Posts Tagged ‘church’



June 15, 2015

Life is crazy and chaotic right now – we have the new baby in the house, and we potty-trained the two oldest kids this week as well, so there have been a lot of messes to clean and a lot of supervision for potty breaks.  Also, the third child – who was neither potty trained nor newly born – seems to spend every waking minute trying to get into as much trouble as she can!  (Attention-hungry much?) ūüėõ  So this week’s post is just a thought ramble!

I’ve been thinking about sensitivity today.

As a generally sensitive and cautious person (INFJ and all), there are many times I’ve been pained by caustic snark – not that it’s directed at me, but the fact that the caustic snark existed at all.

I’m not a fan of vitriolic bloggers (*cough*Matt Walsh*cough*).  Even if I 100% agree with what a blogger is saying, if they’re using a tone of aggressive sarcasm, or flinging around insults, I grieve to see my views represented in such a way, a way that might raise ire or hurt feelings – or simply in a way that disregards the feelings of others or doesn’t consider them to begin with.  My uncle says I’m a “gentle soul.” ūüėõ

I have a hard time laughing at anybody because I’m too busy studying my own motivations for amusement.  Am I taking advantage of that person?  Am I puffing myself up?  Might I hurt their feelings?  Am I laughing because I like to see the failure or stupidity of others because it make me feel better about myself?  Where other people see a funny joke, I see hidden layers of wrong attitudes, sinful attitudes, arrogance, or cruelty.

Am I just looking too closely?

Should I toughen up?

Would I be a more efficient, more effective person if I balanced out the sensitive side of me, got myself a better sense of humor, and stopped micro-analyzing stuff?

On the one hand, I believe balance is good and healthy.  It is possible to be too serious!  No one likes a stick in the mud.  And after all, most of my concern is based on possibilities, not reality.  Am I falling into the pitfall of being offended for the sake of someone else who could be offended, but in actuality is not – thereby making me the only one who’s offended at all?  Maybe sometimes.

But on the other hand…

I don’t believe that because snarky bloggers pain me with their tone, they should pack up shop and stop talking.

There is a time and a place for bluntness and snark.  There’s a reason the world has “feelers” and “thinkers.”  If we were all sensitive little flowers, nobody would ever get anything done, because nobody would confront anyone else over sin or anything else.  Some amount of conflict is necessary in this fallen world!  We need people who are tough and sharp and can do it.  Sometimes a tough, sharp voice is the only kind of voice that can be heard by somebody equally tough and sharp.

The world needs all kinds of voices.

So maybe there is a place in this world for the sensitive souls too.

I read an epic fantasy book last week (a review copy of Lands of Ash by H.L. Burke…WHICH IS TOTALLY AWESOME AND YOU SHOULD GO TO HER RELEASE DAY PARTY ON FACEBOOK this Thursday!! Squeeeee!).  Some of the characters are “empathic healers,” who sense and feel the emotions of others around them.  They heal people with this power, through thoughts and memories.  Unlike many of the other characters, they can’t go to war.  They can’t cause any physical harm to others because it will give them equal pain.  They can’t even squash a bug – they’ll have a headache for the rest of the day!  And this is so sickeningly INFJ, I know ūüėõ – BUT! – I immediately loved these characters and felt a kind of kinship with them.  (If I lived in the Kingdom of Forra, I would most definitely be an empathic healer. ūüėÄ )

Sometimes they felt horrible for being so sensitive, so “ineffective” in the face of a cruel world that desperately needed strong warriors.  But then other characters would remind them of things such as these – You’re healers.  You do important work.  We need you here.  You don’t need to be able to fight in the battles because your task is to bind up the broken.

And in fact, there is a different kind of strength in their sensitivity…a different kind of power from that of the hardened warrior, but strength nonetheless.

A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice… – Isaiah 42:3

People like to defend bloggers like Matt Walsh by saying, “Jesus said some pretty offensive things too!!”  But it seems to me that Jesus was a perfect example of balance.  He gave sharp words when they were warranted, and gentle admonitions for others.  He does not break bruised reeds, or pinch out weak flames.  Yet He will faithfully bring forth justice.  He has the power and strength to do so, and the wisdom to apply force or soothe injury as needed.

Being sensitive and cautious of others’ feelings isn’t a bad thing!  I have to understand that not all people are wired like I am, and the world needs the blunt-edged people, but the world needs us sensitive peeps, too.  Both are needed in our culture.  Both are needed in the church!  Maybe we should stop frowning at those who are “too hard” or “too soft,” and instead consider if they are merely misapplying their natural strengths.

The answer, I think, doesn’t lie in toughening everyone up or toning everyone down – sinners are rarely as perfectly balanced as Christ in this, and we need both sides, not just one kind of voice.  Ideally we should strive for that balance individually, but it’s also why He knit us into a Body together.  Not everyone is an eye.  Not everyone is an ear.  I’m so glad God made us unique and gave us various different gifts, and different voices to speak and different hearts to touch.

What are your thoughts?  Are you more of a sensitive flower or a snark warrior? ūüėÄ


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, ‚ÄúWhoever 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.