the whole naive thing where I really think free means free. Thanks, John.  Consider me jaded/informed!)

I drove back up and delivered the goodies.  We exchanged names.  This is a big one that I learned from my Uncle Brian.  He taught me that even if you don't have anything to give, introduce yourself and talk if you have time.  So many homeless are treated like they aren't even human.  My new friend Joe noticed the Mary Kay stickers on my car.  He asked me why my car wasn't pink.  "You have to actually sell something to get a pink car!" I said, and we laughed.

For once I was glad that I hadn't taken that extra five minutes of sleep. I was glad that I was running early and had the spare time.  My day was set on a great course after that.  It was the 'perfect morning', if such a thing exists.

I have always had a yearning to help homeless people.  There are ways I have gotten involved, but never in the way or to the degree that I wanted.  Especially considering where I live.  It's been a sore spot with me for a long time.  I have dreams of opening a shelter or something like it some day.

The other evening, I joined my friends for a night out at a comedy club, and afterward we went to Starbucks.  Believe it or not, for a chubby girl, I have really weird and strict rules about eating.  Since I had just put minty gum in my mouth, I didn't want a coffee drink.  And water would be too cold with the minty flavor.  So I didn't get anything.  My friend saw a homeless woman in the Starbucks that she somehow knows, and she introduced us.  The woman was opening a can of soup and had a worn but clean bowl with her.  She noticed that I hadn't ordered anything, and asked me if I wanted to share her soup.  It was humbling and touching and just one of those moments you never forget.  It's been on my mind pretty regularly since.

I have a tendency to be an all or nothing person.  Part of me is so angry with myself that I haven't helped more people or couldn't help these particular people more.  But I learned a really valuable lesson from my friend at Starbucks that I try to keep in mind.  Perspective is important.  She didn't have much, but what she did have she was willing to share.  I can't beat myself up for the things that I haven't done or can't do.  I can only take the opportunities as they come and do what I can.  I won't reach the world.  But I can reach MY world.  And if we all do that, then the world will change.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How can a Christian celebrate Halloween?!?



For a long time, we didn't celebrate Halloween.  Philip's first October 31, we weren't going door to door with the other heathens!  No way!  BECAUSE WE DIDN'T CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN.  BECAUSE WE ARE CHRISTIANS.  I have a picture of him from that day, in a precious little lion costume (complete with adorable tail), firmly held in the arms of my church's youth pastor, who was dressed up in a costume at our church's "Harvest Festival" where there was candy and games.

Wait.  Candy?  Games?  Costumes?  ON OCTOBER 31st?!  That sounds like...HALLOWEEN!

It was a few years before I realized that I and anyone else who thought we were avoiding Halloween by attending Fallapalooza or the Harvest Festival or whatever were all kidding ourselves.  We were firmly entrenched in Halloween.

So what was a Christian Mom to do?  Eschew the church festivities?  Lock our doors and turn off the lights?  I was stumped.  So I researched Halloween.  I searched my heart.  I thought about what Jesus would do.

Remember this oldie but goodie?

Yeah, I know you had one.  If you were a true hardcore
Christian nineties kid like ME, you had one in every color.

What WOULD Jesus do about Halloween?  I don't think he'd hole up at home with the lights off and avoid His neighbors.  I don't think he'd go to church and have a pseudo celebration of Halloween with a lot of like minded people either.  I think He would be out in the community, lavishing love on everyone.  So that's what we decided to do.  

Last year, I opened my trunk and sat with a ton of candy and invitations to my church.  I met so many great people.  I asked them if they were looking for a church and wanted a flier.  I gave them all candy.  I hugged people and saw a bunch of cute costumes and tired parents.  One woman and I talked for a long time.  Do you know how weary most people are?  I know I am sometimes.  Parenting and marriage are hard work.  People have a lot on their plates.  If you don't make yourself available to hear them and meet them where they are, how will they see Jesus and know that He cares for them and will be there for them through good times and bad?  I didn't feel any unrest in my Spirit.  In fact, I felt good about what I was doing with this day- for the first time in a long time.  Thankfully handing out candy didn't turn me into a Satan worshiper.  Whew.

How many people have come to Jesus at a Fall Fun Fest?  I don't know any.  How many people have come to Jesus because someone took the time to get to know them and show Him to them right where they are?  All of us.  And you know where everyone is on Halloween?  Trick or treating.  So that is where I am.

Thankfully this year, our church is holding our Fall celebration on a different day.  I think that's a great way to really reach the community.  I'll be there with bells on.  I certainly don't mean to imply that church celebrations shouldn't happen.  But I don't think they should happen on Halloween night.

So there it is.  How this Christian family embraces and celebrates Halloween.

PS.  Get good candy.  You KNOW Jesus would have the best candy.