Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

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Pro-Lifers, Let’s Be an Unstoppable Owl Brigade

August 20, 2015

You know that scene in the first Harry Potter story, when Harry starts getting his letters from Hogwarts?  His aunt and uncle won’t let him keep or see any of the notes.  Each time one arrives they shred it, confiscate it, smash it, burn it in the fire.

Until one day Owl Post bombards their house with a billion letters.

They can’t look away anymore.  They can’t stop the owls.  They leave the house entirely to get away (only to be found by Hagrid!).

It occurred to me that this is what we pro-life advocates need to be right now.

We need to be like an Owl Post against abortion.

The media tries as hard as possible to stuff this story down.  Pro-choice advocates wave them off because “Planned Parenthood said they were lies”…’cuz there’s a trustworthy source on this controversy…they don’t have ANYTHING to lose! 😛

They’re hoping if they ignore this scandal long enough, the pro-life crowd will get bored of it and meander off to other topics.

Not listening. Not listening! I can’t heeeeear youuuuu…

Even some who oppose abortion refuse to support these video stings because deception was involved…’cuz the means invalidate the evidence?

Many, many voices (even pro-lifers) are saying we have to tread carefully here because Planned Parenthood provides “necessary services” too, and we don’t want to take those away from women…’cuz inconveniencing people with a little extra cost or a longer drive to get mammograms and birth control isn’t a cost America’s ready to pay, I see.

It’s like a Facebook page saying, “If I get 10,000 likes my dad will quit smoking!”

Yeah, sure! *like*

But: “If I can get American women to find another place for their reproductive health services, Planned Parenthood will stop cutting babies apart!”

Nah. I’ll pass.  Planned Parenthood is just so cheap and convenient for American women!

My heart grieves.

“Millions severed.”

Pro-lifers, this is the best opportunity since Roe vs. Wade passed!

We have a chance to be a part of one of the greatest achievements for human rights since the end of slavery.  If you believe abortion is the taking of an innocent life, if aborting a child in such a way that you can harvest their organs while they’re still warm is deplorable, if the act of slicing a baby’s face with scissors to get out his brain while his little heart is still beating is appalling and turns your stomach – SPEAK OUT.

We need to keep shoving these “letters” in the world’s face.  We need to drown the internet with our posts, links, videos, articles, and tweets.  Fill the house!  Send the Dursleys packing!

And we can’t do that unless we all use our voices (and our written words) to SPEAK UP.  Watch the videos, if you can stomach them.  Read the articles.  Find the facts.  SHARE.  And pray!

Don’t shut up.  Don’t back down.  Raise that flag high!  We are on “the right side of history.”

Let’s be an unstoppable owl brigade.

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Funny Things on the Internet – Would Jesus LOL?

February 9, 2015

The other day I saw a BuzzFeed list of “Things to Make You Want to Burn Down the Internet.” It was full of jaw-dropping spelling and grammar mistakes, and shocking ignorance – like a person asking if the rain fell up in Australia since it’s on the bottom side of the earth.

I got some giggles and horrified gasps out of it. I thought about sharing it.

Then I thought not.

On the one hand, these things are hilarious. It’s natural to laugh when a comma would have made all the difference in the meaning of a Facebook status. It’s chortle-worthy when a girl writes that she “got her hair cut and died today.” (When’s the funeral?)

But the further I scrolled down the list, the more uncomfortable I became with my own amusement.  Some of the screenshots were genuinely funny mistakes, but others were simply painful examples of ignorance and poor writing skills.

Maybe that internet user is very young, I considered.  Or maybe they are dyslexic, or English is their second language.  What if they have developmental disabilities or disorders, or suffered a brain injury in the past?  I don’t know their story.  There could be any number of good reasons why they look “stupid.”  Was it right for me to be snickering at them?

But sometimes people are just stupid!  Lighten up, Bethany!  It’s supposed to be funny!

Yeah, sometimes I do need to lighten up.  With my overanalyzing INFJ personality, I tend to take everything seriously. 😛 But if there’s anything we INFJs do well, it’s standing up for people, championing those who are considered “less than.”

So I ask you, when should mockery get a free pass in our hearts?

Is it right for us to mock those we perceive as less intelligent than ourselves?  Does ranking “lower” than us in knowledge or education make other human beings – fellow image-bearers of God! – free fodder for our amusement?  If they write poorly, or don’t think clearly, or lack crucial information, does that mean it’s okay for us to scoff, guffaw, and walk away feeling like a superior human being?

Scripture has some pretty strong words about looking down on others…

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? … If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” – James 2:1-5 & 8-10 (ESV)

Sending someone’s internet gaffe viral is really another way to gossip, even if their name is blacked out.  Unless they recognize their mistake and share your amusement, is that kind?

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers…” – Psalm 1:1

I left that list after a few hollow laughs, feeling depressed.  I wondered…do these people have anyone in their lives who would correct them gently, in love?  Is there anyone who would have the patience and take the time to educate them on their errors?  Or are all their “friends” taking screenshots of their mistakes and spreading them to the world for a good laugh?

Trolling people…har har har!!  *sigh*  I hope someone kind gave them actual correct information.

I’ve seen this kind of trolling happen in person.  Someone asked a question, and got a string of sarcastic misinformation instead of a straight answer.  A joke, sure, okay.  But then the sarcastic individual never bothered to step back and explain the truth…and neither did anyone else in the room, leaving the person who asked the question confused and in the dark.  Does doing this to people online make it any nicer?

Are we more prone to chortling with the bullies, or showing grace to the misinformed?

There but for the grace of God go I!

I’ve put my foot in my mouth before, made typos, and been totally clueless and ignorant at times.  There are many, many people smarter than me in the world, and the information I have filed away in my tiny mind is a drop in a bucket compared to some.  Would I appreciate their scorn?

When I show myself a fool, I know I’d want other people giving me the benefit of the doubt.  I know I’d want to be graciously educated or kindly tolerated, rather than mocked.  And I want to extend that compassionate ideal to others, even the “stupid” people on the internet.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 7:12

Yes, maybe sometimes I need to lighten up.  But I believe we should ask ourselves more often:

“Would Jesus LOL?”

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Whom Shall I Fear? – When Doctor Who Gets It Wrong

October 2, 2014

I love Doctor Who.  The show is clever, and exciting, and funny, and full of interesting characters and worlds.  It also has many beautiful quotes and messages that I appreciate, such as the inherent dignity of humankind, the value of each individual life, selfless sacrifice, courage, and the faithfulness of true love.

That said, although the show displays God’s truth many times, sometimes it preaches atheistic and humanistic messages…almost like the writers are trying to shove them in, which is disappointing (who says only Christian storytellers are preachy?).  As with any story, it’s important to have discernment as I enjoy it, because I find some of the messages are actually antithetical to Scripture.

After watching “Listen” (Season 8, Episode 4), this prominent quote from Clara rankled at me:

“I know you’re afraid, but being afraid is all right. Because didn’t anybody ever tell you, fear is a superpower? Fear can make you faster, and cleverer and stronger. And one day, you’re going to come back to this barn and on that day you are going to be very afraid indeed. But that’s okay. Because if you’re very wise and very strong, fear doesn’t have to make you cruel or cowardly, fear can you make you kind. It doesn’t matter if there’s nothing under the bed or in the dark so long as you know it’s okay to be afraid of it. So listen. If you listen to nothing else, listen to this. You’re always going to be afraid, even if you learn to hide it. Fear is like a companion. A constant companion, always there. But that’s okay, because fear can bring us together. Fear can bring you home. I’m going to leave you something just so you’ll always remember. Fear makes companions of us all.”

This strikes me as a desperate attempt to bring meaning and beauty to something unpleasant that is actually a result of the fall.  Why are we so often afraid?  What purpose does it serve us, to be afraid like we are?  Clara suggests it is a good thing to have fear, that we should acknowledge and even embrace our fear as a constant companion, and that fear bonds people together.  “Fear can make you kind,” she says.

Really?  Not in my experience.  I disagree with Clara’s words on a couple of levels, and here is why.

Fear divides us from one another

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” – 1 John 4:18

While love is faithful and kind, fear causes us to be unfaithful and unkind.

Fear is what holds me back from reaching out to others who look lonely.  Fear is what silences me when I should stand up for what is right or warn someone about the danger of a wrong path they’re going down.  Fear is what causes me to mistrust people and assume bad motives.  Fear of judgment from others is what causes me to be angry at my children for misbehaving in public.  Out of fear I might distance myself from friends who need help, or who have fallen out of popularity (“What if someone else thinks I’m like them or that I approve of their actions/beliefs because I am spending time with them??”).  Fear is what makes me lock up my heart and try to be “strong” through detachment, to protect myself from disappointment by simply not caring at all.

I have been in all these places, and sometimes still am in a few of them.  But God is teaching me the much better way of love.  Perfect love casts out fear.  True love is not hindered by anxiety or dread.

If fear ruled the day, there would be nothing but division and selfishness.  By itself, when it “brings us together,” the results are never good: lynchings, mobs, blind hysteria, hate, bigotry.  Fear is a powerful motivator, but it is never the right motivation for making a choice.

When we come together and accomplish great things or defeat great evils, it is not because of our shared fear, but because we are rejecting that fear to stand up for a right cause.  Fear disperses people to the safety of their homes.  Courage is what bands us together against evil.

Fear indicates a lack of trust in the Lord

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 40:10

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.” – Psalm 27:1-3

With the number of times the Lord tells us, “Fear not,” “Do not be afraid,” “Do not fear,” and other similar directions in the Bible, we could argue that embracing our fear as a good thing is actually disobedience to God.  He is with us.  The immortal, all-powerful Creator of the universe is by our side.  Fear can be a form of unbelief, not wholly placing ourselves in His hands or trusting Him with our well-being.

Is fear our constant companion?  Well, yes, sometimes.  But God is a bigger and greater companion!  He is far more present than any present danger – He dwells in our hearts.  As Christians we can cling to that assurance with complete trust, whether we battle everyday, trivial anxieties or full-blown, crippling anxiety disorders.

Fear need not be our constant companion!  We don’t have to live with it, because God is with us.

“He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.” – Psalm 91:4-6

However, if you don’t have Him to lean on, all you will have is your fear.  I grieve to think this is perhaps what Clara means here…the empty, lonely fear that plagues the soul of every human being separated from their Maker.  She can attempt to make it beautiful, but in the end, if fear is kept around as a companion instead of ousted, it will not bring you home – rather, it will swallow you whole.

Some things I appreciated about the quote

I like the neat take on adrenaline, that it makes you faster, stronger, etc.  That is true, and what an amazing thing that God has created our bodies to respond that way to stressful situations – that we have renewed strength to fight or flee, whatever it takes for survival.  Adrenaline is an amazing thing!

A friend (who has not seen the show) heard a small piece of the quote, and she mentioned that it seems to be saying that on the inside, we’re all afraid…therefore we are all the same underneath and this enables us to be companions to one another.  I am not sure you can take that away from the whole quote in context, but it’s a meaning to consider.  I do like that interpretation.  However, I’d still disagree with Clara’s theory that fear can make us kind.  Love and kindness push away fear, and break down boundaries.  Love never fails.

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What do you think of this quote?  Has fear ever benefitted you?

Do you watch Doctor Who?  Enjoying this current season?  (No spoilers, please!)

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Have We Forgotten the Monsters?

September 4, 2014

Smaug from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”, as depicted by Peter Jackson’s films

My three year old son is nervous about monsters.

They frequently feature in the toddler TV shows he watches – not that real monsters are in the stories, but the characters often think there are monsters but are proven wrong.  So he knows they’re not real!  They aren’t even real in the shows he watches.  Yet, every time a monster-themed episode comes on, he edges away from the TV, murmuring, “I don’t like this.  I don’t want this.”

“Monsters aren’t real, buddy.”  I smile.  “It’s just a show, just a picture.  It can’t hurt you.”

He gives me a big-eyed stare or looks at the floor.  “I want a different episode.”

Every time I repeat the “monsters aren’t real” line, I feel more like a liar.

Because monsters are real.

We battle them every day.  Real monsters don’t hunt us down and tear the flesh from our bones, but they shred apart our souls and leave rents in our hearts.  Real monsters don’t roast us in flame, but they put our souls in danger of hellfire.  Real monsters don’t trample us under their feet, but they crush our spirits under their taunts.

Internet trolls.  The devil.  Mental illnesses.  Death.  Disease.  The sin in our hearts.  Addictions.  Bullies.  Abusers.  Eating disorders.  Racism.  Betrayers.

The world is full of real monsters, and they may not be as “scary” as dragons or zombies, but they should be!  They might not devastate cities, but they ruin lives.  We have all lost days to monsters, or sometimes weeks, months, years.

Sin is a monster!  Like God told Cain, “Sin is crouching at your door.”  It lies in wait to eat you up.

The monster holds me in its jaw for years
The monster leaves me bleeding grief and tears
And when I look too deeply in the mirrors
The monster’s looking out at me…

Made in the image of an almighty, all-powerful God but turned away from him toward our own worship, we are all monsters at heart.  Do we forget we have that kind of power, to bruise and to break?

I Tweeted this week about my son’s fear of monsters and my quiet woe that one day he will find out about the real monsters.  Another user, Brent King, responded:

“How so?” I inquired.

He said he thought the monster metaphors should be more clear, less understated, so kids don’t miss them.

I mulled over this a bit.  I don’t believe the drive behind stories should be to teach lessons, although that’s what stories often do.  So the idea of making metaphors more clear didn’t sit right with me.  Then I realized I was thinking about it the wrong way.

“Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave nights and heroic courage.  Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.” – C.S. Lewis

Children’s experience is shaped by monster metaphors.  Monsters haunt their dreams, regardless of how carefully parents police their TV-viewing and their reading choices.

But often by adulthood we’ve forgotten about the metaphors.  We feel the weight of the world, the flesh, and the devil, but unlike the heroes of children’s stories, we feel powerless to resist…because we don’t see these evils for what they are: life-sucking, soul-crushing monsters.  We’ve grown brash, and bold, and think we know it all, so sometimes we don’t see what’s right in front of our faces.

Maybe children don’t need clearer metaphors – maybe it’s the adults who need the metaphors more in the first place!  We need to remember brave knights and heroic courage, just as much as the young children do.

Then we can see the real monsters more clearly for what they are, and they lose the element of surprise, the mystique, the untouchable “power” over us.  Knowing their true nature shrinks them down to size – puny, beside a Most High God.

Someday my son will see the monsters in his soul, and in the world.  And I want him to be prepared.  So sometimes I change the episode for him when he’s scared…but sometimes I leave it on, and hold him close when he needs me.  I’m going to keep showing him stories of brave knights and heroic courage – and most of all, the Brave Knight who came into the world to slay the monsters, once and for all.

Because of Him we can say with David…

“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” – 1 Samuel 17:45

He has put His holy name on us and bought us with His blood.  No monster can stand up against that.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:37-39

What is the scariest fictional monster, to you?  Or the one that scared you most as a child?  Do you think that particular terror says anything about real monsters you dread?

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Why I Didn’t Always Love Jesus

May 8, 2014

Church_clip_art_hightWhen I was three years old, I hid inside a closet and prayed to “ask Jesus into my heart”, as they say.  It’s probably my earliest memory.  By the time I was ten, I recognized that my conversion had not included a confession of my sin or a desire for forgiveness, so I sought salvation a second time out of a desire to be more “correct”.  However, looking back on my childhood, I firmly believe that God heard the prayer of that tiny girl in the closet.  Salvation doesn’t come from an impeccable grasp on soteriology.  It comes from God, opening a sinner’s eyes to their need for Him and hearing their humble prayer. Maybe I didn’t know exactly why I needed Jesus, at that tender age, but I knew that I needed Him in my heart.

From then on, I have called on the Lord, looked to the cross for my salvation, and known the Spirit to be working in my heart.

But for many years, I did not love Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong.  I loved God.  I wanted to serve Him and learn more about Him.  But Jesus?  For the second Person of the Triune God I felt very little interest, except being grateful for Him for dying for my sins.  I even avoided His given name as much as possible, preferring to call Him by less personal titles like “Christ” or “the Savior”.  To this day, the name “Jesus” does not roll very naturally off my lips…that wonderful Name above all names!

It makes my heart ache, because by now I have grown to truly know, and deeply love, and passionately adore Him above all others.

Why did it take me so long?

This week I came across a quote that stopped me in my tracks:

‘The Hobbit’ was written in what I should now regard as bad style, as if one were talking to children. There’s nothing my children loathed more. They taught me a lesson. Anything that in any way marked out ‘The Hobbit’ as for children instead of just for people, they disliked – instinctively. I did too, now that I think about it. All this ‘I won’t tell you any more, you think about it’ stuff. Oh no, they loathe it; it’s awful. Children aren’t a class. They are merely human beings at different stages of maturity. All of them have a human intelligence which even at its lowest is a pretty wonderful thing, and the entire world in front of them. – J.R.R. Tolkien

When I read that I was stunned.  Finally, I could put into words why I had snubbed Jesus for so many years.

Because it wasn’t actually JESUS I was trying to avoid!

It was Kid-Friendly Jesus.

The “Jesus Loves the Little Children” Jesus.  The cartoon Jesus with the silly grin.  The “do unto others” Jesus who only seemed to care about people being sugary-nice to each other.  He was boring, sappy, insipid.  Who would follow a Savior like that?

Apparently, people think that children will.

I disliked Jesus because He was the guy children were supposed to like.  We were supposed to sing exuberant praises to Him, while being taught lots about His niceness and little about His power.  While adults worshipped in “real” church, we went to kid-appropriate classes to have everything dumbed down for us.  We didn’t even pray to God the Father (like the true Jesus instructed us to pray).  We were taught to pray to “Dear Jesus”, as if God the Father was too busy to care for the prayers of babies, but Kid-Friendly Jesus would listen.  He was a Big Deal, but aside from, “He died for you!  And He LOVES you!  Isn’t that GREAT, kids?”, we were given few compelling reasons why we should be so excited about Him.  How did He love us? Sure, He did miracles long ago, but what did that have to do with us?

I’m not blaming any particular Sunday school teacher.  And certainly not my parents!  Much of my own personal attitude toward Christ came from my sinful nature, not developed entirely out of over-exposure to sappy caricatures of Him.  I don’t have clear memories of when Kid-Friendly Jesus was taught to me, or by whom.  It’s really an attitude and a feeling, a way of interacting with children that is church-wide and pervasive.

In mainstream Christianity, kids are often treated like a separate class of slightly-dumber people.  There are “Children’s Bibles” with bubbly illustrations and little mention of sin, full of moralistic lessons that kids need to learn.  There are “Children’s Worship Songs” that no Christian adult could stand to sing or listen to because they are silly, devoid of meaning, or poorly written.  Most big churches have “Children’s Church”.  I have even heard of some churches that won’t allow little ones into their “adult” services.  There is no place for them there.  No place for children!  I think the true Jesus would object.

Can you imagine if a church had a separate Old People’s Church?  Asian Church?  Women’s Church?  Church for Those with Disabilities?  What if these services were complete with badly-drawn illustrations to make sure everything was as obvious as possible, and songs designed specifically for that sub-category of humans?  It would be insulting and demeaning, and simply wrong.  I am thankful that in our own church family, all are welcome, young and old, to the public worship of God. This has been true of every church my family has been a part of, but is especially true in the Reformed churches we have joined since shifting away from Evangelicalism. In the first church where I grew up, children stayed for worship but left for the sermon until 5th-6th grade, and honestly I do understand that approach. Sermons are long and kids fidget and don’t always understand the whole thing. But I wonder what my life, thoughts, and spiritual walk would be like now, had I heard deep, serious, biblical sermons even from my young childhood. It might have radically shaped me! Personally I don’t remember becoming serious in my faith until I was of an age to sit in for the sermon – not what a young child likes to do, but so important. I’m glad my children have that blessing now.

Perhaps I am being overly harsh here.  There is definitely value in simplifying things for little ones, and there’s nothing wrong with unique music or stories specially crafted to capture the attention of young ears.  (Ideally these things will appeal to adults as well!  I think a good rule of thumb is that if an adult can’t stand it, it’s not fit for children either.  Bad art benefits no one.)  But once you get past a certain age, it becomes very easy to see the adult world talking down at you, instead of talking with you like they would with each other.

By the grace of God, I have seen the beauty and power of Jesus.  It took years of listening to faithful preaching from the Word of God, and the more eager study of His four gospels I have done as an adult.

Perhaps I am an odd case.  But if the church continues to dumb down Jesus to children, preaching a smiling Savior of Niceness in a special Children’s Church for the Simple, it grieves me to think that there may be many others like me, who do not see His true beauty for years…or maybe never, because Kid-Friendly Jesus inspires little love.

Children aren’t a separate class.  Let’s trust their intelligence, their natural curiosity.  Let’s beg God to work in their hearts, not beg them to “work” for their salvation with a sinner’s prayer.  Let’s not drag enthusiasm out of them, but rather show them our own awe and wonder for the beautiful Prophet, Priest, and King who loves, saves, and rises again from the grave.

But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great. – Mark 10:14 (ESV)

Can you relate?  Even if you grew up in the church did it take you a long time to truly love your Savior?  Why do you think that is?  I love to hear my readers’ thoughts.