Aug 282014
 

I don’t expect this post to go viral. I know it will ruffle some feathers…maybe even evoke a few tears among relatives who might feel I’m stealing from them or from our history. Still, the carved pumpkin display in front of Kroger today kinda forced my hand in this matter. It’s time to tell y’all the truth—to fess up. I’m not writing this post to persuade you of anything. This is simply an explanation of me and my life and choices.

And no, this post isn’t about Halloween. I never celebrated Halloween, so it’s not something I lost with “my new religion”. I know not celebrating/celebrating Halloween is controversial in itself, and I do understand the potential for community outreach at that time. It would be a loss to miss any opportunity to win souls. As a teen I attached a homemade tract to only the best bars of candy. I still buy candy in case the kids swarm my door; I’m not about to turn a child away. Even still, this post is not about Halloween. This is a much…a much touchier subject than that.

Last year in late December I took my youngest daughter on a date to the dollar store. Wait, let me back up a bit. Last year in early December I took all of my children to the dollar store. They wandered through the tiny aisles while I stuffed pre-planned items into my basket. When we got to the register, I distracted the kids with quarters which they merrily plunked into the gumball machine that dispenses plastic hands. I felt like a big spender that day.

I had five of most things. Of the pinker things I’d grabbed three, and of the bluer things I had two. “Are you filling Christmas boxes?” the checker asked cheerfully. The toothbrushes made that a logical question.

“Not today,” I told her. “Just Hanukkah shopping for my kids.”

Five kids. Eight nights. Less than forty dollars.

There was silence for just a few seconds as she continued to scan my finds. I worried she’d stay quiet forever. I don’t mind silence unless it’s loud. “I’ve been thinking about how Christmas is nowhere to be found in the Bible,” she blurted as if we’d been carrying on a telepathic conversation that suddenly burst into song.

“You’re right! It isn’t!” I said a little too enthusiastically. “But Jesus did observe Hanukkah,” I added with a grin. She smiled back, then she looked down. Her face quickly processed a hundred expressions, and I watched the wheels in her head spin around. I imagined what she was thinking; perhaps she knew that He was Jewish but hadn’t thought of the implications. Then “You’re right. He did!” she said.

Fast forward to late December. Hanukkah was over and it was the day before Christmas Eve. On the way to the store I had warned my daughter, “Now, people are going to wish you a ‘Merry Christmas’. You respond however you’d like, but at least say ‘thank you’ and smile.”

The man behind the register was tall and young. My guess was twenty-five. He flashed a big smile at Miss C, and his eyes twinkled with holiday cheer as he leaned his forearm on the counter. “Are you excited for Santa?” he asked her. She froze with an expression that looked like someone had licked her face, and she stared at me in horror because I hadn’t prepared her for that. “We don’t do…” I started. And “Oh, I’m sorry!” he caught on. We both smiled pleasantly at each other. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next, however, because then (without even the hint of an inaudible conversation) he said, “What winter holiday do you honor?”

“Hanukkah, we like Hanukkah,” I answered. Then with an exaggerated frown to Miss C, I said, “But it’s over now, isn’t it?” She returned a sillier frown.

Keep in light. Keep it loose. Keep it happy! That’s my motto when it comes to confrontation.

As he continued to scan my purchases (I do a lot of shopping at the dollar store), I stood and wondered why on earth he would assume that I don’t celebrate Christmas simply because we don’t “do” Santa at our house. I grew up keeping Christmas, and there was never a Santa to be seen. There were no elves on our shelves. “Since when are Santa and Christmas inseparable?” I thought. But seeing he was a good ten years younger than me, I figured that he would know. I just stood puzzled until he began to speak again.

“My girlfriend’s family is Jewish,” he said.

That’s when I braced for the worst. I assumed it was an anti-semitic lead-in like, “My best friend is black; so I can insult black people whenever I want.” What he did say was even odder.

“We have kids,” he said (Can I admit I found that a little ironic?). “When she first got pregnant we were talking about the holidays: they celebrate Hanukkah, and we celebrate Christmas. I told her, ‘Your family can do whatever they want, but our kids are going to be Christians!’”

I wore a wide-eyed kind of stunned smile. His exuberance was humorous, and it clearly wasn’t meant as an attack. Worried it might have seemed like an attack, he quickly added with even more spark and passion, “But I believe that we should honor everyone’s beliefs!”

I smiled again.

On the way to the car I kept kicking myself, and I apologized to my daughter. “I’m a Christian. I’m a Christian! Why didn’t I tell him that I AM a Christian?”

She patted me on the back, because she’d heard me say that before. “It’s OK, Mom. It’s OK,” she said. The hardest part of this journey to The Old Ways has been the reaction from my fellow believers. I’ve been accused of denying the One most precious to me—and this accusation has not come merely from dollar store checkers.

 

Jeremiah 16:19 (KJV), says:

O Lord, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, ‘Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.’

 

This is how I’ve spent the past two years: Is it in the Bible? That’s what I want to know. ‘Cause the truth is, we’ve added a lot of things to the religion our New Testament apostles lived…and more isn’t always better. In the adding we’ve lost some precious things that would connect us to our roots. It’s those roots I want to find because I just want to know my Savior. I want to know the road He walked down day by day, and where possible, I want to walk that road now. He’s the only One to have ever lived who has fully preached the Torah. That’s pleroo, the Greek word we translate, “fulfill”. So I want to eat what He ate, serve like He served, love like He loved, teach what He taught, and celebrate the days He celebrated. Where’s the crime in that?

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Will I fail? I know I will fail! That’s why He had to die. But in my trying to honor His ways, it’s my brothers and sisters whom I have made unhappy. I haven’t denied our Savior because I’ve traded Christmas for the day He gave me: Sukkot (Tabernacles), or Easter for the Feast He fulfilled: Passover!

Stories of red, red blood and hearts made white are sweetly told through candy canes. But stories of a tabernacle for a king in the wilderness, a baby king born to tabernacle with the world, and our soon-coming thousand year tabernacle in the heavenly kingdom He’s prepared are so, so much sweeter than that. They’re sweeter because He wrote them. Gospel candy canes and new-birth Christmas trees: He didn’t make that up; WE made that up. That makes it a “doctrine of men”.

It’s in my nature to apologize, and I am sorry for causing offense. I don’t mean to step on toes, and I’m sorry for any walls that my beliefs seem at times to build between us. I hope this post tears those walls right down. I know you’re not upset about the missing Christmas presents from me…I could never afford many, anyway. If you’re upset because you cannot buy for me: you can buy for me whenever you’d like! I’ll still do the same for you. Why should any day dictate generosity? But I think it’s not about the presents. I think it’s not about the tree or the food or the songs… I think it’s about the feeling of being judged, by me or by others, for the way you are choosing to honor your Savior. So as much as I can, I want to put that to rest: I am not the judge.

 

For more information about the history of the holidays and the reasons behind my decisions, please watch this informative teaching (presented by my very own pastor). I only wish I’d known of this resource when I was searching for answers.

May 172014
 

{The original post was written in the summer of 2009. The bold text is new. Most of the advice is for me.}

 

If you’re afraid, don’t be. One of the most often repeated commandments in Scripture is “Fear not!” That doesn’t help? He knows it’s hard…that’s why He repeats Himself so often!

If you’ve ever “lost it” with your kids, repent and start over. And confess your failures to your bothers and sisters so they can lift you up!

If your marriage is in trouble, tell someone. Always. Find an appropriate person (pastor or mentor) and speak honestly and bravely about your struggles. Embarrassment has never healed anyone.

If you rarely have a quiet time, figure out how you can change that. Maybe the mornings aren’t possible for you, but maybe 2:30 in the afternoon is perfect. Get into the Word and read it…preferably from beginning to end. 

If you’re addicted to Diet Coke, just stop it. Try kombucha. Club soda and lime are nice with a little Stevia. So annoying, I know, but it’s totally true. That other stuff’ll kill ya!

If you are one person at church and another person at home, reexamine. Maybe everyone struggles with this to some extent, but I can tell you as someone who wears her brave face in public…not being 100% real is ex-haus-ting. If you don’t like who you are at home, work on fixing that person instead.

If you can’t remember the sermon from last week, find out why. This was my life story until I began to truly fall in love with the Word of God.

If you’re addicted to something you can’t joke about, confess your sins. It’s scary, but it’s how we’re healed.

If you could use a good cry, for Pete’s sake…cry. I think crying is good for the soul (and by “soul” I mean “complete person”).

If you don’t know how to say “no”, learn how to. Start slowly, and pick your battles. It’s good to be a servant, and we are supposed to lay down our lives…but not so that people will “like us”. Make sure you are serving Him when you’re serving them.

If you have stories you’ve never told, write them down. If they’re not worth remembering…burn them. If they are…share them with someone you love.

If you think “the real you” is unlovable, remember that the One who loved you enough to die for you has always seen the real you.

If you hate your body, change your diet. Put on some comfy, non-judgy clothes and get outside for a little while. Remember, the fact that your body is living is the reason you’re here to love the people around you. Thank Him for keeping you alive for today (and ask Him to please make ice cream taste bad).

If you want more than you need, volunteer at a shelter or write a check to someone in need. Getting might be fun, but you’ll keep on needing the “get” because it doesn’t fill the void. Giving, however, that’s life-changing.

If you need things you’ve never asked for, ask.

If you’re not “fine,” tell someone.

Is your hand up?

Now look around the room.

You’re not alone.

 May 17, 2014  Christianity 10 Responses »
May 152014
 

{Originally posted on July 10, 2009. Still true today.}

While Cuddle Bug and I were discussing her smart mouth, she blurted, “I’m Cuddle Bug. I hate things.”

Now, as her mother, I know how untrue that is. She is one of the sweetest, most grateful, most loving children I have ever had the privilege of meeting. But it’s interesting, because we (my Bible study group) have just been discussing the fact that Satan doesn’t come at us saying:

You’re stupid.

You’re fat.

You’re lazy.

You’re a failure.

No, he says:

I’m stupid.

I’m fat.

I’m lazy.

I’m a failure.

He’s trying to convince my Cuddle Bug, at four years old, that she hates.

And that makes me mad.

“Noooo!” I said. “You are Cuddle Bug. You are a child of God! You love the things that God loves and you hate the things that God hates! Is Satan telling you that you hate everything?”

“No,” she quietly shook her head.

“Is Satan telling you, ‘I am Cuddle Bug. I hate everything.’”?

Her eyes widened and she nodded “yes”.

“Oh, Sweetheart,” I said as I pulled her close, “You’ve been listening to the Devil!”

“I’m a friend of the Devil?!”

“No, but the Devil wants to keep you from being a friend of God,” I said.

“But I love God and my family so much,” she replied.

“I know you do, Sweetie. But if we really love God, we have to obey Him.”

“But I hate the Devil, right Mama?”

“Yeah, that’s right Baby.”

 May 15, 2014  Christianity, Mommyhood Comments Off
May 142014
 

{There will be quite a few of these reposts as I take an audit of the theology in my past posts. I’m not changing this one, but it’s particularly relevant to me, today. I’ve been in a bit of a mood. This post was originally published on March 1, 2009, just before Baby Bear was born.}

 

 

So, I’m about to have a baby. I’m not threatening labor so you’ll all check in five times a day. The birth really could be three weeks away; I just have the feeling that it’s going to be much sooner. Of course, now that I’m actually ready for him he may decide to delay a bit.

This afternoon I was overcome by anger toward Papa Bear (who was lying down while I was cleaning the kitchen). Doesn’t he know he’s not allowed to rest in my presence!? But seriously, I hadn’t even asked him to help. And when I told him my back was hurting, he responded, “Just sit down, I’ll clean the kitchen later.” But “later” wasn’t in my plan, so my anger burned on.

Am I the only one this happens to?

I’ve spent the past hour or so talking to the Lord about anger. I know that anger is a good thing. Anger is from God, but in our sinfulness we direct it at the wrong things. We allow Satan to use it as a weapon against our souls. My guideline for anger is simple: I can be angry at Satan, and at sin, without losing my cool; any other focus and my peace is gone.

Hormonal anger is a little trickier. I think that’s because it doesn’t seem to have an actual place in our spiritual lives. In my own life at least, I’ve never found it useful. It’s more like a cloud that wants to move in between me and my Creator–separating me from all peace and grace. I guess that its sole purpose would be as something to be overcome.

Any tips?

For me, the most victory comes when I recognize the problem. Maybe it would have been nice if Papa Bear had jumped up and cleaned the kitchen (unrealistic, but nice), but his inability to act like a woman was probably not the real source of my anger.

What is the source of my peace? 

When the kids respond angrily toward their siblings, we go through a little memorized dialog:

“Who fills your heart with peace?”

“Jesus does.”

“Who fills your heart with joy?”

“Jesus does.”

“Can your sister steal your peace and joy?”

“No.”

“Who can steal your peace and joy?”

“NO ONE CAN!!!”

I have talked in great lengths with my children about their sole ability to give away their fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). We always choose to “loose it”. The Devil can’t make us do it, and neither can anyone else.

At least that’s what I tell my kids.

I can and will pray for indescribable peace over these next few weeks. But it’s really God’s decision. I know He’ll give me peace in abundance, but He may not give me as much as I’d like. That is, He probably won’t transform my home into a fairy land of self-cleaning kitchens and self-wiping bottoms. He will, most assuredly, have something to teach me through the struggle.

And I really do pray that I’ll learn it.

May 132014
 

{Originally posted on December 9th, 2008}

I’ve been reading post after post lately about the pangs of LBS (Last Baby Syndrome). And I’ve been doing my share of pining too. With one still in the womb, I feel silly even thinking about being sad. And this might not even be our last baby. But then again, it might be. What if this is the last time I am 25 weeks pregnant?

One way or another, whether she has one or eleven, every mother will have a “last baby”. Someone will be last. Sometimes she’ll know it at the time of conception, sometimes she won’t grasp the reality until years later. But the sadness will most likely come. It’s really just a matter of time.

For the past week or so I’ve been consciously trying to identify the source of the last baby sadness. Is it wrong? Should we fight it? Shouldn’t we just be so grateful that they are alive, healthy, and growing that we cherish each new stage?

Well, yeah, I think we should feel that way. But we also have the right to be a little sad.

“And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

God, in His complete perfection, really just wants us to stay little too! Now that’s a vast oversimplification of the passage, but I do think it’s relevant. Of course He wants us to grow and change. He desires us to move past milk to solid food. But there is something in us, as babes, that He wants to protect. And I think that thing is very much at the root of our last baby sorrow.

He wants us to be totally dependant on, and completely loyal to, Him. He wants us to need Him with every fiber of our being.

Today I was sitting with the Lil’ Prince, cuddling in a chair. He started to get down to play, and I laughed, “Oh, where are you going?” He laughed, too, and he and settled back down beside me.

“Come play!” His sisters coaxed.

“No, I’m cud-ling mama,” he replied contentedly.

My heart leapt. “He wants to spend time with me!”

And really, isn’t that the whole point?

 May 13, 2014  Christianity, Mommyhood Comments Off
May 132014
 

{Because I have gone through some pretty dramatic changes over the past two years, I’ve decided to go through old posts in this category to audit their theology. This one stands fine as it was. Originally posted on January 23, 2009.}

 

For the past few weeks I have been overwhelmingly burdened for marriages. Unfortunately, this burden hasn’t come out of nowhere, but it is a direct result of suffering in my immediate circle of wives. I know God has a deep heart for marriage. He invented it. He designed it for our good, and He clearly created one woman for one man. But it always goes that what God loves, Satan hates. And let me tell you people, we have an infinitely powerful God, but we do not have a weakling for an enemy. Not by a long shot.

So, I’ve been asking God how I should be praying when I intercede on behalf of this crumbling institution (By the way, it’s crumbling because of Satan’s willfulness and our weak flesh, not because of anyone else. You will find me championing many a conservative political cause, but not the “sanctity of marriage”. That, in my humble not-to-be-heavily-weighed opinion, is between us and our Lord.).

In case you’d like to join me (or you have anything to add), here’s my prayer for marriage:

Perfect God and vastly creative Heavenly Father, I come to you in desire of your perfect will for marriage. I beg you to turn our hearts to you and teach us to love the things that you love. Separate us from our selfishness, and give us the grace to lay down our lives for each other.

Give wives the great strength to be women. Teach us to pray with fervency and to speak with gentleness. Teach us to love our husbands as men and to truly understand what they need. Show us how to suffer in silence and how to stand and fight. Comfort us when our husbands fail us, and never let their failures cause us to doubt your goodness and love. Keep our soft hearts soft, and soften them where they’re hard. And help us to weigh your Spirit in us far above our fleshly desires.

Give our husbands the strength to be men. Grow them up in the warrior power of your Holy Spirit. Reveal the true manliness of commitment and protection to their bloodied and used souls. Heal their broken hearts, and be the father and shepherd to their boyishness. Turn their hearts wholly to their wives, and teach them to love with selfless abandon.

Give married couples the strength to fight. Teach us to fight fair, and teach us to fight for the things worth fighting for. Make us one in body, mind, and spirit, that we may truly reflect your son and His Bride. Protect that precious picture through everything that we do. Make us selfless and tender, forgiving and kind, and always slow to anger.

Protect us from offense and temptation. Teach us to speak your words, and to speak them often. Give us time to spend with one another and remove distraction and worry from our minds. Let us return to romance, pure and holy, childlike and fun.

Bless us, heal us, and restore us by the power of your incredible name. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

May 112014
 
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uglyhousephotos.com

It’s like your whole life (before Google) you thought that chartreuse was a shade of purple. Then, one day out of nowhere, you realize it’s the most hideous shade of back-of-the-fridge yellow that you’ve ever seen. You’re shocked, embarrassed, and mostly mortified that such a color even exists. Your brain begins to rearrange each memory that has in any way contained the idea chartreuse. You now know that Grandma’s carpet was chartreuse. You find yourself correctly using the word chartreuse–simply because you can. In just a few days, the shock has worn off completely. Any memories of chartreuse as purple have all but been erased. You can move happily forward in your new-found knowledge; but barring head injury, you can never go back to chartreuse as purple–even though you might prefer it to be true.

I lived my entire life believing things that I no longer believe, and I’m happy with the beauty of new-found realities. I discovered that chartreuse wasn’t purple, and in the process I stumbled onto mauve. The paradigm shift was sudden, and it’s hard to remember why I believed the things that I used to. The Bible was a conglomeration of inconsistent truths held together by made-up seminary words and highbrow sounding phrases which are found precisely nowhere in the pages of Scripture and are meant to intimidate people like me. And that was okay…because everyone around me believed the same way I did. Until one day when it wasn’t okay, and I started asking “Why?”.

Why was Yeshua killed?

I mean, I know that He had to die for my sins, but why was He hated so? Why did they want to kill Him?

Why were they singing His praises on “Palm Sunday” just to kill Him four days later?

I’ll admit it. This one has always bothered me.

Why did they rest “according to the commandment” if we’re not supposed to honor the Shabbat today?

The women didn’t tend to Yeshua’s body until the third day because they were busy with the Feast and corresponding Shabbats. Why didn’t Yeshua warn them that He was coming to put a stop to such things?

How does a paid debt translate to an abolished law?

Isn’t it either one or the other? If the law is gone, what do I need to repent for? If the law exists, it’s our penalty that He has put under His blood.

It’s silly that these questions (and the answering of such questions) has been labeled as a “movement” within the church. This isn’t a movement as much as a backpedal. Sometimes it’s a sitting-and-pondering rest from all movement. This is not a new thing, but such an old, old thing that it appears as if it is new. This is a “What Would Yeshua Do?” tied as a sign upon our hands. And then a “Ooooh! Oooooh! Then I want to do that, too!”

See, I now understand that Yeshua was killed for teaching against the law. Not the Law (big “L”): the law (little “l”). They didn’t rightly differenciate between man’s law and God’s Law any better than we do today. We still read of Yeshua picking grain on the Sabbath and cry “Sabbath breaker!” like a Pharisee. We don’t even realize what we’re saying! For if our Passover Lamb were to break even the least of all of the commandments, then He would not have fulfilled the Law. He would not have been the perfect sacrifice. We would still be dead in our sins.

The Pharisees hated Yeshua for good reason…almost. Deuteronomy chapter thirteen commands Israel to reject any prophet that teaches against the Law–even a worker of miracles. In fact, they were commanded to kill such a teacher. The Pharisees did well to adhere to this warning; they simply couldn’t see the forest for the fences they had built around it. They were protecting their own laws. They weren’t protecting God’s.

Yeshua and His Father are of one mind. There is no rivalry between them. What is holy to the Father is holy to the Son. The Law of God is the Law of Christ. The Law of Christ is the Law of God. Yeshua is the Word of God made flesh (filled up, more fully revealed), so He had a vested interest in making sure it was being followed in the Spirit with which it was given.

Yeshua pick, pick, picked at these extra and burdensome commandments, and it was this picking that lead to His death. Though, in the end, those who accused Him knew they were killing an innocent man. They loved their traditions. The different sects Yeshua bantered with had differing sets of traditions, yet they often held their traditions as law–as equal to God’s Law. Yeshua continually questioned their interpretations when they added to the Law of God. They didn’t enjoy being questioned, so they bribed false witnesses to claim that Yeshua taught against the Torah. And as a false teacher–a Torah breaker, He had to be put to death. But He wasn’t a Torah breaker–hence the need for calculated lies [Matt. 26:59].

The day we call “Palm Sunday” is more accurately the 10th of Nissan. It’s the day the High Priest paraded through the city with the Passover lamb.  The people would shout and cheer “Hosanna!” as the lamb passed by. But on this particular 10th of Nissan that we refer to as “Palm Sunday,” another Lamb also rode through. This one rode on a donkey. Many in the crowd must have made the connection, and their joy bubbled over in unimaginable praise. Their uncontainable joy made the Pharisees increasingly nervous, and this hastened His trial and conviction so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. Yeshua had to be killed on Passover.

When Yeshua died, He died on a preparation day. He didn’t die on a typical preparation day, however (the day before the weekly Sabbath). Because the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread  (the day following Passover) is a commanded High Sabbath, Yeshua’s followers had two very solemn Shabbats before they were again face-to-face with their Lord. How badly they must have wanted to visit His tomb in the days between His death and resurrection! But they rested and feasted instead...according to the commandment. It seems walking and talking with Yeshua didn’t prepare one for the abolition of the Law. It seems ten years post Yeshua was not enough time for Peter to understand that a Christian could “eat all things” [Acts 10:14].

It’s seem likely that someone is confused. It seems less likely that someone is Peter.

The audience of the New Testament is primarily Jewish: Law-keeping, law-keeping Jews. The kept the Law for salvation. They kept the law for salvation. This was never the intent of the Law, and the law was never intended. When preaching to an audience such as this, one would rightly downplay the big “L” (and reject the little “l”) just to restore a proper understanding of the grace that had always saved them.

When I read these Scriptures now, they make sense! They make so much sense that I can barely remember when they seemed in any way strange or disconnected. I am truly free from the penalty of a life-time of breaking His commandments (both accidentally and on purpose)! Now I’ll live a life intended to please Him–not according to my heart, but as instructed by His. I’ll do this not to be adopted, but because He’s already given me His name. And now everything is mauve.

 

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