The God of Patriotism

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Christianity Is Not American

source: crabby_gabby via Flickr

Here is what I think needs to be said to the church today:

Christianity is not American.

Do you realize that? That it’s not ours (assuming you are American yourself, as I am) to claim? It didn’t start in America, and it certainly won’t end there.

I’ve always felt pretty strongly about the separation of church and state. Even in a land started by (at least supposed) Christians (Thomas J, I’m looking at you and your “copy-and-paste” Bible), we are flooded with people from many nations, tongues, and belief systems. That is what America decided to be: a place that would embrace other cultures. (Other than those Indians that we forced right out into the wilderness … ahem.) We haven’t always been refined about it, but it’s our heritage.

So I don’t understand when people think the government should rule with a Christian mindset. Because although 78% of Americans will claim to be Christians, and we can call America a Christian nation all we want, they are two separate entities. We are Christians because we follow God, because we confess faith in Jesus’s death on the cross and His resurrection. We are Americans because we were born in this country or came here and worked to achieve citizenship.

Lately there have been so many upset and appalled Christians at the government legislature. My stance is this: if Christian does not equal American, laws of the land are not going to regulate what is sin and what is not sin. I firmly desire that homosexuals have the same legal rights in this country as anyone else, including partner/spouse rights. I absolutely do not think the church should have to perform homosexual marriages. Because American marriage is not the same as Christian marriage. 

We’ve gotten used to Christianity being easy. This isn’t something that is experienced worldwide, y’all. There are places where being a professing Christian means putting your life at risk. I believe our ease in a culture where mainstream has equaled Christian has led to a lot of lukewarm Christians, those who go to church but never consider the biblical implications of following Christ. Who live completely selfishly yet “know where they’re going when they die.” We’ve created a place where many people think they hate Christians or want no part in a church that does nothing like what it says it can and will do.

But man, is that Christianity patriotic. We love some America.

Please do not get me wrong. I do love America, and I am so proud to be American. I give nothing but honor to those who are serving in our military, including the five military men whose lives were taken in my own town of Chattanooga last week. I love patriotic songs.

But I’m not sure I love them in church.

Rob Tims, who was at one time the youth pastor at my church in Nashville, wrote about this in his wonderful little book Southern Fried Faith. He writes, “Whenever a group of people who are designed to primarily unite around one thing try to unite around something else, the result is devastating for all. … Any idol in the church — including the god of patriotism — can divide a church. The allure of American virtue is strong enough to blind us to the truth.”

Our fourth of July service at church made me uncomfortable this year. Pledging to the flag. Singing “God Bless the USA.” The whole shebang. We honored veterans. The government was chastised in prayer.

All the while, a lovely young woman from Iran was sitting in the service.

Is it fair to her to feel ostracized from a church because that church happens to be in the United States?

American Does Not Equal Christian

Wherever we go the church should be preaching the same message: Jesus. That’s it. The Bible. God. The unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

If I went to church in France, or Malawi, or Taiwan, I wouldn’t want to be paying allegiance to their government in church or being presented with reasons why it stinks. The language barrier would be difficult enough to get through. I would want what I want whenever I enter my own church home: to worship freely the God of the universe. Not the God of America. The God who sees all souls equally with love.

I am an American, and so happy to be one. But I am first a Christian.

__________

I am sincerely not trying to start controversy or upset anyone; I simply would love you to consider this, what has been on my heart for weeks. I am closing the comments to avoid any public arguments. You are welcome to e-mail me at vanderbiltwife@gmail.com if you like. 

Part Two: Having Grace for Myself.

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See Part 1.

drewbarrymorepromqueen

No-more-loser-on-the-forehead; now prom queen. 

Dear Jessie,

Hi, it’s me. The part of you that sees you covered by God’s grace instead of your own nitpicking emotions.

Because, you see, somewhere deep inside you know what’s in the past has past. Dealing with it is not easy; it took many years past high school for those hurts to dissipate. Sometimes, yes, you still dwell on them, what you see as your mistakes, and feel. But why? Why, when you know that God’s offered forgiveness and banished your sins? Because human memory. Because sometimes you keep on doing what you don’t want to do.

Jessie, you are Right. Not because of anything you’ve done, even though surely there are many positive things in your life. But simply because Jesus covers you in Right. He wraps that big white blanket around your shoulders, those shoulders that feel heavy with the weight of all the Wrongs. He brushes off those heavy Wrongs and trades you for the lightness of Him. Remember how His burden is light? It’s because He shares all the load. He is a gentle Master.

Oh girl, how I long for you to know you are living in His presence every minute of every day. Embracing His truth instead of clinging to what a handful of people implied was wrong about you. How vividly you tell you daughter to delight in what God says about her instead of what one little girl tells her others might have said (which said child is probably making up, anyway).

Talk to yourself like you do to a child. Treat yourself like a child. Nourish with good foods. Sing Scriptures. Encourage the spirit. Get lots of rest. Always forgive. Wake up the next day with fresh views and a fresh start.

You are beloved of God, and loved much by family and friends.

You. Are. Enough. Live it.

 

 

Your Art Is Not You.

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The Art of Daring

I am reading the book Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, and I read this passage tonight. It’s kind of long, but please read the whole thing here.

You’ve designed a product or written an article or created a piece of art that you want to share with a group of friends. Sharing something that you’ve created is a vulnerable but essential part of engaged and Wholehearted living. It’s the epitome of daring greatly. But because of how you were raised or how you approach the world, you’ve knowingly or unknowingly attached your self-worth to how your product or art is received. In simple terms, if they love it, you’re worthy; if they don’t, you’re worthless.

One of two things happens at this point in the process:

1. Once you realize that your self-worth is hitched to what you’ve produced or created, it’s unlikely that you’ll share it, or if you do, you’ll strip away a layer or two of the juiciest creativity and innovation to make the revealing less risky. There’s too much on the line to just put your wildest creations out there.

2. If you do share it in its most creative form and the reception doesn’t meet your expectations, you’re crushed. Your offering is no good and you’re no good. The chances of soliciting feedback, reengaging, and going back to the drawing board are slim. You shut down. Shame tells you that you shouldn’t have even tried. Shame tells you that you’re not good enough and you should have known better.

If you’re wondering what happens if you attach your self-worth to your art or your product and people love it, let me answer that from personal and professional experience. You’re in even deeper trouble.

 

Whoah, did this ever hit home for me.

Want to hear something that qualifies as very vulnerable for me? I’ve sold a grand total of 7 copies of my devotional, Parenting Parables.

Is it maybe because I gave it away to all my friends? Perhaps.

But you know what? I’m OK with it. If I had published the devotional on my 30th birthday, as I had planned, and it had only sold a handful-and-a-half of copies, I would have been up there in #2. I would have been CRUSHED.

Am I still, a little? Maybe. But my okay-ness with the situation shows me how I’ve changed in the last three years. God has worked on my heart so much during this time. I poured my heart into this devotional. But I was able to offer it to Him, not anyone else. It’s my sacrifice of praise. It was something I felt like He called me to do, and I did it.

Maybe it will really touch one of those seven people. Maybe it won’t.

But it has no effect on my being Enough. I am Enough because God says so. Not because of my Art. Not because of anything I do. Not because I read my Bible or brush my teeth or teach Sunday School or wear the right jeans.

I am Enough because He lives in me. And oh, the feeling of knowing that – the fact that nothing I could do would make me any more in His sight – it is warmth. Comfort. Cry-worthy.

So I’m baring myself again, telling you the truth, and hoping that you know: you are Enough. You, who write a blog that you think no one reads. You, who paint what no one sees. You, who want to be on the stage. Every one of you. Enough.

 

But I Don’t Want to Sympathize with Pharisees.

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Pharisees
source: chunghow33

It’s easy to get really reproachful about the Pharisees in Jesus’s time. After all, Jesus was pretty critical of them … right to their faces.

But you know what? We’re not Jesus.

I’m doing a read-the-Bible-in-90-days thing, and once again, I’m in Leviticus. (Writing about Leviticus is still what sticks out to me when I remember my 31 Days of The Book series.) And reading last night, I realized that these were the laws the Pharisees were trying to follow. These long paragraphs of blood and kidneys and altars and offerings. Just trying to read through Leviticus is enough to make my brain wonder. What if I had to memorize all those rules?

If I had to try to remember to put the sacrifice’s blood on someone’s right big toe and right earlobe and right thumb …

If I had to remember whether a pigeon was an OK sacrifice or whether it had to be a goat …

If I had to remember which parts to burn and which were for the priests to eat, which parts had to be waved in the air and where the blood had to be thrown or sprinkled …

I might have been a Pharisee, too.

When presented with a long, complicated list of laws, it would be easy to form an obsession about them over a passion for God. I am pretty easily turned to obsessions – I either care about something too much or too little. And I can almost see the wheels in those priests’ heads turning, trying to interpret these laws, trying to remember the right way, trying trying trying. So much trying that little room was left for listening with the heart.

And then Jesus comes along and says, “Hey, stop trying. My burden is light.”

But all they’ve ever done is try.

I don’t want to sympathize with Pharisees. But really, I do.

Parenting Parables

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Parenting Parables

Y’all, how long have I been talking about “my devotional” on this blog? If you’ve hung around awhile … the answer would be since about February 2012. A LONG TIME.

I wrote about it here and here and here.

And now, my friends, I can finally share it with you. Thirty heartfelt devotions from me to you, with questions for reflection and journaling at the end of each day. Some comes from the blog archives, but much of it is new material written just for this project.

I priced it at $2.99 because that’s what I want to pay for e-books. It’s not quite ready for Kindle yet, but I’ll let you know when it gets there.

Read more about Parenting Parables on the My Devotional page. Buy it there or by clicking below.

Add to Cart

 

{I AM SO EXCITED!!!!}

Flowering Prayers

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flowers of prayer
source: Fatma M. via Flickr

In what now seems like another lifetime, I worked outside the home. In my very own little office, with a big old iMac and a filing cabinet and my trusty space heater for when it felt like 45 degrees inside.

Filed under “other related tasks,” I was occasionally asked to read a trade book and see if I thought it could translate into a Bible study. Strangely, one of these was Second Calling, which is about women in their 40s and beyond. When I “retired” from LifeWay, I was 27 years old.

As I’ve read a couple hundred books since then, I don’t remember much about Dale Hanson Bourke’s treatise, except that I really liked it, enough to buy a copy for my mother. But I do remember her talking about prayer.

She said she often had issues focusing when it comes to prayer. Do you? I certainly do. I don’t know if it’s exhaustion, trying to remember 100000 things at a time, or what, but my mind tends to wander endlessly when I pray.

But Bourke shared an image of her prayer life that has stuck with me. She said she imagined sitting with Jesus in a field somewhere and handing Him flowers and rocks. The flowers represented the praises and thanks from her. The rocks are the requests and troubles.

“In my basket are flowers that I give to Jesus with words of thanks and praise. … I picture Jesus smiling as I hand him the flowers. Then I pull off my backpack and take out the rocks. I give him my burdens that are weighing me down.  I give him the tiny, sharp stones that are irritating me. … I visualize handing these all over to Jesus.”

I just loved that idea, and I still do, and found myself trying to hone my mind on something similar this morning. Giving Him those things that were in my arms. Some are flowers – sweet praises, thankfulness overflowing. Some are stones or weeds – petitions for myself and others. Desire for understanding and knowledge.

It’s one way that helps me to pray with my full mind. Do you have any techniques for this you can share?